Friday, November 30, 2012

Ups and Downs

In light of Lindsay Lohan's latest drunken escapades - punching a woman in the face at a New York club on Thursday - I want to talk about boundaries.

You can love your alcohol ... just don't LOVE your alcohol. Know what I mean?

But for some of us, there might not be a choice. The Telegraph is reporting that there's actually a big difference between the way some people handle alcohol when it comes to our moods. (Like we needed a study to tell us this?!)

Alcohol has both stimulating and depressive effects and we don't all respond to it the same way. For some of us, drinking makes us happy. And for others, it makes us depressed. And for those of us who find alcohol stimulating and fun (check, check) ... there's a much greater chance of developing a problem. (Assuming of course this refers to early-on drinking enjoyment. Because once addiction sets in, depression is the norm.)

The study by the University of Chicago followed 200 people. They were divided between heavy and light drinkers. Light drinkers were people who had between one and five drinks every week. And heavy drinkers were those who chugged back 10-40 drinks a week (whoa!) with at least one 'binge.' I've always been under the impression that binging was five drinks on one occasion. But in this case, it's defined as having five drinks in less than two hours ... sort of like my wine-soaked lunch date this week.  (Kidding!! Or at least half kidding ... ;) You do the math.)

In the study, everyone was given three drinks that were flavored similarly. One had a low alcohol content, the second a high alcohol content and the third was a placebo containing no alcohol at all. The subjects weren't even told that this was a study about drinking.

After enjoying these free refreshments in the name of science, all subjects were asked to rate their moods.

The light drinkers reported that they felt "sedated" and "sluggish." The heavy drinkers on the other hand ... reported feeling "positive" and "rewarded" (in layman's terms 'Yay! Another please ... hic!')

The findings suggest those of us who don't find alcohol pleasurable are much more likely to become dependent on it. Go figure.

Researchers aren't exactly sure what contributes to these differences, but I'll take a wild guess. Pleasure receptors. According to The Chemical Carousel, the award-winning book by Dirk Hanson, some humans - and even certain primates - have evolved with pleasure receptors that are so sensitive to alcohol, at least some form of dependence is almost inevitable.

I'm definitely in the big-time pleasure receptor human/primate category. Which is why I've had to learn to adapt my lifestyle to drinking patterns that help control the mysterious and powerful relationship between brains and booze.

Having said that, Happy Friday! Enjoy!

The Telegraph article about moods and drinking
The Chemical Carousel by Dirk Hanson
A play-by-play of Lindsay Lohan's latest brain chemistry experiments ...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


An alcohol addiction counsellor in California has been charged with drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter after hitting a man ... and then driving two miles with him crashed into her windshield. People had to circle the car to stop her. Apparently, she was confused and in shock. Not to mention wasted.

The driver had a BAC of twice the legal limit - despite the fact she'd been telling all her patients she'd been sober for years. It was the second time she'd been involved in a DUI accident in as many years. One of her clients is disheartened, wondering how he "can do it" if she can't. :(

In a bizarre twist of fate, the man's brother-in-law - a city worker in Torrance, CA - was called to the scene to set up barricades around the car and only when he was there did he realize he was related to the victim who, unfortunately, died of his injuries later in hospital.

I have real problems - obviously - with the efficacy of a lot of treatment programs. This isn't the first time an addiction counsellor has been arrested for killing someone after a 'relapse.' (I'll share a really horrible story at another time ...)

I honestly believe that in some cases telling a person they can never drink again is like signing a death warrant. Theirs or somebody else's. Not to paint all counsellors with the same brush. Knowing how I used to be, God knows most of them must be saints.

With that, I'm off for lunch with a friend ... that will definitely include a little vino.

I never got my driver's license, btw. Happy coincidence, I think.

More information about the story here.

Too much death this week!! Next time ... happy stories!! Bubbly stories!! Fun stories!! And safe stories ...

Monday, November 26, 2012


Feelin' a bit under the weather but must say a cyber-toast to Ernie Coombs - or Mr. Dressup as he was better known. It's his 85th birthday today and is honoring it by featuring his smiling mug on their homepage.

I worked with Mr. D back in the late 80s after I graduated from Rye High and got myself gainfully employed in the TV biz. He was one of the funniest, sweetest, nicest people I ever knew.

I'll never forget the first time I saw him in person. I was sitting in the reception area of the Children's TV Department at the CBC where I would spend the next couple years working as a clerk and production secretary. Maybe I was getting interviewed for the job or something because I remember being dressed up 80s style and sitting very straight to make a good impression. I was even sober (gasp!). I was already nervous to begin with ... but then I heard a voice.

It was my Daddy!!

Or at least my surrogate dad. Because I always felt Ernie reminded me of my father when I was little. Back then, we were living in a teeny village in Northern Ontario not even accessible my road. My pops was the dispatcher for the railroad and we lived in the train station. (Yes, there's a reason everyone in my family drank so much.) We only got two channels in those days - English and French CBC - and Mr. Dressup was the highlight of my morning on the old black and white TV.

The funny thing is, I was so young at the time that I thought because I could see Mr. Dressup, that he could see me, too. As if television wasn't a one-way technology, but more like a window that let you see both in and out. I always thought Mr. Dressup, Casey and Finnegan knew that I was there singing or drawing along or whatever. I believed that's the way TV worked.

So when I was sitting there in the reception area of Children's TV almost twenty years later and I heard Mr. Dressup's voice as he was coming into work, I felt the blood rush to my cheeks. I honestly don't think I've ever been more nervous. I was suddenly 4-years-old again - and somehow, I still had the feeling that Mr. Dressup could 'see' me through the TV. Meaning, he knew I had stopped watching him because I was a grown-up now. And the reason I was so nervous/scared is because I thought he'd feel badly because he'd recognize my face and realize that I'd abandoned his show. (I was self-centered even before the world of blogs, obvi.) But that's how much I loved Mr. Dressup as a kid. Even as a mostly-grown-up young lady looking for work in the Big-ish City, I was an absolute baby for Mr. D. When he came into the reception area, smiling at everyone - including me - he gave no indication of ill will. But I don't think I could talk for a week.

(By the way, I should mention that Ernie Coombs was actually born in Maine - and was an understudy to Fred Rogers. Yes, that Mr. Rogers. They came to Canada in the 60s to do an original version of Misterogers - the original title of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Ernie loved it so much that when Mr. R went back to his 'neighborhood' on PBS, Ernie stayed at the CBC and eventually became Mr. Dressup.)

Anyway, back in the late 80s, I ended up having to do odd jobs on Mr. Dressup and was often there for the tapings. (Believe it or not, for anyone who watched the show, that zany piano theme music was played LIVE every time!)

I was also there for the office parties. ;)

I remember talking to him at a Christmas party my first year there. Natch, I was tipsy and natch I took the opportunity to let Mr. D know just how much he meant to me when I was growing up. His calm manner (my own dad had a temper best left for sadder blogs), sweet voice, stories, crafts and ideals helped form me as a person.

And it's one of the reasons I'm just so sweet today. Blink, blink. ;)

Anyway, so I'm sitting there at this Christmas party, a bit toasted as girls fresh out of university can get at their first professional party and - being as damn cute as I was back then - Mr. D always had time to talk to me. Not that he was ever inappropriate!! Oh my God! Don't be a sick-o!! Oh man. Casey on the other hand ... whoa. What a whacko nut-job puppet he was. Or she? ... I mean I worked there and I still wasn't sure if Casey was a girl or a boy for years. (P.S. He's a boy.)

Annnnnnyyway ... so at that party, Ernie did this thing that he did every time afterwards ... because it made me laugh so much. We were talking and suddenly he took off his glasses (yep, he wore glasses and looked/acted just like Mr. D all the time) as if he was considering something as we spoke. He had a very serious look on his face, gesturing with his eyeglasses as he told this story. Then he went to put his glasses back on and, without missing a beat, he jabbed one of the arms straight into his eye! He cried out in mock pain, buckled forward, holding his eye and blinking comically.

And of course, the first (ten) times he did it, I'd be worried for him. "Mr. Dress - I mean, Ernie ... Are you okay?" Then he'd just give me a big smile. He was so damn good at this little game that he got me every time. It made me laugh so much. I've never forgotten it.

Sadly, Mr. D passed away in 2001 and you can watch CBC's  sweet coverage of here. Lots of trips down memory lane for fans ...

If you love Mr. Dressup or don't want another reason to get depressed on a Monday, you can stop reading now.

I can never think about Ernie without thinking about a really sad story.

I'm warning you ...

Back then I did some after hours work for one of the unit managers of the department - the legendary Mr. Peter Tiedemann. He used to hire me to type the minutes from the management meetings for extra coin. Considering I was already very depressed 24/7, scared about the future, and drinking very heavily, these little afterwork projects made me feel responsible and 'good.' And a girl had to stay in boxed wine and Jacob clothes, after all.

It was a Thursday night I believe. I was working late on these minutes and Mr. T was getting ready to leave. He and his wife were meeting the Coombses at a restaurant for a nice dinner. Being Mr. D's unit manager, he was very close to Ernie and the couples were good friends.  I don't know if I overheard this part or if Mr. T told me, but I remember learning that Mr. D and Mr. T's wife were already at the restaurant and that Ernie's wife had not made it yet. They were waiting for her. Mr. T hurried out of the department and I wished him a nice dinner. As I finished my work alone on the floor, I remember thinking how nice it was that they were such good friends ...

The next day we learned the news. Ernie's wife had been doing some last minute shopping (as I remember it) and was on the sidewalk outside the store when a drunk driver jumped the curb and rammed right into her, killing her on the spot. It was so awful. Such a terrible and unfair thing to happen to such a wonderful man.

I don't remember Mr. D doing that joke with his eyeglasses for me ever again. He continued to tape the show for a few years, but it seemed the light had gone out of him ... just a little bit.

(I warned you, right?)

No reason for tears though. Remember, Mr. and Mrs. Dressup are up there in the big Tickle Trunk in the sky, playing with all those great toys and drinking lemonade and telling each other jokes and laughing and laughing ...

Bless you, Mr. D...
With much love from me and all the kids you helped raise,

More about the show here.
Google's charming tribute page here.
Mothers Against Drunk Drivers

Author's Note: I can't find any information about the fact that Marlene (Lynne) Coombs was killed by a drunk driver - only an "out-of-control car." Though if memory serves ... and it sometimes does ...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Crying Out Now

The Booze-Free Brigade is a group of women who organize and contribute to a website called

Like and Don't Get Drunk Friday on Stephanie Wilder-Taylor's blog, Crying Out Now is a wonderful forum for women to share stories about sobriety, recovery, relapses, shame, fear, guilt, and all the other wonderful goodies addiction brings to us. I tried sharing my story with them, but haven't heard back yet.

I realize that most people in recovery will look at what I'm doing and call it major rationalization for continuing my problem. That it's basic denial. Even dangerous.

But I can't help but continue working on it because I know how much regular cleansing has helped me. Things aren't perfect - I'm not sure they'll ever be. But I do know a few truths: I'm not running out to the wine store first thing in the morning. I'm not hiding bottles under the kitchen sink (and everywhere else). I'm not toting wine in my purse every time I go out so I can sneak it during bathroom breaks. And I'm not getting into vicious fights with my husband three times a week.

I also know that I'm not as terrified and depressed as I was in the old days. And that's the most important thing of all. So - for me - this plan is working because it's improved my life on so many levels. Even if I didn't feel I had to cleanse regularly, I wouldn't give it up because I find it such a fulfilling part of my health routine.

But back to Crying Out Now. According to the website, part of their mission is to help end the shame and stigma of addiction. I'm trying to do that, too, by talking openly and honestly about my own situation. I'm not ashamed of how I used to be - not anymore. I guess because I'm so much better. But I am ashamed of many of the things I did. (Including that moronic romp that I wrote about last week that I have since deleted from the post. Here's a newsflash: blackouts should sometimes be left that way. ;))

Having said that, I do want to be as honest as I can. And I can honestly say that for all the ways this plan flies in the face of traditional recovery methods, my life is better than it used to be. But I still drink. Period. And that was my goal when I set out to improve my condition - to be free of the problems of addiction without quitting forever.

The reason I share my story is because ten years ago when I was looking for a way out, everything seemed so clinical and/or self-righteous. So I was forced to create my own escape plan. And it's worked for me. I really hope that some day it can work for other people, too. And that's why I continue to write about it.

I know abstinence programs are a godsend for many people and that these people also feel happier and healthier now that they're free of addiction. btw ... that's what's really addictive: getting free of addiction.

For a taste of the true joy that this freedom has brought to many women, you have to check out the 3 1/2 Year Anniversary Video for Crying Out Now. It's full of beautiful women with beautiful messages. And the song is absolutely gorgeous!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Survival Rates

Here's one that should get teetotalers riled up.

A study at the Chicago School of Public Health has recently found that the chances of surviving an accident or severe trauma almost double ... if you're drunk.

The researchers at the University of Illinois are quick to say this doesn't mean you should drink more! Because, frankly, drunk people are more likely to injure themselves in the first place.

Having said that, the study involved almost 200,000 patients over fifteen years and the findings were fairly conclusive. They tested the blood alcohol content of all these patients and it ranged from zero to 0.5. It seemed the more drunk a patient was, the less likely they were to die from their injuries.

To get an idea of what these rates mean, the legal driving limit is 0.08. Amy Winehouse had a BAC of 0.4 - which resulted in her death by alcohol poisoning. (Blood alcohol content rates measure the amount of ethanol in a person's blood. A level of .5 would mean that .5% or one-fifth of one percent, is alcohol.)

Everyone involved is scratching their heads. They don't understand the strange mechanism behind this pattern and suggest more research is needed. What they'd really like to do is find a synthetic drug that could mimic these protective qualities of alcohol on accident survival rates ... without actually having to serve martinis to people when they hit the E.R.

Do you think it's possible that drunk people don't know how injured they are? And so they're more likely to survive a bad trauma ... Hmmmm ...

The hubs thinks it's because we're less inhibited overall - physically and mentally we're 'looser' when we're drunk, and probably less resistant to the actual injury and then treatment itself.

Whatever the case, stay safe! Don't drink and drive anyway!

(Or boat/ski/skydive, etc.)

The article here
BAC - Wikipedia
More about Amy's tragedy here

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


They drink a lot on The Good Wife, don't they? They're always going for drinks after work, shots usually. Alicia always pours a glass of red wine when she gets home. There was a whole scene based around this wine they were drinking that was $180 a glass. Um ... yum.

There was a even an alcoholic judge on the show this week. Judd Hirsch played a magistrate who fell off the wagon after years in A.A. They subpoena his sponsor to testify that he hadn't been going to meetings. Apparently, although A.A. is anonymous, it's not legally binding - as it is, say, with doctor/patient privilege, so the woman had to testify.

(But there was a bit of a gaff. His sponsor was a female and that's usually not the practice. They like to keep sponsors same sex.)

Speaking of A.A. ... I was walking down the street and passed a group of young girls in their early twenties. They were all fresh-faced and cute looking. I was expecting to hear them talking about Bieber or an English Lit course or something. But no ... they were talking about N.A. Narcotics Anonymous. The cutest one was saying: "I hate going to N.A. meetings during the day. They're all men."

Another one: "Yah, it's way better at night." 

Their voices were so sweet and unself-conscious. Like they were talking about a pop star or homework. I tried to picture all these recovering young drug addicts - barely out of braces - meeting BFFs at NA. Bizarre sign of the times ...

btw N.A. was founded in California in 1953 and originally called AA/NA. When AA allowed NA to start formally using its 12 steps, the organization became known simply as Narcotics Anonymous. They published "The Little Brown Book" - an offshoot of A.A.'s "Big Book" and today there are almost 60,000 meetings in 131 countries ... Presumably where lots of young girls are meeting their future BFFs and staying clean ...


Monday, November 19, 2012


After that last morally questionable post, I'm happy to report I was actually in church yesterday. Our niece was getting baptized and we had the honor of becoming her godparents.

It was a lovely little church, sunlight streaming in through stained glass windows, the pews full of happy, smiling people. Our little niece has just learned to walk and she doesn't like to keep still, so she was crawling off her mom's lap to go sit on the altar as the pastor spoke. Back and forth, back and forth like this. The pastor didn't seem to mind, nobody did. She was just so damn cute.

But it was also a bit frustrating for her parents - as these things can be - and after much patience on both their parts, a slightly harsh word got traded between them. I watched them, wondering if it would turn into a (quiet) argument right there in the front pew.

Instead, Mom and Dad looked at each other. A moment went by and then ... they just smiled at each other. Really smiled. And the heated moment evaporated in an instant. I saw it happen in front of my eyes.

Maybe it was being in church. Maybe it's that my sister-in-law is a family therapist and knows how to handle family tiffs. Because it was the kind of thing that could happen to any couple - and end up turning into four hours of grumbling and resentment. I loved seeing the forgiveness happen so quickly.

Forgiveness is something I've had a lot of experience with over the years. Because I've had to learn to forgive myself for the things I did when I got drunk in the old days. It's a long, hard lesson. I'm not sure it ever ends.

One time in particular comes to mind. In the summer of 2004 - a full year after I started my first six-month cleanse (and before I had 'perfected' my plan) - I got too drunk and blacked out. I woke up in the morning with that horrible familiar feeling. The dread, the guilt, the shame. I wondered what fight I might've started with my husband ... because that's always what happened when I blacked out. But my life had already started to change ...

Here's a journal entry from that weekend ... (I've put contemporary comments in parentheses.)

June 7, 2004

The weekend was part disaster as somehow I managed to get blotto drunk on Saturday night. I say somehow because I mean somehow. I didn't intend it. But I just remember looking at a fat glass of chardonnay before dinner ... and there are just snippets after that. I felt like shit the next morning and was devastated. But Mark wasn't angry for some reason. He said it's not the same as it used to be. "The zombie is dead." 

(In the old days, that's how he described it. I was a total zombie when I drank. Completely out of control of my own thoughts and actions. But after just one six-month cleanse, my reaction to alcohol had already started to change. I felt I had more power over it - and it didn't control me anymore. Consequently, I had already become less defensive about my drinking. So instead of getting depressed or angry, I stayed in a good mood the whole night. Apparently, anyway.)

Still, I was so upset with myself. Since it was such a wallowing surprise, I've been trying to reconcile it to my new attitude of searching for the positive in everything. I realized ... the one thing I can't stand about myself ... well, one of the things ... is my drinking. It's probably the one thing I could do this weekend to throw me off the rails. And there I was. I did it. 

When we went out to run errands that afternoon, I was still in a guilty funk, trying to find the "lesson" in this huge mistake. Strangely, we pulled in behind an old van with a personalized license plate: It read FORGIVN.

We drove behind this van for a long time. Turning corners. Climbing hills. FORGIVN. FORGIVN. It almost felt like a message ... FORGIVN. And then it came to me ...

In order to be truly happy, in order to truly love yourself, you have to know how to forgive yourself. That is so important. Forgive yourself for your mistakes. There is a power to forgiveness that even the world's oldest religions understand. You cannot love yourself without the ability to forgive yourself completely. So I've done that. 

Well ... 99%. 

Despite the fact I hadn't gone into a rage that night, I knew I wasn't out of the woods yet. So that very summer, I took my first month-long cleanse. Then again about five months later. I've been taking two months off a year from drinking - and at least two days a week - ever since (all this long before I ever thought I'd share my plan). And - to tell you the truth - it's not very often that I have to forgive myself anymore. At least not for drinking ... ;) 

Here are some thoughts about 'forgiveness' from a book called The New Dictionary of Thoughts: A Cyclopedia of Quotations. Only it's not 'new' - it was published in 1954 by the Standard Book Company and it's dusty salmon-covered cover is faded and almost falling off. The pages are yellowed and full of Post-it's and notes from me. It's a fabulous - if dated - resource. 

It used to be my mother's book. Inside the front cover is her girlish handwriting. Her maiden name and her old address at home before she got married. She also wrote: I remember paying $10 for this book - so hang onto it.  

I used an inflation calculator - ten bucks works out to $85.92 today. She was a single girl working as a legal secretary. She must've really wanted that book to pay so much for it!

It makes me wonder where she was in her life back then. A lot of the book has religious overtones to it. Was that important to her? And what about her drinking? She was only twenty at the time, but over the next two decades, alcohol would begin to wreak havoc on her life. And mine. Speaking of forgiveness, I have forgiven her ... and I hope she has me for my drunken tirades against her. We're both alive and well and our relationship is the best it's been in years ...)

So with the idea of forgiveness in mind, here are some quotations from that old book (now available used from Amazon for about twenty-five bucks. Not a very good investment money-wise. But still a charming resource!)

To err is human, to forgive, divine. 
Alexander Pope 1688-1744 (English Poet)

His heart was as great as the world, but there was no room in it to hold the memory of a wrong.
Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882

Only the brave know how to forgive; it is the most refined and generous pitch of virtue human nature can arrive at. 
Lawrence Sterne 1713-1768 (Anglo-Irish novelist and clergyman)

To be able to bear provocation is an argument of great reason, and to forgive it of a great mind. 
John Tillotson 1630-1694 (Archbishop of Canterbury)

He who has not forgiven an enemy has never yet tasted one of the most sublime enjoyments of life. 
John Caspar Lavater 1741-1801(Swiss poet)

Who from crimes would pardoned be, in mercy should set others free. 
William Shakespeare 1564-1616 

We forgive too little; forget too much. 
Sophie Swetchine 1782-1857 (Russian mystic and intellectual)


Friday, November 16, 2012

High IQ Anxiety

Everyone from Medical News Today to the Calgary Herald are filing reports on the latest news for pregnant women. Even moderate drinking can lower a child's IQ by two points. That may not seem like a lot ... but tell that to an eight-year-old trying to get out of a PS3 glitch.

This after much recent information about the fact that moderate drinking has been found to be safe for pregnant women - mostly notably by several studies out of Denmark. (This is where they leave their strollers on the street btw and nobody steals either carriage or kid! Saw that on the Oprah show, God rest its soul.) 

There's so much information on this new IQ study that I can't even find the research that backs up moderate drinking is 'okay' for pregnant women. But I've had to look it up - because the majority of women I know actually do drink moderately during pregnancy - and some of them are even proud of it. Only two women I know completely abstained - and one of them had a head start because she was already in A.A.

Now, of course, these are people I know, and I'm Ms. Functional, so keep that in mind. 

It sort of freaks me out. I've got baby pictures of all the women around us drinking while pregnant. Cigarettes in one hand. Lowballs in the other. Tom Jones on the turntable. Thighs bare under miniskirts. How many of us in older generations are suffering from lower IQs because our mothers didn't know it wasn't a good idea to get plastered while preggers? I mean, if we had this information before, maybe we could all be smart enough to get into Harvard - where the average IQ is 130. (The average human is 100.)

But that don't mean Harvard students don't know how to partaaaaay!! On our tour of New England we stopped in Cambridge - across the Charles River from Boston - to check out the hallowed halls of Harvard University. Founded in 1636, it's the oldest institute of higher education in the U.S. - and one of the most revered schools in the world. And what we learned is that although they don't seem to get as publicly 'schmacked' as kids at some universities, posting their parties on YouTube, they still know how to have a good time. 

We were there the Sunday before Columbus Day. Many of the streets were closed to traffic and there were bands playing everywhere. Set-up ones with stages and amplifiers ... and impromptu ones where students had dragged out the trumpets/drums/guitars/fiddles, etc. that their parents insisted they learn to play so they could be well-rounded and get into Harvard someday.

What a scene.  

The music was sort of New Orleans/Dixieland Jazz. Sometimes slow and mournful, sometimes raucous and rowdy. Everyone seemed to be in a trance, many of them in costumes that must mean something only to people with an IQ of 130. 

The hubs and I were hankering for some refreshments so we stopped in a cozy-looking bar/resto called The Red House - which was actually a big red brick house. We ordered a plank of oysters and I had - surprise! - vino bianco of some kind. The lights were low, the bar tables were high and the place was packed. It was still near the beginning of the school year so everything seemed new and fun and full of possibility. (But maybe at Harvard, that feeling doesn't end after the first term ...) 

The privilege, the pride and the plain old joy that these kids (and many professors!) exhibited was fascinating. There was a young couple by the window. She had serious long dark hair, half-pulled back in a barette (the smart girl's fancy 'do). The young man was a pale skinny lad. They hung on each other's words, drinking beer, leaning slightly across the table toward each other. They didn't even look away from each other's eyes. 

Outside on the street the music stopped and started ... and when it stopped, the people would just rock slowly to a melancholic silence ... when it started again, they cheered and sang along. I have a friend whose hubby went to Harvard but we haven't been able to decipher what the celebration was. Possibly just being at Harvard ... 

(That's kind of a lame picture. But the camera was screwing up ... Just imagine a timeless scene of freedom and excess!)

It was nothing like the first weeks of school at Ryerson University (or Rye High as it's affectionately known) where I stumbled around in my youth. Every year, Ryerson has a sort of frosh-week parade through the streets of Toronto. I remember being on our float (really just a flatbed truck with a bunch of drunk kids on it) and looking up at the windows of all the office towers and seeing the business people looking down at us. Ha ha, I though, suckahs!! (I was one of those suckahs a few years later looking down at the parade ... sigh.) 

Anyway, all the students took ferries to Toronto Island for the annual Island Picnic. I got sooooo wasted. Oh. My. God. I was much much too crazy back then. At one point I remember being in a garbage can and having to knock it over and roll it around to get out of it. There wasn't a lot of garbage in it, but still. I have no idea how I got into a garbage can ... Bet that doesn't happen to Harvard girls ... 

Eliot House Clock Tower at Harvard ... 

How To Get Schmacked At University  Virginia, anyway.
Harvard 101
Moderate Drinking Unsafe for Pregnant Women - Calgary Herald
Ryerson Picnic. Now called Week of Welcome!
The Red House  in Cambridge. Cozy and cool.
Harvard IQ Article from The Harvard Gazette

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Nitrogen On Ice

So an 18-year-old British girl is recovering from having her stomach surgically removed after enjoying an unusual birthday drink. A Jagermeister cocktail laced with liquid nitrogen.

I'm no stranger to nitrogen. Though I can't recall drinking it with alcohol (plain old Jagermeister was enough for us back then), I did work with it as a chemistry demonstrationist at the science center in my hometown. I was "Naughty Nina and her Nitrogen."

I did mostly harmless things with it, like freezing roses by dipping them into a container of N (the chemical symbol for nitrogen) in its liquid form. The rose would freeze instantly and then I could smash it like a crystal glass to the oo's and aw's of the rapt audience. I also did strange things to balloons: the air inside them would shrink after being exposed to the cold ... then magically expand again once the balloon was removed and the air warmed up. Not so many oo's for that one. More like ooooh, okay's.

Of course, my lab partners - the evil genius and the comedian - had other experiments in mind. Using liquid nitrogen, they tried reanimating dead tissue with a laboratory mouse. Um ... I won't get into the details, but suffice it to say Dr. Frankenstein and/or PETA would not have been impressed.

Nitrogen is colorless, odorless and mostly inert - meaning it's not volatile or reactive. Unlike hydrogen let's say, it won't explode when ignited. But it can freeze human tissue and - as we've learned, stomachs. Domestically, it's used in everything from ice cream making to concert fog machines and, occasionally, drinks.

As harmless as it is, the tendrils of gas as the liquid evaporates look very dangerous. I remember the boys picking me up for work that summer and in the back of the truck there'd be this big dewar (an enormous metal keg) overflowing with burbles and smoke. It was completely safe, but it looked ready to usher in WWIII. The worried look my mother would get on her face when she'd see me off in the morning was priceless. It almost made up for all the nasty drunks she took out on me as a kid.


Anyway, the girl who lost her tummy is Gaby Scanlon. She had two nitrogen cocktails on her 18th birthday and minutes later started complaining of severe stomach pain. The bartender had told her the N might give her a gassy feeling, but he neglected to mention, oh ...  the goddamn hole she'd get in her stomach!! 

Because one can't actually consume nitrogen. It's waaaaay too cold (−196 °C or −321 °F). It will instantly freeze anything it touches. Having personally witnessed what it does to roses (and mice) I'd say the safest thing to do is just use friggin' ice in your drinks ... or, for the theatrical, at least wait until the gas/smoke has dissipated before drinking. That way you know the N has evaporated - in the case of liquid - or dissolved completely, because solid nubs are sometimes used in drinks, too.

As for Gaby, she's incensed at an industry aiming these possibly dangerous drinks at young folk. Her life is different now. Her esophagus has been connected straight to her small intestine. Apparently, she'll never feel hunger again. She'll have to take vitamin supplements (certain nutrients are absorbed by the stomach, not the gut) and eat smaller meals, but otherwise digestion should be normal. (I imagine - normal-ish would be a better way for people with actual stomachs to define it.)

Hmmmm ... I wonder if this is what's behind all those 'lose 5 inches of belly fat' ads that pop up everywhere. "Have a nitrogen cocktail! Lose the stomach ... and the inches just melt away!"


Read more about Nitro Girl's Nightmare
Or Nitro-Geek 101 at Wikipedia.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Brush With Who?

This is going to be my first non-drinking day since going off the cleanse - and I'm ready for it. The weekend was ... awesome! But I didn't over-indulge. No hangovers. No problems. Just a lot of fun!!

We were able to toast the hubby's new job. We were able to toast the first party weekend after the cleanse. We toasted Uncle Eddie, a WWII vet who died right around Remembrance/Veteran's Day two years ago. And we toasted a record-breaking high temperature yesterday (it was almost summery). Hell, we practically toasted toasting.

Then last night we dashed out into a suddenly cool drizzle, down the street for Indian food - our first real dinner out since before the cleanse.

Even though it was almost 10, the resto was quite busy. We sat in our favorite table for two. Another empty table separated us from two men chatting quietly with each other on my right. I immediately noticed that the smaller man was kind of artsy looking. He had a sort of hip/humble slouch to his shoulders. In the next instant, I recognized him. "Is that Gary Oldman?" I asked the hubs.

(I was impressed with myself for recognizing him so quickly. It's not so much that Mr. Oldman is an obscure actor ... as he is a brilliant one who disappears into his roles completely. Making him waaaay harder to place than, say ... John Travolta ...?)

The hubs tried to act casual, kind of stretching his arms up and glancing over his shoulder - sort of like a guy trying to put his arm around a  new girlfriend at a flick.

Then he's like, "Yup. That's him, alright."

I started to get excited. I know Oldman's better known for his role as Commissioner Gordon in The Dark Knight series. He also plays Sirius Black in the Harry Potter flicks. He's so prolific, I sincerely don't have the energy to count - let alone list - all the movies he's been in.

But I'll always remember him most for playing Drexl Spivey in the Tarantino flick True Romance. This sexy thriller was one of the first movies the hubs and I ever went to way back in the fall of 1993 (speaking of sneaking an arm around a girl, the hubs corralled me into an empty storefront afterwards where we engaged in a long and enthusiastic PDA). As for Oldman, he gave such an unforgettable performance as the nasty one-eyed drug dealer, that I still get chills thinking about him almost twenty years later.

Anyway, I always get a little self-conscious when I see celebrities. (Like when I saw what's-his-name - the Irish lad with a bad attitude - it'll come to me - jogging down Avenue Road last year. Man he was tiny!) I get anxious about it because I know actors say they like working in Toronto because people don't bother them. They can just walk around like normal folks. That's refreshing for famous people, apparently. To feel normal.

But then I think to myself ... but they're celebrities! They're just saying that so we won't think they're vain! Won't it depress them when nobody recognizes them? I mean, isn't that the point of getting famous?! I just think it's rude to not bug celebrities when you see them. So I was really hankering for an autograph or a little nod of the head to Gary, at least.

"You're not gonna say anything, are you?" the hubs asked.

"Who me?" I said. "Nahhhhh."

Meanwhile, the tables on the other side of us started to fill with old ladies. It was after 10pm, but there they were, straggling in, all wearing funky spectacles of different shades, all with different kinds of old lady hair. Four of them altogether, they looked bright and spry, probably retired professors from U of T out for some intellectual discussion and/or curry.

Of course, I was more interested in eavesdropping on Oldman and his dinner companion - someone who appeared to be an agent or producer type. Meaning he was sort of loud and overbearing - at least compared to the mild-mannered thespian who was very softspoken and had the plummiest English accent I've heard outside of Downtown Abbey. 

I couldn't really hear them, especially because the whole time, this table of old ladies on the other side kept getting bigger and bigger. And bigger!! Finally, groups of younger women - girls, really, students - started coming in to join them. The waiters just kept adding more and more tables to accommodate the expanding gang. Meaning they just kept getting closer and closer to us. At one point, one girl's ass even swiped right across the hubs' basket of naan bread. By the time it had all settled down, there were at least 20 women having dinner together and the ones on the end were practically in each other's laps.

And ours.

It was clear that the polite thing to do would be to give up our table - and move to the empty one ... which just happened to be beside Mr. Oldman's. I kept putting up my hand to get the waiter's attention. "Hey, we'll just switch!" kind of thing, but the hubs knew I was probably planning a celeb ambush, so he kept saying, "Wait till they ask! Wait till they ask!"

Well, they finally did ask. But rather than switching all our food, they just slipped the empty table out of its slot and then pushed our table down ... right beside Gary's. I was better able to hear the conversation ... though it was the producer type who did most of the talking, natch. All I could really glean from Gary was that he found the food "almost too spicy" - which it was. My tongue was on fire and the hubs looked like he'd just had a hot shower by the end of it.

Anyway ... about these girls/women on our left. A table of twenty. It's after ten o'clock on a chilly, rainy night. They're arm's length from a fully-stocked bar ... everyone is of age - some of them by whole centuries. And yet nobody was drinking! There was one beer bottle waaaay at the other end of the table, but even the young girls ordered water.

I said to the hubs: "There's something you'd never catch me doing in university. Sitting down to a dry dinner with a bunch of professors. Um ... no thanks."

Back then, if there wasn't booze involved, I usually didn't show up for anything. And that included going to class very much. (It often helped that I was hungover in class, which when you're a kid is almost as good as being drunk.)

Anyway, our Indian dinner went by without incident. I didn't even ask for Spivey's autograph. Though I regret it. He's probably depressed nobody bugged him last night. He's probably on the phone with his fancy L.A. shrink right now lamenting how he's lost it.

"I mean I'm in fucking Canada f'crissakes and nobody bloody recognized me?! When can I kill myself? Or my agent?!"

A more interesting (or at least more booze-related) celeb sighting happened to me earlier this year. I saw Julianne Moore in my local liquor store. Yep. I'm a huge fan of Ms. Moore's and was happy to learn we must have a love of cheap wine in common. Because there she was - no makeup, her long coppery hair down and stringy - and partly graying - wearing drab clothes, not in the schmancy Vintages section where you'd expect to see an award-winning star, but in the cheap 10-bucks-or-less-a-bottle aisles. I don't know - maybe she was planning on going to the expensive section and was just marveling at the fact that - "gasp! Really? You can buy wine for 8 bucks?!" But who knows?

Unlike how she appears in film - ageless and stunning - Ms. Moore looked every year of her early fifties. It made me long for a world where we could all run around with Hollywood lighting and makeup artists at our beck and call because they sure do a hell of a good job at primping people up.

Anyway, I hauled out my iPhone to take a pic of her. I snuck in behind the Chilean section and held the phone up above a shelf. Her face was very pale and expressionless. She was looking down at the shelves, her eyes not even glancing up once. I strained to get a good angle of her, but then I felt a tug of regret.

I wouldn't want anyone snapping a picture of me shopping for wine by myself. Would I?

So I tucked the phone away and wondered ... How desperate do you have to be for a drink that you'll go shopping by yourself for a bottle of cheap wine? Without makeup? Or an entourage? When you're famous? I mean - don't people want to get famous so they can send people out to do things like that ...? 

Nope. See? Stars. They're just like us. ;)

They even look like us. Sometimes, anyway.


Gary Oldman on IMDb
Ditto Julianne Moore
And while we're at it: The Irish lad with the attitude - Colin Farrell
For Ms. Moore's next solo shopping spree: a list of 16 of the best cheap wines!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Tiny Tipples

The Free Dictionary defines 'tipple' as:
tip·ple 1 Pronunciation (tpl)
tr. & intr.v. tip·pledtip·plingtip·ples
To drink (alcoholic liquor) or engage in such drinking, especially habitually or to excess.

But coming right off a cleanse, it's not a good idea to tipple to excess. ;) Your tolerance levels start changing as you cleanse - particularly when you've just finished one: you don't need as much to feel the effects of a drink. 

So it's been small glasses of wine here and there. Even at lunch in a restaurant - when I'm usually a "super-size" customer - I ordered a small glass of wine yesterday. It's a habit that doesn't last long, mind you - but to tell you the truth I can't even imagine drinking 9 or 10 ounces of wine in one sitting right now, even though it's par for the course at the end of a drinking cycle. 

The average person metabolizes one drink - or 0.6 oz of ethanol - per hour. If you drink much more than this, your blood alcohol content will rise and you'll start to feel drunk. So that's about 5 ounces of wine, one ounce of liquor or one beer per hour.  Trying to stay within these guidelines will put less stress on your liver - and, if you've ever had a 'problem' - your life.

It's interesting to note that regular heavy drinkers can metabolize alcohol more quickly because their livers produce more of the enzyme used to digest it: dehydrogenase. Being able to drink more is one of the factors that can lead to abuse and, eventually, addiction. But that's another important reason cleansing works so well: it keeps your tolerance levels in check.

A really interesting article about tolerance levels and alcohol absorption rates can be found here. The University of Rochester published it and I've consulted it many times in the past. It discusses not only how we metabolize alcohol, but why men and women digest it differently and how food really affects absorption rates, among other things. It's where I learned it's often pointless to drink more after a late full meal - unless you want to go to bed sober and wake up four hours later drunk. I've wasted a lot less good wine since then ... and saved myself a lot of hangovers.

Having said all that ... it sure does feel good to be looking at five months of 'normal' again. Especially with the holidays coming up! Cheers! 

'Tolerance and Beyond' - University of Rochester Health Promotion Office - Definition of 'tipple'

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Handel's Messiah was performed for the first time in public in Dublin in 1742. The lyrics were from the Book of Common Prayer - and the Hallelujah chorus has become one of the most recognizable and beloved movements in musical history.

I'm singing it right now in my head ... da da da da da da da da da da da da da daaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!

Actually already finished the cleanse last night just after midnight. The hubs got in late and we started to chat. The clock struck 12, signaling the official end of the cleanse. So I polished off what was left of a bottle of my hubs' red - tiny glass. About four ounces, if that. 

Believe it or not - I forgot I even had it!! Totally got lost in the convo about the new gig and completely forgot I was working on a glass of wine! In the old days, not only could I never forget the one I was drinking ... I was already thinking about the next one!!! 

Da da da da da da da da da da .... :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Another 28 Days Later!

(I made a mistake yesterday and wrote Day 26 when it was actually Day 27. Fixed it!! It's not that I forgot Wednesday - today - was my last day. It's just that I didn't blog on Nov. 5th and got a titch confused.)

The hubs woke up today and kissed me good morning. 'Happy last day of the cleanse,' he said. I was like, huh? It wasn't the first thing on my mind, believe it or not. The hubs just got a new gig so we're both in a different headspace. When it sunk in that this was my last day, I was happy.

But I was not ecstatic.

It was more like meh. Big schmiel. I've noticed this before. That the last day of a cleanse isn't all fanfare and fireworks - because you'd expect it to be after four weeks of not drinking. The hubs asked why that was ... and I told him my best guess is that a month-long cleanse goes by so fast, it's sort of a mixed blessing - because it means that time is going by so fast. That life is going by so fast. On top of that, I also think it's because you generally stop missing drinking (apart from that hum-drum hour  I had on the couch a couple weeks ago), so the fact the cleanse is over is not a big deal.

The hubs had a different explanation and that is that cleansing completely interrupts the addiction process - the addictive nature of alcohol on the human body, brain and soul. So the end of it is not that important. I liked that. And I believe it. Because I have been addicted to alcohol in the past. For many years and in a big way and I know how different things are now. How much better they are and how much happier I am. Cleansing really helps put alcohol in a healthier perspective.

And because of that the deepest feelings I have - the ones that I can feel flowing beneath the surface - are true joy, peace and gratitude. Pure, soft, relaxing feelings. Especially this time around because it's the first time I've cleansed this late into the fall. It feels 'right' to be looking at the coming holiday season from this place.

Plus ... there are some fireworks. Not necessarily 'Thunder Over Louisville' - apparently the biggest fireworks display in North America, planned every year to kick off the Kentucky Derby. No, it's not that. It's more like ... like ... the Burning Schoolhouse. Anyone remember that one? The Burning Schoolhouse wasn't the biggest or the brightest or the loudest fireworks you saw all summer. But we always saved it for last around our house because - even though there were prettier colors and higher bursts of light - watching the schoolhouse burn just felt so damn ... great. :)

btw, the Burning Schoolhouse wasn't my only personal experience with fireworks. One summer during university I had a job working at the science center in my hometown. There were three of us students planning a daily chemistry exhibit in the main hall. One of the guys was an evil genius. Another one a crazy comic. And then there was ... me. All of us in blue lab coats trying not to blow ourselves or the place up.

We made our own fireworks that summer to impress the crowds. I didn't know before that fireworks are almost pure gunpowder - but it's true. Then you add simple nitrates to create different colors when they burn.

Gotta tell you, creating your own fireworks is a tricky business. It's not something you should try at home. Or even at science centers. Because we ended up in the emergency ward more than once that summer.

Our boss eventually canceled the show and fired us all for safety reasons. And - luckily - the place still stands today.

The Burning Schoolhouse before and after.
Pretty pictures from Thunder Over Louisville
How fireworks really work.
The scene of many chemistry crimes the summer of 1985 - Science North.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Day 27 - Lads and Ladettes

(To Kater-Haters ... skip down a few paragraphs!! Not everyone loves the Princess ...)

I guess fact checkers must've been on vacation at Perez Hilton and People magazine when they reported  Kate Middleton was 'absolutely gutted' over her topless shots in September - because she was so demure she never even got drunk after she started seeing Prince William in university.

Actually, Kate did get 'legless' (posh for 'drunk') at least a few times at St. Andrews where she met the Prince when they both studied Art History there ten years ago. Willy almost dropped out of Scotland's oldest university during 'fresher' year because he wasn't enjoying the course. It was Kate who convinced him to switch to Geography - after which their friendship developed into a top secret and lasting romance.

I know all this because one of my b-day books (and consequently cleanse books - it's always a great idea to get in some new books when you cleanse) is 'Kate' by royal watcher Sean Smith. So I'm learning all about the princess - and the fact that she wasn't such a prude about drinking in school after all. According to Smith, se actually did get 'legless' sometimes.

She even had to be carried up the stairs to her dorm room by 'Hairy Oli' - a mutal friend - after a 2002 pre-exam bender at Ma Bell's, a popular student hangout in the village of St. Andrews (better known by most people for golf). William was also spotted stumbling around the grounds that night, even falling into bushes outside Salvatore Hall, the co-ed dorm they both lived in. His bodyguards had to fish him out and, apparently, rush around to confiscate all the pics his fellow students had taken of him.

Kate was so relaxed about drinking, she even helped start a girls-only drinking club to rival the longstanding boys' group. It was called the Lumsden Club and for it, Kate helped plan drinking parties like the Red Hot Martini Party and the Summer Pimms Party, where presumably many an upscale young student got legless themselves. (FYI the get-togethers were usually fundraisers. That's what rich people always do to excuse their partying right? Raise money for poor folks? Awesome idea.)

Smith goes on to say that despite the fact Kate knew how to have a good time, she was by no means a 'ladette.' I had never heard this word before and had to Google it. According to the Urban Dictionary, ladettes are young ladies who like to drink, party and play sports as much as guys (Kate is a real sportswoman, btw). They don't mind stumbling around and/or puking and urinating in public either. In fact, such behavior is a badge of honor.  (Nice to know the future queen isn't actually proud of letting loose with bodily functions in public.)

I started to wonder if I was a ladette when I was younger. I was terrible at sports, so that's a no-go. I did stumble and puke quite a few times, though, no question about that. Peeing in public? Ummm ... musta happened, but it would've been in the bushes. Falling down was par for the course. Down stairs, into walls, over furniture. But I still don't think that made me a ladette ... just another typical student nursing the early stages of a drinking problem.

For some reason though, the term 'ladette' brought to mind a 'lad' I knew who didn't mind puking in public. I was in my teens when I met him and after much flirting at bars and parties, we finally decided to have an official date.

He came to pick me up in whatever pathetic car he had at the time. He was super-cute, a star hockey player in my hometown and all the girls wanted to date him. Let's call him Pete. He wasn't the fastest puck on the ice if you get my meaning, but he had a great sense of humor and looked like a cross between Leif Garret and Owen Wilson (both scores in my books), so I was pretty excited about seeing him - and the potential 'snog' session in his parents' basement afterwards. 'Snog' being posh for kissing. ;)

When I climbed into the car, I noticed he looked sort of ... well, gray. His jaw was slack, his eyes were bloodshot and his tousled blonde hair was even messier than usual. There was also a light film of sweat on his face and he smelled awful. He told me he had partied a bit too hard the night before and I thought, 'a bit?' but didn't say anything. I wasn't impressed though because Pete was an experienced drinker. How drunk does a hockey player in his teens have to get to actually sweat and turn gray 24 hours later? I felt a bit disrespected. If he had been so excited to see me, he should've planned it a bit better.

Anyway, we went to a popular roadhouse back home (still love roadhouses, btw - all those kitschy mass-produced vintage signs, the Made in China milk jugs, the greasy food, the servers who can write their names upside-down in Crayon nubs on the kraft paper tablecloths - and, of course, the usually enormous glasses of wine - superclassy!).

When the waitress came, I probably ordered a white wine spritzer or a vodka and grapefruit juice (my early 80s preferences). Pete didn't even order a beer. He said he was too hungover. He got a Coke instead. Maybe a water. Whatever the case, I clearly remember it was alcohol-free.

I was already dealing with my early drinking problem, so I was slightly offended to be indulging alone. I was also very young, so the idea of going to a restaurant and having a couple of drinks with a handsome date was something I was looking forward to. It made me feel grownup. The fact that he wasn't drinking bothered me even more than the non-stop belching. Yes, the belching. He burped, blawpped and buggghhhhed every few minutes. He covered his mouth (occasionally) and mumbled 'Sorry' every now and again, but still.

As for food, I don't remember what I ordered, but it was a real meal (or as real as they get in roadhouses).  But I'll never forget what Pete ordered.

A salad.

A salad. And no drink?

Metrosexuality and low-carb diets were still far into the future so a hockey player who ordered a salad on a first date seemed weird to me. But he said he didn't have much of an appetite ... because of this hangover. And I'm thinking to myself, 'If you're soooo damn hungover (and what teenager in my hometown wasn't hungover on occasion) then why the hell did you even come out tonight?!!!'

But I didn't say anything. I just fumed quietly and looked at my watch (a big men's Timex, if I remember correctly. Ahhh, the 80s.).

Anyway, it was a summer evening so it was still light outside our window table. Bright-green probably fake plants hung from shiny brass hooks in the ceiling. Conversation had always been on the thin side with Pete, but he could barely even talk that night. He nursed his water and picked at his salad and continued to sweat and belch across the table from me. My miffedness continued.

The dinner didn't last long. The sun was just staring to go down when we left the restaurant. He had parked close to the door, right in front of a long line of windows across the front of the restaurant. I could see all the people at their tables laughing and enjoying themselves beneath the hanging fake plants.

I went around to the passenger side and opened the door. Pete, closest to the resto, opened the driver's side door. Then all of a sudden, he said "oh-oh."  Then, using the car door for support, he bent over and speeeeewwwwwwwed all over the parking lot. Right in front of this window of people who started looking over and gawping in horror. I think a few of them even covered their mouths.

I climbed into the car, crossed my arms and continued to fume as I listened to the gross splashing on the asphalt and the gagging from my date. It went on for quite some time - considering he'd just had a salad. I would've got out and walked home, but it was miles away and you can't just hail a cab in my hometown. ;) So I just sat there and let the poor people in the restaurant witness my glamorous night out.

I finally heard the last of it and he let out a big post-puke sigh of relief. He wiped his mouth and climbed into the driver's seat. 'That feels better,' he said. He put the key in the ignition and looked over at me. His tone was completely natural when he said, 'Let's go to my place.'

I felt the last of my ladylike reserve snap. 'Are you fucking kidding me?!' I said in disgust. 'Take me home.' (It was one of the few times I did have ladylike reserve in the 80s, actually.)

He gave a sheepish look and obeyed orders. We didn't even talk during the drive.  I got out of the car with a roll of my eyes, a slam of the door and no kiss. Natch. (He hadn't even chewed a stick of gum.) We never went on a date again. I'm not even sure I ever laid eyes on him after that.

Just now I got a bit curious about what he got himself up to in life (besides a probable brush with A.A.) so I just Googled his name. Looks like a couple years after that parking lot episode, he ended up in the UK playing professional hockey.

The UK? That's a coincidence. I began this post writing about some of the most famous Brits in the world, Kate Middleton and Prince William.

I imagine you don't have to be a great hockey player to get drafted in the U.K. No offense intended.

But I bet you do have lots of opportunities to get 'legless.' Pete would've loved that part. He probably even married a ladette.

One day left to go!


Ladette - Urban Dictionary on Kate
'Kate' by Sean Smith at
'Kate' at
And for the intellectuals St. Andrews University in Scotland founded in 1413

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Day 25 - Don't Sweat!

I'm so happy this morning. So freaking excited to get back to 'normal.' Coming off a cleanse, I find myself counting these mini-milestones. Last Friday night without a glass of wine ... Last Saturday lunch without a glass of wine ... Last spaghetti dinner without a ... You get my point. When it comes to wine, absence really does make the heart grow fonder. :)

Of course, not everything's perfect. I've got my ballet tights and slippers ready for class at noon. So here's another "last" ... Last Sunday morning ballet class without a titch of a headache ... 

Like I said, nothing's perfect. 

But when it comes to perfection, I'd like to quote Richard Carlson, the wonderful writer/soul who penned Don't Sweat The Small Stuff (And It's All Small Stuff) in 1996. Among its many accolades, it was voted one of the most read books of the decade in 2004. 

The lesson that I refer to many times from this book is pretty simple. Yet I use it so often - from everything to days when my hair doesn't work out to keeping this little silver clock I bought that has a little ding in it because I was too embarrassed to bring it back to the cool store with the cool clerk who sold it to me (especially since it only cost twenty-nine bucks).  

Accept imperfection.

Wow. What a heavy concept, right? If you really think about it. So simple, it's a cliche. But if you can really get there - if you can really accept imperfection wherever it is (and it's everywhere ... right there beside perfection -- which is also everywhere), I think you can have a much, much happier life. And that's what we all want, right? No matter what we're doing.

Ultimately, for me cleansing is not just about being able to continue drinking without the problems of addiction. The real reason I do all this is simple. It's because I want to have a happier life. And it works for me. I can't know for sure if it's because it keeps my dopamine production in check. Or because it brings empowerment and variety to my life. I imagine it's a combination of many things. Whatever the case, it really does make me happier. (Especially this close to the end of a cleanse!!)

But so does trying to accept imperfection. Every time I see that clock (which is every single day!) I don't even bother to look for the little ding anymore. Instead I just say to myself: "Accept imperfection." It always, always makes me smile. I know that because it's a really shiny clock and I can see my reflection in it, sort of like the distorted image of yourself in a Christmas tree ball. It's weird, but nice. And it makes me feel better every time.

By the way (and unfortunately for all of us) Richard Carlson passed away in 2006. But his wife, Kristine Carlson has a wonderful website that continues their work at She's also an amazing author herself. 

Not counting this one ... 3 days left to Go! 


Friday, November 2, 2012

Day 23 - Chappa-Quit-It

“I went through a lot of difficult times over a period in my life where [drinking] may have been somewhat of a factor or force.” Ted Kennedy

Heading into the last non-drinking weekend. Um ... yay!!!??!!!

Another fascinating (if creepy) adventure on the New England trip was a hop to notorious Chappaquiddick Island - where in July of 1969, Senator Ted Kennedy's hopes for the White House were dashed forever.

Was drunk driving really a factor in that deadly accicent? Or, as he testified, was the Senator actually sober when his car flipped into Poucha Pond? (Poucha Pond. They have such cute names for water bodies on Martha's Vineyard, deadly as they can be.)

I was five years old when Ted Kennedy's Oldsmobile went off Dyke Bridge on Chappquiddick Island and the only passenger - a pretty young political assistant - was killed. Even though the details were a bit beyond my comprehension at the time, I could tell the news had knocked Vietnam off the front page. Allusions to sexual misconduct between married men and single women, a private party at a luxurious mansion and allegations of alcohol abuse made the story irresistible to grownups. Especially when mixed with a dash of the Kennedy's power.

"Mary Jo Kopechne" is a name that I could pronounce (or at least get close) since the first time I heard it on the radio. It just seemed to slide off the tongue.  Born to Polish-American parents in Pennsylvania, she was a popular assistant and secretary and a member of the "Boiler Room Girls" - the nickname given to six young women who worked long hours in a windowless, stuffy room on Robert Kennedy's Presidential campaign.

This party was actually a reunion of the girls at a luxury rental house on "Chappy" as its affectionately known locally. (Just to give you an idea of the real estate prices on the island, today you'll pay about $10,000 to rent a house for a week and some of the compounds available with powdery white beachfront run upwards of $15 million to buy.)

There were six young women at the party. And six men. But no wives. It was a hot July night on a remote, wealthy resort island ... but one of the guests wasn't drinking? Hmmmm. Sure, I buy that. Happens all the time. Who needs booze? Not me. Obvi. (23 days sober!) Besides, drinking on a hot summer night sucks. Especially if you're on vacation. Waste of time. Everyone knows that. They played Yahtzee instead. Everybody loves Yahtzee!)

Anyway, accounts are truly mixed about how much alcohol was drunk that night. But Ted Kennedy insisted that he was sober when Mary Jo asked him to drive her back to her hotel on the main island. One witness testified his car was driving about 20 miles per hour ... and that it was too fast for the dirt road, especially at night.

Hard to imagine any road that couldn't be handled at 20 mph, but having been on it recently ... in broad daylight ... I concur. That road is absolutely treacherous!

We had just left lunch at the Atlantic, when the hubs said, "Hey! Let's take the ferry to Chappaquiddick!"

A few things came to mind when he said that. First of all, I wasn't sure about another ferry ride on the gray day. But the name itself sent a little rush of nausea through me. Because I'll forever associate the word with the mysterious death of a young woman. And, to me, a mysterious death is even creepier than one with all the facts. Then I whispered "Mary Jo Kopechne" to myself, as I probably have every time someone mentions Chappaquiddick since I was a little girl.

"Really?" I said, feeling major resistance. I didn't have to say: "Do we have to?" It was apparent in my tone.

"It's the ferry where they shot that mayor scene," the hubs said, referring to one of my favorite scenes in Jaws. And probably if I thought about it, one of the most influential film scenes of my life, even if it doesn't make cinephiles drool. I just loved the subtle power play between Mayor Vaughn (who didn't want the beaches closed after the shark attack) and Chief Brody (who did). That sealed it for me. "Okay, let's do it!" I said.

As it turns out, the Chappy Ferry is "always on time" because just 527 feet separate the two islands at that point. So we got into a small line of rusty pickup trucks and waited our turn.

The boys running the Chappy were serious men's men, relaxed but friendly. We got off on the other side and drove along narrow, paved Chappaquiddick Road.

The trees and underbrush on either side of the road were so dense, you couldn't see the multi-million dollar summer homes that dot the beaches.  The trees were so thick the branches almost closed up over the car. Colorful mailboxes were the only indication of life. It was so private, so incredibly remote.

The paved road gave way to light-colored sand as we crossed onto Dyke Road, the infamous spot where the accident took place. But it wasn't a dirt road like the ones you might remember taking to summer camp. It had a slippery, almost quicksand like texture to it. The hubs said it was like 'driving on snow.' The back of the car was fishtailing as we went along and my heart started to speed up. I don't know if it was because it had been raining earlier or if wealthy Chappy summer people just like taking their lives into their own hands, but the whole place had a really unsettled atmosphere to it. Lonely. Isolated. Private. Dangerous. If you like condos in Boca Raton, this is not the summer place for you. It was bizarre and unwelcoming, almost totally undeveloped looking in some places. The message from the people who lived or summered on this island was clear: Sure, you can visit ... if you're nuts ... but we're not gonna make it easy for you.

At one point, it simply became too slippery for the car. Maybe a pickup or a SUV would've handled it better, but we were literally sliding back and forth. The hubs found a place to turn around and we did. Heading back to the ferry, I felt my heart slowing down. I just kept staring at the dark trees, imagining how black and desolate the place must've looked close to midnight that fateful night in July ...

I should say that despite the salacious details of this "Boiler Room Girl" reunion, MJP was never noted to be a wild party girl or a big drinker. According to most reports, she was a devout Catholic and very proper. But she also left that party without her keys or her purse ... or her panties. Apparently, she was going commando under her presumably polyester bellbottom pants (it was 1969, after all).

Ted's heavy Oldsmobile lost control on the dirt road (read slippery sand!!) and slid off Dyke Bridge - which had no barricades (obviously, the locals have always been trying to make entree into their part of the world dangerous). When the car hit the water, it flipped over onto its roof. The Senator allegedly escaped from the driver's seat and made it to the surface. He then claimed to have made several attempts to dive back under and rescue Miss Kopechne, though he could not free her from the backseat where she was.

(What the hell was she doing in the backseat?)

He decided to go back to the party for backup. He brought two of his friends to the scene to help free the girl. This was around midnight or 1 a.m. When the trio couldn't get her out, Ted - who was apparently in shock - went back to his hotel in Edgartown. Where he complained about another loud party. Made some phone calls. And went to sleep.

He did not report the accident until the next morning - after the car had been found. He was given a suspended sentence for "failing to report." His driver's license was suspended for one year because the Registrar of the Massachusetts RMV deemed he'd been driving "too fast for the conditions." But he was re-elected to the Senate, though his hopes of the Presidency - not to mention his reputation - were ruined. And ever since "Chappaquiddick" - an enclave of super-rich summer people who obviously prefer privacy to convenience, have been dealing with curious tourists on day trips. Maybe that's why they don't fix the dirt road.

By the way, Miss Kopeche did not drown as was widely reported. The diver who was called to the scene the next morning got her body out of the car in a matter of minutes. She was found in the backseat, her body in a position as if it was struggling upward for air. Apparently, Miss Kopechne - just one week shy of her 29th birthday (Ted was 37 ... God was he ever 37? He always seemed so much older to me)  suffocated to death. She had actually found an air pocket that kept her alive for at least two to four hours before the lack of oxygen finally killed her. They're convinced if police had been notified at the time of the accident, that she would've survived. 

Oh. My. God. Four hours upside down in a car submerged in salt water. What a horrible way to go. 

I hope to hell that - despite her reputation - she was drunk out of her mind that night.

Mary Jo Kopechne
The Chappaquiddick Incident
The Shark Guys
The Chappy Ferry