At the Museum of Jurassic Technology, in the section on folk remedies, there’s a little display for “Hair of the Dog”–dog hair was meant to cure the animal’s bite–right next to “Mice on Toast.” I don’t remember what the Mice are meant to cure. I remember what they look like: tiny, grey carcasses, blurry in the dim light, curled around themselves on a flat square.
When I’m hungover, I get a dire, tingling sensation in my fingers and toes right before things are about to go truly south. It’s like my blood is dancing. In these moments, I tell myself: I will never drink again. I am allergic to alcohol. I am the stupidest person in the world.
Hangovers, for me, are the result of a complex calculus involving not only alcohol but also water, exercise and food. Food above all. The same amount of hard alcohol that I normally put away without blinking can, on an empty stomach, put me in the hospital.
The only remedy, the only thing that actually helps, in case of a true hangover, is hair of the dog. Why are we built to fight poison with poison?
I now get hungover rarely. In my twenties, I used to get up and go running when I could feel a dark day coming. I have a distinct memory of jogging down Bradley Street and tasting the vodka on my breath. Vodka is tasteless. That was an accomplishment. This was at a time in my life when I jogged less than I do now. Running helped ward off the tingle.
At Bar Keeper, down the street, the owner’s name really is Joe Keeper. He sells every kind of bitters you could ever imagine—rhubarb, chili chocolate, lavendar mint—plus boxed sets to make fancy cocktails. It may be my favorite store ever. When Joe started selling liquor, he installed floor-to-ceiling walnut shelves with steel grids and a rolling ladder. I want those shelves. I want to live inside those shelves.
Bar Keeper also sells a lot of vintage barware—tumblers with sea green pictures of the Seattle space needle, or gold-leaf horse and buggies—but he has never yet carried the precise, squared cut-crystal decanter that I covet. I want the one straight out of The Philadelphia Story. When I own it, I will immediately become svelte, begin to speak in clipped Yankee tones, and own a pet jaguar.
The Philadelphia Story, by the way, is not only one of the best romantic comedies ever to disprove the Serendipity rule that the genre is utterly bankrupt but also a movie that portrays heavy drinking with both panache and gravity. You can’t help feeling, watching them put away coupe after coupe, that the drink is papering over some deeper darkness. And yet, when they get up in the morning and demand hair of the dog from the butler… You can’t help but want Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant to go on talking that way forever.
–Do you s’pose, sir, speaking of eye-openers…?
—Oh, that’s the first sane remark I’ve heard today. C’malong, Dexter, I know a formula that’s said to pop the pennies off the eyelids of dead Irishmen.
The front window display at Bar Keeper, since January, has featured a home-computer print-out that says HAPPY NEW YEAR. The mannequin that is always there, with straggly blonde hair, wears a harlequin cocktail dress. Since January 1, she has been positioned on all fours with her face in a toilet bowl.
It’s now March. Happy New Year.