If I lie down Saturday afternoons in front of the TV, flipping cable channels – I’m alright. Or, if I close my eyes until the feeling goes away, and wake up at the exact moment my wife is serving dinner – I’m safe.
But the moment I venture out of the house, whether on an errand or after a phone call from a friend – I’m in trouble. The first shots offered are always refused. They are merely bait, dangled by istambays and kanto boys so that I will have the privilege of paying for whatever they’re drinking.
No, the first shot is best savored with a friend (usually the one who called.) The battleground is his sala or front porch with corned beef and lunch leftovers for pulutan, amidst loud laughter or whispering if the misis is around.
In younger days, preferred adversaries were rhum, gin and el cheapo whiskeys, in that order – sometimes mixed due to economic (not gustatory) reasons. As salaries and egos rose, the order of the day became whiskey – the black-labeled kind. Rum, we found out, is not spelled with an H. And gin we no longer touched – too many unpleasant memories of dizzy and nauseous days at the beach.
These days, my friends drink either beer or brandy from Jerez. These two beverages do not mix; they are sensitive and demand solo billing. We drink them slow at first, like a diesel engine warming up. This is not just to establish the points of conversation but also to give time for the stomach to protect itself. You see, alcohol is an irritant and after the first shot, the stomach coats itself with mucus to prepare for the coming onslaught. The wise drinker therefore, times his first 2 or 3 shots. About 30 minute’s interval should do it.
After the second shot or bottle of beer, I usually call home, explaining that something came up or a friend is having some problems with his wife. It is a good time to call for a number of reasons: 1. The wife has not been waiting too long, 2. It shows you are considerate for calling early. 3. Your speech isn’t slurred yet.
As the night wears on and a number of bottles get killed, my friends and I usually get boisterous, this is another opportunity to call home or better yet, go home. Actually, it is usually the last opportunity to get home because by this time, the friend who’s hosting this bacchanalia would be raring to go. “Let’s go,” says the man, “Let’s paint the town red,” or something like that. “Whoopee,” says the others. And off we go.
Where to? This is a very interesting question. It is still a mystery to me how decisions get made when three or more inebriated men go to town. The conversations in the car (worse if it’s a convoy) can be maddening: “Videoke, bay,” Ayaw!” “Right tayo dito,Pare,” “Left, bay, left.” It’s a wonder we get to where we’re going.
We are men; bonded by alcohol, we understand each other completely. “We will morning the night,” if ever there was an ill-grammared expression I dread most of all, this is it. When I hear it while I’m sober, the hair stands up on the back of my neck. But fortified with alcohol, it is the ultimate rebel yell; saying it, you` get a glimpse of the old devil-may-care youth you used to be. Never mind what happens tomorrow.
Tostar! Bottoms up!