Alcoholism: A Viable Career Choice

(NOTE: This essay is part of a group of essays, written roughly between 1993 and 1997, which I privately call “The Receipts.” They were essays written when I was an unquestioning lad engaging with the world in pure shock-jock mode, and if you want proof that I used to be an absolute dingbat, well… Here’s the receipts.

(It’s essays like these in part that made me create the BS-O-Meter plugin for my site, where I said:

(“Part of living life honestly on the Internet means you crystallize some of your past self and present it for current critique – which is fair.  But when you blast Past Ferrett for some crude take, just keep in mind that Current Ferrett may be cringing at being related to that idiot, kind of like those embarrassing relatives who won’t stop posting Trump memes on Facebook – yeah, I’m connected to him, but I’m not exactly proud of that fact.”

(In this case, I left these essays up because I don’t believe in deleting past stupidity.  If you wish to use this as proof that Past Ferrett was an idiot, well, I won’t disagree with you.  If you wish to use that as proof that Current Ferrett is an idiot, well, I can’t blame you.)

Drinking is a dangerous sport. And there are so many amateurs out there.
There’s at least one or two at every party – they show up, drink way beyond their capacity, and usually wind up face down in the toilet, playing Bob For The Big Chunks, by ten-thirty. It makes me feel like putting up a sign that says “DANGER. This is a trained professional. Do not attempt this at home,” whenever I pour another funnelful of Scotch ‘n’ Sodas down my throat.
But that’s all right. They’re freshmen. They’ll learn. The problem is, there’s a lot of people out there who think they’re professional drinkers. A couple of hangovers just doesn’t cut it. To be a true High Roller of Hooch, a Sultan of Swill, involves an arduous process, not too different from training for the Boston Marathon. It involves simply going beyond the glass and taking on a whole new lifestyle – most of which you won’t remember.
It takes guts, chum.
So, in order to separate the men from the boys, I’ve compiled a list of the feats it takes to become a Professional Imbiber:
THE FADE TO BLACK. The first step in the crawl to High Drinker. You black out and do something embarassing. The best example I can give of this was a party I attended in my Junior year at high school. I was already a couple of sails to the wind (sails? Hell, the mast had blown off) when my good friend Rick offered me a choice of two bottles; a 200-proof flask of mind-pummeling grain alcohol, or an 85-proof bottle of JD. Whatever I had, Rick would drink the other.
My muddled mind started thinking. “The JD is roughly half the proof of the grain alcohol, and I’m already drunk… so the JD is half as strong…. which means that, if I drink this half-strong JD…. I CAN HAVE TWICE AS MUCH!”
I finished off the bottle.
Then I helped Rick polish off the grain.
Then I woke up crucified on the hood of a ’75 Pinto, watching the sun rise. Somebody had turned my head into an Etch-A-Sketch and shook it; I had no memories.
I am told, however, that Rick and I livened up the party considerably by playing “Bag Inspector”. Anytime anyone walked into the party carrying a bag we leaped on them, wrestled them to the ground, took the bag and ran into the bathroom. If the bag had alcohol in it, we drank it. If not, we threw it out the window. By the end of the party, I am told, there was a two-foot high pile of purses, grocery bags, and empty bottles lying by the side of the house.
I didn’t get invited to any more parties for awhile.
FULL-TILT BEER GOGGLING. What’s the difference between a pig and a fox? Three drinks. Yuk yuk yuk. But the truth remains; after a couple of drinks, you’ll be molesting the couch. Minor-league beer goggling involves sleeping with someone you hadn’t expected to – but it was somebody you knew. Full-tilt beer goggling involves waking up with somebody you’ve never met before – and for some reason, they always look like they just shambled off the set of Poltergeist.
Extra points are given for waking up during the act. You start going into Bonus Overtime if you wake up doing it in a public place. Take it from me, coming to in the middle of a crowded theater with some chick’s head buried in your lap leads to some real interesting conversations.
WRONG TIME, WRONG PLACE. Sinks full of dishes. Dishwashers. Houseplants. People’s shoes. Bowls of potato chips. Aquariums.
These are all places you shouldn’t throw up in. But you probably have.
THE BIG SEMICOLON, or, the ability to throw up in mid-sentence. When you first start out drinking, a good Uke takes every bit of concentration you have. But as you get more experienced, it just becomes another part of the evening – drink, talk, blow chunks, talk some more, wash out the taste with some scotch. Eventually you get so casual that you just turn your head and lean slightly to the side: “So I was in this theater, and – WHOULFFUULLRRYYURK – and I found this girl, in my lap….”
Don’t apologize. It’s declasse. Just try not to do this if somebody short is standing next to you.
THE BLIND HOMING PIGEON. You know you went to a party in Hartford last night. And yet, somehow, you’ve woken up in your dorm room. How in hell did you get here? UFOs? You have no idea.
Somewhere along the line you’ve developed the ability to stagger home from parties in New Guinea. Welcome to the Homing Pigeon phase, son.
THE POST-GAME ANALYSIS. Alcohol has more stories per fluid ounce than any other substance in the world. Marijuana makes you sleepy and stupid. Cocaine makes you paranoid. Smack makes you throw up.
Ah, but alcohol – alcohol makes you stupid, and then it makes you want to go out and run around, thus spreading your stupidity as far as your legs will carry you. Essential to the Professional Drinker is the ability to tell a good story about it. Ideally, even though the story may involve a fall off a three-story building, four fistfights, a car accident, and a prolonged period of Uking into a sewer, it should still sound like you missed something really awesome.
Remember. Drinking is a young man’s sport, and older people will of course call this article irresponsible and dangerous. But older people have already had their fun; almost every forty year-old who will condemn this article will do so on the grounds that they drank too much as a young whippersnapper, and they now regret it.
The benefit of youth is that there are no regrets.
As a Rebellious and Fun-Loving Youngster, it is your responsibility – nay, your duty – to go out and do amazingly stupid and death-defying things so you can sternly admonish your children years from now. Otherwise, what are you going to tell your kids? “When I was a boy, I… I…. well, I didn’t actually do anything, but I was told it was pretty awful.”
Solid years of drinking is what separates the Lushes from the Losers. But if you’re still a washout at the bottle, I do give private lessons in drinking for $50 an hour…. or I’ll take a bottle of good Scotch.
After all. Until “Drink ‘Til You Puke” becomes an Olympic event, somebody’s got to subsidize my training, don’t they?