Rolling Down the Old Main Drag, Part the Second (Plus a Section on Strong Drink!)

In between Magic tournaments, I spent the better part of a week in Pittsburgh with my family. This was the first major holiday since my grandfather’s passing in October, and since I missed the funeral, this would also be my first chance to see my extended family all year. My grandmother has not lacked for company; she has a very extensive network of church friends, and my aunts have been spending weekends with her to help around the house. She’s stayed mind-bogglingly positive throughout the winter, a testament to the grace of God, but she struggled through the first Christmas without her husband, as well as his birthday and what would have been their SIXTIETH anniversary, all within a two-week expanse.

Pop-Pop’s memorial service included a time of testimony, which was recorded for posterity, so I got the chance to listen to it alongside my parents, grandmother, Uncle Mark, and Aunt Mary. It was overwhelmingly encouraging to listen to members of his Bible studies throughout the years as well as my siblings, my dad and his three brothers, and several cousins all speak of how he impacted their lives. My dad had stated that during my grandfather’s final hours, as they shared a few last words with one another, Pop-Pop had told my dad how proud he was of the way Dad had raised his kids. Dad thanked him for showing him the way, and that was pretty much the last thing they said to one another. It was pretty hard to stay composed while listening to that. I couldn’t really ask for better role models than those two men, and it really shames me to think of their legacies, against which my life does not measure very favorably. I’m sure they are both quite proud of me, no matter what, but I have a ways to go before I’d warrant anywhere near the level of “well done, thou good and faithful servant” that they’re both a lock to hear in eternity.

Anyway, we spent a day at Uncle Jeff and Aunt Joyce’s new log cabin, which is pretty stellar as far as wooden structures go. Jeff the Chef came through yet again with an awesome dinner, and the guys curbstomped the girls in Taboo as I set yet another PR (and likely WR, let’s face it). We were scheduled to spend actual “family Christmas” at Uncle Tom and Aunt Judy’s the following day, but snow and ice forced us to postpone a day, so I watched a lot of NBA and Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations in between shoveling and de-icing driveways. Tom and Judy’s was fun as always; we ate everything, joked about everything, pooped, and went home. Uncle Tom gave me the remnants of his old Magic collection from nearly two decades back. I had already picked it over a few years ago, nabbing the Force of Wills, Wastelands, Mox Diamonds, and Mazes of Ith, so when I got around to sorting it all at home, I ended up with a playset of Swords to Plowshares, 250 bulk rares from 3rd Edition to The Dark, and a few thousand bulk commons.

I’m trying to think of other fun things that happened over break, but I really think I spent all the rest of my unchronicled time eating, sleeping, and playing GTA IV at Jeff’s. Which is perfectly reasonable.

So, another recent development and monumental game-changer… I took the plunge, gave in to the pressure, and imbibed my very first alcoholic beverage last month. Also, my second, third, fourth, and fifth (not all at once, easy does it). I’ve taken a staunch position against alcohol for most of my life, not because I think it’s sinful to drink, but because I think it’s stupid to drink. Most of the people I knew in high school and college who hit the sauce on a regular basis were jerks and idiots, which didn’t exactly motivate me to join in. I’ve known too many people who nearly lost their lives as a result of their encounters with booze for the stuff to have much appeal, and since I tend to latch pretty hard onto things I enjoy, I decided at an early age that the risk just far outweighed any potential reward.

And just like that, I turned my back on everything I had stood for and succumbed to the devil’s drink.

Actually, what really happened is that I was conned into trying a shot of whatever my friends picked for me, which turned out to be James Beam, which turned out to be stone awful. How in the world does anyone drink that stuff?? I choked it all down in one go, but man, I’ve tasted kitchen cleaner that was more appealing.

Over the next few weeks, I shared a bottle of Arbor Mist Mango-Strawberry Moscato with Jeff and Rachel, which was pretty smooth and light-bodied, but I suspect that I’d enjoy a red a bit more. We also had a few Smirnoff Ices on New Years; that stuff is actually pretty delicious, but I wouldn’t want more than one in a blue moon. I’m going to be sure to handle any future drinks cautiously, and even though I’m sure my 260-pound frame can handle more than a few before experiencing any brain-addling, I’d rather not take that risk.

Alcohol is a reasonable social lubricant in moderation and can moderately benefit one’s health, but in my limited experience, it tastes pretty terrible. I’m down for trying virtually anything at least once, and I’ll probably quest for that one drink I can genuinely enjoy and order forever, but it’ll likely be something incredibly light. The people who consistently defend the taste of alcohol probably just experience a taste preference for ethanol as a consequence of drug reliance, or something. I came across an interesting article/study the other day on people’s taste aversion to alcohol; the results confirmed that test subjects who described alcohol as “sweet” instead of “bitter” drank considerably more on average. Additionally, ethanol seems to trigger a pathway that is also responsible for the burning sensation you get from eating spicy foods and, importantly, that ethanol reduces the temperature at which the pain gets triggered (ie., the more you drink, the more you can stomach). The article can be found here.

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