Monday, July 20, 2020

I drank alone

It was 1985 when George Thorogood released “I Drink Alone,” his excellent ode to solitary inebriation. I first heard it in a place where drinking alone was a logistical impossibility.

All hail Athens, Ohio!

With nearly 15,000 Ohio University suds guzzlers packed into a small college town with 72 bars within knee-crawling distance the party never ended 

I called it the drinker’s Disneyland

Besides wanton boozin’, the giddy scene included anonymous sex, illicit narcotics, disdain for authority and the pervasive mindset that the moment was all that mattered.

That many who shared these selfish narcissisims have ascended to leadership positions when coronavirus began to wipe out the world is purely coincidental.

But I love the song and the sentiment even as I never dreamed it would apply to me. Sample lyric:

My whole family done give up on and it makes me feel, oh, so bad
The only one who’ll hang out with me is my dear Old Granddad …
And we drink alone

I was then and forever will be a social drinker. I enjoy the company, all the banter and the bitching, that goes along with sitting next to either friend or stranger at the instant their burdens begin to lift and they feel free to cut loose, when all their repressed humanity is allowed to flower.

See, I’m not a solo drinker like, say, Homer Simpson, who when asked if he ever drank alone responded, “Does God count as a person?”

I mention this now because last month at the height of the shutdown I drank alone. Really drank.

Yeah, all by myself.

Well, it felt like Keith Richards was right here swapping shots, but only in spirit, which when you’re drinkin’ alone is better company than many actual folks.

Keith was one circumstantial factor in my decision to get drunk all alone up here in my 3rd floor office.

First of all, we were at the height of Shut Down No. 1. I hadn’t been drinking in 8 weeks, the longest I’d been sober since, gee, 4th grade.

Second, I’d earlier that day been blindsided by a monumental professional disappointment. A local charity had taken steps to purchase 300 copies of my Fred book to to give to area graduates. I was in my car on my way to Pittsburgh to retrieve the books from the printer when the call came informing me, sorry, they’d changed their minds. For God’s sake, they’d already dictated to me what they wanted the thank you inserts to say.

Given what you know about me and my situation, I have one question…

Who wants to buy some books!

Third, I’d been obsessively playing Keith’s 2015 solo album, “Crosseyed Heart.” His solo stuff is fantastic. It must infuriate Mick to know that while he’s one of the five coolest men on the planet, he’s only the third coolest guy in his own band.

Lastly — and this must not be undervalued in the context of this story — I had right there on my desk an unopened bottle of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee sippin’ whiskey.

That’s Keith’s favorite!

I’d bought it for a visiting friend who blew me off. My friend may have let me down, but Keith never will.

So given the confluence of circumstances, I did what came natural.

I drank alone.

I figured I was entitled to tie one on, to get sloshed, pie-eyed, skunked, hammered, all tanked up, tipsy, three sheets to the wind.

With Keith as my soulmate, I proceeded to do shot-after-shot straight from the bottle. With the music cranked, I got good and drunk all by myself.

I took the bitter edges off what had been a really bad day. I rosied up my outlook on life and drained about three-quarters of that straight up Jack.

Then I napped on my desk.

So what did I learn?

When the situation calls for it, I can be my very own best drinking buddy. I now understand why for all these years friends, bartenders and total strangers have kept buying me drinks when I tried to leave the bar. Over the years, it probably adds up to a small fortune in free drinks.

And I guess that’s why, given my precarious finances, I’ll always be a social drinker.

When you drink alone, the next round is always on you.

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