GENUFLECT by GORDY GRUNDY
WHY I DRINK
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.
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.
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.
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 date, my life has three distinctive epochs, dominated by the sirens of youthful Gin, blooming Tequila and maturing Vodka.
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.
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.
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.