No, this will not be a paean of praise for Demon Rum and his little cousins, but, if I don’t let this post run too long, there will be an explanation, down near the bottom, of how I used alcohol to identify the cause of some of my problems. I’ve never been much of a drinker. The number of times I’ve been really lit is small but, I noticed that the percentage of assholeitis was significant, so I stopped. When I worked, I drank six or seven beers every third week. It took me almost the first year I was retired, to get through a whole case. The next year I killed an 18-pack my son, the teetotaler, got from his employer. I still have half of a bottle of mead I got a year ago Christmas.
I have a few mental and physical things that cause me to not achieve what my IQ level says I might. First, in a cruel twist of genetic fate, I got my Dad’s torso, and my little Mom’s limbs. I almost never wear long-sleeves, because they hang down over my hands. My pants have a 36 waist, and a 29 in. inseam. Try to locate those. I can find and wear 30 in. because I wear them over knee-high boots. I worked for a while with a young woman with the opposite problem. She was a tall girl, five foot eleven, same as me, but where my legs were 29 in., her inseam was 36. She had seven inches more leg than I did.
I learned my shortcomings and how to deal with them, almost on an unconscious level. In high school, when the jocks were body-checking each other on the basketball court, I was over in the gymnastics area, practicing box vaults and high-bar moves. Couldn’t carry luggage for an Olympian, but I found out that being upside-down, six feet above the floor scared the hell out of most of these guys.
When the weather was good and we went outside, and these future civic leaders were butting heads like mountain goats, on the football field, I was over at the pole vault pit, trying to throw myself over a bamboo stick, fourteen feet in the air. I was the Senior school champion because there was no-one else my age crazy enough to try it. I got to go to the Regional meet, where I came in fourth. I wasn’t even good at things I was good at.
One time the coach wanted all of us to at least try, all of the field events, long jump, high jump, and hop-step-and-jump. I raced down the track, did a little hop, took a short wee step, planted my short, powerful little frog legs, and gave a mighty jump. The coach almost fainted. My jump was longer than the jump of the Regional champion. Now, if he could just get me to stretch out my hop and step, we might have a winner. I tried, Lord I tried. Lengthened the hop by a foot, stretched the step by a foot….I could feel it, even in mid-air. Came down for the jump all off-balance and out of position, and jumped….four feet shorter than I had before. The coach wanted me to keep trying, but I could see failure. I could have practiced for a year, and it wouldn’t have happened. Back to the pole vault.
When I worked at the auto-parts plant, it was a MAD rotation. A week of midnight shift, a week of afternoons, and a week of days. There was a road-house bar in the strip-plaza across the street. It was a tradition, that some of us went over for a beer, or seven, after work, Thursdays at eleven PM. There was the hard-drinking core who always went, and then there were others who might or might not show up, any given Thursday. The union president started his evening with two double screwdrivers and then wanted a beer every ten minutes.
I usually went, but never had more than two bottles. I had a motorcycle to ride home. I like the occasional dark beer, Newcastle Brown Ale, Heineken Dark, which I have to go to the States for; they don’t sell it in Ontario. I went over one Thursday night and found my friend with a big mug of something dark. The bar had started selling Smithwicks Ale, and they served it in a big twenty-ounce frosted mug. Mmmh, I’ll have me one of them. The “sorting information from ambient noise” problem set in immediately. Eight guys at our table, four to a side, two hundred rowdies watching a hockey playoff game on eight screens, half a dozen waitresses, yelling at customers, or the bartender. I had to keep saying WHAT, to my buddy, right across the table from me.
I made to leave after one mug, but the conversation was good, if I could make it out, so I ordered another. Just as it arrived, so did another line-mate who had had to run a couple of errands first. He wanted to know what my friend and I were drinking. I told him, and he ordered one, to try it. When it arrived, he took one sip of it, curled his lip, shoved it in front of me and told me to finish it. Oh good, now I have sixty ounces of beer to drink, the equivalent of five bottles. I girded my loins and dug in. Almost to the bottom of the third mug, something wonderful occurred. Suddenly everything got clear. I could make out what my friend was saying. I understood the rest of the people at the table, and the guys over in the corner, and the bartender. I knew what the score in the hockey game was.
Part of my neurological syndrome is like continuous, low-grade epilepsy. The neurons in my brain just over-fire all the time. Sucking back that amount of beer had sedated me to the point that it ran “normal”. I don’t want to be like Kid Shilleen, the drunken gunfighter in the movie Cat Ballou, so I do the best I can with what I’ve got, without the booze.