Tag Archives: alcohol

No More Beer

Have you ever had gout? No. Trust me, you never want to have even the slightest hint of having gout.

Why? It’s brutal. My father suffered from gout for the last couple of years of his life and it would immobilize him for days at a time. Other people describe even the slightest sensation of touch near their feet as being unbelievably painful.

When I got the first hints of gout in my big toes I got worried. So worried that I started to figure out what I needed to do in order to avoid having full blown attacks. Guess what? Of all the risk factors related to lifestyle I was only guilty of one—alcohol consumption via beer.

Furthermore, I have a long history of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in my family on both my parents’ sides. This makes me especially sensitive to any issue relating to joint health because I know that before too long I will be combating the symptoms of RA. There is no need to hasten that arrival by inviting inflammation of any kind into my body.

The third health consideration is that I am overweight. Not extreme weight loss overweight, but probably carrying a little more than 20 pounds of fat that is extra pressure on my already taxed joints. No matter how much I watch what I eat and exercise I was probably sabotaging my efforts by finishing the night off with a few pints of homebrew from keezer. At about 13 calories per ounce an imperial pint was packing an extra 250 or so calories into every glass I finished. Ugh.

This got me to really assess my lifestyle vis a vis my beer drinking. I love beer. I enjoy the culture of beer. I find satisfaction in trying new beers and seeking out new breweries. I revel in talking about all aspects of beer with like minded folks. However, I like to be able to walk without pain and if the small amount of time I spent with a gout-like episode was any indication I would give up drinking in a heartbeat.

People reorder their lives for all sorts of reasons and I imagine that health is paramount among those reasons. My decision was to make changes before my health degraded to the point where I was dependent upon medication or staring down the barrel of surgery.

Will I still drink a beer now and again? Sure, but it will form a much less significant portion of my life than it has for the past several years. On the bright side, I should be awake early on Sunday mornings to go for bike rides and hikes with my daughter as opposed to shuffling around the house with a hangover.

Anyone know of someone who wants to give a keezer a good home?

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You Must Read—Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

Imagine a nationwide ban on a commonly consumed drug enforced by an increasingly draconian regime of politicians and lawmen that simultaneously allows criminals to reap huge financial rewards.  No, I am not talking about the current U.S. obsession with a “war on drugs” that is dragging on into its fifth failed decade.  I am talking about prohibition.

As seen through Daniel Okrent’s excellent Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition it is both a history lesson—political and social—as well as a lens through which to view a lot of the problems in our current society.

In addition to the book, you should watch the documentary from Ken Burns on prohibition.  It’s three episodes of about two hours each—I watched them during marathon treadmill sessions—and it neatly encapsulates a lot of what Okrent writes about in his book.  One of the contributors throughout the documentary is Okrent himself.

Prohibition is not a simple story.  It is easy to fall into a trap of discussing its more colorful elements—gangsters, speakeasies, bootleggers, etc.—but the real story is about American society in general and how a law prohibiting the sale of alcohol came to pass.

One of the greatest follies in the American psyche is thinking that once a law is passed the hard work is done.  Drug problem?  Pass a law outlawing drugs.  Health care crisis?  Pass a law mandating health care.  The devil, as they say, is in the details and American politicians—proxies for the people in general—like the “big win” but have little stomach for messy details of actually crafting legislation.  All of this is painfully apparent when reading the history of prohibition.

The most striking thing about both the book and the documentary is the politics of desperation.  The forces behind prohibition understood that the clock was ticking on getting a Constitutional amendment passed.  Why?  Demographics in the U.S. changed radically in the period from 1910 through 1920.  Increasingly, the population was clustered in cities and it was increasingly composed of immigrant groups thought diametrically opposed to prohibition.

With the census of 1920 there was supposed to be reapportionment.  However, the “dry” forces kept the 1910 distribution of seats until Congress passed the Reapportionment Act of 1929.  Does any of this sound familiar?  Imagine yourself in living in 2012 and you are the head of a political party that is seen to favor an increasingly smaller slice of the electorate.  What would you do?  If the history of prohibition is any indication the actions will be increasingly strident and the hope will be that nothing will overturn the changes in the future.  However, if the history of prohibition is any guide, demography is destiny and you can only hold back the sea for so long whether it is the banning of booze or the social issue du jour.

A further act of desperation on the part of the “dry” forces was an insistence on absolute prohibition continuing when it was clear that the law had failed.  Ironically, this would not have required an amendment to the Constitution, but a change to the Volstead Act that laid out the conditions for prohibition.  The insistence on an absolute of anything provides much ammunition for the opponents of such stridency.  This is a political lesson that could be applied to much of what I see in Washington D.C. today.  Do the Republicans of today really feel that an absolute opposition to tax increases while gutting spending on a plethora of programs is a winning strategy for the long run?  Perhaps these modern politicians, like the ones in the early part of the 20th century, see a shift in America coming that will alter the power structure in such a fundamental way as to render them obsolete.  We can always hope.