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Sunday, September 2, 2012

On Wine...

It's a strange thing to have found wine after all these years. It's a drink that I never thought would appeal to me. But it does and my experiences with it have shown me some things, some good, some bad, and some plain strange. Seeing as how I downed most of an entire bottle of wine by myself Friday night, I've been batting around in my head my thoughts on wine. I've arrived at the following conclusions:

1. Drinking Is NOT Evil:

It's a childlike perception on my part and one that has taken many long years to overcome, but I think I'm done with it. Like yesterday's newspaper, two day old Thai food (don't eat it, for the love of God), or a pair of old sneakers that have roaches in them, this perception that I had is dead and gone.

Why did I have this perception in the first place? Blame the D.A.R.E. program in part. It was pretty big in my elementary school and the various doctors/police officers/fire fighters who came and talked with us made an impact. The constant worksheets and workbooks they made us do drilled it into our head. "Don't smoke! Don't drink! Don't do drugs! JUST. SAY. NO."

And we, being little children, nodded our heads and soaked it in. It's scary what you remember from elementary school that, at the time, seemed harmless but in retrospect was brainwashing to the max (shout out to Chicago 2007-you were great, to the max).

Drinking has never been a thing in my family. My mother is strictly against it and that's simply because of her father's history with alcohol and his side of the family's history with alcohol (to put it lightly, not a nice history). So, she's been instrumental in keeping us on the straight and narrow.

Then there's church which, as we all know, doesn't support drinking in the least... at least, not publicly. Plenty in the bible that discourages drinking in large amounts and most church goers just figure why do it at all if you can't do it with large amounts. I suppose it's the church version of "Go big or go home" and since church doesn't do drinking at all, most just go home.

All that and D.A.R.E. pretty much ruined me till high school when, thanks to public education, I started getting a bit cynical about this whole drug/drinking thing. And then people in high school started getting high during breaks between classes, drinking and driving, getting busted for drugs at school (and having their entire family arrested in the process), and when the body count started piling up... well, D.A.R.E. kicked back in more than anything. Hello, brainwashing... missed you. 

To say my high school years were dry would be like saying it's only mildly hot in the Earth's core. I didn't experiment. I didn't branch out. I didn't touch a bottle or come near one. I watched others do it with mixed emotions. On one hand, I had objections to it it based on what I'd been taught. On the other, I couldn't help but admire their ability to throw caution to the wind and take (what I perceived at the time) a huge risk in having a drink.

Often times, I'd be designated driver (ah, those Halloween parties...) and while my friends were in drunken bliss I would be sitting there behind the wheel wondering what they were experiencing. I was curious.

This curiosity would not manifest itself until college. Spring break 2008... ah, some heady days at Panama City beach. PC that year was wet, dreary, and cold... lots of time spent on the beach amongst the masses with very unfriendly beach weather. Naturally, we took to confining ourselves to an area and we shilled out some money for some cheap booze.

I had made it a promise to myself to investigate this drinking thing... to see how far I could go.

Turns out, not very far. One screwdriver. One Jack and Coke. I was out like a light. Lightweight... yeah. I was buzzed for all of ten minutes before I slipped off into dream land. I was disappointed but it was only Wednesday by that point-I could try again.

Except for the whole "my friend just bonged half a bottle of tequila, he might die, everyone keep an eye on him!" thing. That was scary. The mess afterwards was not pretty (McDonald's and booze... bad combo). Once again, I was turned off from drinking. PC 2008 has a lot of lessons (another post, another time).

The next time I picked up a bottle of booze was a few days after we got back... I had severe sunburns on my back and used a bottle of vodka sitting in my roommates freezer as something to numb my back with cold. It worked brilliantly; it numbed things and numbed them good. Without that bottle I would have been in agony for days on end. Instead, I was merely in somewhat tolerable misery... a much better state even if it sounds just as bad.

I didn't indulge in alcohol again till a few years later and even then it was in small quantities... a shot here, a shot there. I was still sufficiently scared of the perceived consequences that I stayed away from the stuff as often as I could.

Then, last summer hit. For the first time ever I was given free access to whatever booze was on hand... I didn't really touch the stuff at first. I was a little thrown off by the ability to just grab a bottle whenever but seeing others drink a little, wake up the next day no worse for wear (and not dead), I became more comfortable with the idea. Maybe this drinking thing wasn't as bad as I made it out to be.

So, I began to do some. A little every couple of days. I built up a bit of tolerance and soon discovered that red wine was my wine of choice. It was red-my favorite color-and tasted less girly than the white wine(more on that observation later). By the time college football season arrived, that labor day weekend last year, I was growing more confident in my ability to handle drink.

Well... you know me. Man of extremes and someone whom confidence is a dangerous thing; it easily leads to overconfidence with me. Labor day night, while watching the Maryland Miami game (where Maryland debuted their God ugly alternate uniforms), I come to find out that my Aunt and Uncle are getting divorced.

Despite me insisting for nearly seven years that this was going to happen, I was still shocked by it... surprised. I ended the game, found a glass, found a bottle, and drank. Red wine... oh, you tricky wine you. In small doses you were great. In a dose the size of half a bottle... you were not.

I had a wicked hangover that following morning. I would later discover that red wine and KFC, which I had for dinner, was a lethal mix but this didn't convince me to pick up drinking again. I swore off it, not willing to repeat the vomiting. I really didn't want to continue blowing chunks of red wine out of my nose which, like the rest of my sinuses, was on fire from the acidic content of that red wine coming back up. It took three days for that to stop.

Not worth it, I said to myself, and didn't touch drinking again.

At least, not until this July, when I took up my nanny duties once more. Again, free access was given, but this time I was a changed Zach. No longer in excess of 260 pounds, I was 140, apparently thin, and in good shape. The body hadn't been tested in the current configuration on drinking limits and so, with a bit of trepidation but a lot of excitement, I had me some red wine.

I had about a fourth of a glass before I had to stop. It was too strong. It hit me like a brick wall being dropped from the Empire State building... the headache, the "What just happened?" thoughts, the feeling of misery... all there nearly immediately after that fourth of a glass.

I could no longer drink red wine. My disappointment was literally palatable... I remembered what red wine tasted like BEFORE but now, at merely 140 pounds, the taste was different and the effects were different.

So, I went to the girly white wine. I remembered what that was like before... how lame it was compared to the red wine, how much weaker it was in taste. Except, now it tasted so much... deeper. I liked it better now. I liked it much better now.

Which brings us to the next thought...

2. Sometimes, A Bottle Is Just Right:

Everyone makes a big deal when someone drinks in excess. I had a habit of doing so but with age, a new body, and some limited drinking experience of my own I've come to realize that everyone has their own "excess." A bottle for me is likely that and you know what? It's not wrong all the time. Some of the time, it's right. This past Friday was a great example of that.

It had been a long week: my lack of sleep was taking a toll on me, the frustration was high, and I just wanted to sleep. The situation worked out where I was tasked with putting away most of a bottle of wine and, the challenge presented to me, I could do nothing but accept and test my limits.

What resulted was a fun night. By the time dinner was over I was through nearly half the bottle and I was rambling with great enjoyment. I had a captive audience and I did my best to entertain them... it was fun. I grabbed another glass, enjoyed a TV show I normally wouldn't enjoy, and went to bed pretty satisfied with myself.

Friday was a case where a bottle of wine was exactly what I needed. I slept little better but I felt less stressed, less frustrated with my lack of sleep-I just decided to embrace it (as I am now, writing this post near midnight). If I'm only going to get 5-6 hours of sleep, than that leaves me 18-19 hours to do useful things. Not a horrible trade off.

3. Sometimes, Half A Glass Is Enough:

This is also a truth. Half a glass of wine is the perfect way to send you to snoozeville... you can get there easy on half a glass of wine. Some nights that's all you need. Some night's, despite your every intention not to, you find yourself eying that bottle of wine. You want a taste but not a meal of it, so you grab half a glass.

Half a glass is better than nothing. One should enjoy every sip of wine and this is something I'm coming to learn in my experiences. Half a glass is a great learning tool in teaching oneself to enjoy the art of sipping on wine. Sure, it sounds snobby, but it's an actual truth.

4. Sometimes, Wine Makes Music Better:

(This one sounds a little out there but bear with me, as my headphones are pissing me off and I feel a bit guilty having just woken somebody up thanks to those malfunctioning pieces of junk.)

Wine makes music better. You don't actually need music with wine, but you would be missing out if you didn't have some. Wine takes music and just makes it... more. I don't know if deeper is quite the word but certainly more vibrant. The music kind of pops... just seems to be that much more alive with wine.

It also makes headphones complete unneeded (I'm looking at my headphones in particular with a lot of anger right now). You see, if I had wine, I wouldn't have had my malfunctioning headphones in and then have said music wake up someone who needs their sleep. Wine would have prevented all of that by putting me in such a state that I would likely be in bed, listening to music there instead of where I am now.

But back on point... co-point anyway (the other co-point being how useless my headphones are)... is that wine elevates music to another level. If doesn't take a lot and, as I've discovered, it's much more enjoyable.

5. Wine Is Better With Good Company:

Drinking alone kinda sucks. Some days it's needed but most, it's just lonely. I implore you, if you get yourself a bottle of wine, share it with someone you like. It makes it that much more enjoyable to see them loosen up and have fun (and blame you for the hangover in the morning depending on how much fun). Wine is an experience as much as a drink, so like all good experiences, share freely with friends/family if they're so inclined.

6. Say NO To Wine And KFC:

Seriously, it only results in levels of misery unobtainable by any other method. Not a sexy bumper sticker, but certainly a rule of life that I think should be followed.

And now, at 12:16 in the morning, having already woken up one person due to my own stupidity (and my useless headphones), that's it for my observations on wine so far. As my experiences continue, I'm sure I'll come back and make more posts on this topic.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Oh, and grab a bottle of wine... some good company and music too. You won't regret it. :)


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