Editor's Note: Three "huzzahs!" for John Lewis, the winner of our "Why I Drink" essay contest. For his entry, John wins 100 bucks and a home bar kit from the fine folks at Palookaville. Congratulations, John, and we'll see ya in the gutter!
When they blew up the Marines barrack in Beirut back around '84, I was like, "fuck this, I'm in." I did my time in Thailand doing avionics on a chopper crew. Got there and lived on a big aircraft carrier that had serious racial problems I won't get into. But like every dumb, great gesture in my life, I had a big load-on when I decided to join. Like getting a tattoo with your friends, everybody's in, but somehow only one of you does it. Then you wake up with the words "Sweet" and "Sour" stenciled under your nipples, and a three-color dragon on your ass. And you gotta live with it.
Your friends are like, "Man, that is righteous!" but they're back in community college, living off their girlfriends and you're in boot camp with the nickname "Puff." And you get drunk on weekends and fight alongside your friends, "Hoo Ha," and then on the ship, hungover, after 18 hours on duty fixing a messed gyro board, you go in for chow, jump the line 'cause you gotta get back on the chopper, and some dipshit Ranger goes, "Hey, wait your turn, flathead," and you go "fuck you," and then he says something about "white boy," and you're holding a tray with some food with really hot gravy and you laugh inside because, so what if there's five of them; you know later your friends are going to love it sitting around getting shitfaced and this guy's going to have fucking blisters on his eyes. But the point is this: we drink because we can die a little bit, be a little bit dead, dull the senses and let the spirit take us. And frankly I think hangovers are great, too. Good time for decision making.
I don't need to win this contest to get a load-on. But the question of why I drink, why I still drink, begs answering. Probably if I had the $100 up front I could show you why, but let me put it this way: My dick gets like a hammer when I'm drunk. I can drive a nail through a two by four, I swear to God. I must've fucked a hundred women.
And put me behind the wheel after six scotches. I'm a stunt man. I may not thread the needle or make the turn, but I'll survive any crash. I once pulled up to a party on my Honda 350, whacked to shit. I hit a driveway boulder going about 20 mph in front of, like, 50 people and I'm flying through the air and I had the presence of mind to put my arms out, turn my head and shout, "Look! Batman!" People remember that. It's not the broken arm; it's the immortality.
I've found a lot of answers too, in the bottle. Last week I couldn't figure out how I'd gotten to the point in my life where I had a house, a kid, a wife, and a well-paying job at a high tech company. I never finished college; I was happily drunk during the exams I missed. All I remember about the Corps is walking around Bangkok with my pants around my ankles, my johnson in one hand and yard of beer in the other. I don't have any skills other than drinking.
I met my wife when I was drunk. I got married drunk. I was hungover to shit when I bought my house--and this job I got? Well, I can't name the company, but they believe in telecommuting. A couple beers at noon and I can write URL like a mutherfucker. I am the Batman of programming. Every great thing I ever did was 'cause of drinking. And what I said before about hangovers? I'm puking my guts out at 10 in the morning so hard I see these floaters go by my eyes. I can feel my mind is out of control, uncontrollable thoughts, sexually deviant thoughts, then suddenly I'm floating above myself. I see me, in my basement, by my computer, and I'm like "Whoa Johnny."
My kid comes in and she brings me a ginger ale and some aspirin and tells me to sip it. I take my head outta the garbage can. Real quick I feel ashamed--this powerful loathing for myself--for being so accepting of death and depravity and she's showing me her crayonings and I know I'm alive and blessed; this world, all this love. How could I realize this shit otherwise? And then I tell her Pops would like a frosty and she gets it and tells me to sip it and I do.