The Noble Experiment.

Seventy-seven years ago today the 21st Amendment to our Constitution was ratified. This ended the so-called “noble experiment” of national Prohibition, and I imagine matriarchal hens across the continent clucked in unison. Perhaps Meredith Willson’s inspiration fifteen or so years later?

Pick a little, talk a little. Pick a little, talk a little. Cheepcheepcheep! Talk a lot, pick a little more….

Husband and I don’t have cable television so I haven’t been watching the current social commentary on Prohibition provided by the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, but I’m sure it’s as full of greed, animosity, violence and verbal poetry as pretty much every other series the network has supported. Like The Wire, John Adams, Deadwood and others, …Empire will eventually be one of their productions I will happily and patiently experience through the convenience and relative financial responsibility of Netflix. In the mean time, I’ll try to continue my own personal Prohibition. But I have to admit I’m wondering about the wisdom of that conviction.
When I was a teenager, I was an 80s Midwest small-town version of straight edge. I’m not patting myself on the back here. It was a logical life choice. Less nobility, more practicality. I was busy to the Nth degree with Theatre (during the school year and over the summer in Community Theatre), marching band, newspaper production, church and keeping a part-time job. I studied too, of course, and had boyfriends (three, over the course of the high school. I was apparently also a serial monogamist). Over all of that was the knowledge I couldn’t ever risk being “bad” because, if discovered, I would get in SO MUCH TROUBLE. The kids I ran with were pretty much on the same page, so it was easy to avoid certain temptations. Besides, I thought, I’ll turn 21 some day soon…so why take a chance on getting in SO MUCH TROUBLE when it would all be legal before I knew it? And I’m not passing judgement on anyone who did whoop it up, Bartles & James style. I’m just saying that’s not the teenage experience I had. Primarily because I was afraid of what my parents/teachers/directors/preacher would say or do if they ever found out.
When I was suddenly old enough to buy a drink I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing. Alone on my 21st birthday (ahhhh, 1993 seems like yesterday), I felt compelled to finally “do the deed” and buy something/anything with alcohol in it. I will admit with no small amount of shame that ignorance and solitude led my hand to that most horrifying and foul 90s liquor store display. I bought a six-pack of Zima and went home to drink alone.
(Yes, I can hear you all gagging. I’m right there with you, and I can only say I’ve learned a lot since then.)
It took a bit longer for me to work up to real inebriation, but practice makes perfect. Like most everyone else, I made opportunities to research and experience both the good stuff and the bad stuff. I had limits and protocol for the order of liquor before beer or vice versa. I learned which wines were good for sipping, and which were best with food. It was a normal progression, I think, for an adult with a little discretionary income and an eye toward maintaining her responsibilities. My drinking was not an issue.
When Husband and I moved to Chicago I was still doing fine. But, you know, the exciting thing about Life is the curveballs it throws us. And we’ve fielded more than a couple line drives while we’ve been up here. Long story short, I stopped drinking for fun and started drinking for peace. Or for sleep. Or for whatever reason seemed most handy. This is, of course, counter-intuitive to my long-abandoned Inner Straight Edge. So I decided in May of this year to give up my love affair with drinking. As it happens, I quit drinking the exact same month (almost the exact day, actually) that I finished The Farmer’s Story. I’ve been 99% On The Wagon ever since. I say 99% because I’m a waitress, and I occasionally have to taste things so I know what I’m trying to sell. And, okay, it’s only been six months, but it often feels much longer. Prohibition is no easy accomplishment, but over all I’ve been pleased with my progress.
Now, though, we have this new curveball and I find myself wondering if sobriety is all it’s cracked up to be. Surely the diagnosis of an incurable disease justifies a rendezvous with my old lovers? Surely Mr. Boodles and Ms. Powers could come back in from the cold while we wait for the neurologist to offer her two cents on my brain’s future? I don’t know. I’m trying to hear my gut instincts, but they seem to be stumbling around and bouncing off the walls with my equilibrium.
Truthfully, though, it may be irrelevant soon enough. The expense of my pending medical adventures could soon render the Beverage Budget to black and white label beer and whatever vodka comes in the plastic weekender jug. I think pretty much everyone could agree sometimes it’s best to not even open those cans of worms, so….
We’ll see what the doc says. And I’ll continue to keep counsel with those historical hens and who pondered the end of the Prohibition era.
Pick a little, talk a little. Pick a little, talk a little. Cheepcheepcheep! Talk a lot, pick a little more….

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