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Dry, very Dry...
(or, the Hunting of the Snark)

The Very Dry Cocktail is an acquired taste suitable only for the most weathered veterans of the snake pit.

A detailed analysis can be found in the excellently researched volume 'Psychological Osmosis', by Valme Everage, published by the Norman Everage Memorial Foundation. This extensive work not only reveals the ingredients of the Very Dry Cocktail, but (perhaps more importantly) offers several antidotes in the case of an unwarranted attack. If I may...

The introductory chapter offers a potent weapon specifically designed for use against the English. This is called The Joke that Kills. I can personally vouch for the effectiveness of this measure because I am English, and I assure you my health has been severely impaired for years.

It proceeds as follows:
How do you make an Englishman happy?
You tell him a joke when he's young.

Now, people who are not English may have trouble fully appreciating the insidious power of this weapon. It is what you might call a 'repeater', meaning that its effect is cumulative. A self-feeder, someone once said.

Unfortunately, he is no longer with us.

I assured him that he would be very, very happy for the rest of his life. This was approximately three quarters of an hour, the time it took for the joke to take full effect.

I first acquired a taste for the Dry Cocktail when I was introduced to the Loft Scene. The Loft Scene is in fact the place where most of the ingredients for the cocktail are assembled. I realized this when I was introduced to some of these ingredients.

"This is Martin. Martin is a groupie. We're encouraging him to do something of his very own."

"Here's Lena. Lena hates anything male. She's a very, very BUSY woman, Lena."

"Oh, do meet Basil. You have to understand that Basil isn't really wicked, he's ethically challenged."

At an early stage I made it amply clear that I had no intention of becoming an ingredient myself. Being English was quite helpful, I found. Between Attila the Hun and Mary Poppins, there is really no competition, after all. I swiftly found that Loft People never had their own species for dinner, and that I was perfectly safe from harm.

This was fortunate, as they could be quite devastating. Witness one young man who ventured to remark on women's interest in his physical type.

"Well, we all have our fantasies," confessed one of his targets. He looked suspicious. "And now we all know yours," she concluded.

Witness also the ingenue who criticized once too often the depravity of others.

"Yes, you're a nice girl who drives a hard bargain," someone replied.

I was introduced to the Scene by a couple of rakish individuals whose view of life was anything but regular. Old fashioned types, they were –if you went back to Caligula, that is. Singles bars were doubles bars. The larger the number of people involved in one's sex life, the more it was professed to be a private matter. The five stages of mourning were shock, denial, anger, despair and litigation.

It was impossible even to look at women's fashions with such characters around. One day I was browsing through a catalogue, admiring a picture of some tailored double breasted jackets.

"Yes, they're all double breasted," I was informed.

The swimsuit section was worst. I made the mistake of remarking that it was hard to separate the model from the suit.

"I have trouble myself," came the remark, "but with dedication, patience and a small investment, it can be accomplished".

Yet I sensed about them a certain resilience that I hate to encounter in a man.

"It's the loss of power that's so hard to bear," I moaned.

"There must be other fish in the sea," murmured one of them sympathetically. I saw fit to observe that most of these were sharks.

So they treated me to dinner at a club unlike any other I had ever visited. By consensus, everybody had abandoned the traditional signage on the washrooms, since it made no difference to speak of. They were now labelled 'Dominant' and 'Submissive', and everyone was happy. The restaurant featured erotic art and a hostess who fingered the day's special entree, caressing it gently with enormously long fingernails. Good heavens, I thought, a new low. I'm being turned on by a scrod.

I happened to mention an anecdote from my childhood, about the plight of some poor boy in my neighbourhood who was found in the middle of an amorous encounter with the garden hose.

What would one say at a time like this, my companions mused.

"Well, she is rather lovely," offered one.

"Are they a good family, the Hoses?" came the answer. "Rustic types, I would imagine."

Upon which I declared that I would never allow either of them anywhere in the vicinity of a pubescent child. I announced that I was extremely thirsty, and departed in search of water.

"You two don't care about anything," I protested upon my return.

They stared at me in outrage. "I beg your pardon," said one. "I am the president of Concerned Citizens against Lamination." He seemed quite overheated. I was sorry I had spoken.

But it was too late. "Our workplaces are being threatened by a subversive technology," he exclaimed, enthused with his subject. "Lamination is sucking the lifeblood out of our economy. Last week alone, five hundred alligator belts, three thousand copies of a jambalaya recipe and a pair of bedroom slippers were laminated at a single location."

Well, it can't be that serious," I murmured.

"Serious?" he cried. "Where will the madness end?"

"People are looking," warned his companion.

"Please give generously to this desperate cause. All contributions will be applied to research into lamination alternatives."

"I'd turn you into a toad, but I see it's been done."

"What did I tell you about bitching?"

I racked my brains. It was coming back to me slowly. "Um… umm… oh yes." I had it. "NO bitching," I said triumphantly.

"Every Citizens against Lamination chapter is staffed by a team of dedicated professionals. We have support groups offering a twelve step program–"

"I'm organizing a women's rights committee. I firmly believe it is the right of every woman to go topless wherever and whenever she wishes."

"I'm organizing a support group for straight people. We can all get together and do nothing."

A faint humming of "Killing Me Softly" reminded me of the Loft Scene version.

"Filling me softly", sang one voice in an undertone.

"Wrecking my whole life" added the other.

"One day," I assured them, "I will think of a response to this."

"The scourge of flagrant, runaway, out of control lamination MUST STOP."

"And on that day," I warned, "my revenge shall be swift and terrible."

"No man shall rest until every woman in the land is free of this terrible constraint!"

"What was your name again?" I asked idly.

"John, dear. Bit of a strain on the brain."

We were dry once more. Could they envisage a real calamity, I asked.

"What if you changed your gender, and nobody noticed the difference?"

"What if your landlady demanded the rent in the middle of a New Years' party?"

"That reminds me, who picked up the bill?"

"A mysterious benefactor."

Ah, the money. Someone had already donated. They knew I was poor as a church mouse. Which goes to show that parchment is as parchment does. The veriest desert may prove itself a wellspring of generosity and compassion.

I'm still wondering what all those people are doing in Edna's living room.

graphic courtesy of 321 Clipart

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