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July 12, 2018

32 years.


On July 12, 1986, around 1:30 AM EST, on 14 F Street N.W., I had my last drink. Probably a beer--likely a Heineken. But no one really knows. I still miss beer. Like right now. By "last drink" I mean my last beer, Bass Ale, Guinness, Jameson, Scotch, Bourbon, vodka, Bombay gin, red wine, hooch or intoxicant of any kind. Where this happened was a wonderfully depraved Irish bar my friends--i.e. cocky litigators, journalists, Hill workers, network news people, and serious degenerates with serious jobs--and I really loved. It was midway between my house on Capitol Hill and my job on Eye Street. Like all Washington, D.C. bars, it had straight-up trial lawyers, deal lawyers, politicians, writers, students, professors, diplomats, and a novelist or two. But this was no fern bar. It was whispered that the IRA raised money and ran guns through the place. It was common to see people in suits asleep on the floor. The waiters and waitresses had brogues from places like Tralee and Cork. The day bartenders were belligerent, and usually drunk by noon.

Perfect venue for a last drink Or for any Celtic Romp. Dark, drafty, smoky, bent, horny, Satanic. In the off-limits basement, on some Saturday nights you could catch Eugene McCarthy in poet mode with a few admirers. On others, that basement was empty and dark and unlocked. You told regulars like Whorehouse Mary or that drunk Congressman’s wife to meet you there in 10 minutes. As a goof, we told tourists that Kelly’s was a reasonably-priced "family" restaurant, where everyone sang wholesome songs on weekend nights around midnight, when the entire operation was an alcoholic nightmare for even the people who worked there. Sometimes mail order sex dolls filled with helium would float from table to table. (So oh yeah be sureUnlike most Irish bars, Kelly’s rarely had drunken fights. But daily there were odd scenes: like word-slurring diplomats dressed in bathrobes and cowboy hats, and reckless pols with Irish surnames openly fondling au pair girls named Brigit or Maeve. Or an editor of a D.C. newspaper furiously charging in from the summer humidity to "claim" his wife, and seeming to grip a small firearm. No one really noticed him. In 5 minutes something else would happen. This was our bar. These things happened.

So the venue I had chosen was spot on. Despite my mission early that morning, the place was still somehow exciting and irreverent. A remarkable slice of Washington. Unheard of. I would miss it. But there was nothing remarkable about why I quit. No huge losses yet (sure, I could see them coming). I had a great job, and was headed toward a partnership. My childhood had been lucky--and fun. I could not have asked for more loving parents, siblings and friends. Nothing to drink about. I just liked it way too much. Born different, I guess. It isolated me, even with people around. That isolation, and knowing that drinking had somehow separated me from the rest of the Universe, was enough. It's a lucky, and unusual, break to have that suddenly hit you. Sure, it's hard to quit doing something you love, and nine out of ten times you're pretty good at--even if it's killing you. You may experience for the first time "exclusion", albeit a somewhat self-imposed one. You're still a boring white collar WASP--but finally in a real minority. You never thought that would happen. You feel left out. But you learn a few things, too.

I still miss beer, almost every day. Yet lots of people, including adventuresome trial lawyers or reporters with one dash of the wrong DNA, do finally give up booze, drugs or whatever else controls their life, so they can tap into and use the gifts they have--and grow. I was lucky. Not to just wake up--but to have the problem in the first place. If you hit it head on, you grow in ways you would never grow if you did not have "it". That is what people can never get. And they shouldn't. So I don't try to explain.

Born different, maybe. Born lucky, too.

Thanks Larry, Fritz, Ev Rose, Valerie, Helen--and Jeremiah Bresnahan.

Original post: July 12, 2008

Posted by JD Hull at July 12, 2018 12:59 AM


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