Gut Instinct: Beer Before Coffee

Last week, in a major-league blow to my waning self-respect, I shattered one of my sacred drinking commandments.

No, it wasn’t Stop Boozing Before You Think Your Sister Is Smokin’, a rule born one uneasy night during college when I imbibed great lakes of Jägermeister. This fogged my faculties so much I mistook my little sister’s cheek kiss for a paramour’s smooch—a memory seared into my brain like a bull’s branded rump. Instead, my mistake was hitting the happy juice before noon.

“Big whoop,” you mutter, clutching a mimosa. Morning-time drinking is an integral part of American culture, from football tailgating to brunch-time inebriation. It’s the rosy glow that makes the days go. But babies, a.m. swilling smudges a fine line I stumble between work and alcoholism. Patronizing Brooklyn’s latest microbrew bar? Acceptable. Turning off the alarm and taking a slug of whiskey? Problematic.

Except during backyard BBQ parties and Cincinnati Bengals football games, I abstain from the sauce until at least 5 p.m. This pleasantly demarcates afternoon and evening, when office troops flee their lairs to self-medicate at happy hour. I have no such lair. Instead, I wear stained pajamas and clack away at a keyboard, pausing occasionally to peruse blogs and titillating web portals. Inspiration has been found in odder places than Pornotube.com. Such actions are a socially acceptable part of the “writing process,” or similar pap I feed my friends about why I marinate in my pajamas until 4 p.m. But if you compounded my bare-flesh procrastination with beer drinking, you’d find a miserably wretched existence. Or an after-school special. Or both.

To write about booze is to embrace wild abandon mixed with self-control. Yes, I hit saloons nearly nightly and glug cocktails aplenty, yet it’s impossible to write while nursing a throbbing skull-splitter. It’s the eternal Catch-22: I must drink for material, but too much drinking means my words are gobbledygook. Hungover, I mope and scarf greasy General Tso’s bought from my bulletproof-glass Chinese eatery. And peruse porn. The shame circle is complete.

I’m not fishing for sympathy. Countless lushes would kill for my predicament. Besides, last week’s before-noon boozing was integral to participating in the Idiotarod. It’s an annual do-it-yourself race subverting Alaska’s dogsled contest: attach four humans to a shopping cart (decorated like an octopus, for example), let another “mush” then dash through Brooklyn and Manhattan. This means running. Lots of running. I abhor running. More specifically, I despise runners. This exercise transforms rational folks into holier-than-thou shlemiels blathering about the “high” provided by slapping overpriced running shoes against pavement. Want to get high? Smoke a bowl; don’t run 26.2 miles and chafe your nipples as bloody and raw as ground chuck.

Given my rubbery legs, I could only haul our shopping cart via Jameson Whiskey Power™. Three hefty shots of that amber ambrosia and anyone’s ready to run through brick walls or have sex for longer than two minutes. Either way it’s a win-win, so I spent my princely column fee on several bottles of Irish intoxicants.

“This’ll make the pain go away,” said my teammate Aaron. He has knees that, after he jogs several miles, swell up like delicious citrus fruit. Running makes my thighs feel like they’re being pummeled with a razor-tipped sledgehammer. Hence, hard liquor to the numbing rescue.

Our team, Hair Cult for Men (wearing bald caps, khakis, white button-downs and ties culled from a dead grandfather’s wardrobe), sauntered to the starting line that frigid January morning with all the swagger of sniveling preschoolers. “It’s so cold,” someone whined. We quieted the complaints with hooch. The chill disappeared, replaced by alcohol’s false bravado. “Thank god for liquor-fueled delusions of grandeur!” shouted one runner, as we began sprinting beneath a storm of condiments. I’ll spare you grody details (Vaseline, human hair and baby shampoo played roles), but know that our furious legs flew across Brooklyn at a clip that could’ve rivaled Barbaro. We reached the Red Hook finish line with asthmatic wheezes, covered in flour, mustard and thanks to a sloshing Jameson bottle I stored down my pants, a serious case of whiskey dick.

How does one celebrate completing the foolhardy, well-lubed endeavor? With beer. I chugged a congratulatory can of Genesee Cream Ale at 4 p.m. Another at 5 p.m. Seven p.m. saw me sip Sixpoint’s Bengali Tiger IPA. By 9 p.m., I was attending a microbrew party, downing high-butane beers possessing double-digit alcohol percentages that, as the night blurred away, were higher than my IQ.