Beer, Beer, Beer

When I was in basic training, one of my favorite cadences said, “Beer, beer, beer, said the private. Merry men are we…”

I was a merry man for a long time, but I recently went 40 days and 40 nights without flooding my body with alcohol. In fact, my body experienced a drought for 40 days and 40 nights, and, the truth is, I never felt better.

On the 41st day, however, I caved in and had three beers. Ok, that sounds a bit dramatic. One of my lifelong friends came over to my house to help me do some handyman work. Actually, he did the work and I just stood there, because my handyman skills are lacking.

Once the project was completed, we did what many guys do to celebrate the completion of a project; we drank beer. He brought over a 6-pack of really good, quality beers; however, we only shared three of them. No, we didn’t use straws and we sure as heck didn’t sip from the same bottle. We poured them into a couple of beer glasses that I’d acquired from microbreweries from across the country, so I really only had one and a half. Two weeks later, the other three are still in my refrigerator.

The last three times I cut the grass, I celebrated with a large glass of lemonade while sitting in the sunshine on my deck, and I’m here to tell you, it was just as satisfying as a celebratory beer.

I didn’t drink every night. Most weeks, it was only one night out of the week, but I would drink enough that particular night to keep a small brewery afloat.

Many of us have experienced those next day regrets after a night of excess consumption. Lord knows I have. At my age, those regrets spill over a couple of days, physically, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Did I mention physically?

I haven’t quit. I never said I quit. I’m disciplined in so many areas, so I just decided to add the consumption of alcohol to that list.

I still plan on having a beer from time to time. Beer in moderation makes me happy.

I still plan on having a beer from time to time. Beer in moderation makes me happy.

Knowing that the 10 biggest regrets of my life involve alcohol has a sobering effect (pun intended) on me. I can’t take any of them back. I can only learn and move on from here. For the record, no one was ever hurt; I just made some dumb decisions.

On the other hand, the only time alcohol ever got me in trouble was likely the best thing to ever happen to me. When I was 19, I was arrested for underage drinking which ultimately led to my decision to join the Army.

I feel confident that this new me is here to stay. I’ve been in some situations recently where I was able to maintain my discipline, whereas in the past, that would not have been the case.

I’ve frequented my favorite watering hole in Opelika on three different occasions since making the decision to scale back without falling back into the trap. Water with lemon is just as good, and so are the laughs with the fellas.

A couple of weeks ago, I spent four days and three nights in Sin City, Las Vegas, Nevada, without consuming a single drop of alcohol. That’s the equivalent of a police officer going an entire shift without a single doughnut. It’s simply unheard of.

On Sunday, I began my journey to Arizona for the National Stuttering Association’s 30th annual conference.

Because of my love of quality beer and BBQ, my cross-country escapades usually involve quite a bit of each.

I drove only a short distance that first day. I stopped in New Orleans to stay with my buddy and his family. The family stayed at home, while he and I went down to the French Quarter and ate at Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA, which was an absolute joy. I did have one really good local brew before dinner, but only because we had to wait a bit before being seated. We also had Emeril’s New Orleans BBQ Shrimp for an appetizer.

One beer in New Orleans is like one pair of jean shorts to a Bama fan. It’s simply unheard of.

I had dinner with water and a friend at The Cheesecake Factory in San Antonio on day two. We had a great dinner and conversation, in spite of the absence of alcohol. In the past, that would have simply been unheard of.

On day three, I drove the final 15 hours and arrived at the conference around 11:00 PM.

I’m sure some interesting stories will arise from this week’s conference. They always do.

For example, did you know that when there are three stuttering guys in a small room that the lights start to flicker? It’s a phenomenon similar to the Northern Lights. Now you know.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that I had three beers last night, although it wasn’t entirely my fault. I ordered just one, but my stuttering prevailed and the bartender misunderstood me.

“Beer, beer, beer, said the captain,” he thought.

I’m convinced that the secret to happiness is discipline. Whether it’s beer, BBQ, fishing or women, quality is always better than quantity.

Speaking of quantity, I just realized I’ll have to cut the grass when I get home. Yuck! Oh well, at least I’ll have an ice cold glass of lemonade waiting on me afterwards.

Cheers!

PS…I didn’t really have three beers last night.

Only one drink so far at the NSA conference and that was this glass of wine.

Only one drink so far at the NSA conference and that was this glass of wine.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Dogs & BBQ: Sometimes, the best things in life aren’t planned; they just happen.

Dogs and BBQ…and why I named her Ruby

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I love dogs and barbeque like old people love Buicks.

Several years ago, I was traveling through Memphis en route to Fort Carson, Colorado, for some high speed Army training and had a couple of hours built in to the rigid itinerary for a pit stop in Memphis.

Renowned for its BBQ, Memphis is on the bucket list for anyone and everyone who loves BBQ.

I made plans to eat at one of the popular joints that had been featured extensively on the Travel Channel.

Upon arrival at this BBQ Mecca, I was so excited. I was like a kid at Disney World. No, I was like a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert. No, I was more like an old person with a brand new Buick. Yes, I was that excited.

I wasn’t sure what to get, so I went with the sampler. One can never go wrong with the sampler.

Boy was I wrong!

I hadn’t been that disappointed since the unveiling of New Coke.

I’d made quite an impression with the staff and didn’t want to hurt their feelings, so I politely asked for a carry-out box. Once outside and around the corner, I dumped it in the nearest garbage can.

The next day, while traveling along Interstate 40, I passed a sign just east of Ozark, Arkansas, for Rivertowne BBQ. I took the corresponding exit and made the short trek to Ozark, a small town beautifully set along the Arkansas River.

Rivertowne BBQ is located just off the square in downtown and is not to be missed. The setting was perfect. The staff was incredibly friendly, and the BBQ was out of this world.

Sometimes, the best things in life aren’t planned; they just happen.

While growing up, the thought of enlisting in the Army never crossed my mind, and I certainly never envisioned getting Chyna, my beloved black lab, within a year of separation from my first stint in the Army.

It’s now been 21 years (23 now) since I raised my right hand and took that oath of enlistment that changed my life forever; furthermore, I was so incredibly blessed to have Chyna at my side for the bulk of those years.

I reiterate. Sometimes, the best things in life aren’t planned; they just happen.

I had to make every pet owner’s toughest decision on July 30, 2012, but in the end, it was an easy decision because it was the right decision. Chyna was 15 ½ years old and had lived a good life.

Not a week has gone by that someone hasn’t offered me a dog or sent me a link to one needing rescued.

Although many people offered AKC registered pups at no charge, I’d planned on rescuing one from the shelter, because that was the right thing to do. That was the plan.

But plans don’t always pan out. I was never quite ready to make that leap. The loss of Chyna weighed heavily on my heart, and I was not prepared to put myself in a position to eventually go through such heartbreak again.

My article on Chyna: The Love of my Life

That all changed on Saturday, June 1, 2013, when I received the following message on Facebook from a friend I barely knew:

Hey! I know that you lost your baby a while back. My lab recently had a litter of puppies. I have sold them all except one little girl. It has been weighing heavy on my heart for the past few days to ask you if you would like to have her as a gift. She is an AKC reg. chocolate lab. She turned 7 weeks old yesterday.

Getting a dog hadn’t crossed my mind at any point throughout that day, but I immediately knew that she was the one, sight unseen.

Oddly enough, I also knew her name. It was Ruby.

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It’s a name shared by my late great grandmother, who was a sweet, smart, kind, and caring lady; and by one of our battalion’s great soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice during my first tour of duty in Iraq in 2004. Sergeant Rubalcava, known as SGT Ruby by most, was a beautiful, brave, strong, and loyal soldier.

So far, my Ruby embodies each of the character traits of her namesakes and will be a constant reminder of those for whom she is named.

I simply cannot wait to answer the question, “Why did you name her Ruby?”

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While it is of the utmost importance that we plan some things out, it’s equally important to remain flexible and to let those plans change when and if necessary.

I wasn’t planning on getting a puppy this week, but it happened. Perhaps I saved her from going to a bad home. Who knows? After just fours days with her, I feel it was meant to be. She is a blessing in every conceivable manner. I look forward to the journey ahead.

BBQ is one of my greatest loves, but be it Memphis, Carolina, Kansas City or even Chuck’s BBQ in my hometown of Opelika, AL, it pales in comparison to the love I have for my dogs, Chyna and Ruby, whose unconditional love for me was and is much like Rivertown BBQ; it’s out of this world.

If and when you lose your beloved pet, take your time in getting a new one. Don’t rush into it. You’ll know when the time is right. Others mean well and want to help but it’s ultimately up to you to know when and you will, indeed, know.

By the way, I have it on good authority that Aunt Chyna gives Miss Ruby two dewclaws up. She always was a good judge of character.

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Update: Me and my girl in August 2015

Update: Me and my girl in August 2015

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.