The effect of aging I find I enjoy the least is the constraint it has put on my ability to constructively drink during the day. It wasn’t always like this—a fact I was reminded of a few years back when Mrs. Banks and I went to see our daughter at college to participate in a Greek tradition there called “Fraturday.” I wasn’t sure what Fraturday actually was, and assumed on the drive up for some reason that it must involve croquet. Turns out that was wrong. Rather, Fraturday—at least at my daughter’s school—consists from start to finish of undergraduates spending their Saturday afternoons lounging on the front lawns along Greek Row, drinking beer and in general enjoying each other’s company. The one we attended that weekend was a delight. As I stood there holding my can of Keystone Light, talking with my daughter’s pals, it occurred to me that this was basically how I used to spend my college Saturdays, too. During fall semester back then, for instance, the pre-football-game cocktail party started at the fraternity house at 10:00 a.m. or so, continued at the stadium through the game, and then went on from there until around 6:00, when we’d take a short break back at the dorm to rest our eyes. Then we’d shower and change, have dinner, and head to whichever party we’d deemed would be the launching point for the evening’s festivities. Those, as they say, were the days.
But time has since slowed me down. Now if I so much as have a bottle of beer too early, I run the risk of an involuntary three-our nap later on, followed by a general grogginess that renders me less-than-sparkling in the dinner-conversation department. Bloody Marys at Sunday brunch can nearly finish me off for good. It’s better, I’ve found, to stick with diet soda until 5:00 or so. But I occasionally find myself in a daytime situation that cries out something stronger. My mother’s annual summertime visit from Florida coincides with the British Open, for instance, and for years she, Mrs. Banks, and I have made a habit of watching the Thursday and Friday rounds over lunch at some bar or other in town. The early rounds of the Open are among the most enjoyable TV events of the year for me–but the notion of watching all that golf dry is ludicrous. Twenty or so years ago, my chosen beverage for the task was draft beer, one pint after another, until the last group finished. But as I say, I can’t keep up that pace anymore. Rather, I’ve found that the best libation to accompany long-term golf-watching is a Shandy: essentially equal parts beer and a sweet, non-alcoholic mixer, combined. In Europe, for instance, they’ll mix beer with Coca-Cola and call it a Krefelder—a drink that sounds so vile I won’t even try it. But at South End this year—which is where we watched the Open on Friday—the bartender mixed pilsner together with lemonade (in France, this is called a Panache). The result was light and refreshing and not overly sweet—just the sort of drink one can toss down for hours without inflicting too much damage. Sort of like a low-octane gin and tonic, if you can believe it, or 3.2 beer with a bit of style. In any event, we watched golf at the bar for hours that day. I had one Shandy, and then another. The golf of course was terrific. And for a moment there, I felt young again.