Got some sketches done of the old woman living in a rutabaga. It’s not quite there yet–I think the idea requires further percolation before it hits paint. I like her face, but it’s not quite coming together yet. Part of it may be that she’s an old woman, thus guaranteeing that this will not be a terribly popular painting, even if she seems to be drinking a martini and is the owner of an outrageous hat. (Not that I mind that much–I paint mostly for me on things like this–but it’s a consideration.) I told James that when I was old, I want to drink martinis and wear outrageous hats. He pointed out that I’m a teetotaler and wouldn’t drink a martini if it was handed to me. And this unerring logic flattened me, and I slunk back to my chair.

It’s not that I’m opposed to alcohol in moderation–I could care less that people drink. I don’t even care if people drink to excess, provided I don’t have to clean it up afterwards. But I never managed to acquire the taste for alcohol–to this day, trying to choke down booze for me is about as much fun as drinking turpentine. I am one of nature’s designated drivers by default. I can’t abide the taste. People will nod sagely at this statement and hand me fruity monstrosities saying “You can hardly taste the alcohol!” And I take a sip and gag because beleeeeeeeive me, I can taste the alcohol. It’s like putting a fruit hat on an elephant and telling me that you can hardly notice it’s not a houseplant. That hard, acrid chemical taste is really quite revolting to me–beer is even worse because it’s chemical mixed with rot–and despite my ability to acquire many other tastes, like blue cheese and black coffee, alcohol eludes me.

My theory is that I started drinking at exactly the same time I started smoking pot. I had both substances available at roughly the same amount of trouble. (Ironically, I took acid before I did either…so much for threshold drugs.) Given the choice between the two, I could either choke down this vile tasting liquid, where I had to drink A LOT, all of it bad, cough, choke, get mildly buzzed, then violently ill, then feel like a dog the next day. Or I could take one hit of a vile tasting smoke, cough, choke, not have to take any more, get buzzed, and then go about my regularly scheduled existence. With options like those, I simply chose to not drink much. Lack of exposure meant that I never got over the initial “God, this tastes like the urine of a sick horse!” reaction to booze. If I’m going to drink, I’ll drink white wine, because I love the evaporation on the tongue thing, but I’m still choking at the actual taste, and it takes me most of an evening to work through even half a glass. James and I have a system at functions such as weddings where I have mysteriously wound up with a glass of wine without asking for it–he drinks his, I pick at mine, and once he’s gotten his down to a polite level, unobtrusively switches glasses with me. After 10+ years of cohabitation, this happens without the need for any discussion, and it usually gives me a chuckle.

This also reminds me of my seventeenth birthday, when my stepfather decided that the world need educated drinkers, and sat down to teach me to drink, mostly by lining up shots of whiskey and expounding on the subtle differences. I drank the first one, and discovered that my mother was watching me like a maternal vulture. “You’d better cough,” she said.

Cough? I wanted to gag. But the force of pride in a seventeen year old in front of her parents can cut diamonds, as most of us probably remember. Things happened in my throat that I have largely blotted out, my sinuses filled with the fumes of long dead peat marshes, the flesh stripped off my uvula, my vocal cords tied themselves in one of those complicated knots that old sailors probably refer to as “Ol’ Scurvy Betsy” or “Hangman’s Chicken” or something, but it wouldn’t have mattered if a herd of rampaging gnu had been trying to escape by way of my esophagus–I was NOT gonna cough.

Ah, memories…

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