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Age & alcohol: A necessary partnership? |

Lifestyle Business

Age & alcohol: A necessary partnership?

SECOND WIND - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura -
This party was not to be missed. One of my dearest and closest friends was turning 70 and as a special birthday present to him, I’m not mentioning his real name. Let’s call him Dave, as far from his real name as I can get. I got the call at my home in the hinterlands whence I don’t party anymore, but I knew I’d find a way to celebrate with him.

Early, I now like to get to places early. It may be the way I’m aging. All I can think about is: I have to get out of Makati before five. Life has taught me that in Mega Manila, to avoid traffic going north or south, or east or west for that matter, you must get out of Makati before 4:45 p.m. But this could get you to Quezon City by 6 p.m., an hour early for your invitation. Know however that if you leave at 5 p.m., you could get to Quezon City at 8 p.m., an hour late for your invitation, hungry, head-achey, resentful of the traffic and ready to vent all that resentment on your host. Being early, I think, is kinder to everyone, though it can be awkward.

Dave was watching TV with his granddaughter, his right ear taped at the top. "Did someone bite you out of passion?" I asked. He ignored my question or maybe he didn’t hear me. You accept these things as you grow older.

I have brought him a present, red wine in a lovely wooden box tied up with a silver ribbon. The card is blank because I forgot to bring a pen. So I practiced a short spiel in the car the long way over. I wanted it memorable so he would remember who had given him the wine in the wooden box with a silver ribbon but no card. "It is not true that wine gets better with age. It stops getting better once it’s bottled. To get better with age, the trick is not to get bottled. You can get pickled, but you can’t get bottled."

He sort of enjoyed that until he looked at the box. Then he said, "You don’t get bottled but you get put in a wooden box." Suddenly I felt I had done the wrong thing. Why couldn’t I have wrapped the darn thing in cellophane? Suddenly this box looked like a coffin to both of us.

Thankfully George arrived also bearing wine. George is a collector and connoisseur so to break the silence as thick as a wooden box, I said, "Let’s open George’s present and drink it before the guests get here."

"George’s gifts are only for George and me to share," Dave said and they went off into another part of the house.

"They’re going to talk about a good friend of theirs who’s very ill and who’s just taken a turn for the worse," Irene said. She thought I might feel rebuffed. Then I understood why my wooden box had evoked such a reaction. From now on, cellophane wrapping, I told myself, as I poured myself my first glass of wine.

David Jr. walked around pouring wine, later cognac for his father and his guests. One could also hear ice cubes clinking in tumblers of icy scotch. The little maid who had become quite a competent bartender attending to our needs over the years walked around with a chilled lucite martini shaker. "Look at us," I whispered to another one of my septuagenarian buddies after our fourth glass of wine. "We’re alcoholics unanimous."

"How are you feeling this morning?" I asked another friend, not quite a septuagenarian but getting there and hating it. He had been out with his friends the night before.

"Awful. I have a hangover."

"What did you have?’

"Two beers, two martinis, two glasses of wine with dinner, two cognacs," he said. It sounded like the bartender’s Noah’s ark – distilled spirits two by two so they can mate and multiply when dryness returns.

"Didn’t you do this last week too?"

"Yes, " he said, "and I know I said then I would never do it again."

"But you did and you will. There must be a connection between aging and alcohol," I said, thinking precisely of this column.

"It’s a macho thing we still can do," he sounded amused.

"I think it takes the edge off aging. This is the age when we harshly realize that life has not been what we thought it would be, that really, we have very little control over life. We know we will die, we don’t know when or how. We mated, found that disappointing. We parented. That wasn’t all they made it up to be. We worked our precious parts off, only to retire and find the space we leave behind so quickly filled by lesser mortals. We realize that life was/is good but all too uncertain and we really have very little control over what happens to us."

"I’m afraid you may be right," he said. The silence was thick between us. "Shall we have a drink?" he asked.

"Let’s do it," I said. Unanimously.

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