Getting Drunk in Iowa (An Oral History)

Early Lytton (73 years old, Retired Senior Vice President of a Certain Bank in Des Moines): Well, the worst approach to being a serious drinker is to consume cheap beer. You just have to drink so much liquid at so little benefit. I used to golf with a guy who would drink a case of Budweiser every day. I just can’t imagine that. My tolerance is higher than average, I’d say, but if I drink six or seven cheap beers I always feel like crap the next day. Not because of the alcohol, mind you, but because of all the junk they put in cheap beer. I can never drink enough cheap beer to get to a happy spot before I just get puffy and tired of drinking. What’s the point?

Miles Packwood (77 years old, Retired Managing Partner of a Certain Law Firm in Des Moines): What junk in cheap beer do you mean, Lytton? Like rice? That’s one I’ve heard. Is there other junk in there?

Ollie Primghar (80 years old, Former Gas Station Owner in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, Who Retired to Iowa in 1995 for the Nicer Weather): Did you know they fortify Canadian beer with pure black Canadian shale, eh? It tastes like metamorphosis!

Early Lytton: Well that explains a lot then, Ollie. But here in America, the cheap beers contain rice, like Miles there said, and also all sorts of chemical sweeteners, monosodium glutamate, dyes, antifreeze, horse hoof jellies and who knows what else.

Ollie Primghar: Well, you can’t make a Jell-O fruit mold without horse hooves, so don’t knock them, eh?

Roland Le Grand (71 years old, Retired Chief Information Officer for a Certain Insurance Company): I’ll admit that I was a 12-pack of cheap beer a day guy for years, and I got fat and felt awful all the time. Now, I drink expensive liquor with thirty to forty percent alcohol in it, and I swear my total expenses are lower, since it lasts longer, kicks you faster, and you don’t have to buy as much Tums and aspirin the next day. I always counsel young folks at the club to just switch to vodka. It’s got to be better for you than beer. Or if not vodka, then Scotch. That won’t give you a hangover, and it tastes mighty fine. Try it on ice, if it’s not too expensive, or with a splash of water. It’ll love you like nobody’s business.

Ollie Primghar: I like my Scotch with a donut. They need Tim Horton’s in Iowa.

Early Lytton: I used to drink Scotch, until it became the choice drink for all those punk young bankers who argue about their fantasy football teams while moving small amounts of money from gold to rhodium to palladium and back, before going off to buy expensive cigars that they chew on for awhile then leave all over the golf course. I wouldn’t be seen dead in public anymore with a Scotch in my hand. bilde

Miles Packwood: On a crisp summer day, I’m partial to a nice gin and tonic. Gin just tastes good.

Early Lytton: Oh come on, gin doesn’t taste good, Miles! It just tastes different.

Miles Packwood: No, Lytton, I’m going to stand up for myself here: gin tastes good, sir! It does! Brown liquors, on the other hand, are just awful, no matter what. Scotch. Whiskey. Bourbon. Yuck! Even more so when ice melts in them. I start gagging just thinking about them. Ugh!

Roland Le Grand: You’re just soft, Miles. I slurp down Johnny Walker Blacks one after the other. They taste great, and I feel good. I will back you up, though, regarding your position on gin. I’m an eight or nine gin and tonics guy a day during the summer. That is delicious. I recommend Gilby’s. It’s the best for the buck, in my humble opinion.

Ollie Primghar: When you mix them tall, like I do, the quality of the gin isn’t all that important, eh? So I say go Gordon’s for that kind of mix. You can get it cheap. Also, Gordon is a popular men’s name in Canada, so it reminds me of home.

Roland Le Grand: I like to take a pint glass and mix up a big gin and tonic, with a slice of lime, adding ice and limes as the day goes on. I leave the limes in there, partly to give me a rough estimate of how many I’ve had, but also because it just keeps it fresh and flowing. I’ve sort of got a system.

Early Lytton: I’m ashamed of all three of you. Gin and tonics are for girls, not men.

Roland Le Grand: Well, maybe so, but I read online that gin and vodka produce the least intense hangovers and bourbon produces the worst hangovers, due to some chemical byproducts when they’re fermented. However, I can tell you from experience that if you mix varieties and types, or drink mixed drinks, then all bets are off, since the different types of impurities and the sugar in mixed drinks will all interact in random, vomit-producing ways.

Ollie Primghar: I always try to remember that “Chug the Merlot, Hug the Terlot,” and “Mix your Liquor, Get much Sicker,” eh?

Early Lytton: Who would chug Merlot anyway, Ollie? That’s just terrible wine. No character.

Ollie Primghar: Well, okay then, fancy pants, you’ve been sitting here telling us all night about what not to drink and arguing with our tastes, so how about you enlighten us all instead and tell us what your perfect drinking experience would be, eh?

Early Lytton: Well, that’s a good question there, Ollie. So let’s see: first, I’d go down to my cellar and pull out three bottles of Prairie Moon Marechel Foch 2004 Reserve. It’s the best wine ever produced in Iowa, and I bought up most of the stock several years ago. It’s hearty without being truculent, plays well with all foods, has a nice nose and a truly fine ass – or whatever the right term is for that sweet taste you get at the end. Next, I would put some great old jazz on the stereo by Enoch Light or Stan Getz or Herb Albert, just stack up the records and let them drop and play. I don’t use any of those compact diskettes or iPod boxes in my den. They’re nothing compared to good old pliable vintage vinyl albums, ripe with pops, redolent with warps, rich with character. Now, then, with the stage all set, late at night, while my lovely family is sleeping in the safe confines of my stately manse out in West Des Moines, I would turn on the giant plasma screen TV, mute the sound, and guzzle the wine straight out of the bottles while watching video-taped episodes of my favorite daytime talk shows. And then I would just laugh and laugh and laugh . . .

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