April 2, 2004
My First Grade teacher, Ms. Blue, made me and my entire class promise that we would never do three things: smoke, drink, or gamble. Then we went off into a joyous summer, and by the time I started Second Grade I couldn’t get going in the morning until I’d had a cigarette, I ended each day with a snifter of brandy, and I had my own box at the local horse track.
Seriously, though, it seemed like an easy enough promise to make at the time, but drinking turned out not to be so bad. At least I’ve never really gambled, unless you count an occasional game of low-stakes poker, but that’s as much a part of being a Boy Scout as losing six dollars’ worth of pennies playing Blackjack with your scoutmaster. The one thing I do regret is smoking. I knew smoking was bad for me when I started, I knew it was bad for me when I quit, and I never really did like smoking the whole six years I did it. I can’t be too critical of smokers since I was one once, but I can’t exactly jump to their defense either. I feel a little sorry for smokers since they at least used to have their own section in restaurants and now in some places you can legally be beaten with a crowbar for smoking within a hundred feet of a restaurant. And there’s something admirable about otherwise intelligent people who will stand outside in the snow desperately trying to keep a tiny stick of tobacco flakes lit just so they can get their fix. I also fear the "slippery slope" tendency, or, as I prefer to call it, the good-ideas-spawn-hideous-mutant-children tendency.
Doing away with smoking is a good thing. I used to think that anyone who said, "Smoking has no redeeming value" had never seen my mother tearing up the carpet because she couldn’t find her cigarettes. Then she quit smoking and now she’ll not only live longer but she never tears up the carpet anymore. But first they went after tobacco, and then they went after junk food. Is it possible that alcohol is next? Irish pubs have just banned smoking, which is fine, because open flames and alcohol are two things that really shouldn’t be together. If they follow the trend they’ll ban pork pies and microwaved chips next, which is also fine because those things aren’t fit for human consumption. But pubs from Ireland to India will go out of business if alcohol is banned. At least drinking doesn’t pollute the air, unless you count George, that guy who always comes to your parties, drinks way too much, and throws up in your ficus plant.
Ms. Blue, if you’re out there, I just want to say, I’m sorry I became a smoker. You were right, it was a terrible decision. As for drinking, in part because of your advice I at least waited until I was a sensible and mature nineteen before I began drinking. And as for gambling, I’ll give you eleven to two odds that I never start doing that.
Enjoy this week’s offerings.
Only the Irish have jokes like these:
Into a Belfast pub comes Paddy Murphy, looking like he’d just been run over by a train. His arm is in a sling, his nose is broken, his face is cut and bruised and he’s walking with a limp.
"What happened to you?" asks Sean, the bartender.
"Jamie O’Conner and me had a fight," says Paddy.
"That O’Conner," says Sean, "He couldn’t do that to you, he must have had something in his hand."
"That he did," says Paddy, "a shovel is what he had, and a terrible lickin’ he gave me with it."
"Well," says Sean, "you should have defended yourself, didn’t you have something in your hand?"
"That I did," said Paddy… "Mrs. O’Conner’s breast, and a thing of beauty it was, but useless in a fight."
An Irishman who had a little too much to drink is driving home from the city one night and, of course, his car is weaving violently all over the road. A cop pulls him over. "So," says the cop to the driver, where have ya been?"
"Why, I’ve been to the pub of course," slurs the drunk.
"Well," says the cop, "it looks like you’ve had quite a few to drink this evening."
"I did all right," the drunk says with a smile.
"Did you know," says the cop, standing straight and folding his arms across his chest, "that a few intersections back, your wife fell out of your car?"
"Oh, thank heavens," sighs the drunk. "For a minute there, I thought I’d gone deaf."
Brenda O’Malley is home making dinner, as usual, when Tim Finnegan arrives at her door. "Brenda, may I come in?" he asks. "I’ve somethin’ to tell ya".
"Of course you can come in, you’re always welcome, Tim. But where’s my husband?"
"That’s what I’m here to be telling ya, Brenda." There was an accident down at the Guinness brewery…"
"Oh, God no!" cries Brenda. "Please don’t tell me."
"I must, Brenda. Your husband Shamus is dead and gone. I’m sorry."
Finally, she looked up at Tim. "How did it happen, Tim?"
"It was terrible, Brenda. He fell into a vat of Guinness Stout and drowned."
"Oh my dear Jesus! But you must tell me true, Tim. Did he at least go quickly?"
"Well, Brenda… no. In fact, he got out three times to pee."
Mary Clancy goes up to Father O’Grady after his Sunday morning service, and she’s in tears. He says, "So what’s bothering you, Mary my dear?"
She says, "Oh, Father, I’ve got terrible news. My husband passed away last night."
The priest says, "Oh, Mary, that’s terrible. Tell me, Mary, did he have any last requests?"
She says, "That he did, Father."
The priest says, "What did he ask, Mary? " She says, "He said, ‘Please Mary, put down that gun…’
AND THE BEST FOR LAST A drunk staggers into a Catholic Church, enters a confessional booth, sits down but says nothing. The Priest coughs a few times to get his attention but the drunk continues to sits there. Finally, the Priest pounds three times on the wall. The drunk mumbles, "ain’t no use knockin; there’s no paper on this side either."