Unprompted: Stay Away From the Orange Vodka 

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As the year comes to an end, be thankful that you’re still around to observe it because lots of people aren’t. We like to say they’re in a better place, but we don’t really know that. It’s just something we like to say. There’s a tendency to believe what we want to believe. That’s why there are so many bad ideas floating around.

I am thankful to be here because, well, because I don’t know what happens when I’m not. Not knowing is scary. But mostly it’s because my family alleges that they still want me. If they didn’t, that might be something difficult to deal with.

I have reached the age when I scan the obits in the paper and think things like: “I beat him.” It’s like a game. Bet I can live longer than you. But why? It’s better to live a good life to 60 than stumble around another 10 or 20 years with no particular purpose. Either way this is a time to become philosophical. I guess.

Oh well, New Year’s Eve is coming up and some of us will drink it away until the wee hours of the morning. We’ll make New Year’s resolutions and vow to keep them. But few of us will. Rarely does one change what he or she is simply because of a date, or any other reason for that matter. We are who we are. We consistently fail to live up to our own dreams.

When I was a teenager, about 412 years ago, my friends and I prepared for a New Year’s Eve party to end all parties. None of us had done anything significant in the year past and had no particular plans to change that in the year ahead. But it was New Year’s Eve, and that meant an excuse to get really stupid. An older friend acquired the orange vodka we would need, and although I’d never drunk hard liquor, it was time. We drank it as if it were Kool-Aid, and it almost was … the Jim Jones kind. (Google it). In very little time I passed out and was thrown into a cold shower, as if that would help. I don’t recall the rest of the night, but for some reason none of us died.

This foolishness could have been fatal if not from the vodka, then from my father, a fundamentalist Baptist preacher. The Old Testament gives frequent instructions on when and how to kill people, infidels mostly, of which I was. Dad had all the scriptural foundation he needed to stone me to death, but as I said I was already stoned and he never found out. Since that night I haven’t had a serious drink. The experience dried me out. To this day I detest alcohol.

Most New Year’s Eve parties will be carried out by younger people who don’t know one year from the next. But some of us will wish everyone well and go to bed early. There will be no drunken driving citations for Gene because Gene will not be in a car, he will be asleep.

It can be very relaxing to be an old fuddy duddy. One avoids the risky behavior that’s so common this time of year and therefore the risk that it entails. The only dangerous thing on my schedule is turning out the lights and going to sleep. Lots of people slip away to the happy hunting grounds during the night. If that happens, so be it. I will go thankful for the good years and not worry about the ones I won’t see. You young people will have to take care of that. But be careful. Too much celebration of nothing can be hazardous to your health.

But if there is a New Year’s resolution, break with tradition and aim for something you can actually do. Then next year make the same resolution again, because the chances are it will still be out there for you.

I have lots of advice for young people, mostly stuff that I ignored when I was young. With that in mind, I will avoid suggesting anything, except for one bit of wisdom: Whatever you do, stay away from the orange vodka.

It is awful stuff. S

Gene Cox is an author and inventor who recently retired from a 35-year career as a television anchor in Richmond. Connect with him at letters@styleweekly.com, or on Twitter at genecoxrva.

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