July 4, 2003
"Everybody should believe in something. I believe I’ll have another drink." – W.C. Fields
Maybe I’m missing something, but nobody I know goes out for a drink anymore. And people rarely offer each other drinks. I’m not sure when exactly this happened, but if you look back at old movies from the Forties and Fifties, the men always wear fedora hats and everyone seems to drink large amounts of, well, it’s rarely named, but if the film is in black and white then it’s either clear liquid in a bottle or it’s dark liquid in a bottle.
The stuff was everywhere. If you watch the old show "Leave It To Beaver" it’s astounding how many time’s you’ll see Ward, the father figure of the program, sitting in his study with a large martini explaining to Beaver why it’s wrong to stick your tongue out in a family photograph. I suppose there are still a few remnants of this old tradition. Once in a while you’ll go into a bar and see a guy at one end wearing a fedora and a brown suit that’s two sizes too big hunched over a glass of gin. If he speaks at all it’s to ask for another drink or to explain to his napkin why it’s wrong to use your milk money to buy a moon pie.
But chances are you don’t go into bars that often, or if you do they’re the sort of places that serve those weird, mutant martinis that come in every possible color and flavors that should never accompany alcohol – like chocolate or strawberry or salmon roe. Call me old fashioned (or mix me an Old Fashioned, if you know how, although I’m the sort who prefers his bourbon straight in a small glass over ice) but I think the only time you should have an aqua-colored drink is when you’re within ten feet of the ocean, or at the very least in a place with a lot of fish tanks. (Be warned, though: it’s not a good idea to drink in a pet store, even though what you’ll wake up next to won’t necessarily be any scarier than what you’ll encounter in a singles bar. But I digress.)
I think the problem, though, isn’t the cocktail, although with its highly suggestive name it could be seen as the beginning of deviant alcohol consumption, but a whole zoo of bizarre ways of consuming alcohol. Put away those shooters, slammers, hammers, zappers, poppers, and gobstoppers and anything made with gelatin or served in a test-tube. Alcohol’s for adults, so drink it like an adult. If it’s filled with more sugar than a Jamaican plantation and is intended to be consumed in seconds rather than sips, it’s not a "drink". It’s an alcohol delivery system that’s made to make you think being surrounded by hooting idiots is, by any standard, fun. If it promises to get you drunker than you’ve ever been before, think back to the last time you thought you were drunk, which was probably when you surreptitiously downed four glasses of champagne at an unknown relative’s wedding when you were sixteen. Alcohol delivery systems are guaranteed to make sure you get relieved of your wallet later on while you’re relieving yourself against a wall in an alley. It’s unfortunate that they give alcohol a bad name. Alcohol was once associated with sophistication and appreciation of life. Now it’s associated with frat guys in comas and burning port-a-johns.
Call me naive (or mix me a Naive, which is eight ounces of wholemilk, two tablespoons of malted milk powder, and four tablespoons of butterscotch sauce) but if you’re my age you probably watched "Cheers" before you could legally drink alcohol. Didn’t you wish for a place where you could have a drink and everybody knew your name and occasional zaniness occurred? Ironically when "Cheers" was still running and parachute pants were still in alcohol had already begun it’s decline, and its place was being usurped by coffee. Coffee’s not bad in itself, it gets you going in the morning or keeps you up all night, and you can’t have Irish Coffee without it, but coffee shops are creating newer and weirder "designer coffees", which are basically just caffeine delivery systems. Look for mocha-flavored gelatin – with enough caffeine to keep you hanging from the office ceiling all day – to be the next big thing. What really bothers me, though, is when I go to a coffee shop and everyone has either a laptop or a cell-phone and nobody’s really communicating. I think I’d rather go to a bar, even if it’s just to order a cup of coffee, but bars have become so passe I’ll only have my napkin to talk to. Come on, let’s get a drink. Have a beer or a martini or a Manhattan or a Tom Collins or sangria or a lemonade if that’s your poison – or if you happen to be driving. The first one’s on me.
Enjoy this week’s offerings.
South African Tourism
These questions about South Africa were posted on a South African Tourism Website and were answered by the website owner.
Q: Does it ever get windy in South Africa? I have never seen it rain on TV, so how do the plants grow? (UK)
A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.
Q: Will I be able to see elephants in the street? (USA)
A: Depends how much you’ve been drinking.
Q: I want to walk from Durban to Cape Town – can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden)
A: Sure, it’s only two thousand kilometres take lots of water…
Q: Is it safe to run around in the bushes in South Africa? (Sweden)
A: So it’s true what they say about Swedes.
Q: Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in South Africa? Can you send me a list of them in JHB, Cape Town, Knysna and Jeffrey’s Bay? (UK)
A: What did your last slave die of?
Q: Can you give me some information about Koala Bear racing in South Africa? (USA)
A: Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the pacific. A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe which does not…oh forget it. Sure, the Koala Bear racing is every Tuesday night in Hillbrow. Come naked.
Q: Which direction is north in South Africa? (USA)
A: Face south and then turn 90 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we’ll send the rest of the directions.
Q: Can I bring cutlery into South Africa? (UK)
A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.
Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys’ Choir schedule? (USA)
A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is… oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Hillbrow, straight after the Koala Bear races. Come naked.
Q: Do you have perfume in South Africa? (France)
A: No, WE don’t stink.
Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in South Africa? (USA)
A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.
Q: Can you tell me the regions in South Africa where the female population is smaller than the male population? (Italy)
A: Yes, gay nightclubs.
Q: Do you celebrate Christmas in South Africa? (France)
A: Only at Christmas.
Q: Are there killer bees in South Africa? (Germany)
A: Not yet, but for you, we’ll import them.
Q: Are there supermarkets in Cape Town and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter-gatherers. Milk is illegal.
Q: Please send a list of all doctors in South Africa who can dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA)
A: Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca, which is where YOU come from. All South African snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make good pets.
Q: I was in South Africa in 1969, and I want to contact the girl I dated while I was staying in Hillbrow. Can you help? (USA)
A: Yes, and you will still have to pay her by the hour.
Q: Will I be able to speek English most places I go? (USA)
A: Yes, but you’ll have to learn it first.