With new Health Canada guidelines on drinking, Linda Kupecek muses on boozes

During my university days, I toted a carton of milk to parties, while my pals downed bargain basement beer, Black Tower and Baby Duck. Finally, I yielded to peer pressure and during a theatre tour (in which, surprisingly, I was the female lead) obligingly bought a bottle of wine at a northern Alberta liquor store. It was Prince of Denmark Cherry Heering. I downed the whole thing over several hours, passed out and this made everybody happy. Funny how people are thrilled to see a teetotaller drink.

I have not bought a bottle of that stuff since. But I am no longer a goody two shoes. I have learned to tell the difference between a fine buttery chardonnay and the stuff that comes in cardboard boxes.

On a stressful children’s theatre tour in northern B.C., the other woman in the company and I drowned our sorrows at dives and bars in too many towns to remember. She taught me to drink white rum and seven, and also how to behave in a bar fight, which is surprisingly useful information.

When I lived in Los Angeles, my drinking was limited to inexpensive wine and margaritas. When a gentleman friend invited me to the Polo Lounge, the quality of cocktail was higher, but I have no memory of what I drank, only that a famous actor liked our looks and bought us a round of drinks.

Then I became a scotch drinker. This is when I served on several national boards, and decided I was A Person To Be Reckoned With. I drank gallons of scotch, mostly in late night strategy sessions in Toronto hotel suites with The Men of the West. I felt that to be taken seriously, I absolutely had to match the men (all huge and brawny) drink for drink. I will never forget one gothic hangover, in which I opened the door to room service at 7 a.m. (after falling into bed, drowning in scotch, at 4 a.m.) to see the room service waiter, a lovely Spaniard, literally recoil in shock at the sight of me. He held out his hands as if to quell a baby, and in a very distressed, yet comforting voice, said, “Madam, it will be okay. I will be back with more coffee right away. It will be all right.”

Those days are gone. I can’t imagine being able to drink like that again.

The first time I was invited to appear at Wordfest, I was so full of myself that I bought a bottle of absinthe to celebrate, thinking I was channeling Toulouse Lautrec, Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and whoever else hung around the Boulevards de Paris.I have not bought a bottle of absinthe since, not only because of the cost, but also because of its potency. I wonder if my liver has ever forgiven me.

Older, a little wiser, still a pandemic hermit, I drink with more curated taste. Now I limit my very pleasurable drinking to smooth chardonnay, and Writer’s Tears Irish Whiskey. This makes life much simpler.

For many, alcohol has become a way to dull the boredom and anxiety. I think we are all just trying to do the best we can, and if a drink (or two a week, if we’re obeying the doctors) helps, so be it. And who am I to judge?