I love the taste of beer. I love drinking beer. I love the renaissance in beer brewing in America. I love a cold beer on the beach. I love a cold beer after I mow my lawn (actually, I don't mow my own lawn . . . we pay someone to mow our lawn because my wife doesn't like the way my manual push-mower cuts the grass). So I love a cold beer after someone else mows my lawn.
Not only do I love beer, but I need beer. I am a coach. Before soccer practice, I put two pint glasses in the freezer. I know that I am going to need that beer when I get home from coaching those children. I am a high school teacher. After a long day of being shallow and pedantic in front of surly teenagers, nothing soothes my swollen larynx nodules more than a cold beer.
But I'm getting older. My beard has a lot of white hairs in it. And I'm getting fatter, which would be fine, except that I'm trying to eke a few more years of basketball, soccer, and snowboarding out of my body. Plus, like everyone else, I want to look badass. So I'm constantly trying to adopt a liquor drink. I know liquor has less calories than beer, and I know it will make me less bloated and gassy. Did I tell you beer makes me bloated and gassy? It's a crying shame. Liquor doesn't do this to me.
At this point, some of you might be saying: why not just quit drinking altogether? I wish that were an option. If I lived alone, in a lighthouse, with an unlimited Netflix account and a large library of books, and I only had to interact with people (especially my children) when I felt like it, then maybe I could pull it off. But if I'm going to continue life as a family man . . . with a wife, kids, a dog, a house, a job . . . teaching and coaching and being generally involved and friendly in my community, then I'm going to need to lean on the crutch of alcohol.
I am on vacation now in Sea Isle City with my cousins, and yesterday we put in a full day on the beach. At 6:30 PM yesterday, while I was embroiled in a heated corn-hole match with my twenty-something cousins, we ran out of beer. This was an intense match, and I needed alcohol to steady my hand. I couldn't wait until the cooler was replenished, so I sought aid from my older cousins -- who were sitting in chairs with my father, sipping stuff out of green Solo cups. They provided me with a cup of warm gin, instructed me to put some ice in it, and then drink it. My cousin Jeff said, "We're purists over here." I am not a purist, so once I tasted the iced gin, I tried to add some iced tea to it to smooth out the flavor . . . but it didn't work. My younger cousins said they could see the pain on my face when I tried to drink it. I felt less a man (but we did win the corn-hole match). When another cousin arrived with cold beer, I surreptitiously poured my gin and iced tea into a hole in the sand. I would never make it in the Old West.
I like high-end tequila. I can drink it, but I am certainly no purist. In fact, I am a pain in the ass. When my friend had his annual "Steak and Tequila Night", it evolved into "S and T Night," so that I could drink Sol and Tecate. I had a perfunctory glass of tequila, but it was hot, and nothing goes down like a cold beer. I was bloated and gassy the next day. If I would have stuck with tequila all night, this wouldn't have happened. And there's no way I can see myself pouring a glass of tequila on the rocks after a long day at work.
I experimented with Sambuca, which I really like . . . in fact, I like all the anise liquors: arak, raki, ouzo, etc. I drank a ton of the stuff when I lived in Syria, because the beer had formaldehyde in it and you got a splitting headache after you drank two. But now that I'm back in the States, and there's good beer everywhere, a cold and milky glass of Sambuca pales in comparison to a cold beer in a frozen mug.
Last Friday, I was at a wedding, and I took a sip of someone's dirty martini and thought: this is it. This will be my drink! So I ordered one and got half way through it before I realized that it would not be my drink. I went back to beer. And this seriously impaired my ability to consume all the food at the wedding. If I could learn to drink liquor, I could be far more gluttonous at these sorts of events. First world problems, you say, and you are right, but not completely right. Jared Diamond's new book, The World Until Yesterday, describes some insanely gluttonous eating that goes on in Papua New Guinea . . . stuffing ourselves may be one of our most human characteristics, but usually when tribes feasted, then the feast was followed by fasting and famine.
A dark and stormy is pretty tasty, but it seems awfully close to a Chocolate Choo-Choo. Gin and tonic is doable, but drinking one of those makes me feel like a 90 year old female alcoholic.
I want to look like John Wayne in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance . . . drinking straight brown liquor from a glass. No ice. But unless my taste buds decay fast, it's not going to happen. Instead, I'll be swilling beer, and running waist-deep into the ocean every seven minutes -- which doesn't look very macho. John Wayne doesn't ever have to pee when he's drinking.
Could I do more to combat this weakness in my character? Absolutely. I could follow the dinner-time advice I give to my kids: you have to try something ten times before you decide if you like it or not.
I could listen to my friends when they drone on about single malt scotch. I could find a liquor-mentor. I could read up.
Have I done any of these things. The answer is a shameful "no." Why not? Because I like the taste of beer! And maybe there's nothing wrong with that.