Each week, we post short interviews with interesting people about their thoughts and feelings on women and drinking. There is such a wide array of perspectives about this topic, and we are excited to gain insight into as many as possible and to share them with you.
Anna March has recently completed her first novel, The Diary of Suzanne Frank. Her fiction, essays, reviews and playlists have appeared in Salon, The Rumpus, PANK, Connotation Press, Style, Substance Soul and numerous other publications and anthologies. You can also keep up with her on Facebook.
Drinking Diaries: What’s your drink of choice? Why?
Anna March: In my fantasy life, I drink expensive single malt scotch, neat. Or fabulous martinis. In my fantasy life, I carry an antique silver flask of gin.
In real life, I like a perfectly made Absolut Collins. I have recently fallen in love with the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. I’m still in love with Dom Perignon and Moet’s White Star, which I think they call Imperial now, which I think is a shame. White Star was such a lovely name, evocative of grace and majesty.
On the other hand, I never gave up drinking shots of Jägermeister after college, and bartenders who don’t know me usually look surprised when I order a hot tea (for the caffeine) and a Jäger shot on the side. I don’t fit the demographic, I guess. Either that or the tea throws ‘em.
Can you tell us about the best time you ever had drinking?
The first jazz fest after Katrina, my friend Kent and I arrived in New Orleans at 3 a.m. Friday morning. It seemed like a miracle to be in New Orleans, to be celebrating some sense of survival and resurrection with the people there. We were there to signify, as much as anything. We pulled into the Quarter and went over to Johnny White’s, a dive bar full of locals—the only bar that didn’t close during Katrina, or during the looting and curfews that followed.
Kent and I got to drinking there, and drinking HARD, with the locals until after sunrise. At one point a guy came in with a tuba. A guy came in with a parrot on his shoulder. Nobody blinked. A minister came by and said a prayer over all of us, but in a nice way. A guy came in a suit on his way to work and without saying a word, was served a shot of bourbon that he slammed. Then he left, leaving a ten spot on the bar. When the peep show girls came in before they started the day shift, we stumbled out and then went and had beignets and coffee from Café Du Monde.
Well, I’m an atheist, but it was a spiritual experience, I tell you. New Orleans is like that. Everything is crazy and beautiful, even when it’s not.
What about the worst time?
I was 18, at the beach. There were ½ gallons of cheap, rotten tequila. A bunch of guys I was friends with were working as lifeguards and were having a shot-drinking contest on the beach. I lost. I didn’t drink tequila again for a dozen years.
Has drinking ever affected—either negatively or positively—a relationship of yours?
I briefly dated a guy who was beautiful and brilliant and trilingual and charming, as well as a raging, active alcoholic. I didn’t know it when we met—but it soon became apparent. However, before I realized that he was a drinker, he had an alcohol withdrawal seizure while driving his car with me in the passenger seat. We ran off the road (into an embankment). I was terrified, both by the accident and the seizure. It was horrible.
I tried to reach his mother (who had been a cabinet level diplomat) from the emergency room and instead got her live-in housekeeper, Margarita, who only spoke Spanish. My Spanish is lousy so I asked in the waiting room if someone could translate the phone call for me. This very nice guy got on the phone with Margarita and asked where my boyfriend’s mother was. He turned to me and said quizzically, “She says: the Ambassador is dancing with the Archbishop of Havana?” He thought he had mis-translated. He had not. My boyfriend’s mother was at a dinner-dance with a bunch of her Reagan-era anticommunist pals, feting the Archbishop of Havana.
We broke up shortly thereafter…and he ended up killing himself a few years after that. His mother died from heart failure a few months later—some say she died of a broken heart because of his suicide. Tragic. All of it.
It’s become a phrase that I repeat to myself now whenever any situation is CRAZY. Instead of saying “this is nuts,” I say, “The ambassador is dancing with the Archbishop of Havana.”
What do you like most about drinking?
I’m a big fan of kissing when I’m just the tiniest bit tipsy. I’m a big fan of kissing in general, but after a couple of drinks–and I mean a couple, not six–kissing can be even more wonderful.
I also like walking around while it’s snowing after having a couple of drinks–Baileys and hot cocoa, perhaps. The world seems perfect when it’s blanketed in fresh snow and the flakes are still gently falling, and when you add a slight liquored lace to it–it can be sublime.
I’m a big fan of drinking in dive bars with sticky floors and maybe strands of colored lights strewn around and a jukebox with either vinyl or, at a minimum, CD’s. I consider digital jukeboxes to be imposters.
I’d like to be able to drink sometimes when I write, but drinking tends to make me a little sleepy, so I almost never do.
I live in a small town and do the bulk of my drinking at one of two spots–Fins or Arenas. The bartenders there all know me and take excellent care of me. It’s a cliché, for sure, but that feeling of being a regular is an incredibly fine feeling. That Cheers-ian feeling of “everybody knows your name” is a good feeling.
Favorite literary drinking experience?
In 1997, I had occasion to go out with George Plimpton late one night in San Diego. It was midnight; he wanted a steak. We went to this old-school place, The Red Fox Lounge, and he told charming stories–about introducing Hemingway to Tennessee Williams, for instance–while he ate his steak and drank quite a bit. Talk turned to Paris and he asked me, in that voice of his, “Where’s your favorite spot to have a drink in Paris?” I, of course, didn’t have a favorite spot to have a drink in Paris, as I had never been to Paris. I said, cheekily, “Why, the bar at the Ritz, of course, George.” He said, “Oh yes, of course, that’s the right spot, don’t you just love the bar there? The next time you are there, please tell them you are my guest.” He was a gracious man, George Plimpton was.
If you could be any drink, what would it be? Why?
Do you have a favorite book, song, or movie about drinking?
Movie: “Days of Wine and Roses”
Book: Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp. My friend, the writer Ben Tanzer, writes very realistically in his novels about how we drink now. Elissa Schappell never misses a beat when she weaves alcohol into her stories.
Song: *(Note from Drinking Diaries Editors: Stay Tuned For Anna’s Drinking Diaries Playlist, coming up next week.)