National Geographic : 1992 Feb
the trunks of cars. There were drunks in the street, gang rapes, family brawls, fractured ribs, broken windows, abandoned children. This was dramatically reversed by the pro digious efforts of Phyllis Chelsea and her hus band, Andy, who was chief, to quit drinking and get the rest of the village to sober up. With guidance from a Roman Catholic oblate, they started an AA group. For the first year no one else came. Then Mabel showed up. One night Evelyn walked in. Andy encouraged the Mounties to shut down the bootleggers (he had been one him self), got the council to put welfare checks on vouchers (good at the store for food only), and pressed the drinkers to go to Alberta for treat ment. There were threats. Andy thought it wise to carry a rifle in his pickup. "There is a healthy environment here today," said Phyllis, now 19 years without alcohol, "but as people began living sober, they had to learn how to work together. And that involved a lot more than staying sober. We still have people who drink. They have to hide it. I imagine there are people out there who think that moderate drinking is OK, but we don't think so." Her cousin Freddy Johnson got drunk and burned down his house. He almost killed his father in a fight. Today he is the school princi pal, sober, articulate. "It doesn't make any difference how well educated or how rich you are," he said, "you can become an alcoholic. I don't want to blame the government for our alcoholism, but this little square mile has something to do with it. Unemployment here is about 40 percent. Being sober and having nothing to do is as bad as being drunk and having nothing to do. We just drank to get drunk, to get back to that high feeling. But I'd always go beyond that. And that's when problems came. "Alcohol is a real mystery." SUNDAY AFTERNOON I assume the autumnal position of American Guy (supine on couch) to watch football, a sport subdivided by that quintes sential American art form: the warm-buddies beer commercial. A cynic might see something slightly cock eyed in these scenes of robustly handsome yup pies coming off their lobster boats in flannel shirts and teased mousse hairdos, backlit by the slanting glow of sunset, punching shoul ders, and retiring to the company of incredible-looking women in the coziest tav ern on the coast of Maine. Am I envious? Sure, having never found anything quite like this chummy tableau. These commercials have captured on one min ute of tape all the romance, the yearnings, the fellowship of alcohol and mankind. But then life isn't a beer commercial. Q[ Nightly bouts with the "beer bong" test new comers to Daytona Beach, where each year 300,000 college students party their way through spring break. "Allyou need is a tooth brush and an attitude," says one veteran. A sobering thought: The young drinker with a "hollow leg" may be more prone to alcoholism than one who is quickly inebriated.