If my parents would just buy wine I wouldn’t be eyeing the correction fluid

My Fellow Inebriates,

My mum is proofreading the most boring book ever written. I’ve been trying to leave her alone so she can get it done quickly, bill for it, and funnel some of the cash toward our liquor inventory. But it is enormous, verbose, full of legal jargon—and did I mention boring?

What’s even more tedious is that she’s doing manual editorial mark-up. Green pen, post-its, and—for her own screw-ups or changes of mind—correction fluid.

This latter item naturally attracted me given the dearth of alcohol in the house. It certainly smells intriguing, this opaque white substance, and so I thought I would review it.

What I didn’t realize was the connection between correction fluid and The Monkees, a show my mother used to watch dozens of years ago, even before she was allowed to use correction fluid on her homework (which the nuns considered cheating). And although she watched The Monkees more for Davy Jones or even Peter Tork than for the others, it turns out that Michael Nesmith, the one in the dorky-looking toque, probably had the brainiest genetics.

You see, Bette Nesmith Graham, Michael Nesmith’s mother, invented Liquid Paper. An executive secretary at a Texas bank, she got annoyed at having to retype documents when she made a mistake, so she brought some white tempera paint to work and secretly used it for five years, tweaking the formula with the help of her son Mike’s science teacher until it was ready to market in 1956 as “Mistake Out” and later “Liquid Paper.” She sold it to Gillette in 1979 for $47 million!

That’s a lot of beer money. I asked my mum why she hadn’t invented anything as clever as Liquid Paper, particularly since she’d spent several years fawning over The Monkees (although not Michael Nesmith) and surely some inspiration should have rubbed off.

My mum said if I got any closer to the correction fluid I would be guaranteed a ride in the washing machine. She mentioned, also, that she was using Wite-Out because Liquid Paper sucks.

This intrigued me even more. Could we not do a horizontal—if not tasting, then…sniffing—of the two brands, and perhaps any generic brands and dollar-store knock-offs?

Vertical and horizontal wine tastings are fascinating opportunities to compare, respectively:

  • Different vintages of the same varietal from the same winery (vertical)
  • Wines of the same vintage and varietal but from different wineries (horizontal)

So, for correction fluid, the “sniffing” would be of different brands. (To my knowledge correction fluid is non-vintage.)

My mother doesn’t like to use the word “retarded,” but she made an exception for me at that moment, emphasizing that anyone wanting to enjoy a psychedelic journey should choose a substance that won’t cause tachycardia. She added that Liquid Paper is runnier and less opaque than Wite-Out, and that she wouldn’t waste money trying other brands.

n-propyl bromide

That got me wondering. Why is Liquid Paper runnier than Wite-Out (if what my mum says is true)? Could it be that it contains more organic solvents? Also known as thinners, these volatile organic compounds are added to correction fluid to prevent it from thickening. Over time the solvents will evaporate out of a bottle of correction fluid, causing it to get crusty and less aromatic.

In Mama Nesmith’s day toluene was the solvent used but was banned due to toxicity. Next came 1,1,1-trichloroethane, until it was banned for contributing to ozone depletion. The modern solvent in correction fluid is n-propyl bromide, which will probably end up getting banned, too, if it turns out to be neurotoxic.

It’s the neurotoxicity that attracts adolescents to huff correction fluid. Organic solvents can be psychoactive, but unfortunately they also cause the heart to beat irregularly, which can lead to death. My mum pointed out the label saying DO NOT SWALLOW OR INHALE. She said that, since I had some followers who were crazy enough to read my reviews, I should NOT review products unintended for consumption. And she added: “Get a grip, you idiot bear.”

Get a grip? I’m not the one who wanted to kiss Davy Jones.

How safe is that drink? Lift-off drinks…and their scary side

My Fellow Inebriates,

My dad drinks rocket-fuel coffee for breakfast. I’m talking five espresso shots in a mug with honey every morning, after which he asks himself if he should switch to decaf.

I usually miss this ritual because I don’t get up until later, but last night I didn’t manage to drag myself to bed and instead passed out on the couch, which made me easy prey for the kids, who pounced on me in the morning.

After an hour of their abuse I realized how exhausted I was—how mangy and straggly, how lacking in energy. My dad’s nuclear-strength coffee suddenly looked good, and what bear can resist honey?

Holy f&*#^*# crap, people!! What kind of voltage is my dad administering to himself? I needed a freaking defibrillator after drinking his coffee, and now I’m wondering if my dad isn’t secretly super-human.

Among all the mental fireworks, a lightbulb went off in my head—I could drink a lot more alcohol if I ingested caffeine along with it. With a caffeine boost I wouldn’t pass out so easily and I could take my alcoholism to a whole new level.

It’s not a new idea, of course. Combining uppers and downers is a way of life for many people, some of them deeply psychotic. A range of alcoholic products appeal to this niche market (as well as teenagers) by combining booze with ingredients such as caffeine, taurine, and guarana. Phusion Projects served up this magical combo for several years in its Four Loko product until it was banned in several states, prompting the company to rejig the recipe and ditch the stimulants. The FDA sent a warning letter to three other companies adding caffeine to booze, citing the beverages as a “public health concern.” Health Canada is even more emphatic about the dangers of combining alcohol and caffeine.

I feel deeply psychotic myself after sampling my dad’s coffee, and drinking alcohol strikes me as a natural curative. What’s the problem?

  • According to the FDA, “caffeine can mask some of the sensory cues individuals might normally rely on to determine their level of intoxication.” Cues such as passing out.
  • Teenagers comprise a huge market for energy drinks and gravitate naturally to the alcoholic variety when they’re loitering in the liquor store parking lot looking for someone to boot for them.
  • Last year 16 Canadians were hospitalized due to heart palpitations, seizures, and strokes brought on by energy drinks. Of the 79 adverse reaction reports filed, half were deemed serious and four life-threatening, plus there were two deaths. Nine cases involved alcohol, but which cases and what the impact of the combination was hasn’t been reported.
  • A Dalhousie University study shows that when students combine energy drinks and alcohol, they double their alcohol intake. Wow! That’s exactly the effect I was looking for when the lightbulb flashed this morning and my one or two neurons decided booze and stimulants were better than Fred and Ginger. Health Canada says no, LB, no!

It’s probably a good thing these combo drinks are off the market, because I would go ahead and drink them in massive quantities, and my little furry body would probably disintegrate.

Paul Chiasson, The Canadian Press

But in the certifiable absence of common sense, what’s to prevent me from buying some Red Bull and mixing it with alcohol? “Good taste,” says my mum, whose car window was once smashed by a hooligan who pitched a Red Bull at it from a moving vehicle. Pregnant and emotional, she stood wailing on the sidewalk beside the shattered glass, vowing hatred against Red Bull simply because the perp was long gone and she had no other target for her outrage.

Could I order the recipe at a bar?

It depends where you live. Some states have banned drinks like the Jägerbomb (Jägermeister and Red Bull), as have some areas of Australia. Canada classifies Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar as foods and Jägermeister as alcohol, warning against the upper/downer mixture, but ultimately it’s up to the consumer—who usually turns out to be a young party animal whose cerebral cortex hasn’t developed the capacity for sober second thought. These are totally my people! But I don’t want to steer anybody toward bad choices. Personally, I don’t enjoy impulse control at all, so don’t heed my ideas. Here I defer to the government and advise picking either the energy drink or the booze.

You know which one I’ll pick.