I was wondering if you have any bad habits or vices. I have a couple, drinking and smoking, mostly, and I feel like they’re holding me back. Any advice?
DRINKING TOO MUCH
Sure, I have bad habits. I wait too long to file income taxes. I haven’t made my bed since nineteen hundred and twenty. I avoid confrontation. And according to my doc: I eat too much barbecued pork.
I also apologize too much—which is an embarrassing habit. I don’t know why I do it.
My friend, Davey, was king of bad habits. Davey was an alcoholic for most of his life. And when I say “alcoholic,” I mean: face-down-in-his-own-vomit
We painted houses together. At night, we played music at various bars and beer-joints.
He was an upright bassist. An ex-professor of music at Auburn University. A fanatic for Ray Charles, Beethoven, Nat King Cole, Strauss, and Hank Williams.
He was in his seventies, but years of hard living made him look two hundred years old. He had white hair, pale skin, stubbly face.
His one-bedroom apartment was on Campbell Street. His walls were lined with books—floor to ceiling. A feral cat lived on his porch. Dirty dishes sat in his sink.
Davey puffed Winstons all day. His emphysema was so bad he barely had the diaphragm-strength to smoke.
One night, we played in a Pensacola joint. He sat on a barstool during the break. The bartender asked what he wanted.
Davey buried his head and said, “Whatever you do, DON’T give me what I ask for.”
She looked at him and blinked. He ordered a stiff drink. She told him to get lost.
“Thank you, ma’am,” he said, then he tipped her a five.
We walked outside. He burned through a handful of Winstons, staring at the night.
He said, “You think anyone will even miss me when I die?”
Yes, I do.
Davey didn’t always stand strong against demons. There were bad nights. But I refuse to hold that against him. He was my friend.
And fatherless boys like me need all the friends we can get.
He taught me things. He showed me to play “Your Cheating Heart,” and “Stars Fell on Alabama,” and “Für Elise.” He loaned me money, even though he had none. He helped me be a grown man.
I have a quartz rock. It was a gift. Davey gave it to me, long ago when I was a smooth-faced teenager.
He said, “Whenever you look at this, I want you to think of your buddy Davey, and how much this old fool loved you.”
I’m looking at that rock now.
It’s just a stone, but it reminds me of an old unkempt man who once told a boy he was special. And a young boy who half-believed him.
Anyway, I apologize. I lost track of what I was talking about.
Bad habits. To tell you the truth, I don’t have answers, I’m Joe-Nobody from nowhere. I’m not qualified to give advice to a Labrador.
Just be good to yourself.
There’s some kid out there who’s going to cry very hard when you’re gone.