California

Vin Rouge

Dad always swore that red wine was medicine, while white wine was poison—unless you were guzzling either on a hot summer day. He also attributed to wine the power to change your life, as it did his. Dad had always been ambitious and successful, but when he encountered the grape, he started to loosen up and actually like people. He began to develop a personality that served his sane and healthy existence well into its mid-eighties.

I’ve always regarded modern medicine as mostly mumbo jumbo—the ancient and unenlightened product without all the kinky masks and lunatic dancing. The surgical half of the practice consists of dividing the body up into as many mechanical parts as your car engine and then cutting and replacing at will. The other half is all statistics—throw a chemical at any problem and count how many mice it kills and how many monkeys recover. Toss the results into a statistical blender that tells the public with utter precision (in your tone of voice anyway) exactly what they want to hear. A silent “hey presto”, and your drug company turns a massive profit.

Politicians love statistics (almost as much as they love drug companies). As a former statistician, so do I, especially this one: Take my earnings on July 12 and July 14, 1973—i.e., before and after my first real job offer. With these two data points (love that phrase), we can extrapolate a trend line (ooh, that one too) that proves with utter precision (orgasm alert!) that, by the year 2019, I’ll be the richest man on earth. In FACT, my personal income will rival the GDP of the entire continent of Europe.

And while we’re waiting for that to happen… Back to vino rosso, the most ancient and venerated medicinal treatment in history. The Sumerians prescribed it for everything 2,000 years before Christ. Hippocrates—that revered father of medicine—urged it on his acolytes as the key to ending diarrhea and lethargy. The Romans and Arab Muslims purified water and disinfected gladiatorial wounds with it. The Catholic church used it to rescue parishioners from sinusitis, indigestion, damnation, and dementia (although they could have just shortened their sermons, no?). Throughout history, in short, vino tinto was not only the beverage of choice for just about everyone, but the ultimate cure for all that ailed thee.

Until the Americans discovered prohibition, that is. Prohibition with a capital P might have gone away in 1933, but its essence still bubbles along in many a medical and political heart. By 1990, the FDA establishment had proven conclusively—scientifically!—that the wisdom of three millennia had it all wrong. No matter the common sense of a billion historical fans, the only ingredient worth mentioning in wine was alcohol. And as we all knew, alcohol led to nowhere but crime, degradation, and liver damage.

But then… CBS and 60 Minutes came upon a hot, new buzzword, the “French Paradox”. How could so many French men and women—statistically speaking, of course—wolf down all that stinky cheese and goose liver without all the heart attacks of our odor-free, foie-free American ecosystem? The answer had to be… Vin rouge! 

Yea! We boozers could at last turn the tables with our own statistical-medical mumbo jumbo. So while you pour that glass, give a contented little shiver of delight for all the resveratrol, catechin, quercetin, and anthocyanins about to flood your body—unless they’ve been flooding it for the last hour or so, in which case, you might want to revert to a minor flirtation with Prohibition. Either way, rest assured that there are statistics and self-appointed authorities aplenty to conclusively approve (and disapprove) of anything you do.

Now, about that paycheck of mine…

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