About five years ago, I gave up all alcohol entirely, not sipping so much as drop for almost two years. I did this in part to support a girlfriend of that time who was a recovering alcoholic and also in part to practice the precept of not clouding the mind with intoxicants. Strangely, at the Zen Center, the precept has lately been interpreted as "not selling alcohol to others," which sounds completely different than my former clear-mind interpretation of the precept; it sounds more like "I ain't selling any - all the more for me!" But I digress.
The relationship with the girlfriend went the way of all flesh, but I continued abstaining, basically because I learned to like the abstinence. Something had changed inside me after two years of sobriety, and I lost all enthusiasm for intoxication; in fact, I now abhor that state. Try it yourself, and see if two years of abstinence doesn't change your perception of intoxication.
Oddly, my abhorrence is now so strong that I allow myself the occasional cold beer on a summer day, the glass of wine with dinner, and even the occasional cocktail, because I know that I will reflexively cut myself off as soon as I start to feel the unpleasant, to me, buzz of alcohol, just as surely as you know that you will drop a lit match when it starts to burn too close to your fingers.
But then there's Christmas . . . for some reason, Christmas seems to bring out my inner alcoholic. To me, the solstice celebration has always involved liquor to some extent. A little Bailey's Irish Creme in the coffee, some red wine with dinner, lots of cold ales, and after dinner, of course, another little drinkey drink drink.
So today, reflexively, I observed my Christmas tradition with a run to the liquor store. I bought a bottle of Bailey's for the morning coffee (it tastes great on ice cream, too), some Maker's Mark Kentucky bourbon, a Cabernet, and a bottle of champagne, the latter just because a woman I know mentioned the outside chance, the remote possibility, of coming over on New Year's Eve to share a toast with me.
Oh, I also bought a six-pack of Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA. I don't know if you're familiar with Dogfish Head ales or not, but if you're at all interested in beer, then this is the stuff. At $9.49 a six, it's not the cheapest brew on the shelf, but it's worth every penny. It's nothing short than the final realization of the dream of the micro-brewery, and we can finally honestly say that American micro-brews, if not outright better, can at least proudly stand head-to-head with any foreign imports. According to the copy on their packaging:
"The ingredients in our recipes come from the earth and the oven.Much more inspiring than, say, "king of beers."
They come from interfering and letting be. . .
. . . For us, brewing is not a process of automation, but of imagination and passion.
We wrap our hands around plastic shovels to clean out mash tuns.
We wrap our hands around sticky clumps of whole leaf hops and toss them into the boil kettle.
We wrap our hands around our work because we are proud to make something with our own hands."
At my rate of consumption, these purchases may last me until almost next Christmas.
Post-Script: For those of you interested in such things, The Flaming Lips' movie, "Christmas on Mars" debuts tonight at midnight on the Sundance Channel.