Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Drinkin' & Thinkin' — A Mini Series (1 of 2)

Speakin of drinkin, how do I say this without sounding like a lush?
I really don’t drink much, but when I do I have to admit, I kinda like it. I guess most people like it for the same reason I do. Being lightly under the influence makes me feel creative; confident; free. Usually I only drink when I go out to a club to hear music, or to the local sports bar to watch football. A six-pack of beer in my fridge will usually last me a month or more. I guess I prefer drinking around people rather than by myself.

I started drinking relatively late in life; hardly ever in my twenties, and not a whole lot more than that in my thirties. I’ve probably done it more often over the past ten years than ever, but I’ve still never really gotten used to it. And fortunately I’ve only gotten sick from it once, and that was one time too many. I know my limits now, but it took awhile to get a handle on them.

This little story is not just about drinking, but drinking is what spawned it. Accordingly, you might find it a tad disjointed, but then again, so am I.

Often for me, one of the products of a good buzz is a nearly uncontrollable urge to write; why that is I really don’t know, but it’s been that way for a long time, even before I began blogging. I always wrote my best e-mails (or so I thought) after coming home from a night out. It’s not something I’ve ever felt I needed, necessarily, but given the fact that it happens so seldom, I can really appreciate the notable difference in my personality it brings to the surface.

Last Wednesday night I found myself somewhat well-lubricated and once again at the keyboard, doing my best to churn out an alcohol-inspired story that has actually been in the back of my mind for quite awhile, just waiting for the right time to emerge. Unfortunately though, Bacchus and the Sandman were taking turns tag-teaming me into oblivion and they prevailed before I could finish writing. Bastards.

So while it’s still fresh in my mind I decided to go ahead and finish it up now. I’ll return to my current series in a few days. I just feel the need to get this one out there.

Once again, I’ve been mostly Blog-AWOL for a couple of weeks — but not because I’ve been lazy — just busier than a one-armed paperhanger with fleas.

Last week was my company’s annual sales meeting and the Marketing Department, in which I work, is responsible for putting it all on. It’s a pretty big production for a company of around a thousand employees, and thankfully, not one that I’m that solely responsible for. Nevertheless I do have a lot of things to do to make it happen and because of that, the month of December and the first couple weeks of January are always my busiest time of the year.

Wednesday was the opening session of the three-day event, bringing associates from our branch offices across the country here to Nashville for meetings, training sessions and rah-rah-let’s-feel-good-about-our-success vibes. That first day, our General Session, is the biggest one for me, and is the only day of the three that I actually have to be in attendance from start to finish; from helping to set up registration at 9AM, to the comedian’s last after-dinner joke at 9PM. It’s a lot of work, but the perks are great too.

It’s normally my only opportunity to rub elbows with some of the company’s top brass in a casual setting, not to mention enjoying the fun of seeing people who work across the country that I would never have opportunity to socialize with at any other time during the year.

Our company is a fun-loving bunch. This annual sales meeting always promises a fun, relaxed atmosphere. And especially these past few years, while we’ve been breaking all-time records for success and profits, people just can’t help but be in a good mood.

This year was no different. Everyone had a great time. And oh…did I mention the open bar? Obviously that’s something that just about everyone likes. And while I’m not much of a boozehound, if it’s free, why not enjoy it.

So I did.

There was cocktail hour before dinner, and of course, wine with dinner that followed. So with about four and a half glasses of wine (total) in me, I was feeling pretty good. And as I said, when buzzed, I feel like writing — always.

So when I got home I immediately went to the computer and the following is what came out. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it (or at least getting ready to)...

Funny the things one thinks about while inebriated…
Oh yeah, I could talk about a lot of things. I could talk about the transition I’m poised to go through at work. I just met my new boss for the first time this afternoon at our annual sales meeting.

I could talk about how this could be a make-or-break next six months for me, professionally, to be determined by whether this woman (who is just a few years shy of being young enough to be my freakin’ daughter) and I mesh. Will she view me as an asset, or will the other completely possible reality prevail, in which she, like others of her GenX ilk, sees fit to throw me and my baby boomer-aged ass out like yesterday’s trash?

It’s all possible and it’s all completely unlikely at the same time. But right now I’m just too inebriated to decide which one I choose to expect as my short or long-term fate.

You see I’m a little sauced, but not quite drunk, hence the aforementioned term, inebriated. This is my term of choice for describing the state of being that lies between sober and I’m-really-gonna-hate-myself-tomorrow.

However I’m reasonably sure that I’ll still be lovin’ me some me when I wake up to greet the morning sun, since I’ve already administered my brother Alex’s fool-proof secret recipe for going to battle with a hangover before it even starts. It’s an after-drinking regimen that features a 16-ounce tumbler of H2O and at least three extra-strength Tylenol, to ward off the evil spirits of over-imbibivication (heh…I just made up a word.).

Interestingly, every time I’m in this situation I think about my beloved little bro. But this time in particular, I’m thinking about possibly the most embarrassing, yet sentimental memory that Alex and I ever shared.

I may be four years Alex’s senior, but by the time we were adults, it was I who looked up to him, and not just because he was taller. Alex was so much more confident in social situations and so much worldlier than I ever imagined being back when we were younger. He never had any trouble meeting girls. He had the charisma of a presidential candidate. Alex was always a nice guy, with a wonderful heart, but his personality really had an edge to it, socially. Dude knew how to work a room. Hanging around with him made me feel a bit dangerous.

I liked that. I liked it a lot.

The year was 1994, and Alex and his young family were in the midst of an impromptu move from Dallas to Connecticut, where he had just taken a job with GTE (General Telephone) to become a senior associate in their in-house legal department. He would work there for a little more than three years before returning to Dallas in 1998. His boss was the controversial former U.S. Attorney General, Ramsey Clark.

Alex had decided to leave his position as a respected young attorney in a renowned Big D law firm and relocate to Stamford, CT to live the good life. Apparently he was promised a slower pace in Connecticut, fewer hours would be required of him than in Dallas, where he had become one of his firm’s chief research attorneys.

For years Alex burned the midnight oil researching and writing the background material his firm used to argue major cases, including his heavy contribution to the defense of one client, a major U.S. airline, in a landmark case that could have literally put them out of business had they lost. However the verdict was indeed for the defendant and Alex was heavily praised for his hard work and expertise. We were all incredibly proud of him.

But while the recognition was great, it still didn’t seem to push him closer to the partner track of that very talented and competitive law firm in Dallas. His kids were growing up without him, and his 80-100 hour workweeks weren’t bringing him any closer to his wife either. So he put out a few feelers amongst his many contacts from previous clerkship stints he did in Washington D.C. in his post-law school days.

Connections were made, and soon he had an offer he couldn’t refuse.

I don’t know if or how much more money he got, but it was certainly more than enough, along with shorter work hours, a timeshare in the country, and a better life for his three young children. It was a somewhat of a step back career-wise, but a step forward in quality of life.

It would also be his among his last steps, professionally, before the initial effects of early-onset Alzheimer’s would begin to rob him of the ability to do the work he so loved and performed at a high level.

But in 1994 no one envisioned, even in their worse nightmares that such an ultimate reality would befall this man, so vibrant, so brilliant, so precious to everyone who has known him. The only thing we knew was that he had a gotten this great opportunity back east and that he was going to take it. And we were excited for him and his family.

So en route to the East Coast from Dallas, Alex and family stopped off in Nashville to visit for a weekend. How could we have known that this first visit, in all likelihood would be his last in my home? I certainly couldn’t have imagined, after the great time we had together, that it would be one of only a handful of such opportunities we would have remaining.

Alex had blown briefly through Nashville once before during a two-day legal conference at a local Music City hotel. I went up there to meet him one afternoon. He only had about an hour to spend with me, but it was great to see him nonetheless.

However this time would be different. Alex, Seraph and the kids stayed with us for three days, and the one evening that my brother and I spent alone together was one of the more memorable of my entire life. We would talk about that night at least a half dozen times over the years to come.

Next: Kentucky Thunder
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