There’s something so satisfying about the word “booze.”
It’s everything you want to drink and everything your mother wishes you wouldn’t. It’s the perfect word for that sweet sip of naughtiness, the ultimate descriptor for a legal drug readily available to anyone with a couple of bucks over the age of 21 (at least here in the puritanical states), but with a bevy of rules and caveats that keep it semi-illicit until the administration of last rites, which should preferably be delivered with a parting gulp of a thick cabernet sauvignon.
“Alcohol?” Too sterile. Use it to disinfect a scapula, to grimace through cleaning a wound or to mix with chromic acid to make acetone, whatever that means.
“Liquor?” It sounds like something your grandfather keeps locked away. Or a rhyming joke from grade school. Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker, William Wonka said, and I’d just as quickly be done with the whole word.
“Beer?” Love it; it’s right there in my name. But it can be a bit boorish. Beer is for drinking in pitcher quantities during football games. Beer is for obsessing over in Brooklyn pubs. Beer is the accidental outcome of an attempt to preserve grain from a phalanx of fuzzy nomads who were still weighing the benefits of calling a place “home.”
Beer is good. But beer is no “booze.”
Booze is hearing whispered secrets from a friend — who is undergoing the process of becoming a best friend — while surrounded by a symphony of cicadas around a smoldering log. Booze is a shared memory between two teenagers falling in love over a bottle of pear-flavored zinfandel on a bedroom floor. Booze coats the underbelly of society, romanticized by poets and novelists yet feared and disdained by those who are accosted for change for bus fare.
It’s a quick swig before stepping foot in front of a crowd. It’s the first swallow among many to drown out unspeakable grief.
Booze is between you and God, or whoever you talk to when nobody else is around.
Perhaps not coincidentally, a thorough pull of communion wine can make the leap to booze if one’s intentions are in the right, or wrong, place.
In fact, anything can be booze given the circumstances. A fine whisky tasted from a Glencairn glass from a leather chair is not booze. That same whisky devoured on a college campus in honor of a beloved professor most certainly is. A motor oil stout poured at a celebration of regional beers certainly isn’t booze. The same beer split clandestinely between dirty glasses in the dark corner of a bar becomes booze. A Bordeaux — poured by the master sommelier who tended to the grapes and crushed their skins and waited years for them to mature — is the farthest from booze one can get. Yet the same wine, drunk spitefully from the bottle in an airport security line, is transformed into the booziest booze in the world.
Booze includes the word “ooze” and yet carries none of the yuckiness but all of the sleaziness. Good booze isn’t oozy. A floozy may be boozy, or even oozy, but he or she doesn’t have to be.
The “B” and “Z” sounds create a seedy cacophony that Art Basel, Baz Luhrmann and Biz Stone have all benefited from, though likely not consciously. I’m certain the Byzantines drank a lot of booze.
Not all drinks are booze. Booze resists definition but is unmistakable to those imbibing in it.
Booze is the king of all drinks and I raise a glass to your next one.
My favorite booze is a Molson Canadian out of Keeley’s parents’ fridge, consumed on the floor of their kitchen with my brother-in-law at 1 a.m. But that’s a rare one. My second favorite is anything consumed on a public street in Europe. That’s even rarer. So I’ll just go with a Miller High Life right at 5:31 p.m. That’s the stuff.
P.S. This newsletter continues to be a formatic experiment. I think I’ll do something a little more traditional next time. Thanks again for sticking with it.