Why I Drink Scotch


K-O-T-E-X was a Clue

Kotex has something to do with it. I’ll explain.

In 1953 I was an Airman Third Class (one-striper) photographer at Laredo Air Force Base, Laredo, Texas. My assignment was to photograph, for the base newspaper, a dance being held at the Officer’s Club. I place my Speed Graphic camera at the end of the bar and the bar tender, an enlisted-man who worked the gig for extra money, ask what I wanted, it was on the house. They say you can’t smell Vodka on the breath, so I ordered a Vodka Collins and turned my back to people-watch and plan my photographs. I didn’t observe the making of the drink and it must of been a double-double judging by what was soon to happen.

With the drink finished it was time to go to work, but not before I emptied my bladder in the men’s room.

After taking care of business, I spotted a mirror on a vending machine near the bath room exit door and stopped to comb my hair. K-O-T-E-X on the mirror-clad vending machine partially registered, but the significance did not sink in until later. As I started to exit through the narrow passage to the door, the door opened and three young officer’s wives entered. Being a gentleman, I backed into the restroom to let the ladies pass. Based and their smiles and exchanges of looks, I must have made some kind of impression on them.

On to business. I pulled a step ladder out of a closet, placed it so I could photograph the dance floor, and then herded the officers and wives into a tight dance group. If you just photograph a dance floor, the dancers look so spread out it looks like no one showed up for the dance. Of course playing sheep-dog on a step ladder and herding officers and wives draws a lot of attention to you. Three young officer’s wives seemed especially amused by my herding antics. Before I left I had gotten enough photographs to give the paper’s editor some choices.

The bar tender offered me another Vodka Collins, which I accepted. Laredo was a dry town, and you had to be at least a two-striper to get a drink on base. I was 19, a non-drinker, and this was too good a chance to pass up.

Then back to the barracks to sleep and in the morning, to the photo lab to process the film.


Panic dissipated when I remembered that many of the officers were taking photographs. I called the Second Lieutenant who was in charge of the lab at that time, confessed my sins, and said if he knew of any officers who took photographs at the dance I would be happy to process their photographs at no charge. At noon he delivered eight rolls of film which were immediately processed to get the best shots to the newspapers editor. I then printed the negatives to return to each officer who provided shots.

They say that the difference between a professional photographer and amateur photographer is that the professional always gets the shot, even if the amateur may get a better one. I got a shot to the editor and preserved my standing as a professional.

So what about the Scotch? The various versions of Tom Collins, whether Gin or Vodka, go down like soda pop. I researched my taste buds to find the form of hard liquor I liked the least. It was Scotch. I can easily nurse a single Scotch and water for one to four hours with no problem at all. My drinking has been minimal most of my life. Probably because the only effect it has on me is to make me sleepy or trigger a migraine. I rarely drink anymore and never if I drive. But if I do and it is hard liquor, it has been mostly Scotch since 1952.

It was only after the photographs appeared in the base paper that the significance of K-O-T-E-X registered in my mind.

Another story shared over coffee and biscotti during our morning talks.