Drinking Friends


I’m posting this excerpt from the memoir I’m writing because it sums up what happened to me again and again when hanging out with drinking friends. (I was 23 days’ sober at the time.)


That evening, I sat on a friend’s back porch, watching her smoke and drink the wine she’d poured from a bottle chilling in a bucket of ice. She’d bought my favorite kind, though I’d told her I wasn’t drinking.

She was completely at ease, stretched out in her chair, swirling her wine in the glass. In contrast, I was restless and jittery, as if I’d had way too much coffee. Even the cicadas’ insane trilling jarred my nerves.

Our conversation, so effortless while drinking, was now stilted, full of fits and starts, as if we’d just met, though we’d been friends for years. Drinking buddies, actually. Hours could pass and we’d barely notice, laughing and drinking under the huge oaks trees in her backyard. But now, I didn’t find her stories nearly as funny, and she could feel my impatience to leave.

Sober, it turns out, I couldn’t sit for hours, doing nothing but talking and watching her smoke. Wine was the glue that held us together, and we became strangers without it.

She went to top off her wine, and then reached across to fill the empty glass in front of me, as if by habit.

“No thanks,” I said.

She swatting at a cloud of gnats. “Why not just one glass?”

Eve, in the Garden of Eden.

I didn’t answer her. I just stared off into the trees, wondering why this was so hard.

I shouldn’t be here.

In the silence, I could sense her frustration with me for not being what she wanted … for not playing my role. I felt a flash of anger.

But you’re free to leave,I reminded myself.

Years later, I could recognize when a friendship faltered without the wine, and I’d have no trouble walking away the minute I felt like it. But on Day 23, I could only watch her drink — gesturing with the glass, refilling it again. I saw only that a drink could solve everything that was wrong in this moment — the discomfort and loneliness and anger.

As I sat across from her, my resolve melting like the ice cubes in the bucket, I felt just a whisper of pain —familiar and heart breaking. Betrayal.

Not hers, but mine.

As I reached across the table for the wine bottle, sweaty and slick with condensation, she took a long drag on her cigarette, eyeing me appraisingly. She blew out the smoke, snuffed out her cigarette, and smiled.

“Welcome back,” she said.

Wanted: One Good Bartender


My husband and I were driving through town the other day, and we passed a hole-in-the-wall restaurant called “Ham’s.” He said, “Remember you got mad at the bartender there? What’d she do wrong again?”

I had just an inkling of a memory, as so often is the case.

I vaguely remembered having to tell her how to make an Irish coffee. Their drink list said it contained Irish whiskey and spiced rum. I wanted to make sure that I was getting a full shot of each liquor, and that she wasn’t just pouring a little of each, for flavor. I wanted the Bailey’s on the side. (So often they skimp on the Bailey’s!) Also, I wanted a very small amount of coffee, because some bartenders give you a huge cup of coffee, which dilutes the liquor and is not good for you. (Too much caffeine.)

My little bit of bartending knowledge was a dangerous thing.

The bartender then said loudly to the other bartender, and to the whole restaurant: “She wants two full shots in her coffee and another shot on the side! She would up-charge her?”

No discretion. Whatever happened to bartenders who took orders and delivered them without comment?

When she finally got my drink together, she said loudly, “That drink is burning the hairs of my nose! It would knock me flat. Better not light a match! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!”

Needless to say, we never went back there, unless every other bar in town was closed. (Somehow this place stayed open late, even when we were under travel advisories, like tornados or snow storms.)

My husband and I laughed about that absurd scene, and then went on to other bartenders and wait staff that had failed to meet my very high expectations.

Actually, my expectations weren’t all that high. All I just wanted strong drinks delivered fast. Is that too much to ask?

You who are still lingering in the wine and beer category of drinking can’t relate to this, but I’m telling you, once you throw a leg over that wobbly fence to liquor, you’ll want to get your money’s worth.

Here’s another scene we thought was funny: At a nice restaurant in the city, I asked the bartender for a diet coke and rum in a short glass. He delivered a diet coke and rum in a large glass. That meant that I would have to drink that whole diet coke for just one shot of rum. All that caffeine, right before bedtime, and no liquor to balance it out. How was I  supposed to sleep?

“I wanted a short glass,” I told him, handing back the drink. (I often found my ability to speak up strengthened with a drink, and I’m sure I’d had one before I got to the bar.)

He stared at me, so I pointed helpfully to the short glass that my husband had. He raised an eyebrow, but then POURED HALF OF THE DRINK I’D GIVEN HIM INTO A SHORT GLASS! That meant I was getting half a shot! Did he not understand that he had just halved the liquor in the drink? DID HE NOT GET IT ?!!

My husband, sensing a scene of some type, came to my rescue by saying, “She wants a full shot of rum in a small amount of coke. In fact, why don’t you just make it a double.”

Something clicked for the bartender, and he gave me a quick once over. He hadn’t pegged me as a serious drinker, what with my delicate features and pink cardigan. (Joking here: I actually had a puffy face and watery eyes. Signs that a good bartender would have recognized.)

And that’s just two fun drinking stories! There are so many more, even though I’ve only lived in this state for a short time.

Odd, but I have no new stories. Not since I stopped drinking. The service around here has improved dramatically. They are so much better at serving decaf coffee and creme brûlée.




Long Time, No Talk

Girl and boy playing with tin cans and string telephone

Hi all!

I didn’t post the entire month of June, which is a shocking record for me. It was mostly intentional, however — I took some time off, following the advice of an AMAZING tarot reading by Anatasha at CAJ Spirituality. (That girl’s got it goin’ on, y’all!)

The first part of June, I went on a sabbatical with a friend in the mountains nearby. She went to a weight-loss boot camp during the days, while I walked around the grounds, eating as much as possible, and trying to get back into book-writing mode.

I made amazing progress spiritually after being confronted with my own constant need for comfort. (There was no air-conditioning! It was hot! There was construction outside my window!) Once I’d decided to accept and appreciate what is, I got along just fine. (This was harder than it sounds, and took several days of whining to get through it.)

Straight from this very zen experience, I went home just in time for a deluge of family arriving for the reunion I was hosting. As always, I’d made these grand plans months ago, but was inconvenienced and surprised when the event actually arrived. What was I thinking?

And let me tell you something … there is no greater challenge than to apply the happy and forgiving thoughts you had on a mountaintop to a pack of relatives there to test you in everyday possible. Add in bottles of wine and icy beer (for them), and you will find yourself hyperventilating in the tiny downstairs bathroom. (Your parents have your bedroom and the roomy master bath upstairs. For two weeks.)

ANYHOW, I’m back to my lovely world of cyber friends, and look forward to catching up on everyone’s blogs.


If yours sucked, just listen to what my sister was doing:

She’s a government vet, and there’s an outbreak of avian flu in California. She and ninety other government vets have been flown in for a very special assignment.

For three weeks, including the 4th of July, she first goes to a government building at 6 am to shower and put on a special white hazmat suit. She then travels around the city and countryside with a partner all day long in the heat, going door-to-door, and asking “Do you have any show chickens?”

article-2066624-01728A7E0000044D-890_468x286(Can you imagine looking out your peephole and seeing people in hazmat suits who won’t go away? They’re told to be persistent.)

Because she has a hispanic last name, they often launch into a long explanation in Spanish, but she has to stop them and explain she speaks no Spanish. Never has.

Show chickens, for those who have never heard of them, like me, are special chickens that people keep as pets and actually “show” at chicken shows.  Apparently, these chickens are everywhere in this part of California. To complicate things, people often don’t want to show government workers their show chickens, because if they have this flu, they must be confiscated. I suspect my sister spends a lot of time peeking into people’s backyards.


When they do locate some chickens, she and the partner must catch each one and swab its throat to see if it has bird flu. Every. Single. Chicken.

After doing this all day long until late in the evening (because avian flu among show chickens is NO LAUGHING MATTER), they return to the government building, peel off their sweaty hazmat suits, shower, and put on their regular clothes. They then drive back to the hotel, fall into bed, and start all over again the next day.

So even if you did absolutely nothing on the Fourth, at least you didn’t do this.


Are You a Control Freak?

control freak

Hi all! I am up on that mountain again, with no phone service and almost no wifi. I’m camped out in the cafeteria for temporary service so that I can post this article quoting Pema Chödrön.

I’ve never considered myself a control freak, but I’m starting to reconsider. I’ve switched rooms three times for different reasons, all of them valid, but my need to control my surroundings is becoming a problem. Cue this article from the Elephant in my inbox.  (You may have to give your email to read.)


The Simple Question that Stopped Me from Being a Control Freak.