Yesterday was one of those days. Sun warmed the city like only it can do in San Francisco in October. Then as day headed to sleep, it and the moon conspired to bathe the city in a celebratory orange glow.
It was one of those days. The bitchen ones (to use my favorite old school word). The ones you wish could keep on going.
It was also a day that in the past would have been flavored with alcohol, or more accurately, defined by alcohol.
The Giants were playing in the World Series — the final game of the year at our neighborhood ballpark AT&T Park– and the festivities were underway early. The Giants are a rolling holiday in San Francisco. Few things match the intensity of the fan following, night in and night out. The entire city turns into a festive bar, aka Cheers, where everybody knows your name.
I wanted to be out in it, amid the jubilee. I wanted to experience it even if I couldn’t dream of paying $1,000 for a pair of nosebleed tickets.
The Bride and I wandered around the park, watching the tailgaters (sans tailgates) lining the waterfront and filling McCovey Cove, both on dry land and on the water itself.
We stood among the crush of people watching legendary ballplayers like Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson arrive.
(the true Home Run King… the other one, the Giant fraudulent home run king was also in attendance we learned from a tweet of him with Kanye and Kim Kardashian).
We dodged the lines to neighborhood eateries charging $10 cover with a velvet roped line of people waiting for entrance simply to watch the game on TV across from the park where it was being played.
Then we went to a neighborhood dive that we once loved, sitting on the bay, with good food and plenty of booze flowing. We used to drink a lot there and I hadn’t been back since I went into rehab.
We found a table and ordered. Club soda and a diet coke. We felt guilty, like our server would spit in the drinks. But she didn’t. She was nice. We ordered food and watched the first couple of innings.
The Bride asked me once if I was OK. It took me a moment to realize what she was asking. Did I feel triggered to drink was what she meant?
“I feel great,” I said. And I did.
The Bride said she still felt guilty holding down a table, so we ordered dessert. I tipped her generously. She really never complained. It was all in our head, the past irrationality coming back to life in a boozy setting: That somehow everyone else in the world drinks all the time just because we once did.
The Bride got caught up in watching some very loud people over in the bar area making very loud jokes to each other they alone thought were hilarious. She likes watching the theatrics. They remind her: There by the grace of God go we.
We found a couple standing in the way of the server around the 5th inning. We gave them our table, slipped out and walked home down the harbor. Back at our place we watched the rest of the game, a joyful 5-0 victory for the hometown nine.
I woke up this morning without a hangover. I ran through the still trash-strewn streets and smelled the faint odor of sour mash and old hops and urine that is distinctly urban after a big night. As the sweat worked its way up through my head I realized I had a great day and didn’t miss out on thing. In fact, the lack of alcohol enhanced the day in many ways, not the least the great feeling when my feet hit the floor after a restful night sleep.
I would have never thought the day would come when not only would I not miss alcohol on a big festive night, but actually be glad I didn’t drink anymore. Five years ago the thought would have been laughable, a punch line or a curse. Now it’s a simple truth.
Days go by and in them are some that I miss drinking more than others. Sometimes I feel its loss and sometimes I feel like I’m living just a bit compromised because of my own problems in the past.
But then more often than I not I think something different. Life is full, far more vast and colorful and beautiful than it ever was in my drinking days. I think, “I am blessed.” I know I’m not missing a damn thing.
Thoughts do change. They do indeed. So take it one day a time as they say, and let your thoughts catch up the sobriety you may only now be learning.
Because if you stay the course, I promise you, you too will think differently. You will see a better day.