I want to go to a bar.
Hang with some guys, shoot some pool, listen to music. Any bar. A little neighborhood dive would be fine, up to and including the Viper Room. Trouble is, I don’t drink.
Well, let me put that another way: I am taking a break from drinking, while my friends catch up. I got so far ahead of them that they weren’t any competition to me anymore, so I stopped to give them a fair chance to equal my intake. But the bastards have been very slow, and after almost ten years, they still haven’t caught up, although to give proper credit, some of them are trying heroically. Thing is, I said I would wait, and I’m a man of my word, so I’m still waiting.
Those of you who aren’t horrified at the idea of not consuming alcohol ( please follow the bouncing double negative) are probably saying “What’s the big deal? Go out, have a good time, drink Perrier.”
I’ll bet not one of you has tried being the Designated Driver for Life. It’s not as easy, or as fun, as it might seem. OK, I know it doesn’t even seem remotely fun, but to me it isn’t a bad thing, either. It just kind of is. I actually have no problem abstaining. I was a drunk, now I’m not. As I say, I’ll be a drunk again when my friends have proven they can keep up.
But when you do something like this, your old friends get uncomfortable. I’m not sure if this is because they are afraid you will be sober and judgmental (sober as a judge, get it?) while they get loose and do stupid things, or if it’s some Fraternity of Drunks thing, where they want you to be on the same level as they are. There is some kind of weird sanction against drinking alone, but A) I never had any difficulty doing it, and B) you’re rarely alone in a drinking establishment.
The world of bars is geared toward serving liquor. The drinking of liquor begets the buying of more liquor, which begets the drinking of more liquor, and, well , you get the idea. The stuff I want to do — pool, hang, music — these are the things bars have going to get you to drink. They are peripherals, not the main attraction. It’s not a temptation thing. I’m just not comfortable being such a square peg in such a round hole. People are not cool with it, no matter what they say, and no matter how badly they might need a ride. They look at you funny.
Once I went to a costume party in the garb of a Catholic priest (Side note: It was literally the garb of a Catholic priest — my date’s brother, who didn’t know I had his stuff.). Talk about looking at you funny. Everyone knew me, and everyone knew I was wearing a costume, but still they treated me differently. Raucous conversations died when I approached. Joints were kept hidden in cupped hands, away from my eyes. No necking took place while I was around.
Flash forward a few years. As word spread that Larry wasn’t drinking, I started to receive that same treatment. I hadn’t changed, but people thought I was not the same, and treated me accordingly. It was like I was wearing a costume, one that was just a little too real for them to ignore.
Thus my dilemma. I know a big part of this problem is inside me — I can’t blame it all on stupid people unable to live and let live, much as I’d like to. But I’ve told you before, don’t psychoanalyze me. Damnit, I’m missing out on a lot of male bonding. Foosball, sports on giant-screen TV’s, waitresses in skimpy costumes — darts, for Chrissake!
Maybe I will try coffee houses. Not coffee shops, like Denny’s or Bob’s Big Boy, but the dark, inviting descendants of beatnik hangouts in North Beach, circa 1955, like the place I went on my imaginary date with Gwyneth Paltrow. I love coffee, and, as with hard liquor, I can drink gallons of it at a sitting. As a big plus, coffee generally doesn’t cause projectile vomiting, the way Kamchatka vodka does. Coffee houses often have entertainment, although I can’t think of any that have foosball tables. Come to think of it, the entertainment is likely to be a “folksinger” or a “poet,” which may not be my exact cup of, uh, tea.
Maybe the thing to do is to go to bars, drink coke from a cocktail glass and act drunk. Bars being what they are, it would be an open secret in no time that I’m not really drinking, but I think the pose might put people at ease. Nothing like loud, slurred speech directly into someone’s ear to make them feel the love. Maybe I will find other people at the bar who are pretending to be drunk, and we can play pool and secretly judge the real drunks.