“Good people drink good beer.”
-Hunter S. Thompson-
“Good people drink good beer.”
-Hunter S. Thompson-
When is an empty bottle more than an empty bottle? Another way to start this journo would be to ask how many times have you walked past an empty booze bottle and wondered how it got there? A while ago I noticed that there were empty booze bottles showing up in the alley behind my house. I’ve always been a fan of mysteries so discovering the source of the bottles was a case I wanted to solve.
I found out rather quickly the case of the empty booze bottles wasn’t much of a mystery. A neighbor from across the alley was stepping behind his garage most afternoons and having a drink or few before going inside his house. Mystery solved. But there was still a story, and there were still unanswered questions. Was he drinking because of what happened each day or to brace himself for what was to happen each evening? What prohibited him from drinking in his own home?
Empty bottles may be trash but they are also stories. Stories that may be mysteries, stories that may not have resolutions. The mystery of the empty bottles in the alley may not have a resolution, but I’m positive it is a story of Prohibition.
It’s the first day of 2021, but it would be foolish to think 2020 is in the rearview mirror (unless you picture 2020 as some sort of villain form a slasher flick waiting to pop up a cut your throat once you look in the rearview). While sipping from a jar of Kentucky homemade last night counting down the minutes I got to thinking about Prohibition (clear whiskey crafted by people from the hills has a way of doing that).
I started 2019 and 2020 with the topic of Drinking and figured I’d start a tradition of doing the same with 2021, but that jar of Kentucky clear convinced me to focus the topic of conversation on Prohibition. After a few shots, I started to reflect on the events, experiences, and perceptions of 2020 (whiskey is a facilitator of many things, self-reflection being one of them) and started thinking about the many of prohibitions, imposed and suggested, over the last year and their impact.
I will continue the tradition of starting the year with the topic of Drinking by discussing Prohibition (with a capital ‘P’) and by also discussing prohibitions in general (with the lower case ‘p’). Here’s to an interesting and creative 2021. Let’s start it off with what we aren’t supposed to do.
January is about to make its last call. How about one more round before they close up the first month of 2020? I hope that you got off to a solid start this year. I mentioned setting realistic goals earlier this month. I’m moving toward mine, how about you?
I discussed the importance of place and having a point to your drinking this month. I stopped off at one of my favorite diners tonight, and I picked up a six pack of Abita at the corner package store. A good meal and a few Louisiana beers always go well with a Walker Percy novel. I hope you have a “clean, well-lighted place” of your own to frequent this year. If you decide to have one more round or two this month I hope you do it with point and purpose in mind. Place, point, and purpose can all help you achieve your goals.
Well, it’s last call for me (I just popped the top of my last Abita). If you are out there with a glass or bottle of your own, cheers. Keep moving toward your goals and don’t be too critical of yourself if you stumble from time to time.
What’s your favorite place to hang out? Is it a café, a coffee shop, or a corner bar? Regardless of your libation of choice it is important to have a place that you feel comfortable spending time at. Ernest Hemingway’s short story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” stresses the importance of having a place to spend your personal time.
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” is a study of the three stages of life through an existential lens. You’ll get no argument or questions from me regarding that analysis of the story. But Hemingway also presents the reader with an explicit message regarding the importance of having a place one can feel comfortable spending time at that is not his home. One of the characters, an older waiter says, “…there may be someone who needs the café.” This comment follows an exchange between two waiters who agree that drinking a bottle of alcohol at home is not the same as drinking at a café. There is some special quality the cafe can offer that home cannot. The story ends with the older waiter heading home after failing to find a place that that meets his requirements of clean and pleasant.
Hemingway’s story shows us the importance of these special places in our lives (mine is a local bar). The implication is that sometimes a home away from home, a special place or hang out, is necessary for any number of personal reasons. We may outgrow security blankets but we still look for comfort, and that comfort can come in finding a special place to hang out, to call our own (even if we share it with others).
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” is an existential study of growing old if you use Hemingway’s iceberg theory. Sometimes you just need forget about what’s under the water and look at the iceberg itself and see what is explicitly conveyed in a story. Whether it is a café, a coffee shop, or a corner bar there is something comforting about having your own place to hang out. When you are drinking that next cup of coffee or pint of stout think about Hemingway’s idea of the importance of a clean and pleasant place.
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” from The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway by Ernest Hemingway
The one hundredth anniversary of the start of Prohibition is in a couple days (January 17th, 1920). Some consider it the starting pistol for our nation sprinting head first and hell bent into the Roaring 20s. In honor of speak easies, bootleg whiskey, hip flasks, and flappers I thought I would share my Drinking Man’s EDC (that’s ‘Every Day Carry” for those of you not in the tactical know).
As I’ve said before, if you are going to do any serious drinking then you should be serious about drinking. My EDC isn’t anything extraordinary, but it currently addresses my drinking lifestyle. What’s in your Drinking Man’s EDC?
Any sort of serious drinking requires some serious thought about drinking. Amy LaVere’s “Pointless Drinking” shows us that drinking without a point is to end up in a world of hurt when you get to the bottom of the bottle. Whether you have a glass in hand or hip flask in pocket be deliberate in both choice of drink and point for drinking.
The narrator of Ms. LaVere’s song stumbles from bar to bar and drink to drink without any point or purpose. Without any point for drinking the narrator has nothing but the thing she doesn’t need (or want) and that is another drink.
So what is LaVere’s eternal barfly, that aged drinker at the end of the bar willing to dispense a bit of 80 proof wisdom, telling us? Is “Pointless Drinking” meant to be some sort of cautionary tale, a prohibitionist’s treatise against the evils of alcohol? No, but there is some sound advice in our narrator’s tale, some choice wisdom that can be gleaned from the bottoms of those empty glasses. It is not alcohol that should be avoided. What should be avoided is poor choices, and alcohol and poor choices (like cheap and Walmart) tend to go together. Have a point to your drinking before the bartender pours that first shot. Make the choice to know what you want from your alcohol and know what you are in for when the bartender makes last call.
I did my share of pointless drinking in years past. I’m older and wiser (more old than wise) nowadays. I make certain there is a point to each pour and pint, but I can’t say it any better that Amy LaVere’s “Pointless Drinking.” Give Anchors and Anvils a listen and you tell me.
Anchors and Anvils (2007) Amy Lavere.
• “Civilization begins with distillation.” -William Faulkner-
• “Good people drink good beer.” -Hunter S. Thompson-
• “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.” -Dorothy Parker-
• “There is no bad whisky. There are only some whiskeys that aren’t as good as others.” -Raymond Chandler-
• “The light music of whisky falling into glasses made an agreeable interlude.” -James Joyce-