February 4, 2014

"Does it really matter that he had 4 shots of espresso? Must we know that he seemed 'out of it?'"

"Perhaps the respectful thing to do is celebrate the life he had..." says a commenter at a CNN article titled "Piecing together Philip Seymour Hoffman's final hours," which includes the information that on the morning before his fatal heroin overdose, "Hoffman stops in at Chocolate Bar on 8th Avenue for his regular order: a four-shot espresso over ice with a splash of milk. He is alone and chats with members of staff," who say that "He seemed perfectly fine... He seemed in good spirits. He was very happy." We also learn of his evening beverage,  "a cranberry and soda."

These positively perky drinks do seem to matter, but why? The reader grabs onto such details, and this grasping for meaning in things that have no meaning explains why we want to read novels. People have their problems, sometimes they use drugs, and sometimes drugs kill their users. Why do we care to know what the man drank, when the drinks were not an element of the toxicity causally related to the death? As a reader, searching for meaning, I felt myself latch on in particular to those 2 drinks. This seemingly useless and pointless knowledge makes us feel more present in this life.

Useless and pointless knowledge, the phrase that came to my mind thinking about the a four-shot espresso over ice with a splash of milk and the cranberry and soda is from Bob Dylan's from "Tombstone Blues" plays in my head:
Now I wish I could write you a melody so plain
That could hold you dear lady from going insane
That could ease you and cool you and cease the pain
Of your useless and pointless knowledge
The truth is, we are cooled by the dead man's refreshing beverage. He may have been "out of it," but we are in it, this life.


Xmas said...

It is a little interesting. Usually junkies have sugar cravings, and neither of those drinks are the sickly sweet treats of junkies on the nod. He had prepared himself a little party and was perfectly sober when he did. Usually, when you here of a celebrity overdosing, it's at the end of a wild manic ride that started with booze and parties and ends with a weekend in a hotel room with a junkie hooker that gave them a hot speedball. That or a real tragedy of accidentally mixing prescribed medications without understanding the consequences. Mr. Hoffman's actions seem to be one of a rational, long-ago junkie who may not have realized that years of the government's War on Drugs has paradoxically resulted street drugs being purer and more powerful than the last time he stuck a needle in his arm.

Rusty said...

Hey Mr. Tambourine man.

Rusty said...

Maybe it was a jingle jangle morning.

Heartless Aztec said...

He was a person who repeated memorized words written by someone else and then faked emotions to the words. If he screwed up he got unlimited do-overs AND. he was paid excessive amounts of money. Besides his family and friends who needs him? Maybe I'll feel more charitable after I get my drug of choice in me - caffeine. But not delivered via shots of espresso.

Heartless Aztec said...

Addendum - no shortage of actors out there.

Ann Althouse said...

"If he screwed up he got unlimited do-overs…"

Here's a list of his stage roles, including, recently, "Death of a Salesman" and "Othello."

No do-overs in the theater.

Heartless Aztec said...

He wasn't celebrated for his theater work. But that said, given. And now that I have caffeine coursing through my system I'm feeling more charitable.

paminwi said...

Authors who write minutiae like this are hooking in those "fans" who need every last detail about the life of a "celebrity". There are so many folks like that out there who will use that info. in their conversatons at the water cooler.

These are the same people who would fail the test that Jay Leno or Jimmy Kimmel do when they show pictures of the leaders of our country and ask them if they know who they are. Or those in the segment Jimmy Kimmel did asking about the State of the Union BEFORE the State of the Union.


Rusty said...

Too soon?

madAsHell said...

He had a "partner", and multiple children by this partner. He finds an apartment to use as a man cave for his heroin problem.

Selfish bastard.

kjbe said...

madAsHell -

True enough, but know that he despised his disease enough to fight it every day for 22 years, to enter himself into treatment and still, in the end, lost everything.

Addiction is a chronic disease that doesn’t discriminate, is patient, and is too often fatal – a callous, merciless enemy. When the drug of choice is as lethal, extreme and unforgiving as heroin, it’s easy to sit back and make judgments. The margin of error, here, is so narrow. Many struggle with more run-of-the-mill addictions that impact health and shorten lives, but you cannot tell me that any of them love their children any less.

In any case, I suppose those debates will be left to those who knew him as an actor and reluctant celebrity. His family and friends will be too busy missing the man who achieved so much, touched so many and left them far too soon.

mccullough said...

A lot more people can relate to ingesting a sweet, caffeine-charged drink than heroin. It's a nice use of details to contrast the tragic with the everyday.

prairie wind said...

Selfish bastard.

Or unfortunate bastard, depending on your level of compassion for addicts.

Darrell said...

Hoffman only had seventy bags of heroin, so what did he know? People around him are saying that they couldn't possible know he was in trouble based on what he was doing, to make it easier for them to sleep at night. He was making money for them so why do anything to make him miss a few paychecks while he gets the help he needs?

Michael said...

prairie wind: Why are addicts worthy of compassion when addiction is a "disease" chosen by the addict? And the addiction can be easily broken by stopping the taking of the substance. Why is it "unfortunate" that someone uses their own money to acquire a drug which they then put into their own body? There are certain behaviors that are more dangerous than others but we should not label those who willingly undertake them as "unfortunate" Dumb choosers perhaps. Worthy of pity, contempt even, but not compassion.

Wilbur said...

I'd never heard of this jasper until the breathless news bulletin Sunday afternoon on the TV machine.

And we celebrate actors and show business people why?