Drinking Days Gone By…

St. Patrick’s Day is over.  Amen. I’m sure plenty of revelers started drinking on Friday and kept partying on through Sunday night.  Erin go Bragh, and all that stuff.  Yeah, I’m not a fan of the Irish boozing festival.  Too many goofs see St. Patrick’s Day as a built in excuse to get piss drunk. Jerry Seinfeld used to say how he didn’t like being around drunks because they’re always telling you how much they love you or hate you and he didn’t want to hear either of those things. Me neither.

Not that I’m trying to ruin anyone’s good time, but my heavy or even moderately strong drinking days have been in the rearview mirror for a long time.  I can’t recall a time since 2000 when I was even giddily buzzed, let alone bombed out drunk.  It’s not that I’m some high and mighty Puritan, I just don’t see the value in ruining a whole day or longer nursing a hangover after a night of too many cocktails.

Did everyone get enough to drink over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend?

When I get together with friends for fellowship, I keep it to a 2 drink total, 3 if it’s a longer hang.   In between each alcohol serving I’ll have a diet Coke or a glass of ice water with a twist of lime.  As far as drinks of choice, I go with bottled beer, Rolling Rock or a Shiner Bock do just fine by me.

Still, the carousing others do on St. Patrick’s Day reminds me of the days when I used to howl at the moon with the drinking. The first boozing I did was at age 14.  My sister Mary Ann was four years older than I and she introduced me and my friends to ‘Slow Screws’ which was Sloe gin mixed with orange juice.  That cocktail had a sweet and easy taste which made them fun to get an occasional buzz on. 

When I was in high school, the legal drinking age for beer and wine in Illinois was nineteen and to drink hard liquor you had to be twenty one.  My friends and I kicked into weekend beer hoisting at the start of junior year in high school.  Some of us, me included, were shaving fairly regularly so it was easy to look nineteen and buy suds at liquor stores in neighboring towns. We did that because the alcohol sellers in my hometown of Elmhurst always demanded to see an I.D. We rarely got into the hard booze.  A few cans of Old Style or Olympia beer were the norms for us.

Old Style beer was a constant in my high school drinking days.

 My parents had a liberal attitude towards alcohol. They told me to call them if I was ever too liquored up to drive, get a ride home from someone sober or just stay over where I was until the morning. By age seventeen they allowed me and my friends to drink at our house. My mom would fill us up with snacks and keep an eye out to make sure nobody went too nuts with the malt pops. The logic from my folks was, “He should learn how to handle drinking and if it happens under our roof, so much the better.”  And yes, there were a couple of times when I had to bunk at a friend’s house due to being over-served. I also hosted buzzed pals at my house for the same reason.  One piss drunk buddy filled up half a laundry sink with beer and pizza puke then passed out on my cold basement floor. His head was resting against our cat’s litter box.  Hey, we were young and stupid. O.K.?

Actually most of us York High School kids were fairly careful with the drinking after some sophomore classmates got into a horrible night time drunk driving crash.  Two blocks from my house some teens sped out of control while turning a corner and slammed a car head on into a tree. One of the crash victims almost lost his life and was laid up in the hospital for quite some time.  That was a stark wake up call to have fun but don’t be reckless.

Senior year, during our Christmas break, we had a huge beer bash in my basement and one of my teachers and his wife came by to say hey.  One guest was the daughter of the assistant director of our school district.  In our underage drinking times, things were much looser than today. If you got caught with alcohol, Elmhurst police officers usually made you pour out all your beers and if you weren’t drunk they’d send you on your way.  No arrests or police reports, no tickets, no court dates or alcohol counseling. One night my friend Todd Beja and I were directed to dump out a 12 pack of Old Style beer under the watchful eye of an Elmhurst cop who caught us with the forbidden drinks.

Elmhurst Police officers didn’t nail us bad for underage drinkers, but we never shared ‘Happy hours’ with them either.

Some weekends, I had baseball teammates over to our house for poker and beers. One of those card games was the night before Easter my senior year. During that get together my cat Squeaks delivered a freshly killed rabbit to our back porch.  The next morning I awoke to find no basket of candy waiting for me. My first basketless Easter!  My parents thought I outgrew the whole treats thing but I hadn’t.  So I asked my mom why I didn’t get a basket full of candy.  She calmly answered, “Sorry Mick, Squeaks ate the Easter Bunny.”     Very funny mom. Maybe she had a few drinks too and forgot my basket.

College drinking for me got a bit crazy.  Two summers in a row I hosted 4th of July parties that saw us drain 3 kegs of beer each year.  The first time I ever attended an Everclear punch party saw me literally crawling out of an elevator and to my dorm room to sleep off the effects of that drunk.  My introduction to doing whiskey shots at a party was also the first time I threw up on my shoes. Another time I wasted myself at a neighbor’s party, came home and spit up into a kitchen sink basket full of clean dishes. 

After college when I started working in Chicago morning radio, I could only drink on Friday and Saturday nights. By age 25 I started curbing my heavy alcohol intake because I didn’t like sleeping away my weekends thanks to too many pitchers of brew or mixed drinks. 

So yeah, now I’m a light drinker at best.  I do hope everyone had a nice St. Patrick’s Day weekend but am also glad I wasn’t around for any of the alcohol fueled ‘fun.’ 

I think it’s best to close off this blog with a drinking related song.   Bottom’s up!