i’ll have a bourbon and ginger, Jimbo


It’s been kind of hilarious – in a “completely tragic” sort of way – watching American news outlets dance around the term “civil war” when referring to Iraq. Finally, this week, both NBC and the LA Times pulled out the Civil War card and laid it on the table, which cued the usual temple-bursting and hand-wringing from our right-wing friends. To them, I guess, the mainstream usage of “civil war” meant it was truly over.

Never mind that anyone who had visited Iraq (and didn’t have an ax to grind) has been calling it a civil war for a long time, but I’m much more interested in how seriously we take our definitions. Somehow giving a name to something changes the very nature of it, Shakespeare to the contrary; that which we call a rose body lotion smells sweeter regardless of the ingredients.

You’ll see the same thing in scotch tastings – if you read the nose and flavor descriptions from the professionals beforehand, you can make almost anybody taste banana, coconut, oak chips, leather chairs and even motor oil in a 25-year-old Springbank single malt.

My own moment of definition came in 1989, and I’ve written about it on here before. This guy came up to me at Molly’s during the height of my Wednesday’s Child notoriety and said “People say you’re awesome for a few days, but then your charm fades really quickly, and then you’re not much fun.” Why on earth this guy said this to me I have no idea. It was his idea of an ice-breaker, I suppose – I had a lot of people coming up to me and saying a lot of crazy shit in those days – but goddamn if it hasn’t stuck with me.

In an effort to prove him wrong, this guy from 1989, I undertake bizarre endeavors. Stuff like throwing the Jartacular, trying never to lose friends, fighting for the best quip of the evening even though there are no more sophomores to impress, and even threatening to keep this blog interesting for five years. I’m not saying all of these are successful, but at least I’m in the game.

And so, what has been a particular definition that has hounded you? Something you’ve always been proud of, or struggled to outdistance?

0 thoughts on “i’ll have a bourbon and ginger, Jimbo

  1. tregen

    I am the youngest of three kids and one day, in my early twenties, I was visiting my terminaly ill father and I was discussing with him some random act of kindness that I had for some reason or another performed. He looked at my mom and said “I got one right”…. makes me so proud everytime I think about it and yet as I type this, a tear is rolling down my check. Funny thing. Nice post Ian

  2. Salem's little sister

    The program director at the riding school where I teach recently added me to the staff roster on our website. She said “Katie will make your child feel like a hero.” I think that is the single best compliment I’ve ever gotten.
    Actually Ian, you defined me my first week at Chapel Hill. I was going through rush with my high school buddy and you said she would go PI Phi, I would go Chi O and I would either dump my high school boyfriend in 2 weeks or act like I did. You were right on all 3 predictions. I have alternated between being pleased that you had this insight and disappointed in myself that I was that easily summed up.

  3. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    I was always a moody, shy, angry (over what exactly, I could not tell you — my little brother bothering me, having too much homework) girl growing up. My thoughts and moods always veered toward the negative. Lots of worrying. Once during an argument with my mother, she said to me, “Laurie, you are the kind of person who is never going to be happy.” I must have been 11 or 12 at the time. It was not the kindest thing for her to say, but it was apt.
    Fast forward, at age 31, I was finally diagnosed with clinical depression. Of course, back in the late 70’s/early 80’s, no one had ever heard of “depression” or recognized it as an illness. Prozac had not made the scene yet.
    The irony is that when I told my parents about my diagnosis, my dad said, “Well, that explains a lot.” My mom, who had the foresight back then, said, “Oh, there is nothing wrong with you! That is nonsense!”

  4. Tanya

    One day, during my senior year in high school, a friend of mine had just gone out on a date with a fellow I was, shall we say, surprised she was interested in. Anyway, I asked her how the date went, and she said it went well and that she’d probably go out with him again. Then she said, “don’t look at me like that. He said you wouldn’t approve and that you were a snob. Don’t make him right about that.” And I was shocked. I couldn’t believe someone thought I was a snob! So from then on, (and to this day), I try to go out of my way to be nice to everyone – no matter what my first impressions are. It’s gotten me in more trouble than I care to admit, but it’s also made me find some of my very closest friends (and discovered some VERY cool hobbies as well).

  5. emma

    Just this past summer, at the party after my niece’s bat mitzvah, she was honoring all the important women in her life and describing what she admired about them. She called me up along with another one of her aunts on her father’s side of the family and said she looked up to us because we were successful. Although touched, this was also a bit eye-opening for me. That was one of the factors this summer that made me realize that work had become too big of a part in my life, that I was taking life too seriously and not enjoying my family enough. Now my successes come from seeing progress in school for my kids and spending days at a time with them. I feel very lucky.

  6. Bud

    Being branded a “genius”, an “egghead” and then, worst of all — a “teacher’s pet” — in the first and second grades has always made me want to be as commonsense and down-to-earth as possible.
    That’s why I always eschew obfuscation. And stuff.

  7. Sean Williams

    The definitions of the words “Lazy”, “Talented”, and “Try” have had created more conflict in my life than I can describe. The sense that we are lazy instead of scared, the fact that we are talented instead of either driven or developmentally swift, and the idea that trying is all that’s required, when success is actually all that matters, is the great crime we commit against one another.

  8. Anne D.

    Frequently said to me by my exasperated mom when I was growing up:
    “You’re too selfish to ever be a mother.”
    Oy! Without bragging I believe I can correctly say: Mom, you were so, so wrong.

  9. michelle

    I have too many of these defining moments to count, many of them pretty unpleasant (including being told that exactly everyone at my workplace a few years ago hated me because “no one can stand being around little miss sunshine all the time”. Funny thing is, exactly no one who knows me well would call me that. And the person who told me that was a Grade A Asswipe.) But recently someone called me a “fierce learner” and that meant the world to me.
    A particularly defining year was the sixth grade. There were two sixth-grade homerooms at my school, and the one I was not in actually booed when my name was announced over the loudspeaker as having won some sort of academic award. I could *hear* them booing from my classroom. Same year, I got braces & glasses and my “best” friend said to me: “Now you’ve got everything boys don’t like”. Boy did I show her not too many years later. Finally, and most importantly, the principal of my school was leaving to go to another school and we had a surprise assembly planned. I decided I should write a poem for the occasion during English class, and when my teacher, who was in the middle of a lesson, asked me what I was doing and requested I pay attention, I said (and I remember it): “I’m writing a poem for Mr. Hahn, and I’m on a roll, so can I finish?” and my teacher, by god, smiled, said yes, and then loved the poem so much they had me read it to Mr. Hahn at his assembly. Mr Hahn cried when I read it. I remember he kissed my cheek and I was sooooo embarassed. And didn’t give a rats ass that my stupid fellow classmates booed me.

  10. jason savage

    the idea that trying is all that’s required, when success is actually all that matters, is the great crime we commit against one another.
    are you being sarcastic, or have you read too much Ayn Rand?

  11. Sean Williams

    I’m dead serious. We tell children that they should try hard, and that doing your best is all that’s important, but as adults, that’s simply not true. Trying to do something well and failing simply means you can’t do it and you should move on, and often the time spent attempting to do something is wasted time. We aren’t judged by the number of attempts, we adjudicate our lives by our successes and failures, and this start when we’re about 12, so telling a child that they should just do the best they can and the outcome doesn’t matter is actually a lie. And, I think, a terrible lie.

  12. Rebecca

    Sean, as an adult, I can see your point. But as a parent, I have to disagree. Some children are naturally talented and some are not. But in order to succeed in school, they have to try. You can’t tell them to “move on” when they’re not naturally good at reading or math. You hope that they’ll get better if they try. As a parent, you have to do a lot of lying! You’ll see. Of course, you could always tell your kid the truth, but sometimes that’s painful.
    Which leads me to my story…
    My Mother is a petite, busty, green-eyed blonde former prom queen and debutante. I am none of those things. For as long as I can remember, when people point out that we look nothing alike my Mom has said, “I know, I never thought I’d have a daughter who looks like her.” So I have always felt ugly, because my Mom is beautiful and clearly I am not.

  13. CL

    In my elementary school, I was unathletic and shy and picked-on…but in summer camp one year, I was actually mildly popular. There were no kids from my school at this camp, and no one knew my nerdy repuation. I tried harder in sports because I wasn’t afraid to miss a ball. I did well and had a nice (albeit small) group of friends.
    One day, I was in the baseball outfield and a ball went way out. This kid named Larry who no one liked ran for it. I decided to run for it too. There was no way that Larry would beat me.
    I finally grabbed the ball a second before he got to it. He looked at me and said, “You know, you think you’re such a hotshot.”
    I couldn’t believe it. He saw me the way I saw all the popular girls I hated in school.
    I tossed him the ball and let him take it back to the infield. I felt horrible. And I always remembered the moment that I became more like THEM.

  14. eric g.

    One day in the tenth grade I was finishing a round of golf. I was playing by myself, making my way up the hill toward the 18th green. I hit a nice approach shot and two-putted for par. A few minutes later I was going over my scorecard in front of the clubhouse, and a man walked up to me. “Excuse me,” he said. “I played behind you on the back nine and you have a wonderful swing.” I still remember this fondly, as I had been working hard on my swing that year.

  15. Beth

    I love that about kindnesses, even (or maybe especially) to strangers: they matter. A lot.
    Like Michelle, I have a lot of these little stories ribboned and cedared away in my mental attic. One instance that I can think of is when I was a kid, complaining to my dad that I was shy, saying that I wanted to be more like him. He said, “You’re more like me than you know,” which I can see in hindsight meant that he’s not the naturally gifted raconteur and extrovert that he seems to be–he’s just learned how to overcome a tendency toward reticence around other people. But at the time I took it to mean that I was better with people than I understood, and it meant a lot to me. Either way, it’s okay, because my dad’s a great guy, and the more ways I’m like him, the better.

  16. Susan

    My husband took our son who was 2 at the time to a swim class. They were in the locker room changing afterwards and my husband was talking to our son in his usual manner….lots of simple questions/comments that revolved around shapes, colors, objects etc… This man approached my husband and said, “I am an psychology professor and I wish I could have tape-recorded your conversation with your son for my class. That is exactly the way someone should talk with a 2-3 year old to stimulate their learning. You are an excellent father and your son is very lucky”. Needless to say, my husband was surprised and flattered. He didn’t see anything that special in how he talked with our son but someone else noticed and made his day. He’s never forgotten it.

  17. wottop

    My teacher in Kindergarten wrote on one of my report cards amoung other things more positive: “William holds a grudge”.
    I’ll never forgive her for that.


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