First words out of the radio this morning:
“…and we’ll reach a high of 36 on this first day of spring.”
You want to know the roots of true moral decay in this country? It has nothing to do with thong underwear or church attendance or any of the rest of it. It’s the mass migration to the Sunbelt, where you’re far less likely to hear news like this before you’ve even had your coffee. Eh? Am I right? Buck up, Arizonans.
Actually, I visited Arizona, southern Arizona, a few years ago. In fact, I was there on the first day of summer. And the forecast was for a high of 100 degrees. And never mind that dry heat crap; 100 degrees is its own kind of character-builder. Weighing the two, I prefer 36 on the vernal equinox.
The tax project is unfinished. I didn’t have all my records assembled. Of course, who ever has all their records assembled, intact, on the first try? I’m a person of sometimes-casual organization but above-average intelligence, and every year I come through tax season thinking I just barely made it. Why in god’s name does it have to be so complicated?
When cleaning out my parents’ house a few years ago, I ran across their tax returns. Of course they’d saved them going back to the dawn of time. The earliest one I could find was nineteen-fortysomething, I believe. One page. You could have filled it out in 20 minutes, once you had all your records assembled. Today it’s like trying to choose one of those Part D prescription drug plans. The accountants and professional tax preparers of the world thank you, Washington.
Ah, enough bitching. Let’s move on. I was struck by this Richard Cohen column — which must have run in the WashPost, but I don’t know when — about drinking. No, about drunkenness:
Curses on William Ryan. Back in 1976, he published a book called “Blaming the Victim,” coining a valuable phrase and making it virtually impossible to do what his title suggested. Ryan was on to something, but he has nonetheless made it a lot harder to say, as I am about to, that some of the people we have made into victims had a hand in their own fate. Specifically, they were drunk.
In Aruba last year — as every devotee of cable TV’s “justice” shows knows — Natalee Holloway never returned from her last night out on her traditional senior year trip. The high school student simply dropped from sight — a victim of foul play, no doubt. She, too, is a victim, but from published reports, she too was doing quite a bit of drinking that night. A sober Natalee Holloway might have made that plane home.
On the Mediterranean last year, George Smith vanished from his cruise ship, Brilliance of the Seas. (This was another “justice” show staple.) Smith was on his honeymoon and both he and his bride Jennifer had been doing some hard partying. She was in fact so drunk that she remembered nothing of the night her husband disappeared. Did George Smith fall overboard? Was he pushed? She’s a victim, he’s a victim, no doubt about it. But, in truth, they both might be back in Greenwich, Conn., had they been a bit more sober.
He goes on. I’ve written about this myself. It’s a pot-kettle thing, because I drink myself. Although my seeing-double days are over, I will be the first to admit I have No Room To Talk. But really. Really.
The current culture of campus drunkenness was just getting revved up when I was there — the drink ‘n’ drown nights, which I recall fondly not because they were a license to get hammered, but because the pay-$5-and-drink-all-night pricing was good for a college kid on a budget. Later came the Wacky Shots model, which I always associated with frat boys, where they put you in a dentist’s chair, tipped you back and poured tequila and other noxious liqueurs directly into your mouth, which you opened like a boated bass.
I remember that once the novelty of getting wasted wore off, which it did quickly, I mainly liked alcohol as a social lubricant. I liked the way it loosened tongues and got everyone relaxed and chatty. I like sitting with friends in a bar and talking talking talking; my confession is that I always preferred talk and a jukebox to live music and the necessary loss of conversation.
Getting hammered is counter to good conversation. Getting really hammered, as Cohen points out, is counter to good sense, to self-preservation, even. I’ve ignored the Natalee Holloway case as much as it’s possible to ignore, but I’ve read a story or two, and they all left me thinking: What the hell sort of parent lets an 18-year-old girl go to Aruba with a giant group of kids to celebrate high-school graduation? I don’t care how smart and mature she was; we’re talking Devil’s Workshop stuff here. Wasn’t her mother ever young herself?
Probably she was, and probably she went on a trip or two like this herself, and survived, and figured oh well, a little puking won’t kill anyone. I used to wonder how I’d handle situations like this, and now I know: Tell yourself, your job has changed, it’s different now, and it’s time to do your job.