Bob and Jean, a couple in their fifties, came over last night for the first time. They smelled of marijuana, but I made no mention of it, although I have not had any for fifteen years and would have liked some very much. Bob carried a cloth sack, and in that sack was a bottle of Wild Turkey. I drank my last strong liquor about the time I smoked my last marijuana. Delicious! Peggy tried it and squinched her face predictably. No more drank she, and none drank Jean who sulked the entire evening—something to do with Bob we assumed.

Bob said they had recently ended their friendship with another couple because the man drank too much. Here he noticed that the level of whiskey in my third glass had dropped by an inch, so he added another three. As Bob became ruddier, friendlier, and more enthusiastic about everything in the entire world, I wondered if his complaint had concerned the quantity the man drank or how he behaved under its influence. “Oh, man!” he exclaimed joyfully and repeatedly as Peggy showed him her button collection, and as he sidled from the far end of the couch to a position just short of my lap. I made the decision that I was not going to awaken with a hangover, so my infrequent sips became smaller as the evening progressed. After our guests left, I emptied the whiskey that remained in my glass into a jelly jar for later and grieved that Bob took the bottle.

I learned through my readings about the Himalayas that there are cultures that condone hard drinking but deplore acting drunk. This was news to me, my heaviest drinking having been done as a teenager in the company of other boys who believed that acting like fools was the raison d'etre of the drinking experience.

By the time I was in my twenties, my liver was showing enough wear that I rarely drank anything, but I numbered three alcoholics among my close friends. One was Lynn, a skinny, barrel-chested man who, according to his doctors, was already long overdue to die of emphysema. Lynn and his wife came over one night to play cards, and he brought along a fifth of whiskey. He emptied it by himself in the space of three hours without showing much effect. In fact, we were still playing cards when he dropped like a rock onto the floor. After he was loaded into his car and driven home, I thought to myself that here was a man who could hold his liquor. I admired him for that, having made a fool of myself on too many occasions.

Last night, I realized after my second sip of whiskey that a fellow like myself who is unaccustomed to drinking anything more than a small amount of weak wine could get drunk on Wild Turkey before he knew it. I resolved to avoid this but knew that, in any event, my days of using liquor as an excuse for acting like a fool were over.