Bottoms Up!

Commentary: In Exile

by Will Doig
Published on June 22, 2006, 12:00am | Comments

We returned from Mexico filthy, surly and generally repellent. In the grim basement of Kennedy Airport, the agent surveyed our customs declarations and eyeballed us with suspicion: ''Roommates?''

We'd spent four days in San Miguel de Allende for a wedding. A ''destination wedding,'' which was a term I'd never heard before, one that sounded cooked up by travel agents, but that I nevertheless quickly integrated into my lexicon for whenever somebody asked where I was going for the long weekend. The wedding, for an editor friend of Carl's and mine, took place at the only non-Catholic church in San Miguel, a charming little city of older, wealthy, American expats who carry designer walking sticks and wear turquoise jewelry.

We spent the vast majority of the weekend drinking margaritas, so much so that I began to feel the sodium content of my body might be shifting to more closely resemble that of the sea. Everywhere we went there were more margaritas: margaritas in fancy martini glasses with a half-moon of salt on one edge of the rim; margaritas in plastic cups; margaritas in tumblers that never have a chance to run dry because the moment you're about to throw back the final slurp a man wearing a white linen apron rushes over with a pitcher to refill your glass so that you're not, even for a moment, devoid of margarita.

And when there weren't margaritas, there was cerveza. Corona. And when the Corona ran out, a kind of beer called Sol. There was wine, red and white. At the end of one particularly obliterated evening, there were cans of Modelo Especial.

For someone like myself, who used to drink to the puking point most nights (and days), and who, even today, still rarely refuses a cocktail, the weekend was like an awkward reunion between me and my binge-drinking self. Like most people, I began drinking in high school, but it wasn't until college, when I was placed with an alcoholic roommate from Georgia named Brent, that things really took off. Brent was a pot dealer with stereotype-fulfilling shaggy hair and an unquenchable thirst for Jerry Garcia and Jim Beam (usually consumed in tandem, a combination he affectionately referred to as ''my friend J.J.'')

Most nights, Brent and I would drink until we blacked out, as many college kids are predisposed to do. After freshman year I continued to adhere to the custom just as stringently, if not more so. I moved to New York at 24 and spent my first year in the city depressed, lonely and impoverished. The lack of funds impelled me to cut down, but every night for dinner, I'd still manage to purchase a box of macaroni and cheese and a 40 ounce bottle of Budweiser (total cost: $3.49).

After a year of this diet, I never really bounced back to my previous level of drinking, even once I got a steady job and it became suddenly affordable again. These days, I have about four drinks a night (one at work at the end of the day and three more at a bar or at home on the couch), which I think is about average for your typical, chronically dissatisfied New Yorker who's trying to temper his antagonism.

Then, last week, came Mexico. The light air of awkwardness that descends upon groups who know each other mainly through work needed to be dispersed, and as usual, this was accomplished with large amounts of alcohol. Drinking started early in the trip, when the man who drove us the hour and a half from the airport to San Miguel asked if we wanted to stop for a couple of six-packs for the ride. We did, and were fairly tipsy by the time we got to the town.

This behavior only intensified as the weekend wore on, reaching its crescendo at the wedding reception, where a seven-piece mariachi band in full regalia witnessed the gringos lose their shit. There was skinny-dipping. There were ill-advised one-night stands between workplace acquaintances. Carl and I got so drunk we didn't think to check what time our flight back to New York departed on Monday morning.

At 9 a.m. we were woken by a knock on the door and someone yelling, ''Hello? Your car service is here!'' Horribly hung over, we bolted out of bed to a room strewn with clothes on the floor, toiletries flung around the bathroom. We skipped any hygiene-related activities, threw everything into bags and ran for the van that would take us to the airport. Two hours later, we were flying toward New York, still greasy and rubbing the sleep from our eyes.

We finally landed in New York late Monday night, and once we'd trudged through customs leaving a comet-like tail of nastiness wafting behind us, we arrived at home where the dog went predictably insane when we walked through the door. But pretty much all we could think about was changing out of our dirty clothes and falling into bed, although not before chugging down two Miller Lites each to help us decompress from the trip.

Will Doig has sobered up long enough to write from his exile in New York City. He can be reached at wdoig@metroweekly.com.


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