Garrett Peck | Talks at Google


>>Hi, everybody.
Thank you for coming to our Authors at talk today.
We have Garrett Peck. He’s an analyst at a large telecom company and freelance journalist
for the alcoholic beverage industry. He lives in Washington, D.C., where he leads
temperance tours of Prohibition related sites in our nation’s capital.
This Prohibition Hangover is his very first book.
It was six years in the making and is a compilation of over one hundred interviews.
So now, welcome Garrett Peck.>>Garrett Peck: Hi, everyone.
I’m Garrett Peck and like Tasha said here, the book is The Prohibition Hangover, which
came out September first. So just almost two months ago.
Like she said, it was about a six-year process of getting the book to market.
So I wanted to kind of talk about what it was like being a first-time author and getting
the book out, because it was sort of like I learned the whole process completely backwards
and yet somehow it didn’t kill me. And it’s kind of a humorous process.
And then, talked about where the idea for the book actually came and I’ll talk about
some of the historic things that led to where we are today with alcohol.
So again, the book is The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult
Cabernet. So it’s kind of signifying that there’s been
a process, right? From how we went to demonized alcohol to where
we are today where most of us drink. And we’ll talk about that here throughout
this afternoon. I should say here the last book that covered
Americans and alcohol — like a really significant social book about how Americans drink —
was written 30 years ago and that was by an author named William Rorabaugh.
He’s a professor at the University of Washington. And the book was called The Alcoholic Republic.
And in that book, he laid out where the temperance movement came from.
You all remember we had Prohibition in this country for nearly 14 years — from 1920 to
1933. Prohibition itself was a century-long movement
beforehand that led up to Prohibition. And this was a social reform movement.
And just to kind of kick things off here, I’d like to have a little interaction with
the audience — mostly pretty young people here today, so.
I wanted to ask how many of you here can define what temperance was?
One person, cool.>>It was a movement that drinking was evil.
That’s all
I know about it.>>Garrett Peck: Exactly, yeah.
They stigmatized alcohol drinking. You kind of think the word ‘temperance’ means
‘to be temperate’ or ‘to moderate’, right? But, they took it to another extreme.
They took it to “Everyone needs to abstain altogether from alcohol.”
This started off actually with a huge whiskey binge that was going on in the early, early
American republic. And, as a result, the church had said, “You
know what? We’ve got a big social problem here.
We’ve got to deal with this.” So initially, temperance meant to get people
to moderate their drinking, but pretty quickly more radical people took over the movement
and they decided that people had to refrain from drinking altogether.
So, temperance therefore became synonymous with abstinence from alcohol.
And we still see that in some places here in America.
So in kind of building my platform for the book itself, one of the things I did, like
Tasha said, I became a freelance journalist. I wrote the book first, and then I was like,
“Okay, I want to go out there and sell it” — which is not generally how you write nonfiction.
You generally write a proposal. Then you get an agent.
Then you sell it. And then they give you an advance and then
you go write the rest. And so, I did the whole process kind of backwards.
I wrote it first and then tried to go out there and sell it.
And the answer I kept getting back was, “Well, dude.
You don’t have a platform. You know, you work in telecom.
So you haven’t written in the industry at all — in the alcohol industry.”
So at that point then I started doing freelance journalism.
So I do about an article a month or so. And I started doing this temperance tour,
this walking tour of Prohibition-related sites in Washington, D.C.
So if you guys are ever out there, it’s a really fun tour.
We see some really unusual sites. The one I put up here on the screen is the
Cogswell Temperance Fountain. Anybody ever hear of Henry Cogswell?
He was a San Francisco dentist, who made his money during the Gold Rush and part of the
temperance movement. And he financed about 50 of these statues.
There’s only a handful of them left around the country, one in Washington, D.C. — this
is the one here from D.C. — and then one in New York City, in Tompkins Square Park
in Alphabet City, East Village. There’s only a handful that most of them have
been torn down since then. But they were put in very strategic spots
around the country to basically signify to the population, “Drink water, instead of whiskey.”
Like the one in New York City, it was put in Little Germany — little neighborhood full
of Germans. So the message was, “Drink water, instead
of beer.” So really the point — it was part of the
abstinence only movement at that time. So again, temperance was this faith-based
initiative. This was the evangelical — other than abolitionism.
You know, the fight to ban slavery in the country?
This was the other, big, social reform movement of the 19th century.
So the evangelical Protestant churches banded together and decided they needed to do something
about the heavy drinking that was going on and ultimately decided people had to stop
drinking altogether. And that ultimately, of course, led up to
Prohibition. One of the things they questioned was, “What
would Jesus drink?” And they went through the Bible and reinterpreted the Bible.
We call this revisionism. But they decided that, because they were teetotalers,
therefore Jesus had to be one as well. And actually, I grew up hearing this in my
own church whereby they would say, “Okay, in Jesus’ time, he drank unfermented wine.”
They had no scientific basis for that — nor archaeological or biblical basis for it.
But it was simply just taken on faith that Jesus didn’t drink, even though wine is written
in every single chapter of the Bible other than the book of Jonah.
And certainly there was a lot of evidence around Jesus that, in fact, he did drink.
He turned water into wine at the party at Cana and a few other cases, Last Supper and
so on. Those people who are Catholics scratch their
heads and go, “What is up with you Protestants?” But this was a Protestant movement.
And they were the ones who gave us temperance, abstinence, and therefore they had to have
a theological or ideological basis really behind it.
And ultimately, of course, that’s where they gave us the phrase, “Demon Rum,” which is
part of the subtitle of my book. They demonized drinking, not just to the point
of saying, “Gee, we don’t want you to drink,” or “You should drink less or moderate.”
They heavily stigmatized anybody who did drink. And you still see that across the country
in a couple of places, especially in the Deep South where they tend to have still conservative
churches — predominantly Southern Baptist Convention.
And they still preach against the evils of alcohol.
I put up this as well here. Anybody hear of the Women’s Christian Temperance
Union — or WCTU? One person.
The WCTU was once a super-powerful lobby in this country.
It once numbered 600,000 people in the country — all women.
And they were headquartered in Illinois, and they put these fountains around.
The particular one here you see on the screen was in Roseworth Beach, Delaware, but there
was one in Santa Rosa. There’s one in Petaluma — still exists —
and a few other places. Again, kind of the message, “Drink water,
instead of whiskey, beer, wine.” Whatever your alcoholic beverage choice is,
don’t drink it. Drink water instead.
This was a really powerful lobby. Women didn’t have the vote yet at the time.
And so, one of the things they could do was educate people.
And hence, they got into the classrooms and they educated people on the evils of alcohol
drinking. One of the interesting things that came up
about — in the 1870’s the WCTU rose and they ended up having alliance together with the
suffragettes — so, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony.
The suffragettes was actually a much smaller organization, a much smaller movement.
But the movement to get women the vote realized that if they ever wanted to get the vote,
they would need to ally together with the temperance people.
And so, those two forces then got together. And therefore, it was not a coincidence at
all that women got the vote and we banned alcohol in the same year — 1920.
That’s not a coincidence whatsoever, right? And then, of course, once the 1920’s came,
that alliance then split apart. Women decided that, in fact, they had a right
in the speakeasy at the bar, and women started drinking.
Kind of unusual. But we’ll look into that in a few minutes.
All right, so we got Prohibition — 1920 to 1933.
It lasted almost 14 years long, and it was a horrible failure.
13 awful years as H.L. Mencken called it. He was the Bard of Baltimore.
So a vast amount of civil disobedience that took place during this time.
You know, how we got into Prohibition in the first place?
There was a group called the Anti-Saloon League, and they used the occasion of World War I
to change the Constitution. We had declared war against who in 1917?
Germany, exactly. And who were most of the brewers in the country
at the time? German Americans, indeed.
They were the biggest ethnic group at the time in the country.
So today’s it’s Latinos; but, back then, it was the Germans.
So once that whole lobby was basically pushed aside, the ASL decided, “Okay.
We’re going to go for the gusto. We’re going to change the Constitution.” I’m
still kind of flabbergasted by that fact. We changed the Constitution not once, but
twice, to deal with alcohol — once to ban it, and then once to make it legal again.
I mean, crazy. And in just less than 14 years, the country
realized what a huge unintended consequence Prohibition had released, that there was just
endemic law breaking around the country. There was so much money being made, organized
crime was making a fortune, and the violence was really, really getting bad around the
country. So after less than 14 years, the country decided,
“Okay, let’s go back the way it was before and let’s regulate it now this time.”
So anybody here that has ever seen this. This is one of the most famous photos here
from Prohibition itself. And if there’s any beer drinkers in the room,
you’d probably want to cry. This is in 1921, and yes, they’re pouring
beer into the sewer. So kind of a publicity stunt, but one of the
more famous photos from Prohibition. The Dry Cause itself had really thought —
I think, naively — that the country would simply just dry up.
If we ban the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol, the country will simply just obey
the law and people will stop drinking. And I think they were really naive to believe
that, because it’s really been fundamentally a part of American culture since the beginning.
And for example, you saw — I talked about the movement of women splitting apart in the
1920’s. You got this younger generation of women who
came up. They now had the vote.
They decided they had a right at the speakeasy; they had a right to drink.
You know, back then, drinking was a man sport. And come the 1920’s, “Okay, it’s illegal for
everybody to drink. So therefore, we can all drink, right?” So
women started going out to the speakeasies as well.
They start bootlegging. They do some really unusual things in the
1920’s. Remember this is the era of Sigmund Freud,
so people start doing psychoanalysis, see your shrink, and so on.
Women start to smoke in the 1920’s. They hadn’t done that before.
They start to drink in the 1920’s. And you see, for example, this woman right
here. She has her garter and her hip flask.
You know, breaking the law suddenly looks pretty glamorous, right?
So this law-breaking became endemic to American society.
Okay. We had the law of the land that says you can’t
manufacture, sell, or transport alcohol, and yet everyone’s doing it regardless.
So really, the country became very cynical towards Prohibition itself.
But actually, changing the law back is pretty difficult.
Getting a Constitutional Amendment isn’t easy in this country, right?
You got to get two-thirds of Congress to vote for it, and then you got to get three-quarters
of the states to vote for it. But that said, of course, we changed the Constitution
twice. So first time, we used the occasion of World
War I to change the Constitution — the crisis. And then, we had a second crisis.
So what was that? Anyone?
Great Depression, exactly. The economy fell off a cliff in October, 1929.
And with that, came a huge political change in the country, very similar to what happened
in 2006 and 2008 actually. The 1920’s belonged to the Republican party
— all three presidencies and both houses of Congress.
And then 1930, 1932, the whole country just shifted over completely.
And the Democrats ran on a platform of repeal. In other words, “Let’s get this problem under
control. We’ll have law and order again to control
the endemic law breaking that’s going on.” And so, Franklin Delano Roosevelt runs on
a platform of repeal. So not that we’re happy about legalizing alcohol
again, but rather, we can get the beast under control, and now we can regulate it.
So, the 21st Amendment gets passed through Congress in January of 1933 — so before FDR
is even in office. The first state votes for it in March of 1933.
Anybody from Michigan? Your state voted first.
[Woohoo!] Congratulations, Tasha. And then, the 36th state — the one that pushed
it over the top — was nine months later, which shows you how much the country wanted
an end to the noble experiment. And that was December 5th, 1933.
What state was that? What state in this country would you think
people would least likely to drink in? Utah.
[laughter] Utah was the 36th state. Yeah, it sort of became a badge of honor that
they would be the ones here to push the measure over the top.
And so, yeah, that became then the end of Prohibition itself.
The 21st Amendment, of course, promised the country regulation of alcohol and control
of alcohol. And so, we’ll talk about that a little bit
here this afternoon. What I want to talk about here with my book
— This is kind of a precursor of how we got into the mess and then out of Prohibition
itself. With my book here, if I can really quick here
just give you a quick read. Two paragraphs?
If you’ll let me indulge to really look at what happened after Prohibition.
And that’s really my thesis of what happened over these last 76 years since we changed
the law back. So just quick two paragraphs here.
[reading] The United States has had a tense relationship with alcohol since colonial times
and, even after Prohibition failed, Americans are still unsure how to deal with it.
Our social attitudes and laws on alcohol are disjointed.
Is it a normal consumer product? Is it a controlled substance?
Is it a gift from God? Or is it Demon Rum?
Now, maybe it’s all of these things. As Americans drink more, there’s a great strain
between the many different points of view about alcohol — between freedom and reform,
tipplers and teetotalers, evangelicals and secularists.
But at least, this is not a political issue anymore.
Republicans are just as likely to drink as Democrats.
[talking] Now, the other paragraph I’m going to read here is kind of the epiphany moment
when I had the eureka, “Oh, my gosh. I got a book here I need to go write.”
Everybody asks the question, “Where did you come up with this idea?” So here it is.
[reading] This book came about from an insight over Christmas dinner in 2003.
My mom, grandmother, and I were gathered around the table for roast beast, which is what we
call it since the Grinch stole Christmas. I opened up a nice 1977 Burgundy.
Three generations sat at the table. My grandmother — who grew up during Prohibition
and had an alcoholic husband — and my mom and me, both social drinkers.
What explains the shift between abstinence and social drinking within a single family?
Why do people abstain in the first place? And why weren’t these generational values
passed on? That was sort of a eureka moment.
I thought, “Wow, what happened here? I need to go explore this question here.”
And once I got into my research, then I kind of discovered, “Wow, no one’s written a book
at all about what happened to Americans after Prohibition.”
You know, how did we get to a country again where most of us drink?
So in a single slide here — this always gets a couple of laughs here.
I really wanted to lay out, you know, how we went from a country that once heavily stigmatized
alcohol — and these are women here from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union — to one
where we are today where two-thirds of us drink alcohol and alcohol is really kind of
glamorized now. I mean, people here, you can ask around the
room here. This is mostly a young audience, so most people
probably do drink. How many of you are like into single malt
scotchs, or into pinot noirs that are grown in these tiny, little vineyards, but like
Miles and Sideways that are fanatics about that.
Where I call it the Cult Cabernet phenomenon. [phone ringing] Or people are into 90 minute
IPAs and so on. People are really knowledgeable now about
what they drink. And we kind of glorify it now and people get
kind of nerdy about, you know, you get in a room of scratch beer drinkers together and
people just have so much to discuss about what their favorite beers are — do they like
it rather with hops or rather with malt and so on.
So yeah, we’ve really made a huge transition over these last 76 years to we’re at the point
now where the stigma is largely gone in American society.
And I think we are in fact a drinking nation once again.
So this is one of the few academic slides I’ll put here in today’s presentation.
This is really interesting here. This is the Gallup survey.
They’ve done this survey almost every year since 1939.
There’s a couple gaps during World War II and so on.
But yeah, it really shows the case of two-thirds of American adults 18 and older drink alcohol.
That’s pretty significant. In the survey they took here in 2009, it was
64 percent, versus the other 36 percent who abstain.
So clearly not every American drinks, nor should every single American drink.
There’s lots of good reasons not to drink alcohol.
But most of us do, right? And that’s a significant shift right there
as most of us, I think, recognize, “Yeah, it’s just a part of our lives and our lifestyles
here now.” That said, of course, the temperance movement kind of lingered on, even in the
1950’s or even later. Like I said, you still see it in some parts
of the country, especially in the Deep South and a few other places where you still have
dry towns. Any of you heard of dry counties?
Well, they still exist in a few places, especially the Deep South and the Midwest.
And a few places in Massachusetts still are dry towns, amazingly.
But yeah, there was this lingering social stigma against alcohol, especially as the
WCTU — which still exists actually — they’ve really waned in power.
The stigma here really existed at least into the 1950’s.
And a lot of people were still concerned that they might come back and try to have another
round with Prohibition. And I think simply the World War II generation
that went out. They fought the war.
They all mostly became drinkers. They drank beer, that generation.
And they moved on at that point. They grew up during Prohibition.
They were like, “You know, let’s not fight this issue again.
It’s a losing issue.” And so, by the 1960’s, you all see Madmen,
right? Most people watch Madmen?
So, get on Netflix if you have it. So wow, heavy amount of drinking in the office
— especially Scotch, and smoking. Yeah, so that generation just became a generation
of drinkers. And just decided, “Okay, we’re going to drink.”
And there’s really no more stigma around alcohol anymore for them.
There’s still, of course, a legacy within the country of alcohol.
Part of the promise of the 21st Amendment was that it was going to give states control
over alcohol — the ability to regulate alcohol. Now, are all of you here Californians?
Or you come from different places? You’re from Oregon?
New York, Massachusetts. So yeah.
So you’ve seen dry counties and dry laws?>>Yeah, I was living there in the 70’s, 80’s,
where they still had — you couldn’t sell alcohol on Sundays.>>Garrett Peck: Yeah.
And you still see them in some weird places around the country.
Still bull laws. Still a few Sunday closing laws and so on.
So it’s kind of, again, a legacy of Prohibition itself.
The slide you see here is My Liquor Store, right down the street from me.
ABC is Alcoholic Beverage Control. I live in Virginia — so right across the
border from Washington, D.C. In Arlington county, we have six liquor stores
for the entire county of 200,000 people, whereas you go across the border into Washington,
D.C. and 500,000 people and they have over 500 liquor stores.
So one for every thousand people. Just this huge discrepancy.
The whole state of Virginia is ____ liquor stores for the entire state.
So but it’s what’s called a control state. California is one of the more liberalized
states, because you can actually go to a grocery store and buy distilled spirits, but most
states you can’t, you know. Louisiana is another key one.
So New Orleans you can get a to go cup with the order.
Go to a drive-thru liquor stores, you know? Which was always kind of funny.
So and yeah like you mention here blue laws still exist in some places.
They’re kind of fading out of the way. There’s still dry counties around this country,
but with every recession, they start to kind of get knocked off one by one.
It’s harder and harder to justify having a dry county.
Dry counties, by the way, came from the run up to Prohibition back when the Anti-Saloon
League was trying to force the country to go dry.
They established Local Option Laws allowing counties to go dry.
And therefore, they could pressure — and this is where their evangelical allies were,
especially out of rural areas — they could then push the state to go dry.
For example, Davis — little Davis up the road here, an hour and a half — was once
a dry town. And now, it’s got the Department of Viticulture
and Enology, but that was once a dry town. There’s micro-breweries there now and stuff,
but 30 years ago, it was dry, you know? I think the University there really changed
the culture of the city itself. You’ve got people who are in the Cult Cabernet
phenomenon. But yeah, right there, you see how even one
little town here shifted over time to become a drinking town again which when it once had
a culture of, “uh-uh, alcohol’s wrong and don’t do it,” right?
So gradually here, especially like you see this here during recessions, such as now,
dry counties really have a hard time justifying themselves anymore.
For example, if you look at how restaurants make their money.
No restaurant in this world practically can exist, other than McDonalds, without selling
alcohol. It’s just a fundamental part of how they stay
open is they have to be able to sell beer or wine.
And if they don’t do it, then you won’t have a restaurant in the town.
And if you don’t have restaurants, well then, you’re not going to get the tourists, right?
Because tourists are going to go places where they can eat.
And if you don’t get the tourists, then you don’t get the hotels.
So there’s this whole spillover effect from allowing alcohol that generates tourist dollars,
and that’s a huge issue for a lot of places now.
For example, we talked about Utah here a couple of minutes ago.
Utah, just this last year. Anybody hear of the Zion’s Curtain Law?
Yeah. Zion’s Curtain was established in 1933 or
1934, right after Prohibition ended, and they literally put up a curtain — a barrier —
between the bar and the customer. So you couldn’t actually interact with the
bartender and you couldn’t watch them make your drink, right?
And that existed all the way until last year. And you know, most people in Utah are Mormon.
But even the Utah legislature finally realized they get a huge proportion of the revenue
from tourism. They finally realized, “Okay, this makes us
a little backwards putting up a curtain around the bar like ‘Ooh’, it’s so wrong to see the
bartender make your drink, you know?” So they actually repealed the Zion’s Curtain Law last
year and just to kind of catch up with where the times are.
Kind of recognizing, “Okay, let’s get to where people actually are on alcohol now.”
This is really interesting. This is the American drinking pattern on alcohol.
I don’t think this is necessarily a healthy model, but this is how we drink.
The average age most kids had their first drink in America — between 12 and 13.
And a few people here nodding their heads saying, “Oh, yeah.”
Sixteen for me, but maybe I had a sip of beer at some point when I was really young, but
I don’t remember it. But then, there’s this huge spike.
By the time kids leave high school, they’re already binge drinking.
So in a matter of a couple short years, they adopt alcohol, and then they overuse it.
And then, they go off to college, it gets even worse.
And so, we have this huge binge drinking culture, especially in colleges and universities and
college campuses. And colleges are really trying to drive the
problem off the campus through heavy enforcement, so — similar to Prohibition.
And largely what they’re doing is just pushing the drinking off campus where it becomes an
even bigger problem, because it’s now not monitored anymore, right?
So the problem just gets worse and worse and more students are dying because of binge drinking.
And then, gradually over the years, then Americans learn, “Okay, you can’t live your life binge
drinking. This is crazy, you know.” And so, we all learn
kind of how to moderate our drinking over time.
You learn, when you’re young — when you’re in college — getting drunk might be the thing
that you want to do, and then you get to — I don’t know some point in your mid to
late 20’s or something — you realize, you know, Okay, I’m 41 years old.
You know, I don’t drink anymore to get drunk. It’s not, you know, that’s not why I drink.
I drink more for the experience of how it goes with food, for the conviviality of being
with your friends and socializing, and how it sort of gets people to talk a little bit
better, but you can do that with one or two drinks, right?
You don’t necessarily have to like, get smashed, you know.
So it becomes much more about the experience and about the taste.
Kind of what we drink, kind of changes over time here based on what your personal preferences
are or how you use alcohol in your own personal life over time.
So again, we kind of moderate our habits over our lifetimes.
This is a vastly different model from how most European countries raise their kids or
how — within this country — how Jewish families raise their kids, whereby it’s just — they
learn how to drink at the dinner table, right? As a little kids, if you come from a Jewish
family, every Friday night, you have the Shabbat dinner and even little kids get a small glass
of wine. And it’s just part of the experience, so it’s
normalized. And as a result, you don’t see the same binge
drinking behavior in most European countries or most Jewish families within the United
States. So there are a couple exceptions to that.
In Europe, U.K. has a big binge drinking problem. It’s worse than the United States itself.
But you know, other than that, it’s Germany, France, Italy, Spain.
You have the big countries, where they all have big alcohol cultures, and yet, they drink
more than we do, and yet, vastly lower rates of binge drinking.
It’s much more to do with socializing and with food, right?
That’s why in Italy, everybody has a glass of wine with every meal.
That’s how they drink. So it’s a vastly different culture altogether
than Americans are. And we sort of had to learn moderation after
we made all of our mistakes. And then, gradually, we learn how to control
our drinking and how to enjoy the drink for more the experience.
And then, talking here as well about the always contentious issue of the drinking age itself.
Remember 25 years ago we shifted up the drinking age from 18 up to 21, and that was largely
thanks to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. They did that, of course, to save lives of
young adults who were being killed on car accidents through drinking and driving.
And, in some ways, I think we simply just kicked the can down the road.
We see the biggest group that both binge drinks and also has the most prevalence of drunk
driving accidents are the 21 to 25-year-olds. And then gradually then that significantly
comes down over time. But yeah, we’ve kind of created this forbidden
fruit thing with our young adults by telling them that they can’t drink until they’re 21.
And of course, they do, right? I mean, anything that you’ve kind of created
a social taboo around — just like during Prohibition — well, they’re going to say,
“We want to go do it anyways, because it’s kind of glamorous now to break the law.”
And so on. So I think our attitude that young people
shouldn’t drink at all in this country until they’re of age — until they’re 21 — has
helped create this binge-drinking problem. And, by the way, this kind of shocked me when
I learned of this fact. Mothers Against Drunk Driving claims that
they’ve saved about 1,000 lives a year by raising the drinking age up to 21.
The federal government came back and said, “Nah, it’s more like about 900 lives a year.”
Kind of the unintended consequence though of raising the drinking age up to 21 is, the
last number that we have is from 2005 was that 1,825 students died of binge-drinking-related
causes on campuses and universities. That floored me when I saw that.
That’s double the number of lives we’re actually saving from raising the drinking age.
And it’s largely because of the unintended consequence of creating the social taboo around
alcohol. When I grew up — when I was in high school
— we drank wine coolers. Shouldn’t admit that, but we did.
And beer. Yeah, I think we’re the same generation, 80’s?
But it’s what we drank and, of course. But you shift over to today’s young generation
— where the drinking is so heavily pushed underground — and the students are really
shifted over towards distilled spirits, which are much more concentrated.
And especially since they can’t go to any events where they can drink alcohol, so one
of the things they do, for example, anybody hear of the term ‘pregaming’?
Yeah ‘pre-partying’? You basically take your hip flask with you
in your stomach. You take a bunch of shots of vodka, and then
you head out for the night and the buzz sets in while you’re out, right?
So it’s very dangerous. You can really harm yourself with a small
amount of alcohol. And really realize how powerful this stuff
is. We’ve also created this rite of passage at
21. And anybody hear this or experience this with,
you reach 21, you take 21 shots? That’s almost an entire fifth.
That can kill you, depending on your size and your tolerance for alcohol.
But, I mean, that can definitely send you to the hospital.
21 shots of beer okay, but 21 shots of vodka is something else, right?
And that’s a rite of passage when you hit 21, you got to go do this and, you know, that’s
crazy like, “You know, why would you go kill yourself like that or potentially harm yourself?”
But again, that’s part of the whole taboo we’ve created around alcohol, especially among
young adults. Other key contentious issues — I think the
drinking age is probably the most contentious issue right now and it’s been going on kind
of for 25 years. There’s a big discussion around, Should we
drop it down to 18? And I argue that in the book actually.
We should take another look at it. 21 has created this unintended consequence
and you know maybe 18 should be the right age.
And really push the emphasis back on parents. Have them raise their kids with, you know,
how to drink at the dinner table and learn how to drink responsibly.
Because once the kids are 18, go off to college, personally I think it’s too late.
Because the alcohol is everywhere. I mean, the colleges can try to enforce the
drinking age and try to keep the kids from drinking, but it’s just too easy for them
to get. It’s everywhere.
They all have friends with fake ID’s or friends who want to buy it for them.
And it’s just endemic now. So the problems get worse.
Another key issue — I think this one here goes all the way back really to 1933, 1934.
It’s the question of advertising. There are those people who want to stop alcohol
advertising altogether just like they’ve managed largely to stop tobacco advertising — especially
on TV and billboards, that kind of stuff. We’ll see where this goes.
I think this is largely — especially as a journalist — this is for me, a First Amendment
issue, right? Companies need to advertise.
And I think, ultimately, they do have a right to.
And certainly, pornography is considered to be protected free speech.
So why wouldn’t alcohol advertising also be considered to be protected free speech, right?
You know, it’s commercial. You may have noticed here if you ever go to
Candlestick Park. Sorry, I guess people don’t go to baseball
games anymore to Candlestick Park. I’m showing my age, since I used to go there.
You know. It’s PacBell Park now or AT&T Park now.
Is that what they renamed it? AT&T Park.>>Candlestick is still the one where the
49ers live.>>Garrett Peck: Okay.
You might have noticed how much beer advertising is there.
Like any stadium you go around the country there’s so much beer advertising, right?
There’s a key reason for that. Eighty percent of the beer drunk in this country
is drunk by men, and men like sports. It’s a really simple formula and that’s why
they advertise in these venues and that’s why there’s such a heavy predominance of beer
advertising. And also why you see it — if you watch football
at home — since the World Series is going on right now, but you always see beer commercials
going on on TV during that time, right? It’s simple fact.
It’s what men drink. At least what men of a certain age.
But yeah, it goes together with kind of with the sports.
And they know what their niche market is. They have a fairly large niche market.
So yeah, it kind of goes hand in hand together. We all kind of think when we go to a ballgame
or hockey game, or whatever, “Let me get a hot dog and have a beer with it.”
I think we’re almost all socially programmed towards that now in American society.
There’s also this key question here. It’s really popped up — at least since the
early 1990’s — which is, Can alcohol actually be healthy?
And anybody remember here the 60 Minutes broadcast about the French Paradox?
It was in 1991. A few people remember that.
And they really lay out the case that, in fact, you know, the French have a high fat
diet and yet they drink and they have an astonishingly low rate of heart disease even though a lot
of them smoke. And so, that was the French Paradox.
They realized, “Okay. It must be the wine.”
Because they drink so much red wine that it gives them cardiovascular protection.
And, as a result then, especially the baby boom generation just wholesale jumped over
to drinking red wine. And you still see that today.
People who are 50 and older, drink wine. Because they view it as being healthy, and
they can also afford it. It tends to be the most expensive of the three
types of alcohol — so, beer and distilled spirits being the other two.
Yeah, so there’s been this whole debate over, “Gosh.
Can we drink? Is it healthy for us?” And yes, it’s a kind
of a two-sided question really, or maybe multi-faceted question.
Certainly alcohol can cause harm. Absolutely.
If any of you drink too much, there is alcoholism. Most people don’t become alcoholics, that’s
the thing. Most people learn how to moderate their drinking.
But yeah, you can have liver damage from drinking too much alcohol.
Women are at heightened risk for breast cancer. And there’s a bunch of other things that go
along with it. There’s also, of course, on the flip side,
health benefits from alcohol predominantly to the cardiovascular system.
Alcohol raises your HDL cholesterol, that’s good cholesterol, by five to ten percent.
This is, by the way, for moderate amount of alcohol.
If you drink a lot of alcohol, it can actually damage your heart.
But a moderate amount actually can give you significant heart protection.
It also thins your blood, which gives you big protection against strokes.
And they’re also noticing that for elderly people who drink regularly and moderately,
it gives them protection against Alzheimer’s, like somehow it prevents the plaque buildup
in old people’s brains. So yeah, there are some benefits from a moderate
amount of drinking every single day. The public health community is generally against
any kind of mention at all of any kind of health benefit whatsoever, because they’re
really heavily cautioning against that, particularly like the American Medical Association.
I’ve gotten some interesting e-mails and some interesting exchanges here over the last couple
of months since the book came out. One — I think this kind of ties so much together
with the stigma of alcohol and so on together with the health issue.
I got an e-mail last month from an Assemblies of God minister in Georgetown, Texas — so
a small, evangelical, Protestant town in Texas. And this guy here said — and he had preached
his whole life long, the evils of alcohol — Demon Rum, all the way, right?
Don’t drink it; it’s bad for you, and so on. However, he had the talk with his doctor,
who said, “Your cholesterol is way too high. Your numbers are off the chart.
So you need to start drinking a glass of wine every single day.”
So he started doing that. Every night with his wife, he would sort of
have a glass of wine, and they discovered they enjoyed it.
So they had one glass a day. That’s all they allowed themselves.
And they found like, “Wow, this is really — we kind of catch the day much nicer now.
We have a nice little discussion at the end of the day.
We’re having fun testing these different wines and so on.”
And then, he went and told his congregation, and which was just like, Wow.
He was heavily stigmatized within his own church for telling them — after preaching
for years the evils of alcohol — and now, he was saying, “Okay.
You could have a little bit and actually it’s a God-given benefit” right?
So among his friends and his congregation, he found there was really a backlash against
him for doing that. I also — last week, I gave a talk up at Davis
and there was a Methodist minister. I’m a Methodist today.
And I think he kind of mis-approached my book. I think he thought my book was going to be
about kind of how evil alcohol is. And he talked my ear off for about ten minutes
before my talk began. I was like, “Ooh boy.”
We’re reading the same data, and yet, we’re interpreting it completely different.
So I’m looking at it realizing, “Most of us drink.
Here’s kind of a synthesis of where we are in America.” He’s reading the same data and
seeing, “Oh, no. Harm, damage, wrecked lives, destruction,
cancer. People shouldn’t drink, right?
Raise the drinking age to 25 for all I care, right?” And at one point during the talk,
he kind of sat in the back row and he kept quiet most of the time.
He asked a couple of questions, but it was largely — it was a litany of angry faces
he made at me just sort of like, you know when I was talking about the benefits for
alcohol. And I got to the one point where I talked
about this minister in Georgetown, Texas, and talked about how many of my friends who
are in their 50’s to 70’s who have had the talk with their doctor and the doctors told
them, “Have a glass of wine every single day. It’ll be good for you.”
Right? And at that point, the guy in the back shouted
out, “Oh, no, they don’t.” And I said, “Yes, they do.”
Yeah, I think the guy’s kind of out of touch with really where Americans are.
Or maybe he only has friends who know that, in fact, that he’s so staunchly anti-alcohol
that none of them really confess to him that, in fact, their doctor told them it’s okay
to have a glass of wine once in awhile. It’s actually good for you to have a moderate
amount, you know? So again, that’s kind of the whole public
debate that’s going on right now about the health benefits of alcohol itself.
You know, when we look at this cycle of drinking, this is really an interesting thing that’s
happened since Prohibition over these last 76 years is to kind of realize there’s all
these big cycles of drinking itself of times of when we drink more, then there’s always
reform. So Mothers Against Drunk Driving formed in
1980 kind of as an outcome of probably — the peak of binge drinking was in the 1970’s
and that was largely the last, big, distilled spirits culture in this country.
That’s back when the men were drinking rye or bourbon with the names like, you know,
Old Grand Dad, Old Forester. The baby boom generation came along and said,
“Uh-uh, we’re not going to drink anything with the word ‘Old’ in it, right?” So bourbon
like collapsed at that point. And it has resurrected over the last decade
or so. And they dropped all the words old.
Now, you got new products like Liquor Reserve and Tipping Blackby, and so on.
Yeah so, there’s always been a cycle. Each generation picks a drink that they like
to drink. And even within a generation, it changes over
time. You know, for example, you see the Baby Boom
Generation. They started off as being beer drinkers.
They looked at their parents who were bourbon drinkers and they said, “Uh-uh, we’re not
doing that.” They drank beer throughout the 80’s and then
of course, the French Paradox hit on 60 Minutes, 1991, and they shifted right over to wine.
And that’s where they’re at. You get to our generation.
We’re Generation Xers, and there’s probably a few other Gen-Xers and probably a few millennials
here in the room as well. We kind of drink everything.
I think beer is our predominant beverage throughout our generation.
There’s always difference by each person. And yeah, we also largely drink wine.
We like cocktails. So we’re kind of like a blended generation.
And you get to the millennials, and they’re drinking cocktails.
That’s what they like. They like vodka.
They like tequila. The big drink is Red Bull vodka.
That way they can go out after the club and drink a lot and still stay awake, you know?
It’s the fruit cocktail. You have the benefits of caffeine even with
alcohol — great, right? So yeah, our preferences for alcohol change
over time. Like I said, we kind of learn how to moderate
our drinking. No one really sticks with the same beverage
all of their entire lives. And most of you, if you look at your own history,
you’ve probably already kind of seen a shift in your own lives, haven’t you? — if you’re
a drinker. That you kind of shift.
And a lot of times, it’s even seasonal, based on — there’s probably some people in the
room who are foodies. And kind of — you like going to the farmer’s
market and you wait for whatever’s fresh. Then you kind of pair whatever wine or beer
goes with it. Then that’s different in the summertime than
wintertime, right? Where you might open up big hearty reds to
got with you’re meat loaf or vegan meatloaf or whatever you like to eat.
[laughter] So there’s always kind of a seasonality, I think, largely where Americans are — of
kind of pairing our food together with whatever we like to drink.
And I think that’s actually fairly healthy — the fact we’ve learned how to make that
part of the dining experience. Because ultimately then, people tend to drink
more moderately when it’s actually part of our meal versus “Let’s go out to the bar and
get drunk together.” You know?
That’s a different experience altogether. So talking a little bit about the history,
especially since we’re here in California. California, by the way, makes 90 percent of
the wine in this country. All 50 states have wineries, including Alaska
and Hawaii. California, though, makes 90 percent of the
wine in this country. So it’s the 800-pound gorilla on the block,
right? So most is made right here.
California, of course, became — the wine industry was really decimated by Prohibition
itself and it didn’t start to recover into the 1960s.
And I kind of chart that’s really where the craft movement really began, which coincided
together with Julia Child. Remember — if you ever watch any of her shows
— she would always hold up a glass of wine at the end and say, “Bon appetit.”
You know, really showed Americans how you can — not only make good food, but you can
pair it with good wine. So people started doing that, you know.
People started flying transAtlantic flights over to Europe and realizing, “Wow, look at
the Europeans. They have wine with every meal.
Let’s do the same, you know?” So there was a rising interest in wine in the 1960s, and
that’s when Napa really started to flourish. And you know, here we are today with the whole
baby boom generation that’s really embraced wine itself.
So that was the 1960’s. We kind of fast forward to the end of the
1970’s, and Jimmy Carter signed a law allowing home brewing to become legal in 1979.
And that really charts the beginning of the craft beer phenomenon.
And one of the big leaders, a lot of the phenomenon really started here in California itself with
like, New Albion Brewing Company which has long since gone defunct.
But you’ve had Anchor Steam up in San Francisco. And, of course, Sierra Nevada — it’s been
a huge leader here in the craft beer movement. The biggest single craft brewer though, in
the country is Jim Cook who is the brewer behind the Boston Beer Company, Sam Adams.
He’s actually the single, largest American brewer now, since the big three are all foreign
owned. So Coors, Anheuser Busch, and Miller are all
owned by foreign companies now. And he has less than one percent market share
of the entire brewing market. Jim actually, by the way, was the last person
I interviewed for the book. The manuscript was due in one week.
So September 29th of last year 2008, I interviewed him — got that last interview in.
My editor said, “Let’s beef up the beer chapter just a little bit.”
So I got him, got his whole story about where he came from, and how he became so big.
Then, a week later, the manuscript was due. So, I was very thrilled to be able to introduce
him. It was actually — he was just about to jump
on an airplane to fly to Germany to go pick up the hops for that year.
So that was the very end of September of last year.
One of the other things here — if anybody here is from the mid-Atlantic — Rolling Rock.
I’m sure that you’ve seen it here on the West Coast as well.
But I look at that as sort of a impact — within the book — of globalization upon
a small brewer. And sort of what happens when you can’t compete
anymore when the market disappears, or you just can’t stomach nationwide advertising.
In this case here, with Rolling Rock — the brand itself got butt out by Anheuser Busch
who didn’t want the brewery. So it actually isn’t made anymore in La Trove,
Pennsylvania but now in Newark, right by the airport.
Yeah, it’s kind of interesting to look at small brewers — if they can’t compete and
particularly either have a local niche market for like microbrewers, or they can’t go national
they get bought out sometimes and you have unintended consequences that come about from
that — from globalization itself. And then, finally, we get to the liquor market.
Distilled spirits, of course, like I said, they hit the wall back in the 1970s.
And just in the last decade, they’ve been resurrected, and I kind of chart the beginning
of distilled spirits — of the phenomenon — to Sex in the City.
So any fans here of the show? The girls on the show really made the cosmopolitan
popular, like really glamorous. They always used to change their outfits all
the time and they always have this little pink fruity martini that they drink when they
would go out. And Americans kind of caught on to that like,
“Wow, spirits — like really cool, right?” So I kind of chart that as the beginning of
the resurrection here for distilled spirits. And you get to today, there’s this huge craft
cocktail phenomenon going on. So if you go into San Francisco, or local
bars, where you have these — I call them ‘culinary bartenders’ who take their inspiration
from the kitchen, right? So they’re not just mixing drinks anymore,
but now, they have to use kitchen skills to separate eggs and to use, you know, fresh
juices and so on; they start putting herbs and spices and stuff like that into cocktails.
So there’s been this really huge shift. And cocktails, of course, you can do an infinite
variety of types of drinks here that you can make.
So really a significant shift here that’s happened just within the last decade.
So it’s kind of interesting here to look. You also, of course, have the craft phenomenon
going on within distilled spirits itself. They’re kind of the last ones that have got
there. And it’s just happened just in the last couple
of years. This particular photo right here is Winford
Reserve. I was just out there just last month here
giving a talk. But yeah, you think the word Winford Reserve.
It sounds like a wine, doesn’t it? It’s a brand that was great in 1996, and yet
they used this old distillery from the early 1800s and they restored it Brown Foreman alcohol
companies out there. And then, just in the last couple of years,
you start to see kind of small craft distillers that have kind of popped up.
There’s one for example in Alameda that makes acid.
By and large most of the companies are making gin or vodka, because you don’t need to age
those. You can make it in a bottle on the same day
and off to market you go, whereas like whiskey, you got to age it.
That takes years; that’s a lot of capital and places to store it and so on.
Yeah, liquor has been kind of the latecomer here to the craft movement, but yeah here
it is. It’s kind of just popping up.
So kind of wrapping up my talk here today. We’ve looked at a lot of different things
here. A lot of the key issues that have gone on
here in American society, kind of tracing how Americans have shifted over these last
76 years from a country where alcohol was once heavily stigmatized to one where we are
today where yeah, most of us drink and a lot of people are kind of fanatics about what
they drink. And so, especially people who pair food together
with whatever they like to drink. So it’s a pretty significant social shift
in American society. And I think in a lot of ways, alcohol is in
fact fundamental to American society. It was really naive of the temperance movement,
especially in hindsight, to think that, “Wow, they actually wanted to ban alcohol?” And
would Americans actually not drink? I mean, alcohol’s been there from the beginning.
I mean, literally, from Jamestown — the first settlers that came to Jamestown, they didn’t
want to grow tobacco. They ended up with tobacco.
They went there to grow grapes so they could challenge the French in Bordeaux.
So they were trying to basically break the French monopoly on red wine.
And it didn’t work out that way and Williamsburg and that area is a terrible climate to grow
grapes; it’s very humid. So they ended up with tobacco instead.
Or in 1620, when the pilgrims came here, they ended up in Plymouth.
But the first place they actually landed was what’s now Provincetown, up at the very tip
of Cape Cod. And when they came ashore, the very first
thing that they did? They dug a well so they could get water so
they could brew beer. That’s how you preserved your water back then.
I mean, it was low alcohol beer, three to four percent alcohol.
But you know, these people by the way, were Puritans.
People blame Prohibition on the Puritans. In fact, the Puritans drink.
It wasn’t their fault that Prohibition came about, but rather from a movement that came
out centuries later. So yeah. I mean, alcohol in fact really is a fundamental
part of American society, and I think the sooner we can recognize that and the fact
that we can sooner recognize that there are in fact benefits from moderate drinking and
from socialization that ultimately leads to a better outcome for Americans overall.
I always like to end here with my favorite quote here from Homer Simpson, which is, “To
alcohol, the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.”
All righty. I’ll be glad to hear — to take any questions and to answer any questions
you guys have.>>[Clapping] Q I grew up in Oklahoma and they still have
like the 3.2 beer I think it is. I’ve heard at the time that 3.2 during Prohibition
was actually nonalcoholic. Tell me if this is a big crack but I was told
that when Prohibition kicked in, a lot of burglars just walked away said they’re out
of business, but Oklahoma lowered it to 3.2 which is technically nonbeer.
Maintained it through Prohibition and then when Prohibition was lifted, Oklahoma just
maintained 3.2, and now it’s more than just a couple of states that have that low percent. Garrett Peck: Repeat the question, just so
they can all hear in case they didn’t record it.
He asked about Oklahoma and also 3.2 percent beer.
The Oklahoma question is actually interesting. Not that it actually ever was dry, but constitutionally,
it was a dry state. And by the way, it went wet in 1959.
That wasn’t the last state to go wet though. That was Mississippi in 1966.
So just a generation ago, really, the last state went wet.
The 3.2 question is actually interesting. This was the waning days of how this came
about was in the waning days of Prohibition Franklin Delano Roosevelt who was sworn in
only two weeks and a law got passed called the Cullen Act.
And that passed Congress and Roosevelt signed it on April 6th, 1933.
He was in office two weeks at that point, because presidents are sworn in March.
That law declared that 3.2 percent beer was non-intoxicating.
Roosevelt signed that law and it went into effect at midnight.
And I think that’s really when Americans realized, “Okay, Prohibition’s over.”
The first states, including Michigan, have already voted for repeal.
At that night at midnight, the country took to the streets and everybody went out and
got a beer. Because it was 3.2 percent alcohol beer supposedly
non-intoxicating, therefore, it didn’t violate the Holstead act which was the Prohibition
enforcement act. So simply Congress declared 3.2 percent beer
is non-intoxicating. So. Yeah, so largely we look at April 7th
as being sort of the beginning of the end of Prohibition.
People went out to the streets that night and celebrated at midnight when you could
actually go get a beer. It cost a nickel by then, by the way, and
nowadays, you go out to a bar, get a pint of beer; it’s five bucks.
Other questions? Q I was always curious about _________ and
how U.S. beverage rules against ________for a lot longer than any other type of alcohol.
Why the special treatment for __________ ?
Is there anything you learned about that? Garrett Peck: Yeah _______ actually was made
illegal I think in 1912. Q Okay. Garrett Peck: And then one of the first types
of alcohol that was outlawed altogether. People used to believe.
Everybody here seen Rulan Rouge? Everybody’s nodding so you know about the
green fairy. It was once a belief that ______ was hallucinogenic.
And ultimately, they finally proved that it is not.
And now, ________ became illegal again about two years ago — 2007 — and so, you see it
pop up in a lot more places now. In fact, it’s actually just very, very high
in alcohol. Frequently it’s 55 to 60 percent alcohol.
So it’s very, very high. So yeah, that’s if you want to get drunk it’s
an interesting way to get drunk, because it’s so strong.
Yeah, people once thought it would cause brain damage or cause all kinds of bad effects and
be hallucinogenic. So therefore, they outlawed it.
France actually outlawed it as well during World War I, 1915.
That was more because so many people were shifting over to ________ and the wine merchants
were getting upset because they were losing a lot of market share.
So they made it illegal there as well. And since then, the European Union, just like
the United States has also said, Okay, it’s now illegal again.
So you can get ________ imported again into this country and you have a lot of actually
micro-distillers who are making it again now. So yeah. Q Didn’t they just only recently allow distilled
spirits advertising back on TV? I was trying to figure out where that coincided.
Like five or six years ago? Garrett Peck: Sorry. Repeat the last question.
This question here was, “Didn’t they just re-allow distilled spirits advertising on
TV?” Distilled spirits advertising has actually always been allowed for TV.
The debate over advertising has gone on since the 1930’s when the WCTU and other organizations
that were heavily involved in temperance wanted to stop all advertising altogether.
Back in the 30’s, it was all about radio advertising. And during Prohibition itself, the distillers
really got in trouble because they were the ones — that’s when the bootleggers were breaking
in, right? You got so much more profit margin by bringing
in a barrel of distilled spirits vs. wine or beer.
You make a lot more cocktails with it, right? So the biggest stigma against alcohol was
largely against spirits. And hence, the distillers — once it became
legal again to distill — they had kind of the toughest row to hoe.
So they agreed in the 1930’s that they wouldn’t advertise on television or radio.
And that held all the way until 1996, and that’s when the spirits really hit a low point.
And at that point, the first company that was Seagrams said, “Okay, we have to advertise.
We’re losing too much market share to wine and craft beer.”
And so, they broke the code and decided, “We’re going to start advertising on TV.”
Largely you’ll only see it on cable stations. It was actually, I think, on the Grammies
this year. There were a couple stations that were willing
to host commercials with the recession going on right now, right?
A lot of stations are starving for advertising. And so, more and more stations are willing
to take distilled spirits on advertising. But yeah, it was always just a gentleman’s
agreement. It was never illegal.
And that certainly would never pass Constitutional muster ever to actually put a ban on alcohol
advertising altogether. Q There are some ______ since the 70’s, 80’s
you’re not allowed to show people drinking alcohol in the commercials. Garrett Peck: There was actually more —
the question was, Could they actually ban alcohol drinking or should not show?
That was more of a code of practice. Over the years, the different brewers —
it was largely brewers who advertised on TV until the last decade or so.
That was their code of conduct that they couldn’t show people drinking.
So it was just a standard of practice. Now they show it all the time certainly, right?
And certainly also shows like Madmen show lots of drinking going on.
So there’s been kind of a cultural shift over time.
And again, I think partly, they held on to the, “Okay, let’s not show beer drinking.
Because that would be irresponsible to show drinking.”
And once, I think, the distillers got into the game of showing advertising on TV, then
the brewers decided, “Okay, we’re going to one-up them. We’re going to start showing
people drinking and enjoying it.” Right? So the economy goes along with it.
Yeah, a lot of people think there’s laws against showing different things, or can’t show different
things on TV. But in fact, it was always just best practices.
So they were kind of a code of conduct that different industries organizations had and
they changed them over the last couple of years.
They’ve really shored up quite a bit over just in the last three or four years starting
with the distillers. They started putting some very heavy regulations
in place — self-regulations in place — really to prevent any kind of advertising
that kids might like. So, you know, no Budweiser frogs.
Any cartoon-based, you can’t do it. No Santa Claus. No partial nudity.
No mud wrestling, anything like that. And then the brewers then followed that and
said, “Okay, we’re going to raise the bar as well.”
Otherwise, it was sort of a not-so-innocuous advertising they were using, especially the
brewers for the longest time. Q What about, How did you become interested
in the history of alcohol? Garrett Peck: Again, it was kind of that lightbulb
moment at my grandmother’s place when she — how she responded so negatively.
Kind of she got a little bit snooty about the fact that I had brought that bottle of
wine to Christmas dinner. Like, “What are you thinking bringing a bottle
of wine to Christmas dinner? You know I don’t drink.” kind of thing.
And that’s kind of when the lightbulb went on.
“Oh, what happened here? Why didn’t this value get passed on to my mom or to me?” And that’s
when I started doing my research into this and discovered, “Wow, this is really uncharted
water. Nobody’s discovered this question.
No one has explained the question or written a book about this.”
You know how we went from this country that stigmatized alcohol to where we are now.
So, in a nutshell, that’s kind of it. Six years ago.
Next book won’t take as long. But first time author, you got to figure out
what the process is and there’s no one to coach you.
You got to kind of make your own mistakes. So I’m thinking about calling the next book,
“Throwing spaghetti at a wall.” That’s what it feels like. You just trial
and error. Some things work and some things don’t.
You just get up and try something else different. So I know, within Google, I’ve heard a lot
of people say that there’s a big culture of, you know, “if you’re not failing, well you’re
not trying hard enough.” And I think the same thing is true for being
an author, especially a first time author. You’ve got to be willing to fail. It’s okay.
You know, you’ll pick yourself back up and you’ll try something else.
You know, like they’re trying to find — to sell — a book to an agent or to a publisher
or even doing auto commercial events like I’m doing right now.
Some events are blockbuster. Sometimes you get four people show up.
And a lot of events are kind of in between. So I think every event has a little bit of
a sacrifice or RBI element to it. As long as you’re selling books, it’s okay,
you know? It’s okay to not have a huge audience or anything.
You had a question. Q Yeah, I was going to ask what your thoughts
are on the parallel between alcohol prohibition and marijuana prohibition currently? Garrett Peck: Good question. Everyone asks
this question here. He had asked here about the prohibition against
alcohol vs. the drug wars. And I do actually cut that at all in the book
itself, but it’s a very timely question. I think it’s fascinating to point out the
parallel or nonparallel between Prohibition and the drug wars of today.
Even during Prohibition, and by the way I think largely Prohibition and the drug wars
are largely about enforcement, right? It’s about trying to keep people from getting
a hold of products. But never deals with the ultimate question
of market size — the demand side of the equation, “Why do people want to drink? Why do people
want to get high?” And ultimately I think, if people want to
do it, they’re going to do it. That’s my fundamental conclusion.
Even during Prohibition itself — this is really kind of shocking — personal possession
of alcohol was never illegal. You could always have it in your home.
You can make your own wine back during Prohibition, and many people did.
All the 18th Amendment did was outlaw the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol,
but the temperance movement — at least give them some credit — they realized, “Okay,
people still want a certain amount of freedom still to drink in their own homes.
Therefore it’s not illegal to actually possess this stuff.”
You look at kind of the non-parallels to the drug wars today where we’ve criminalized even
the possession. So hence, we’ve filled our prisons full of
people who are largely low-level drug offenders. You know?
Most of these people are not druglords and stuff.
They’re simply people who got caught a couple of times smoking marijuana or whatever.
And is that the best policy, because incarcerating people is horribly expensive?
And does it ever actually deal with the demand side of the equation?
When you can deal with it through education, with treatment, or ultimately with licensing
it, you know? A lot of people I know are getting more and
more towards that point, especially, I think my generation.
Generation X — we’re kind of libertarians. And people are sort of like, “Hmm. Shouldn’t
gay marriage be legal? Shouldn’t alcohol be legal? Shouldn’t marijuana
be legal?” People have really changed their mindsets
significantly. A lot of these social questions now in American
society. So. Yeah, it’s definitely a relevant question
here. And I think we’ll see where that goes over
the next few years. Especially as more and more states adopt medical
marijuana for use and more and more people are finding — kind of coming out as occasional
tokers, you know? Q Just one more quick question.
Have you ever — going off that — maybe drawn the parallel to the movement of staying a
little more strong to restrict soda and other sugary beverages?
If you think about that new advertising campaign in university where it shows them pouring
soda and just how much fat and to not drink soda?
Do you kind of have the same opinion about the demand side of something like that? Garrett Peck: I don’t really examine that
question myself. I think certainly soda is probably one of
the reasons — among other reasons — why Americans are facing the obesity epidemic
in the country. And I think obesity is in fact our biggest
by far — no pun intended — public health issue now.
You know Americans — our portion sizes are out of control.
Americans drive everywhere now. We don’t exercise when we go to and from work.
And we also have desks now. So just it’s a huge lifestyle question I think
ultimately, but soda is certainly a part of it.
I haven’t really myself examined the question of whether or not we should ban sodas in school
or not. Actually, I personally stopped drinking sodas
over a decade ago. But just more because I would get a big sugar
rush and then I would just collapse. So I decided, “Okay, I’m not going to drink
that anymore. I’ll just drink good whiskey.”>>[laughter] Q I have one more question.
You mentioned that women didn’t really start drinking until the 20’s.
I guess if you look back at the century preceeding that — the 1800s — was it still predominantly
men that drank? I mean the rank and file — did women really
not drink first couple hundred years of this country, or? Garrett Peck: Yeah, the question was about
women and drinking and women didn’t really start drinking until the 1920’s in American
society. But what was the role of women before then.
Did women in fact drink? I think some women certainly did drink.
But largely, drinking was the purview of men, because men, at that point, went to the saloon
or the tavern. So they’d go outside of the house.
And you know, where the temperance movement came from was this church-based response to
the binge drinking that was going on. And if you look at it per capita, at the peak
of the binge — which was about 1820, 1830 — when there was no tax on whiskey at all
and it was everywhere, the actual per capita amount of alcohol — if you looked at just
the men who were drinking at the time — it was about eight times what we are drinking
per capita today. I mean, a huge social issue; men were drinking
themselves to death. And yes, it was largely men, because they
were the ones who would go out to the saloons and taverns and women weren’t welcome in taverns.
You might have even seen at some places like, if you ever go to San Francisco, go to Elixir;
it’s in the Mission District. I gave a talk there last week.
And they had a separate entrance for women only.
I think it’s the second oldest saloon in the city, 1850’s sometime.
Because wives were allowed to go in there with a growler.
Today there’s a bottle called the growler. It’s a big four pints.
But back then a growler was a bucket. And the wives or kids would be sent to basically
the service entrance of the bar and if you go use this one entrance — because women
weren’t allowed inside the bar — they would fill up the growler and that was for home
consumption. They would take it home for their husbands.
So that was the only way women could in fact go inside of a bar, you know?
Including at that bar Elixir. New York City there was a very famous bar
out there called McSorley’s, in the 1850’s Irish bar.
And women weren’t allowed in there until around 1970 or so.
So yeah. Need to cut off? So thanks so much for your time here today.
I really appreciate your time here everybody, and hope that that talk was worthwhile and
hopefully it was fun.>>[clapping]

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