I found the bottle of Black Label Jack Daniels the other night. I had bought it to take with me camping last summer. I was not looking for it. I was looking for something else. Just what I was looking for was forgotten the moment I laid eyes on that fifth with about 3 shots worth still inside.
I gave up drinking..... uh, I guess about the mid 1990's. I didn't think about it, I just decided one day drinking was not doing it for me anymore. Hangovers, obnoxious behaviour, and wasted money all suddenly seemed so foolish. 25 years as a hard likker drinker had finally worn me out. So I quit.
Okay so I have tipped a few since then. But I would guess less than a case of beer and way less than a quart of likker have passed my lips in the 12 years since I gave demon rum the boot. The occasional party, wedding, or those moments I just wanted a beer came up from time to time. But for the most part, I just stopped. Didn't anguish. Didn't even really think about it. Became a semi teetotaler.
And then I found that bottle of Jack. I picked it up, unscrewed the top, and passed the bottle under my nose. The sweet smoky aroma caught me and I just had to have a taste. I tipped the bottle back and let a small amount drain into my mouth. Wow! I was immediately questioning the poor judgement I used when I cut this elixir of the gods out of my life. Swishing the brown liquid joy, I swallowed and felt the old familiar burn and warmth the first shot always brings with it.
We all have weaknesses. Some of us have more than others, but all of us have something that makes us crazy. Of the many weaknesses I seem to embrace, hard liquor is most definitely one I have trouble controlling. Sour Mash and Single Malts are my favorites. I can consume them like they are water. I begin to drink because of the taste. At some point it turns into drinking for the buzz. And finally I black out and do things I would regret if I could remember them. I was often rudely reminded of this impolite tendency of mine by folks who regretted having me around when Mike's lights went out. The last time I blacked out, I made quite the scene at my nephew's wedding. My brother still has not forgiven me. Sen. Dick Lugar was there and apparently I was very rude. That was I think in 1991. Thereabouts anyway. Open bars are so dangerous.
Flash forward to tonight. As I sipped what was left in that bottle of Jack, I was immediately bummed there was only a token gesture left. And yet at the same time relieved. Not enough to get out of control, just enough to leave me with a good taste and a mild buzz. Forced moderation is about the only way I can handle moderation. And even then, when the appetite has been teased, I often will search out more buzz fulfilling substances just to keep the momentum of the whatever buzz I have at the moment. Probably a good thing I quit when I did.
Never underestimate the power of a determined drunk
Because the measly three ounces left in that Jack bottle left me wanting more of the same, I went exploring for more of the same. My wife still drinks. I knew she had some Cuervo Gold in the liquor cabinet. She likes the occasional girly drink of some kind that needs to ruin good tequila to make it. Yes, there it was. Up front, half empty and just asking to be drained. But wait! What's this? Hiding up on the top shelf covered in an inch of dust? By Jesus, it's a never opened bottle of Rebel Yell. Uh Oh. I see trouble brewing.
In the scheme of, or rather the hierarchy of my sour mash favorites, it goes thusly - Jim Beam when that's all I could get and what I wanted was a buzz and no fooling around. When in a more casual mode, Black Jack was my go to favorite. Reasonably priced, especially in St.Louis, and the quality was hard to beat. True sippin whiskey. Good, straight or on ice. Definitely sacrilege to mix it with anything else. But of all my favorites, my top tier pick even though it was often cheaper than Jack, Rebel Yell Whiskey has to be the one. More kick at 90 proof than Jack and it still had that special smoky flavor only those Scottish descendants from the South know how to tweak out of some corn meal and water. And here right in front of my half mast eyes was a bottle that has been aging for God knows how long. Going to sleep soon was put on hold.
I pulled the bottle out of the cabinet. Dust and cobwebs covered it. A quick wipe off with a wet rag and I was ready to crack the ATF seal, tip it up and take a good hit when I remembered my place. An unopened bottle of Rebel Yell could not just be cracked open and drained into open gaping mouths. There were rules about this kind of shit. A top quality sippin whiskey needed to be sipped from an appropriate vessel to achieve the full impact of the nectar so many slaved over to get into that bottle. It was a matter of respect.
While I contemplated the various ways to enjoy this fine whiskey, I looked the bottle over hoping to find some kind of date that would tell me how long it had been waiting for me to open it up. Hmm. A Maryland tax stamp. Looks like it was 1990 I brought this bottle home from a trip South. 19 years in the bottle after who knows how many years in an oak barrel in some dark dank warehouse in Kentucky. Excellent.
Now, to pick just the absolute perfect glass to waft it, whiff it, and swish it between my cheek and gum. I looked up to the forgotten shelf of alcohol glasses from my previous years of wanton imbibement. Pub glasses, wine glasses, shot glasses with clever and witty slogans on them and then I saw it. My silver gilded shot glass. The glass a lady friend from my loose dog single days bought me for Christmas or a birthday. It had significance at the time. Now it sat dusty on the shelf, the silver long gone black and just shouting, "Pick Me. pick me."
It is now 3:10 AM. I have made a serious dent in that fifth of Rebel Yell. I sit here drunken and disorderly trying to impart what it is like to be shitfaced after an absence from that scene for so many years. It's not like being drunk for the first time. But it's close.
As ever, moving onto something else, something hopefully better..............
Notes from the next day - Payback for being stupid
As I stated, the last time I remembered was 3:10 AM. I must have at least found the couch because that is where I came back into reality in a semi-comatose state around 7:30 AM. I immediately understood why I had given up alcohol in the first place. It was waking up like this after losing control the night before. My head was at least the size of a basketball. My tongue felt and tasted like the cats had taken turns using it as a litter box. And each eye seemed to follow their own path, one focused at two feet, the other at three feet.
Several cups of coffee and a handful of Ibuprophen finally performed their magic and both eyes fell into sync and my head seemed to shrink down to something resembling normal. My balance was still shaky and no amount of tooth paste and mouth wash was going to bring back that fresh mouth feeling. The crud was going to have wear off I guess.
I staggered through my morning rituals beating myself up because I still had to go to work ferchrisakes. I had to be presentable in a few hours, at least pretend to be among the living. Yes, I loved my demon rum. But the price it exacts because I have no control is not worth the full day of payback that follows. That bottle of Rebel Yell is back on that dusty shelf, hopefully forgotten until the next time I need a reminder of why I do not drink anymore.
Some lessons need to be updated brutally on occasion just to reinforce positive behaviour in the future.
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