Why do I drink? Oil spills. Spending your way out of poverty. Deeply held resentments. Insecurity. Loneliness. American lives lost in the Middle East. Any authority. Art world schadenfreude. I’m just getting warmed up.
But that’s not why I started to drink. My first drink was dedicated to glamour and tasteful design.

As a kid, I remember the parties my parents would throw. The anxious preparations, the guest list debates, the aesthetic decision-making. All of that build-up signified the great importance of the event. Something special was going down.
It was a celebration to which I was not invited, for I was confined to my room or chained to a babysitter. This restriction only enhanced the mystery, the allure and my desire.
I recall standing on a chair in order to look down to the patio below. A summer night. A warm Westerly and the tart of salt air. Jasmine. Chanel. Flickering candlelight. The muffled conversation punctuated by laughter. A toast would ring crystal. Silver tinkled against china. Crinoline’d skirts sashayed. Life was gracious and beautiful.

To help with the party preparations and its aftermath lent close scrutiny to the liquor label. Each design signified a value. The gentility of the Deep South. The riot of Mexico. The royalty of Great Britain. The masculinity of Old Kentucky. The eternal horizon of the Seven Seas. Timeless, powerful and potent. Each label was distinct and specific, a clear message of time and imagination.
And light. Like diamonds, the sparkle of sunlight or bar light against the bottle glass created rainbows and jewels that confirmed the regal ethos. There must be many a magic genie inside those bottles.

My parents drank, but not much. Then again, doesn’t genetics skip a generation? I had a fun lovin’ grandmother who was a poker playing wild one. She wore a perfume that was grandmotherly, deep and sweet. Decades later I recognized the scent when a date ordered a Manhattan with a cherry, deep and sweet. My uncle was a rowdy footballer with a penchant for jazz, fighting and wild benders. Who knows what courses in my bloodstream?

Regardless of genetics, drinking and glamour was a part of my culture. I was born in a SoCal beach town with a rough and tumble past, one that earned the nickname of Bawdy Balboa. Old salts, cowboys and Hollywood fueled the easy lifestyle. The vacation town lay just forty miles southwest of Tinseltown.
To this day, I am enthralled with the tall tales of Errol Flynn and his schooner ‘The Sirocco.’ Wild stories of James Cagney, John Ford and James Niven added to the allure. In my young life, the big man in town was actor John Wayne whose influence was pervasive. ‘True Grit’ may have been a movie but the élan was also a communal rally cry for larger-than-lifestyles, bold entrepreneurism and cinematic living. Legendary would be a much sought-after epitaph.
I soaked it up. Life could be Big. Life should be as beautifully saturated as Technicolor and as wide as Cinemascope. Wild behavior was a good thing; it fueled the legend. Shenanigans were rewarded with a smile, a shake of the head and a pat on the back. The glue was liquor. It was the common denominator to everything extroverted and fun.

To date, my life has three distinctive epochs, dominated by the sirens of youthful Gin, blooming Tequila and maturing Vodka.
In high school, I was a gin drinker. It was a natural progression. Since I drink to forget, I cannot remember when I took my first drink, but I do remember my preference for gin, Gordon’s Gin. I’ve never been a Gordon, but this Gordy loved Gordon’s Gin for the oranges and reds of the label. It spoke of English royalty and Robin Hood adventure. The boar’s head. The contrasting purple of the juniper berries with green leaves against creme. It was gorgeous and I was proud to be an ideological namesake. I owned that bottle and brand. It was my drink of choice.

By chance, my first car was a 1928 Ford Tudor Sedan, a borrowed car from a foolish family friend. It was a disarming vehicle, cute and collegiate. And it had a completely separate trunk, a box in the back, a detriment to any open container law. The trunk of my car was a full-blown bar outfitted with every amenity available to an English Lord except ice and condoms. Do you prefer a lemon, lime or olive? Whether it was high school lunch or a cigarette break, a gentleman is always a gracious host.
Naturally, I ran with a wild crowd. My high school, long before metal detectors and limited points of entry, was an open campus. We were free to do as we pleased as long as one had a note to authorize the behavior. This delicate matter was of no consequence, for my clever penmanship was in fact the official signature on file for a gaggle of friends. This made it a lot easier to smoke a joint before class or to take lunch off campus.
Our high school cafeteria had limited fare and no cocktail lounge. Quite often, we would take a bag of burgers to the beach or dine out. The town had a handful of restaurants that knew me as an adult for my fake drivers license proved that I was of drinking age. Sometimes it’s nice to have a beer with lunch.

If the legal drinking age was seven years old, I would probably be a tea totaler today. Drinking was a game and victory was getting away with it. How can we get a case of beer? The solution involved plotting and planning, the rush of chicanery, the excitement of the operation and a swift getaway. Fun stuff.

One school night, my friend Donna and I thought we’d like to chance a drink at Sid’s Blue Beet, a waterfront dive with a long history of iniquity. There shouldn’t be any obstacles for I had been drinking there before. On this quiet night, the original Sid was tending bar. Old Sid had a head of wild hair and a face lined with many miles of wily road. He asked for our IDs and we produced the ones that I had procured in Long Beach, a port town just up the coast. One quick look with his experienced eye determined the IDs as fake. My protest was indignant. “I, Emile Hoopenlucker of Arizona, have never been treated so rudely in all of my life.” Sid was not even amused. Donna was wild eyed. I tried to grab the valuable pieces of laminated plastic but Sid was swift. He was going to call the cops. As Donna and I began to backpedal, old Sid leapt over the bar in an astonishing display of geriatric gymnastic speed. We were cooked. In those split seconds of time, all options cross the board. Flee or fight. Leave no man behind. Save the assets. Carry the wounded. Choice narrows to one gallant action: I would have to take the bullet. I shoved Donna out the door, yelling “Run!” She hightailed it into the foggy night and I turned to block Sid.
Of course, liquor and trouble are Siamese twins. I wasn’t arrested but I was charged. This began the long process of a court date, probation and the game of keeping my parents in the dark.

Age hammers the fun out of drinking. The thrill ends at the legal age. All glamour loses its patina with overuse. These days I drink for self-pity, lost opportunity and unrequited love. I no longer drink for a well-designed logo.

GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles based artist. His visual and literary work can be found at