The Big Hypocrisy

Novato | May 20, 2016 | Carlos Castillo

No smoking, no plastic bags, no sugary drinks—the list seems to be growing. Concerns about the health of the mind, body and planet underlie these societal prohibitions. I get it.

However, there’s one ancient vice that’s not only enduring but positively thrives nowadays: boozing.

I’m no teetotaler. I’m fond of an occasional whiskey sour. An ice-cold light beer with salty tortilla chips and pico de gallo on a hot summer day—does it get any better than that? But I’ve had family, friends and acquaintances struggle with the bottle. I’ve seen its devastating consequences.

One friend, on the wagon for years, once told me,” If you had known me when I was drinking, you wouldn’t have liked me.” Everything in moderation is my motto.

Sometimes in life I’ve found it valuable to step back from something I already know (or think I know) and reappraise it with fresh eyes. In the parlance of the computer geek, you gotta clear out the cache on your browser every now and again.

I’m on the north side of 50. I remember when people would go and have a cold one at places with “bar” and “tavern” in the name. These places tended to be dark and low-slung. At the door would be a sign advertising its age exclusivity. If you weren’t 21, you weren’t allowed inside.

Things have changed. Now whole families—even babies!—can watch grandpa get tanked at the local pub & grub. Back in the day, a baby in a bar was as welcome as porn in church. The photo I used to illustrate this piece is from a story extolling kid-friendly wineries.

Wineries are big business. Craft breweries and whiskey distilleries are cottage industries. I regularly drive by a microbrewery near my neighborhood. It’s a small place, so you’ll often see customers outside quaffing their pint. And, yes, it’s not unusual to see kids horsing around in the vicinity.

Remember the bedraggled lost souls known as “winos” in the days of yore? The guys with a pocket bottle of Mad Dog 20/20? (“What’s the Word? Thunderbird!”) They’d congregate in the rundown sections of civilization and drink away their existence.

Want to see something disconcerting in a nicer environment? Go to Costco and plant yourself near the massive booze section. Watch people of every persuasion load cases of their favorite libation into their creaking cart. Remember when you’d buy a bottle or two of vino for a special occasion? Now people are hauling pallets of the stuff home.

AMC Entertainment has added bars in some of its theaters. Its CEO recently said sales are “going through the roof.” Happy Valley is getting happier; Penn State recently approved a plan to sell booze at football games. I personally hate the latter development. If you’ve ever had an outing ruined by an obnoxious drunk, you know what I mean.

What’s a “drunk” by the way? Per a recent Los Angeles Times article, almost 7% of all adults admit to being heavy drinkers, binge drinking on five or more occasions per month. Binge drinking is defined as four to five servings of alcohol on a single occasion. About 25% of adults say they’ve binged in the last month.

According to the JAMA Oncology journal, heavy drinking increases your risk for a whole smorgasbord of cancers. What’s moderate drinking? Two or fewer drinks per day for a man, one for a woman.

What are the societal costs (other than ruining Carlos’ football game)? Domestic abuse and drunken driving are a few obvious ones than come to mind. I won’t even get into the healthcare costs.

Novato, the town that espouses its family-friendly wholesomeness, has a bike store that serves beer. I recently saw an advertisement for a painting class that includes cocktails. Wine is now served in Starbucks!

I personally don’t think all this imbibing is all that grand. It’s just too easy and cheap. Want to feel a little bit better about yourself for a few hours? Pop that top and go to town. However, if you’re an adult and choose to drink your life away, that’s your business (assuming you don’t burden others with that choice). But if you’re remonstrating about plastic bags and your cart is laden with bottles of Beaujolais, you better take a long look in the mirror.

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