Philly’s lush life great for booze hounds, a bummer for sober folk

     A spectator calling himself

    A spectator calling himself "Stonehead" Fred drinks from a can of beer he opened by smashing it into his forehead at the Wing Bowl chicken-wing eating contest in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Jessica Griffin, file)

    Happy hour. Beer week. Margarita month. Booze has proliferated in our culture, while I have been hiding under the rocks in a glass of club soda.

    I’m not happy with the public — and publicly funded — boosting of booze. Cities and counties promote liquor luaus. The entire nation of Germany devotes a month to beer.

    Perhaps I’m old fashioned. (I’m not talking about Don Draper’s old-fashioned.) I did drink occasionally in college, mostly at fraternity parties, where I already felt out of place. I could hold a single glass for hours, praying the ice would melt enough to disguise the taste of the gin or bourbon. I got drunk once and learned my lesson.

    My father raised me with strict instructions not to imbibe, and not to date — or, golly gee, marry — a man who did.

    But today people young and old imbibe until their eyes stop focusing, and then they keep on drinkin’. I once photographed a man near the Mummers Parade, pulling his pants down to expose his entire bottom, pointing at his audience, peeing on a storefront. I doubt a sober citizen would have been so brazen.

    Accompanying the alcohol is increasingly louder music, magnified by building-swaying speakers. Deafening music in turn requires deafening voices, too.

    Take Philly Beer Week, an annual event sponsored, in part, by SEPTA and a leading local daily paper. With locations all over town, this boisterous bacchanalia entails police presence. At whose expense? Yours? Mine?

    Take it. Please.

    City streets close for entire days during crucial alcoholic occasions such as hockey playoffs and St. Patrick’s Day — and the booze breeds even more cacophony and debris.

    On the website visitphilly.com, the “nightlife” section starts with breweries, cosmopolitan cocktails and alfresco restaurants and bars. One of the the top listings under “live music” is a bar that keeps its neighbors awake and includes the word howl in its name.

    Center City District, the business-improvement agency, convenes Center City Sips, Wednesday evenings through Sept. 2. To what end? To increase sobriety while decreasing the litter of empty bottles? Or is it the other way ’round?

    For Father’s Day this year, the Philadelphia Museum of Art scheduled a trolley tour of local beer history. Obviously no dad could survive a June Sunday without midday suds.

    According to a 2013 study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a quarter of people 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month and nearly seven percent reported that they engaged in heavy drinking in the past month.

    By June 2015, that number rose to “almost 30 percent of Americans — 68 million people” who admit to having had drinking problems.

    Alcohol use disorder,” the new name for excess inebriation, is a problem. Way back in 2006, NIAAA placed the national economic burden of alcohol misuse at a staggering $224 billion, nearly three-fourths of which it attributed to binge drinking. That’s a mess of winos.

    During open-window season, currently in force, neighborhood bars make no attempt to contain the screaming, sloshed slobs indoors. They pack their sidewalks until long after last call with tables bursting with foul-mouthed revelers, impeding the progress of sober citizens trying to walk, bike or wait for a bus. Other slobs stand or lean nearby.

    I loathe the fact that so many people need to gulp so much hooch to amuse themselves. And, even more galling, the fact that public entities, including the City of Philadelphia, offer financial support for dipsomania: the Beer Garden Series; Philly Beer Week, with its Philly Craft Beer Crawl, Fishtown FestivALE, Big-Ass Beer Dinner, and Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen with Beer Dinner.

    Granted, not all of sots are rowdy. And clearly I am in the minority as I rage against the public sponsorship of such intemperance. Why not apple juice on the rocks? Philly Sips Sodas? Clean Water Wednesdays? Let’s move “under the influence” to under the table and try getting high on sober evenings.

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