Screw You, Too, May 10th

It’s springer than a motherfucker here in Chicago, and like the eager trees and flowers lining the city’s streets, the douchebags are in full bloom after only a few days of sunshine. This past weekend, I had to involve myself in two altercations with patrons of my pub, and venting to the people around me just hasn’t sufficed, so I’m back to writing (also I’ve been feeling increasingly guilty for suppressing the urge to type some shit out for far too long).

In the first display of machismo-laden idiocy, two gentleman who had been cordial with one another for upwards of 30 minutes suddenly turned sour on the prospect of friendship. Granted, the guy who was more of a regular does tend to spew his fair share of bullshit, but to most its simply the endearing behavior of an alcoholic. Tatted up, straight-brimmed-hat, large-cross-wearing white dude with a finely manicured chinstrap goatee felt differently about his rantings. After detailing his plans for expunging his previous assault charges by saying he’s on the autism spectrum, homeboy had finally had enough of our regular when he insisted that he had some Swedish heritage.

“If you don’t shut the fuck up, I’m going to hit you over the fucking head with this glass,” he said, pulling the straw from the glass in what I can only imagine was an attempt at increased aerodynamics.

The regular recognized this as a legitimate threat, and knocked the glass to the ground. If you rewatch this bit on the security cameras (like I did), you could see my shoulders slump in a clear, “Please don’t be this dumb” body language plea for sanity. No luck. Homeboy hit the regular right in the face, dropped him to the ground, and continued hitting him. It lasted maybe 15-20 seconds before I got to them and pulled the guy off the regular, but it was enough time for him to land some pretty good punches.

My manager and I were between the two, saw a wallet on the ground, and I handed it to homeboy thinking it was his. He looked it over for a second, then handed it back to me because it was the regular’s. Pretty kind and compassionate post-face-punching, but hey, I’ll take what humanity I can get. Homeboy went outside to collect himself, I noticed a bunch of his blood on my arms (I assume he got cut when he landed on all the broken glass), then he was gone into the night.

Fast forward to that evening (the next day for me, but that’s only because I sleep during the day like a vampire as a result of working at a 4am bar). There’s a gentleman that I’d put at around 6’4″ and 250lbs wearing a black hat with red embroidery that reads, “45th.” Apparently that’s a Trump hat, and I feel like the potential that you’ll run into somebody who voted for a sitting president at any bar (no less a honky tonk bar) is pretty decent. One of my patrons felt otherwise, and thought it would be a good idea to walk up to that dude, poke him in the head, and call him a racist.

As one might imagine, the gentleman didn’t take kindly to being poked in the head, so he grabbed the guy by the neck and pinned him to the ground. I got to them in maybe five seconds, then ushered Pokey and his wife out the door, but not before the wife could call a few more folks racist, so then I had to stand in the way of those folks rushing up from behind me to continue the back and forth.

Somewhere in the frantic yelling, Pokey’s wife chided me for defending racists, and kicking out her husband who “protects our country” as an officer of the United States Navy. Now, if you know me at all, you know that I’m a big fan of the military in most regards. I’d say that nine times out of ten, you’ll get a fair amount of leeway from me if you tell me you are presently serving or have previously served in our armed forces. When you and your wife are screaming it in my face while I physically restrain you from coming into my bar after you literally ran across the street to continue your fight? Honestly, it doesn’t matter what words are coming out of your mouth at that point – you could be yelling about how Earth is actually round – you seem like the crazy person in the equation.

Ultimately, I was put in the position of defending someone whose political views I very strongly disagree with. Why did I defend him? Because supporting our idiot of a president doesn’t automatically make you a racist (I assure you, I would not allow explicitly or implicitly racist material through the front door). Because we are in a country where all people are allowed to support the politicians they want and wear articles of clothing that say as much (though in this instance, it was the most understated it could have been). Because there are no fights allowed in my place of business (no matter how justified). Because I’ve never been a fan of military officers who demand that they’re soluted by people of lower rank because it screams entitlement, and so did Pokey (he threatened to sue the guy at some point – you started the fight Pokey – don’t be mad because you lost).

Pokey, if you’re out there, I agree with you and your wife about a lot of things, and under different circumstances, we very likely would get along really well. But please, for your sake and mine, leave your shitty attitude back in the cold, dark winter where it belongs. The bees are buzzing, the birds are chirping, and it’s sunny as fuck outside. Have a cold beer and chill the fuck out. Cheers.

On Drinking – Present Day

There’s a dial in my head that’s been turned all the way to “information absorption” to the detriment of information dissemination lately. I had a rather heavy night out (read: “I drank really heavily”) a while back, and it sent me into a small downward spiral, and my inner critic had a lot to say when I handed him the mic.

He asked what the drinking was worth to me. Is it worth making friends with people whose names I can’t remember? Is it worth the hundreds of dollars I could have saved that night and the weeks of catching up on bills in the aftermath? Is it worth the multiple-day hangover and depression that inevitably follow? Or the lasting effects it has on my dog when I’m not willing or able to take him outside as often as I should because I can’t fathom getting out of bed? I think not.

About a decade ago, then chief drug adviser to the UK David Nutt, MD and a team of colleagues ranked different drugs based on nine different types of harm caused to an individual and seven types of harm caused to society. Alcohol was found to be the most harmful of all drugs (including heroin, crack, etc.) to society, and the fourth most harmful to the user. Dr. Nutt was fired from that position for saying that the government-sanctioned drugs were worse than the ones the government was trying to vilify – LSD, MDMA, and THC among them.

Much of alcohol’s harm to society is likely due to its legality, and the multi-billion dollar advertising campaigns encouraging us to raise a glass to whatever day it happens to be, or for no reason at all. There are, unfortunately, no juice bars selling small hits of Molly along with a kale smoothie – at least not that I’m aware of – but maybe that’s a much better way to hang out with your friends than having a beer together.

Don’t get me wrong – I love alcohol. I love the taste of it, the feel of it, the look of it – pretty much everything about it, actually. There are also plenty of studies saying that small amounts of alcohol can be good for your cardiovascular health, prevent kidney stones, safeguard against Alzheimer’s, and boost your social and sex lives. My problem is usually with the “small amounts” bit of those studies. When I drink, I fucking drink.

My friend called herself a “freegan,” meaning she only ate meat at dinner parties or when it was purchased for her. Essentially, she only ate it when she was socially called upon to do so. I think that’s the stance I’m going to take with alcohol going forward. If someone wants to buy me a drink, I’m not going to say no, but I’m also not going to ask for one or purchase one for myself. We’ll see how it goes.

Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” I seem to have the thinking and the saying parts down, but there’s still some room for improvement on the doing. I’ll keep you updated.

On Drinking – The Early Years

Yep, you guessed it. An entire blog post about water, juices, and sodas.

Sorry, no. Alcohol. I love alcohol. It has inspired some of the best and worst times of my life, and our relationship is far from over.

I was about eight when I took my first sip of Guinness. My dad used to throw these amazing Saint Patrick’s Day parties – we’d pack the house with decorations and food and alcohol and people, he’d hired step dancers to perform in our living room, we’d do a big singalong complete with sheet music where he’d play the guitar, and when I was old enough, I’d play the drum (not just me, but it was nice to feel included). I don’t remember liking the taste of the beer, but I also don’t remember being repulsed by it. Maybe it was the beer itself or maybe it was just the idea of being a part of the adult crowd that made it palatable.

I was fifteen the first time I got drunk. I was a camp counselor at the time, and I finally got invited to one of the house parties my coworkers were throwing while their parents were out of town. I wanted to prove I wasn’t just a nerd, so I committed rather heavily to drinking that evening. The first drink I poured myself was a screwdriver (the only drink I had really even heard of, yet alone made), and I filled the red Dixie cup about 3/4 with vodka and topped it off with a little orange juice (no ice). I also had at least one beer. Then someone said, “I bet you can’t chug the rest of what’s in this Jack Daniels bottle!” Turns out I could.

Overall I’d say it was a fun night. I saw my first set of pierced nipples at the same time that I saw my first pair of breasts. And also my second pair. Funnily enough, one of the owners of those sets is now happily married to the brother of one of my best friends. Anyway, at some point I got a call from my mom and what I thought I said while I paced along the tile floors in an attempt at a straight line was, “Hey, Mom! It’s so good to hear from you! I’m having a great time, and they said I could totally sleep over tonight, so you don’t need to come get me!”

Apparently, what I said was much more along the lines of, “Mom! Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom… IIIIII’m sssso good righ- now! You *hiccup* you don’ hef to come *hiccup* get me.” She was immediately on her way.

The drive home was rough. I was playing a lot of Dance Dance Revolution at the time, so when I closed my eyes, I saw a lot of streams of arrows and flashing lights. I had her pull over because I felt nauseous. I leaned out the passenger door for a bit before she got tired of waiting and insisted I drag the top half of my body back inside the car so she could keep driving. I vomited many times after getting back home. I did not understand why my mother, who up to that point in my life had always been very helpful when I was sick, was unwilling to lend me any sympathy that night.

After that, I swore off alcohol for good.

By 18, I was drinking fairly regularly. My friends and I would often skip school for the sake of just hanging out at home with some beers and cigarettes or weed. Generally, we utilized one of two methods for getting our alcohol. We shoplifted, which we had down to a sort of science. We’d go in, find one of the bottles on the back of the shelf that an underpaid grocery store attendant had missed, and after facing away from the cameras or moving to another isle, we’d slip it into our pants – usually the crotch. Then We’d buy something else so as not to raise suspicion by just walking back out the front door.

Or occasionally we’d have someone else buy it. One time, we stopped on the 101 freeway to help out a dude who was pushing his beautiful sports car along, hazards flashing. He had apparently run out of gas, so we pushed him all the way to the nearest gas station. He said he’d buy us whatever we wanted at the store. He drove some of us there and showed off just what his Porsche could do. I think we got up to about 120mph in some fairly heavy traffic. When we got to the grocery story, we loaded up a cart with about $250 of beer and liquor, which we then used to throw a rather impressive party at a hotel.

Quick aside on the hotel party. We rented out a two-story suite at the top of a hotel, then we slipped the gentleman who showed us the room an extra couple hundred bucks to keep the surrounding rooms empty, so we didn’t bother any other guests. At some point, we found my friend passed out in the closet. Concerned we said, “If you can here us, just raise your hand a little, man!” His fist shot triumphantly up in the air and we all cheered.

In college, the drinking got significantly heavier. The gas station down the street from the school was a notorious shithole, and they didn’t card. So I got the vast majority of my beer from there. I got my hard alcohol from my classmates, who employed fake ID’s or just were legally allowed to purchase it. We had hard alcohol handle chugging contests in our rooms that spewed out into the hallways of the dorm.

One time a friend passed out in one of our rooms, so we collectively picked him up and took him to my room where we used up multiple Sharpies on him. One of my friends drew and filled in black socks on his feet. He got the vast majority of it off by the next uniform inspection, but he missed a couple dicks behind his ears, which made for some very funny explaining while trying to maintain some semblance of military bearing.

Sometimes we would drive up to the nearest state college, where a friend of mine from high school went. We got so shitty on one trip that my roommate kicked a hole in somebody’s door and stole a toaster. At some point in the evening, I gave my keys to a friend because I was clearly too drunk to go anywhere. The next day, he was nowhere to be found. When I went back to my car to see if he had slept there, I saw all of the windows rolled down. The car was FILLED with vomit. His shoes were overflowing with the stuff. It was on the seats, it was on the steering wheel, it was on the fucking ceiling, but he wasn’t there.

I vaguely recalled him saying he was going to sleep in the bushes so we were going to split up to search the bushes nearby. Then I had a crazy notion, and popped the trunk of the car to find him in the fetal position, squinting against the bright morning sun. We cleaned to the degree that we could and drove back to our campus with our heads out the windows.

Some times were less funny. Sometimes I woke up in my bed with no recollection of getting there. Sometimes I’d drive on the wrong side of the road. Sometimes I’d crash my car. Sometimes I’d say things and do things that I very sincerely regretted the next day and for a long time after. Sometimes people I thought were friends would get violent with me out of nowhere. Sometimes I’d sit alone in my dorm room and drink by myself in the dark. And sometimes it was great. Box of chocolates.

The first few years of my relationship with alcohol were not all vomits and giggles. I was only 19 at this point in the story, so it was still mostly fun and fancy free, but it hasn’t and won’t always be that way, I’m afraid. Alcohol’s a hell of a mistress, and she can be fickle.