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.

Fake ID’s

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I mean Jesus… Look at this kid. I’d rob this kid.

I had my phone pressed to my ear and I was telling my girlfriend, “No really! I can get you anything! This place has every knock-off thing you can imagine. Gucci, Prada, Rolex…”

I was on Canal Street in Manhattan, and I was sixteen, and for whatever reason I was trusted to be on my own. I was trying my damnedest to project an air of confidence, that probably just came off as cocky naivete – the kind that only an over-privileged, over-indulged white kid can muster.

During my boisterous listing of the few name brands I was able to commit to memory or have shouted at me by vendors on either side of me, I caught someone’s attention.

“Fake ID’s,” the large black man interjected, leaning over as he passed me on the street to add to the secrecy. As if he pierced my ear with a fish hook when he walked by, my head turned and my body followed.

“I gotta call you back,” I closed the flip phone. “Sir, I believe you’ve found a customer.”

I followed this dude through the alleyways leading away from Canal Street (it was daylight, but I’m willing to acknowledge it wasn’t the best plan) as he explained the process. We would go up to his guy’s studio for the photos, and he would print them out right then and there with whatever magical machine he had stolen specifically for this purpose. This guy was the best – used to work for the DMV and shit.

We landed in a small Chinese cafe across the street from the spot. Then the negotiating started. “How much you got on you?”

“Really, I only have about $80. So that’ll have to do.” I tried sneakily pulling the money from my pocket without getting my wallet out so I could continue bluffing. Being much more adept at this than I was, he noticed right away.

“Hey man! We gotta trust each other here! You gotta be up front with me! Is that really all you got?!”

It was not. I pulled out the entire $130 that I had in my pocket and handed it over.

“Alright. Coo. You gotta trust people, man. Anyway, here’s the thing. This guy is super paranoid, and he don’t trust anybody. I need to prove to him that you cool and you not wearin’ a wire.”

It was far-fetched, but what did I know about the illegal fake ID industry? I handed him my watch, which was the “most likely place for me to be hiding a recording device.” He left me with my phone, though, which was very nice of him and really should have raised some red flags.

“Alright. I’m gonna run across the street and check in with him. Stay right here and I’ll be back in a minute.” I saw him disappear into a store across the street. I counted to 60. I made it to 50 before jumping out of my seat and following him.

I got inside the store and immediately saw the door leading to the other street that I couldn’t see from the cafe. I ran outside to try and find him, but Canal Street was buzzing with other idiotic tourists trying to find cheap alternatives to luxury items. Also, there was a subway entrance on each corner. This dude was gone.

Any normal person would probably have cut their losses, but not your young, privileged idiot protagonist! I ran back inside and asked the Israelis who owned the place if they had seen the guy. They hadn’t, but they said they had a pretty decent surveillance system, so I called the police so I could finger the guy (not like that).

They arrived not long after I called and told me to describe what happened. “Alright, so I was buying a fake ID, but we’re going to have to look past that for the time being because this guy robbed me.” I explained the rest of the story in as much detail as I could remember. Apparently this was a recurring issue with tourists – two dudes from Australia just had the same thing happen to them the week prior.

I accompanied the police inside, and found them a pretty decent (though grainy) photo of the guy. Part of me wants to think that my insistence on being in the right lead to this guy’s capture and imprisonment, and part of me is impressed by the guy’s commitment to his craft, and hopes that he continued duping dumb white tourists for years to come.

If you ever plan on living in a big city, I strongly encourage you to get robbed a couple times. I’m not going to say it’s resulted in me making better choices, but they’re definitely better-informed bad choices.