Thursday, January 14, 2010


One random screw-up always goes and ruins it for everyone.

"What started as a typical Saturday night for a Drake University student turned into a life-threatening nightmare when he drank so much of a potent liquor called Everclear that his blood-alcohol content hit .50, six times the legal limit of .08," reports somebody here.

"Nathan Erickson, a freshman pledge of Drake University's Phi Delta Theta fraternity, spent the evening of Nov. 7, 2009, drinking 151-proof Everclear at an unofficial frat house referred to as 'The Carter.' Early Sunday he was found passed out on the couch by Alexander Timm, a Phi Delta Theta resident, who was returning home from a night of bartending."

Committed to the hospital via the emergency room, in a week he was back in class.

This has led to the usual cries for banning. In Scotland, it's always Buckfast Tonic Wine -- nowhere near the strength of 75 percent grain alcohol (Everclear), but aggravating to teetotals for its chemical springboard to obnoxious behavior in young people and bums.

When DD was earning degrees at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, pure grain alcohol and Everclear were weapons of choice in the frat houses.

Commonly grain was mixed into fruit punch -- or anything that tasted like Kool-Aid -- and made available to young women. Because ethanol has almost no taste, there is no warning for the inexperienced drinker of what concentration is in with the sweet-tasting stuff.

In other words, it was something of a date rape lubricant. DD often saw young women being held up by walls, passed out on floors, or various equivalents of lampshades over their heads at Lehigh as a result.

Grain alcohol and beer frenzy even resulted in the overturning of a Pinkerton security force car one famous party weekend. That made some news.

Often belligerent overconsumption was part of the Lehigh way and most bona fide alumni wouldn't have it otherwise. And all the students trucked in on the weekend from drier neighboring colleges loved the velocity and weight of imbibement, too.

At the chemistry department, ethanol straight from the reagent canister was freely available for pilferage as long as one didn't ... overdo it.

But the Drake Everclear incident indicates another side to this universal solvent:

"One unidentified person commented to the Iowa ABD that being able to buy undenatured alcohol from local liquor stores is more convenient and cheaper than going to scientific supply houses, where the cost can be three to 10 times higher. Still others think it should not be banned because when mixed with other non-alcoholic beverages, it can provide for a one-of-a-kind taste."

The latter's not really true unless one considers one-of-a-kind-taste to be in congruent with easy overconsumption.

"Everclear was made illegal in Iowa in its 190-proof form a few months ago, but is still readily available in its 151-proof form," explains the article. "The state is considering taking it off the shelf in all forms because so many young Iowans have had close calls with it. Iowa's Alcoholic Beverages Division Administrator ... [said]that many have been voicing opinions that there is no legitimate purpose for the beverage and that it is too difficult to consume responsibly. One unit of Everclear is comparable to drinking 14 beers."

Define legitimate purpose. At university, getting really bombed fast on the weekend is the very definition of legitimate purpose. That's just a fact of life.

However, think of the fine story Nathan Erickson will have to tell when he's fifty.

Children will be confused: "Daddy, was that you?" Peers will purse their lips but inwardly remember their younger days with a smile when they boldly tickled the dragon's tail. And teenagers and college students will have their opinions rearranged: "Mebbe the old fart isn't such an annoying coot all the time, after all."


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