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.

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Are you in love right now? How awesome is that shit? If you’re not, have you been in love before? I bet you remember exactly what it feels like. If you’re like me, the powerful torrent of a river that was that love etched an indelible path deep down in you somewhere. Looking at it, now barely a trickle (but never completely dry), brings a weird combination of sadness and awe – how deep it ran, how wide its breadth.

Every now and again I get brief flashes of it. Sometimes it’s easy to pinpoint – I see a picture of an ex that reminds me of them. Sometimes it’s more subtle – like today when I heard a news story about how women smell their partner’s shirts as a way to calm themselves; just like she used to. I’m instantly transported to her side, and I feel her skin against mine for a split second before I’m thrown back into the present. It’s painful to remember just how happy I was, mainly because no matter how happy I feel now, it pales in comparison to that feeling. It’s a reminder that that shit is out there, waiting for me in the heart of someone I probably haven’t even met, yet.

She sits in a coffee shop and stares at the rain hitting the window. She listens to a combination of podcasts, NPR news stories, and sweet, somber instrumental music that matches the tone of the season. She feels perfectly happy with herself right now, but she too is reminded of the flame that burned in her belly once for that someone. The pang hits her as the music crescendos, and her eyes well with tears, and one sneaks its way down her cheek while she’s distracted by the beauty of the moment.

She’s proud of that tear for its audacity. She’s thankful for it being there for a moment before she wipes it away. She yearns for something strong enough to pull more of them from her someday when she’s so goddamn happy that tears are the only way for her body to cope with the overload of joy, happiness, and true love coursing through her veins.

It’s fucking corny! Deal with it!

Anyway, I can’t wait to meet her. I can’t wait to see her smile for the first time. I can’t wait to feel the electricity pulse through our skin when our hands meet for the first time. I can’t wait to see the glint of realization in her eyes when she finds herself thinking, “Holy shit, I love this guy,” for the first time. I can’t wait to feel that spark in me again.

Then again, I can wait. I AM waiting. I hate waiting. But the leaves are certainly pretty rustling in the fall winds, and I’m happy she and I both have that to enjoy while we wait, sipping our coffee (beer) and staring at the rain hitting the window.

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Live Bugs and Too Much Beer

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If you were to say, “Yesterday was too much!” you would not be wrong. I woke up particularly early yesterday because I was scheduled to sign a lease for my new apartment at 10am, but I needed to deliver an assortment of live bugs to a friend of a friend before a certain time, and I wasn’t sure how long the apartmenting would take. I made it to Petsmart right when they opened, but apparently there’s a shortage of mealworms in the Chicago area. I called a nearby Petco, they said they had them, and apparently the staff at Petco likes to lie to people because they definitely did not have them when I got there. 20 crickets, 50 night crawlers and a bottle of freeze-dried mealworms would have to do.

Brief aside: I got a new apartment. It’s a third story (4th if you count the bottom floor) walk up in a very nice neighborhood in the northern portion of the city. Nothing makes you feel like you have a lot of stuff like having to haul all of it up 43 steep and winding stairs. The electricity wasn’t on, though, and won’t be until tomorrow, so I write to you from another hotel where I’ve consumed vastly too much room service food to combat yesterday’s hangover.

Back to yesterday. In exchange for the bug delivery (which I discovered was for a performer who was to eat them in front of an audience), I was given two VIP wristbands to the Lagunitas Beer Circus, which allowed me access and as much free beer as I wanted. I made friends with a couple ladies in the face painting line, and we went to their apartment for more drinking. After they switched into evening attire, we went to one of their friend’s houses. Shortly after arriving, the ladies followed the friend into a separate room, and one of the roommates asked me nicely to leave. I wasn’t given a reason, just told it was time for me to go. Now, I know I can be noisy sometimes, but I still feel like that was a dick move on their part, and I look forward to whatever opportunities going forward I get to shit talk them (like this blog for example).

I hailed a cab and moved on to the next place, which unbeknownst to me was smack in the middle of a street fair called Market Days in Chicago. It’s like a gay pride block party, complete with music and dancing and food and an overabundance of alcohol. I stayed there until they started moving the party into the surrounding bars, then I found a karaoke place close to my house to wind down the last couple hours of the evening/morning.

I ordered halal pizza to be delivered to me, and waited in the passenger seat of my car for it to arrive because I had had enough of those stairs, but according to the 4 missed calls on my phone and the lack of pizza remnants in my car/home, I’m guessing I fell asleep before it arrived. It is now 8pm, and I just now got up the energy to put my fingers on a keyboard. Good game, Chicago.