Private Eye | Columbus Day is a glorious waste of time. 

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I always have a hard time recovering from a long, three-day weekend, even a fake one. So it is that, a full week after Columbus Day—a not-so-party weekend if there ever was one—I remain groggy, discombobulated and in need of a Vitamin B shot. Certainly you used last Monday’s national holiday to get in one more three-day fling, didn’t you? Maybe a trip to Lake Powell or Moab. Perhaps a stay in San Francisco or Deer Valley. Oh, right. Columbus Day. The big goose-egg holiday. Maybe you honored Columbus by partaking of a modern-day rite of discovery, like I did—last Monday I discovered I like Scotch whisky.

My discovery wasn’t exactly on par with heading into uncharted waters and discovering the Americas as Columbus is alleged to have done, because I knew that Scotch whisky already existed amicably alongside vodka, gin and ouzo. I just never got around to formally discovering it. Now I have. Like Columbus, I came about that discovery by accident. Late last Monday, I realized I hadn’t seen the mailman and asked why. I was told the post office was closed due to a national holiday, along with banks, some schools and, apparently, my cell-phone provider. It took me a few minutes to figure out what national holiday that might be, thus the realization it could only be Columbus Day—the holiday that time forgot.

But that was no reason not to celebrate.

So I headed to the bar. Given that Columbus was Italian, I ordered a Sambuca. No dice. Well, then, how about a limoncello? Uh-uh. Chianti? Grappa? Nope. Needless to say, Italy is not well represented in local watering holes. Feeling no particular love for the Russians on this day, thanks to the bitter aftertaste of the Andrei Kirilenko rants, vodka was out. I don’t even know where gin comes from, so I nixed that one. And, understanding that many Americans show disdain for Columbus (for bringing plague, genocide, plunder and mass suffering to the New World), I decided that rum was too political. I thought about going with an ouzo as we Italians and Greeks share plenty of pained history (una faccia, una razza), but I didn’t want to face another bartender rejection.

So I went with Scotch. My logic was simple enough: If any country in the world should be enamored of Columbus, it would be Scotland for, if Columbus had not discovered the Americas, Scotland would have two fewer continents upon which to dispose of its rotgut. Although I’ve had wonderful times with drunken Scotsmen, until last Monday, I’d never had a good experience with Scotch whisky. How could I? I’ve sat at tables before only to watch a man order a neat single-malt scotch while his wife orders a scotch and milk. That’s bipolar. You’d never catch a Greek mixing Metaxa or ouzo with milk.

I settled in behind a Johnny Walker Black Label, which made me a bit contemplative. I’m no chemist, but I think it’s true that no matter the liquor, wine or beer, the alcohol in them comprises the same brain-chemistry-altering compounds (in Utah they are known as the Roadmap to Hell Helix). However, despite there being no difference in alcohol itself, many people who admit to being consumers of alcohol believe certain liquors that contain them affect them differently. For instance, tequila is a renowned inhibition blaster. Same for that skirt remover, Jägermeister. Meanwhile, gin is said to encourage anger, while rum (if you don’t count the headache) is considered to embellish a party mood. My own favorite, Canadian Crown Royal, affects my wallet more than my brain. If I want to affect my brain, I go for red wine. Instant fuzzy math.

The Scotch made me contemplative. Whenever presidents or industrialists makes a toast, they do so with Scotch—and you know how contemplative those folks are. Scotch is served in all the hoity-toity movie scenes, too. Even though I sat in one of Salt Lake City’s lesser dives, I’m sure everyone could see that I was smarter for having a Scotch before me. I felt like a snob for the first time in my life. Can’t say I enjoyed it because, after all, I was contemplating.

I contemplated that Columbus Day is a glorious waste of time. It’s become a rally cry for the PC movement, which hopes to erase the Columbus legacy and replace it with its upbeat message of colonial dysentery. Meanwhile, when presidents Roosevelt and later Nixon created, then reaffirmed, the holiday, it was generally assumed Columbus Day would equally be a celebration of all things Italian, if not even Catholic. But look around Salt Lake City (where a certain LDS religious leader once likened Catholicism to a Mother Whore), and you know that, but for the efforts of Tony Caputo and a few others, there is not only little semblance of Italian heritage around, but little of any other ethnicity either outside annual festivals like the immensely popular Greek Festival and the lesser known Llama Fest.

So, what’s to celebrate? That explorers wreak havoc? Move over Lewis and Clark. That we are ever less diverse? That’s a party I want to miss, yet it seems to me Columbus Day isn’t resonating with many current immigrants, few of them WASP or southern European, even. Bill O’Reilly is already saving America by making us aware of the war on Christmas (which he talks about more than Iraq but less than his damnable American Civil Liberties Union). I don’t think he has the stomach to fight equally for Columbus Day. It’s that Irish whiskey, you know. Makes him crazy. And without Bill, all is lost, America. Goodbye, Columbus.


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