Cigarette tax hikes nationwide have many smokers kicking the habit. The current economic mess may also have gamblers going to casinos less often. Yet, one costly vice always seems to get a pass: the use (and abuse) of alcohol—expensive, dangerous and sometimes deadly.

This is not a call for temperance: sharing a drink with friends can be relaxing and fun and medical findings say an occasional glass of wine may even be beneficial. But selling alcohol in clubs and restaurants is where the profits lie since the tossing of a shot into a glass costs much less than whipping up great tornadoes Rossini or a spectacular tiramisu .

Drinking at home isn’t cheap, but it is far less expensive than drinking out. Yet there is little said about the club-hopping crowd blowing rent or grocery money at bars and dining rooms where a few beers can run $10 - $20 and the cost of two martinis equals a restaurant entrée.

This doesn’t occur to some diners when at, let’s say, a mid-level urban eatery, Couple A drinks mineral water or diet Coke with dinner and Couple B has cocktails and two glasses of wine with the meal. Those alcoholic beverages add the equivalent of two additional meals onto the bill. So Couple A ends up paying for three full meals in its half of the tab. (Would anyone order a second entrée and expect the other couple to pay for it?)

New England clubs and restaurants see no decline in drink orders with prices (beer, $4.50 - $5.50, wine, $6 - $10, or cocktails, $10 - $13) still seeming reasonable to patrons. Suburban bar prices are at least a dollar cheaper on beer, wine and cocktails than in most city bars. Still, budgets can be strained by a couple of Grey Goose martinis at $10 or more each, or a few shots of Patron tequila, at $8 or higher per shot.

Mark Gasbarro, fourth generation owner of Gasbarro Wines in Providence sees more patrons seeking cheaper ($9 - $10) bottles of wine. They understand that a bottle of good wine often costs less than one glass served by a bartender. A 33 oz. bottle of Grey Goose Vodka at $35 retail, meanwhile, makes 17 martinis-- enough to keep most drinkers happy for a week.

Two glasses of wine totaling $18 (plus a tip) equal at least 8 gallons of gas, a meal in many fine restaurants, at least two packs of cigarettes, three tickets to most movies, the co-pay for a doctor visit, one day’s worth of groceries, an hour at the quarter slots at Foxwoods Casino or a few races at the track with average luck, and a whole lot more.

Multiply that $18-worth of socializing times the number of nights most regular patrons drink out, and we’re talking serious dents in rent, prescriptions, insurance, telephone, child support, tuition, and many other serious monthly bills. (Then there are also the related “drinking costs” for parking, parking tickets, “picking up the tab,” auto damage, injuries and worse from drinking and driving.)

The deep recession reminds us that the phrase, “Drink Responsibly” has an economic edge as well, and one worth managing prudently, perhaps at home.



"We have looked at all issues which can bring people to talk and we have seen that sex is the answer," says Rukia Subow, chair of the Women’s Development Organization, Kenya's oldest women's group. And with that, 11 feminist organizations in Kenya banded together to withhold sex from their men for one week in an effort to stop the political squabbling threatening that nation’s fragile coalition government. The women are paying prostitutes to temporarily go celibate, and the wives of Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have also been asked to participate.
Men in Kenya are polygamous by law, and AIDS rates are high, so there may be increased sexual activity with multiple partners. If this is true, organized sexual inactivity could influence male politicians. More likely, not all women will comply and men will have their way by intimidation if necessary. Also, seven days isn’t enough time.

Such a plan would be even less likely to work here at home.

Internet statistics about frequency of sexual activity among Americans--particularly married people-- indicate that abstaining from sex for a week would be fairly normal. This isn’t a nation of sexually hyper-active folks, especially in the over-forty ranks from which political leaders usually come.

Michelle Obama doesn’t seem like the type of woman who needs to join in such a strike. She could probably just talk Barack into submission.

Lacking a prime minister, we’d have to look to Hillary Clinton our Secretary of State as the other possibility. Hillary probably adopted the withholding-sex-from-Bill strategy long ago (not that he’s since “gone without.”)

Leaders like (use any first name here) Kennedy and Chris Dodd have always demonstrated that they could have as many women as they wanted, wherever, whenever. Across the aisle, Republicans like John McCain give the impression that their interest in sex is but a memory. In the case of conservatives such as Orrin Hatch, one wonders if they ever have had a sexual temperature beyond 98.6.

Then there is the Barney Frank contingent (exact numbers still hiding in the great congressional closet) to whom threats of sex-withholding by people of the opposite gender mean nothing.

The Trojan idea of women strapping on chastity belts toward political ends will probably fail to resurrect democracy in Kenya. It does, however, remind us that empires and political careers have historically been kicked to the curb in exchange for a moment or two of lust. (Eliott Spitzer, Gary Hart and others can, have and will write books on the subject. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s wife also went public again this week on her husband’s zipper problem.)

Power remains a great aphrodisiac and one likely to allow the endless supply of available men and women determined to sample just one more dose, whenever they can, to find each other.

Mary Ann Sorrentino

Mary Ann Sorrentino
Italy Series of articles runs Aug./Sept/Oct 2015

Hope for the Future: Uruguay 2007

Hope for the Future: Uruguay 2007
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"JOACHIM" - Oct. '92-March '08

"JOACHIM"  - Oct. '92-March '08
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