This was just something we did. You get off work, you go up to the barracks, and you drink.
My particular favorite was Boone's Farm Apple Wine.
Now, there are many pleasures available to us in this life. Sitting outside, early on a cold morning, wrapped in a blanket, and watching the sun rise. A good meal with good friends. Dancing madly about the living room while listening to Mozart or the punk version of Waltzing Matilda or any song that brings you joy cranked up to max volume.
But at that time, my personal vice was a hot bubble bath with a good book, a packet of Oreo Double Stuf cookies, and a bottle of Boone's Farm.
I've always liked light wines in general. My real favorite was White Zinfandel. I actually picked up the Apple Wine for the first time after having, against unbelievable odds, run into my former theater group in Chun Cheon, Korea where they were doing a USO tour of "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." This brought "Fancy meeting you here" to a whole new level. I mean, these were people I'd acted together with in shows before joining the Army. What are the chances that I'd run into them again on an Army Airfield in Korea?
Anyway, one of the songs from "Best Little Whorehouse" is sung by the residents of said house when it's been shut down and they all have to go their separate ways and figure out what the hell to do with their lives. The song is "Hard Candy Christmas," and some of the lyrics go as follows:
Hey, maybe I'll move somewhere.
Maybe I'll dye my hair.
Maybe I'll clear my junk.
Maybe I'll just get drunk on apple wine.
Me, I'll be just fine.
It was, at the same time, a song about endings and beginnings, of loss and hope, and every time I picked up a bottle of Boone's Farm Apple Wine, I remembered the song, and my theater days, and happier times, and absent friends.
Besides, you can get seriously fucked up on a bottle or two of that stuff, and really, that was a goal for a lot of us at the time. It's just what we did.
Time goes by, the years pass, and I'm no longer in the Army. After leaving the Army, I no longer drank ... wine. (Sorry, obligatory Dracula reference. Had to do it. Please disregard.) Actually, I no longer drank alcohol of any sort, mostly because I was working full time and going to college, and I felt that with everything I was juggling, one drink would really be enough to tip me over the edge into failure land.
The whole not-drinking thing became a habit after awhile, and while it's not entirely accurate to say "I don't drink alcohol," my drinking of alcohol is limited to approximately a tablespoonful every year or two.
Mostly, it's the smell I miss, and the tartness of the first tiny sip rolling around on my tastebuds. Smells have always been strongly associated with memory to me, such that I love smells that other people hate, like the smell of new tar when they're paving the roads, or the smell of diesel engine fumes, or even the smell of burning ondol bricks.
Last night, sushirob, banshree and I went out to dinner at Red Lobster. For some reason, I wanted a glass of wine. Of course, restaurants don't generally serve Boone's Farm, so I got a nice house White Zinfandel.
"I thought you couldn't drink with the meds," said sushirob accusingly.
"Well, technically, I'm not supposed to," I replied. "One of the meds is sort of potentially very bad for your liver, so they really don't want you adding anything like alcohol that would help that along. Also, alcohol plus narcotics is generally a multiplier of soporific effects, so you have to be careful about that."
I thought about it for a moment, before continuing. "Hey, I was on like Percocet or something crazy the last time I had a glass of wine, remember? That was like a year or so ago."
"Oh yeah, I remember that. That WAS a long time ago," admitted sushirob.
"She's just going to sit there and sniff it like she did last time," banshree pointed out.
We all laughed a bit, remembering. Yes, the last time I had a glass of wine, I mostly sat and inhaled the scent of it, occasionally sipping enough to touch my tongue. When we left the restaurant, you could hardly tell the glass had been touched. It was enough for me, the smell and the brief taste, bringing many things back, both bitter and sweet.
In due time, the wine arrived, and I breathed in its fragrance. "You know," I remarked, "it's kind of a shame, but I think the alcohol is really part of the flavor. I keep trying, but I haven't been able to find a really good non-alcoholic wine. You'd think they could synthesize that alcoholey taste through chemistry by now."
"Synthehol," mused sushirob, "yeah, they're actually getting somewhere with that. Maybe in a couple of years..."
I took another sniff, and sipped enough to roll around in my mouth a bit. It was a cheap, not-very-good, house White Zinfandel, but it was one of the best things I'd tasted in years.
We ate, and talked until the evening wound down a bit and it was time to go. "You want to get out of here?" asked sushirob.
"I don't know," said banshree with a grin, "she might not be done smelling her wine."
I still had the full glass in front of me. I smiled, raised the glass, and took a final sniff and taste. I thought about Korea, and absent friends, and performing in musicals, and the smell of the rice paddies, and Boone's Farm and Oreos, and hot bubble baths, and the smiles of my Korean friends, and all the many things I regretted and rejoiced in from those years of my life.
"No, I'm done now," I said and replaced the glass.
As we left the restaurant, the music system was playing "Joy to the world! All the boys and girls! Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea! Joy to you and me!"
It seemed singularly appropriate.