My Grog Cabinet

The anthropologist Michael Taussig wrote a wonderfully eclectic book called My Cocaine Museum (2004). It remains a personal favourite because Taussig is the master at making you feel like you’re part of a story – in this case the ‘imagined realities’ of the cocaine industry in Colombia.

You know that bit when you’re watching a film as a kid, the Goonies or whatever, and the living room retreats from view? The screen fills your entire awareness. I get that from Taussig’s ethnography and associated writings. That same level of immersion. That interests me and I want to convey that sense to a non-alcoholic reader somehow on this blog. **

I’m not about to build My Grog Cabinet in homage anytime soon though. For starters, it would be empty. I never met a bottle of grog I could keep for more than a week.*

Speaking of which, did I tell you I once worked as a sommelier – a trained and knowledgeable wine professional – one summer? Fabulous job for an alcoholic in training!

By the time my PhD rolled around, I couldn’t tell the difference between cheap beer and craft; cask wine and artisanal, small batch vintages.

By the time I checked into (and out of) my first detox, I’d decided that casks were far more practical because they were easier to hide.

I know people who have drank the hand sanitiser at detoxes because they were jonesing so bad, although I never did. I never (knowingly) drank metho either because I had no wish to go blind.

No, My Grog Cabinet would have to contain:

  • A mobile phone – a phone call is all it takes to prevent a lightbulb moment (or a thirsty thought) from turning into a drink
  • A wine glass full of coins (for meetings)
  • A cigarette lighter (any self-respecting anthropologist should carry one, regardless of whether they smoke)
  • A chewed, blunt pencil
  • A dog eared copy of the pocket version of the AA Big Book (shiny, blue cover), and
  • Some instant coffee granules and Arnott’s Assorted biscuit crumbs.

*3 years of sobriety makes having alcohol in the house a lot easier, but it’s easier if it’s not there at all.

**See also Taussig’s Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing (1987) and What Color is the Sacred (2009). Taussig writes at length about the feeling of being drawn into an image, a colour, a story or historical account.

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