Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Synthetic gin

In Orwell’s 1984, he talks about filling his tin cup with a ration of a synthetic gin that’s greasy, difficult going down, and the only drink available. That sounded like the coolest thing in college. I think the only reason I ever drank rum was because of the stories of sailors and wooden barrels of the stuff – yo ho ho and a bottle of, and the Disney caricature of the same scene that was recently revisited a bit. (It’s not too much different – there was a scene of guys chasing after women, and now the guys are stealing food and the women are chasing after them. If you think it’s some PC brainwashing, go fuck yourself – Disney can do what they want. It’s not like it is a historical monument or something). Anyway, I was saddened to later find that all gin tastes like furniture polish and it wasn’t as cool of a drink as I had previously thought.

I don’t know much about liquor as I don’t drink at all anymore, and when I did imbibe, I stuck to what I knew – rum and a few beers. I tried tequila before – tasted too much of rotting vegetables or something. I liked rum because it was a more artificial taste, like Coke is more artificial than iced tea. Schnapps has a good fake taste, but too many of them are flavored to hell. Once on a whim, I bought a fifth of peppermint schnapps, and it tasted like eating candy canes right after brushing your teeth. It was the perfect beverage for little 19 year old girls in a dorm trying to get drunk without tasting alcohol – a small step beyond drinking Scope. For some reason, I never tried vodka. I did have a roommate who was a rotgut whisky connoisseuer, and got me to do a few shots of Jack and Wild Turkey here and there. I can’t drink that stuff for pleasure, but if I ever end up a divorced Vietnam Vet on welfare who hates the world, I’ll buy that shit by the case. It’s the most pissed off of any drink, in my opinion.

While I’m on a roll, let’s talk about beer and wine. I don’t like wine, and it probably dates back to when I was a Catholic kid and I didn’t want to drink the wine at my first communion, and my mom put a gun to my head and told me God would fuck my ass if I didn’t drink that wine. Okay, she worded it different, but you know how moms get about that shit. Like a Jonestown Massacre victim, I drank the wine and it was the most vile tasting shit – okay, there are probably many more vile things in the world, but this is the worst that was given to me by an alleged son of god in a church. I’m sure many Catholic altarboys have worse stories, but I won’t get into that. I think that shut me off of wine forever. It’s sad because so many of the artsy-fartsy poet types are always drinking wine because they think it’s more sophisticated than a case of Schlitz. Maybe, maybe not. I think I’ve drank wine about 3 or 4 times in my adult life, and unless it was immediately followed by food, it wasn’t that memorable.

But beer, shit – I think it’s humorous how so many people hate the taste of beer, and so did I, but it’s like Spanish – you can learn it in a semester or two if you work at it every day and incorporate it into your life. Except for the first communion incident, I didn’t drink a friggin drop of alcohol until the night of my 21st birthday. My mom’s a recovered alcoholic, and her whole side of the family is filled with substance abusers, recovered, dead, or still at it today. I also had a good friend from junior high and high school who later got into drugs and alcohol, and ended up in juvenile homes, rehab, AA, NA, halfway houses, and jail. I drove him to AA meetings during high school and learned enough to keep me petrified about alcohol for years. I was certain my first drink would snap me right into full blown alcoholism. Also, when I was in school, I didn’t know how to hide teen drinking from my mom. If I came home as a 17 or 18 year old and drunk off my ass, I would probably get the ‘first strike, you’re out’ treatment. And not only did I fear getting caught, I just felt bad about the whole thing. I didn’t want my mom to work hard at staying clean for all of those years and then have a son who was a drunk. So I didn’t drink.

Then I turned 21. I was at school, and I started thinking that maybe it would be cool to try it out once. It’s just like voting – I am totally against the political system, but if it’s legal to go in there and write Jimi Hendrix on the ballot and run out again, then fuck – I’ll try it. Plus, I figured that if I went out on my 21st birthday, I’d get a bunch of free drinks. So I started drinking fruity shit like Pina Colatas and I got into wine coolers because I didn’t like wine, I didn’t think I’d like beer, and coolers were all that they sold at the grocery store. Those were fun because if you drank like 4 of them real fast, you’d be set. Anyway, I started drinking beer because it is the lowest common denominator – it is at every party and every store and every bar, and it is the most accessible. It is the ZZ Top of alcohol – it goes with anything, and everyone who is cool can tolerate it.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, except maybe as a laundry list of the beers I liked and didn’t like. I don’t get into Guiness or all of the ultra heavy beers. If I wanted to drink something as thick as syrup, I’d stick to Robitussen. It tastes better and is cheaper by the ounce. I like cheap beer – if I am just drinking to drink and be merry, it’s going to be Budweiser. If I have the extra two dollars, I might get Molson. If someone else is buying, I might get something like Rolling Rock or even Sapporro. I am banning Coors beer, and I don’t like to pay double or triple for some brewpub small-brewery private label bullshit. I don’t buy $8 beer for the same reason I don’t buy $75 jeans – the labels make no difference, they are there for the pretentious who need them. Trade secret – it doesn’t matter if the water is as pure as the woodland stream when you are brewing a beverage that essentially tastes like piss.

Like I said, I don’t drink anymore. I didn’t surrender to any 12 step bullshit, although I respect those who do. I just woke up one morning after drinking like a fifth of rum and blacking out, and decided it wasn’t worth the time anymore. I didn’t drink every day to start my day and keep me going until the next drink, but I did drink heavily when I was alone and felt a need to ‘self-medicate’. But I found that if I didn’t spend money on it, I didn’t drink at all. Although it feels good in the moment, it’s essentially boring. It can be awkward to not be a drinker and not have a reason, but I’ve stuck to my guns on it.

I’ve also decided to quit Baked Lays potato chips. I hate them, but I always buy them, sort of by accident. Like I’ll go to Subway, and grab the wrong thing. Anyway..