Sin, Holy Fat-Wah and the Dade County Commission For The Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice

January 9, 2017


    Today, brothers and sisters, we will talk about sin.


    Thursday's Dade County Commission meeting left me itching to comment on the liquor-by-the-drink issue. But just last week I had vowed to write an installment of my new diet column, "The Fat-Wah is Raging," for every Monday during January, which for me is the Holy Month of Robindon. The reason for Robindon is, of course, that concentrations of Robin have reached critical mass; but as much of me as there is, I'm afraid it's not enough to write two columns by Monday!

    Then it occurred to me I could kill two proverbial birds with one metaphorical stone. I use terms like "fat-wah" and "Robindon" facetiously, not being a religious person of any flavor. But there's no denying I observe Robindon with fierce religiosity, screaming, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" at 32-second intervals and inviting God to strike me dead if I veer from the straight and narrow. And my straight and narrow includes an alcohol ban as strict as anything you would find under Sharia law. 

     In this setting, the sudden transformation of the local gummint into the Mutaween, "the Dade County Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice"--struck me as particularly a propos. During Robindon, I regard alcohol as a sin because of the empty calories. Meanwhile, the commission regards alcohol as a sin because it's a sin.

    If you aren't getting that the commission's recalcitrance in executing the mandate it was given in November is all about sin, please come to public meetings and listen to discussions about the proposed ordinance. You've got one guy on the commission practically throwing himself in front of the beer trucks to keep Dade holy. And even proponents of Gettin' R Done preface their remarks, every time, with: "Of course, I never touch a drop myself." 

    I'm not sure if I believe all this abstinence! I live on a dirt road outside town and pick up enough beer cans of a Sunday morning to have figured out I'm surrounded by secret drinkers. And when I tried to sell an ad in The Dade Planet to a liquor store in Lookout Valley, the manager just laughed at me. "Like I need you?" he said. "I've already got Dade County." Then, of course, the 60-40 vote in November is a hint, too, 

So people do drink in Dade County but whether they, and the county commissioners, still think it's a sin, or are just worried about the 40 percent who do, it's all anyway about sin.

    It's a Southern thing I reckon. Here I have to tell you a story about my old friend Mary Hart who comes from New Jersey. When we were young she said of the night life in our college town: "Can you believe all those people wasting so much money going to bars and drinking all the time?" Which sounds very pious but she immediately finished the thought: "It's so much cheaper to drink at home."

    Mary Hart wasn't a big lush or anything but she kept a bottle of whiskey she called "sip-on" for cold nights. Yankees just don't have the same taboos. Mary Hart came from a big religious Catholic family that included lots of priests and nuns but when one of them died a bartender was hired for the funeral. 

    Once on a road trip to parts north we camped on the grounds of a monastery where Mary Hart's uncle had been the head guy, the abbot or father superior or whatever. She had gotten us permission from the central office, but when she mentioned her uncle to the monk who let us in, he said, "He's on vacation." That struck Mary Hart as outrageously funny. She explained that her uncle had actually died a couple of years  back. The guy on the gate just gave us the vacation line because that was the excuse he was used to--it was the monastery's euphemism for when Uncle Whatsit was in rehab drying out from his drinking problem. 

    So Mary Hart's world recognized that some people drank too much but didn't try to keep everybody else from doing it. It wasn't a sin. You could do it in a monastery. On that trip we also met Mary Hart's aunt, a prim little nun. I remember her turning down a drink at dinner, patting her stomach ruefully through her habit as she explained, "It's not that I disagree with alcohol but that alcohol disagrees with me."

     Alcohol does not disagree with me and there is nothing I like better than a glass of red wine after dinner. I can't face mowing the lawn without a beer at the end. But I come from a family with its share of alcoholism and I'm aware that drinking is fraught with dangers, not the least of which is that it makes you fat. Therefore I have all sorts of self-imposed rules and regulations about alcohol (and guilts and shames when I break 'em). One of the values of the Holy Month of Robindon is that it shows me I can abstain.

    But the emphasis here is on "self-imposed." I want to make moral and dietary rules for myself, not have them imposed by  the County Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

    So that's one thing and it's the only one I can reasonably link to my January diet. But I can't shut up without making this other, extracurricular point.

    Dade County can do what it wants to about the alcohol ordinance. Nobody really cares what I think about that and anyway I've always been perfectly happy with the place the way it was. If it stays unchanged, and dry, as far as I'm concerned we wets can keep following the Mary Hart Principle.

    But if Dade does change, I for one would hate it to change to look like every other exit along the interstate, with some corporate-chain fern bar as the "nice" place to eat in town. The idea that the Dade County Commission is willing to compromise its Prohibition stance to bring in one of those soulless tacky overpriced clip joints, meanwhile bending over backwards to keep locally-owned small businesses from serving beer with pizza, strikes me as so un-American and so un-Dade County, that I need a...

    Never mind. It's not on my diet. Maybe in February. Meanwhile, to hell with Logan's! Give me a honky-tonk any day. It's way more in keeping with the local color.    

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