John Barleycorn HTML version

Chapter 30
Part of the process of recovering from my long sickness was to find delight in little
things, in things unconnected with books and problems, in play, in games of tag in the
swimming pool, in flying kites, in fooling with horses, in working out mechanical
puzzles. As a result, I grew tired of the city. On the ranch, in the Valley of the Moon, I
found my paradise. I gave up living in cities. All the cities held for me were music, the
theatre, and Turkish baths.
And all went well with me. I worked hard, played hard, and was very happy. I read more
fiction and less fact. I did not study a tithe as much as I had studied in the past. I still took
an interest in the fundamental problems of existence, but it was a very cautious interest;
for I had burned my fingers that time I clutched at the veils of Truth and wrested them
from her. There was a bit of lie in this attitude of mine, a bit of hypocrisy; but the lie and
the hypocrisy were those of a man desiring to live. I deliberately blinded myself to what I
took to be the savage interpretation of biological fact. After all, I was merely forswearing
a bad habit, forgoing a bad frame of mind. And I repeat, I was very happy. And I add,
that in all my days, measuring them with cold, considerative judgment, this was, far and
away beyond all other periods, the happiest period of my life.
But the time was at hand, rhymeless and reasonless so far as I can see, when I was to
begin to pay for my score of years of dallying with John Barleycorn. Occasionally guests
journeyed to the ranch and remained a few days. Some did not drink. But to those who
did drink, the absence of all alcohol on the ranch was a hardship. I could not violate my
sense of hospitality by compelling them to endure this hardship. I ordered in a stock--for
my guests.
I was never interested enough in cocktails to know how they were made. So I got a bar-
keeper in Oakland to make them in bulk and ship them to me. When I had no guests I
didn't drink. But I began to notice, when I finished my morning's work, that I was glad if
there were a guest, for then I could drink a cocktail with him.
Now I was so clean of alcohol that even a single cocktail was provocative of pitch. A
single cocktail would glow the mind and tickle a laugh for the few minutes prior to sitting
down to table and starting the delightful process of eating. On the other hand, such was
the strength of my stomach, of my alcoholic resistance, that the single cocktail was only
the glimmer of a glow, the faintest tickle of a laugh. One day, a friend frankly and
shamelessly suggested a second cocktail. I drank the second one with him. The glow was
appreciably longer and warmer, the laughter deeper and more resonant. One does not
forget such experiences. Sometimes I almost think that it was because I was so very
happy that I started on my real drinking.