North Shore News
Kate Zimmerman. North Shore News. North Vancouver, B.C.: Dec 17, 2006. pg. 7
YOU have to admit, it’s confusing.
One article insists you shouldn’t drink, as it leads to any number of rotten ailments. The next says you should, because booze fights everything from obesity to strokes. The following day, some doctor opines that men should drink daily, women not so much. Day after that, a bunch of Italians release a wine- and tomato-stained document that claims “A few drinks are healthy but only at mealtime.”
So said the headline on a story in the Sun on Tuesday. It went on to reveal that we dumb North Americans can’t even get drinking right. (We already know about our faulty lovemaking, pathetic foodstuffs and tragically passive dinner parties.) Apparently drinking is only healthy if you do it with food, you only ought to imbibe once a day, and the food should be Italian, or, perhaps, in a truly desperate situation, Greek.
This particular story advised, “Moderate drinking lowers the risk of premature death from all causes combined by 18 per cent, compared with non-drinkers, the authors from the Research Laboratories of the Catholic University of Campobasso conclude.” And of course, who would argue with anyone from the Research Laboratories of the Catholic University of Campobasso, whose lasagne is legendary.
I suggest to you that the Italian restaurant owners of the world are actually responsible for this so-called study. It’s equally likely that a confederacy of French chefs is to blame for bruiting about the “French Paradox,” which suggests that your heart welcomes the consumption of red wine, just as long as you choose a nice bottle from France and accompany it with a rich cheese, pate or braised meat dish, also from France. (Throw a roti, or sushi, into the mix and you’re on your own.)
It’s funny that wine and beer seem to be the chief concerns of all these “researchers.” A report last year, for instance, suggested that beer was good for you because the flavonoid compound found in hops helps prevent some kinds of cancer. Nobody, however, goes on the record to say that Cosmopolitans are good for your skin, or that pouring Jack Daniels on your cornflakes will stave off Alzheimer’s. Pity. Hard liquor — current cocktail craze or not — is still regarded with a gimlet eye by the pseudo scientists who make newspaper-worthy pronouncements.
Round about this time of year, though, alcohol of any kind tends to be depicted in the media as Public Enemy Number 1. This is true, of course, when it comes to drinking and driving; alcohol is also to blame for many physical brawls and nasty arguments.
But many of us feel we can “hold” our hooch. We cling to that belief even as we are putting on our obscene novelty neckties or blinking reindeer garters in preparation for the office Christmas party. What could possibly go wrong?
And then we wind up on somebody’s video footage or, worse yet, in the new book, The Man Who Scared a Shark to Death and Other True Tales of Drunken Debauchery (Penguin Canada), by Noel Boivin and Christopher Lombardo. Its Torontonian authors got their stories from newspapers around the world. Next time you find yourself hunched over the kitchen table, head in hands, giant thermos of coffee in front of you, throbbing with remorse, this would be the book to have nearby. In it are all kinds of people who are more stupid and ashamed than you. Some of them even outshine Mel Gibson.
They include the North Carolina gent whose inebriated state made him swallow his girlfriend’s allegation that they had gotten married during one of his benders. Seven years later, her inability to come up with a marriage certificate likely launched him on another adventure in alcohol.
“Memory” loss is one thing. Ill-advised “jokes” are another mistake spurred on by distilled beverages, as in the case of the sloshed lassie who got an old suitcase, clearly wrote upon it the word “Bomb,” and asked staff at her mother-in-law’s nursing home to deliver it to the old dear.
Gambling is another hazard, especially when you consider the example of the book’s wine-soaked British comic. He took a one- pound bet that he wouldn’t strip down and jump into an aquarium full of sharks and stingrays. One of the more sensitive sharks was traumatized by the comic’s bait-and-tackle and went belly up.
Britain seems to be a great resource for this book’s tales of demented dipsomaniacs. One boozed-up Labour party spokesman found himself inspired by a certain Dark Knight and decided to dramatically descend a set of steps to the British House of Commons “in the manner of Batman.” As he leapt to the bottom of the stairs he knocked over an old lady and then, while trying to help her up, tripped. Her scrapes took her to hospital and the “caped crusader” was told to stay away from the Commons “to avoid creating a ‘diversion’ during Question Period.”
Far be it from me to suggest that Labour Party MPs are any worse than others, but it’s intriguing that it was an Australian Labour representative who, “in a brazen act of both suckling on the public teat and sucking down libations, billed taxpayers for a sizable taxi fare one night when he was too blotto to remember his own address.” This “fact-finding mission” took two hours, and involved the MP asking to be taken to the airport at 2:30 a.m., and then to a town 186 miles away. The weary cabbie instead dropped him off at a police station. (And, presumably, voted for the opposition next time round.)
Police officers themselves get an entire chapter in this book (insert West Vancouver constabulary joke here). One yarn in particular, titled Cop a Feel, Feel a Cop, concerns their activities at a U.K. policemen’s ball. At that event, the officers accepting awards for helping cut down on drugs on the street were so plastered that there was uninhibited coupling on and off the dance floor, while one female officer “hopped up on a banquet table in order, presumably, to give an impromptu tabletop shimmy but fell to the ground before she was able to do so.” Another, “perhaps in a lewd homage to Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch,” delighted in dancing with her skirt pulled over her head. Coppers like these make outgoing RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli seem dignified.
Oh, the demon alcohol.
One lawyer I know has more than a few stories of equally humiliating excess. He has often mentioned the evening, quite possibly during the Calgary Stampede, when he had consumed so much beer that his only possible recourse was to upchuck. Wearily, he propped himself up by one arm against the wall of the closest building and let loose. Upon completion, he raised his eyes, only to find he had actually been leaning against the window of an upscale restaurant. The patrons on the other side of it had been watching his activities in utter horror.
If only he’d had the wit to tell them he’d been drinking not for pleasure, but for the good of his health.
Do bear that explanation in mind this holiday season — and keep a cab company’s number on speed-dial.