I have written on the subject a few times on this blog. Oddly, I did not have my first drink until I was 21 years old. It was a fuzzy navel.
NEVER LET YOUR BELOVED MOTHER ORDER YOUR FIRST DRINK FOR YOU.
I remember thinking, “Um, okay, nothing happened.” My natural tolerance for alcohol is high. It was about six months before I drank again. At the time, I had dreams and goals in my life.
Alcohol made people I knew get off track in life. I was never going to be one of “those people.” Thankfully, I was “talented” enough to do that sober in America.
My life after college was pretty tough. All I did was work. But, there was this little sports’ bar near my house. It was a nice place to get a burger and watch a ballgame.
I also made some pals. Funny, I eventually made so many pals that they shouted, “Hey Craig!” every time I sat down at my regular seat at the bar. I never drank that much.
The lack of change in my pockets often saw to that.
(Fast forward to Japan…)
One of the first things that shocked me in Japan was that you could buy alcohol from a vending machine. I was flabbergasted you could walk down the sidewalk while drinking outside.
(That’s illegal in Ohio with a few exceptions for special outdoor events.)
Too, there was a small beer stand near my house. It had two alcohol vending machines. I sat outside often in the summer after work drinking and chatting with a few Japanese old guys. Some of those dudes were there as early as 6:30 a.m.
(I saw them as I rode my bicycle to work each morning.)
Bad livers aside, my first English teaching job ended five years later. I had to clean and move out of my school-provided apartment.
There was loose change all over my house. I had a good size bucket of it after I threw away five years of junk from apartment.
GGG TIP: START CLEANING EARLY IF YOU PLAN ON LEAVING JAPAN. IT TAKES FOREVER.
The local bank refused to accept most of my spare change. The bank teller said it was “too dirty…” So, I took it back home and I washed it. And, I returned to the bank the next day. This time the bank manager said, “Some of the coins are still wet…”
(They were “damp” at best. But, I digress.)
So, I again carried my change-filled bucket back towards my house. There were several of the regular old guys sitting on blue benches in front of the beer vending machines. That frigging bucket was getting heavy, so I put it down on the ground.
I grabbed a handful of coins from my big bucket. And, I bought a tall can of beer. One super old man laughed at my change-filled bucket. I had known him for years.
WELL, I “KNEW” HIM AS SOMEONE WHO DRANK EVERY DAY AT THAT BEER STAND OR THE LOCAL STANDING BAR.
(The same family owns the two places.)
I pulled out some change, and I bought him a Japanese whiskey. He thanked me. And, I saw another old guy salivating for a drink. And, I pulled out more change from my bucket, and I bought a “One Cup” sake for him.
(It’s like the go-to drink for old Japanese men.)
Now, I am not sure how word got out, but soon there were 20 Japanese old guys sitting around those beer vending machines. I spent the next two hours chucking change from my bucket into those old vending machines.
It was awesome!
WE DRANK UNTIL THE VENDING MACHINES WERE EMPTY.
(All told, I spent about $250 USD. I should have cleaned my apartment more often!)
Amazingly, I left that town more than seven years ago. To this day, every single time I meet those old guys, one of them buys me a drink. Sadly, a few of the older guys of that group have passed away. That makes me sad, but, it was not unexpected.
BARS AREN’T EXACTLY HEALTH CLUBS.
Father Time aside, I realize some change; at least, like the kind in my bucket long ago is a good thing, especially when it sparks life-long friendships. And; of course, when it leads to:
“JAPANESE WHISKY FOR MY OLD JAPANESE MEN, BEER FOR MY EXPATS.”
Grey, Grizzled, and Gaijin