The Aging Gunslinger

By Tardsie

The Gunslinger Sleeps With One Eye Open, Forever Waiting For The Younger Man With A Faster Gun He Knows Must Someday Come For Him.

I drank a lot when I was younger. Too much, I guess. I enjoyed the consciousness-altering aspect of  booze, and for a while, there was a novelty to getting fucked-up. When, as is the nature of novelty, it wore off, I found I didn’t drink so much anymore.

Some years later, it turned out that a co-worker of mine, John, was acquainted with some of my old college friends. My college friends regaled John with only the most debauched and asinine of my collegiate exploits. It was a somewhat incomplete picture of the person I had been as a youngster, and about a million miles from the reality of my life at that moment. Based largely on this erroneous image, John challenged me to a drinking contest at an upcoming office party.

A drinking contest? The idea was a loser from the get-go. I had largely put my boozing behind me, but John had kept himself in fighting trim.  This was a bet I was almost certain to lose.

It’s Hard To Pinpoint Any One Particular Reason I Stopped Drinking So Much.

Faced with this challenge today, I would have no problem begging off, using my lameness and general decrepitude as an excuse. But at twenty-five or so, I was still very much in the throes of a delayed adolescence, and my carefully crafted self-image would not allow me to ignore this challenge from a younger, stronger, faster predator. Moreover, I would have to go beyond merely showing up for John’s challenge; I could not simply shuffle complacently to my own ass-whipping. Not only did I have no choice but to accept, I had to win.

To assist me in this endeavor, I had a card up my sleeve worth a dozen battle-hardened livers, an advantage so pronounced as to change the course of battle even before the sound of the first shot: my exemplary cunning. John believed that the drinking contest would begin–and thus be won or lost–when we first took up our glasses. He was wrong.

“All right,” I said, showing him my game face, “Let’s do it. But I don’t want to pussy around, dude–if we’re gonna do this, let’s do it right: we’ll drink Jäger.”

Jäger Has Made My Life Immeasurably Richer Simply By Being In It, And I Don’t Care Who Knows It.

For those unfamiliar with the cough syrup-meets-black licorice charm of Jägermeister, the iconic kraut tipple is made from a variety of spices and despite being only 70 proof, has fostered a reputation for fucking your shit up. People spoke of Jäger in the breathless, quasi-mystic tones normally reserved for absinthe and peyote. Some people said it contained traces of deer blood, others opium. For whatever reason, I’ve never had a problem with Jäger, and consider its fearsome reputation to be entirely overblown.

But that reputation had precisely the effect I’d intended. Having proposed the wager, John could hardly refuse. He agreed, but with markedly less enthusiasm than when he first suggested it.  Jägermeister it would be.

I Heard About A Dude Who Named His Child–HIS CHILD!–“Jäger Meier.” Some People Should Not Be Allowed To Have Children.

The party was at a co-worker’s house, and being a work-related party, both John and I agreed not to start our competition until later in the evening when the more reputable guests had left. John and I went to the keg together and filled our cups. Although John and I both returned to the keg several times that evening, I was nursing my beer and “filling” it when it was already nearly full. John, however, appeared to be drinking with abandon.

When it was time to throw down in our liquor-based contest of manhood—well, I guess you already know that I kicked his ass. It wasn’t even close. When I left the party, John was on hands & knees in the front lawn, heaving a black and hideous mess into the grass. I gave his shoulder a squeeze and said some comforting but ultimately condescending words as I passed. I kept my dignity all the while, and waited at least until I was in the car before I began convulsively to spew, coating the door and good portion of the seat. Happily for everyone, it was my girlfriend’s car.


Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

Sun Tzu


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14 Responses to The Aging Gunslinger

  1. tomsimard says:

    As always, you get so much in – your stories pack such a punch – much like it seems Jagermeister does. Never had it, though in high school I did have peyote, which was probably not wise to mix with my class in American History Through Folk Music though I did.

    • Smaktakula says:

      Every since I saw the “My Beautiful Butterfly” scene in Young Guns, I’ve wanted to give peyote a try. Never had the opportunity, and now I’m too old. And are you kidding, I think American History through Folk Music (which is a great high school class–we never had anything like that) is a great place to chow down on a peyote button.

      • tomsimard says:

        In theory, yes. If, for example, everyone else, including the teacher was indulging.
        Unfortunately, this was not the case, and I was just too incapacitated. Outside of school, it was a much more pleasurable experience.

  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    I think you owe your liver an apology.

  3. Alex Autin says:

    My introduction to Jager took place at a pub called Fritzel’s on Bourbon Street, and it soon became a party staple. I can honestly count the number of times I’ve been flat-out drunk on one hand and still have fingers left over, but of those few times Jager was likely involved. (Well, either Jager or tequila ;) )

    Another brilliantly written piece, Smak. You SO have a way with words!

    • Smaktakula says:

      Thanks, Alex! Oof! Tequila used to mess me up something awful. I haven’t touched it in probably twenty years (there’s a chance I’ve sipped a margarita at some point in the ensuing years), but still think of it as “The Devil’s Urine.” I don’t know if it was its cactus-based origins, but it was hard for my body to process. Good times, though.

  4. Nice strategy, man. I could never get past the smell of Jager, though a friend of mine used to pull it out when he thought we were on our way to getting seriously hammered, which was nearly every time we got together between 1981-86. I would counter with a bottle of Bacardi, which I would normally regret around 4:30 a.m.

  5. jmmcdowell says:

    I’ve never tried Jager, and your recounting of this experience doesn’t exactly fill me with a sudden desire to change that particular status quo. There’s so much behavior wired into our brains and genes that must have served a good purpose millions of years ago. What we do with it today seems another matter all together. If we can stick around another few million, I wonder if we’ll have evolved away from it?

  6. Happily for everyone? Even your girlfriend??

    I love the caption on the Cheech and Chong photo. And, congratulations to you on a battle well fought!

  7. El Guapo says:

    We used to call Jager “aiming fluid” when we played darts.
    I can’t tell you how many times my partner and I (we played as The Terror) had to be physically turned and aimed at the board because we couldn’t see.

    But win or lose, we always had a good time.

  8. whiteladyinthehood says:

    “When it was time to throw down in our liquor-based contest of manhood…” hilarious, Smak! I can concur that I did a lot of crazy partying back in the day. Once at a party someone had a fifth of Jack and spun the cap off and dared me to guzzle it while they counted to 3….my reply was, “Don’t count fast!” (to this day, 25 yrs later the whiff of whisky makes my stomach do flip-flops). Can’t touch the stuff.
    But I really laughed at the Cheech n Chong pic. They used to sell record albums and one contained a rolling paper the size of the album. We must have stuffed a half ounce in there..(you can imagine the size of this joint) It lit up like a torch!
    I’ve probably said too much, so I’ll leave with a thanks for making me laugh out loud – you always, always do!

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