Friday, August 04, 2006

Una Soda
Una soda por favor (one soda please)
Can't drink cervecas (beer) anymore
'Cause if I do I fear I'll fall down on the floor
Una soda por favor
Can't drink that anymore

¿Dónde el baño señor? (where is the bathroom?)
Please point me to the door
And if you'd be so kind I swear that I won't puke on your floor
¿Dónde el baño señor?
Point me to the door
To the door

Come off a hard day of thinking
Just thought I'd do a little drinking
Now man the lifeboats
I think my ship is sinking, yeah

¿Qúe hora es señior ? (what time is it, sir?)
And who's that pretty girl standing there, by the door?
I think I knew her from a thousand years before
¿Qúe hora es señor?
I need a little more
I need a little more
I need a little more
I need a little more
Hey, yeah!
Hey, yeah!

The Refreshments, The Bottle & Fresh Horses, Sept. 16, 1997.

I have been contributing to this website for a small amount of time and, for the most part, have concerned myself with the history of beer. It is a topic of interest to me, and I hope, perhaps, to you. But for this entry, let us turn our collective attention from the misty folds of the far-flung past to a topic of more recent application.

The singer in the above song finds himself south of the border and confronting some personal problem. The nature of his trouble isn’t made clear, but he has given it the bulk of his day. In an effort to wrestle with his problem, he has tried to drink beer to help him think it through, or at least, to separate himself from it for awhile. Neither approach has worked and he finds that he has consumed too much. Much too much. Now his problem has shifted from the mental exercise of trying to reason his life into some kind of order, to trying to keep his “cookies” from off the floor. (Or his “tacos” perhaps.) The question of what it is that he is trying so hard to hold back is immaterial. The point of the song is that he has had too much cervecas.

Now who among us has not found themselves in this situation before? Is there any of us that does not have a “I went to this (party, dance, wedding, bar/bat mitzvah, concert, office Christmas party, poker game, picnic, wake, barn raising, fancy dress ball, arm wrestling match, sporting match, lodge meeting, book club meeting, rotary meeting, pta meeting, job interview, strip club, etc. al.) and drank way too much” story. This is a regrettably, easy mistake to make, especially for the inexperienced beer drinker. So in the interest of public health, safety, and general well-being, let me add this.

In my recent research I came across the website (For a Healthy Australia). Now, after perusing this site and the many branches that it offers, it is obvious that the Australian gov’t. cares very deeply for its people. They have gone to great lengths to inform them of the dangers and health risks of consuming alcohol. One particular entry caught my eye, entitled Standard Drinks. This is what it said:

The use of standard drinks can help people to monitor their alcohol consumption and exercise control over the amount they drink.

Different types of alcoholic drinks contain different amounts of pure alcohol. A standard drink is defined as one that contains 10 grams of pure alcohol.

These are all equal to about one standard drink.

Low alcohol beer (3.5 per cent alcohol): 1.6 pots/middies (total volume 375 mL).Table wine (12 per cent): one small glass (100 mL).Mixed drinks: one glass (30 mL) of spirits (40 per cent) plus mixer.Low alcohol beer (3.5 per cent): one can (375 mL).Regular beer (4.9 per cent): one pot/middy (285 mL).Alcoholic soda (5.5 per cent): three-quarters of a 330 mL bottle.Spirits or liqueurs (40 per cent): one nip (30 mL).Regular beer (4.9 per cent): three-quarters of a stubby (375mL).
Example: 2 full strength pots/middies of beer + one small glass of wine + one rum and coke = 4 standard drinks.

Now if you are like me, several of these measurements were unfamiliar, such as middies, pot/middy, one nip, or three-quarters of a stubby. The increment of one nip seems fairly clear, being, I think, very close to an American swig, but what’s ¾ of a stubby? (A friend of mine claimed to have had a stubby once, but she was very adamant that she would never go down that road again, no matter what kind of car the guy drove. Whatever that means.) Apparently, I am not alone in my quandary. The site goes on to explain:
A 285 mL container of beer is called:
a 'pot' in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania;
a 'middy' in New South Wales, the ACT and Western Australia;
a 'schooner' in South Australia; and
a 'handle' in the Northern Territory.

I guess that even the Australians have yet to reach a consensus on their terms. I can’t think that I have ever had a “schooner” of beer because I picture it being the size of a small ship, or at least an oversized gravy boat. I curse my poor education that I can’t even really fathom what 285 mL of beer looks like, but in my minds eye, it is a tall, dewy glass of amber yumminess, with a good head of large bubbles, and the light shines through it just right, and the soft hiss of its escaping bubbles form a siren-song that no respectable seaman could resist. I-
Forgive me, I digress. (That minds eye thing gets me into more trouble.)

It is the STANDARD DRINKS title that mystifies me. The title suggests that universal standards have been reached and everyone agrees what a “standard” drink is, but in the end, pronounces that the standards are, by and large, called something different wherever you go. It seems that it is only “standard” if it contains 10 grams of pure alcohol. But who’s counting……
It’s interesting to me that in the example that they give, the drinker in question, drinks two beers (full strength, I guess Aussies still make 3.2 beers), one small glass of wine, and a rum –n- coke, for a total of four drinks. I don’t have any problem with their math, but, if I was this guy, I would be mildly buzzed, but very sick. Mixing your booze is an excellent way to really test the limits of what your stomach can handle as well as tempt a grueling hangover. I know. I have a tender tummy. Even if I just stick to beer, sometimes even switching brands can throw me off, never mind trying to have a mix of boozes.

In the song from the top of the page, our poor misbeknighted singer is languishing in some south of the border cantina, trying to use his limited Spanish to locate the bathroom. I’m willing to bet that the cantina does not sell STANDARD DRINKS.

A wise friend of mine told me something when I first started drinking:
Whiskey before Beer; Nothing to fear.
Beer Before Whiskey; Drinker is risky!

I’ve found that to be true. (Please, feel free to substitute the hard spirit of your choice for whiskey. I’ve found that to be true too.) This friend also recommended a large glass of water before bed, after an evening of debauchery and if you were a smoker, (And for some unknown reason, one seems to go hand-in-hand with the other) perhaps a couple of aspirin, but not aleve/naproxen sodium; because of the possible liver damage that the label warns everyone who has three or more alcoholic drinks every day. (This was in my college days when the state of my livers health was a constant concern. So much so that I frequently spent sleepless nights worrying about it, while drinking beer.)

Some other sound wisdom that he passed on was that it was usually a good idea to drink a glass of water after every third beer/drink and stretch a little. Move around and stir up a little blood was his advice. Alcohol is heavier than water, and the idea that the alcohol would naturally head for your head made sense, in some weird drunken chemistry sort of way. The extra water you were consuming on top of your alcohol was merely to keep you from being dehydrated, drinking too much too soon, and to move the booze a little faster to the way out.

He also told me some consideration should be given to diet when one decides to drink. The most obvious is to have something in your stomach first. Eat a good meal. Something wholesome, something nourishing, and something that does not have bean dip, jalapenos, chili, eggs, or White Castle hamburgers in the ingredients. The avoidance of bean dip, eggs, and White Castle hamburgers is just a concession to those who love you, and your coworkers, who have to spend time with you. (The onion smell from White Castle Hamburgers will only truly haunt you THREE days after consumption.) The jalapenos and chili are somewhat of a no-brainer. They just burn in every direction.

Now my research is by no means complete and should NOT be used as a creditable reference. Two of the websites I am drawing my information from were sponsored by lawyers who specialize in fighting DUI cases. I suspicion that their info is correct, but their motives a probably self-serving.

I had a friend that did four years in the Navy and he was stationed in southern California. It was a regular thing for him to take a long weekend leave in Tijuana. He had brought back a beer glass of translucent neon pink plastic that was labeled “A Yard Of Beer”, and it was too. I measured it for a bet that was made in a fit of beer inspired bravado. I didn’t want to bet. I am a man of many vices, but the love of a wager isn’t one of them, but I was relieved of a choice, when my reasonably sober calls for reason, were overruled. He insisted that he show me how it was that he had won this fantastic prize, this long, gangly, pink beer stein, that he insisted was called a “whalebone”. (It was vaguely shaped like a tibia.) The bar that served these ugly neon test tubes of beer would give you sixty seconds to drink it, and if you beat the clock, you got it on the house and got to keep the glass, that also came with its own faux wood bracket so that you could mount it to your wall, so you could brag to your friends/ buddies/ coworkers/ parole officer about how much beer you drank, how much fun you had, and how most of the evening after is somewhat of a blur. This story came with a demonstration. Shortly thereafter he regaled me with story of the girl and donkey floorshow, followed by another demonstration of how to evacuate your stomach, and the room, in a hurry. The second demonstration was not on the agenda for that evening, but then, neither was the “whalebone”.

I am not certain what made me sicker that night, the site of his quickly redecorated kitchen, the look of genuine horror on his wife’s face that their guests were covered in beer that had not been inside of him long enough to quit being cold, or the graphic picture he painted of the girl and donkey show.*

*(I am deeply sorry for the content off that last passage, I find it as deeply distressing as you do, gentle reader, but an example of a beer drinking incident gone wrong needed to be provided. I am sure that each of you could provide an incident of colorful background, wild settings, and delightful characters, of your own experience, but please, allow me mine. This subject will not be mentioned in any further posts, I can assure you.)

The whole point of this story is Be Careful! Alcohol has been a great social lubricant for some time now, just ask the ancient Greeks, but once lubricated, step back and enjoy the moment. Know when to say when. Don’t drive. And if you make the mistake of having too much, take steps to prevent the ruin of the next day. In one episode of Fox’s “Family Guy”, Lois chides Peter for getting drunk at a bachelor party the night before by saying, “The hangover you have now is just Mother Natures way of telling you I was right!”.



  1. Everything in moderation, that's my motto. I remember that night of the whale bone; it was the first time I've ever seen anyone literally turn green before getting sick. It was fascinating.

  2. I turned green once before falling to the pavement after a disc slipped in my lumbar region and I was in the WORST pain of my entire life. But I, too, digress...

    I've seen the yard beer thingies, but usually made of glass which gave a slightly more socially acceptable tone than flourescent pink plastic, and I've heard that the human anatomy DOES indeed sometimes reject liquids in such a way.

    Well sprach, mein herr!! Most well sprach!


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