"A woman drove me to drink and I never wrote to thank her," W.C. Fields used to say when he was feeling pretty good.
The morning after was usually a little different; once he objected loudly to the fizzing noise of an Alka'Seltzer as it dissolved in a glass of water: "Can't anyone do something about that racket?"
The life of the party might feel the same way on new Year's morning as he takes the funny hat off his head and tells the world, "I'll never drink again," while he wonders how the guy got inside his head with the Jack-hammer.
Like the cures for the common cold, remedies for the hangover can range from simple to elaborate, all equally ineffectual.
The victim may try aspirin. Bufferin, orange juice, raw eggs, stalke beer, Gatorade chocolate milk, ginger ale and ice cream, plain tomato juice with tabasco, apple cider vinegar and honey, chicken soup, or more exotic concoctions, and still sit and suffer.
"Nothing works," the public affairs officer at the National Institute of Health's Bureau of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said, "there are no hang-over cures.
"Oxygen doesn't really work; coffee might keep you awake but it doesn't get the ethanol out of your system. Your liver can only pass one ounce of ethanol an hour."
This is what Ernest Hemingway's doctor probably meant when he told him he could have one Scotch an hour. In "Notes From a Sea Diary" author Nelson Algren recounts a visit with Hemingway in Havana:
"Hemingway was sitting up in bed looking like McGraw atoning for something; he wasn't atoning but he was abstaining, and invited me to help myself to the Scotch.
"How's the work going?" I asked him. "I never turned a horse loose and let her run until this book and - 'but we are so far ahead now that it to give the money back in the mutuels. '
"He nodded toward the bottle beside his bed. Its label read: 'Best Scotch Procurable.' 'I can only have one an hour,' he explained, 'doctor's orders. You go ahead.'
"I went ahead," wrote Algren.
The man at NIH said, "It makes no difference if you drink six cans of beer, six glasses of wine or six highballs, your system takes in the same amount of ethanol. Only rest and time heal a hangover."
New York journalist Jimmy Breslin woke one morning with such a hangover that he called a private ambulance to take him to work.
He knew from the horrendous symptoms that he needed rest, but he also needed to get to work on time.
The symptoms of a hangover vary from person to person.
Dizziness and nausea enough to cause vomiting may hit one unhappy party goer. Another will suffer fatigue and dullness enough to cause him to stumble over door jambs.
The depression that may set in will only be enhanced when the favorite team loses. The headache may not leave when more liquids are quaffed to get rid of the dry mouth that sets in.
One bartender, claming to know a little more about the Bible than a lot of other bartenders, said that Joseph woke with a hangover the morning after the feast of cana. "The morning after the feast Joseph is out in the carpentry shop trying to finish a wheel for the farmer's cart which was promised.
"His head is killing him with every blow of the hammer. When he can't stand it any longer he hollers into the kitchen to Mary," 'Bring me out a jug of water.' Now what do you think he was suffering from? And he was going to cure it with water?"
Pilots in WWII claimed that oxygen helped to knock out a hangover, and fast.
A friend of mine told me about a guy who used to frequent his bar who believed in the oxygen cure. About once a month he could come up with a head-shattering hangover,
He knew the rescur squad applied oxygen when they thought a victim was suffering from a heart attack. One hot summer day after a rough night on the town he was stepping lightly down a street avoiding such obstacles as spent wads of gum, cigarette butts and pebbles. The business meeting he was about to attendf weighed heavily upon his hangover. The siren of a passing ambulance, besides shattering his aching head, reminded him of oxygen. He found a clean spot on oxygen. He found a clean spot on the sidewalk and lay down on his back clutching his heart.
It wasn't long before a crowd formed, the way crowds do voer a person lying on the sidewalk, making an air-tight circle with everyone yelling, "Give him air." When the resuce squad arrived they efficiently clapped the oxygen mask over his mouth. They then picked him up, put him in the ambulance and by the time he got to the hospital my friend claimed that the man was ready to face the world.
A fast way of shocking the system back into circulation developed almost by accident during a shakedown cruise on a Navy ship anchored in Province-town harbor.
It was October and New England was cold. During shore leave the night before we played the fun game of chug-a-lug, while consuming yards of Portuguese sausage.
Morning starts early in the Navy and none of us was ready for it. We were sitting in our undershots on the edge of our bunks in the crowded crew's quarters when a sailor who made it through his freshman year at MIT said, "Ice. People who feel the way we do put ice on their heads and just underneath us is a whole ocean full."
We all looked up to him because of the MIT thing, so when he got up and headed topside we followed.
The duty officer was only a bit startled when five sailors dived into the water and crawled out again within seconds, so cold we forget out hangovers.
Then there was the Hot Chili Method a friend urged on another friend one day. Three of us were sitting in a restaurant one afternoon, two of us about to go to work and the third with the day off.
The owner called to the third friend to tell him he was wanted on the phone. My friend asked me to take the call because he feared standing up himself.
It was his girl friend tTIt was his girl friend of that season. She had taken a train up from South Carolina for the weekend and had been waiting for him at Union Station for two hours and was about to take the next train back.
He groaned when he heard the message. "What will I do, I'm hung over." he said. The other friend across the table said. "Order a big bowl of hot chili." Obediently he did. "Now," the other friend ordered, reaching for a handful of crackers and distributing them evenly, "let's crumble them into the bowl."
We did until there were more crackers than chili in the bowl. He ate dutifully and another bowl was ordered and the same procedure was followed.
Finished, he got up and caught a taxi. After he left I asked, "What will that do for him?" the friend smiled and said, "I don't know, but it will take his mind off the hangover."
THe Egyptians played around with New Year's a little differently than we do but got the same results.
A recent National georgraphic news feature said, "Ancient Egyptians beat each other over the head to observe the New Year. To make sure the old year was well out of the way, Egyptians staged an annual fight with clubs."
The Greek historian Herdotus said, "They bash each other's heads in, and, so I think, may even die of their wounds. Survivors awoke with monumental headaches."
So in order to survive New Year's day and be able to watch all the football games without squinting at them through one-eye, remember the words of Herdotus and the people out at NIH who deal with alcohol.
Drink lightly. Make sure you eat something. Pass up a drink now and then and sip some coffee. Beware of the host, ensconced in his own easy chair, who pushes drinks on you knowing that later you have to drive 20 miles - part of it on the Beltway - to get home. He isn't a friend.