By Charles Mudede
Everyone knows there isn't a sadder image in the world than a person who drinks alone at home. We can easily picture his/her unhappy situation: He/she is on the couch, his/her empty beer or wine bottles crowd a coffee table, the lurid lights of a TV dumbly flicker on his/her passed-out body. This is the rock bottom of all things. Even the drunk who is out on the streets and yelling at sober people as he/she swigs the cheapest beer out of a paper bag is not considered to be as fallen as an unconscious drunk on a TV-lit couch. Drinking is ultimately a social activity, and this is why it is so important for the law not to punish people for drinking in public. We should reward those who drink with others, drink among strangers, drink in the eyes and sounds of humankind.
There is a bench I like to visit to drink in public. It is on South Oregon Street and has a view of the Rainier Playfield. Dysfunctional drunks also love this spot. There is nothing more relaxing than losing your sobriety on a bench that provides an afternoon's view of urban inhabitants doing healthy things like playing tennis (west of this bench), shooting hoops (directly in front of this bench), or enjoying a playground (east of the bench). In the distance, there is a baseball field. Why in the world would the law want to police such a peaceful urban pleasure? What is gained by this kind of enforcement? Certainly a lot of humanity is lost.
But the main reason I love drinking outdoors—be it a sidewalk cafe, or a park, or a patio at a restaurant—is because the home or the interior of an establishment feels much less democratic. Being drunk and being in public is the kind of democracy that's meaningful to me. It's like being in the parliament of the all: other people, the big trees and their leaves, synanthropic and domesticated animals, and, most importantly, the clouds above. Even with big windows, we lose our connection with the clouds. But if we drink outside, even in a small courtyard like the one at Empire Espresso, the clouds are with us.
By Christopher Frizzelle
Oh, don't listen to Charles.
Drinking makes you indifferent to other life-forms—have you ever read Charles's essays about parenting? Drinkers are so constantly talking about themselves, their regrets, their work, their kids—just unimaginably boring stuff—and they do this no matter where they're drinking: inside, outside, on a train, on a plane.
But someone who's just smoked some pot and is now—ahhhhh—walking through a park? That is not what they're on about. They are cutely, goofily, appropriately flipping out about how berserk that plant looks over there, with the white blossoms that smell like licorice, or how neat that mound of grass is that children are rolling down, or how that man who's climbing up that fountain must have sopping wet sneakers, but it probably feels really great, that squishy feeling in his toes, or whoa are you noticing the tail on that kite—in other words, pot smokers in a park are outward-focused, not inward-focused. They are friends with all the dogs and kids and clouds and trees. Yes, they may take an unnatural interest in stupid things ("Have you ever really looked at your hand?"), but at least they are taking an interest, sometimes to the point of outright idiocy, feeling "at one"—ugh! Sorry!—with "it." But it's a cute idiocy. Dogs, lakes, stars, etc. are profound sources of contentment.
Don't smoke too much. It doesn't take much. Hardly anything! It's just a light happiness thickener, pot is, when you are going to spend a whole day relaxing by a silvery Lake Washington, or cruising down the forested path of Interlaken on your bike, or filling the hours between a couple bands you want to see at an outdoor festival. Pot is a great way to make a summer festival better; a 12-hour-long day at a summer festival is at risk of being super boring, and for some people, day-drinking leads to an overwhelming need for day-napping... but smoking? Smoking just leads to wanting to hold hands with the crowd, or maybe climb up onstage and join the band, or talk a lot to the person next to you about the shapes the clouds are making. Cute.