Here is another essay I wrote and recorded as part of The GrantCast. The audio is below. If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast you can do so in iTunes, or by using this feed in your favorite podcatcher. Thanks for reading.
Jason on the Train Track
By Grant Baciocco
I don’t drink alcohol. I had to stop when I was a kid I would take sips of my dad’s beer and then go into my room and beat my toys.
That’s just a little joke.
But if you know me fairly well you know that I actually do not drink alcohol. I never have. Well that’s not entirely true. When I was a kid I do remember taking sips of my dad’s beer course refreshing. I can actually remember how it tastes outside of those quick steps though the only other time I’ve had alcohol was around the time I was in fifth grade and I went on a three day weekend trip with my family. My great grandmother, my great aunt, my grandparents (my dad’s parents), and both my dad’s sisters and their families. The Baciocco side of the family.
Now the Baciocco’s, most of them anyway, do not miss cocktail hour. They like their before dinner drinks and their during dinner drinks and I’m in no way saying that they were all a bunch of drunks. In fact, I can’t recall any of them getting plastered or anything or if anyone did the worst that ever happened was they fell asleep on the couch. Anyway, everyone had before dinner cocktails. It was all very, Mad Men.
We we’re staying in Carmel, California and it was the early afternoon, maybe three or four, and the kids were playing in the grown ups were serving cocktails. Now, being the oldest kid I was always a little bit more interested in what the adults were doing and seeing them all with drinks in their hands, I began begging my dad to mix me a drink as well. Eventually, I wore him down and he did.
Now, before you think of my father as a horrible parent, what he gave me was not much of a mixed drink. It was mostly water with, I believe, a tiny splash of scotch in it. I remember sipping it, thinking it tasted horrible, and then leaving it on the counter and going back and playing with the kids. That was my last direct contact with alcohol. I’ve never had a sip of the stuff since, but that was not the last time I would encounter alcohol because I was entering that time when, seemingly, all kids try it out for the first time if they haven’t already: high school.
Now I was not a “goody-goody” type kid in high school, not even remotely, but I did have some beliefs that I adhered to strongly. One of these beliefs was you’re not supposed to drink alcohol until you are twenty one. No exceptions. So it drove me crazy that kids in my high school lived for the weekends where they could go out and get drunk. It, to me back then anyway, the art of drinking expression we how I heard people did it seem so boring. So we’re all just going to go to someone’s house or Coyote Point, which was a small recreational area near the San Francisco Bay, and drink? And then what? I didn’t see the point. I’d rather be going to a movie or exploring San Francisco or doing just about anything else. Sitting around drinking just had no appeal to me. I wasn’t however vocally militant about it I didn’t go around saying, “You aren’t old enough to drink!” Even back then I felt people are free to do what they want to do. Of course this is the time in your life when peer pressure is super-super high and I felt when someone offered me alcohol me just saying, “No, I’m not into that.” was not enough. I felt I needed a reason why I didn’t drink. So, I invented an imaginary friend.
Now sitting here thinking about it I can’t quite remember what my imaginary friend’s name was. Possibly Jason. But he was a kid about my age who supposedly lived in Oregon near where my grandparents lived. This story was that I had met Jason while visiting my grandparents in Oregon when I was a little kid. Then, since I would go up there for two weeks every summer, we had sort of grown up together. Then when we were both freshman in high school, we had gone to a party and he had been drunk and passed out in the backseat of the car on the way back.
On the way home, the car stalled on…wait for it… some train tracks. Me and another friend, the driver, had started to walk to get help when we heard the train whistle. Jason was still in the back seat of the car when the train hit and that is why I don’t. Now, I don’t know if anybody believed that crap but that was my excuse and I stuck to it and I told everybody about it. Maybe, I thought it would convince someone else not to drink.
You know, I got so good at telling that story it even got me a good grade once. Once in my junior English class, we were given a writing test and the topic was: Write about someone who influenced your life. I wrote out the story of Jason on the train tracks. Our grades were posted and it was just a single sheet of printed paper with a grade next to our student numbers. Now, next to my student number, was the grade, I think it was like an A minus or B plus, because I don’t proofread or anything, so no straight A’s for me. But then, handwritten on the piece of paper, now this was the only thing handwritten on the paper were the words, “Powerful story is it true?” Anyway Jason on the train tracks became my excuse in high school.
When I got to college just about everybody drank and I found out that people don’t really care much if you don’t drink, so I didn’t. I had much better things to spend my money on in college comic books and Disneyana merchandise from when I worked at Disneyland. I was a dork.
I was a theater major and the theater department threw parties all the time and I would always show up with a big gallon jug of water. I’d happily drink from it throughout the rest the evening and that became I think people just expected me to show up with this big gallon jug of water.
After college I realized more and more that out in the real world people don’t really care if you drink at all. When I started doing comedy, I was around alcohol a lot, playing in bars and clubs in San Francisco and later in Los Angeles. But no one seemed to bat an eye when I said I just wanted to water.
The only time since college I found a large amount of pressure to drink was one time in the early 2000’s when I went on a road trip to Canada with two friends to follow the band the Barenaked Ladies on their Canadian tour one year. After one of the shows, the former lead singer Steven Page invited all three of us to go out to a bar with him and fellow band member Kevin Hearn. When we got there Stephen bought us all a beer. I took the beer but I passed it off to my friend Lisa. Who gladly accepted it because she knows that I don’t drink.
Another funny drinking story came years later in 2003 when I went to Tokyo to play some shows as part of the N.F.L. World Bowl. One night we went out to Roppongi, which is the nightclub district of Tokyo. At the time I was pretty much broke, and even though I was being well paid for this trip, I was not going to be paid until after I got back to the United States. Now Tokyo is expensive, very expensive, so I was on a super tight budget. Well, we walked around and we finally found a club to go into, the cover was twenty dollars, American. Ouch.
Once inside, I ordered a water. A bottle of water. Ten dollars, American and they brought me out the tiniest bottle of water you’ve ever seen. One of those real little ones in the plastic bottles. Well, it was pretty much gone immediately. A few minutes later the waitress comes by and says, “What can I get you next?”
And I said, “I’m fine thank you I had my water.”
She smiled and pointed at a sign on the wall, which read, “If you’re here, you need to be drinking.” So I sighed, ordered another water, and that tiny bottle of water lasted a good hour and a half.
To this day I still don’t drink. Not sure it’d be wise to start now. I certainly don’t mind if other people drink and I’ve hung out with lots of people who do. My biggest pet peeve in regards to drinking is when someone does something stupid and uses the excuse, “Oh excuse me, I’m sorry I was just drunk.” To me that’s not an excuse. Other than that, bottoms up!