GIN AND TONIC AND GRAY HAIR
I had an opportunity to spend a little time recently with an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while. He’s about ten years older than me and neither of us are kids anymore. He’s a lot grayer and my hair is increasingly speckled with gray flecks.
Conversations these days move a bit more toward dietary, exercise and medical needs than politics and art.
We’re getting older, he and I.
But it wasn’t that other stuff that made me realize this. What most made me notice the advancing of our years, the passage of our relationship through time, was what my friend was drinking.
Gin & tonic.
A mixed drink.
For as long as I’ ve known him, my friend drank beer. At first, Bud or other pilsners. More recently, but still a long-term commitment with more or less exclusivity, he has hewed closely to the IPA’s. He’s also a big (cheap) red wine drinker.
But this? Gin & Tonic? This was something new. A special drink glass. A twist. It’s all very classy at least for a guy who shops exclusively at Goodwill.
But there he was. Cocktail napkin and all. It looked weird. I don’t think he drinks gin and tonic a LOT, mind you. He’s not an alcoholic and he is frugal (not a tightwad, just not a spender). Mixed drinks, relatively, are expensive. It was out of character financially and otherwise, even though this was a special occasion.
So what do I make of this? Has he matured? I’m not sure adding new alcohol to your playlist reflects maturity. If anything, it would seem to suggest the opposite; a little like adding another pack a day instead of quitting your cigarettes.
That’s not quite what I’m getting at anyway. He’s still my friend, the same guy. Other than the G & T, he was pretty much the same, personality-wise. Smart and funny and unpretentious. That hadn’t changed. He was maybe a whiff more wistful for the past, but so am I. He was a bit creakier, but so am I; which is probably why I was less struck by these things. Side by side, the gin & tonic seemed that much more odd.
But so what? Really, who cares? On reflection, I think the drink isn’t significant. It could have been grape Kool-aid. What’s important is I didn’t know he liked gin & tonic. My good buddy has been off developing new tastes and interests without me. Our lives have, of course, continued in the time between our meetings. It’s just not something you always think about. It’s sort of like “out of sight” doesn’t just mean “out of mind”, it also means “no longer exists until we see it again.” I got all that from a ten-dollar (I’m guessing) well drink at a hotel bar.
This was my first alcohol-related epiphany that didn’t require a hangover.
If life is a river that ebbs and flows, that gin contained the few drops that differentiate my friend’s path from every other tributary, including mine, which seems to be flowing into an entirely different ocean. I get that, but I’m not sure I like it.