A: Growing up I never really understood the appeal of the adult beverage scene. Everything about beer seemed gross to me—the look, the smell, its long-standing association with sports bars, etc. And liquor? You mean I can pay three times the price of a soda for something that tastes like liver and onions doused in gasoline? Why? The faint hope it’ll make me feel better for an hour or two? Masturbation struck me as far cheaper and more to the point (not to mention safer; I never heard about anyone plowing their car into a daycare center after coming too many times).
Thinking back to high school, not drinking seemed like the most rebellious thing I could do. Everybody drank at my high school. Even the nerdiest kids carried flasks with them. I guess I was also struck by thoughts like, “Man, you’re seventeen and you can’t handle life? Things are so tough you gotta go get blasted as often as possible? What are you gonna do when you have kids and a mortgage?”
These attitudes continued through my burgeoning adulthood and stand as the party line at thirty-four. I just don’t really get drinking for pleasure or escape or social lubrication or whatever. Sure, I’ve broken down and had a couple dates with hooch here and there, but literally just a couple. I had a blue martini in 2005; it was pure poison. Couldn’t do more than a couple sips. In 2009 I found myself at a dinner party in the heart of Paris where I was served both white and red wines; once again, I could barely get any down.
That, I think, was the point of no return. If the wine in France wasn’t good enough to break down the barrier, what was left to convince me? I’ll take Coke for this eternity, thanks. And I had the motive to pick up a crippling booze habit then! I was barely employed, falling into massive debt, and my girlfriend at the time was adamant we get married, permanently settle in her native Europe, and start a family as soon as possible. Rummy Jim just wasn’t in the cards. Still isn’t.
And it’s not like I’m not into “acquired tastes” either. I’ll go to town on some black licorice or some coffee or even some frggin’ goat cheese. I eat goat cheese by the handful. Try and stop me from eating goat cheese, I dare you. You’ll lose a limb.
I do sort of have a doctor’s note on all this anyway: in 2003/04 during prep for my colonoscopy (hey, you gotta keep that prostate on track) a routine test noted my unusually high liver enzyme count. I haven’t cross referenced WebMD here but the people in charge told me such a proliferation of liver enzymes is usually only seen in diabetics (which I’m not), the morbidly obese (ahem), and problem drinkers.
“Do you drink a lot?” the doctor asked me.
“I don’t drink at all!”
“Good. Don’t start.”
So there you go. Please note that my non-drinking ways don’t mean you should exclude me from bar-related activities in the real life—I like hanging out in dim rooms with chatty people and jukeboxes. Just don’t expect me to join your beer pong team.
Here I am in Paris in October of 2009, sitting in a pub, waiting for someone to bring me another Coca-Cola. The flimsy hoodie that’s zipped over my frame (K-Mart, $15) was the heaviest garment I brought with me. For some reason, I thought France would be agreeably warm so close to Halloween. I’m not sure why. Guess I really earned that C+ in tenth grade geography. October in France offers plenty of unbridled chilliness, and while I was visiting that chilliness was generally coupled with endlessly dreary rain-streaked skies. This photo captures me mere hours before the worst cold/flu of my life, which I helped nurture by staying up all night at a raucous dinner party where I was the token American who had to explain why Obama hadn’t fixed the world yet. Hey man, I don’t know, just pass me the embalming fluid so my corpse looks presentable for the plane ride home.