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Tuesday, March 25, 2003
The Greatest Story Ever Told (About My Love Affair with the Bottle)
First everyone was in love. Then everyone was getting drunk. So, after my historically significant love poem, I'll move on to recounting my relationship with booze.

Now, I'll preface this by saying that I'm not an alcoholic. The argument could be made that my father is, but not me. I didn't really even flirt with alcoholism. But I have a firm belief (still) that one of the major parts of a college education is determining your alcohol tolerance/threshold. I say it all the time. So, it suffices to say that I drank enough to know how much I could drink under various circumstances.

My drinking career began at 18. Yeah, I'd had drinks here and there before then (like that Rusty Nail . . . thanks, Joe), but I didn't have a favorite drink. And I didn't know my limits.

I was at a party. Playing chess. Badly. The hostess invited my friend and I to partake of her Captain Morgan's. She started with a tall glass and added ice. "Say when," she said as she began pouring the rum. I just watched it flow into the glass. Her eyes got big as the rum level neared the top. "Um, okay," I stammered. She topped it off with Coke and sent me on my way. To play more chess. Badly.

I kept sipping the rum and Coke for quite a while, until I arrived at the astute conclusion that "this tasteth jus' like apple juith!" And thus began the "Captain Morgan" phase of my drinking-hood. I found out how well it mixed with various things. (Hawaiian Punch was an early fave.)

Soon, I started hanging with the McDonald's maintenance staff (where I worked). They were over 21. That's when I discovered Hurricanes. But my love affair with those ended quickly after a night of adding rum and vodka to a 32-ounce cup of store-bought, pre-mixed Hurricane-in-a-bottle. Holy shit, that hurt.

Vodka Slammers were a big winner, too. For those uninitiated, put some vodka and 7 Up in a shot glass, cup your hand over the top, slam the shot glass on a table, and then shoot the fizzy mixture into your face. May cause blackouts. And they don't mix well with ephedrine, in case you're wondering. (You'll black out and still be awake. And then your friends may practice wrestling moves on you.)

I didn't learn to appreciate beer on any level until after I'd turned 21. I'd spent so long slamming shots of contraband liquor outside of clubs, it was nice to slow down. I started to learn how to drink and not get drunk. Y'know, when it's actually fun to just have a drink or five and not end up half naked and flailing in your own puke. (Or stripped down to your underwear and sucker-punching a friend in the face while he is innocently playing Nintendo.)

Here are some truths I've learned during my drinking career:

-- Goldschlagger doesn't mix well with Killian's . . . or any beer, for that matter. I think the gold flakes react with something in the beer. (I vomited foam. And a dog licked it off me. No, really.)

-- Nine times out of ten, it's a bad idea to drink something a friend hands you, saying, "Here, drink this."

-- Colt 45 will do nothing to improve your behavior. King Cobra, though, just might.

-- If you drink enough tequila (say, Monte Alban), you might hallucinate.

-- When your first alcohol purchase after turning 21 is a bottle of 20-proof Cisco at the nearby Sing Store, the black guy behind the counter might say something like, "Damn, yo gonna get fuuuucked up!"

-- Drinking a six pack of Schlitz is much worse than drinking a six pack of good beer.

-- You can be too old to drink Boone's Farm wine, but you'll do it anyway. (It's cool, though, if you can carry a bottle in the inside pocket of a jacket. While drinking the first one.)

-- You can make a good drink with Jaggermeister.

-- You can have lots of fun at your party by creating a "penalty shot" for people who spill drinks or break glasses. Like the Red Face of God (Bacardi 151, Ketel One, Grand Marnier, and a splash of Grenadine). You'll have 'em throwing up in the ditch in no time.

-- If you go to some radio-promotional drinking event, and they have a special drink, and you're only allowed to have one, and it's black, and they won't tell you what's in it . . . you should probably wait a while to see how it affects you before you start in on the 50-cent kamikazes.

I started to slow down in my drinking in my mid-20s. I was out of college. I had a (relatively) steady girlfriend. When Michelle and I moved to Upstate New York for two and half years, I almost completely stopped drinking because we never really went anywhere. So now, my tolerance isn't what it used to be, which I'm abruptly reminded of when I get involved in an ill-advised drinking game, or try to go beer-for-beer with someone whose drinking career is more accomplished than my own.

I wouldn't say that I look back on my career fondly. Yeah, it's fun to laugh at some (okay, most) of the stupid shit I did. I didn't even address my discovery of kamikazes (Lucy Ho's, 1994).

I will say this: Let's be careful out there.