Saturday, October 19, 2013

Drinking Vodka


              Drinking Vodka

   Overheard in the salsa club:  I drink because I’m not happy; I drink, and I’m happy.

According to news reports, in the 15 months prior to her DWI arrest, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg allegedly purchased 23 gallons of vodka.  She averaged about 2 fifths a week.  This total does not include bar tabs.  Ms. Lehmberg’s vodka buying habits reminded me of an incident in my past.

       Several years ago, my work included a project which required a considerable amount of photo-copying.  I frequented a copy machine repair shop on South Congress.  They would put a repaired copier out for use, and have customers check out the machine before selling it to a business.  Copies were cheap, so I went in about once a week for several years.  As a result, I became friends with Melissa, the young woman who ran the front of the shop.  I entered the office early one Monday morning to find Melissa along with Brian, one of the repairmen, in the room. Melissa had her head on her arms on the desk, and the room reeked with the smell of stale beer.  I asked what happened.  She moaned, and told me that she and a group of friends had ridden in a RV to Dallas to see a NASCAR race at Texas Speedway.  They drank all the way there, all the time they were there, and all the way home, arriving back in Austin about 4 a.m. Monday. She had staggered to work at 8.  

I said “Melissa, don’t you know you should drink vodka, it doesn’t put the stink on you like other booze.”  

Merely mentioning vodka made her groan out loud.  Suddenly, before my disbelieving eyes, a most amazing transformation occurred.  Brian, the repairman, morphed into an eight year old child  (I can’t explain this; I can only report what I saw).  

In a trembling, little boy voice, he asked me:  “Is that why my grandfather drank vodka?”

Stunned and incredulous, I said:  “I don’t know.  Talk to me.”  

He told me he grew up in Harlingen.  He lived with his grandparents while he went to elementary school.  Every day he would walk home from school to find his grandfather sitting in a lawn chair in the front yard, waiting for him to arrive.   

His grandfather would take him by his hand, saying “Come on, boy” and they would walk four blocks to the liquor store, where Old Grandad would buy two fifths of vodka.  The old man would inhale one bottle on the walk home, and then sit in the lawn chair in the front yard and sip the other one dry before going to bed.  Every night.