I'm not really much of a drinker.
It goes right to my head. I do stupid things, and I don't even remember any of it the next day. Some of you probably know the feeling. The party life isn't for me. You have to know your limits, right? Most nights I'd relax with a good book and a cup of green tea.
Then came Tommy Mundy's funeral. Real sad about Tommy. The nicest guy. It was a blow to all of us.
Do not act as if thou wert going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over thee. While thou livest, while it is in thy power, be good. That's Marcus Aurelius -- it's one of my favorite quotes.
Anyway, we were all sitting in the back of Mundy's sister's living room, and my cousin Brendan passed around some short glasses of whiskey.
"A quick one," Brendan said to me before I could object. "It's for Tommy, and it's not going to kill you." One drink led to another, and then someone said we should start singing old folk songs that Tommy liked. I remember the music, and I remember a few more of the drinks, and then we all left to beat last call somewhere downtown. That was in Dublin. 1978.
Yesterday I woke up in a police holding cell, and I didn't really remember what happened. I figured I was in real trouble. I was just so embarrassed, you know? I hoped I hadn't made a scene. I was wondering if I'd be able to get out of jail in time for my Joyce book club. But then I noticed the badges on the cops, and I saw they weren't Dublin police at all. They were NYPD. That took a bit of time to process.
The officer who got my statement was really friendly. Almost too friendly. "You're Shane MacGowan!" he kept saying, even though he had my passport. "Shane Friggin' MacGowan!"
"Yes," I said. "Yes, I am. Terribly sorry if I caused a fuss." Then I saw the date on his report, and thought he'd made a mistake, or he was trying to play some prank on me. But he wasn't. When I realized I'd been out for 34 years I wanted to just kill Brendan. And I knew I was probably expelled from the book club for good. I didn't understand any of it. But the cop just asked me to autograph a poster of me wearing a cowboy outfit... and then he sent me out. I was wandering around the street when a car passed and some guy wearing a backwards baseball cap hooted at me and pumped his fist in the air for no reason. I suddenly felt ill from the night before. Or nights, rather. I felt very ill. I just knew I had to throw up. Humiliated and desperate, I ducked into an alley and tried to relieve myself in the most private and dignified way possible. Instead a crowd of dozens of people gathered around. They were actually cheering. Cheering!
Eventually this musician named Mr. Bono spotted me on Fifth Avenue looking lost and gave me a ride. He was able to put me in touch with a fellow who claimed he was my publicist, and they explained the whole story. It was quite a story. I discovered I have more than a million dollars in some account they'd been hiding from me for decades. "It was for your own good," my publicist said.
So I'm feeling much, much better now, and I want to thank anyone who has seen my concerts or other... exploits these past several decades. Supposedly there are quite a few of you out there who consider yourselves fans. You have my good wishes. But really I think I'll stick to literature and club soda from now on. Cheers!
(Note: Photo by Masao Nakagami. Rights information here.)