Thursday, July 30, 2009

What Aled Me

Tonight at the White House, President Obama will have a Bud Light. Mark down a Red Stripe for Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley will have a Blue Moon. And if I'm able, I'll sneak in a Dr. Pepper somewhere during my lunch break.

I wonder how many problems have been solved over brews. More than I think, but racial strife isn't going to make that list. But leave the topic of this backyard summit out of this for a moment and consider the context. It's not hard to talk about former president George W. Bush and beer in the same sentence, but with Obama it's a stretch. He's not a good-'ol-boy. Never has been.

I'm not either. I never developed a taste for it, even after trying a few times.

I didn't touch beer when I was in college, not even on my 21st birthday, so my experience with brews begins roughly after I took my first job in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Boozing and clubbing was the major nightlife because there wasn't much else. A few times a month, some of the guys at my station would get together and go out to one of these places. Unfortunately, it would be one of those misnamed "gentleman's clubs," which true gentlemen never visit. Not being equipped with the moral fortitude and confidence needed to resist, and wanting to get along, I accepted their invitations. I slowly sipped a Bud Light or whatever and wished I was somewhere else.

I still have this picture of myself on the dance floor of the former Club Internacional in Edinburg, half-drunk and moon-eyed. I was at least sober enough to behave myself, even though I remember smoking a Baccarat cigar down to the tip. Beer and nicotine don't work well together. I should've learned.

But I didn't until that one night at a McAllen club, where several people from the station, including an anchor, had to come to my rescue. I'd had three beers and they'd knocked me out. I found what I thought was a quiet corner of the establishment and let myself lean back in a chair. One of the bouncers found me and flashed a light in my face before hustling me outside. He and a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agent asked for my ID, and while I dug it out, several of my colleages rushed outside to come to my defense.

"He either goes home or he goes to jail," the TABC person proclaimed.

For what? I thought. Being drunk in a bar? Why don't they arrest everybody?

"We're taking him home," an anchor friend said, handing me off to someone who drove me a few blocks to my place in north McAllen. I hiked back to my car the next day, sober and a little wiser.

That little incident kept me from overindulging again. I'd still drink beer, but stop at one bottle until Mike's Hard Lemonade came along. I'd put a couple of them down during after-work get-togethers at a favorite karaoke bar on Tucson's northwest side. Drink. Sing. The Mike's brought out some grit in my voice.

Our schedules changed and we stopped going out as much. I got right with GOD in 2007, but I was still drinking Mike's until one night that October at the Old Pueblo Grille, when I was feeling slightly sickly after a couple of bottles and coming to a realization: This wasn't me. This shouldn't be me. GOD didn't make me this way. I never liked drinking alcohol to begin with. Why am I doing it now? Why am I afraid to be who I am, a person who prefers soda?

I haven't taken a drink since then. I don't knock those who do -- drinking is not a sin; drunkenness is -- but I know it's not for me. I wonder if President Obama wonders if it's really for him... or anyone else.

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