Thank you God for alcohol

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Thank you God for alcohol. This is actually one of the most sincere prayers I've said, periodically, throughout my agnostic life. I've said it at times when I'd drunk enough to dull my pain, and I've said it at times of joy and celebration. Tonight fits, humbly, into the latter category. I do believe that if there is a God, he gave us alcohol and resents those who refuse to appreciate it.

I'm in Albuquerque. I come here quite often on business trips, and I'm here again for meetings at NWCA, the Nuclear Weapons Counterproliferation Agency, which is on Kirtland Air Force Base. I'm staying at a fairly run-down hotel, the La Quinta, that has seen better days. It's close to the airport, though, so it's convenient. It's also right across the street from Appleby's, and I've eaten there quite a few times over the past couple of years.

I went there tonight and found the place jam-packed due to local graduations. I put my name on the long waiting list and simultaneously watched for a spot to open up at the bar. When it's as crowded as it was tonight singles fill the bar stools, where they can order from the regular dinner menu. After about a ten minute wait two spots opened up at the bar. I sat down just as a young man sat down on the stool to my right. I don't remember how we started talking. He said something about how insanely busy the place was. I said it was graduations, apparently; there are 14 high schools in Albuquerque. He talked about the number of high schools in his home town: 1. I don't recall how the conversation progressed from there, until he said he'd stayed at the hotel next to the restaurant when he first moved to Albuquerque because they allow dogs, and I asked him what kind of dog he had and--this is the moment the conversation really began--he took out his wallet and showed me a picture of his dog, a yellow lab. That could be my dog, I said.

A short time later the guy sitting on my left got up; within minutes he was replaced by a guy in uniform. He sat quietly, ordered dinner and iced tea, and didn't speak until a man sitting across the bar told the bartender that he wanted to buy the guy in uniform a drink. I glanced sideways at the guy on my left and said, quietly so he could ignore me if he preferred, "That was nice." He turned and looked at me and smiled and said "Yeah, it was." He had an open and friendly face. By that time I knew that the guy on my right was also in the military, stationed at Kirtland, so when the bartender came around again I said that although the guy on my right wasn't in uniform, I wanted to buy him a drink.

This started conversation going between the guy on my left and the guy on my right. They'd both been in Afghanistan. It's such a small world that the guy on my left had most recently been at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the agency I support as a contractor. Last week he was there, on level B2, in the IT center, when I was on B1, visiting security.

The next hour or so was mostly filled with stories of deployment in Afghanistan, Qatar, and Spain, but I was able to contribute some stories myself, having been in London visiting the ministry of defence (shut up microsoft; they spell it that way) on the day of the subway bombings.

As business trips go, and lonely dinners in restaurants, this was the best ever. People all around the bar were listening to us tell stories; even the bartender was smiling. The guys sitting on either side of me did most of the talking but they did not exclude me from their conversation.

All because someone in a bar offered to buy a stranger in uniform a beer. Thank you God for alcohol. Sincerely, your maybe believer, maybe not.

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July 2012

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