Erasing drunken shame on Arthur Miller’s 96th birthday

Posted by Jason Diamond

I worked in coffee shops intermittently from the ages of 15 to 28.  Despite the poor pay, the rude customers, and the multiple burns from scolding hot water, it wasn’t my worst work experience.  I’ve made lifelong friends thanks to those gigs, and when I was broke and hungry, I could always depend on my coffee shop for free coffee and the occasional sandwich.  Working in coffee also supplied me with one of my most embarrassing memories, one that I’m planning to exorcise publicly using this post.

It was a disgustingly hot New York summer from start to finish.  On this particular mid-July evening, it had gotten up to 100 degrees, and the extended forecast held no relief.  The city was melted and the shop was dead.  The last thing anyone wants on a sweltering summer night is coffee, iced or otherwise.  All me and my friend (also named Jason) had to occupy ourselves with was a case of beer we had acquired to numb the pain of no air-conditioning shift.

I am a huge Arthur Miller fan.  Growing up, I read his plays like they were novels.  I looked to Miller’s works for philosophical inspiration.  I saw Death of a Salesman in high school, and recognized it as almost a mirror image of my own family, and I found an odd solace in Miller’s stark portrayal of the dying American dream. After that, I made a point to see and read A View From the Bridge and The Crucible as often as possible.  Miller’s work had a profound impact on me as a teenager.  He had me interested in the honest, real-world experience that other books and television didn’t portray, and I still consider him one of my favorite authors.

My co-worker, aware of my devotion to Miller, kept telling me that he was going to introduce me to the writer’s daughter, Rebecca (fun fact: also married to Daniel Day-Lewis, and a great writer, actress, and director in her own right) but the moment had eluded us until that sweltering night.  Keep in mind, we were about ten beers in:

She walked up to the counter, and other Jason introduced me as “The guy I told you about.  He’s a big fan of your father.”

She was very nice, and seemed genuinely interested in my fandom.  I was drunk, and I wasn’t prepared to make polite conversation with the daughter of one of my heroes.

“Yeah, I moved to Midwood recently,” I sputtered.  “I picked the apartment because I found out it was where Henry Miller grew up.”

Ms. Miller looked at me strangely, said “Oh,” and walked out.

As soon as she left, I realized that for some reason I’d mistakenly said Henry Miller instead of Arthur Miller.  I ducked down behind the counter, and screamed “fuck!” as I saw images of future me banned from productions of All My Sons.  I saw myself eternally haunted by Marilyn Monroe, which looking back, wouldn’t have been so bad.  I drank the rest of the beer out of embarrassment, and passed out behind the counter with my head on a bag of espresso beans.

But time heals all wounds, and I am at the point where I can talk about my stupidity in a public forum.  It seems fitting to do so today, on what would have been Miller’s 96th birthday.