Rum diary

It occurs to me, suddenly, in the middle of Month Four of 2012, that I might drink too much.

I don’t mean that I’m in that Leaving Las Vegas, pints-of-rum-with-my-cereal league, not yet anyway; most of the veins in my face are still, as of now, not visible. I just mean, well, let’s just say that in London there are two pubs whose bartenders know me by name, three by face and one or two others by reputation.

I don’t drink in the mornings, and unless it’s Friday or Saturday (or Monday… or Tuesday…) I don’t drink in the afternoons either. But it’s amazing, in this city, how much one’s social life revolves around alcohol.

After work, I’ll meet a friend or colleague for drinks, or I’ll grab drinks after a movie, or I’ll stop by a party with an open bar, or I’ll stop by for drinks to make notes for blogging about stopping by for drinks.

I don’t think too much of this typically, considering it’s all second nature. The major appeal for me of going to a pub is the social aspect. Except for when the appeal is solitude, which, I realise while writing this, means the reasons I like going to pubs are to be with people and to be alone, which I guess just about covers everything.

Shit, that doesn’t sound good… Tell you what, just forget that last sentence, I’m screwing up my own point, let’s start over…

It’s just that I don’t really think I drink that often, and I never figured those close to me thought I did either. True, when old friends visit me, they often mention that they don’t remember the last time they were this drunk, and then they remember it was the last time they were with me.

I think that’s because their lives are relatively boring, what with their celebrity-handling jobs and random sexual encounters and all.

Anyway, it’s not like I was ever thought of as the class drunk, the guy who has sudden attacks of rage when he has a few too many rum and Cokes. In fact, there was a long period of several years when I didn’t drink at all.

I always considered myself the drinking buddy, the person who was always willing to throw back a few with friends, always happy to lend an open ear to a mate in need of counsel or just someone to talk to. And usually they opened up more after a few beers, or a few shots, or maybe just some ether.

Nevertheless, I have a feeling people are starting to talk. More and more, I’m receiving ominous comments from all corners.

I always remember that when I changed jobs a few years back, my friend Clare complained that she was worried about me leaving because “who will stay out all night drinking with me now?” Now, in my current workplace, I had a new member of staff come to my department asking for me by name. “Talk to David,” he’d been told, regarding a staff social evening at a nearby pub. “He’s hardcore.” Mr New Guy was pleased to meet me because he fancied himself a bit of a boozer and figured he could drink anyone under the table.

So it seems that people have been classifying me as a “heavy” drinker, though, I must say, I greatly prefer the term “accomplished” drinker.

I hit the nadir last week. I met up with the suspiciously seldom-mentioned Kate, and we were out, of all things, drinking, when she, with a straight and really not all that concerned face — well, I think she might have been drunk — asked me, “You’re not an alcoholic, are you?”

When someone who you sometimes think of as a somewhat of an occasional admirer, for whatever sick, sadistic reasons says this to you, you tend to stand up, pay attention and look deep inside yourself.

Or at least you order another drink and laugh off the comment with a pithy, wiseacre comment about the shakes being gone and that’s great, not worried anymore, ha ha, then change the subject to how lovely she looks, yes, yes, quite lovely, and then try not to think about it until it unexpectedly and entirely inappropriately shows up in your next blog, oh my, hehehe.

All this said, I don’t think I have the intestinal fortitude to become a bona fide we’re-all-worried-about-David alcoholic. I think I started too late. I didn’t drink until my 20s — my fellow nerd friends and I always felt that we didn’t “need” alcohol to have a good time. God, how silly and naïve we were.

The first time I ever had a sip was at a party at journalism school at which I literally had rum forcibly poured down my throat while I was already taking medication for a head cold. At the end of the night, if I may blatantly steal a Woody Allen line, I tried to take my pants off over my head. Even then, though, I never really got on the booze bandwagon, and even though I was drinking a bit by the end of it… well, jeez, it was uni, so give a brother a break.

Anyway, I’ve slowed down a bit, even if I have graduated from scraping pennies together for a pint. But, you know, it’s hard in London, hard not to drink. I don’t know how my old housemate Mark, who has never sipped alcohol, could possibly do it; the guy goes to a pub and orders a Coke every time, though, to the bartender’s credit, he always has to say it twice, as if that couldn’t possibly be what he actually said.

I mean, if I gave up drinking, I’d have to give up all the things that drinking allows me to do, like convince myself my conversation is actually interesting… or dance… or karaoke… or, for that matter, sex. I don’t know if I’m willing to make those kinds of sacrifices, even if my reputation is starting to become a bit more soiled than I’d like it to be. There are a million different pubs in this great city, each with their own stories, their own people and their own price for pitchers.

So bring it on, New Guy. I accept your challenge. Let’s just keep it between us, OK? People are already starting to talk…

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