Profile portrait of May Mann JenningsThere were five of us in the pub last Friday on Jindřišská Street. It was a classic Czech pub, meaning sheets of smoke in the air, grumpy waitresses and food that reenacts the gunfight at the OK Corral within your colon.

One of us was celebrating a birthday; whose birthday was not really material, as we had planned to damage ourselves that evening in celebration of another number being added to the backside of a 4. This plan involved an evening of Gambrinus and Becherovka to cheer another year without major health problems, while tempting the fates.

We ordered five shots of Becherovka and the waiter shook his head. Assuming they were out of Becherovka, we ordered Slivovice. He shook his head again. Panic ran through the once riled ranks of our group.

I could almost hear every member’s balloon knot tightening up with the waiter’s gesture.

This reaction was overshadowed by the present cheering from our livers and the metaphorical giggling of absent significant others.

The waiter explained that due to current circumstances, every pub, shop and department store in the country had been prohibited to sell any alcohol over 20%. Our choices of shot had gone from Irish Whiskey, Becherovka and any number of delicious and hepatotoxic brandies to Amaretto, Vermouth and Zelená. Zelená (literally meaning green) is the mouthwash of the alcohol world.

In early September, it had been reported that a couple of people had died as a result of alcohol poisoning; others had been blinded or immediately fell into comas. In the past weeks, the number of deaths has risen to about twenty and still nobody really knows what is going on. It seems that either a bootlegger or a psychopath have taken to mixing up alcohol with methanol rather than ethanol alcohol. The effect is not intoxicating as much as fatal.

But Friday evening, we weren’t as concerned with rationality as we were with having an irrationally ribald time with spirits. We deflated at the prospect of relying on delicious, perfect beer for our celebration. I ordered a risotto as substitution. Throughout the evening, alcohol came to us as though we were French revolutionaries in 1943 Bordeaux. We snuck nips of domácí Slivovice out of a flask and Irish Whiskey in the later evening at the hands of a stubby angel whose bar has a backroom. The code phrase was “Looking at paintings.” It was used once.

Despite these brushes with contraband, the evening mostly passed without booze and, in most ways, resembled any other night out with the guys. We stayed out til 3 a.m. told stories, laughed and talked about music and films; we made fun of each other, grumbled about work and ogled women who didn’t exist when I was in college.

We got home, unaccustomed at that late hour to proper motor function and the capabilities of both remembering the cab ride and not slurring in bad Czech. My wallet saw me 250 Kč richer than I usually would have been at the end of such a night and in the morning my head wasn’t pounding like bad rap.

As it turns out, we had fun. This both gives food for thought and denies any significant others freude of the shaden variety. Life is OK without hard alcohol.

Yesterday, as if reading the minds of his constituents, President Klaus called the prohibition an overreaction from the Health Minister. In the next breath and before anyone could rejoice a quick end to the proceedings, he said that it will be difficult to lift such a ban.

Maybe I’ll buy a bottle of Zelená. I need some mouthwash anyway.

  1. #1 by Kristian on September 20, 2012 - 3:28 pm

    Good stuff. I can perfectly imagine the stages: assumed misunderstanding, confusion bordering on befuddlement, disbelief, then sweat inducing horrified panic.

    • #2 by Damien Galeone on September 21, 2012 - 11:27 am

      Kristiano, this is best summed up in one word: sadness.

  2. #3 by Emma on September 20, 2012 - 8:53 pm

    i have heard of this prohibition… for which reason i may, or may not, hypothethically of course, and in no way wishing to prove myself a bootlegger in writing, have brought a couple of things back from Germany with me… just saying… awaiting your SMS…

    • #4 by Damien Galeone on September 21, 2012 - 11:26 am

      Have I ever told you how attractive and wonderful you are? Oh, and talented and…are you free tonight? We could meet under a tree with your bott…for the purposes of kissing. That is all.

  3. #5 by Simon Henton on September 21, 2012 - 11:06 am

    9 of us arrived at our selected Pension on friday evening, with 100km bike ride planned for Saturday. Now we’ve done these trips before and traditionally we drink beer on Friday night and supplement them with odd shot or three.
    This time we were “shotless” and as Damien rightly points out the following morning saw our heads in a much better condition to tackle the Czech hills on two wheels.
    No time to write more as I have to hunt out my old hip flask – just for emergencies you understand!

    • #6 by Damien Galeone on September 21, 2012 - 11:24 am

      Ha! I understand, Simon! What do you keep in yours?

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