Irish, stewed

The wearin' of the green.

The wearin’ of the green.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to the lot of ye. May yis be in heaven a half hour before the divil knows yeer dead.

This seems as good a time as any to disclose to anyone who hasn’t figured it out that I will not be tipping a pint today because I no longer imbibe.

’Tis so. Quit the drink more than three years ago, and while I occasionally miss the idea of having a drop taken, I can’t say I miss the actuality.

There were no DUIs, no 12-step programs, no health issues. I didn’t wake up underneath my truck in a driveway not my own with a blinding hangover and a cast on one leg (though I have done that).

But while battling a nasty upper-respiratory bug in 2013 I thought it would be a good idea to leave the drink be while the pipes were rattling. Then I recalled that I hadn’t done my once-traditional sober January in a few years, so I thought I’d revive that practice.

We have some (ahem) issues with the uisce beatha in my family. None of us aspired to become drunks, as far as I know, yet more than a few of us have, so since I have some small experience with addiction (to nicotine) I liked to occasionally take stock of myself, see if I simply liked to drink or had to drink. There’s a line there somewhere, but damn few signposts. Mostly we see it in the rear-view mirror, after we’re already upside down in the ditch, wheels spinning in empty air.

So, yeah. January came and went, and I thought, “Hm. Let’s go for February.” And then it was March. And then it was 2014. And 2015. You get the idea. It just sorta grew on me, the way hair doesn’t anymore. Not on the head, anyway.

I didn’t experience any withdrawal symptoms, not the way I did when quitting cigarettes. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, was that ever a trial by fire. So maybe I wasn’t addicted to alcohol the way I was to nicotine, though I was a drinker far longer than I was a smoker.

Whatever. Now I’m just being stubborn about it. I have this streak going, and I’m riding it out.

Sobriety hasn’t made me any smarter, though. All those brain cells I started with are gone for good. Why, I arose this morning without pulling on anything green. ’Tis lucky I am that Herself didn’t pinch me.

• And now, a musical interlude: The Chieftains performing “John O’Connor and the Ode to Whiskey.”

• Editor’s note: The header photo of O’Grady’s Marina Inn in Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland, was taken by my sister, Peggy O’Grady, though we are said to have our roots in County Clare. As for the Irish above it, it’s a rough Google translation of “Bigger. Hairier. Closer to the ground.”


29 Responses to “Irish, stewed”

  1. Charley Auer Says:

    Not the worst thing to admit, and it isn’t painful from what I’ve heard. Fortunately I have never smoked!

  2. Sharon Says:

    They say everyone is addicted to something. For me, it’s been work, bicycling, music and brownies off and on my whole life. Now that I don’t work anymore, I can concentrate my addictions on bicycling instead of work and by the way riding cancels out the brownie issue nicely. Then I listen to great music the rest of the day. Only drink with meals – a great top shelf Margarita and Fajitas, for instance. Happy St. Patrick’s Day all.

  3. mooremediaone Says:

    No booze, no worries. Have a fine St. Patties day.

    Donning that cap on your new Clem would look pretty snazzy though. Perhaps you can tailgate local parade for a few blocks. After all, you’re the local O’Grady.

    – Doug Moore

  4. larryatcycleitalia Says:

    Reminds me of a story about our friend Piero Coppi, 1st cousin of the famous racing brothers. We got him out to ride with us many years ago and then stopped for pranzo. At some point the conversation turned to drinking. He said, “The doctor told me I have to stop drinking so I don’t drink anymore,” I pointed to the glass of red wine in front of him – “Oh, this? This is just wine.”
    So there’s drinking and then there’s drinking. For us wine is food, so when the lunch or dinner is over, the wine stops flowing, though unlike our friend Piero, a digestivo (grappa, sambuca, etc.) might be called for now and then.
    Happy St. Patty’s day to all the Irish and the wannabees!!!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      The drinking my pals and I used to do Back In the Day® had very little to do with food. Often we forgot to eat any. But happily we often had various drugs to chew on.

      • larryatcycleitalia Says:

        That’s a cultural thing for sure. I never imbibed much until I came to Italy 25 years ago for the first time and had a glass of really good wine. It was the old, “So that’s why people drink this stuff” and it was the same for coffee. Probably addicted to both – years ago I went out to San Diego for a cycling “training camp” while the wife was hobknobbing with her fellow wizards somewhere I didn’t care to go. I inquired as to whether our lodging would have an espresso machine (it did) and one ride up Palomar Mountain they tried to drag me on had me asking “Will there be a decent place to get lunch at the top? Might I enjoy a glass of vino with said lunch?” Both answers were yes so I hauled my fat a__ up there with the group…and had a great time.
        Many Americans are weird about wine – they start with a glass instead of a proper aperitivo, then guzzle plenty during their meal, have a coffee after, then go back to the wine until they’re either drunk enough or the bottle’s empty. It doesn’t seem like food to them, more like medicine…because they stop with the food when they’ve had enough.

  5. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Nicotine is a trial. First I quit cigs but smoked a pipe. Then I quit it when you couldn’t smoke in most places. Been over 20 years, but when I smell a good pipe, the desire faintly arises then dies. Cycling had a great deal to do with quitting. Another thing to thank it for.

    My family is like yours. I always watch the line. I agree with Larry. Wine and beer, in moderation is food. A vodka bottle under the pillow or behind the toilet is a sign.

    I just watched the video review of the Elephant National Forest Explorer on the ACA web site. Nice work! I guess the McDowell Mountain Park trip was a true busman’s holiday.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I tried quitting a jillion times. Once I quit for two and a half years and then went back to it during a trying time at a newspaper. It took a respiratory bug that was about yay short of double pneumonia to get me off the stuff, and now I can’t bear the smell of it. Before that a whiff was enough to get those old nicotine neurons firing.

  6. Pat O'Brien Says:

    On a lighter note. We have all probably out sprinted a dog at some time in our cycling lives. this is a little different.

  7. khal spencer Says:

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you, Patrick of the same name. Pulled out my green turtle neck for the occasion.

    Like Lorenzo and Pat, I think of wine or beer as food. Like food, they should be enjoyed in moderation. Otherwise, I generally avoid the high octane stuff.

    I consider myself very lucky to have survived some of my youthful adventures with Demon Gin. Especially as those adventures seem to have, often enough, involved both flammable drink and fast motorcycles. Don’t ask me how I survived. I guess even the Devil didn’t want me around his place.

    • Steve O Says:

      I could tell you half a dozen versions of that same line, only with Germans and beer.

      My landlord back in Stuttgart happened to be a construction guy who did work on our post. He would joke that he never drank beer at lunch, only Budweiser.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Drinking and driving. Oy. Don’t get me started on those stories.

      Oddly, in the only serious accident I’ve ever had — getting hit by a train — I was stone cold sober. Dumb, but not drunk. Go figure.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Only one of my old riding buddies every had a bad crash. That night, oddly enough, we were all completely sober. Go figure. That night taught me one thing, though. Don’t ever ride a motorcycle sober….

        (just kidding)

  8. carl duellman Says:

    Ernest Hemingway Quote: “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut”.Or quit drinking.

  9. Steve O Says:

    They say the Inuit people have 130 different words for snow, and the Romans supposedly had a few dozen words for love. I’ve always thought we needed multiple versions of the word addiction, because it just isn’t the same for any two people, which is why treating it is such a hit or miss, trial and error process.

    Between my alcoholic and druggie brother, a dozen other relatives who are totally in denial about their afflictions, The blokes I ran into in the army, and my social services work as a foster parent, i’ve seen addiction up close and personal in at least a dozen dozen situations. Can’t think of two that were similar.

    Common refrain is that you have to hit rock bottom before you admit to yourself that you have a problem, but that’s total nonsense, or at least, is maybe true every other third Thursday.

    I would fine-tune the point that everybody is addicted to something by saying everyone is potentially addicted to something. Let’s a lucky folks out there who never find out what it is.

    It’s funny how binary we are. You’re either a drinker or you’re not a drinker. Almost as if there something wrong with folks that can do something at a very low threshold and frequency. I eat when I’m hungry, and I’ll drink when I am dry …

    Regardless … Sláinte!!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Weird for sure, Steve. I never thought much of those one-size-fits-all philosophies regarding addiction, either.

      I knew a high-steel worker who was a junkie. I suppose he might be labeled “a functioning addict,” in that he never fell off a building he was working on. Dad would have been one of those, too. I don’t recall him missing many days of work due to the vodka flu.

      A college pal was one of those dudes who could smoke one cigarette per evening and that would be that. And Herself is perfectly content with a small glass of wine in the evening, or do without, if there doesn’t happen to be a jug in the house.

      Now me, I would have my first butt of the day before I even got out of bed. And I could drink a whole bottle of wine and still perform the Stupid Human Tricks for a cop. Seems I inherited the old man’s capacity for holding liquor. I could do that with drugs, too. I wasn’t above getting twisted on mescaline and holding up my end of a long chat with a date’s parents before we left for the evening to chase those goddamn bats through the desert outside of Barstow.

      This is not necessarily a survival skill, as we have learned from Herr Doktor Thompson.

      But is it addiction? Beats me. I just have this nagging voice in the back of my head that tells me I’m better off doing entirely without the stuff, rather than attempting to manage it.

      I always liked what George Carlin had to say about drugs and booze during an interview with Jon Stewart during his HBO special “40 Years of Comedy”:

  10. Steve O Says:

    Thanks for sharing, Patrick.

    Been doing a little soul-searching myself recently, taking that proverbial look in the mirror, wondering who that guy is with the bloodshot eyes.

    Three years, eh? I had noticed while without a rosé recommendation. Did not realize that it had been three years

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Thanks, Steve. I’m not sure why I haven’t brought it up before. Maybe ’cause I’ve known so many people who had real trouble with booze and drugs, whereas I got off pretty much scot free. Kinda seemed like bragging, I guess: “Hey, lookit me, I can take it or leave it.” Maybe not. Maybe I just got off the ride at the right time. Who knows?

      Anyway, it’s been an interesting experience. I’d felt for a while that I was writing too much about boozing, and I didn’t seem to be learning anything new from it, so it seems that at the very least an extended vacation was indicated.

      I still take a sniff of Herself’s glass if she’s drinking, and unlike cigarette smoke a nice red wine smells fine. If anything irks me it’s that I wasted my prime drinking years on garbage. Look at all the excellent wines, craft beers and artisanal spirits that have popped up in the past decade.

      It’s like getting your dinner from trash cans and then realizing they’re behind a really nice restaurant.

  11. Randolph Says:

    I tell folks who offer a glass that I already finished my lifetime share.

    I don’t exactly remember when I quit, it’s been well over 20 years. I never drank every day. Most days, but not every day. When I started I wouldn’t stop till I couldn’t think, certainly couldn’t remember. Although I could still ride the motorcycle in a straight line, go figure.

    I think it’s never really over, for me it’s just been a lot of days without. My brother was sober for 30 years or so, had a glass of wine with his dad a few years ago and now he’s trying to remember how to quit.

    Ride it out sounds like good advice.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Good on ye, Randolph. And here’s hoping your brother remembers how. That’s one of the reasons I won’t smoke anything anymore. Occasionally friends enjoy cigars at Interbike, and of course the whacky terbacky is legal here and there, but I keep my distance. I am so not interested in a redo of that whole mess.

  12. Debby, north of Crestone Says:

    Good for you, Patrick. I have to say that I did my share of drinking and partying in my youth, but these days (I turn 59 this month) the stuff has lost its appeal to me. Alcohol just makes me feel tired and beer and wine don’t even taste good to me anymore. I don’t get why people rave about the stuff so much. Beer seems to be a Food Group to a lot of people. Maybe I’ve just un-acquired the taste.

    My guilty pleasure: chocolate. Premium quality dark chocolate. I’ll take it over beer any day. Just had some a few minutes ago, in fact. They say it’s good for you too.

    ps: I did wear green today.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Debby, I really enjoyed some of the artisan booze that came around during the last decade — small-batch vodkas and whiskeys, craft beers, calvados, and of course there was always all that delicious French wine.

      That was another factor in my decision to step away from the bar. Good gravy, is that stuff ever pricey! Dad used to hit the real rotgut toward the end, crap like Popov vodka in a plastic jug, but I could never drink the cheap hooch. For me it was top shelf or nothing at all. Now it’s nothing at all, period.

      I hope my abstinence hasn’t put any of the small shops out of bidness. But if it has, we know whom to blame, right? Thanks, Obama!

  13. John ONeill Says:

    I’ve told you many time I don’t trust a man that doesn’t drink

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