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.

Sitting and Breathing: Day 19

I didn’t want to do the meditation thing today. I mean… I did it, but I didn’t want to. I woke up and watched that new movie on Brexit, went to FedEx to get new passport photos and print out some stuff that needed signing, and get my dog some food. Then I watched the bus – not more than 30 feet from me – roll away from my stop right when traffic cleared enough for me to cross the street.

“FUCK!” I yelled as I hefted the 33lb bag of dog food higher onto my shoulder. I conceded defeat and called a Lyft.

See? Now I’m avoiding talking about meditation by telling you about my day. Today was Thinking Meditation, which has a simple premise – acknowledge that you’re having thoughts and that those thoughts don’t make you who you are. Let them come and go like visitors. Well, I wasn’t too interested in any visitors today, but I sat down and breathed for a while about it anyway.

The other night I had a small gathering at my house, and I essentially unwittingly connected a person whom I am interested in with another of my friends by inviting them both to the same place. Then I invited everyone back to my apartment, and by doing that I handed them a space to hook up in. I fell asleep briefly on my couch, and when I woke up to move to my bed, I had to kick them out of my room.

I don’t harbor any animosity toward either of them – we’re all adults and we all like to party. I wasn’t, however, entirely okay with it either. I’d been avoiding putting any direct light on it in my mind, and I knew that today’s meditation practice would undoubtedly settle on the subject. Sometimes being right is annoying.

It was necessary that I do this today (both the meditating and the writing about it). I needed to show myself that I could stick to this, and I also needed some concentrated time to process my feelings on the matter.

I’m left feeling like the partying lifestyle is no longer one I’m terribly interested in pursuing. That’s not to say that I’ll shun partying going forward, necessarily, but I don’t feel as drawn to it as I once did. Each time I engage in some partying, I’m left with a feeling of remorse. I wish I hadn’t spent the money I did, I wish I hadn’t wasted my time on meaningless conversations that nobody remembers the next day, and I wish I hadn’t set myself up for hurting yet again.

Additionally, I feel like I’m trying to combat loneliness with these social interactions, and they’re only making it worse. Clearly, I’m a social being and it’s necessary to foster relationships with people, but I feel like I’m being selfish by getting close to people here because I know I’ll just be leaving next January. I’m not sure where the happy medium is there, but it’s something I’ll be putting some serious thought into going forward.

I don’t feel like rereading this, so sorry if there are typos or whatever. I’ll be back with more sitting and breathing tomorrow. Cheers.

The Shark Limo

Screenshot_20181005-161552.pngPer my party prep SOP, I perused the aisles of the nearest Goodwill, looking for outlandish dayglow pieces that would really pop under blacklight. They couldn’t just be regular glow-in-the-dark pieces of clothing – they had to be nonsense enough to stand out in a sea of people aiming to stand out. Pro tip: the children and women’s sections have better party clothes by a mile and change than the men’s section.

I settled on a highlighter yellow pair of boy’s running shorts, and a neon pink puffy vest. I barely fit into both, so they were perfect. On my out, I also spotted a neon green hat with “VIVA” printed across the front. After wriggling myself into my new outfit and some concerted effort on the inebriation front, I was ready to go.

On the way in, I went past the bouncers searching people at the main entrance, to the side of the building, and slipped what I had into my shoe. I saw a guy next to me put his hand to his ear as I went back around to the front.

“Throw away whatever you have in your shoe. I’m not going to argue with you – just make this easier for all of us and throw it away,” the large, suited man said. Clearly he had been on the other end of the communique I walked away from.

“Damn fine work, gentlemen. You got it.” I reached down to my shoe, and simultaneously into my pocket pink pocket (in the vest – get your head out of the gutter). I pulled out a cigarette wrapper and threw it into the trash as I palmed the contents of my shoe behind my phone.

“Thanks for being cool about it – you good,” he said with a nod.

Sucker.

At parties in club or bar settings, I go into autopilot. I bounce between the bar, the dance floor, and the bathroom with fairly reckless abandon, letting Whim guide me around at its leisure. It’s normally too loud inside to have conversations longer than, “I LOVE YOUR OUTFIT!” And I don’t always appreciate the amount of spittle involved in those close-quarter convos.

This party was no different, and I found myself on the smoking patio for much of the night. I preferred it there – partly because of my nicotine addiction, sure, but mainly because I actually got to speak to people and get to know them. I’m a glutton for conversation with strangers, and I was feeling particularly ravenous that evening.

2am came screeching in behind the veil of smoke and alcohol I had erected in front of me. As we were getting booted from the place, the guy I was chatting with said, “You seem cool. You wanna come with us to the after party in my limo?”

Why yes, I did. I went to the club with friends, but the allure of a privately owned limousine was too good to pass up, so I was a shitty friend, and I said goodbye to the people I came with. I was down on myself about that for as long as it took the limo owner to pull out a magnetic shark fin that he stuck to the top. “How fuckin’ cool is this?!” he shouted. It was really cool. My mood improved.

The ride to the after party was rowdy. The attractive couple that owned the limo also owned a champagne gun – like a squirt gun that you could affix bottles of champagne directly to – and I was immediately shot in the eye with it. But dammit what fun! Scantily clad and covered in sticky, bubbly goodness, we danced and slid around the back of the limo, randomly yelling at passersby out the windows (how else would they know we were enjoying ourselves in there?). I was glad my outfit only set me back ten bucks – money well-spent.

We poured out of the limo and into what can only be described as a party house. It was a dark labyrinth with a different theme for each room and cushions packed into every available space. There was a DJ booth in the darkest depths, and I vaguely recall dancing, but again, most of my time was spent on the smoking patio.

My voice tends to carry, and it might have contributed to the cops finally showing up to shut the thing down. They wandered in and did their best to kick everybody out. They were largely successful. I wandered away, but because I didn’t have a ride, I just kind of meandered around for a while, then the cops left, so I went back inside and continued partying. The windows were all blacked out, so I was surprised when 10am showed up on my watch.

The next time I looked at it, it was 3pm, and I was just waking up. There were very few party goers left, and I was underneath a large area rug that I equated with a blanket at some point. I stumbled around until I found the guy who ran the party den.

“Hey, can I use your phone to call myself an Uber?” I asked.

“I don’t have Uber on my phone, man.”

“Okay, well can I download it, then use my card to get myself an Uber?”

“Sure,” he said finally.

I squinted my eyes as I walked out into the afternoon heat of the San Fernando Valley. I don’t think that I audibly hissed, but I might’ve. I had 45 minutes to explain my outfit to my driver on the way to the house of the friend I abandoned at the club. He was enthralled, but I had a hard time sharing his enthusiasm because I was now quite aware of how much I needed a shower. When the ride was over I thanked him for listening, apologized for the smell, and begrudgingly stumbled back into real life.

In the Name of Art – Part II

MVIMG_20180912_074105.jpgFrom the time I landed to the time I left, I took my partying at Burning Man very seriously. I went all out until I passed out every day, then got up and did it again. One of the selling points for me has always been that I get to build and create while I’m out there, so I pushed myself hard physically to build and rebuild pieces of camp as the winds blew them down.

I had the added pleasure of a close friend joining me for the trip, got to fall in love for a few days, then do it again with another friend of a friend right before the event was over. The night of the Man Burn, I watched someone run into the giant structure fire. As he entered, a large piece of the frame collapsed around him and rescuers had to back off until it calmed down enough to drag him from the flames. His foot was still smoldering as he lay on the desert floor surrounded by emergency personnel. After being cas-e-vaced, he died from his wounds at the UC Davis Medical Center. Point being, it was an emotional week.

The artist that brought me out had been cordial in our brief passings throughout the event. Honestly, the idea of spending much time with her or on her project didn’t thrill me given that I was in the Land of Distraction, so I didn’t. Finally it was time to pack up, comb the campground for trash and stray tent spikes, and get ourselves and our art piece off the desert.

“I don’t want to go home!” she choked out between cigarette puffs and sobs. She was crying on and off all day as we packed. My patience had worn thin by this point, and we were all tired and out of energy, but dammit, we needed to go. My saving grace of a human that accompanied us out there couldn’t handle the emotional roller-coaster that would inevitably be our ride back, so she left early with a friend, and left me to deal with the artist on my own.

After enlisting the help of basically everyone but her, I was able to get the truck ready to go. She drove us off the desert, but the crying came along with us. The sun left the sky, and the amount of shit she gave about staying in her lane left with it.

“Would you mind staying in the lane?” I asked as she rolled a joint and swerved into the oncoming traffic side of the road, steering with her knees.

“There’s nobody coming! I can clearly see that! And you’re the LAST fucking person that should say anything about my driving!”

“My legal ability to drive and my actual ability to drive (or stay in a lane) are two different things.”

At this, she slammed on the brakes in the middle of a long line of traffic on a two-lane highway. “GET OUT! You can fucking walk the rest of the way!” she screamed at me, nearly jabbing me in the eye with her now-lit spliff.

“I’m not getting out! Drive the car, please!” I stayed buckled in, and she eventually started driving again. I was able to eek out an apology for the license thing (I apologized for this about four times over the course of the week, and thought we were past it, but I was wrong).

The rest of the drive to our “midway” (it was more like a quarter of the way) point was uneventful. We made it to a hotel, got a room together, showered 13 days of dust off ourselves, and got a decent night sleep in an actual bed, with actual air conditioning. The crying the next day was at least less frequent because she was well-rested.

We had a nice lunch at a bar and grill near Mono Lake. I had a nice conversation with my mom while the truck was being refueled, reassuring her that I was not dead. The artist was concerned that she had lost some drugs she had sympathetically purchased on my behalf, so we spent ten minutes looking through the truck before finding out a friend had taken them. We were ready to get on our way, and she said, “Okay, let me just roll this joint, get some coffee, and some cigarettes, then we’re out of here.”

I sighed. “Can we please just go?” I had work the next day, and my already-thin patience was becoming emaciated. She snapped. She called her dad on speaker phone, and complained loudly about how I was a drug addict and how I ruined her project. I felt like I really didn’t need to be there for the conversation, so I stepped out of the truck.

I tried to see if I could get my stuff out of the truck, but it was buried too far underneath the other shit in the back. I realized my wallet was in the truck, which she had locked at that point. I pointed to it and yelled through the window, “Just give me back my wallet!”

She opened the driver-side window, and threw my wallet into the street. Hundreds of dollars in loose bills fluttered in the wind and spread themselves across the street. As I collected them, she peeled out and sped off. I was reveling in a combination of astonishment and relief when the truck screeched to a halt in front of me again.

“You’re a drug addict piece of shit!” she yelled.

“I’m already out of the car! This is over!” I got out before she drove off again.

I collected myself, bought a sharpie from the gas station, and wrote, “Los Angeles” on a piece of cardboard, adding the Burning Man symbol for good measure. And I waited.