Ever since I enlisted in the army in 1964 I’ve been a beer drinker. I’ve spent a lot of time in bars. I still do although I do less drinking because too much beer will bring on an attack of the gout. (I’m not on any medications for anything and I want to keep from taking medicine for the gout for as long as possible.) So, why do people drink? Why do they spend so much time in bars?
I think I drink for two reasons. I have too much time on my hands and I enjoy the camaraderie of a friendly bar. As I get older and drink less I find I suffer more from boredom and I’m more isolated. All my friends drink. I move in a circle of drinkers. Being unemployed doesn’t help. If I had a job I’d have less time on my hands and would have a different social circle. So I continue to improve my computer office skills at the employment and training center and I continue to go on job interviews not only because I need a job (money) but because I need to fill my time with productive work in a non-drinking environment.
When I was in grad school at Pitt between 2003-2006 there was one class where all of us new fiction writing students were asked to say a few words about our writing. When my turn came I said that I had noticed about fifteen years before, when I was still struggling to find my voice and subject matter, how much drinking my characters did and how much time they spent in bars. This got a knowledgeable laugh from the class. I went on to say that although a writer’s stories will often reflect his or her life I realized all the drinking (mainly beer) had to mean something. In fiction people don’t drink just to drink. And so the drinking in my stories had become a metaphor for something else.
My characters drank to kill loneliness, boredom and emotional pain. They drank in the hopes of bonding with someone or to be a part of a community even if it was for only a few fleeting hours. They drank to remember and they definitely drank to forget. A lot of them drank in order to bare the pain. Beer allowed them to have a good time.
Which brings us back to why I drink. I drink beer because it allows me to have a good time even if I’m alone.