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Only When I’m Drunk

Roger Ebert recalls his drinking days over at Granta:

Above all we drank. It is not advisable, perhaps not possible, to spend very many evenings in a place like O’Rourke’s while drinking Cokes and club soda. Sometimes I attempted to cut back, by adopting drinks whose taste I hated (fernet branca) or those with low alcohol content (white wine and soda). Night after night I found these substitutes relaxed me enough to switch to scotch and soda. For a time I experimented with vodka and tonic. I asked Jay Kovar what he know about vodka ‘as a drink’. He said: ‘Sooner or later, all the heavy hitters get to vodka.’

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1 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 26, 2010 2:03 pm

The funny thing about heavy drinking is that every literary account makes it seem so romantic, while every real world account usually turns out very tragic.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Mar 26, 2010 2:12 pm

Yeah, my old man was guilty of that romanticization even after he got sober. I recall talking to my aunt, his sister, about those days not long ago and she was hesitant because of just that thing, when of course, the truth was, they were wasting time bullshitting and getting shit-faced and generally avoiding life...but since they did it with style, and were plastered to boot, I can see how those times become Good Old Days so easily.

3 matt b   ~  Mar 26, 2010 2:35 pm

It really should be balanced by the piece Ebert wrote last year about his sobriety.


4 RagingTartabull   ~  Mar 26, 2010 3:07 pm

I think part of the romanticism is the recent celebration of that era through things like Mad Men (which I love). There is a certain wistfulness about looking back on the days of getting a $3 Cutty and water at PJ Clarke's after work, but of course there is the dark side that goes along with it.

Its like listening to old interviews with Mickey Mantle talking about "all the crazy times" he had with Billy and Whitey. Well yeah they were crazy Mickey, but you were killing yourself the whole time.

5 RagingTartabull   ~  Mar 26, 2010 3:21 pm

Steinberg said he’d heard that on a good night you might see Mike Royko, Studs Terkel and Nelson Algren there all at the same time

I mean come on, tell me that doesn't sound like a good time.

6 Alex Belth   ~  Mar 26, 2010 3:59 pm

I will say this though. The appeal of bar culture, at least for my old man, was the drinking, yes, but also the characters...and most importantly, the telling of stories. Stories and storytelling. How to tell a story. That was a big deal.

7 Raf   ~  Mar 27, 2010 7:34 am

[6] Yes, the characters and stories. Booze helps loosen the tongue, and people tend to unwind at bard. I used to work at a bar/restaurant when I was in my jr year of high school. I would sneak over to the bar portion to shoot the breeze every so often, and while I learned a lot, and was entertained by many a story, it appears to me that there are a lot of people who are unhappy with their lives.

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