"Youth troubles over eternity, age grasps at a day and is satisfied to have even the day." - Dame Mary Gilmore

I sat in the bus today, watching this old man a few rows ahead of me. Alacqueredd, wooden can hung from the steel barrier at his knees and etched into was the word 'Raines.' Probably his name. He was a very stately man, crisp white shirt, light tan slacks and a hat to match. He cleaned his bifocal glasses with ahandkerchieff as the bus made it's bumpy route down the road.

I don't know why my own mortality suddenly jumped into view, but I wondered, as I sometimes do, about what my life has in store for me. Raines sat quietly on the bus and I watched him still.

Will I get to see that age?

I hope that in the years to come, I can teach my boys what it means to be a man. Not just in theory, but with practical applications. Aaron will see things differently than Terrance. Terrance is always on my mind. He has the potential to achieve such greatness. Sometimes I feel like I'm not teaching him right or teaching him enough. And then I think of the lessons my father taught me. Did he ever think it was enough?

My wife is always on my mind. The love in her eyes, that love that I've seen radiate through the darkness is a beacon in the night. I want to be with her forever. I want to show her all the things in the world and be there at the end of it all.

And my own desires for fame and fortune? Well, if they never come to fruition, I'll be satisfied knowing that my wife was behind me, do or die and that my kids love me. I guess that's really all anyone can ask of life. Happiness.

"If solid happiness we prize, Within our breast this jewel lies, And they are fools who roam; The world has nothing to bestow, From our own selves our bliss must flow, And that dear hut,--our home." - Nathaniel Cotton


A Nice Problem To Have

I was at the grocery store getting some quickies for dinner and decided to pick up a quart of Miller High Life. I use to drink High Life in a pinch and lately, I've acquired a taste for it. I keep it nice and cold and it tastes great. If you love beer, you have to learn to slum it a little. Besides, a real bear enthusiast learns to love all kinds of beers.

Anyhow, I was paying for the groceries when the clerk says, "So, what's the difference between High Life and MGD (Miller Genuine Draft)?"
I quickly mulled it over. "Well, if I want a cheap, crisp, light beer, I get this. MGD is a bit heavier."
He absorbed my answer. "My cousin has a friend who gets paid twenty bucks an hour to taste beer."

What a world.


The Night I Almost Died

I can't recall when it was that I first saw a beer and I don't remember when it was that I tried beer for the first time. What I do know is that when I was old enough to get my hands on it, I drank a bunch of it.

Originally, I intended to simply spin yarns about my adventures in alcohol, but as I thought about it, I found something else.

I've had a long and distinguished career in beer drinking. I'd venture to say that 80% of all my friends have been drunk with me at one time or another. Very few can keep up. Even fewer surpass me. I'm not trying to blown my own horn, but I can drink. What's more, I enjoy it. My love of drinking extends into all areas of my life. I've made my home at many bars and even worked in one. I was a doorman and a barback. At home, I collect beer bottles from all over the world and have a specific collection from special occasions.

Recently, it occurred to me how many stupid things I've done while swimming in amber. The spills I've taken, pun intended. At a friend's graduation party, I got stinkin' drunk on 18oz rum & cokes and inch tall shots of Jack Daniels served in wide mouth tumblers. I was told later I was pretending to fly a jet in a lawn chair and took a header into the concrete patio. The only reason I even knew I had busted my head was that I got up in the middle of the night to expel some liquids and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I had this huge scab already formed on the left side of my face, near my temple. It was at least an inch tall and an inch wide. I must have just skid off the concrete upon impact. Wow, talk about a headache.

Blacking out is never fun. Then there was the time me and a few friends went to drink at a cowboy bar because a buddy of ours had an open tab. He was a DJ for a local country station and often invited us to drink on his company's dime. Most of the time, we never really did much damage; a beer here, a shot there. This time around, we had another friend, Ira, driving, so me and my friend, Jav, decided to get hammered. We ordered back to back to back shots and beer chasers. At one point, I raised my shot glass, took a smell of that nasty-ass whiskey and said, "No good can come of this."
After getting primed there, Jav and I decided to drink 10 pitchers of beer and some shots. Jav had 18 and I had 12. He was drinking Goldschlagger and I stuck to my Jack Daniels.
When I got home, I plopped down on the couch and that was the end of it. Or so I thought. In the morning I would wake up to find that I'd continued drinking, sort of. I had this old, beat up, coffee table that my brother, Fred, had given me. It had a quarter inch high lip around the edge of it. Well, the beer had fallen over and everything on the surface was covered in beer. Including the sandwich. Apparently, I wanted a bite to eat after all that drinkin'.
My first thought was, "Oh, shit, I tried to eat." I raced to the bathroom and threw the door open in fear of what I would find. Nothing. At least not on the toilet. In fact, the toilet was remarkably clean. Suddenly, it struck me that the true horror lay behind the fully closed shower curtain. As I stepped forward, my foot brushed up against an empty bottle of Formula 409 bathroom cleaner. I paused for a moment. "I cleaned the bathroom?" I thought. When I pulled back the curtain, there was no mess. Just a wadded up towel sitting near the drain. I didn't want to pick it up, afraid I'd find what I was looking for in the folds of the old thing. But when I did, there was nothing. The room smelled very fresh.
So far, everything was good. No mess to clean up. But then it dawned on me that maybe I didn't puke there. Maybe I hurled in some other room. The kitchen was a likely spot, so I strolled over to take a look. When I got there, my cat, Miles Davis, was standing at the edge of the carpet, where the kitchen floor began. He had this look of bewilderment. He ears perked up and his head cocked to the side. When I turned the corner of the breakfast bar to see what he was looking at, I found myself face to face with my mess. Not puke. Mustard. There was a broken line of mustard from the French's can across the refrigerator door, globs of mustard on the floor and a big trail of mustard from the bottle to the bread, which was still open and strewn about the counter. The lunch meat was mysteriously absent.
What followed was one of the worst hangovers I have ever had in all my years of drinking. The only thing I can say about that night was that I'm glad that I wasn't driving.

A lot of things about those nights still frighten me. I know I've driven home drunk and blacked out because there have been nights I've woken up and had no idea how I got home. Each time, I think my God of choice touched me and I made it home alive. Or he touched the other people and I managed avoid them. Either way, he let me live and I am, forever, grateful.

There was a night that I was going home, alone. I was drunk, no arguing it. I was driving down McArdle, a road that let me avoid most of the busier streets and kept me away from the cops. There was a bit of construction near my place and for some reason, I decided I wanted to let my car out a bit. I was in Lucille, a tattered, coffee colored Mazda 323. She didn't have a lot of work done yet and ran pretty good. I looked forward and saw no cars around, so I gunned it. I mean, the pedal hit the floor. The car picked up speed and with the windows down, everything was a blur of sight and sound. The apartment complex flew by me and I realized, as the cool night are suddenly sobered me up, that I was racing into the intersection at 90 miles and hour.
I'd like to thank God, right now, for letting me live.
I knew there was no way in Hell I could stop if a car should cross my path. Any impact, at that speed, would sound like a cannon shot and anyone in either car might not stand a chance. If I survived, I would go to jail, lose my license and my freedom.
I crossed the intersection, miraculously, no cars were anywhere near. I managed to bring the speed down, gradually and turned the car around. I parked my car and went upstairs to my third floor apartment. My hands shook violently as I walked up the stairs and made every attempt to not faint from the shock. My heart was pounding against my chest, looking to explode. I sat down on the couch, took out a cigarette and with shaky hands, tried to calm myself down. Everything was clear. I was completely sober. And I'd never been more frightened in my life. If I would have been blacked out, I might not have been that lucky. I was lucky PERIOD.

I'd like to say that I was more careful after that, but I wasn't. Some nights were better than others. Each night I drank, I tried to tell myself that I could handle it. I was a good drinker, not some sloppy fratboy trying to squeeze a bottle of tequila and a twelve pack into an hour long binge. I wasn't a young punk with something to prove. Or a naive kid who didn't think he could get drunk. There are more frightening stories in the catalog. Things that I recant now with some humor and irony, but that when reflected upon with a keen eye, are horror stories about the night I almost died.

I'm a distance drinker. A marathon man. I can drink many people under the table. And for some ungodly reason, I'm still around to do it.

My advice to anyone who thinks drinking is easy: it's not. Drinking can result in several different outcomes. One of them is final. The others aren't much better. I've been to the point of addiction and managed to shake it off. I came back with a greater understanding of what it means to socialize with a beer or a drink. Alcohol must be respected, but you must first respect yourself. Drinkers can tell you how to drink. Real drinkers can tell you how not to.

Peace, love, understanding.


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