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

The Happiest Hour – 4/4/20

Grub Street said it best: “[Ina Garten] has read the room, and what the room needs, she has decided, is a giant, neon-pink pitcher of Cosmopolitans, for one, preferably gulped down well before noon.”

Here’s what you missed this week:

 

Cheers,

EV

The Happiest Hour – 3/28/20

When you start the day with mimosas at 8am to catch up with a friend living overseas, you’re doomed to spend the rest of the day polishing off that cheap prosecco, right? MM is gonna have a fun time with me today.

Earlier this week, the Drinking Club caught up over FaceTime for a cathartic Whine and Wine session. In this time of physical distancing (which is now what I’m calling it, after seeing it in a newsletter–social distancing is too bleak), every phone call, Skype, and email feels precious. My hope is that we continue to engage and extend ourselves long after this crisis is over. A girl can dream. DR is dreaming that COVID is the end of hugging. She may get her wish.

Here’s what you missed this week:

 

Cheers,

EV

The Happiest Hour – 3/20/20

Well.

When I wrote last week’s post, I didn’t think we would be here a week later. The world is in freefall, waiting to slam into rock bottom. And each day, that bottom seems farther away. Many of us (myself included) are boomeranging between existential dread and some distant relative of cautious optimism. An optimist at heart, I believe we will come out of this, though I know it won’t be without some bruises and concerns about what our future will look like. So for now, I’m taking it one day at a time. And I’m wishing you and yours health and sanity during this challenging time (the understatement of the month. I can’t even justify saying the year because IT’S ONLY MARCH).

Here’s what you missed while refreshing your news app this week:

  • Comfort reads from the literary cool kids. (NY Times)
  • How independent bookstores are adapting to the age of COVID-19. (Vulture)
  • While many stores and shuttering, and publishers are cancelling book tours, we can still support our local indies and authors! Check out this list of authors who would have been touring now and support if you can. (Bookshop)
  • Drinking Club favorite Sloane Crosley advocates for a little distance before we submit Love in the Time of COVID. (NY Times)
  • Sports are on hold. The Bachelorette is postponed. Might we suggest #LiteraryMarchMadness to fill your Fantasy League needs? (NYPL)

 

Cheers,

EV

The Happiest Hour – 3/13/20

Can we be honest with each other?

Right now, this doesn’t feel like the happiest hour. With every news alert and email from that yoga studio you went to once saying they’re cancelling classes, it feels like we’re sitting inside a countdown clock, waiting for it to hit zero. Last week, The Drinking Club was conversing about embarrassing bodily functions while demolishing several bottles of red. Today, my relative calm was eaten away as I scrolled through my news app while working from home. The isolation stoked whatever anxiety I had–until I went out to the grocery store for WFH supplies. The sun was shining, the air was warm. There was a bird chirping somewhere (it was probably lost).

This is to say: we all need to take a breath. We need to be smart and cautious, and we need to take care of ourselves and our communities. I’m toasting tonight to all of us getting through these next weeks and doing what we need to stay healthy and calm. In these challenging times, remember: there’s nothing a good book can’t fix.

There’s also not enough wine to make you forget the sight of your coworker in his pajamas on the conference call.

Here’s what you missed this week:

 

Cheers,

EV

The Happiest Hour – 2/29/20

Bear with me–I’m in a fugue state after spending the week trapped in a conference room, making sure the snack basket remained bountiful. My palms now sweat anytime I see M&Ms.

Here’s what you missed this week:

 

Cheers,

EV

The Happiest Hour – 2/21/20

We’re back after a brief hiatus. We had to pack all of our books, move them, and unpack them. In the process, we learned we cannot buy any more books, because we have no more space to shelve them. We also learned that this probably won’t stop us.

Here’s what you missed this week:

Cheers,

EV

The Happiest Hour – 2/7/20

2020 pulled a fast one by giving us an extra week of January. And man, was it brutal. To give you an idea: I spent this evening in an elementary school running boxes of Girl Scout cookies up flights of stairs while contemplating how epically the American math curriculum has failed us.

Here’s what you missed this week:

 

Cheers,

EV

The Happiest Hour – 1/31/20

Well, we made it to the end of the first month of the new decade. I honestly did not think I was going to survive last week after my Amtrak train was oversold. You know it’s bad when even the priests won’t give up their seats.

Here’s what you missed these past weeks:

  • Stuck finding your next read? This might help. (Forge)
  • Well, there goes my plan to color code my bookshelf. (Architectural Digest)
  • This article made me wonder how many Blairs and Serenas are roaming the halls of elementary schools across the country. (The Atlantic)
  • On a more serious note than we usually take over here: the publishing industry stepped in it again with their campaign for American Dirt. While the outcry around its publication will hopefully launch the overdue conversation we need to have about diversity in publishing, check out these 17 books by Latinx writers you can read if you want to learn about life along the US Border. I once had the privilege of manning a registration table outside of a room where Luis Alberto Urrea was speaking, and the reaction from people as they exited the lecture was pure transcendence. Let’s give these writers the recognition they deserve. (Texas Observer)

 

Cheers,

EV

The Happiest Hour – 1/18/20

Snow days call for unpronounceable red wines and homemade chocolate chip cookies. If that sounds like a pole vault into Calorie City, don’t worry: my ancient radiator will make sure I sweat it out by daybreak.

Here’s what you missed this week:

 

Cheers,

EV