I wasn't much of a party guy in high school. I staunchly defended my "I don't need to get high, I get high on life" style to anyone who would listen. A good portion of this defense was, to paraphrase Marx, centered in my fear of actually becoming a part of any group that would have me as a member. Instead, I generated my own mythos as comic relief for the world. Little did I know that I was creeping along a path that had already been worn by my father a generation before.
I have a clear memory of the first party I threw: a Halloween bash in my parents' basement. It was a dry affair, partly because my parents were waiting upstairs to usher my costumed guests in and out, but also because I had somehow gathered a group of like-minded individuals as my friends, and the idea of sneaking around getting wasted was lost on us. It never occurred to us that sitting around in a room full of like-minded individuals could become boring or tense after that initial ice has been broken. Dropping that ice into a cocktail and giving it a stir was something that many of our contemporaries were busy doing even as we gathered around my Atari 2600 to play yet another highly competitive game of Breakout.
I have another memory, one that came from a time shortly after that All Hallow's Eve, in which I drove out to a friend's house in Heatherwood, a much more prototypical suburban spot, where the parents had left for the weekend, and the kids had the run of the place. There was no Atari at this soiree. But there were girls. People, some of the same guys who were there in my basement just a few weeks before, brought dates. And the lighting wasn't as good. I don't recall if there was any drinking going on, but I know I didn't have any. I was still clinging righteously to my drug-free existence. I know that I was incredibly ill at ease. Conversations seemed to be filled with a code I did not comprehend. I looked for a friendly face, and found one as soon as I began to rip liberally from the most recent episode of "Mork and Mindy." I became The Funniest Man In The Room. Little did I know, at the time, that part of what made Robin Williams the funniest man in his room on any given day was the snoot full of cocaine he maintained.
Fast forward to New Year's Eve of that same year, and the more mature and refined gathering I had talked my parents into letting me host in that same basement. The guest list was similar, and there was Breakout to be played, but at midnight, I had convinced my mother and father that it would not be a fitting celebration without champagne. Andre Champagne. It was this swill that enabled my first drunk, in what would become a series that stretched through the Reagan administration and into the Bush years. I found witty and charming after the first few drinks, and then proceeded to move straight on to babbling incoherence just after the new year rang in.
The cork was out of the bottle, and I didn't know how to put it back in.