Sunday, September 6

All Quiet on the Tavern Front

Betty Fat Stacks rides again. 

The first time I joined a fantasy football league was two years ago. Although I wasn't new to football, I was very new to drafting, rosters, injuries, stats, and acronyms other than "NFL" and "NFC." But I was no stranger to talking shit on the internet, so the opportunity to join a bunch of young dads from my IT job in a virtual arena of trash talk and Tim Tebow jokes was something I couldn't turn down.

Draft Day was a Friday afternoon at the office. We carefully set up our laptops next to bottles of Grain Belt and pizza from Papa John's because we reached a general consensus that the draft would be incomplete without tiny plastic containers of garlic sauce. We drank most Friday afternoons at that job, and I was usually the first person to volunteer to go on a beer run with the corporate credit card. I'm not going to say it enabled my drinking problem, but it seemed to go hand-in-hand with my already established habit of tying one on while it was still light out. That's how most of the 2013 football season progressed: talking shit on Saturdays, drinking on Sundays, and being hungover on Mondays. 

And then I got laid off. The league dissolved because most of the teams in the league belonged to sad dads losing their jobs. We didn't even have to pay the buy-in cost. Even though I was no longer a part of the league, I was drinking at home like I was. I would still watching my stats during the week. Teams started becoming defunct due to important players left in during a bye week or after an injury. With my severance in my bank account, I was free to drink at home and talk shit on the internet to anyone who would listen. The guy I was dating at the time sure didn't give a shit, but maybe some distant internet strangers would feel for me, the girl who got first pick in her first year of fantasy football but no longer had a team, a job, or a boyfriend. 

Winter was inclement. The days were getting shorter, and I was guzzling from the government teat each week to drink whisky and cheap beer. The need to go outdoors lessened with no employment and a less fervor for comedy. When I did venture out, I was drinking in a place that had both beer and football. Last Thursday, I was at a show in Shoreline. I arrived early to eat dinner and watch the last preseason Seahawks game against the Oakland Raiders. As soon as I walked in, I felt it. The establishment I had just stepped into for the first time was a dead ringer for a bar I would have been caught drinking in. Everything from the smell to the stickiness on the floor, the burned out neon signage, the four kinds of frozen pizza available, the outdated beer coasters, the same 20 classic rock songs playing out of crunchy speakers with frayed wires, the regulars pouring out of their jobs and into the abyss. Everything about that bar told me to drink, to throw a challenge flag on my sobriety and bench my recovery. After all, I had spent years in places like that and it was where I was comfortable, safe, and alone.

But I didn't. I sat at the bar and worked on my set list for the evening. I looked up at the football game when fans became audibly distraught or excited. I drank my club soda and lime out of a glass that could be mistaken for a gin and tonic, or vodka tonic if you're a total monster. I texted friends, reaching out to say I was "itchy but determined." I knew I wasn't going to drink, but I needed some stepping stones in place to make sure I would succeed. I crushed my set, made some new friends, and drove home sober like I had planned. 

This coming Wednesday is my second fantasy football draft in two years. I was able to join a league with a few other comedians and staff from the Tacoma Comedy Club. I've been looking at rosters and trades and free agents and rookies and such and such. Every so often, another activity or place appears that used to be synonymous with alcohol. I didn't realize how bad it got last season. I blacked out during the Super Bowl and threw up so I could drink more after I blacked in, spent hours upon hours at Buffalo Wild Wings just for the domestic drink specials, drove home after watching games all day knowing I was well over the legal limit, made friends with other drunk fans only to not remember them until the next day when I saw photos I had taken with them, drank too much at local bars only to not have a way home until someone I knew happened to stumble upon stumbling me, and made a complete ass out of myself on numerous occasions, usually every time I drank. One drink always meant eight for me. I used up my drinking privileges. I hit my quota of drinks, bad decisions, and penalties. I need to make it through football season sober. But in reality, I just need to get through today. I don't need to prove it to others, just myself. 

I used to love everything about this (except for the Steeler's fans). 

Just like when I lost my job, the days are getting shorter and the weather is noticeably cooler. In the coming months, I'll have to face my birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, numerous family gatherings, and Christmas to get through sober. These events and scenarios that weren't fun or worthwhile without alcohol, and I am determined to survive this part of the year, the part of the year where things started to become drastically sour the year before. 

I'm hoping that going through a less severe winter in Seattle will help my recovery. It got bad in Minnesota. Really bad. There were some weeks where the only time I left the house was to go to the liquor store. I realized the other day, while trying to replace a pair of shoes, that now I can just buy shoes. I don't have to buy shoes just for the summer, or just for the winter. I can buy a pair of shoes and wear them whenever the fuck I want. This realization wasn't exactly an upside to sobriety, but an unforeseen positive spin that reaffirmed that moving back home was a good decision. All for the sake of shoes. Seattle's winter is going to be wet, dreary, but not unforgiving. I'll need to layer up and get a good pair of rainboots to protect myself. And I think that's really all I'm trying to do: protect myself. In early sobriety, I was taught not to rent space in my mind to negative people or feelings. I try my best to accomplish this every day, and I usually fail. Alcohol took away my invincibility cloak, my protector, my shield, and I never want to take it off again. 

On a completely different note: I saw "A Walk in the Woods" yesterday with the family. And holy shit, was it disappointing. A movie based on two friends hiking the Appalachian Trail, "A Walk in the Woods" was originally a book written by Bill Bryson, one of my favorite writers I've ever come across in my reading career. I was introduced to the book in 1998 upon its publication because my dad designed the cover along with nature photographer Art Wolfe. 

Nice work, dad!

Every member of my family read the tale of Bill and his clumsily spontaneous and alcoholic friend, Stephen Katz, and their hiccuppy adventure from Georgia to somewhere in Virginia. And I'm determined to not make this into a "the book was better than the movie" review, but for fuck's sake, trying to capture Bill Bryson's stories onto film is a useless endeavor. His cheeky wording and descriptions are what make Bryson's books so entertaining. But casting two aging Hollywood actors (Redford and Nolte) who are supposed to be in their forties was a huge mistake. Nick Offerman even made a short appearance, and because Hollywood is known for typecasting, he went from his job at the parks department in Pawnee, Indiana to an REI employee somewhere in New Hampshire. I also learned that Emma Thompson and Natasha Richardson are not the same person. In any case, the movie was hugely disappointing. A number of themes, important totems, and imagery in the book didn't make the cut to appear on the big screen. The acting was notable in some areas, probably because Redford and Nolte are two old farts who are infinitely familiar with the industry. It's like even they knew that the movie wasn't going to be great. On a score of 1-10, I'm going to give it a strong 4. 

Hey, Bill. How do we get out of this movie?

I shouldn't bitch. The story is really great, but fell flat on its face. It's always so impressive to me when the written word can describe so much more than a moving piece of film. Bill Bryson also wrote a book titled "A Short History of Nearly Everything," a concise but informative and entertaining read about evolution, astronomy, time and space, zoology, nature, and science, all with Bill's cheeky undertones. It truly is a short history of nearly everything, everything we've known or encountered. It's because of that book that I know "mastodon" means "nipple teeth." Out of all the useless facts I've mentally gathered over the years, I'll always remember that one. 

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