Sunday, September 22, 2013

Whiskey and the South

I was proof-reading the manuscript of my memoir, Memphis Afternoons, soon to be available as an e-book, when I came across the passage below. It's relevant to this blog but also to my past and, I think, the cultural power of alcohol that can transcend its immediate effects. (I will be excerpting more of the book later.)                        

     Much has been written about whiskey in the South. It was often talked about when I was growing up, and used at odd moments. Frank once heard our uncle, in the alcoholic blush of Christmas, cradling fifths of his two favorite bourbons, proclaim to all present, "These are the standards!" The idea was that good things followed if you knew what and how to drink, and kept in practice. Boys going off for the first time to Ole Miss or UT or Chapel Hill took with them an intimate knowledge of the mysteries of drink and were known for it. Dad traveled with a quart of sour mash and he kept one in the desk drawer at his office and another in the cabinet above the refrigerator. I often saw him extract and uncork a bottle on a tedious afternoon, an act that required neither apology nor explanation. The effect was palpably mellow, even to a boy looking on, a pleasant lengthening of Dad's self-imposed deadlines, a softening of the hot Memphis light.

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