In Vino Veritas

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.

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10 Replies to “In Vino Veritas”

  1. So when exactly was this imaginary date with Gwyneth? I’ll have you know that I was imaginary dating her a while ago too. In the end, I had to end it because I imagined she was distracted by another. I can only imagine that it was you!

    a-right then

    One of the things I’ve noticed, is the social segregation of those who drink and those who don’t or don’t very much. By the time folks are 40 or so, either (A) they don’t drink, or (B) their lives practically revolve around alcohol. I’m thinking I might be in group (A) I still have a partial bottle of whiskey I bought in Scotland in 1995.

    I think you should open a Coffee-Shop/Make-Out Bar. I’d totally show for the Grand Opening! I’d wear the Red Lipstick!

  2. I understand why drunks love and tolerate one another to such a degree, but not why others seem to yearn for them tragically. When people say they’re going off to drink and do I want to come with them, I’m about as attracted as if they announced a circle jerk, and do I want to participate. Not being gay, no, I don’t. I used to drink, I know what it’s like, and I do not long to be with you drinkers again. Old age has enough influence on the disappearance of my brain cells, I don’t need to be a drunk or a pothead on top of that. Did that, been there, show me something new, please.

  3. I stopped drinking completely once for six months when I was twenty-four. I was dating a pretty girl who was also a ballroom dancer and she didn’t drink either. After that went south, I kept my abstinence from alcohol, continuing to go out on South Beach with all of my acquaintances who continued to do all manner of substances as I stood around drinking soda water and chewing bubble gum.

    And during that six months, people always asked me if I was on something because I seemed to act even stranger than when I was fucked-up. I also met more women than when I was a partyier. Weird, huh?

    Now, I drink (not too much, usually) in relatively quiet bars or pubs or at my home. I find that whiskey tastes sweeter after a long, hard day and that red wine is awesome with a well prepared meal.

    And I think that you should go to a bar. Sometimes you just need to go out there and remember why you liked going out and why you prefer not to frequent those places as often as you used to.

  4. I hate extremes and so yes, I don’t like to be the designated driver OR the messy drunk everyone’s rolling their eyes at, but have a drink or two, take the edge off, and switch to something tame. However, being small, a drink or two usually renders me ineligible to drive legally in a .08 BAC area, so I’ve done the fake-out drink you mention. Generally Diet Coke with a twist of lime and I say it’s got a generous splash of Captain Morgan in it when it doesn’t. People are nicer than they used to be about leaving you alone if you’re not drinking though. The worst was trying to hide my pregnancy in the first trimester before I was ready to announce it – everyone knew something was wrong if I wouldn’t even have a beer.

  5. Theresa — Gwyneth and I went out shortly before last Christmas, making it The Best Christmas Ever! A “makeout bar?” Yesss!

    Ron — As a drunk-on-a-break, I have to say that I still love drunks. I am thinking of one in particular, whose bedroom window was in earshot of the surf at Redondo Beach.

    Kung Pow Pig — You taste the whiskey?

    jeri c. miller — I haven’t been to Canter’s (it’s on Fairfax) since the Carter Administration. Good blintzes and great, old crotchety waitresses who called me “Hon,” but no music that I recall.

    Kayten — What a pretty name! But I don’t understand moderation. If a shot of rum is good, a big ol’ belly full must be even better.

  6. My husband stopped drinking over the summer. He wasn’t an alcoholic by any means, but he never knew when to stop when he drank, which was only every so often. (We have small kids, no one has time to drink any more). But you are right, people think you’re insane when you quit drinking. They think you’ll start back again or that you’ve secretly been to AA meetings or something. It’s unreal. Now he kinda likes the not drinking thing.

    Also since he quit drinking, he’s lost 25 pounds. Bastard.

  7. SJ – If he’d really been to AA meetings, you wouldn’t be so quick to say he was not an alcoholic. According to the 12-Steppers, that’s called denial, and it confirms the very opposite of what you claim. And you can’t get out of it by saying yes, you are an alcoholic, cuz then the rule changes and they believe you, and they all say “Hi, Larry!” (If your name was Larry, for example.)
    Twenty-five pounds? So what’s the hubster weigh now? Let’s get it on the internet.

  8. Absolutely nothing wrong with not drinking, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve cut back considerably since meeting the hub (he’s not a drinker), and hitting 30, and I must say that I don’t miss those hangovers and upset stomachs. Or the hilarious oftentimes dangerous comedy that would ensue after a night a night of overindulgence. I pass the torch to the younger generation.

  9. Hipster coffee bars can be quite annoying. The live bands are usually intollerable, and the clientelle are usually lame kids who either sit around pretending to read, or scribbling down lame 10th grade quality poetry in their $.89 cent journals. After so much pretension, you’ll yearn for the drunks again.

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