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Use a little sense!

November 1st, 2006


winkinggal.jpgDear Millie,

What’s with all the whining from cigarette smokers? They’re ruining their health (so much for respecting them) and poisoning the environment for others, yet they still howl about their rights, as if polluting bars and restaurants were guaranteed in the Constitution. Isn’t it really all about the tobacco companies making huge profits?

Stunk Out

Dear Stunk,

Sure, it’s about tobacco companies making money, but I have a question for you. Exactly how much do the smokers affect you personally? Don’t give me the second-hand smoke routine, because the only smokers you encounter nowadays are out of doors: one state after another has outlawed smoking in enclosed, public places. And the tiny bit of cigarette smoke you inhale outside is chicken feed compared to the endless supply of carcinogens circulating in the open air everywhere except the deepest wilderness. And you don’t have to let people smoke in your home. If they’re considerate, smokers don’t leave the residue of their habit all over the streets. Admittedly, many are not considerate and use the world as their ashtray, but people throw all sorts of trash on the ground. There are laws against it, and when someone starts enforcing them the smokers will have to put their butts in their pockets and take them home. So take it easy. You’ve won the battle. You don’t have to respect the smokers if you choose not to (certainly not for their smoking), but there’s no reason to have a cow about it. Pick your battles, honey. How about campaigning to outlaw the manufacture of weapons?


Dear Millicent Marshall,

My wife and I have received some quizzical and even critical looks lately from friends who seem disconcerted by our drinks cabinet, a lovingly refinished antique that sits proudly in our living room. In and on it are bottles of most types of spirits, as well as several bottles of red wine, a selection of glasses, a martini shaker, and a beautiful silver ice bucket. Yet rather than admire this welcoming sight, some of our guests seem to recoil slightly, as if its presence in our house proved that we were alcoholics, which we certainly are not. What’s going on?

Puzzled in Puyallup

Dear Puzzled,

What’s going on is another fad of our sad times, alcohol-phobia. Despite the scientific evidence that a drink now and then, especially of red wine, is good for you, people prefer to imagine that the presence of a bottle of bourbon or scotch or gin indicates addiction. (Vodka, for some reason, is not thus stigmatized, perhaps because it has no real flavor.) These are the ladies and gentlemen who steadfastly refuse the pre-prandial cocktail, nurse a single glass of wine all through dinner, and turn up their blue noses at a snifter of brandy afterwards. This fear of the hard stuff goes hand in hand with the belief, now widespread in the U.S., that anyone who drinks too much on any occasion is by definition an alcoholic. What crap!

I keep a well-stocked liquor cabinet in my living room, too, and when friends come to visit they are offered drinks along with hors d’oeuvres. The presence of a little food seems to calm people, although I recall fondly an acquaintance who drank our good scotch but turned down the munchies: “What, and ruin a good ten-dollar drunk with a few bucks worth of snacks?!”

The fear of alcohol you describe has given rise to a sickening overreaction to even the mildest and most pleasant inebriation, causing visions of slobbering helplessness, wife-beating, and the inevitable “intervention” of relatives, followed by a lifetime of miserable abstention. I have known people who have reacted to one unfortunate drunken night by diagnosing themselves alcoholics, entering treatment programs, and spending countless wretched evenings drinking awful coffee and listening to embarrassing confessions from complete strangers. And they were no more alcoholics than you are.

Not to fear, though: this too shall pass, along with all other ephemeral fashions. Look what happened when they tried to ban drinking early in the last century: no one stopped drinking, and the Mafia came into its own. In fact there is just no substitute for a good half bottle of wine with a tasty dinner — what are you supposed to drink with a juicy steak or a plate of coq au vin, water? And that early evening cocktail — the martini, the Campari and soda, or a dash of Punt e Mes on the rocks are my favorites — is a great relaxer. Man has been drinking inebriating beverages ever since he discovered them. My advice to you is to serve some really nice snacks and watch your fearful guests gradually come ’round. After all, they want to drink, they’re just to chicken to admit it.

And send me a picture of your drinks cabinet; it sounds perfect.


Send your query to Millicent Marshall care of Black Lamb. Letters may be edited for length. Replies not guaranteed confidential. •

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


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