I have always liked science. Especially experiments. I had a chemistry set at a early age. Also a microscope with plenty of slides. I had discovered that you can see red blood cells with the microscope. It was just a matter of collecting some blood. Anytime I cut myself by accident I would rush to the telescope and prepare a slide. If there was a long interval between blood letting I would ask mom or dad for some blood. Most of the time they would not agree to this, but once in a while I would score.
In the summer of 1968 I discovered alcohol. It actually began in the later part of school year 1967/1968. In science class we had learned about solutions mixtures and reactions. Wine for example. Grapes ferment and you get alcohol. Now if you take a bottle or Welch’s grape juice, some sugar, and some yeast you have all you need to make wine. Rot gut wine. But wine nonetheless. It’s easy. You take a medium sized pot. You poor the grape juice into the pot and warm it to about 120°F. Then add a cup of sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Then add a packet of brewer’s yeast and stir until dissolved. Then you cover it with cheese cloth and put it up out of the way for around 40 to 50 days. I did so in the basement on shelves under the stairs.
2 or 3 months pass and I began to wonder how my wine was doing. I went down in the basement and took the pot down from the shelf and removed the cheesecloth covering the concoction. I noticed scum floating on top so I strained the stuff through the cheesecloth and using a funnel, poured the liquid back into the Welch’s grape juice bottle.
It was summer and mom and dad were both at work so I thought today would be a good day to try tasting my wine experiment. I took the bottle of homemade wine down from the shelf in the basement and put it down on the work bench under the basement stairs and removed the cap from the bottle. I took a big whiff of the stuff. It had a very strong and inviting aroma. I took the bottle and headed upstairs and put the bottle down on the kitchen breakfast nook table.
Okay. So now would be a good time to try the wine as both of my parents were at work. I had no idea what to expect, so I turned up the bottle and drank it all down. It was not easy as it went down. It kept trying to come back up! I did not know this about alcohol. It always tries to come back up! Well anyway I got it all down so I went into the garage, got on my mini bike, and headed out across the Beaumont drive retention pond and across Wattles road and over into the big field where we rode motorcycles and in the winter rode sleds.
The next thing I knew I was on the ground at the bottom of the big sledding hill. I could see my mini bike next to me on it’s side with engine still running roughly and the back drive wheel turning slowly. I tried to get up but could not. I finally managed to get into a sitting position and reached over and turned off the sputtering engine of my mini bike.
What was this?! Is this what it was like to drink wine? I did not like it! The world was spinning around and I could not get up! I tried to get up again and failed. So I layed there and closed my eyes. This made it worse. I began to spin even faster.
I felt a growing uneasiness deep in my stomach and in a few moments this uneasiness turned to full fledged sickness as I turned and emptied my stomach on the grass. This was terrible! I never liked throwing up and I always tried to avoid it. Another wave of nausea came over me and up came more wine up from within me.
It took awhile. It seemed like hours. However I managed to stand up on wobbly legs and get on my mini bike. I started the engine and began to ride back home. It seemed like hours to get home and I fell a few times in route.
At last I made it home. I parked my mini bike in the garage and stumbled into the house. I felt bad. Real bad! I never wanted to experiment with alcohol again! And I had just remembered somthing.
Today when my parents got home from work we were off to a piano recital. Oh God! How was I going to do that! I could hardly walk or even remember my own name. I thought maybe a shower would help so I stripped of my clothes and jumped into the shower. The warm water felt good pouring over my enebrated body. I threw up once more in the shower, got out and got dressed and climbed into my bed.
I awoke to mom’s face staring down at me. She asked me why I was in bed and to get ready to leave for the recital. I told her I was just tired and okay I was ready to go. I discovered that my head ached when I stood up. This was not at all what I had expected wine drinking to be! However my inebriation seemed to go unnoticed. I dare not tell my mother that I did not feel well and that I did not want to go to the recital. I knew that if I did this it would rouse suspicion and further inspection. I must attend! So I dressed in my suit and got ready for the recital.
So off we went to downtown Battle Creek to the recital. I had memorized Anita’s Dance for the recital and I hoped my memory would not fail me. I looked at the program. I was 7th or 8th down the list. I remember sitting there with my parents, waiting in agony as my head throbbed to the rhythm of my beating heart.
At last my turn came. I made my way to the grand piano, sat down, and collected my thoughts. It was all still there. The music came out of me effortlessly albeit a bit painful. The weeks of practice had paid off and my muscles had learned what to do, and made the proper responses so the music flowed out even as my brain experienced pain.
All in all the experience deadened my desire for alcohol. Not to say that over my life I have not got extremely drunk. Curb kissing, commode hugging drunk if you will. However these instances have been few and very very far between.