Green: Alcohol — Making history

By Molly Green

Like the great poet Ricky Martin, alcohol is a prophet scorned in its own time, and many of its… Like the great poet Ricky Martin, alcohol is a prophet scorned in its own time, and many of its contributions to historical events have been lost. As a champion of the oppressed, I’ve sought to recreate some of these many accomplishments as faithfully and fictitiously as I could muster.

Thomas Jefferson & John Adams — friends, allies, friends again

It’s always a shame when politics get in the way of friendships, and no one knows this better than Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. When Jefferson and Adams first meet while working on the Declaration of Independence, they both get huge friend-crushes on each other, and they often stroll about the streets of Philadelphia discussing political philosophy and making fun of Alexander Hamilton’s accent.

But Adams is a Federalist, and Jefferson is an Anti-Federalist, and like Romeo and Juliet, some things just aren’t meant to be. Things get especially bad when Jefferson — Adams’ former vice president/friend — wins the 1800 election and deposes Adams of his presidential roost.

Adams — who has the temperament of a spoiled 7-year-old boy— publicly freaks out on Jefferson, shouting, “You have put me out! You have put me out!” Jefferson tells Adams to “talk to the hand,” and then things are bad for a long time.

One day, when Jefferson and Adams are both retired and no longer slandering each other in the press, they realize that it’s really silly for them to still be fighting. Adams is stubborn and prouder than a peacock strutting down Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, so it’s Jefferson who suggests that they meet up at a pub for a drink.

Jefferson is dressed in an ascot and an undersized fedora, but damn if he isn’t looking good. He sips a gin and tonic. Because he’s Thomas Jefferson, he can get away with drinking a beverage usually reserved for the middle-aged-woman demographic. It tastes like pine trees; like the sweet, sweet memories of his childhood in Virginia, spent discussing Platonic theory with his older sisters and generally being a huge nerd.

Adams is a fat, round little butterball, and all he drinks is red wine, so after about a half an hour, he already has a purple mouth and considerable trouble keeping his balance.

Things are a bit tense at first. Adams makes small talk about the weather, while Jefferson awkwardly twirls the swizzle stick in his drink. But three gin and tonics and a bottle of wine later, things are going much better. Eventually the two start talking crap on Aaron Burr, who — being traitorous and generally bat-sh*t insane — is quite the easy target.

“You were a way better vice president,” Adams slurs.

“I’m so glad we’re friends again. You’re my best friend forever!” Jefferson says (gin and tonics are known to lead to exaggeration).

The two embrace under the healing power of alcohol.

Seward’s Folly — a drunken night’s mistake?

William Seward, secretary of state under both presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, is what one might call a badass. A hero to all gingers, Seward survived an assassination attempt and cholera. As you might expect, Seward doesn’t take crap from anyone — not from Democrats, not from Republicans and certainly not from Russians.

Eduard de Stoeckl is the Russian minister to the United States under Tsar Alexander II. He wants to sell Alaska. The Russians, who are well trained in the art of tarot and crystal ball reading and therefore well aware that the icy tundra would one day spawn Sarah Palin, are eager to get it off their hands. Also, they need money.

Already rejected by Canada, de Stoeckl knows the United States is his last chance, so he does what all smart business men do: He invites Seward over for a game of vodka flip-cup.

As it turns out, Seward — a proponent of manifest destiny — already wants to buy Alaska. He is a big fan of polar bears and gold. So seeing the flip-cup tournament as an opportunity to bargain the price down, Seward gladly accepts.

The result is the longest, most epic one-vs.-one flip-cup game in the history of the world. After more than 20 rounds of play, Seward emerges victorious and de Stoeckl pukes in his toilet.

As winner, Seward pays only $7.2 million for Alaska — about 2 cents per acre — and de Stoeckl has to wear a woman’s style hat for the following week. For those interested, if Seward had lost, he would have paid $7.25 million for Alaska and gotten a tattoo of an adorable kitten saying, “Meow! I love Russia.”

William Jennings Bryan and why he hates Darwinism

Democratic politician and champion of silver William Jennings Bryan is a prohibitionist. Most people think he hates booze because he is a devout Protestant and thinks alcohol is the devil’s juice. But that’s only part of the reason. Mostly, Bryan hates booze because he’s an emotional drunk.

And I mean emotional — you can’t take this guy anywhere. One awful day in 1908, Bryan loses his third-straight presidential election — and to William Howard Taft of all people. Taft, the man known to eat an entire pound of salted almonds in one sitting. Taft, the man from Ohio, the worst state ever. Taft, the man with the world’s stupidest mustache.

Well, poor Bryan is in such a state of disbelief and offense that he has his first shot of whiskey ever. And then, he knocks back four more shots at the behest of lifelong “friend” Mayor James “Cowboy Jim” Dahlman. Dahlman is agnostic and a seriously bad influence on our boy Bryan.

Before long, Bryan is sobbing hysterically about the gold standard.

“Gold, gold, gold. Everyone is just obsessed with gold. What about silver? Silver is just as pretty as gold. Silver is just as smart as gold. But no matter how hard Silver tries, it will always be second-best.”

Aside from Bryan’s vengeance for gold, most people also know he hates Darwinism. I mean he hates it. If there’s one thing destroying America, it’s the theory of evolution. Of course, one could argue this is because of his religious beliefs, but actually Bryan hates Darwinism because he can’t reconcile the fact that he’s of Scotch-Irish descent, which means he should be able to drink whiskey with the best of them. He should be the William Wallace of whiskey. When it comes to survival of the fittest, the Scoth-Irish know how to drink. And poor Bryan can only explain this genetic oversight by proclaiming that God must have created him this way for a reason.

When Bryan tries to argue this at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, developmental biologist Edward Loranus Rice totally disses him by telling him he doesn’t know a thing about science and makes him look like a fool.

Utterly heartbroken, a single tear rolls down Bryan’s face as he realizes he will never win anything, and he curses whiskey and his Scotch-Irish ancestry for the rest of his life.

Let these tales be a lesson to you. Alcohol has shaped this country like the Mighty Ohio shaped Pittsburgh. So the next time you read a history book or watch a special on the History Channel, remember that there are two sides to every story: the truth, and the partially blacked-out, sort-of truth remembered after a night of heavy drinking.

E-mail Molly at [email protected].