Friday, December 16, 2011

800 Words: Hitch and Me Part 1

(It is nearly three in the morning. Christopher Hitchens, Evan’s college hero, is dead. Evan has been on the phone with Le Malon for two hours: summoning up remembrances of things past, drinking three honorary scotches, and as he occasionally does - celebrating the best of what life has to offer. Just when life can’t get any better, in walks a ghostly, see-through image of The Hitch in better times: a full head of hair, paunch intact, bedecked in a rumpled blue button-down, rolled up sleeves and a too small pair of khakis.)

Evan: So...is there a God?

Hitch: Who cares? Where’s that Laphraoig bottle?

Evan: In the dining room.

(the bottle magically appears in Hitchens hand, he immediately takes a swig)

Hitch: Well, you’ve been reading me regularly for nine years. What have you learned?

Evan: That I should get drunk more often.

Hitch: Good man.

Evan: Seriously, after I heard you died I got on the phone with my best friend from college and we drank together for two hours.

Hitch: Oh dear. That sounds strangely like you care that I’m dead.

Evan: I suppose I do.

Hitch: How does it feel to no longer be the guy who makes fun of people who mourn celebrities publicly?

Evan: Pretty awkward actually. I feel like a hypocrite.

Hitch: (holds up the Laphroaig) Drink more, it’ll dull the feeling.

Evan: My feelings are pretty numb already.

Hitch: I’d have never refused another drink when I was your age.

Evan: I also plan to make it past seventy.

Hitch: Your biblical three-score and ten? Isn’t that a bit presumptuous?

Evan: Only to the idea that life is worth sticking around for.

Hitch: I’d have checked out long ago without the happy sauce.

Evan: All good things in moderation.

Hitch: Does anyone actually believe that?

Evan: I don’t know... You’re dead now.

Hitch: And the world seems to have noticed.

Evan: Why has no other writer's death in my lifetime gotten this kind of mass outpouring?

Hitch: How many writers do you know who can can drink, smoke, and fuck every day, and still have their ideas taken seriously?

Evan: Personally?

Hitch: You don’t know any writers personally.

Evan: Well, there’s you....there’s Albert Camus,...there’s Byron,....there’s Mailer...

Hitch: Don’t forget Truman Capote.

Evan: Indeed. But where exactly are you going with this?

Hitch: That I’m the ultimate fifth-estate playboy every aspiring political writer wants to be.

Evan: Is that all?

Hitch: Why don’t you listen to one of my typical days (pulls out black notebook): this is October 20th, 2006.
I get up at ten in the morning and write 1000 words about the plight of the oppressed and downtrodden in the still unrecognized Kurdistan. I wrap it all up in an hour and a half, and leave for a twelve-o’clock lunch with James Fenton and Grover Norquist at La Tomate in Dupont Circle. The lunch goes until 4:30 in the afternoon during which we spend three hours discussing the finer points of Rosa Luxembourg’s influence on Hannah Arendt’s writings while clearing two bottles of grappa. At four-thirty I go back to my apartment because at five I’m due to host a gathering of Libyan freedom fighters who show me an official intelligence brief about Qaddafi’s sadomasochistic proclivities. In the midst of this gathering walks Salman Rushdie and Olivia Wilde, and we all spend an hour playing the literary Vagina game (in which you substitute any word in a literary title with the word ‘Vagina’. Dickens novels work particularly well in this regard...). Rushdie is here early for a meet and greet which also includes Christopher Buckley, Antonin Scalia, Rashid Khalidi and Richard Dawkins. Tony Blair was supposed to be there as well, but he backed out at the last minute. The soiree begins at seven, but around eight-fifteen Khalidi misquotes Wodehouse and that begins a debate about the influence of Martin Chuzzlewit in the poetry of Thomas Hardy that lasts until three in the morning. At which point Salman begs off to fuck his latest toy and people begin to trickle out. Scalia is the last to leave at four-thirty, at which point I polish off an essay about Connor Cruise O’Brien for Vanity Fair.
Now, let me ask you, Evan. What part of this experience does not appeal to you?

Evan: Meh.

Hitch: Really?

Evan: Oh my god I'd have killed to even experience an hour of a life like this one!!!!

Hitch: And there you have it sir. The artist as hero, that old 19th century phenomenom that was supposed to have died out when Celine did a radio ad on behalf of Vichy Water. The desire for a life like this is exactly why you drank and chainsmoked yourself into an extra seventy pounds in college.

Evan: It was fun while it lasted. To say nothing of using a university column to take potshots at other students I resented. It made me a writer for life, it also probably ruined any chance I had at becoming a writer professionally.

Hitch: You had to admit though, it was fun.

Evan: It’s still the most fun I’ve ever had as a writer. Particularly because nothing I wrote mattered. And that was the difference between me and you. I wrote that stuff because I was interested in it but didn’t care, you wrote because you cared...

Hitch: ...and wasn’t interested. Scruitiny is not part of my makeup. I don’t like reality, I’ve spent a lifetime trying to avoid it. And some of us are lucky enough that we never face reality until we’re stone dead.

Evan: I did.

Hitch: A shame you had to.

Evan: Indeed it was. But it was a good time while it lasted, you were the perfect model of everything I wanted to be when I was twenty-two.

Hitch: I managed to stay twenty-two for another forty years.

Evan: I’d certainly trade old age for that ability.

Hitch: You may yet have the chance...

Evan: Doubtful...

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