Tuesday, May 08, 2007

ALCOHOL & ME

Every beer dork has to ask him- or herself just how committed to the cause they’re going to be while still keeping their health & physique in relatively decent shape. I have a written piece in mind about the “physique” part another time, so let’s concentrate on that olde demon, alcohol, today. I have a somewhat tangled history with the stuff, yet probably far less so than many folks out there. I’ve been fortunate enough to never have really developed a taste for hard liquor, and to this day can barely tell you anything about any mixed drink outside of my old standby, gin & tonic. I figure that’s saved my liver a few years right there. I love wine, but only drink it sparingly with the missus, who likes it considerably more than she does beer (ah well). So that leaves beer, which I’ve been a big proponent of for about 23 years now, since I was about sixteen (I was a decidedly late starter compared to those of you who were 14-year-old boozehounds).

In high school I barely drank; it was a time of wine cooler experimentation & cheap Miller, Bud, Coors – really, whatever we could get our hands on. I can honestly say I don’t think I ever got out-and-out “wasted” once - until I arrived in college, and then all bets were off. That’s when most kids either go berserk, or learn quickly how to regulate their drinking in social settings. I guess it depends on your perspective, but I think I went a little nuts. I hung out with some very fun, slightly older friends who were really, really, reeeeally into drinking – and that’s a total blast when you’re 19, 20 years old. While I’d call myself more of a “weekend warrior” back then, an 7-8 beer weekend evening was the rule, not the exception. (that said, these were 7-8 cans of Meister Brau or Milwaukee’s Best – or appx. 3 pints of real beer – but I was of slight build and tolerance until I fattened up on both counts). Lots of weekday drinking, beer at the movies, beer on Saturday & Sunday afternoons etc., and that carried over into my twenties, and well into my move to San Francisco in 1989.

This all may sound like normal stuff to you & yours, but it was a strange phenomenon for me personally to walk into a club to see a band, which I did at least three times a week back then, and simply HAVE to buy a beer immediately, and then another one after that. I’d coach myself before shows to maybe skip it for an hour, or hey, for the night, and I was completely unable to do so. I had one set of friends who would typically stay up drinking until 4am on most weekends, and another set who drank socially and infrequently, totally enjoying alcohol while keeping it together & not having the blackout episodes or I-can’t-believe-I-said-that-to-that-girl moments that my other friends & I often had. At a certain point, the drinking just got tiresome and lame. Sunday hangovers totally ruined the day, at least once or twice a month. Inability to coherently communicate to women at bars & shows totally shattered whatever slight chances I had of getting lucky with (or simply getting to know) whomever I was talking to. To my credit, I guess, I almost never drank alone. I rarely drove anyway, so that wasn’t an issue. I totally throttled back of my own accord around 1994 (no twelve-steppin’ needed), and that was pretty much that.

I didn’t exactly join the temperance movement, as my obsession with craft beer was reaching a fever pitch around that time (it’s gotten even more intense since then, which this blog is a testimonial to). I never went cold turkey, even for a month. But honestly, in the thirteen intervening years, I can recall just two hangovers I’ve had, and I’m pretty stoked about that. I HATE hangovers, and I’ll do anything – even not drink! – to avoid one. I feel like a total moron when I have one – like a disappointment who couldn’t even find the wherewithal to turn off the friggin’ faucet when he had the chance. Water and Advil, baby – water and Advil. Beer drinking is barely about the alcohol now, though of course I love its social lubrication qualities like everyone else does, and a good 2-3 pints of strong ale at the bar or someone’s house is still very much part of my life each and every week. I know others have different formulations that work well for them, and that’s great – whatever works for ya, including the occasional hangover or blubbering night. It’s all good. The only thing that bothers me about excessive drinking in others, besides the potential social costs to society vis-à-vis driving and stupidity - is just seeing the ravaging that it does to peoples’ faces who couldn’t straighten themselves out. Whenever I watch some punk rock documentary like “American Hardcore” or “We Jam Econo” and see my heroes, only 5-10 years older than me, looking 15-20 years older and flat-out awful to boot, it totally bums me out. Of course it’s their problem and not mine, but still. I know how sneaky alcohol can be, and how humans have different chemical makeups that affect their love for and tolerance of and ability to quit it, and I really feel for those who get too caught up in drinking for its own sake and not in simple, obsessive enjoyment of mere drinks. Get the difference? Sure.

This is not moralizing by any means – just a bunch of typing. Better that than another rave about HOPSICKLE, right? Back to regular reviews & such tomorrow. I’m writing this before the BOONVILLE BEER FEST that occurred on Saturday 5/5, and some premonition tells me that I absolutely did not limit myself to two or three pints that day. Report to come later.

3 comments:

Steve said...

I'm in the same boat as you my man. Rarely a hangover and hate when I do. Once in a while with buddies we will go a little overboard with the hard liquor, but to me a Beer hangover is the nastiest thing ever. Worst one ever was too much Lagunitas Maximus and Arrogant Bastard. Didn't want to see beer for a week after that. I rarely have a 3rd pint when out these days.

Looking forward to the Boonville report.

Anonymous said...

"...too much Lagunitas Maximus and Arrogant Bastard."

That sentence just gave me a hangover!

-scott

Kyle said...

Very much in the same boat. I actually went a long time in the 90's never drinking at all except, somwhat sparingly, when my band played a gig.

My drinking is on the upswing lately with all these great beers to try and I am a bit concerned about it, mainly for the physical effects you mention. As a 40-something now, I desperately want to remain young looking (straight out vanity, I tell you). I run and work out more and more each year, even though it hurts like Hell.

I hate hangovers; when I get them I feel suicidal - I very much feel the "downer" impact of alcohol in those moments. However, I find that many of these craft beers, I suppose due to finer ingredients and less or no preservatives, are much less likely to give me a hangover, even if I have more than a couple. Not smoking anymore has also helped to lessen the hangovers.

Anyhow, I worry that I'll get to a point where I feel I'll have to quit drinking. I'll have to quit frequenting blogs like this and hanging out with drinking buddies (some of which I am now in a new band with); just like a junkie has to quit hanging out with his junkie friends if he really wants to quit. Pretty sure it won't get there, though.