It is a dark rainy day here. The yard has been fed and they are coming up on the porch to stay dry. The “Antiques Road Show” is on after following some cooking shows. It is a typical slow Saturday afternoon.
As I open another bullet, I think about how much alcohol plays in our lives. I’m sure the historians will say since we’ve been on the planet we have made every attempt to dull the lives we live with some form of alcohol.
When we gather, the first request at the table is, “What do you want to drink?”
Now a touch of history, my father was in the entertainment business. From the 20’s through the 70’s that included alcohol. From running moonshine to the brown bag era to the blue laws, my family was involved in alcohol. Not knowing my parents’ parents’ reaction to this environment or the reaction of the weekly visits to the church, there was always alcohol in my family’s life. I’ve seen pictures of my family having a party for friends with drinks in their hand but I don’t remember. I think the boys were always sent to their rooms when this happened. I’m sure my parents were alcoholics but either it was hidden well or I didn’t see it growing up. Maybe my brother knows more about it?
Growing up, there was a cabinet at the top of the stairs that was full of bottles. My father would purchase decorative bottles and save them there. I never acquired what was in them? I remember goofy shot glasses too were around the kitchen, but I never knew of any other bottles. No one drank at dinner, at least as I could see, or even discussed drinking. It was a grown up sport.
About middle school, boys started to explore the edges and drinking was one of those forbidden challenges. Since there was an age limit to purchase alcohol we had to come up with unscrupulous ways of acquiring the illegal liquid.
Having a wild cousin who would try anything and getting to the age of shaving, I used my artistic skills to forge identification cards and after a day of surfing and sweeping while growing a beard, we stopped by the local bait shop that also sold cases of beer. A group of use gathered our money and sent me in sense I looked the oldest and the shop owner did not know me and I returned with a case of 3.2 beers.
We gathered on the beach under a dark sky and a bright fire celebrating in our plunder. There were so many of us and the beer was so weak we didn’t get buzzed but it was the adventure we celebrated.
Today we celebrate everything with alcohol. We toast at weddings, we hail victories, and we drown our sorrows and wash away our tears. Every weekend there seems to be a beer fest or wine tasting or any excuse to drink. Our sports are fueled in alcohol. Our cultural events are bubbling fest for an excuse to drink. We relax when we get home from a hard day at work with a drink. We calm our nerves with a drink.
Once we start dating, alcohol can make or break a relationship. We combine those passions of being together with the power of the barley or the grape and ruin a perfectly good opportunity and make it into a bad situation. Some of us handle alcohol well and some of us don’t.
In high school I had two sets of friends, well actually three. One group was the guys I went to school with. We had parties and found girls to associate with and played music and laughed and enjoyed each other’s company. This group did not drink.
Another group who lived further out and had automotive transportation and were accepted by my parents, as kids I should hang around with were a little more absorbed in the drink. One of our thrills was going to a local establishment and ordering a round of beers on fake IDs. I’m sure the owner knew these kids but allowed the activity to happen. What he didn’t know was when it was closing time we would load up our vehicles and drive to the end of our acceptable territorial and race to the other end. Not the smartest move, but we were teenagers. Most of us got away with it. I didn’t.
Perhaps that steered me away from this group? Maybe the reaction of the girls we were pouring alcohol into hoping to get lucky? Maybe it was a moral factor I didn’t know? I don’t remember having any obnoxious effects from drinking at this time, but it was sparingly spaced and not very offensive.
On occasion I would overdo the obvious. On one strange night a few friends invaded a girl friend’s house and broke into her father’s bar. Bourbon was what I remember, barely, as being my downfall. Don’t remember what made us do this because it was unusual for us to drink but here we were getting sloshed. I remember my friend’s cousin and I trading places barfing out in the yard. I remember sitting on the kitchen floor holding on to my friends’ girlfriend’s sister’s leg ranting some crazy talk. I remember being carried up to my backdoor and saying, “It’s OK I can make it.” I remember waking up the next morning with a trashcan by the bed and feeling like the world was sitting on my head. I remember some friends coming by that afternoon to watch me die. I remember going out that night enjoying the wind in my face as we drove away. To this day I cannot drink brown liquor.
After that I stayed away from alcohol. Also about his time herbal substances were becoming popular. Even those who did not drink started to take part in the dulling of life, but then this exercise took persistent to the way we interacted.
After some experiments with wine and beer, a couple settled on entertaining with the grape. Trying to have some tasting test we realized our friends just wanted to get buzzed and didn’t care about the quality of the substance they consumed at our expense.
As my mother drowned herself in the lost of her husband, I decided to drown myself in beer. It was cheaper than wine and the other substances started to become worrisome, so the Heinekens filled the basement.
By now I had become a person living alone and had available all kinds of things that might ease the pain. I even went to the dark side.
But today, when we gather, we talk and laugh and drink. Whether it is a barley base or a grape base or some combination of grains and spices and waters and such, it is alcohol.
We’ve grown up with families and settled down and become neighbors and citizens of our local townships. We invite others to come share a cook out on the grill or swap some family stories on the deck over a glass or two or librations.
So does that mean we are a country of drunks? I certainly cannot evaluate that conclusion as I open another bullet.