For the dedicated, drinking can be a lifestyle-defining hobby, like baseball or auto racing or gambling or religion.
There’s the same arrangement of one’s life to accommodate certain habitual activities at certain times — and the same dismaying sense of rudderlessness that accompanies missing those activities. There’s the same way that most conversations gradually circle into focus on aspects of one’s obsession. There’s the same way that friends and peers who don’t share the same interest tend to fade away over time. There’s even the same tendency toward pilgrimages — it’s just that instead of going to the Holy Land or Daytona or Fenway, drinkers talk about visiting those watering holes where famous dead people used to toss a few back.
Career drinkers are also prone to the same sort of rule-setting and superstitions that typify the athletically or spiritually religious. Some count their drinks. Some never drink before 5. Some take a shot of water with each drink. Many try to always sit in the same seat every time they patronize a given bar — and some won’t stay if they can’t.
There’s a whole mythology that surrounds the culture of drinking, a diverse and often bewildering system of belief; even teetotalers and occasional tipplers have heard that beer before liquor makes you sicker, and probably also that beer after liquor has the same effect.
What about the rumor that slamming pickle juice before each shot keeps you from getting hung over? Or that eating a meal heavy on olive oil will keep you from getting drunk no matter how much you imbibe? Or that drinking during the day is less harmful to your health than drinking late into the night, because you metabolize the alcohol more quickly during activity than you do while asleep?
It goes on and on.
My favorite drinker’s belief is much more commonplace.
My favorite drinker’s belief is the one about The Window.
The concept of The Window is thus: At a certain, sliding level of inebriation, a person does something — throws darts, performs stand-up, chats up strangers, writes fiction, whatever — better than he or she does when occupying any other state of being.
For some reason, The Window is invoked most often with regard to shooting pool or playing music live.
Different people exhibit wildly varying degrees of commitment to their belief in The Window, but the gist is always the same: “I dunno, but I really get into the zone after about four beers, and I’m awesome up until about seven beers and two Jagers. Then it all goes to shit.” And the explanation for one’s belief in The Window is always more or less the same, too, involving the hard and incontrovertible science of “not thinking about it too much.”
I’m not here to say whether or not The Window exists, or that it’s all in one’s head, that one’s expectations dictate one’s results and level of intoxication has nothing to do with it. It doesn’t really matter where the results in question come from, actually. If you think you’re a better golfer or poet after four beers than you are after none or 13, hey, do your thing — just don’t hurt yourself or anybody else, particularly after The Window closes.
I will say, however, that the power of belief should never be underestimated. And that I used to think, years ago, that three beers and a shot of tequila was the perfect preparation for playing a set of tunes in front of an audience.
And that, years later, I still get nervous if the time to play comes, and I haven’t gotten ’em.
lifeasweblowit.com and @harrellscott.
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