This summer, I started drinking rum. I also read The Proud Highway by Hunter S. Thompson. In it, there is a whole chapter of his letters from Puerto Rico. I remember very little from that chapter except his description of the evenings, where he would sit in his backyard, sipping rum, watching the sun set over the ocean.
I rigidly abstained from rum until this summer. Previously, I had had few associations with it, among them, pirates (reinforced by the Capt. Morgan marketeers) and these horrible rum and cokes my roommate Dave makes. He believes that the optimal rum and coke is in ratio of about 50-50. I don't like the sweet, syrupy taste of coke anyhow, and combined with a few ounces of spiced rum I could take about two sips before being completely disgusted. I always found the smell of spiced rum suspect, reinforced by my friend Rob's mythology that it's the only liquor that can give him a hangover.
My reintroduction to rum came when my friends Jeff and Chris and I stayed at a low-end resort hotel on Lake Powell, Utah. We checked in, and Chris and I tried to decide on which alcohols and mixers to bring to our hotel room. We hemmed and hawed for a bit, and I think Chris finally suggested rum. We brought a fifth of Bacardi, and a twelve-pack of MGD back to our room.
We had a room with a deck facing the lake, and we could watch the boats slide across the water, while reading and listening to some Funkadelic and Hendrix albums I had brought along. I was reading the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe, and that afternoon my rum-soaked brain leapt back and forth between the lines and the sentences, and the fragmented style of the book seemed appropriate for what was going on in my mind, as well as the minds of the acid-head pranksters Wolfe was trying to document. We sat on the deck from our arrival that afternoon until the sun went down and we had to move inside for artificial light, and/or TV.
There were two nights of my trip to Utah that I spent drunk and awake, and this was the first. About 2a.m. I decided to go for a walk out by the lake. Lake Powell was formed by Glen Canyon dam, which filled the canyon completely with water. You can walk along the top of this canyon, on the sandstone beach, and if you go in the water, the first few steps will be a gentle slope, followed by a steep decline. You can be ten feet out with 100 feet of water below you.
That night, I walked out onto a small peninsula in the lake and sat for about two hours. I spent time looking across the lake at the lights from the houses on the other side. I talked to myself a little bit, while sitting on the dusty brown sandstone and feeling the breeze from the lake on my face and hands. I think I also might have brought and eaten a sandwich I had leftover from lunch. There were a lot of names carved in the stone, so I carved "N + E" in large letters, for a girl I thought I was in love with. The next day, when I was there in the daylight, I tried to find where I had carved those letters, but I couldn't, and I laughed at myself a little.
After I got home from Utah, I bought a fifth of Bacardi for myself, along with some grapefruit juice. The combination of Ruby Red Grapefruit juice and rum became a habit over the summer. I'd sit on my porch, drinking my pink drink with a Doonesbury swizzle stick (I usually use Uncle Duke), and for a few minutes instead of sweating on the porch of our dilapidated house on 18th street, I'd try to feel a little like I was Hunter in Puerto Rico.