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Podcast Summary:

“Anyway, I’ll Drink to That” is a Boozn Sam’s production, exploring the fun, quirky, and fascinating tales of drinks (The Screwdriver Drink in this episode) that define culture, history and the world. Every drink has a story to tell, and I’m going to tell it…as true as I can. Hosted by Sam, from Boozn Sam’s. Saddle up with a good cocktail and give me a few minutes of your time for a mystery surrounding a drink that changed the world.

Episode 15 Details:

A famous media mogul, after fame and success in the US, finally met his match battling the fiesty Italians. He walked away a brusied and beaten, but with a drink to ease his pain. 

Transcript of Podcast:

*This is the entire podcast episode in written form. Do not read if you want the audio version to be spoiled.

The Sumer spread across a part of the world they called “Country of The Noble Lords.” They drained marshes to plant crops. Created trade routes and established a barter system. Invented industry. Leather work. Pottery. Masonry. Metal work. They grew and learned, and thrived for almost 4,000 years.

Arguably, one of the biggest advancements that propelled their civilization forward was farming. By harnessing the power of farming, the Sumer were able to expand their kingdom and ship grains to different parts of their city, as we still do today, by taking the food grown in the heartland of America and sending it across the country to sustain life in parts of the country that might be inhabitable today…. Places like Chicago, Los Angelos, Nashville, and all the other places filled with concrete and steel and not a square inch of rich farmland capable of sustaining life. 

Today, the basic principles remain the same, although we’ve advanced through modernization. We’ve also expanded our farming operations to many other domains, one in particular in this same part of the world, thousands of years later, and, to many, more important than the food we eat. A farming operation that also gave us the name of a simple, but popular drink. 

But, before all of that, there was Sumer. Sumer, the overarching kingdom given to many city states, some you even might have heard of, such as Mesopotamia, was home to the Sumerians, a group of people you’ve likely heard of at some point. Spreading across part of the world, nestled along a body of water that also provided for, and teemed with life, also offered great advantage.

The Sumerians looked to the water for many things. Fish and colorful coral. The plant life, that exploded everywhere and provided nourishment and nutrients for, not only the agricultural needs, but other edible plants too. 

Arguably, they also existed in the most stable time of all history, in this part of the world. 

A decade ago, I hate to even say that because it makes me feel old now, I was on an early morning flight out of this part of the world. The night before had been long, filled with music and booze and the trappings of life as an early twenty something on his own in the world. I found myself next to an older man who spoke very clear English, and liked to talk. 

Before I nodded off to sleep on the way back to Europe he made a comment about this part of the world that has stuck with me ever since. 

He looked at me beneath white eyebrows and said, “And that’s why this part of the world will never have peace. It isn’t destined to be. It will always be a place of war and fighting.”

And it has been. For thousands of years. While one could make a similar argument for most parts of the world, since humans are inherently good at killing and fighting each other like animals for the sake of more, this particular slice of the world has something which makes it especially valuable. 

It’s also a part of the world that the United States has had a presence for a long time, and it was during the first half of the 1900’s that workers from the United States found themselves here, farming the resource more important to humans, than food. 

Or, if you look at the confrontation and the deaths, and the never ending disputes, as an objective outsider, that would be your conclusion. For, one could argue that no where else in the world has more interest and time and money and resources been devoted. 

The Sumerians could not have known this back then when, at their peak 70,000 of them were living lives they never thought would end, farming in ways never done before, and creating a coexistence that no creature had every seen. And it was this coexistence that ultimately shaped the world, along with this farming, and this part of the world…which also gave us a drink worth noting here. 

Most striking was the end of Sumer, though, for what projected this kingdom forward, also led to its demise. And not in a violent way either. There was no glorious fight for survival at the end, no last ditch stand of glory. Sumer, and the Sumerians, faded away, as one of my favorite poems describes, “Not with a bang, but a whisper.”

After almost 4,000 years rising salt levels in the soil, continually escalated by the arid climate which dried out the fields and left behind a higher and higher salinity content in the ground, made growing crops impossible. The population, which at its peak was estimated around 70,000 plummeted to 25,000, and those remaining were doing all they could to hold on. The price of grain increased 60 fold. 

Cities in Sumer fell away, become victim to unrest amongst the people and a neighboring kingdom, the Elamites. The final blow came in the form of an Elamite invasion, which ushered in a new era, a new kingdom, and left the Sumers, for thousands of years, lost to time like the fields here which once great bountiful crops. The first recorded war, ever, in the history of the world, was here, when the greed of the Elamites for more land, more power, more control, solidified in history that might was right and nothing else mattered.

And the whisper, not the bang, had taken away peace, and a civilization, that would never exist again.

From there this part of the world came under a new ruler, whose offspring, Hammurabi, would perfect the art of military invasion and war, uniting this part of the world under his command and providing us with The code of Hammurabi, 282 laws, and the world’s most clearly defined code of law, a code that would influence civilizations to come.

In effect, The Sumer, who had expanded and farmed, and nurtured life, fell to the great, first colonizer, who systematized civilization, laying out things like business contracts, justice, and the punishments that would occur if any law was broken.

It gave every controlled citizen complete knowledge over how he was expected to behave, live his life, and die, under the rule of the lucky, who, by chance, timing, and good fortune, sat above them on great thrones and looked down with a commanding hand on humanity. 

Now, at this point, some of you might be thinking, but this is always the way the world has been. What’s so important, or different about what you’re talking about?

Well, this world that know now, has always been governed by law and civilizations and those in power, and fear of punishment for not following the written, or unwritten ways of living… but not before this time. 

This was, quite literally, the beginning of civilization as we know it today. Civilization that would show it had mastered brutality and law and punishment by acing every exam that has taken place in this part of the country in the last hundred years.

The civilization that whispered away would never exist in any form like that again, ever. Instead the bang of bombs and guns and fires would usher civilization, an ironic term, into the bronze age, an age of metal, and into the modern age, an age with all of the original ideas, just with more window trappings today. 

It would be these modern trappings too, and a modern way of farmers, that would invent a drink by the farms that tended to their growing resources to feed the world in the ways it desired most. 

The turning point for this part of the world, and a particular part of water, would occur in 1908 with a discover that would simultaneously civilize and also show the true horror these “civilized” humans were capable of.

And thirty years after that, farmers would arrive from the United States to do dangerous work and, ahem, “Secure American Interests Abroad.” That would drive them to drink to cope with the dangers and stress, the risks, and create a new drink that would find its way to Europe a few years after, during World War Two.

Before this point, this area of the world had endured little notoriety, aside from being the birthplace of modern ugliness… I mean, civilization. Date farming was a staple in this area. So too was sailcloth making and camel breeding. The area had few people and many nomads. Fishing was still popular. But, none of those things really matter with the discovery of 1908.

Oil. 

And this area, which has 2/3 of the world’s oil supply 

And 1/3 of the world’s natural gas supply;

And if anything about the last 100 years has become evident, it’s that farming oil is more important to the civilized world than most everything.

It fuels our cars.

Heats our homes.

Makes our plastic goods.

Heart valves. Antifreeze. Ink. Clothing. Lipstick. Tennis rackets. Ice chests. Artificial limbs. Roofing. Antihistamines. Footballs. Tires. Sunglasses. Lotions.

Whew! The list goes on and on and on and on and on…and on.

Which, is why it’s so vital to so many industrialized countries. 

And the reason that the Persian Gulf, which nestled itself nicely along Sumer and the first civilized kingdom in the world, first providing for the creation of farms that helped the Sumerians prosper, now provides for the survival of so many.

There is no more fishing here. 

Or plant life.

The landscape is arid and dry.

But the oil rigs and tanker ships are everywhere. 

Shipping out to parts of the world that would cease to exist without oil and natural gas. 

This dependance led to the Persian Gulf War, the Invasion of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and most every country in the Middle East, a place, that a man on a flight I took out of Israel a decade ago, told me was destined to always be a place of violence.

He quoted the Bible as the reason for the violence. 

I’d throw greed and survival in there too as reasons. 

The Persian Gulf is the Cleopatra of the modern age, the thing that launched a thousand 

ships, or in this case, a million missiles.

And also created a drink that, as I’m thinking about it now, bears little importance to all the other things I’m talking about – greed, power, manipulation, war and death for oil, laws meant to train people how to behave in a civilized world under uncivilized men. 

But, since this is a podcast where I talk about a drink that changed the world, I need to mention it.

This screwdriver drink is a simple drink of two equal ingredients, one a strong masking beverage that could easily hide alcohol in plain sight, especially when you’re working. 

Not to mention how it can boost your immunity. 

So, we’ll end on a whisper that isn’t deserving of a bang by talking about the oil farmers, on their oil rigs in the late 1930’s that took their morning orange juice with a shot of something else to steady their nerves for the dangerous and difficult work they had to do. 

And we’ll use a stanza from T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men, to hammer the point home:

Between the desire

    And the spasm

    Between the potency

    And the existence

    Between the essence

    And the descent

    Falls the Shadow

The shadow here, is The Screwdriver Drink, made with 2 ounces of vodka and 2 ounces of orange juice

Originally mixed with one of the easiest and handy of mixing tools that the oil farmers had on their person at all times, a screwdriver.

Anyway… since this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, this is, the way the world ends…

Not with a bang, but with a whisper…

Anyway, I’ll drink to that. (Whispered)