I was reading somewhere that alcoholism is genetic. If so, it's a pair of genes I should fit into, but, fortunately, don't. As of this writing, I am not an alcoholic, and, despite myriad concerns and pressures, am not about to become an alcoholic. That's not to say I'm a teetotaler (whenever I see that word I think of a seesaw), and have never been drunk. There have been times in the distant past when I got falling down drunk on a regular basis. But never because I had a compulsive need to drink. It was either peer pressure--I was hanging around alcoholics--or, at other times when I was under no pressure whatsoever, I drank to excess because I thought it made me look cool.
OK, I can hear the bluenoses clucking now. Kirk, they're saying, don't you know that alcohol can never make you cool? Well, cluck you, bluenoses, it can make you cool and I'll prove it!
Say you're at a party, and a total boor, but a boor who's totally sober, walks up to you and starts talking:
"The attack on Pearl Harbor of December 7, 1941 was certainly a major shock to the American public, transforming a largely isolationist country into an angry nation gripped by war fever. What exactly happened on that day that brought about such a transformation? At 7:48AM, Hawaiian time, two waves of Japanese warplanes, numbering 353, and including the famous Zeroes, reached the island of Oahu, where Pearl Harbor was located. The American defenders were unprepared, as guns were unmanned, ammunition lockers locked, and airplanes parked wingtip to wingtip right out in the open. Ninety minutes later 2386 Americans were dead, eighteen ships, including five battleships were sunk, and 188 airplanes were destroyed. About half the casualties were on the USS Arizona, which blew up and sunk to the bottom of the harbour. But what's interesting is what the Japanese missed, the three US aircraft carriers that were out on sorties that morning. Although not immediately apparent in 1941, battleships were rapidly becoming obsolete. The three aircraft carriers the Japanese missed were decisive at the Battle of Midway six months later, turning the tide of the war in the Pacific. Thereafter, the Japanese were on the run."
At that point, you'd be on the run from that boor. But suppose, just suppose, you gave that very same boor a couple of screwdrivers. Now he's talking like this:
"Man, can you imagine bein' on vacation in Hawaii when Pearl Harbor attacked the Japanese? I know I'd be on th' phone to my fuckin' travel agent, what the fuck kind of vacation did ya book for me?! You got zeroes all over the sky like its' a goddamn bowl of Cheerios! And they bombed Arizona, so don't you go booking me to th' Gran Canyon either! It sunk to the bottom. I don't know, maybe the Colorado River overflowed. But all them isholationish's gonna be pissed, 'cause I think they booked vacations, too. I see them runnin' around the hotel lobby and comin' down with war fever. Jush book me another vacation midway from here, where th' Japs aren't runnin' things!"
There! He's much better company now, wouldn't you say?
The thing that's really kept me from becoming an alcoholic is that I've never really liked the taste of the stuff. I don't condone heroin addiction, but there's something to be said for injecting a mind-altering substance directly into your veins, thus bypassing the tongue. I remembering telling somebody once that I only drink to calm my nerves. They haughtily replied that's the wrong reason to drink. Well, what's the right reason to drink? The sheer pleasure of having what feels like a thumb tack shot down my esophagus? When I drink it's usually beer, because you can kind of monitor your buzz. Whiskey or Vodka can fool you into thinking you're not drunk, until you try to get off the bar stool and realize that somebody amputated your legs when you weren't looking. But, like I said, I've never really acquired that liking for the taste of beer that so many others seem to have. I have a friend who's in AA, been on the wagon for ten years, yet whenever he goes out he orders O'Doul's, a non-alcoholic beer. He obviously likes the taste, even if that's not what attracted him to beer in the first place (I wonder if former cocaine addicts ever snort salt, sugar, that stuff you put on cue sticks, just because they're used to having white powder up their nose.)
I went to a picnic a while back. Feeling a bit nervous, as I do sometimes in public, I had a few beers. That calmed the nerves. But I didn't like having the aftertaste of Bud or whatever it was in my mouth, so I switched to Pepsi. That got rid of the aftertaste, but all that caffeine and sugar soon made me nervous again, so I switched back to beer. I guess you could say I was having mixed drinks.
The worse thing about being drunk, other than committing vehicular homicide, is throwing up. Especially if you do it in your sleep. Actually, you don't stay asleep as it tends to wake you up. But not completely. Your eyelids may remain asleep, as do your arms and legs. In fact, every muscle in your body that could get you into that bathroom stays asleep. Only your mind is awake, as you realize with growing horror that you now know what a gushing oil well feels like.
If you're awake when you feel like you're about to vomit, there's absolutely no excuse for not getting yourself in the bathroom. Unless your legs have been amputated when you weren't looking. To be fair, even if your legs are functioning you might not make it. I was at a party once when this petite young woman got up out of her chair, and started to calmly make her way across the room. About half way there--BLURBLRB! Unfazed, she daintily stepped over the brown puddle, and walked into the bathroom. Why she still needed a bathroom at that point, I don't know. Maybe she still had a drop of bile lodged in her throat.
If you feel like throwing up, and can make it to the bathroom in time, there's absolutely no reason not to deposit the residue into the toilet bowl. Unless you see two toilet bowls, and aim for the one on the left, instead of the actual one on the right.
Then there's the desire to drink somebody under the table. This can take the form of drinking games. Mexicans. Quarters. There are others. I know longer remember how exactly you play those games, but it's always had something to do with rolling the wrong dice or picking up the wrong card, the penalty being that you have to take a drink. That's the penalty even if getting drunk is the reason everybody got together in the first place. I remember I was at a bachelor party once, and before going to a strip bar we all played a rather complicated drinking game where you made up rules as you go along. I think we took turns making rules. Anyway, this one guy came up with a rule that if you roll the wrong dice or pick the wrong card (I no longer remember) you have to drink a whole bottle of beer right then and there. Not a sip. Not a chug. The whole beer. The rest of us protested this, but as it was his turn to make up a rule, we eventually acquiesced. Guess who kept rolling the wrong dice or picking the wrong card? That's right, the guy who made up the rule! When it came time to go to the strip club, we pulled him out from under the table, threw him in the back seat, and drove downtown. We figured he'd wake up by the time we got there. No. He was still asleep. And we didn't much feel like waking him, as he was now covered with vomit. So we went inside and enjoyed the show, while he slept it off in the back seat. Too bad about that mugger.
But that's all right, because that guy, and everyone else I've mentioned in this piece, got to go to work or school on Monday morning and, when asked how their weekend went, got to puff their chest up with pride, and say, "I got shitfaced drunk!" It's living life to the fullest. Too bad you can't remember that fullness the next morning.
I guess no matter how often we throw up, say something we don't mean, get into stupid fights, destroy our family, wrap the car around a tree, need a liver transplant, wake up on a wet spot the exact size and diameter of the wet spot on our pants and underwear, and find out that during those two missing hours last Saturday night we were out murdering somebody in cold blood, drinking will always seem a much cooler way to spend our free time than, say, going to a Star Trek convention.
Either way, you could end up talking to a pointy-eared alien.