Dear Matt: I have some friends in Denver, and they keep wanting me to come visit. They say you can get drunk there faster and cheaper because of the altitude. I asked them why but they didn’t know. They just said it works and that my money would go farther in a bar because I’d get drunk faster. Is there anything to this story? Can you explain why this would work? If it does work I’ll be much more interested in going all that way to visit my friends and throw down a few brews. — Ray-Ray, via email
The elves hopped on this one, had their bags packed, and were checking in with their cousin, the Travelocity gnome, before I knew what was happening. Grandma Alice put a stop to it by locking them in their bedroom until we were through. Then we set Grandma to checking out travel brochures for the area, but she came up empty. So, apparently this mile-high feature isn’t advertised by the tourist board. Guess we’ll have to look elsewhere, like poking around inside the science guys’ brains. We invited them out for a cold one, and here’s what we got:
Right away there was a faction that took over the meeting, loudly detailing all the whys and wherefores of high-altitude alcohol. First, we have the lower oxygen content of Denver air. Then, they say, there’s Denver’s lower air pressure. Add a Coors, and you have the start of a fine evening’s drunk. Next, they set up their PowerPoint lecture. I heard a few groans from a corner of the room, and half the elves zipped outside while the science guys set up their computer.
When you hop off the plane in Denver, you’re suddenly in a high-altitude environment where your blood can’t absorb oxygen very well. Since your brain sucks up 20 percent of your heart’s blood output, including the oxygen, right away you’re a little goofy from lack of O2. Have trouble finding your backpack on the carousel? Blame it on Denver. But, anyway, eventually you drop off your stuff and head straight for a bar. Your first frosty one tastes great. Inside, though, your bloodstream is soaking up the alcohol, too. Unfortunately, that further interferes with your O2 intake and also interferes with transfer of O2 out of your blood. But not to worry. A fine load of oxygen deprivation sends you right into some pretty good spinny fun. Euphoria! Boy, are you happy you took your friends up on that invitation. Denver is a cheap drunk, for sure. At least for the first two or three days, until your body gets used to the altitude.
While the science guys are reeling through their PowerPoint jive, we can see a few FAA and space-medicine geeks starting to wave their hands from the back of the room. “Wait a minute, Jack,” they say. “We just ran a bunch of flyboys through some pretty exacting tests, and we think you’re way overstating things.” Turns out there have been several tests in which subjects were fed air with an O2 content equal to an altitude of up to 12,500 feet, and none of them showed any mental impairment on specialized tests, no matter their age or alcohol consumption. So, I guess according to the FAA, if you stagger around Denver acting like a dipshit, well, it’s your own fault. Can’t blame it on altitude. Personally, I don’t see how both sets of information can coexist politely. I mean, the two groups of science guys started throwing wine and cheese at each other. And I guess this leaves you right back where you started from. Except I know you’re going to Denver just to check it out. Which reminds me...one more thing: The big downside of Denver and its alleged cheap drunk is how you’ll feel the next day. Denver’s dry air combined with the diuretic properties of alcohol lead you straight down the ugly road to Hangoverville. So, hey, be careful out there.
Old Matt: I know where Old England is. I know where Old York is. I know where to find Old Hampshire, Old Mexico. Old Orleans. But where is Old Zeeland? — Clueless, via email
New Zealand (original Maori name Aotearoa) was renamed Nieuw Zeeland in 1624 by explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman, lonesome for the Dutch province of Zeeland. In return, Abel’s name has been stuck on an Australian state (Tasmania, formerly Van Diemen’s Land), a sea, a mountain, a wolf, a national park, a small vicious animal, and a cartoon character.