Haven’t thought about this story in quite some time. It’s strange how some memories just remain hidden for years and years and something usually unintentional and meaningless will bring back a flood of recollection.
In this particular story, I couldn’t have been older than 18, and although I grew up on a horse farm and had many essential life skills at my disposal, I certainly had never developed any skills related to drinking, or more accurately: beer. Knew nothing about it. Growing up with a heavy Christian faith influence pushed me in the direction of believing alcohol of any kind was something so bad that only the devil himself would dare go near it. So thats what my position on booze was. Strange eh? The closest I had been to being drunk was eating too many of my grandmother’s kidney bean shaped brandy chocolates at family christmas. Oh and another time i had a sip of red wine and thought I had just drank paint thinner.
I had been 18 for about five months and was about to embark on my second North American tour, this time just a quick run to Vancouver and Nelson BC and then about a month rambling on around America’s south west, playing shows to small crowds and driving for endless hours. In this particular story, we were just getting started. Just over a week into the whole trip, we were scheduled to play Portland on this fateful eve. We rolled up to the venue and to our unanimous elation, our band’s name was on the marquee! This was a huge first, something we had never experienced, like: people actually CARE that we’re playing a show here? Unfathomable.
We load in our gear and look around the venue with wide eyes and overly positive attitudes (keep in mind we were all 20 or younger and this was our second real tour, exciting stuff). We then meet the other band on the show, a local rock group that seemed to have a fairly big following. The way it worked back then was either the touring band headlined, or the more popular local band would headline. In this scenario, I guess we were headlining, which meant a whole lot of people were gonna be disappointed without redemption from another band playing after us.
All of us were under 21 on this tour, and not that it really mattered that much, no one was a big drinker and we hadn’t had any real problems yet, considering we played in bars half the time. When asked about our ID cards upon entering a bar or venue, we had it down to a science. We would launch into a story about the Canada/US border, and how strict they are. Followed by the classic line: “ya man, at the border they actually take your passports now, and don’t return them until you cross the border again.” Which was clearly a lie, but surprisingly out of maybe 20 bar managers we told that to, they never once questioned it any further. Which actually blows my mind, WHY would the border take our passports?
Portland was no exception to our fabricated web of lies and to no ones surprise it worked on this bar manager swimmingly. So we play our shitty set consisting of maybe 6 shitty songs and certainly gave it our all when it came to ridiculous stage antics to hopefully distract people from the fact that our songs weren’t exactly winning a Grammy any time soon. But hey, at least our name was on the sign right?
While loading out our gear, the local band guys came up and asked what our plan for the night was. OF course hadn’t thought this far and of course we were just going to sleep in the van as per usual. They invited us to join them in the bar section for a drink. We oblige. Some of us anyway. So there I am, sitting in a wooden booth in a bar that I’m sure has been around for decades and has seen countless groups play here and I am experiencing it for the very first time. It just so happens that on this fateful night, the drink special was $1 pints of PBR (years later I would come to the realization that is the definition my own personal heaven).
“What the fuck is PBR?” I defensively ask, literally knowing absolutely nothing about the world of booze. The table laughs at my immature but innocent question and at that very moment, a server dropped off a platter of the $1 pints for all of us. One gets pushed my way, and I raise it to my lips to take my first sip of beer ever. Confused by the basic idea that we are drinking beer from basically big glass cups, a norm that was so foreign to me, I take my first drink of Pabst Blue Ribbon Lager. I choked, swallowed, and tried my very best to pretend nothing was wrong. Through my eyes welling up with tears and coughing like I was dying, I nonchalantly set the pint down and acted as if I had done this a thousand times before, which I clearly did not pull off well…
“Interesting” I cough out as I attempt to regain my dignity. Following this first sip, I continue to take small, barely bearable sips until my first pint ever had been drained. Hallelujah. What time to be alive. We order another round. What I’m explaining here is literally the first time I ever participated in a bar/nightlife activity as an actual drinker. And it was exciting. The second round arrives and I eagerly claim my pint, ready to understand why on earth people drank this stuff. I didn’t mind the carbonation (I was a soda freak at the time) but I couldn’t get past the taste, it was like extremely cold and bitter dirt.
Around the time the third round was dropped off, the guitar player from the local band offered his place for us to stay that night. Which is always amazing, because it basically means everyone will get to shower and not have to sleep on van seats. So we pay our ridiculously cheap bill and get in our van, following the other band to their palace for the night. It began to rain, and I found myself completely hypnotized by the streams of water running across the window, illuminated by the dim street lights. Literally imagine me, sitting there with my hand on the window watching the rain like an idiot and probably saying “Wowww” every 30 seconds. With 3 pints of PBR coursing through my veins I felt as though I was experiencing something I had seen a million times, for the first time. Then, I had to remove my small suitcase from the trailer, which Im sure looked hilarious, completely new to this weird buzz I was feeling, almost falling over and struggling with pretty simple tasks. I remember walking down the alley to this dudes house and couldn’t quite figure out why on earth my suitcase felt so heavy. Turns out I had been dragging it for about a block on its side, not the side with the wheels. I struggle some more as I climb the steps to the apartment, and once inside I collapse on the couch (my bed for the night) and passed out with a smile on my face... And that was the first time I tried PBR.