Alcohol and Me, No Bueno

 

I don’t drink alcohol. I’m not morally opposed to it and I’m not a recovering alcoholic. No one ever believes that, by the way. The journey to being a teetotaler has been unpredictable; littered with hangovers, lesbians, and a stint as a child bar tender. I would be rich beyond my wildest imaginings if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me why I don’t drink. If you’re not a drinker, what do you say? Do you invent an “alcohol allergy”? Claim that you’re on probation? Tell people that you’d love a drink but if you got started, you’d have to drink everything they have? Pull out a blunt for a non-verbal answer to the question? I’ve just decided to tell the truth. Maybe I can help my fellow non-drinkers. Here’s my story in three parts.

Childhood

I am standing behind the huge bar my father built in the basement of our 70s ranch house. Name the liquor, we had it. Name the drink, we could make it. Every time I opened the refrigerator in our basement, my dad’s Margarita bottle with the skull and crossbones he’d drawn on it was dead center. This was normal to me.

I was mesmerized by only one thing behind that bar: the ice crusher. That ice crusher was my crack. I know I seem lame if you compare me to say, Ben Carson as a kid. I wasn’t stabbing relatives in enormous knife-deflecting belt buckles or standing my ground during armed robberies, refusing to let criminals screw me out of some succulent fried chicken, but hear me out because I get even lamer.

While other little girls were baking mud pies, my two favorite activities were trying to get rich by making perfume out of Comet Kitchen Cleanser and Kool-Aid (gritty yet sweet!) and playing bartender to my dolls. At the bar was Giggles who was only supposed to giggle when you pushed her arms in but something had gone wrong and she giggled constantly. Next to Giggles, I’d put Chatty Cathy whose hair I’d cut to look like Dorothy Hamill’s. It didn’t. Geoffrey, the naked plastic doll, and his ever present friend Teddy the bear, who had fur missing in odd places, always came. Finally, I’d usually include Ginger, a red head with a big hole in the top of her head where “secret hair” resided that could be pulled out to change her look. You will be delighted to know that I recently found Ginger. Here she is!

ginger

 

After the dolls were in their places, I’d head upstairs to get the metal ice trays. Back at the bar, I just stood there cranking until the bottom half of the crusher was full. I filled shot glasses with their usual drinks and it was all amicable enough until Cathy had several shots of Crown Royal in her and started asking Geoffrey why he always showed up naked. He’d get angry, high on Schlitz and, I suspect, “mother’s little helper”, Valium, and talk shit about her hair. Ginger would start in on Teddy, ribbing him about how he and Geoffrey were always together and asking why the fur on his knees was particularly sparse. And Giggles, head thrown back, laughed. When Ken and his hair showed up with Barbie’s underage sister Skipper, it would get really weird. Skipper smoked like a fiend and Ken was usually wet, like soaking wet. He never explained it and we were all too afraid to ask. He’d just sit there, sunglasses on, sometimes covered in bite marks, and sip his Amaretto. After last call, the merrymakers would pile into his convertible and speed back upstairs with Skipper, cigarette dangling, on the hood.They were a bunch of drunk, outrageous bastards and some of the best friends a little girl could ask for but their behavior under the influence stuck with me and made me wary of drinking.

College

I’ve been drunk twice. The first time was the first week of freshman year at college. I know, you’re gobsmacked. My eighteen year old brain was in full effect so here’s how that went:

  • Food for the day: a piece of toast
  • Drinks for the day: rum & coke, 7up & vodka, grain alcohol
  • Later that day: I only remember sitting under a streetlight
  • Next day: dry heaves and the fetal position in the shower.
  • Next 3 days: oatmeal

The second time I was drunk I was about 20 years old and it was because my future mother-in- law was plying me with wine coolers. Well, she had some wine coolers and I kept drinking them in an attempt to appear sophisticated which is clearly the same as plying me. Much later that night, I had to choose between putting my head in, or my ass on, the toilet. Nothing would stay down or in. You can quibble with my decision- I’ve found that people have very strong opinions on this- but I chose my head. On that night, in that bathroom, there were no good choices. I tried spinning around for awhile, head, ass, head, ass and it just wasn’t working. It was all bad.

Many years later, the physical imprint of these two experiences remains. Yeah, yeah, it was my fault. When is drinking too much not the fault of the drinker? But I don’t want even a tiny part of any of this again.

On one visit home from college for Thanksgiving, my late Aunt Geraldine, who was about 4’10” tall and not shy about taking a drink, joined us for dinner. We were all seated at the table enjoying our meal when Aunt Gerry, then a mere 85 years old and as pissed as a newt, said she had a joke to tell us about lesbians. I perked up real fast. I probably don’t have to tell you that she messed up the joke from the start. To this day, I have no idea how this joke really goes. Let me tell you that around this table sat my father, who is Aunt Gerry’s brother, as well as my mother, her older sister and that sister’s daughter and her husband. “Prudish” doesn’t even begin to describe every member of this group except my father. Now, you know why I perked up. Aunt Gerry, so tiny that her head barely cleared the table, and slurring heavily, presented it as follows:

Aunt Gerry: “Two lesbians walked into a bar. A man said, ‘Hey baby, you sho is pretty’.

 One of the lesbians threw a drink in his face. Another woman said, ‘Can’t you see they lesbians?’ He said, ‘What? But they don’t smell like PUSSAYYYYYY!’”

My Thought Bubble: Thank you, Thanksgiving Fairy. You da bess, mayne.

I see the pinched expressions of my other relatives and immediately understand that this is the time to ask her to repeat that last bit.

Me: “What’d he say, Aunt Gerry?”

Aunt Gerry (louder): “He SAID, ‘But they don’t smell like no PUSSAAAYYYYYY’”!

Aunt Gerry: “Don’t y’all get it? They was LESBIANS!”

I encourage her to repeat the joke. My father is trying to stifle a laugh and failing. The rest of them look like they’ve just caught the homeroom teacher farting in their kid’s lunch. You see, Aunt Gerry thinks the joke has fallen flat because they don’t understand the rather provocative word “pussy”. Her brain has been marinating in wine for the past few hours and it’s telling her that if she just keeps saying it, they’ll get the punch line and laugh. With this goal in mind, she went on to say the word “pussy” in about five different ways while always applying this gravelly overlay to her voice. You know that voice the woman uses on Kotex commercials as the woman skips through a field of lavender? Yeah, not that one. You know the voice the guy uses when he says, “Let’s get ready to rummmmmmmble”? Yeah, that one. And just when I thought it was over, the hits just kept on coming because I overheard my mother and her sister complaining that the least Gerry could have done was to substitute the words “female genitalia” for the “p word”. Talk about wrecking a joke.

The lessons from my college years were cemented.

Adulthood

The experiences in adulthood that put me off of alcohol are too numerous to lay out before you. The highlights:

  • At a school event, I saw a lady in a flowing yellow gown – it was simply gorgeous against her dark brown skin, I might add – drunk as gangbusters and humping her husband’s leg on the dance floor.
  • At a work banquet, a goodhearted, completely wasted employee visiting every table and shouting, “One order of chicken WANGS and some barbecue sauce!”
  • A childhood neighbor running down our street naked. She was booking it.
  • A relative kicking everyone out of his back yard cookout with the words, “Get the hell out! I can’t stand most of y’all anyway!”
  • And finally, a close family friend, drunk at his baptism and unable to understand why “these people’ were trying to drown him, taking two attendees under with him and remarking afterwards, “I’ll be damned if y’all was going to drown ME today!”

Parting Advice

Share your backstories with those clamoring for an explanation of your dry status. Lay your truth out there. They won’t believe you anyway and they don’t even really care. They’ll care even less about eight minutes into it, leaving you in peace which is exactly what you want. People usually begin to back away from me when I start talking about the bite marks on Ken’s thighs. Works every time.

Medical Marijuana, My New Bestie

Part 1: We Meet

A backstory can sometimes be boring so in order to spare my young adult children this boredom, I’m going to omit detailing some things in my past that might seem relevant to an essay about marijuana. They’ve asked about my past, of course, but I know they’re just doing it to be polite. They are well-raised, sweet, and nosy as hell. I don’t think that they really want to know, so why expound on that stuff? You know, stuff like the 33 year old undergraduate I often visited in his hazy basement room (tunnel) at the University of Sussex. It’s probably fair to say the university had “lost track” of him and he was just living there. It was the 80s, who knows what was going on?All of the times I visited, I never got a good look at him because the room was so smoky. I would just see this reddish beard and these incredibly white legs in crumpled knee socks and worn leather sandals moving across the room. I’ve told my kids that I was going over there for calculus tutoring and I am certain this is true though I can’t exactly recall. Another thing my kids wouldn’t be interested in reading about is that time in Amsterdam. Any of it. Or that time their father and I were driving around Tucson at 2 a.m. looking for something to do. All I can say is that everything we did seemed like a good idea at the time. We are in the here and now, the year is 2015 and I’m going to tell you about me and my new best friend, medical marijuana.

After an extensive physical exam which consisted of walking to the counter at the clinic and saying, “I need a medical marijuana card,” I got a medical marijuana card. May I present my bona fides: neck surgery, delivery of three babies, surgeries on both feet, eyeglasses since 2nd grade, I’m hairy, have very long arms, a poor sense of direction and cannot, for the life of me, stop myself from watching the Republican Presidential debates. ALL of these things can be helped with medical marijuana.

For the unanointed, there’s the weed that your hella unreliable cousin Dookey has and then there’s medical marijuana. Dookey’s weed is similar to the pot my UBER driver was smoking just before he picked me up and the reason he was blasting “Hotline Bling” the whole ride. Medicinal strains take it to a whole other level. Employees at a reputable dispensary know their stuff. They’ll ask what ails you and give sound advice. My personal issue is that I don’t understand a word they’re saying so I’ve devised a system of keeping it simple: buy the weed with the best names. I thought names for lipsticks and race horses were cool, but these names are downright delightful! There’s “Lemonhead Double Threat”, “Purple Bubble Gum Shatter”, and “Polar Dawg” to name a few. There are edibles of all sorts so I bought some cookies in addition to weed because, I reasoned, I like sweets. Neck pain? Gone. Insomnia? Zzzzzzzz. Hairy with long arms? You’ll be hairy with long arms but you won’t care. The Republican debates? OK, I can’t say it helps. During the last debate, I noted, about twelve times, how chapped Donald Trump’s lips always are. This then turned into how I thought he’d benefit from having his whole body rubbed down with petroleum jelly. By the time the next debate rolls around, he’d have a nice, moist glow. I expressed a strong desire to slap that look off of Ted Cruz’s face, but I realized it was just his face so I’d actually have to slap his face off which I kept explaining to anyone who would listen. I wondered how many Goo wax grams Ben Carson had already had, but I wonder that during every debate. Does it help? You be the judge.

Part 2: Besties Go Out!

This picture might be me after my first therapeutic treatment.

dogflr

Let me explain.

This was after a walk to and from the grocery store during which, I am certain, the store was moved several times. The walk takes 10 minutes. On that day, I swear it took friggin’ 45 minutes because I kept taking like, 20 steps, and I’d be in front of the same house I’d just passed 5 minutes before! Why did someone keep moving the damn store!

On the way back, I spotted a neighbor. I don’t know her well at all but we’d chatted a couple of times. I knew it was her because she bears a striking resemblance to the actor Brian Dennehy. Seriously, put Dennehy in a tight, short dress, pastel lipstick and bangles and it’s my neighbor. Brian Dennehy could kidnap her, transport her to a remote location, move into her house and her husband would never know the difference.

Anyway, I spot her about half a block away and decide, with my sharp as a tack medical marijuana decision making skills, that pulling up my hood and cinching it around my neck – I’m also wearing the biggest pair of black sunglasses Prada makes – would make me somewhat less noticeable. The only other thing, I reason, that could make me even less noticeable would be to start running, then walking, running, then walking, all the while laughing and yelling, “Is it obvious?” to my daughter who had walked the one hundred miles with me to the store.

The picture above is after that walk. I was physically and mentally exhausted. Unfortunately for me, though I had made it home, we had a major remodel underway and about three minutes after this picture was taken, one of the sub-contractors needed to talk to me. It went like this:

Sub: “We don’t need all of the lumber we ordered to finish the trim work, so we’ll just send it back and get credited. We have too much.”

Me (hood up, sunglasses on inside the house): “OK. Do you have enough wood to finish the trim though?”

Sub: “Yeah. We have too much.”

Me: “For the trim?”

Sub: “Yes.”

Me: “So, you’re going to send some back.”

This state of mind lasted for one and a half days. I went to bed and woke up high. No neck pain, no insomnia, feet nice and flexible but …wow. Bestie and I need to talk.

Part 3: Craziest Bestie Ever

Let’s try a cookie. Just two nibbles. Two nom noms. You know that drug they’re always using in movies that completely paralyzes your body? You’re conscious, your eyes can move but the serial killer has you tied up and there’s nothing you can do about? Yeah, that one. I don’t know what that drug is but if it isn’t available, a medical weed cookie will do. My intention was to treat the cracking in my neck. The outcome was me sitting on the couch only able to move my eyes.  My daughter, yes, the same one from the previous thing, kept saying, “Mom, are you OK? You’re good right? Yeah, you’re good.” This only made everything thing in the entire world WORSE and I became paranoid that I was going to stay like this forever. This would then motivate me to jump up and run around the house in an attempt to do…I don’t know…run around the house. Later, I ate a bunch of food and watched televangelist huckster preacher, Peter Popoff. I noticed that there’s a typo in one of his advertisements. Peter, you spell “pressure” like I just did. It does not have an “a”. I used to win spelling bees which is probably why, even when I was that high, I spotted a typo during Popoff’s bullshit TV program. I see you, Peter Popoff, I SEE you through my “Bro Diesel” high, scamming all of those people and throwing their canes and walkers and shit across the auditorium and I don’t like it one bit especially since there were moments after I ate that cookie when a walker would have come in handy.

Part 4: I’m Not Giving Up on Us

Sometimes you suspect that your new best friend might be a bad influence but you don’t give up on them because to be honest, you like them anyway. Besides, maybe it’s me. I’m obviously miscalculating. Come to think of it, that isn’t my fault. I blame it on the metric system. I don’t get it. When the guy told me there were 5 grams in one cookie, it sounded to me like they had put marijuana sprinkles on top. Thus, my next move was to buy six of them. Not my fault.

Like any good relationship, it takes time to get your sea legs or in this case, to feel your legs and I’m willing to give this relationship time. A lot of it. Probably an infinite amount of time. I think the kind of time I’m talking about is called “forever”. I’m not going to quit you, best friend.

Confessing

Time to confess. Nothing illegal, of course. I’m not stupid. Besides, anything illegal that I might do should be legal anyway, so..yeah. No, I’m going to come clean on a few of my less than stellar moments in life and apologize for them. I figure you’re either asking why I’d expose myself in this way or if you know me, you just murmured, “No surprise there. It’s about damn time!” The truth is, I’m trying to lead us all into the light, one petty confession at a time. Come this way.

So, you know how you’re trying to fall asleep at night or you’re sitting at the Methadone clinic and something you did just pops into your head, something kind of morally or ethically questionable? Yeah, you know. My husband told me he had no idea what I was talking about so I suggested that he might be a sociopath. He didn’t respond. Sociopath.

First, the little stuff:

I apologize to “Football Head Eric” for, obviously, nicknaming you “Football Head Eric”. However, your head was totally shaped like a football. From the side, football. From the front, football. I know you had a crush on me when we were about, what 9 years old? You were super sweet and walked three blocks to show up on my front porch with some flowers. Instead of opening the door, I used our cool ass, 70s one-way security glass to just stare at you. OK, I sucked but I was NINE and at nine years old, a head shaped like a football is a deal breaker, as is a head shaped like a lightbulb, Frankenstein or a piece of toast.

I apologize to Mrs. Carmichael. I called you “farty face” and obviously, struck a chord because you ended up on my front porch telling on me (SNITCH!). My father listened patiently to your long, winding story which, apparently, led up to the worst thing that had ever happened to you in life: a smart ass neighbor kid calling you “farty face”. Look, I’m sorry, Mrs. Carmichael. Maybe you were sensitive about your face or maybe you were exhausted from relentless flatulence or perhaps combining those two things was a bridge too far. But, you’ve got to ask yourself what was going on in your life that you found yourself, 40ish, on the neighbor’s porch blubbering, snot running everywhere, because some kid said your face was “farty”. What in the hell does that even mean? I don’t even know what I was talking about. But, ok, whatever. SORRY.

I apologize to the woman on the tour of the Louisiana plantation house for letting you go off in the wrong direction when the rest of the tour had gone the other way. It’s just that you were “that person” in the tour group that tries to help the tour guide with your less than extensive knowledge on absolutely everything and I needed a break.

Other tour group person (upon entering an expansive interior room): “It sure is cool in here for a room in the middle of the house!”

Tour Guide (pointing to an electric fan in the corner): “Ah, we’ve cheated a bit. There’s an electric fan.”

You (loudly and smacking gum): “That fan was nice for the slaves though. They wouldn’t be so hot working in here.”

I knew you’d eventually find us or one of your friends would notice you were missing but when I saw you wander off, I just let you go and closed the door behind me. You looked happy.

Now for a little heavier lifting.

I’ve got to say this first or I’ll be crucified.  All babies are precious. All babies are a blessing. All babies are innocent. All babies are beautiful. All babies are the best things on earth. All babies are everything good in the world. All babies, all the time, ALL good. Babies!

I apologize to the toddler whose picture I came across on the internet. I apologize for thinking you were so funny looking that I kept your picture on my phone so when I felt a little down, I could pull it out and see you with your crazy hair and little buggy eyes and laugh hysterically. Yes, I know, I KNOW. Before you rip me a new one, let me dredge up some sympathy by admitting that I’m no stranger to those “rough spots” some of us go through growing up. I was freakishly gorgeous up until about 12. From 13 to 16 you could say I suffered a few setbacks. Years later, my mother told me, “We didn’t think you were going to make it. We thought we might lose you.” As in, I was so homely, they thought it might actually kill me. My OWN MOTHER said that. It smarts to think my parents were just shaking their heads every time I passed them in the hallway or bumped into them in the kitchen wondering when they’d find me dead from “ugly”. I went back to being really, really good looking (yay, me!) after a few years so everything is copacetic and you needn’t worry. I just wanted you to know that I’ve suffered too. Anyway, there is something inherently hilarious about a toddler who looks like Ernest Borgnine. Go ahead and tell me how awful I am but I’ll stand by that all day long.

Finally, I apologize to the donation collector man at the Goodwill drop-off spot for reporting you to your supervisor for being surly and argumentative. “Oh, sweetheart,” you’re thinking, “of course you should have reported him. He had no right!” Well, did I mention he was mentally handicapped? Yeah, I drove home, found the number on the Goodwill receipt and phoned in a complaint about a mentally. handicapped. volunteer. I even went so far as to leave a message after no one picked up so I imagine somewhere out there, my message from a decade ago lives on. He was surly, argumentative, unfriendly! He questioned the integrity of my donation! He isn’t good with people! I said all of that…and more. I must have been having one helluva bad day.

I just read this back. It is a blindingly beautiful example of “sorry, not sorry” and for that, well,…I’m sorry.

Final analysis? I’m not leading anyone toward any sort of light and Goodwill dude had it coming.

I’m headed straight to hell. Come this way…

No Reason Not To

It is going to become apparent very quickly that this isn’t the place for high-brow literature so let’s just do this. For about a year now, I’ve been living in Silicon Valley, a place of external smiles and internal organs covered in a shit storm of stress. The friendliest people in my neighborhood are the elderly couple who bring us cucumbers. They told us our house was formally “the drug house” and had a suicide. Yay. Second place goes to the Germans across the street. I assume they’re German because they invited us to a sausage party or something at their house once and they have accents. Third place for the guy next door. His property is a little worn but he’s quiet, rarely home and smokes weed in the backyard which causes the elderly couple to worry a lot. Until I got my medical marijuana card, I used to hang out by the fence hoping to run into him. Everyone else in all of Silicon Valley sucks. You’re thinking that it’s probably me. You’re thinking I’m just weird and socially awkward, aloof and unapproachable. Nope, that’s not it. It’s totally them.

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I keep using Meet-Up and it keeps being a bit of a bust. My first book club meeting was good enough but women sure will talk about really personal stuff to a room full of strangers while trying to act like they’re relating it to the book. One woman announced that men don’t really care as much about their mistresses as they do about their wives and then proceeded to tell us that her husband had left her for his secretary. One lady, I’ll call her Candida, sat on the far end of the room, unblinking (seriously, she never blinked) and seemingly pissed off that she had driven herself to a book club meet-up. Whenever someone asked her to repeat herself -she was kind of far away, after all – she’d say, “I already ANSWERED that!” and then look out of the window all exasperated and everything. That was priceless. All.day.long. Priceless. Another reader, “Zuzu” had so much Botox I thought someone was throwing their voice when it was her turn to speak. Only the eyes moved. Her implants were as big as my head and while I don’t have a massive, pumpkin head that children point to and laugh at on the street, I do have a “I don’t try hats on in public” sized head. Every hat is just perched at the top of my head, even beanies. Zuzu wore stilettos to the damn book-club meet-up and clothes that were very tight and stressed out. She went on and on and on and on until I had no idea what she was talking about. Her comments always started out in relation to the book but ended up someplace else entirely. We learned that she lived in two HUGE houses (apparently, simultaneously) and was just going to have to sell one! We learned that she got real close to a husband and kids but no cigar. We also learned that she didn’t finish the book. Candida was pissed. When Zuzu asked Candida to weigh in on one of her points, Candida’s eyeballs popped out of the sockets and she yelled, “How should I know? I’m not a college professor!” Candida was making my day. Another lady was trying to learn to like men again that month and shared that she’d told her neighbor that she was sure the neighbor’s son was autistic. Moreover, she was certain that the neighbor woman herself was autistic; right there on the spectrum with her son. I piped up and told her I didn’t think it was a good idea to mention that to the neighbor. To this, I got a lot of agreement and I felt like a fucking boss.

Believe it or not, I went to the second meet-up.There were only four of us. The most unexpected quote of that day: “I don’t like on line dating because men keep asking me if I’m transexual.” To which I mumbled something really stupid because halfway through my response I got confused about transwoman vs transman and said, “Oh, you don’t look like a man, um, or a woman, you look great!”

I’m going to a Serial Killer meet-up pretty soon so I might not ever post here again, something for which we might all be grateful. I joined a walking meet-up. I’m fit, nobody else was. The lady who walked next to me tripped on every curb. I found it really distracting but I always asked her if she was OK. See how nice I am?

When I lamented to my eldest daughter that I was lonely and finding it hard to make friends, she suggested I try OK Cupid and assured me that I could find straight, female friends who just want to hang out. Yeah, you can imagine how that went. It is now obvious to me that no one reads the notes you put on there about what you’re looking for. Only men messaged me. One offered to come to my house dressed as a cop and arrest me for being “too cute”. The women either wanted another woman to share with their husbands or to exclusively date women. I want to thank my daughter for taking the piss. Everyone was all like, “What did you expect? It’s OKCupid, duh!” Well, I thought that if I explained, quite clearly, that I was married and just wanted to find some buddies to hang out with, it would all work out. That shit didn’t work out. OK Cupid has made me rethink what the German sausage party may have really been about.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh, right, why I’m doing this. I make up stories about people  in my head. I’ve decided to write them down. Sometimes, I’ll write about something that has really happened to me like when I was living in Taiwan and accepted friendly checkout lady Emma’s invitation to meet for a language exchange. Emma told me she had a lot of “one night stand experience” which I thought was a peculiar thing to share with me during our first meet-up at McDonald’s but a few minutes later she pointed to her vagina and shouted that she knew that in English, you could call it a PUSSY! Ya gotta love a language exchange. Then, there was the time the AstroGlide that was in my bag -notice I didn’t say it was mine, it was just in my bag-got confiscated at security in a Thai airport. Thailand, remaking its image one bottle of lube at a time.

I think it’s better to have these people, real and invented, running around amongst you good people than crowding each other in my head. I hope you agree. If not, no hard feelings.