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Entry date: 1-10-2022 - The First Time I Drank - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

I woke up this morning thinking about drinking. Not wanting to drink, but my tenuous relationship with alcohol. It weighs on me a lot and today is the day to begin the discussion.

As I think back, I started off my relationship with booze like most people, taking occasional sips of my dad’s beer and wondering why people liked it. My early memories are that it tasted horrible to me, although my dad’s flavor of choice was often Budweiser, especially if it came from the St. Louis brewery. He taught me early on to check and see where it came from in the 1970s because everyone knew that the St. Louis brewed Bud tasted way better than that brewed in their Los Angeles brewery.

Either way, I didn’t care for it. I also had a dim view of alcohol because my uncle, Allen, was an alcoholic. I witnessed many of his worst moments as I grew up because I spent a lot of my time with my grandparents and Allen usually lived with them because he couldn’t keep it together for very long when he moved out. It was harsh and ugly and I never understood why anyone put up with it. He seemed like such an asshole to my young eyes.

Allen fell into the canal and drowned when I was about 11, give or take. The doctor who examined his body told my mother that he had almost 40% BAC so he may have been dead before he went into the canal. I wonder if he drank himself to death and whoever he was drinking with dumped him there. Either way, it created a major alcohol-related issue within my family.

My grandparents, who had lost their son, drank a little more heavily for awhile before it got to the point where I very rarely ever saw them take a drink for a long time. As I reflect on this now, I can understand why they made the decision they made and stayed away from booze for a long time. I never really got a chance to talk to my grandfather about this, but I’m curious if my grandmother would talk to me about it if I asked her about it now?

I saw my parents drunk, occasionally, and except for one time where my mom drank way too many Long Island ice teas in Maui, it never really had a tremendous impact on me. Well, it did cost me a few days on Maui since my mom’s bender led her to having us fly home early. I was bummed about that for a while, especially since I didn’t understand what happened.

My own experience with alcohol started in the summer of 1983. We were in San Diego for vacation and had a beach house on Mission Beach. It was the summer after 8th grade and two of my best friends from middle school, Matt K and Matt P, were also vacationing out there, too.

Matt P went to the market with my mom, her boyfriend, Earl, and I and we convinced my mom to get us a six pack of Moosehead beer. I’m not sure why but we were 13 and 14 at the time and it seemed like a good idea. My mom later told me that she thought, “What harm could a few beers do?” We went back to our beach house and Matt P and I had a beer.

As I write this, I wonder if Matt P’s mom, Kathy, knew about this? I’m guessing she did and if I remember correctly, Matt’s family was okay with a little drinking here and there. Anyway, I was pleased with myself for now liking beer (sort of) and didn’t think much about it. I think I got a little buzz off the beer, but it was no big deal. A couple nights later, though, all hell broke loose.

Earl had to go back to Phoenix for business for a day, I think, or two and my mom and I were left to our own devices. I asked if Matt and Matt could stay over one night and my mom said, “Okay.” Our beach house was two story, so I had the loft upstairs which had a fold out couch, a dining room table, a bathroom, and a little kitchen. The fellas and I stayed up there, and my mom went to bed early.

Matt P suggested that we play quarters with the rest of the Moosehead, and I had never played it before. You can guess what happened next, I’m sure. They destroyed me, but it was just a few beers. However, Matt K looked old enough to buy beers, so we pooled a bit of money together and he went down to the corner market and bought a 12 pack of Miller High Life.

Now, I had eaten my favorite chili dogs from a place called Red Hot City that used to be next to the Catamaran Hotel on Mission Beach. It was just a little hole in the wall place, but they had amazing chili dogs. We continued to play quarters and I continued to lose and before long, the room was spinning wildly. I have just a small set of memories of that evening but do remember the Matt’s making me a little bed of couch cushions and I remember them guiding me to the bed.

What happened next was vomit. Lots of vomit.

If you’ve ever wondered what a mix of bile, cheap beer, and chili dogs would do to a set of $80 (in 1983) Calvin Klein sheets, I can tell you.

It leaves a mark.

As I settled down on my little cushion bed, the puke started coming out. Luckily, I was laying on my stomach or I could have choked on it. The Matt’s got me sort of cleaned up after I eventually stopped throwing up. Someone had the bright idea to take the sheets down to the alley and throw them in the dumpster. Later, they were fished out and washed and I would sleep on them for as long as my mom dated Earl. I have to say that was a pretty boss parental move, but at the time, it was a reminder of the incident.

It did teach me a lesson about wanting to drink heavily for at least a year or so. I was hungover for a few days and lost a full day of beach time to alcohol poisoning. I also never had another Red Hot City chili dog which is a shame. My mom was super pissed about the sheets until she realized how sick I was and then she was perplexed as to how I got so drunk off of sharing four Mooseheads.

I came clean about the other beers pretty quickly and it was probably over 30 years before I had another Moosehead. When I still had a sense of smell (another story for another day), I couldn’t even stomach the smell of Moosehead. Weird.

I’ll finish this story another day.

See you tomorrow.

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