Milwaukee — A Drunken Port In a Storm

Milwaukee has been named “America’s Drunken City” — by no less an eminence than Forbes. San Francisco isn’t on the list. Neither is Los Angeles nor New York. Which suggests that, outside of Boston, Providencem and Pitt, the antipodean ends of the nation simply don’t have what it takes to get soused. Or the Forbes money men (or the employees of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) were too busy with their mergers and acquisitions to hit the pubs.

The announcement caused the Milwaukee Visitors and Convention Bureau to issue the following statement: “We’ve gone from Brew City to new city.” Well, that may be happening, but until they take the “Mil” out of Milwaukee, I’m unconvinced.

(via Dave White)

But On the Upside, It’s Better Than Getting Stuck in a K-Hole

McCall: “New findings indicate that when the popular Red Bull energy drink is consumed with alcohol, it actually reduces the user’s ability to recognize loss of motor skills….’The myth is that you take Red Bull and alcohol and you are going to be Superman, but it is a bad combination,’ said Dr. Lawrence Kessler, of the ER-DOX Clinic in Amityville. ‘I have young patients who come in dehydrated, their hearts racing too fast. They think you are doing an ‘upper,’ the caffeine in the drink, and a ‘downer,’ the alcohol, and you go sideways, but you end up crashing.'”

In Which Your Narrator Falls for the $48.50 Ruse

Snce it was indeed St. Patrick’s Day, and since there were friends who had requested his presence, your humble narrator decided to partake of these dubious festivities with trusted parties. Never mind that your narrator wasn’t Irish, but that his heritage constituted the dubious combination of Dutch and German, which likely led to his strange temperament and fey physical appearance (consider, for example, your narrator’s family’s long line of bulbous heads). Never mind that your narrator’s hair color had transmuted over the past year and a half into a much darker shade of the reddish brown hue that had once made him the darling of family photographs, now with slight flecks of grey that only your narrator might notice, altogether a rather undistinctive shade for what little hair your narrator had left. The point was that this was St. Paddy’s Day — a time for drinking, a time for carousing, and a time for talking with rather curvaceous gals. In short, the holiday had justified nearly every act of minor debauchery called for.

Anyway, your narrator, rapt in a conversation concerning the Soviet conquest of Eastern European countries in the 1970s, was interrupted by a curvaceous and quite attractive thirtysomething (from the rather indistinctive territory of Walnut Creek, natch; he should have seen this coming) who was trying to attract the bartender’s attention. Said lady batted her eyelashes, rubbed her physical form against your narrator, and otherwise turned him into a lust-driven dumbass. What can the narrator say? He was single and susceptible.

Your narrator, of course, was a man of adventure, eager to ensure that an attractive woman could, in fact, order her drinks for her lovely coterie. He was prepared to stand on the bar, if necessary. Fortunately, matters being what they were, this was not necessary. And so, it was with this impulse that he flagged a rather industrious bartender’s attention, no small feat considering the prodigious inhabitants, all claiming to be Irish, who hoped to siphon the Guinness pipeline, securing the XX crowd’s drinks and winning them their trophy through some kind of unspoken nobelese oblige.

Anyway, the chief curvaceous lady, purportedly grateful for your narrator’s efforts, decided to reward him with a drink. But it was here that your narrator was an outright fool. The tab of the XX crowd’s drinks came to $48.50. They only had forty-seven bucks. And the lady, batting her eyelashes ever so fastidiously, called upon your narrator to put up the remaining capital, which of course included tips. Your narrator placed a Lincoln and all the George Washingtons he had in his wallet on the bar and completed the purchase, and was rewarded, if paying his own way can be called such, with a Guinness.

Thus, the $48.50 ruse. The idea here, no doubt contrived by these ladies, was to hit up a nice guy for these drinks, which your narrator foolishly did.

Granted, your narrator would have purchased another Guinness anyway. Not a colossal sum, mind you, but it was the principle of the matter which kept your narrator relatively lucid and a bit dismayed.

And so your narrator completed the purchase of drinks by his very presence, realizing that he is one of those fools who is commonly identified as “a nice guy” and realizing that, at the age of 31, he clearly has a lot more to learn about such chicanery in the universe. Not that it will hinder his kindness or generosity in the future. But the incident does remind him why nice guys finish last.

#1 — The Burgess Cocktail

So, per the instructions, I prepared the Hangman’s Blood.

This is one serious beverage.

The taste is overpoweringly pungent and I cannot imagine anyone other than a drinker of Burgess’ hardy stature drinking more than one of these over an evening. Since there are five hard liquors involved (and I prepared about a jigger a piece), even the viscous Guinness cannot absorb the full potency of this brew. And the Korbel on top only complicates thing, causing the mix to resemble some cold version of a frothy witches brew.

However, Burgess was damn right about the elation. I’ve had about a third of the drink so far and, despite dinner, it went straight to my head and, despite the noxious taste, I am feeling a very pleasant tingle throughout my arms and my stomach.

Perhaps this is the British answer to Long Island Iced Tea. Because the gin in particular really seems to stand out. (Perhaps gin doesn’t chemically mesh with the Guinness. Any scientists in the crowd tonight?)

Burgess-Style Beverages

The erstwhile all around good guy who, as it so happens, is currently living and breathing to great effect, Golden Rule Jones points to this alcoholic combo favored by Anthony Burgess:

Into a pint beer-glass doubles of the following are poured: gin, whisky, rum, port, and brandy. A small bottle of stout is added, and the whole is topped off with champagne. It induces a somehow metaphysical elation, and rarely leaves a hangover.

In honor of the late Burgess, we shall indeed try out this concoction this Saturday for NaDruWriNi and report just how metaphysically elating it is.

The Drunk

“I can’t breathe, motherfucker! I can’t breathe!”

The drunk had only his voice left, but he was determined to fight. A neighbor and I called from the window. We begged the police not to harm the man, to give him oxygen, and the fuzz knew they were being watched. So they didn’t beat him. The drunk had only blurred stamina and a voice that alerted every adjacent domicile that there was a skirmish in the premises. His limbs were pinned down by seven of San Francisco’s finest in the alley adjacent to my apartment. I had to wonder just what the hell it was he did exactly. Had he spurned chase? Had he assaulted an officer? Was he simply belligerent? There was a savage determination in the man’s voice to beat the odds. It took seven police officers to hold him down. Seven.

The liquor had fueled him. It had told him that he was immortal, whatever his problems, whatever his affliction. It had worked the same way that PCP might in another: the abject faith that he was above the law, that he would win in the end, that vengeance of an altogether irrational sort would be his. But the addiction, apparently, was too much for him to operate in society. Tonight, anyway.

Of the seven cops, one was a woman. The drunk, singular in his rebellion, had bitten her hand while they pinioned his limbs down. He called her a dyke. he egged them on. Aside from a feral “fucker” from the lady (an understandable impulse from anyone who had blood drawn from their hand), the SFPD did their job containing him without beating the man down. This was no Fajitagate. They only wanted to get him into the wagon. And the wagon arrived, backing into the alley and colliding into a few trash cans. There was a mesh grille behind the double doors, and I wondered if anyone else was there.

The drunk had been in the Marines at one point. He had been stationed on Treasure Island. So he said. You meet a lot of homeless people in this city, many of them claiming some military stint, some pledge unfulfilled. And he was determined to “fuck your fascist shit up,” thank you very much.

Me? I felt like one of Kitty Genovese’s watchers. Who the hell was I to cast judgment? But if the police clubbed this guy to death, I was determined to run into the alley and stop the violence. Fortunately, they didn’t.

But I sympathized with him. I wondered if he had been left behind at some point. I wondered about his military experience. I wondered what had caused him to become so blotto and so enraged. Had he been abandoned? Had he served in the Gulf War? Or was his life a grand lie?

One police officer for every limb. They threw him into the van and laughed a bit afterward. But I pondered the man’s fate. What would our current local services do to help him? What would our social programs do to reach him? Would he be released to the streets, only to unleash violence again? Or would he somehow find himself? Was this a drunk left to drink himself to death? Another high-maintenance person abandoned to the fateful gods of the streets?


The Guardian has an excerpt of Carol Shield’s unfinished novel, Segue, which she was working on at the time of her death.

Terry Gross interviews Stephen King. Hearing Terry Gross describe the beginning of Gerald’s Game in such clinical intellectual terms (apparently, without irony) is pretty hilarious, as are the additional queries that jump from third-person to first-person (“Let’s get Stephen King to the kind of gore and terror and suspense that you create.”). But the second interview has King talking about his accident.

The Globe and Mail features a New Year’s-themed article on the description of drinking in literature that’s also unintentioanlly funny. Really, I couldn’t make this stuff up: “You can, with a little licence, trace an arc in 20th-century drinking literature that follows the act of drinking itself. In Hemingway’s work, the drinking was never-ending, and often celebratory when it wasn’t the weary duty of the lost generation. Hangovers were left largely undescribed, something that could be walked off in the clear air of the Pyrenees, or washed off in a fine and true Michigan trout stream.”

More fun from J.M. Coetzee in the latest NYRoB.

Speculation in the Age on 2004’s Australian heavy-hitters.

Tony Kushner gushes over Eugene O’Neill.

Biggest surprise: USA Today names both Living History and The Five People You Meet in Heaven as worst books of 2003.

Stavros has a translation of the Lost in Translation commercial scene that reveals (no surprise) remarkable caricatures.

And about 70 books on Mao were published in China this year. Perhaps because the 110th anniversary of Mao’s birth was yesterday.