Wednesday, September 12, 2018
A Big Blue Malibu Wave
One of the zinnias in our garden has always been a little different from the rest -- a sort of reddish color, rather than orange. Its most recent flowers have spots. Who knows what weird genetic stuff is going on there?
I'm still working on the first of Karl Ove Knausgaard's autobiographical books, "A Death in the Family." I like his writing and it is engaging to read, but at the same time I sometimes find myself wondering why I'm reading it. (Probably like you're wondering why you're reading my blog!) It's relatively plotless and devoid of earth-shaking events and revelations -- just day-to-day life, down to the most mundane tasks like preparing a cup of coffee or watching snow swirl outside the window. It's interesting to get a sense of what it was like to grow up in Norway in the 1980s, and there's some family drama going on, but nothing wildly extraordinary.
At one point in the book he describes drinking with some friends as a young teenager -- I think they were 14. It got me thinking about my own early experiments with alcohol.
I never drank -- never even touched the stuff -- until I was in college. That's probably unusual, but I had a close group of friends in high school for whom drinking wasn't a goal. When we went to movies or to the mall, scoring alcohol just wasn't on our agenda. Which was fortunate! I knew other people were drinking, and I was dimly aware of Friday-night parties out in the orange groves and that kind of thing, but I never went and don't remember really even wanting to go. I don't regret my high-school teetotalling at all. I'm sure it saved me a lot of grief.
In college, I moved into the dorms my freshman year and discovered that a guy I'd gone to high school with, Robert, lived right down the hall. He and I began hanging out, and one night we decided to break the alcohol barrier. Somehow we got some bourbon, and along with Robert's erstwhile girlfriend, Marje, who lived on the girls' side of our co-ed dorm, we mixed it with ginger ale and began sipping.
At first, nothing happened. We were just sitting and talking as usual. Then I said something -- I don't remember what -- and maybe it didn't make much sense because Marje looked at me and said, "Steve's drunk!" I was not, I said indignantly, and then I began laughing and couldn't stop. So, yeah, I guess I was.
It was all very innocent and we didn't drink too much. As I've written before, our dorm RA distributed a weekly honor known as the "puke award" to whoever got sick from drinking on any given weekend, but I never won it, and I don't remember ever getting sick in college. As I recall my first hangover came the following summer, after I went on an afternoon canoeing trip with friends on the Alafia River and we drank multiple cans of Busch Beer. I came home, got into bed and woke up later feeling terrible -- dehydrated, I'm sure, and after all it was lousy beer.
All freshmen drink crazy stuff. I had a girlfriend, Lori, who loved Asti Spumante, and I remember going to sit with her and Robert and Marje under the trees on our spacious campus at night with a bottle or two of that sweet, fizzy wine. She'd also had some training as a bartender, so I used to look through her bartender's guides and then, when we went out to a local bar like Coconut Joe's or Ruby Tuesday, I'd order peculiar cocktails like mai-tais. I remember one called a Malibu wave, basically a margarita with blue curaçao -- and yes, it was bright blue. I'm sure the bartenders correctly clocked me as a complete dork.
The first time I drank enough to be sick, I think, was when I visited Miami Beach with my friends Sue and Arthur in the late 1980s, after I'd graduated. For some inconceivable reason I did two vodka shots in our hotel room, which proved to be a bad start to the evening. And even then, I never got truly wasted -- to this day I've never blacked out or been unable to remember where I've been or what I've been doing.
Despite the "Animal House" culture of college in the '80s, I don't remember ever hearing about people being hospitalized for alcohol poisoning or that kind of thing. I'm sure it happened and none of us knew.