By Dennis Lee
The Christmas season starts as a disaster, ends as a disaster, and in-between, it’s… a disaster.
Black Friday is the stupidest event ever (if you’ve ever felt the need to tackle a rabid mother for a discounted talking stuffed animal, please go away), Christmas music gives me instantaneous diarrhea, and on a related topic, at this point of the year, I’m not sure how much more green-bean casserole I can stomach.
Since I write for a living, traveling to some tropical hideout for the winter is out of my financial reach. Oh, and by the way, if you have any actual dreams, don’t be a writer. Your future self will thank your present self.
Like any self-respecting adult, the best way to deal with Christmas (or anything) is to drink alone, because you spend the majority of the year avoiding your relatives and others anyway. As most writers will understand, most of my life—such as it is—is spent inside my own head, because that’s where I’m most comfortable.
I hear what you’re thinking, and yes, I realize that a solo booze session isn’t likely to be in the Top 5 Healthiest Habits on BuzzFeed. I further realize that such behavior may, believe it or not, be a symptom of alcoholism. During Christmas, however, everyone gets a pass, and I plan to get that pass stamped regularly.
So here’s my recommendation: Find a tavern that’s open on Christmas Eve (not as hard as you might think: others may have the same idea as me). When you get there, grab a stool on the corner of the bar. Put away your cell phone. (You don’t want some pain-in-the-ass friend/relation/Good Samaritan locating you and staging a useless intervention.) Order a drink. I prefer any kind of straight bourbon on the rocks. The rocks are there only to make your drink last for a few sips longer before you order your second one. Because you will.
Personally, my favorite place to drink alone is the J&M Tap on the corner of Augusta and Leavitt. Even though the neighborhood has suffered the inevitable invasion of locust-like hipsters and is now experiencing an abrupt transition into Lincoln Park 2.0, it seems like the J&M Tap is one of those places where people will always leave you alone. That’s exactly the neglect you want. Thankfully, there are still a handful of bars like this in the city, so pick your favorite and stick to it. Become a regular. Make sure the bartender learns your drinking habits so that you can just walk in and he’ll have your drink ready to go, without having to exchange a word and with the added advantage of minimizing human contact.
The last time I visited the J&M Tap, a bunch of ex-cops were sitting at the bar, exchanging war stories about their days on the force. One of them was in the middle of describing a raid, raising a leg in illustration as he said, “I was about to kick down the door when—”
At that very moment, a young Illinois State Trooper barged in and looked quickly around until she found who she was looking for. Her eyes lit up.
“Dad,” she said, “I came to see if you needed a ride home tonight.”
“No,” the old guy shrugged. “I’m doing okay. I can get home on my own. Besides, I’ve got all my buddies with me.” He motioned at the two fellows to his right, who each offered a bleary nod.
“Is that your daughter?” one of them managed to slur.
“It sure is,” he said, beaming. He was obviously proud of her.
She grinned right back. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay.” A crackling voice came through her police radio. She listened carefully. “I better go. There’s been shots fired in Dolton, and they’re asking for backup.”
The trooper gave her father a kiss on the forehead and said, “You sure you’re okay?” He nodded. She ran out the door.
I’d rather sit in mute witness to something like that than listen to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” for the 700th time, standing awkwardly at an ugly sweater party, staring out the window while trying to teleport myself to the other side of the galaxy.
It’s funny; people assume that drinking alone at a bar is depressing, but the truth is, when you’re drinking by yourself at a bar, you’re never actually alone. You’re alone enough, and at Christmastime, there’s no place I’d rather be.