Saturday, March 7, 2009

So Eric, you asked me to talk about my most memorable experiences drinking alcohol. It took a little time to think of what happened while drinking, but I think I have come up with some good ideas. I have a few of my own most memorable experiences as well as one of my dads that I will talk about. With your work you seem to be interested in the social interactions that happen while drinking beer and relaxing together, so I will try to stay focused and write about that—but beware, not all of the experiences are good ones.

In my sophomore year of undergraduate art school I started hanging out with a student named Cory Wheelock. He was a very interesting character who taught me a lot about the Illuminati, Lizard People, and Hip-Hop artists like MF DOOM. We started hanging out because we were both in a Beat Literature class studying artists such as Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs. From our discussions in class it was obvious that Cory and I were on similar wavelengths, so we became friends.

For the last Beat class, students presented their research for the semester, and by the end of class Cory and I had decided to ask everyone if they wanted to get some drinks. Most of the students in the class were only 20 years old, but we were inspired by the Beats to go out and do whatever. Our teacher never asked us if we were 21 or not, so we all headed over to a shady little bar called the Newsroom. This bar was known for serving anyone who had money, and two pool tables.
Five of us decided to give it a shot, we soon realized the Newsroom was a great decision. We each ordered a pitcher and went to drinking. We started our conversation by asking our teacher, Jarred, how he thought his first class at the Art Institute went. He told us he was very happy with the outcome, and looked forward to working with more art students.
Jarred was a Christian, and we knew this because his forearm was covered in a cross tattoo. Cory was a devoted anti-Christian, and made it his priority to convince Jarred to abandon ship and move to the dark side. It was no use, that tattoo was permanent. We continued to talk about legacy, and how our generation was creating micro-revolutions based on Beatnik modesty. We also talked about the technicalities of contemporary train hopping, and how famous people seem to have strong periods in their lives.
It was obvious we could all talk each other to death if given the right moment, but this was not it. The bar was starting to fill up and as more paying customers came in, we got tossed out. Jarred was surprised to find out we weren’t 21, and congratulated us on being rebellious.
That was the first time I went out to drink with a teacher.

I always wondered how my dad got out of going to Vietnam. When I was young he told me that he hired a guy to break his leg, and I never really asked anymore. As I started to get older I began wondering if he could go into any more detail about the story, and this is what he told me.
While my dad was in high school his parents started building a house down on the Lake of the Ozarks, which was about a 3-hour drive from Springfield. Every Friday his parents would drive down to the lake and work for the weekend, and leave dad and his brother, Steve, at home. On Sunday night his parents would return.
Dad was a rambunctious teenager. A lot of the times he would go out with his friends and get so drunk that when they drove him home, they would just push him out of the car and he would sleep on the sidewalk. So when his parents started going to the lake, it was only natural for the party to be at their house. Like clockwork, every weekend for two years there would be a party at Springer’s house. Typically something in the house would get damaged, but dad was smarter than to let someone ruin the party house for everyone—and put a rule in effect that if you were going to party on Friday and Saturday, you had to clean up on Sunday. It was a good rule, and effective because his parents never knew.
When my dad got drafted his parents decided to throw a huge party. All of dad’s friends and family showed up to celebrate his going away. As the night went on, people started to get rowdier and rowdier. My dad and grandpa never got along very well, and both of them could drink anyone else under the table. It was only a matter of time before the fuse was lit.
Since all of dad’s friends were accustomed to hanging out all weekend at the Springer house, it was a shock when Grandma started trying to kick people out. No one wanted to leave; the Springer house was as much theirs as anyone else’s. Grandma was having a hell of a time getting anyone to budge, and soon one of the jocks said something to the effect of, “No one tells me what to do old lady!” Grandpa overheard the jock and went to kick him out himself when dad decided he wasn’t going to have his parents tell his friends what to do.
It was at that point dad and grandpa decided to have it out. After a bit of punching and rough housing, dad had the upper hand--he grabbed grandpa and threw him into the front yard, through the plated glass door. Then the jock that back talked grandma got up and threw dad through the same door, breaking dad’s leg in the fall.
That is how my dad got out of going to Vietnam.

My girlfriend, Elysia, and I have been living apart from each other quite a bit this past year. She studied in New York my last semester of undergrad in Kansas City, and when I moved to Portland for grad school she had to stay in Kansas City to finish her BFA. Luckily we were able to spend a great summer together in Kansas City, and have traveled every two months to see each other.
Last year while she was living in New York I went out to see her and visit New York City for my first time. I had already assumed that New York was not the place for me—but I gave it a shot because Elysia was out there. The city was just like I expected, expensive, loud, sticky, stinky, and annoying. However, I did like walking around Brooklyn at night and feeling like Elysia and I were together again.
Before going to NYC I had been thinking a lot about asking Elysia to marry me, but I didn’t really want to ask her the big question. So instead I asked her a series of small questions to see if she was into the idea. We both were hesitant to say yes or no, but the ice was broken and the conversation was started. I came back to Kansas City, and after awhile she did too.
When I got out to Portland I started thinking about how I could ask the big question, but I really had no idea. I told my mom that I thought it was time to buy a ring, and we both started looking together. Mom found an engagement ring from 1950 that a friend had from a previous relationship that she now wanted to part with, and we snatched it up. By the time Christmas rolled around we had the ring resized and cleaned up, just waiting for a finger.
On New Years morning I asked Elysia if she would marry me. Instead of going the romantic route, I did it in front of her parents at their home in Minnesota. She said yes, and we embraced as much as two people will in front of their parents—and that was about it for our entire time in Minnesota. We drove back to Kansas City and a couple of days later immediately got on a plane headed for Portland.
When we got to Portland we were finally able to enjoy each other with no family around! Eric told us about a great restaurant called the Portland City Grill on the top floor of some tall building downtown. That night we got all dressed up and headed over to the restaurant.
The waiter asked us what we wanted to drink, and we ordered a bottle of wine that was pretty cheap, but good. Over the course of dinner we talked about everything we had to look forward to, and really celebrated our engagement the way we wanted to. Elysia was scared that she might not be able to find a job in Portland, but I reassured her everything would work out. We would both be fine because we had each other, and that is so much more than we have had for the past year.
When the waiter came to ask us if we wanted desert, we took Eric’s advice and ordered the ice cream and cookies with two cups of coffee. We needed to sober up before walking out of this high class restaurant, but it didn’t matter because by the end of the meal we were so bloated that the more we added, the more off balance we got.
That night was the best experience I have ever had with alcohol involved.

My mom married Jack a couple of years after she divorced my dad. I was five when the divorce happened, and seven when she got remarried. Jack had a son named Josh who was my best friend when we all lived together. Neither one of us had any respect for anyone, and made a good team of hellions. After a couple of years of Josh and I tormenting the hell out of our parents, Jack had a heart-attack and passed away. Josh went to go live with his mom, and my mom and I were left alone again.
Mom found a new group of friends at the local bars, and the time we used to spend at home was now spent at bars. As long as I was playing darts I didn’t care where I was. It seemed pretty fun to be around all of these older people letting loose. Sometimes when I was bored I would get my dart money and go into the bathroom to buy some pictures of naked ladies from the dispensers, and hope no one would catch me in the act.
Dad always told me that mom wasn’t doing a very good job of being a parent by taking me to bars, but I never told her that. I knew she would just jump down my throat if I said anything, so I just sat back and played games. When New Years rolled around mom had made some big plans for us to go over to her friend’s house, and I was excited to be able to watch TV all night.
Her friend’s house was so much worse than being at a bar. Instead of short haired carpet with smoke smell there was shag carpet with smoke smell. I was allergic to smoke, but not even mom cared—one of them even had lung cancer and didn’t care. These people were trying as hard as they could to die, and were doing a pretty damn good job of it.
It must have been about 11:30 when my mom walked up and handed me a glass of Champaign and told me to hang on to it until midnight. She said that this couldn’t become a habit, but I could have a sip on special occasions like this one. When the apple fell I took a sip, and then drank the whole glass. It was so tasty! I asked for another, but mom said no.
That was my first experience with drinking alcohol.

Halfway through 8th grade mom and I decided to move to Tyler, Texas. She wanted to be closer to her family, and wanted to get away from Kansas City. I knew I was going to miss KC a lot, but didn’t fight mom too much because I knew the past 4 years had torn her apart.
When we got to Tyler I still had to finish the other half of my 8th grade year, so I started going to Hubbard Middle School. I was surprised to find out that I had to tuck my shirt in everyday, and if I didn’t there would be detentions. I immediately became a hermit to the outside world and spent my time chatting it up with my old friends in KC. After awhile I started getting new friends in Tyler, but I always stayed in contact with a few friends in KC.
My dad and his side of the family were still in KC, so I would visit quite a bit. Most every time I got to see my friends for a while and act like nothing ever happened. The summer after I turned 16 my brother, Mike, called me up to see if I wanted to move to KC for the summer and work for his tile company. That summer was full of partying and having a good time with my friends. We all had our own wheels and could do anything, free at last!
In the middle of the summer my Grandad from Texas told me that he was having a high school reunion in Springfield and he would like it if I came to see him while he was there. I drove to Springfield to see him and when I was leaving the next day I asked him if he would buy me some stuff from the liquor store. I only had $40, so a few gallons of Carlo Rossi and some Pabst’s would have to do. He didn’t like buying it for me, but did anyways.
As I drove back to Kansas City I called up all of my friends trying to find a place for a party that night. I had plenty to drink, and everyone was invited. When I got home I was about to fall asleep, so I headed down to Starbucks for a double shot coffee.
By the time party hour struck beer thirty we were all well on our way to having a good time. The party ended up being across the street from my brother’s house, so I gave him a heads up that I might be coming by later to sleep.
After everyone had a couple of beers I started pouring glasses of Carlo Rossi. They all seemed to be avoiding the jugs, and I thought after a couple of beers no one would care how bad it was. A few people tried it and immediately told me there was no way they were going to drink it, but I wasn’t about to let all that hard work go to waste. After all, I did drive to Springfield for these jugs!
I drank what was in my glass, and started collecting everyone else’s glasses who didn’t want any, and drink that too. Unfortunately I don’t remember anything that was said that night, other than people complaining about the taste of Carlo Rossi. But I do remember stumbling out of my friend’s house and walking up and down the street puking in everyone’s flowerbeds. When I thought I was all out of vomit I moved on to my brother’s front door step to see if he wouldn’t mind a drunk staying on his couch, he let me in.
As soon as I laid down it was apparent that it was a bad idea, so I moved downstairs to the garage toilet. I spent a good amount of time hugging that toilet and telling it what I had eaten that day, which consisted of a Starbucks double shot coffee and Carlo Rossi. It was the most disgusting thing I had ever tasted, and I couldn’t seem to get to the bottom of it.
That is why I cannot drink Starbucks anymore.

A couple of years ago my Uncle came down with a really bad cough. After awhile the cough turned into bronchitis, and soon after that the doctors told him it was actually much worse than all that—and if he didn’t receive a lung transplant he would only live two years at most. It was a series of events that I will never forget.
Uncle Steve was the best uncle I could have ever asked for. From the time my dad was throwing parties at the Springer house until his 30’s, Uncle Steve was a very heavy drinker. Everyone in my family was a drinker, and since he was the youngest I guess he just wanted to fit in. Grandma once told me that after she gave birth to Steve, the doctor gave him a little sip of whiskey before circumcising him—maybe that was the start to his alcoholism.
After Aunt Susan and Uncle Steve had two boys, Jeremy and Jason, the drinking had to stop. Uncle Steve became a member of AA and after a couple of years soon became interested in helping other people who were ruining their lives with alcohol. He knew where these people were coming from and could talk to them without judging or being a hypocrite, and because of that he became a lot of people’s best friend.
When the news came in that Uncle Steve needed to have a lung transplant to live, we all were speechless. It didn’t take long until we got the call that he was on his deathbed, and we all needed to come as soon as possible. He was hospitalized in St. Louis, and everyone but Mike and I were there. I told Mike that I would be driving there the next day, and he could come if he wanted to.
That night a couple of our friends invited Mike and I out to a bar called the Moxie. I don’t know if they knew what was going on with Uncle Steve, or if they just knew something was wrong—but it was perfect timing. The friends who invited us out were two of the heaviest drinkers I have ever seen, and I was determined to keep up.
For some reason I couldn’t stop thinking about what Uncle Steve used to be like when he was partying. I kept thinking, I can do it—I can become an alcoholic and come back to save the day. It was stupid thinking like that, but I kept going. After a couple of hours I knew that if I didn’t go outside, I would be puking in the bar somewhere. So I headed out to my truck and let it all out.
When Mike came out and tapped on my window I had already passed out, and he took me home. The next day while we drove to St. Louis we were hopeful that Uncle Steve would make it through. Right as we got there dad came out and found us and told us to hurry in, there were only a couple of minutes left. I held Uncle Steve’s hand and said, “I love you.” We all had joined in singing his favorite hymnal as he took his last breath.
That was the last time I wanted to be an alcoholic.

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