I Spent Wednesday Evening with a Bottle of Gin and a Pile of Old Magazines, Wasting Time on a Stupid Task

It was delightful

I find myself in an odd position this evening: alone. The wife and kids are out with friends. The weather is delightfully cold and rainy, the kind of depressing rain that kills every ambition, especially those pertaining to outdoor activities. It's the kind of rain that's good for nothing but sleeping, meditating, reading, and drinking gin while poring over past issues of Modern Drunkard Magazine.

This is what I'm doing, while pounding out this weekly drinking column.

I have a 20-pack in front of me, back issues of MDM, ranging from December 2002 to issue number 63.

I drain my first G&T and resolve to get to the bottom of something: when did MDM stop giving calendar dates to their issues? The latest date in my 20-pack is June 2006 and it's No. 9 of Vol. 5. MDM was publishing six times a year back then, so that means June 2006 = #39 (Einstein-level math here). The earliest number in my 20-pack is #54. If MDM kept on the 6-per-year pace, that means the dates were eliminated between August 2006 (with #40) and December 2009 (with #54), but that's a helluvan assumption (that they kept the six-issue pace).

So I pour another gin and start to search through #54 for clues about its date of publication.

I found a great clue in Frank Kelly Rich's opening column about the Great American Beer Festival, where Schlitz announced that it would return to its 1963 recipe, the last year before they started beating it into corporate swill. Rich tasted the “new-old” Schlitz and said he was "astounded": "thicker, richer, more delicious."

So when did Schlitz have this reversion experience? Beats me. Even the Google Machine yielded no information (we need a “historical Google” search engine that focuses on past links; of course, they'd probably airbrush out, ala Stalin, links that don't match their narrative). Schlitz launched an experimental retro version in 2008, but that doesn't match the possible date parameters I've calculated, so I continue my hunt through issue #54, which is so loaded with good stuff, I feel like I'm looking at Studio 54 in the Warhol years.

I start at the beginning of the magazine:

***"Best Things about Booze": Funny and bristling with the moral, even Christian, imagination (Booze is good because it shines a light in the darkness . . . It inflames the imagination . . . It makes you more human . . .It imparts self-awareness), but worthless in my pursuit.

***I read a great quote by Thomas de Quincy:

It is most absurdly said that a man is disguised in liquor; for, on the contrary, most men are disguised by sobriety.

I ponder it and think about all the phony bastards I know, wondering why (oh why) they cantt be a sincere inebriate like me, then remember that I'm unfortunately sober (and phony) the vast majority of the time. I move on.

***A biography about legendary drinker Wild Bill Hickok. I thought it was "Hitchcock." And I move on.

***I drool over the issue's short story: "Beware the Scarlet Assassin! True Confessions of a Suburban Wino," but realize there will be no clues in that story so I raise my glass and solemnly vow to read it later, convinced I'm going to find a 21st-century drunk version of Flannery O'Connor.

***Wino Wisdom. Always a quick and worthy read. "People tell me, 'Oh, you just drink to escape your problems.' Well, no shit. I'd eat rat heads if it took me away from my problems."

***Mock bar newsletter. Hilarious ("Whoever it is: PLEASE STOP STEALING OUR URINAL CAKES" . . . Congrats to Brian and Jenny on their Seventh Anniversary of Being Together! Let's just hope their spouses don't find out!")

***Drunkard Rights Watch. Ah, I strike gold. Seven blurbs about real court rulings, laws, and ordinances that pertain to drinking. Surely the Google machine will yield something. Two of the stories are from late 2007, thereby corroborating the Schlitz lead: Number 54 came out as early as possible under my math deductions: no earlier than December 2009, but probably right around there.

I prepare my third G&T, having grown tired of this Sherlock Holmes business. Holmes, it should be noted, drank wine, beer, and brandy (the latter for medicinal purposes).

I'll come back to mysterious Issue 54 in a later BYCU.

Eric Scheske

Eric Scheske