Tuesday, April 7, 2009


The artist George Stubbs was teetotal for the last forty years of his life, which leaves the first forty intriguingly unaccounted for. At forty-four—as usual I am late—I have now been firmly nudged by reliable, indeed impressively qualified medical authorities here at Yale. Their advice, while gently articulated, is unequivocal: The time has come for me to follow suit. The fact that I find myself so crestfallen at the very thought of bidding adieu to that civilized aperitif the martini, with its ingeniously thought-inducing properties at the end of the working day, probably constitutes sure and certain proof that their advice is sage, and my decision the right one. Nobody is holding a gun to my head. Nor indeed do we necessarily rejoice when the shutters come clattering down over certain avenues of particular pleasure. Resistance is entirely natural, but in the end sadly futile. The body must take precedence over the mind. At any rate, I suppose the knack is to conceive of this little change as holding the promise of other, equally enjoyable branch-lines or by-ways of pleasure by which to continue on the next stage of my life’s journey, and try not to mind about it too much. Easier said than done, but if George could do it (and succeed in the gin-drenched London of 1764) then how much easier should it be for me to accomplish the same thing now?

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