Very early on in the evolution of From the Stool, the importance of the cocktail hour, and the rationale for its existence was discussed rather thoroughly. “Dinner, was, and still is, in all cases something that follows cocktails”. At that time, however, the cocktail hour, while very very desirable, would have fallen just outside of the “absolute necessity” classification.

Since the September 11 tragedy events have unfolded, which have prompted a reexamination of this sacred, if not sacrosanct institution. Acts of terrorism both at home and abroad occur regularly and our government agencies issue near daily warnings regarding potential and future acts of violence. The president in an effort to pass the massive Homeland Security bill declares there is no practical way to fully protect our trains, planes, ships, bridges and water supply. Two snipers randomly kill 19 people in four states and virtually monopolize media coverage around the world.

Bowling for Columbine debuts in the movie theatres: its premise that a pervasive climate of fear in the U.S. explains our unchallenged leadership in civilian deaths caused by guns. We see a side of Charlton Heston and Dick Clark with for most viewers eliminates any good feeling ever generated by Spartacus or American Bandstand.

The Fed for the twelfth time lowers interest rates one-half percent the day after the pro-business, anti-tax Republicans recapture the Senate and extend their majority in the House. The U.N. Security Council unanimously approves a resolution on Iraq which should eliminate the need for any unilateral U.S. strike. All of this good news causes the financial markets to plunge. There have been times in the past when it was necessary or desirable to declare “it’s five o’clock somewhere”, or that the “sun has set somewhere”, to justify an early shooter, but the endless avalanche of bad news, disappointment and travail could drive even the most centered individual to drink.

Notre Dame loses to Boston College – Trent Lott resumes majority leadership in the Senate – Winona Ryder convicted of shoplifting – Al-Queda bombs a busy nightclub in Bali – “love boats” are found to be dumping millions of tons of raw sewage into Florida waters – anthrax letters believed to be stuffed locally – one of every three marriages fail – Mayor Bloomberg moves to prohibit smoking in all New York City bars – Katherine Harris goes to Washington – Gary Hart ponders another run for president – Donna Rice reaches menopause. Whether the morning news, cable news, network news, news magazines, TV talk shows, talk radio – how much information can one person stand to receive about the AIDS epidemic, drug trafficking, the homeless, subway muggings and the white slave trade, without heading for the liquor cabinet? Taliban, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Red Brigade, the PLO – depressing doesn’t do these guys justice.