The Drinking Club Could Use Some Magical Thinking Right About Now

I hope everyone is staying healthy, safe, and well stocked on their wine. I don’t think many of us are far off from throwing in some Baileys to our whipped coffee one morning. The days blur, the stress builds, and you can’t unwind with a peaceful walk along the NYC riverfront because there are TOO MANY PEOPLE OUTSIDE.

As we wait for the next shoe to drop with each news alert, it gets harder to remember the petty grievances we once held, while the memories of happy hours and brunches and movie nights begin to feel like a part of a good dream you just remembered. Now seems like as good as any time to recap what The Drinking Club was up to before it all went to hell in a handbasket (I know this update is months late. I KNOW. The shame is relentless):

  • We read Cherry, and probably got ourselves banned from a posh Midtown wine bar. It might have been for calling the waiter out for his bartender’s crappy pours. It might also have been for leaving six credit cards to split a bill out of spite when said waiter suggested that “Venmo was a thing.” We have no regrets.
  • We read Daisy Jones & The Six, and feasted on grandma pizza and roommate horror stories in DR’s cozy new studio apartment.
  • We read Where The Crawdads Sing, and had very polarizing reactions to it. Some of us also stood on an Amtrak train from Baltimore to get to the gathering, and were probably not the greatest company.

As fate would have it, The Drinking Club gathered about a week before we were told to stay home for the foreseeable future (but not before buying all the yeast we could get our hands on). I had recently ditched MV for another club member, moving into a spacious and sunny bedroom in MM’s apartment. We gathered in my new living room that Friday night, inhaling sea salt chips with our Cabernet Sauvignon and letting loose after a long week. We spent a significant amount of time discussing bodily functions (were we possessed by 12-year-old boys?) and getting LL to dish on all the wedding planning updates (which has now, sadly, been postponed to 2021). It was my turn to select our read, and I chose a book by my favorite author, one that had been sitting on my shelf for nearly two years. The author: Joan Didion. The book: The Year of Magical Thinking, her exploration of death and grief after her husband suddenly died and their daughter became gravely ill. None of that is relevant to today at all.

This was not the cheeriest read, I will admit, especially once you know Quintana, Joan and John’s daughter, dies after the publication of the book. However, those of us that worship at the altar of Joan know that she can make dried paint sound fascinating. What is captivating about her writing is how perfectly she can distill a feeling or experience to the reader. She unravels our most complex actions into their simplest truths, removing any bias to show them as they are. In Magical Thinking, she untangles her grief thread by thread, taking us along as the time from John’s death grows from days to weeks to months. She documents her cool responses in moments of crises, her refusal to accept his death, and her overwhelming sadness as she puts her mourning on hold to care for her daughter. The moment she buys hospital scrubs at UCLA sticks with me still. This scene encapsulates how warped her reality is, and understandably so. Her world, at that moment, is one of trauma. She dissects this and her lowest moments scientifically, but also with compassion. This, combined with her in-depth reporting, gives the reader an unparalleled look at grief on a larger scale, as well as how it infects an individual.

If I’ve learned anything from this book, it’s that we won’t understand how our current crisis has changed us until we are well past it. We will develop quirks that will seem strange to our future selves, but were essential to coping during these quiet days. I’m hopeful Joan will be with us on the other side of this, helping us understand why we did what we did. No one will be able to do it as well as she can.

The Drinking Club is supposed to gather later today, where we’ll hear how DR is accomplishing her very necessary work at a hospital, how DD is managing working from home, and how AM is managing with her relatives in the age of COVID. MM and I will brag about the donuts we made (they were phenomenal). We’ll remind LL how much we’re looking forward to celebrating her wedding in 2021. And we’ll be grateful for each other, our health, and the books that helped us through this time. But mostly we’ll be grateful for the wine.

Until next time,

EV

2 thoughts on “The Drinking Club Could Use Some Magical Thinking Right About Now

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