At Large

Everyone's got to have a hobby. Some collect stamps, some quilt. Maybe they watch birds, for God's sake, exhibiting the same kind of epochal resolve that brought us the Goodyear blimp and the Nixon presidency. None of those matches up to drinking, though. Alcohol is a time-tested way to waste your time and improve your life. I won't bore you with the high-school speech contest version of humankind's salacious and sloppy LTR with the heavenly distillations of fermented vegetable matter,1 except to say that for creatures who have a hard time remembering where we put our car keys, we've been remarkably dedicated, over the millennia, to the pursuit of a good buzz.

Not that I drink myself, of course. Heavens, no. Otherwise, I might do silly things like find myself at a nameless bar in the International District at 2 in the morning celebrating the birthday of someone I don't know while lecturing a small but rapt audience about the legend of Le Petomane.2

I read that less than a third of all Anglican priests polled could name all Ten Commandments, while half said they believe in space aliens. And why not? In a society plagued with emoticons and the frankly bizarre worship of Jennifer Lopez's ass, it's no small wonder that these poor nameless priests aren't scampering like sodden monkeys to sign up with NASA. ("Get me off this planet quick, you bug-eyed geek!")

If popular culture is any indication,3 they shouldn't be so quick to leave. But then, maybe it's best to get off the planet before the oceans start to boil and icebergs the size of Ricky Martin's closet come sliding across the face of North America.4 In which case, we might as well be good and drunk.5

1. "Humans have consumed alcohol for many years. . . ." Yawn . . . you want that version, go look in Britannica.

2. Le Petomane was a renowned 19th-century French farting artist. A report from the Journal de Medecine of Bordeaux, 20 March 1892, by one Dr. Marcel Baudouin: "Without clothes the subject can extinguish at a distance of 12 inches, a burning candle, by the force of gas violently expelled from the anus." Even more impressive: "Le Petomane imitates all sorts of sounds such as the violin, the bass, and the trombone. He can produce a strong enough note 10 or 12 times running and he can take in enough air to produce sound lasting 10 or 15 seconds."

3. In case you haven't noticed, we've come a long way from the cuddly Reese's Pieces-eating version of our neighbors in the stars. Some (usually those with too many degrees for their own good and so much free time that you are left wondering why they don't just wander off into the desert and die) say that this rude shift in the cultural zeitgeist is due to the end of the Cold War—presumably, we humans are simply too stupid to function sensibly without enemies and thus must create paranoid fantasy worlds in which we are surrounded by them.

4. A scenario (sans the Ricky Martin reference) envisioned by the now embarrassingly discredited Richard Noone, author of 5/5/2000—Ice: The Ultimate Disaster, in which a murkily pyramid/Freemason confluence of events results in gigantic fucking glaciers sliding across the face of the Earth at a thousand miles an hour. You can also buy grain mills and survival gear from his Web site. Really, why do these people pick dates? Why haven't they learned the fine art of the vague prophecy, as pioneered by Nostradamus and the Weekly World News?

5. Which is not an endorsement on the part of Seattle Weekly staff about the value and/or merit of getting so unbearably smashed, particularly on a Tuesday night, because you have nothing better to do that you end up dancing on a bar in Belltown smoking cheap cigars and screaming for a chance at the shuffleboard table while Elvis is playing on the jukebox.—Ed.

Kate Shuster, Contrib.

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