Considerations | Bottle Services

by Bill DiDonna

Illustrated by    Madeline McMahon

Illustrated by Madeline McMahon

Guys, I’m sending this from a clinic in Puerto Chale, was scratching down my final thoughts when providence decided otherwise. Sorry as always for the delay. Fortunately, the town seems to have no police department and someone has absconded with the boat, so there is no evidence anyway. Can you wire me $500 so I can hire a car? It’s 15 hours to Ensenada, I can’t really go to Cabo and fly at the moment. Thought I’d head north and lay low for a bit then try my luck walking across at TJ. As always, thanks for your anticipated cooperation and let’s have a drink when I get back. By the way, if Abdul pops in, DO NOT give him the keys to my place.

Best, —bill.


I’m running, or is it flying? Like being on the moon without need for a spacesuit, every step is a buoyant bounce towards the sky. I’m in a field in Wiscasset, where I spent the summers of my youth, running through the gorse, past the cows and towards the cliff, which would always arrive so abruptly, sending me to a skidding stop.

Below was the Atlantic, all surging slate. I would sit on the precipice for hours staring down at the endless changes of the waves smashing into rocks. There were some gulls, but most were farther south towards town, waiting for the fishing boats to pull back in and discard whatever was deemed unsalable. Pickings were slim here, unless a foolhardy fish or lobster got dashed against the cliff. Then the gulls would dive down and pick it clean. Pairs of them would rise up, sharing a single prize, and fight over it in an aerial tug-of-war. Most of the time it ended with morsels falling back into the sea, lost forever. The birds seemed to shrug this off and resume the hunt as if the loss didn’t bother them in the slightest.

At night, everyone was outside. The mosquito candles lit and cold six-packs of Narragansett pulled up from the well with fishing line. The kids played sprawling games of capture- the-flag, ranging from the fields into the forest that loomed over us and ran all the way up the mountain. A hill, really, but we were kids. Sometimes I played, but mostly I watched and sat just outside the ring of grown-ups. The men would pull up the heavy wet burlap that covered the steaming pit, checking to see if the fire was still lit while the women set the table
 and placed mesh domes over the celery and olives and pots of melted butter.

By silent consent, it was deemed ready. The burlap was removed and pitchforks were used to remove the steaming seaweed. Underneath were metal baskets filled with corn, potatoes, clams, and most importantly, lobsters. My great grandfather would pull himself up from his chair, grab a mallet, and begin banging the giant bell that hung from the spruce. ‘Get in here you sea slugs, supper is ready.’

I felt it while I was still asleep, crawling, first on my hand and then on my arm. It was all a dream, and now I was awake. I sat up, pushed the sail off of me and grabbed at the bug. Small, but there was some nutrition in there. I held it between my fingers and tried to decide. Breakfast or bait?

I had been drifting now for almost a week. I had maybe 
a days worth of water left and absolutely no food. The worst thing was the Gin situation. I was forced to let the ice melt in order to drink it and now had two and a half more bottles of warm Enmienda 18 hibiscus-flavored gin. They make it in, and as far as I know, it is only available in, Tijuana. The Hibiscus, or Jamaica, as it is called in Mexico, gives the gin this entrancing pale pink hue, and the mellow acidity creates the perfect G and T without the addition of lime. I personally have never met anyone who asks for a warm gin, and I have sworn to myself that if I ever get out of this alive, I will drink it well-iced going forward.

It was supposed to be a quick job: pick up the sailboat
 in Ensenada, head for Catalina at night. The boat was pre-distressed. If I got stopped, there was paperwork stating I had debarked from Marina Del Rey. The radio was broken and
the sail slightly torn—I think they went overboard with the authenticity. I could have easily poured a bucket of seawater on the radio if I got approached, shorting it out, but no. The storm came up fast and brutal, sending me south-southwest
 at what felt like 25 knots. After thirty minutes, the small motor was wrenched from its fastening, and after an hour the sail shredded. I knew that was that, but the boat didn’t capsize and the storm passed. When dawn came, there I was, floating on the wide flat Pacific—no idea where I was and no way to propel myself even if I did.

I poured a large G and T and surveyed the situation. It was bleak, so I poured another drink and ate the torta I had packed for the three hour cruise. Rationing had not yet entered my mind, and in retrospect, that may have proved to be a crucial error. I futzed with the radio for a bit, but the boys had done an excellent job disabling it. I drank a bottle of water and laid down for a nap, awoke with a nasty sunburn and the offending orb setting over the horizon. Having established where west was, I jammed myself into the prow and began to paddle east—that’s where the land was. It was tedious work and I was unsure if any actual progress was being made.

That night (or maybe it was the night after), I dreamt of William of Orange and his 13 years as King of England. Most of what I know I learned from The Fall’s majestic album, I am Kurious Oranj. Unsure and indifferent about his majesty’s sexuality, vaguely aware of his societal and scientific contributions to the Western world, I mostly concentrated on gin.

When he landed with his invading army at Brixham, he brought Genever, the ancient Dutch elixir. Originally touted as a cure-all due to the infused herbs which masked the horrible flavors of early distilling prowess, the Dutch have taxed it solely as an alcoholic bevvie for over 400 years. It was the addition of Juniper berries that gave Genever the distinctive flavor we all now hold dear. I can picture William wading ashore, staring at the vast grey nation he would soon rule over. His valets and military leaders bustle behind him, and when they reach the beach, a brown clay bottle of Genever is uncorked, poured and raised high as a toast to the future.

Had they but known how England would embrace this import, they might have just sent distillers instead of an army. At the time of William’s death, there were more than 7,500 gin bars in London serving a population of around 600,000. If that isn’t a triumph, I don’t know what is. Gin gin city of sin.

I’ve put the bug onto a hook and lowered it into the water on a bit of string I’ve picked from the sail. I’m filled with cautious pessimism. It’s night now. I’ve left the caps off the gin bottles and put them into the sun to try and bake out some
of the alcohol, but I can no longer tell if it’s having any effect. Maybe going out slightly drunk is the fate I have so carefully crafted for myself. After many, many years of indulgence, should I have bought Berkshire-Hathaway in the ‘70s as I was advised? Probably, but I would be kidding myself if I thought I would still be holding as of last week when cash flow issues forced me into this situation. Who and what do I leave behind? Scores of disappointed wives and lovers. Make that angry. Make that enraged. The 6 bottles of 1953 Latour hidden in the basement. The Rauschenberg. Those prints Eric stole from the Louvre on a school trip in the ‘70s (he’ll probably want those back if he remembers us doing first international art heist, not my last, but the one I am most proud of). My 1966 Melody Maker.

Not much to sum up a life, but there it is. I down the rest of the Enmienda 18 and await my fate. Wait, what is that coming over the horizon?