My Fellow Alcoholics,
Just like one of those slow claps in the movies, others have joined the groundswell that was In The Same Boat’s Manifestive. The latest addition to the team is Rodney from Fernby Films, as regular as anyone else here at the Bar None. i’d like to thank him for taking the time to write all this stuff down, and if you’re half as decent as i know you are, you’ll thank him too in the comments down under.
By the way, if anyone else out there lurking in the shadows of the Bar None feels inspired to write a treaties of your own, you’re more than welcome to fertilize this grass roots movement with your own shit. The more the drunker, as i always say.
With that, i turn you over to Rodney and his “Non-drinker’s Manifestive”.
From the Juiced-box and dedicated to Rodney, i give you AC/DC – Have a Drink On Me.
[Press ‘Play’ for real men at work]
I write this homily somewhat in response to In The Same Boat’s article from earlier this month, in which he captures the essence of the struggling alcoholic perfectly. It’s also a kind of manifesto of my own – on why I don’t get plastered every weekend alongside some of my work collegues and friends.
I’ve hung about the Bar None for a while now, at least I think long enough to be justified in some comments on what I’ve noticed around the place. Al’s been kind enough to spot me a drink on the odd occasion, and the stool at the end of the bar, down there near that fella with the biker beard and knuckle-dusters, that’s my usual haunt. I’m far enough away from the general patronage to not be one of them, and close enough to hear what the hell goes on down there. Some of the behaviour among patrons of the Bar None, while certainly amusing at times, occasionally is quite disturbing – the drunken actions of the folks by the dart board, the near misses in the mens urinal, and the rather sloppy egress via the front door notwithstanding, generally people keep themselves upright and shipshape on most occasions. But not all. Sometimes, it’s not pretty.
I write as somebody who isn’t a shambolic drunkard, a rambling slurperson (great wordplay Al, if I may say so) imbibing far more alcohol than is sensible for a person of my particular body weight; instead, I write as an observer, a casual drinker with little experience at gutter-waking or toilet-barfing. Which, considering where I live, is pretty weird. Weird in what way, Rodney? Glad you asked, valiant reader.
Australia, which most people know as a former English penal colony, has become a modern semi-utopian drinkers paradise, with some of the most lax drinking laws anywhere in the alcoholic world. Although the legal drinking age is 18, most school age kids plaster themselves across side-walks and recreational reserves across the country just about every weekend, such is the ease with which substance abuse can be obtained. Our claim to fame isn’t just the best ever Olympic Games ever held anywhere in the known cosmos, but for the hard-drinking, Kangaroo riding, sheep herding cattle rustling Ned Kelly shooting ball-sack flicking manly man image presented in various films and TV shows we export across the globe: an image not entirely unwarranted, but far from the actual truth. Paul Hogan fucked us forever with his Crocodile Dundee character, the release of which caused a seismic shift in perceptions of Australia from a baby-eating-dingo one to a “THAT’S-a-knife” knockabout larrakin one – an image which has gradually caused more embarrassment than pride in recent years. It’s like saying the entire population of Tennessee is representative of the population of America. Steve “Shove my finger up a snakes ass and see what it does” Irwin didn’t help matters either, and for his entire life was something of an embarrassment as well; the ocker drawl mixed with the insane bravado of a man with no fear portrayed all over the Discovery Channel. As much as the world now loves Irwin since his death, in life he was once considered a national embarrassment.
But our drinking, the national pastime outside of riding roos and rooting Koalas, is the one thing we can all agree on. Hell, we even stake a claim at having invented the stuff, thanks to Yahoo Serious and his eternally stupid film Young Einstein. Australians claim to be the world best drinkers; a reputation built on our love of sport – drinking at the various venues around the country has increased in recent years as our standards, and our love of the fine drop, has increased as well.
Adelaide, sitting comfortably on the coastline of the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia (look it up on a map if you don’t know!) is situated between two major wine regions of our state, and just to the left of another wine-region of growing potential. We have two major beer producing brewery’s in the city, West End and Coopers, which supplies not only our entire state, but pretty much the entire country with their amber ale. To the south, the McLaren Vale wine region looms large, a veritable panoply of vineyards and small pubs in which to intoxicate oneself – perhaps known as the lesser of the states three main wine producing regions, outside of the Barossa and the Coonawarra down towards Victoria. The Barossa, which produces enough wine annually to cover the surface of the Earth twenty times, is your choice of locale for inebriation anywhere in the state; it’s a wine free-for-all, if you’re so inclined, and wine tours of the area are your best bet to get slammed.
What I’m saying is that here in Adelaide, of anywhere in Australia, we have the most opportunity to drink ourselves stupid. Myself, I’m not that big a drinker, although external influences would seem to suggest that perhaps I’m the exception rather than the rule. As a kid, my father would offer me the token sip of beer (which I detest to this day – the beer, not the offer!) as well as a selection of adult drinks including various wines, champagnes and liqueurs. I have to admit that as a youngster, and even now that I’ve matured a little, I’m not fond of the hard stuff as much as I enjoy a tipple of red or white fermented grape. Not because I didn’t have the funds to imbibe as I do these days, but because I didn’t enjoy the taste of the stuff. Alcoholic beverages took a long while to slide their slippery fingers around my palette; but once they did, I found myself open to an entire new world of taste and sensation. However, the lack of practice at drinking to excess has resulted in a deficiency in my body that I’m working to overcome: I have a very small tolerance to alcohol. I’m unable to sustain an upright pose much past three standard drinks. Which means I’m a cheap drunk (a positive?) and an easy lay, should some hot chick decide to jump my bones after a night around the Bar None. That may be the beer goggles talking, but hey, no doubt Al will set me straight if I hook up with a basher, right Al?
So I sit here, propped up at the Bar None main bar with glass of vino in front of me, peering stuperously at the mirror behind Al’s hard liquor, trying to check out just how red my eyes are and if it’s possible to work from “home” today. Not sure how the Bar None goes with a wireless internet connection, or even if Al’s hooked up the telephony machine yet (he is a little lax in that department, I’m told) but I’m damned if I’m gonna go to work smashed. I look on in amazed disbelief at the crazy antics of those who drink to excess, the stumbling alcoholics whose livers would surely require immediate surgery for replacement were they to be inspected then and there.
There’s a few times in my life where I wish I could get myself totally written off to forget my troubles – especially that one time on the farm where I woke up next to the family goat, tied to a stake in the middle of the lawn. Sometimes you wish you could blot out the horror of life, but then, in the clear and un-drunken clarity of regulation life, you find yourself basking in the glory that it presents; the laughter of children, the roar of a hot car, and the post-coital afterglow as you snuggle with the missus.
I’ve never had a problem with alcohol where, like ITSB, it’s taken over my life to the detriment of my social ability and family relationships. I’ve never had to attend an AA meeting, take a 12 step programme to reclaim my life, or apologise to family for variety of drunken escapades to which the only conversation I can remember is the one ending in “… yes officer.” Personally, I find those who pride themselves on this kind of weekly escapade have a deeper issue than just drinking. There’s no reason alcohol can’t be enjoyed responsibly, like many of the patrons of the Bar None do already – but the muddy grasp of deep alcoholism, whereby your life functions include retching in the toilet and trying to maintain an upright stance during the day is one I don’t understand fully. I’m starting to understand it due to the work of many of the fine folks here at the Bar, but never having experienced it, either for myself or through somebody I know personally, leaves me a little less able to appreciate Same Boats recent exposition on the subject. The thought of having hours, weeks and months of hazy memories, induced by consumption of alcohol, is a little terrifying, to be honest. While I’m a fairly outgoing person in my non-drunken state, when I get a little tipsy I tend towards the outright zany – I truly think I’m funnier than Robin Williams and Billy Connelly put together. Which I doubt is true. I have a major problem with spending so much on drink that I end up waking up some days later with gaps in my memory, and a large hole in my bank balance – I find it hard to understand how some people think this is a good thing!
I read the exploits of ITSB around the place (I’ve checked out his blog, among other things, and can recommend anybody looking to quit drinkin’ to have a look at it!) and while I don’t entirely understand what people like him are going through, I can empathise with it, if not offer some tacit sympathy. I’m not sure about America, but here in Australia the image of hard drinkin’ cowboys is one to be proud of, not ashamed of. This makes it hard to work against the image of the drunken pub crawl and the bravery of those who attempt it – an image we’ve accepted socially through movies and music to think that this is actually okay. To say I’m not a big drinker in conversation is like saying you once fucked a dachshund. Do it sober, you’re ostracised forever. Do it drunk, you’re a legend. That’s the mentality going round here.
(Mind you, as I write this, a national sporting celebrity was recently fired from his team after a drunken night out where he managed to simulate a dog giving him a blowjob… apparently, you can only perform drunken bestiality and get away with it if you’re NOT famous).
It’s somewhat hypocritical to sit here, in the comfortable confines of the Bar None and state that drinkin’ isn’t fun or acceptable, but folks, drinkin’ in moderation is where it’s at. Obliterating yourself every day/week/hour isn’t the way to maintain a healthy lifestyle, as ITSB has attested to. The perils of social alcoholism, while initially a bit of a laugh, eventually overtake the common-sense part of your brain and become your actual life.
So I congratulate ITSB for his efforts, for his ability to recognise and then overcome his drinking problem – I extend that same congratulatory plaudit to anybody else reading this now who is… well…. in the same boat, for want of a better phrase. To accomplish this, to turn a weakness into a personal strength, is valiant and not entirely ignoble. We’ve all read about Al’s problems with the drink, which is part of the reason why he set up the Bar None in the first place, but he’s currently on the wagon and keeping it under control. Again, a valiant effort. I say this not in that mocking, “I’ve only read about this” kind of way that non-drinkers might offer, looking down their nose at you, but in a sincere manner befitting the personal triumph you’ve all accomplished.
Now, shut up and pour me a big tall glass of the strongest shit ya got, Al. After this, I need a drink, then I need a Koala to root**. [**”root” being an Aussie euphemism for sex…. in case nobody understands….]
A few words from your humble servitor just to remind you, Rodney, and you the rest of y’all that the Bar None is not reserved for those who drink to excess or in any other way have built a shrine to the cult of alcoholism. True to its name, the Bar None bars no one and all are welcome from the hard drinkers to the soft touches, from those who nurse their drinks to those who require medical attention, from prohibitionists to exhibitionists, from T-Totalers to the Totally Fucked.
Thanks again, Rodney, for this look at your life and life in Oz. i’m rooting for you, brother.
Al K Hall
Functional Alcoholic Slurperson, Founding Member of D.R.I.N.K.E.R. (Drunks Really Involved Now Known as Exiles Reunited), Member of the D-Generation (Drinking Generation) & Tender Bartender at the Bar None