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Black Lamb

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Now in its 14th year of publication, this magazine was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Black Lamb Review is a literate rather than a literary publication. Regular columns by writers in a variety of geographic locations and vocations are supplemented by features, reviews, articles on books and authors, and a selection of “departments,” including an acerbic advice column and a lamb recipe.

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Unhand that bottle!

November 1st, 2006

BY GREG ROBERTS

manreadytofight.pngWe have proof — undeniable proof, vast warehouses of proof, limitless citadels of it — that people are unthinking ignoramuses. So here’s one more fagot on the fire: the ignorant but ubiquitous belief that alcohol is bad.

True, drunks pull guns and drive cars that kill peope, but remember this: if it weren’t for alcohol, there wouldn’t be a country to pull a gun or drive a car in.

Look at history. You couldn’t get anyone to even consider coming to this hellhole of a continent without the incentive of alcohol. in 1656 the Spanish sailors who visited Florida were allotted a liter of wine per day for their troubles. So did the pilgrims drink beer and hard spirits all the way to Plymouth Rock. The booze was absolutely indispensable, to keep them from dying of fright in that little walnut shell of a boat.

As the colonies headed west — to Kentucky and Ohio and Indiana — the settlers really started juicing it. Whiskey was the only way of coping with the terror brought on by the natives. Every trapper and farmer had family or friends who were hacked to pieces or clubbed or burned to death in an Indian raid. The horror and sadness were almost unbearable. Read That Dark and Bloody Ground by Allan Eckert.

Without whiskey and hard cider, Ohio probably wouldn’t have become a state until 1903, not 1803. When observers such as De Tocqueville and Mrs. Trollope visited the United States, they were shocked by the heavy drinking: the custom of pulling a dipper full of whiskey out of a bucket and offering it to any and all who passed by the cabin door. But these educated writers apparently did not have the expansiveness of thought to see the fundamental necessity of alcohol in those times.

Even after the Indians were disenabled, the boozing continued, and for good reason. Crops failed, children died, and the family horse had to be shot because it stepped in a gopher hole. The temperance societies that sprouted up throughout the nineteenth century should have been put down by men on horseback with clubs and killer dogs. To deprive people of a tonic that sustains them through insupportable grief is an act of criminal cruelty.

In 1926, when my father was a squalling baby with typhoid fever, and not expected to live, my grandmother put whiskey in a bottle of milk to shut him up, providing some relief to a little house crowded with people who were ready to snap from poverty and frustration.
Apparently whiskey and milk for babies was a common practice in the old days, and who knows how many little squawkers escaped being shaken to death because of the calming properties of the tawny elixir? Think about that, Carrie Nation, you blockheaded old biddy.
Fetal alcohol syndrome? Pure bullcrap. My father, after all his bingeing as a one-year-old, is today sharper than any of the presidential candidates who have run for office in the past sixteen years, and is probably more astute than most tenured professors in American universities.

Those who think that alcohol is bad for the intellect face the daunting reality of a hoard of drunken geniuses, including Churchill, Hemingway, Faulkner, Ulysses S. Grant, John Huston, Paul Gauguin, and Jackie Gleason.

In fact, quitting alcohol can starve the artistic flame. That’s what happened to Gordon Lightfoot, one of the few popular musicians of the last fifty years whose lyrics were even a tiny bit interesting. Once he put back the cap on that bottle of McNaughton’s, he dried up artistically, and today he could be hosing down the parking lot of the Edmonton Wal-Mart. Who knows? Who cares?

First they came for the heroin addicts, and because I was not an addict, I did nothing. Then they came for the peyote eaters, and because I dislike puking my guts our and am not a supermodel or a jockey, I did nothing. Then they came for the cigarette smokers, and because I was not a smoker I did nothing. So far, things are going great for me. If they do come for me, they’ll get a broken-off wine bottle to the throat.

Have a nice day. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Smoking & Drinking Issue, Roberts | Link to this Entry

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