For decades, one of the time-honored hallmarks of maturity was being able to drink to excess without showing that you had. It took practice, and involved multiple variables: how much you weighed, how much you’d eaten and how long ago, and the percentage of alcohol your beverage of choice contained.
Practitioners of Alcohol Mathematics were doomed (“If I feel this good after four drinks, then I’ll feel twice as good after eight”) by their false logic. Beginners had to rely on friends or family members for their introduction. Most of us weren’t lucky enough to have family functions where we were allowed a single mini-glass of wine in celebration.
My own introduction came at the hands of a girlfriend who lived 3 doors down from me. She was alcoholically more advanced than I was, having imbibed the vanilla extract from her mom’s kitchen for years. We played together as little kids and hung out at each other’s houses during our pre-dating years. One evening her parents were going to be gone for several hours and she invited me over to watch a television show. She pulled out some bourbon, mixed it with cola and offered it to me. We had two or three tumblers full and drank them quickly, not knowing how soon her folks were returning home. My mother had taken my grandmother to the grocery store, so I had even less of a window to return.
Our row houses were built on a ridge with two hilly slopes that rolled down to the sidewalk and street. Most owners had created narrow, flagstone paths across the top of the upper slope to avoid having to go down and then up two sets of steps to visit a neighbor.
When I finally decided to go home that night, I headed straight for the foot-side path to get to my front door as quickly as possible. The dark night and tunnel vision of the inebriated prevented me from seeing that my mother and grandmother had already parked and exited the car at the bottom of the hill. Like a tightrope walking aerialist, I quickly navigated the path until my mother called my name. Startled, I lost my balance and tumbled down the hill, landing directly alongside her. She rushed my grandmother into her house (she lived next door to us) and then followed my stagger up the steps.
As soon as I got inside and headed upstairs to my bedroom, I felt the bourbon creeping back up my throat. The closest drain was in the bathtub, so that’s where I unloaded the night’s menu as my mother’s heels clacked up the wooden steps close behind. I can still feel her hands, holding back my long hair and wailing, “Where did I go wrong….oh, god, girl!” Of course, the next day was brutal, but I’m sure she took a certain satisfaction in it.
I think I should have taken the weed path instead of alcohol, but it was much more difficult to find supply contacts back then. And pot had an aura of evil back then. People envisioned smokey Fu Manchu dens until the Peace and Love era popularized it. My friends and I drank to get high and raise hell. Now when I drink, I fall asleep.