As I sit here listening to Reel Big Fish sing about beer and ponder which liquor currently in my collection will go best with my orange juice, I can’t help but to think about the way drinking has changed as I have aged. Sure some things are obvious like hangovers. And apparently some things never change, like mixing hard alcohol with orange juice on a weeknight. Actually I settled for an orange juice neat since I have nothing that would be good with the juice. I don’t know if that is a fail or a win. I suppose that’s a change, in the past that would have easily been a fail.
I didn’t start drinking until after I left high school. I had the opportunity to, but I chose not to. Dagger will still recite back to me the email I sent him when I decided to partake in imbibing. I believe it was along the lines of, “This is the time in my life when I should be drinking beers, banging chicks, and just enjoying the shit out of life. I will be at your party and ready to drink.” He was so proud of me.
Drinking at this time was so much fun because it was all so new. I remember being at that party and experiencing my first drunk. I couldn’t feel my mouth and I thought trying to play Tony Hawk was a good idea. I had no idea what I was doing. It was extreme button mashing. I finally understood what everyone was talking about. Well maybe not at that moment, but the next day it was all very clear as to why all my friends would drink, but more importantly, why they all acted retarded when they did.
The other thing I enjoyed, and somewhat miss, about underage drinking is there was always an excuse to drink and always a way to get drunk faster. I would call someone up and ask what was going on and they would say we’re drinking and I would then ask why and the response would be it’s Steve’s birthday, or I aced a test, or we got a new table, or it’s Thursday. There was always a reason to drink, which I think helped justified it.
Then upon showing up to said drinking there would be a game going on or a beer bong being cashed. This was the time in my life when we coined the term “SWASHBUCKLE,” which meant, “I don’t care how much beer you have in your beer receptacle, drink the rest of it now, bitch!” It was a time when I felt this altered state was where I was meant to be, and I had to get there as fast as I could.
The worst part of underage drinking was trying to find a beer connection. Whether it was an older brother, a friend, or that sketchy overpriced liquor store that sold to minors; what ever it was though, we always managed to find some and proceeded to consume it as fast as we could. It was a thrill to be doing something illegal.
Just as drinking starts to lose some its sex appeal, I turned 21 and was introduced to a whole new world of drinking: the bar scene. Once again drinking was fresh, new, and exciting. The fear and exhilaration of being caught was gone. It was replaced with wonder and surprise. I never knew what each new bar would hold. What kind of atmosphere would I find? What beers were on tap? What was in the jukebox? Would I meet the love of my life like all those movies would have me believe?
Then there was the professional who could introduce me to so many new and different drinks. No longer was I confined to the beer, jager, and the roofie coated jungle juice of house parties. I could venture out. Anyone who was at my 21st birthday, or saw the scorecard from it, knows that I did indeed start to venture out.
And nothing was better than going out for dinner and ordering a beer with the meal. In addition, weddings became much more fun. I recall attending some as a kid and being bored off my ass, even where there were other kids, you can’t have fun as a kid when you’re dressed up. But then I was able to drink at the weddings and it was a world of difference. And don’t tell me that it was because now I am older and actually know who is getting married. I went to a dry wedding, and alcohol makes a world of difference.
This age sucks, because suddenly I was spending a lot more money on booze. Bars are much more expensive than buying hooch at a liquor store. And the fact I could hit up a liquor store whenever my heart desired (and liver groaned) didn’t help the old wallet. And I was still wasn’t completely out of my fast drinking stage.
Eventually, getting hammered at the bars lost some of its appeal. When at one time I went to just get wrecked and party, I now go to chill and chat. I have replaced shot after shot at the bar with strangers for rounds of beer at a table with close friends.
The biggest change has been the slow sipping and the savoring the drink. I now switch up my regular beers for a tasty whiskey on the rocks. I rarely rush through my booze any more. Drinking has lost all the freshness and giddiness something new offers, but in its place there is the comfort of the ordinary and familiar. It’s like your home. When you first move in it’s new, different, you’re not really sure what you’re going to do with it but you have some great ideas. Then it becomes your home. It is familiar and when you seek comfort you know it won’t let you down, and it’s the place you want to be, the place you always go back to.
But I know I still look for the excitement that comes from something new. So I have made it a point to try at least one new beer a month, and one new liquor every few months. I started visiting breweries looking for the thrill of the new.
The main difference I have notice is I don’t get drunk as often. I still do, and it is still fun, usually, but there is something different about getting drunk now. I can explain what it is, because I’m not sure exactly, but it feels less fun than it used to be. I guess I have lost the desire to feel out of control. Or maybe it is the debilitating hangover that follows and makes me lose a day in a world where my time is already limited.
As we have started saying around the CJS offices, drinking now is not about being drunk, it’s about the slow process of getting drunk. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. It’s interesting to me how things can change so much in only 8 years, even when the thing that changes is something that is consistent in my life.
In the end though I guess the Ataris were right, being grown up is not half as fun as growing up.
See ya at the end of the bar…
30 Jul 2009 Lee S. Hart