June 4, 2012

My Goddess of Intoxication.

Bottom Shelf Bhakti & the Friendships that Give Your Life Meaning and Magic

I adore the physical aspects of yoga, but as I get older, stiffer, and more stupidly injury-prone, I find myself having to sit out more than a few classes.

This makes the intellectual side of yoga that much more important. There is so much to learn, and so many rich religious traditions to discover. Unlike the hardcore Protestantism that I grew up with, many of these religions honor women. Goddesses, they call them. This is not what they call women in Christianity. If they did, I may not have spent those hours on Sunday mornings reading Beverly Cleary books behind my hymnal.

Goddesses. The very word makes me feel 50 feet tall. There is a goddess for almost everything—a full cast of beautiful, talented, multi-armed women. Some of them ride lions, some tigers, some alligators. Some bring peace. Some will paint the fence with you.

There is a Goddess of Liquor—of intoxication. Yes, she exists, and she is a kind, divine soul by the name of Varuni.

I found this out after a recent visit from an old college friend. Beth and I first bonded in a college aerobics class we were taking for credit. We were two cynical, earnest, overly romantic and bitchy English majors. This didn’t bode well for our coordination or our interest in lunges.

During those years, we spent a lot of time on one floor or another with a bottle of terrible liquor, picked by Beth. This terrible liquor would lead to terrible generalizations about art, literature and politics. There’s nothing like a bottle of Wild Irish Rose to make a college girl feel like she’s got it all figured out—until she ends up on the bathroom floor of the dorm, hugging the toilet bowl while vowing never to drink again.

Beth and I have both “grown up.” This doesn’t mean that we have children or mortgages—it just means that we’re in our 30s now. Yes, we have careers that we take seriously. There are a lot more demands of our time and energy, so those lovely, rambling conversations we used to have are a less common occurrence. There are a few grays on both our heads, and, yes, our tastes are slightly more refined than they used to be. We savor the finer things in life, like good food, and a massage every now and then. Neither one of us drinks much anymore, but when we do, we drink very differently. I prefer a few really good, super hoppy beers. Then, usually, I end up going to bed at 11 p.m.

But when Beth visits, drinking transports me to a time when neon alcohol seemed to hold magical powers. Where the term “mixed drink” meant combining 10 different airline bottles of booze into a huge cup and chugging. When a hilarious drink was more important than a delicious one. She has the money to get the good stuff, but the girl will go for the cheap whip cream vodka every time. Cotton candy, blueberry, crazy cranberry—flavors and colors I had no idea even existed.

Cranberry Moonshine

“We have to get this,” Beth will say, holding up a disturbingly large plastic bottle of liquor. She is the undisputed Queen of Bad Booze. All hail.

It’s not about getting drunk for her. Often Beth will nurse a drink for two hours because she’s so busy laughing at the hideous concoction she’s created. The pictures she posts of these drinks get a lot of attention. God knows how many terrible hangovers this woman has inspired.

There is something oddly comforting about her curious booze habits. We live in a culture where even your choice of beverage says something about your class and level of sophistication. There are organic beers and wines, and organic, ginger root, oak-barrel distilled craft liquors. The bottles on the top shelf are a feast of adjectives and inventive packaging. They make me want to throw a party and invite everyone I know. The plastic bottles on the bottom make me want to drink alone in the dark.

Beth, though, isn’t interested in being “right.” She is a woman with a very sophisticated mind who has an appreciation for the tacky, odd and beautifully disgusting. She finds moments of joy in things that others might turn away from, or might not even notice. Lawn art, evangelical road signs, Stonehenge models made of foam (Foamhenge, ya’ll, Route 11), these are the things that bliss Beth out—and she finds them in abundance. She is a cheap date and a great road trip companion.

When she visits I’m reminded to really notice the world around me—to pause and enjoy a tacky lamp or a terrible Christian contemporary song on the radio. It’s a strange sort of yoga class, but one that teaches me so much about how and where to find happiness. Beth is my Varuni—my Goddess of intoxication. She transforms a hideous glass of blue liquor into a delightful cocktail called: “The Swimming Pool.”

If you look, ladies, you can find a goddess for your sisters, mothers, friends and co-workers. These are the women who give your life meaning and magic.

Now, a toast with a drink by Beth:

The Amrita:

1 shot orange cream vodka (bottom shelf)

1 shot of pink lemonade vodka (bottom shelf)

2 shots of seltzer

3 orange slices

1 touch agave nectar

Garnish with lime, 2 maraschino cherries, mint, and mini umbrella.

Serve over ice, preferably in a Mason jar.



Editor: Brianna Bemel

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