Sunday, April 30, 2017

Coming To An Understanding Of Alcohol, or A Vain Attempt At Maturity

Sometimes I think that I was too good growing up. But then again, there really is no "good" or "bad" behavior growing up when you grow up largely outside of the social constructs of adolescence. I had few friends, fewer still that could actually trust with anything more than my name. By the time I reached high school there was simply no place within its hierarchical circles - I wasn't anywhere close to popular with any particular group, even the "outcast" groups, and while my years in marching band were certainly enjoyable, even there I stood outside the cliques within the band. I'd been marked as a "narc" by my classmates because my mother worked at the high school as the secretary to the guidance counselors, and because I hid from bullies at lunch in the guidance office every goddamn day. I only learned this several years after I'd graduated. Ironically enough, I've only become friends with many of those in my graduating class later on, at an arm's-length distance through Facebook.

Believe it or not, there actually were advantages to my plight. Because I was a complete outcast, I was never really subjected to the peer pressures associated with small-town adolescence. And because of that, I never acquired a taste for alcohol. I never got drunk, or buzzed. I was too scared to do so, even if I'd been given the opportunity to do so. It didn't help that my entire family either were drunks, or remain drunks to this day. And to be completely honest, I have no contact with those of my family that didn't go on the proverbial wagon. My sister maintains her sobriety well enough, though fears of relapse have meant that she'd never seen me play a gig in her life until just a few years ago, playing in my last cover band with Ron DeFrang and John Eddy in the old back room at Coog's Budget CD's downtown. My dad went with her to those meetings for several years, but eventually he developed a more mature relationship with the spirits than he had in his younger days. In other words, he knows his limits and has the discipline to not exceed them. Too bad that it took him this long to figure it out.

And me? I was straightedge without even really knowing it. I like to say "I invented straightedge - you're welcome". I was just an outcast beyond outcasts, listening to loud and obnoxious music while not indulging in the pleasures of the flesh, albeit more because I couldn't afford them than because I didn't want them. And then I met Joy - a fellow outcast beyond outcasts. She'd have a drink occasionally, but to this day I can still count on one hand every time in our quarter-century together that I've seen her that drunk, and I'll still have fingers left. As she's gotten sick, she's said to me that occasionally she kinda regrets not partying in her younger years - she never got the chance to really have fun because she became a wife and mother too soon. And I wonder to myself if I feel the same way. I remember a wine-tasting tour we took on a brief vacation to Sonoma County in California, and feeling utterly useless. Why? It's not like one sip would turn me into a wino, genetic predisposition to alcoholism be damned! But on my uneducated palate, white wine was acidic and red wine was overwhelming. It was a waste of my time. I cook with alcohol - red wine into burgundy beef or osso bucco, white into my alfredo sauce, a little mirin into my teriyaki or bulgogi. But I don't drink. Ever.

But I'm forty-eight years old. Fuck that. I do feel like Joy - I never got the chance to party, so why not at least take a step or two in that direction. I do know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but it's time to stop being such a goddamn stick in the mud. I've worked up the balls to actually try a drink every now and then. But the taste of alcohol is abhorrent to me, which reminds me of what several people have told me when I said as much to them. You don't drink for the taste, they said. You drink to get drunk. Well, I don't want to get drunk. I just want to achieve understanding. Something that I could actually enjoy imbibing once in a while, after a hard night's work, to help me unwind after slugging down a few quarts of Coke through the night just passed.

Fortunately, the adult-beverage industry has a niche for me. Lighter, more flavorful alcoholic beverages have been around for decades now, wine coolers and flavored malt beverages, but now things are getting gloriously weird. As in "hard soda" and "hard tea". We're not talking a bottled Cuba Libre here, we're talking alcoholic soda - in the words of one brand's advertising pitch, so you can live hard. Ish. I'm trying out things in that direction.

First up was Mike's Hard Orange Soda. It tasted good - for about a second. Then it tasted like ass. Eventually I figured out that the only way to drink it was to drink it fast. Then I tried one of Joy's Raspberry Smirnoff Ice drinks. I actually couldn't taste the alcohol in it, and found that I could actually enjoy the flavor of it and drink it at a relatively leisurely pace. I think I'll buy another pack of those this coming weekend. And for shits and grins, I tried making a mixed drink a little bit ago before I sat down to type this out - a kinda-sorta Bloody Mary, a tablespoon or two of vodka into a six-ounce can of Spicy Hot V8 over ice. Yech. Adding a second can of V8 didn't save that mess from tasting like paint thinner. What a waste of perfectly good V8 - my braising liquid of choice for pot roast. I think I'll stick with the raspberry stuff for now. Or maybe that's as far as I want to go. It's time for bed as it is.

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