The Foundry held the dubious distinction as Boulder, Colorado’s coolest nightspot. It was a sprawling, brick-walled, high-ceilinged former theater filled with mostly ornamental pool tables. It was a regular haunt at the peak of my drinking career.
One night in the spring of 1998, I went there with my buddy Drew. It was a sausage-fest, littered with hapless guys in baseball caps, nursing their drinks complaining about the lack of women.
This night occurred during my halcyon drinking days. I had recently returned from a bicycle expedition from Boulder to Seattle to Portland, Maine. I left a pudgy faced, thin-limbed boy, I returned a chisel-faced, strapping man. To exploit my new appearance, I started going out all the time, getting the attention I had longed for, but never received, in my adolescence. And whereas my previous intoxicant was marijuana, a substance I used to smother my libidinous urgings, I was now drinking bourbon, which gave those same urgings megaphonic volume.
So there I was in this charcuterie, 21, handsome, cocksure and reaching a sweet-spot with my bourbon buzz.
Big Pete was a rotund twenty-year-old with thinning red hair that reached down to his butt. He sold and consumed copious amounts of cocaine. He drove his Jeep on a suspended drivers license. He gorged nightly on beef jerky shoplifted from 7-Eleven.
His roommate, The Captain, owed his name to his affection for Captain Morgan rum. The Captain was a bald-on-top, mullet-down-below, goateed, beer-bellied, mid-forties, unemployed chef from Boston. He sat around his apartment all day pulling bong hits, consuming Captain and Cokes and watching MASH reruns on the FX channel.
In April of 1998, the two things I was most passionate about—whiskey and my motorcycle—produced an unfortunate, if predictable, collision.
I had just left a concert at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, Colorado, after a long day of partying—drinks and barbecue at my friend Todd’s before the show, several more drinks at the show. I decided a feast of Taco Bell would be the perfect ending on this long, bourbon-soaked day.
I got on my bike and rode a block up 13th Street (the main drag for Boulder’s “Hill” section). I took a left on College avenue and stopped at the light at Broadway, before taking a right onto Broadway and riding south toward Taco Bell.
I guess I only thought I came to a stop at the light, because a few seconds after turning onto Broadway, bright, unmistakable, blue-and-red lights lit up my backside.
In that moment, I saw two options:
Pay the consequences. Pull over and get a DUI. In Boulder this meant plea-bargaining down to a DWAI (driving while ability impaired) because it was my first offense, taking alcohol education classes, doing 24 hours of community service and shelling out around $1500. I knew these consequences because I was the last of my peers to get one.
Escape. Grab the clutch, downshift and get the hell away from Johnny Law. No cops, no court, no money, no classes, no community service, no consequences.
With roughly a mile of straight and clear road in front of me, a motorcycle that could hit 60 in under 4 seconds and ample whiskey coursing through my blood, the decision seemed clear.
The “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous was the “Four Hour Work Week” of its day. It was meant as a practical guide to show you how to do something. Unlike the “Four Hour Work Week,” which deals with outsourcing, the “Big Book” (whose real title is simply “Alcoholics Anonymous”), was meant to show people how to stop drinking themselves to death and live happy lives.
It was also addressed to those who were affected by alcoholics. There are chapters entitled To Wives, To Employers and The Family Afterwards, each addressed to their respective constituents. The first of these chapters, To Wives, is a seemingly anachronistic text. The suggestion that women are the only gender affected by alcoholism is the first tip off that this was written in a different era. Perhaps it was decided To Domestic Partner lacked zing.
The chapter’s text is filled with oft-derided suggestions to the the wife like, “Cheerfully see him through more sprees,” as if this were something anyone could do cheerfully. Yet the most interesting aspect of the chapter is the idea of marriage as a commitment kept. There are a few mentions of leaving the alcoholic husband, and when there are they are always followed by asterisks, reminding the wife that the husband is sick and deserves her devotion and stick-to-itiveness. All situations brought up in the chapter—verbal and physical abuse, adultery, incarceration, abandonment—are framed by a doggedness in keeping a commitment. It’s not that a commitment to someone or something couldn’t include choosing to leave, but it’s a suggestion that we are going to do everything in our power to make something work. Continue reading “Free to Commit”