Today was a marked improvement….probably the best day in quite a while. I was going to mow the lawn in the morning but I got out of it because we couldn’t find the lawn mower! Then BOOM Krissy and Paul were here! They are on the very short list of friends I wish I could see every day. They got here about 11:30 AM and within an hour Krissy was shopping with Patslow and Paul and I were at a brew pub we found. I ate a tofu burrito and had three various beers. Then we came back to the house and and tried to figure out who all was going to the game with us…it turned out to be Paul, Kenslow, Greg, John, me….and PHIL PHUCKING RILEY! (For those who don’t know Phil was my Phreshman roommate at Andrews and I pretty much haven’t seen him since.) It was great. Nationals Park is really nice…but the Cubs did lose 5-4. #Duh. Tomorrow should be a good one too. I think we will be hitting the Smithsonian, the Newseum, and then having dinner / dranks with Isaac and Lauren.
Today I’m going to take a break from the devotional and talk about one of my favorite drinking songs: “Theme From Cheers” by Titus Andronicus. I love this song for two reasons. 1) It’s three parts are a strong commentary on the passage of time related through the way we drink at different ages. Aging has been on my mind a lot lately. 2) It’s a great song to drink to. Reason number 2 pretty much speaks for itself…the song is raucous and loud and fun to sing along to. So I’m going to talk a little more about reason number 1 by discussing each of the song’s three parts.
The narrator starts out as a kid who just likes getting fucked up….pretty much the way kids do. He describes the wild parties, the run-ins with law enforcement, and the long destructive walks home. I made those walks often in my younger years, but two of them really pop into my mind when I hear this song. One was when John Gagnon and I got the bright idea that we didn’t need to call a cab to make it home from the New Orleans bar at 3 in the morning…our feet were more than capable of walking three miles. I can’t remember who first suggested this but after talking about it I’m pretty sure I’m the one who said, “OK…but it’s a long walk so I think we should go in and take another shot first.” What followed came to be known as Katrina II in those parts. It seems we spent a good deal of the time crawling and rolling home. I know we each puked a few times and I’m sure we each pissed at some point. John seemed especially angry, raging at the politicians who were ravaging his precious New Orleans and pulling up every campaign poster he came across…he eventually dumped them all up and down his street when we got home. Of course this was New Orleans and people saw this type of behavior all the time…the story was a little different the time Ellis, Beyreis and I terrorized the campus of Andrews University on a Saturday night. But I don’t feel the need to get into that. The theme of part one is that teenage / college / young adult drunkenness is FUN. And it is…I occasionally did some regrettable things under the influence of alcohol in these years but for the most part I have great memories of partying hard. But in all the revelry there is still an underlying theme of sadness to this party scene. As the narrator stumbles home he justifies his actions by saying, “I’m gonna put this devil inside me to sleep if it takes all night.” Later, after expressing his desire to get fucked up, he adds the footnote “and let’s pretend we’re all okay.” As kids we drank because we wanted to have fun, but most of us also realized we drank for darker reasons. College is a time of great uncertainty and most kids don’t really have any idea what life has in store. This is horrifying and often depressing (after all…you’re in fucking COLLEGE man…you’re supposed to have this shit figured out!) It’s especially tough for people like me who have a difficult time embracing significant life changes. So we drank to cope. But youth are also the most optimistic people in the world. We echoed the refrains of this song, “When I’m an old man, I can be the quiet type.” We weren’t going to rage like this forever. We were just kids with the weight of the future holding us down…don’t blame us for wanting to have a little fun while we still can.
The second part is simple. The narrator is grown…he has responsibilities and real life problems. The uncertainty of his college years has dissipated, but so has his optimism and with it his resolve to sober up. I am firmly in this stage of life, though I don’t consider my situation nearly as dark as that described in the song. I usually drink for the enjoyment of it and I’m usually fairly happy. Still there are dark nights and days when I drink to feel less and I’ve definitely lost the “I’m just drinking because I’m young” mentality. I’m fairly certain that I now drink about the way I’m going to continue to drink, barring some unforeseen health issues. And that’s ok…I like beer a little more than I should but I’m far from an alcoholic and when I’m in a better state of mind I’m pretty healthy in other areas of my life.
Well, here we are. All the dreams of youth and the pressures of adulthood lead to the same place…sitting in the corner of the same bar asking how the hell we got here and what it all meant. “Funny we’re still doing car bombs after all these years.” This is clearly a downer of a verse, but part of me finds comfort in it. I like the idea of Paul and I getting together at 75 and doing the exact same thing we get together to do today. And the older I get the more I realize this is pretty much what happens. I’m not just referring to drinking but to all of life. Yeah, we change over time, but when I’m 80 I’m still going to be me…I may not be able to physically or mentally do all the things I can do now, but I’m going to be the same person with the same interests, (hopefully) the same friends, and a similar personality. And this gives me some peace of mind. But I still get The Fear when I think about old age. Being closer to death is a clear downside, but there is also the potential of being alone, the loss of loved ones, and perhaps most important, fear that I look back at my years and say “what the fuck was it for anyway.” I don’t want to be an old man, sitting in an empty apartment, looking back through old pictures and seeing just a hodgepodge of school-play-work without any purpose. I don’t want to feel like none of it mattered to the world. I don’t want to regret mistakes I made and chances I never took. At 31 I don’t feel this way at all…I’m happy with my life, I believe it has meaning, and the few regrets I have are small in scale. But I do not feel assured that I won’t feel differently fifty years from now when I am nearing the end. And that’s a really scary thought. But I suppose if that IS the case…there will always still be booze in the world.
When I was in college once I got wasted and called a girl at 3 in the morning. She didn’t pick up…thank goodness. In the morning she called back and yelled at me which sort of seemed like a bullshit thing to do. But she did say one thing that stuck with me to this day: “You shouldn’t drink when you are depressed…you should drink when you are happy.” Of course, at the time that was about the last thing I wanted to hear from her, but dammit she was right. This is the way I drink now. Sure, I’ll sometimes drink a little more cause I’m feeling down, but for the most part I drink to accentuate existing happiness, because I really am much more happy than I am sad. (Side note: the two coexist FAR more than we usually realize.) I fucking love to drink and while it wouldn’t kill me to drink less, I have no plans of stopping. I vehemently disagree with the Seventh-day Adventist belief that drinking alcohol is a sin (is that really the belief?) In fact, on the contrary, I believe God WANTS me to drink. I believe that great beer and wine exists to give us the opportunity to live fuller and richer lives. But I don’t want my drinking to make me a worse person. This is how I define SIN…not as individual actions (drinking, sex, gambling, etc.) but as the state we reach when we allow these actions to have an adverse effect on our relationship with God and others and ourselves. Occasionally I reach this level with alcohol…and those are the mornings I wake up feeling the worst. Not physically hung over…I can always work my way through that…just spiritually drained and full of regrets. Guilt. This is not what I want.
What I want is to live forever.