For Drew Diaz, trouble with alcohol began early.
I can’t recall my first drink of alcohol. I was conceived in Europe, of a woman who had suffered two or three late term miscarriages. She was high strung and painfully skinny and the US Army docs recommended she drink a beer or wine or two, with a cigarette, to calm her nerves. Oh, was I happy to reacquaint myself with nicotine and alcohol.
I was born in the 50s when alcohol held medicinal and magical properties. To ease teething pain, rubbing a finger dipped in whiskey on a baby’s gums worked; do it a few times and the kid might be feeling no pain. I’m not certain that my grandfather used brandy mixed with sugar as a babysitting tool—but the first brandy I ever had gave me a Proustian GrandPop flash and I know he put my brother up for a nap that way.
No stranger to the Troubles the Drink brings on, Mother decided to introduce me to wine, like the sophisticated little European kids, at a controlled pace. This was when there weren’t alcoholics on the Continent; in recent years more enlightened minds have come to understand that entire nations that have to go sleep off the liquids from lunch may have a problem. I’m not sure if I recall the first little glass of vin I got, but I can remember the night I was a good boy, helped clear the table, carefully carried the wine glasses to the kitchen one at a time, and gunned the dregs. I can see myself sitting on the couch, buzzed, laughing at stories I don’t understand, and Mother leading me off to bed.
My first recreational drunk was a bust. My buddy had been drinking during the summer and had me all wound up for the experience. He skimmed a bit from each of the bottles in the pantry, brandy to vodka, into a tumbler, decanted half into another glass and added some juice or soda. We hitchhiked to a girl’s house, he got inappropriate, she punched him out, I split to walk home and my parents found me on the road three quarters of the way there.
My first bar drink was at the College Inn. It was the night before my 15th birthday and we had time to kill before Mike’s older brother dropped us at the bus to the Appalachian Trail. I still see myself, from an out of body vantage, in the booth with the big boys and those unbearably heavy glass pitchers of draft.
I don’t remember my first joint, but can tell the stories of my first lines and needles of coke, tab of acid, handful of psilocybin and headful of black beauties.
I do recall the first and only time I had a drink with one of the Gabor sisters, the nun on the plane, and Frank Sinatra. Calm down: it was three separate incidents. I don’t remember what I hope was my last drink.
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