I’ve been drinkin’ beer since college.  I like the taste and enjoy the buzz.  Used to, anyway.  A (the?) biggie was, however, the variety of social activities associated with doing “what everyone else does.”  Yeah, I followed the herd.  Sometimes, too much.  Sometimes, too often.  But, drink I did.  My tour in Viet Nam increased the ease, opportunity, and inexpense of drinking that beer.  I was lucky.  I’m still here.

As a hard-core Washingtonian, Olympia was my beer of choice as it was for a lot of people in God’s Country.  It wasn’t until I left the area that I heard it mocked as being even lighter than Coors on the beer-real-men-drink scale.  I could never understand that because I thought Coors was good too.  Well, maybe I do understand it after all.

Oly wasn’t an option in Viet Nam and Bud was too valuable on the local market to waste as a consumable by the average GI.  I tasted San Miguel once from the Cho Lon Post Exchange.  It was in steel cans that had just about rusted through from the inside.  I thought it tasted strange.  I couldn’t understand why people liked it while on R&R in the Philippines.

Ended up that I and a lot of us turned to the local beer, Ba Muoi Ba, Biere 33.  A lot of the guys grouped it as being bad along with Oly and Coors, but I liked those so the grouping was fine with me!  Warm beer from a tall, filthy brown bottle with a red label, poured into a thick-walled barely rinsed glass, and cooled with a chunk of ice carved from a block out in the alley and made from the same non-potable water we were admonished not to drink and chipped into pieces that fit the glass by a kid in that back alley holding the block down with his bare feet or his tattered tire-soled sandal.  Ah, life is good if you survive it!

As I passed the mid-point in my first year in Saigon, Bill got me lined up with a part-time teaching job at a Chinese high school in Cho Lon, that Chinatown district in which we lived.  I yearned to be in a classroom and it provided some real money.  Teaching at Lap Nhan also helped maintain some of the professionalism that was perhaps being worn off my edges.  It was a lot of fun teaching history and geography, all in English, to some of the brightest Chinese students in Viet Nam.

It also tightened up my schedule.  Lap Nhan‘s schedule for me was three-four days a week and from 8 or 9 to 11 each day.  So, though I’d had bun thit nuong (vermicelli noodles, barbecued pork, cucumber slices and roasted ground peanuts, all covered with nuoc mam for breakfast – yeah, I know, you’re drooling just reading that, right?) for breakfast, I just had no time to get any lunch at the Capital dining hall before boarding the bus with everyone to ride out to the school at Tan Son Nhut Annex.

Following the lead of my Lap Nhan senior instructor and overall Senior Advisor (then, as even now), I swung through the club on the first floor of the Capital, picked up a couple of Buds at a dime a pop, and tossed them down before or on the bus ride.

Ya know what?  If you’re gonna jump off a cliff, make sure it’s a tall one so you can get in all your stunts along the way.  I got lucky with a soft landing and good friends along the way.

I still like beer though.  Oly, not Budweiser.

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