This is the last column I write for this fine paper, so screw it. I’m going to write about something I really like, and, if you know me at all, something you probably really like, too.
I’m going to write about drinking.
Personally, I believe the maturation of my alcohol choices provides as (whiskey) neat a metaphor for my senior column as anything else. As I’ve grown up and matured, as my personality has been molded by life experiences and classroom seminars and stories I’ve reported and written, my drink orders have likewise grown up. Learning how to drink like a man has been an important life skill—it’s been something I’ve had to learn from observation, internal and external, and it’s something I’ve learned by broadening my horizons, treating others with respect and listening to the advice and suggestions of those more informed than me.
Knowing what I know now, how could I responsibly go out in the world with what I drank freshman year?
Freshman year was warm Busch Light, handed out by bleary-eyed guys at section parties. It was handles of Crat, bought with fake IDs and smuggled into Randolph through Jansport backpacks, to be surreptitiously sipped with OJ while playing beer pong as quietly as possible on dressers shoved together in the middle of our cell-like rooms. Drinking then was still adventurous. It was a sign of maturity, a break from the parents for the first time. It made us feel like grown-ups.
Of course, we didn’t know what the hell we were doing with our lives, with the fears about where we were going that we harbored inwardly—fears that were outwardly shown by how we poorly handled our booze. This was the time when you could shotgun two beers, throw your arm around your hallway neighbor of three weeks and say with a straight face, “For real, though, bro—you’re my best friend here.” This was when you actually thought section parties were fun. Cluelessness reigned. No one knew anything.
How could I go out knowing what I knew sophomore year? We thought it was so clutch that the Busch Light at the section parties was cold, because we got to drink it first. It was when Tailgate was at its peak—when the older fraternity guys designated us to set it up, and told us when we were upperclassmen the sophomores would do it for us (haha!), and so we needed a shot of something strong to rise out of bed at 9 in the a.m. for our temporary duties. They may have been fun, but they didn’t teach us anything about how to drink in the real world. We were still idiots. Our destruction was a form of widespread cumulative disrespect.
I surely couldn’t graduate with junior year’s knowledge. I turned 21, and I thought this meant Durham was truly open to me—at least, the Durham that I thought was Durham. This Durham was Shooters on Wednesdays, with pong balls that hit the grimy floors way too often. It was Devine’s on Thursday, with its wonderfully economical four-dollar tall boys. It was repeating the same things week after week after week. It was also fun. But it wasn’t experiencing anything new.
And then came senior year, when I began to really get it.
I started checking out the Pinhook, and by extension, the rest of downtown Durham. After my Friday classes, I occasionally would have a cocktail at 604, and I got to know the staff there. I drank wine at West End with my parents, I sampled most of the beers on tap at the Fed and the Joyce, I had a brunch Bloody Mary or two at Alivia’s. I began to listen to the old-timers at Sam’s, and to buy the beers at the front rather than just instinctively going for the cases in the back. I began to learn how to treat bartenders right, to know their names, to know how to tip them and to not yell at them for a drink like that typical Duke douchebag when they couldn’t hear me. I went to Duke events in the Gardens and at the library and on the quad, first for the promise of booze on food points, but then because I genuinely liked seeing my whole school coming together in a single community.
And during senior year, everything I learned at Duke really came together, all over a single nightcap. Before the last night of finals week, with an Islamic history final coming on the last possible exam block, my friend Ben and I were marooned at Duke, seemingly the last two guys left on campus studying at Lilly. We left the library late the final night and began to trek home, mentally drained and in need of a stress-reliever. We took a detour at Devine’s before heading home, and ordered two Jameson’s on the rocks.
And as we sat there at the bar in its final 15 minutes open, I pondered the route I had taken, from wide-eyed clueless freshman to a 22-year-old man, with a degree on the horizon, the knowledge to enter the real world confidently and a group of friends I care for deeply and would die for if need be.
That drink tasted perfect.
Andy Moore is a Trinity senior. He is an associate editor of Towerview and former sports editor of The Chronicle. He promises he did a lot more in college than drink.