Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sorry, I got drunk.

I've noticed the idea of drinking seems to hit a sharp nerve in some people lately. It can be a lightning rod for various acrid feelings they have towards their peers, certain social groups, and even the mainstream. The idea of getting drunk seems to represent everything that's wrong with other people and their priorities, and how they're just different from them. I call this bullshit.

I’m a socially-inclined 23-year-old and a recent graduate of the University of Alabama. When I’m out at a social event, there is likely a drink in my hand, if not in the other as well. It perplexes me that at such a young age, people actually tell me to stop drinking like I’m in college, and that it’s time to settle down.

What the hell?

In America, they tell us we’re too immature to drink until we’re 21 years old, and then these same imprudent people tell us a few years later that we’re too immature if we continue drinking.

Where did people get the idea that at certain points in our lives we should measure ourselves for our burial shrouds, and then quail down and wait for the Grim Reaper to come rapping at our door? Relax, people, and have a drink.

The problem with society today are these overly negative people with uptight attitudes towards drinking, who claim that alcohol is detrimental to our bodies. These people also like to claim that these people, like myself, will probably be less successful in life than those who don’t drink.

No doubt, drinking has negative aspects to it, and I don’t necessarily condone excessive drinking. There are plenty of people in this world who abuse alcohol and let it control their lives. You may undoubtedly find the drunks staggering down the road with a bottle of Early Times in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Who cares, really? As long as they aren’t putting anyone else in danger.

But I’m not speaking of this category of people. That’s steering away from my point. I’m speaking of the people who like to enjoy an alcoholic beverage after a grueling day of work, a glass of scotch while relaxing in the evening, or even sitting amongst friends at a bar enjoying each others company.

In addition, being the social drinker that I am, I have developed an appreciation for alcohol, such as wine and beer. These two beverages are so diverse and complex, that producing and brewing them is like a form of art. Learning to love a good wine or hand-crafted beer is like looking at a piece of art for the first time -- you might not understand it at first, but you will grow to treasure its beauty.

It’s an obvious point – there’s nothing wrong with just consuming alcohol. There’s nothing all that bad about it by default. It’s more about how you use it. You can even call it evolutionary novel behavior.

Archeological evidence dates the production of beer and wine to Mesopotamia at about 6,000 BC. The origin of distilled spirits is traced back to the Middle East or China at about 700 AD. Is historical evidence not enough for alcohol appreciation?

A study done in the 1960s reckoned that, without alcohol, civilization would have probably collapsed into anarchy following the horrors of WWI.

And wasn’t it an alcohol-emboldened Winston Churchill who possessed the guts to stand up to the tidal wave of tyranny that threatened to engulf the entire planet?

Call my examples implausible, obscure, or dubious – I honestly don’t care. I’m sticking to my belief that consuming alcohol is not bad. And it doesn't require brainwashing to enjoy it. It’s just an interest in a new experience, or simply wanting to drink something that tastes damn good.

I will leave a quote to all the acerbic people who think I drink too much: “The trouble with the world is that everybody is three drinks behind.” - Humphrey Bogart

Cheers, and see you at the kegger.

The Lost Art of Drinking

Whatever happened to drinking?

I’m not talking about this amateur act filled with J├Ąger Bombs and dollar Natty Light night. I want to know why the after-work whiskey has disappeared. Why is it no longer acceptable to have a nice bottle of scotch in your office? And when exactly did it stop being alright to carry a flask?

The drink was inspiration for Ernest Hemingway and Don Draper, yet it’s not good enough for us? Fuck that. What is this, the moral prohibition era?

Here’s a story for you: Last January, I had the honor of being a groomsman in a close friend’s wedding (mentioned here). At the rehearsal dinner, I ordered an Old Fashioned. The bridesmaid sitting beside me turned and remarked, “What are you, 70 years old?” Knowing she was a veteran of the service industry, I asked her if this was an uncommon order. She told me that in her experience, no man under the age of 50 orders that kind of drink.

My question is why the hell not? Have we as a society damned drinking? Have we left it for the drunks and college students? Where along the line did we forget how to drink like adults? For that matter, whatever happened to the toast?

This may be a rather strange example, but bear with me for a moment. Watch the dinner scene in Anchorman, the one right before Ron Burgandy goes crazy on the jazz flute. Listen to Christina Applegate’s character order her drink – that is how you order a damn drink.

People don’t do that anymore, at least not that I'm aware of. Maybe we just weren’t taught how to drink the right way, I don’t know. What I do know is that if I go up to the bar – my regular bar excluded – and order a shot, the bartender doesn’t bring me back Jack Daniels, Jim Bean or the like, but rather some brightly-colored, fruity mixed shot. What the hell is that all about?

I'm not saying that everyone should go on a bender, I am fully aware of the problems of excess. But I see no harm in throwing back the occasional drink or two. Grown men and women alike should know how to handle their alcohol, and how to drink without making a fool of themselves.

Years ago, I went to visit my father, who at the time was living with his friend. After being introduced, the man known as “Senator” – for his look and deep, growling Southern voice – offered me a drink. I accepted, expecting a sweet tea, or maybe even a beer. Senator brought me back a Crown Royal, two ice cubes, in a whiskey glass. My dad remarked, “Brooks, what in the hell are you giving him?” To which the Senator replied, “Scott, I offered the boy a drink, and I'm giving him a proper drink.”

A proper drink. That’s all it was. It wasn’t about getting wasted, or proving how much liquor you could hold. It was a whiskey on the rocks, simple as that.

So when did we lose our hold on the proper drink? When did we start ordering a Bud Light with our t-bone? When did the cocktail stop being cool? For that matter, when did we stop having a drink to call our own?

My grandfather was a martini man. That doesn’t mean he was an alcoholic, or that he couldn’t get by without his booze. It meant that the martini was his drink. It meant that when we had dinner, he would make himself one or two. It meant that when we went out, he knew how to order his drink – gin martini, straight up with a twist, rocks on the side. That was it; that was Gramps’ drink. Over the 25 years I knew him it never changed, save for a switch from Tanqueray to Boodles in his later years.

That is what we lack today – that confidence in ordering, that familiarity with our drink of choice. That acceptance of a man or woman knowing what exactly it is they want, and nobody else having a damn problem with it.

Remember that whole deal with President Obama’s smoking habit? Bad habit, yeah, but who cares? The man is the elected leader of the most powerful country in the world, if a cigarette every now and then helps him get by, so be it. My point is this: the man had something he liked, and did it because it made him feel better, but because of his position he had to abandon this pleasure.

Maybe that’s where we went awry with drinking. Everybody is so damn concerned these days with social status and public image that we just plain forgot how to enjoy ourselves. As far as I'm concerned, President Obama could address the nation from the Oval Office, top shirt button undone, Marlboro Red in one hand and a Manhattan in the other – and I would be damn proud to call him my president.

Why? Because I wouldn’t view him as a man with bad habits, but rather as a man who was comfortable with himself. A man that is confident, and knows that his habits and tendencies are part of what makes him who he is.

There is no shame in having a drink. There is no shame in being a drinker. But somewhere along the line we lost our grasp on how to drink and what it means to have a drink, and THAT is what we need to recapture.

So, here’s to rediscovering the drink in all of its misunderstood glory. Bottom’s up.

Hi there...

So, it's been awhile. Sorry about that... again. Look, I know every few months I come here and promise to stay, only to leave again. But I've changed, baby, I swear.

But seriously, I'm here to write again, and I've brought a friend. Born over a Friday night Twitter/Text conversation, my friend Jessica -- a fellow University of Alabama journalism grad -- has inspired me to pick up my metaphorical pen and start updating this site again; and lucky for you she's decided to join me.

In terms of what you'll be getting, this is still about life and all the craziness within. That may entail pieces about culture, society, personal experiences, or whatever.

My first new post will be up shortly, I hope you enjoy.