Flasks coming back into vogue is a lot like saying that people are finally seeing the benefits of walking: it’s not just fun on occasion, it’s practically good for your health!
This is the kind of news that isn’t really news to those of us who have long understood that having a ready supply of drink is not just an affectation to compensate for a deficit of personality: it’s a mark of being either a gentleman of worldly demeanor or a lady of dignified comportment. While the public perception has long been that a flask denotes the lowest kind of drunkard (a term which is never treated with the historic respect it deserves, outside of the Hammer), it has never acknowledged that a flask is a sign of, among other things, a willful expression of the highest optimism and the truest expression of good cheer.
A flask can be an olive branch to defuse a tense situation, an offer of congratulations to a friend (or, even better, a total stranger), a salve against the slings and arrows of everyday misfortunes, a signal to others that you come bearing the best of intentions and a desire to convene with your fellow brothers and sisters for a brief moment to offer a sense of camaraderie amidst the cruel indifference of the modern world. If anything, the international symbol of peace shouldn’t be a dove–it should be an opened flask.
We won’t get into the vivid history of the flask here. I leave that discussion in the capable hands of one of our nation’s greatest defenders of all things drink, FKR, and his treatise on the matter. What we will get into is the necessity of the flask, that joyous little pants-passenger that stands at the ready for any and every occasion. Let’s take this in increments:
1. “The Flask” versus “The Myth”
Pull out a flask in most situations and you’ll be met with sideways glances and overt looks of disgust. “Are you really DRINKING? This is a BRIS!” they’ll say, as though the introduction of a quick nip is somehow an affront to the occasion. Feel free to substitute “job interview” or “plea bargain” in place of “bris”–I’m making the same damn point regardless. Their reaction is born of the Myth of the Flask-Bearer (which, seriously–let’s start that metal band): that anyone who carries a flask is a terrible booze-hound who has no sense of decorum or social grace.
What that flask is actually saying is far more layered than that. For one, it could be a silent toast to commemorate the occasion: as in “Mazel tov! That baby looked terrible with foreskin anyway!”, thereby paying tribute to a millenia-old religious practice while simultaneously honoring the ceremony with a hearty toast. No graceful host would dare strike down a well-intentioned toast, and your boldness will have to be appreciated.
If your intention is not to drink in honor of whatever the hell it was that you were dragged into, then taking a quiet swig from a personal stash is, if discovered, a polite admission that you are not entirely comfortable with the proceedings but do not wish to offend the host. You wish to remain in their company in good faith and good cheer, the best interests of the other guests foremost in mind. That’s what society is–swallowing your objections to the limitless annoyance that is other people: dealing with meaningless small-talk, feigning an interest in the trivial complaints of those around you for just long enough to prove that you’re capable of some passable level of empathy. You’re not a monster, and the Creature helps you remember that when some friend-of-a-friend recounts (for the third time) how he “totally learned about what it means to live in the now” while parasailing on vacation at a Sandals resort in Saint Lucia. You want to strike him down, but you don’t. Instead, you take a sip, mellow out, and let him drone on.
That’s very classy, Flask-Bearer, and for that I salute you.
2. “Dependence” versus “Preparedness”
Another prevalent myth about flask users is that they are hopelessly dependent on alcohol to the point that they have to have it on them at all times. That’s like telling a SCUBA diver that they have a problem with oxygen: their environment necessitates a ready availability of air, and the drinker’s flask is no different. As soon as you step outside, are you entering A) a magical land of happiness and joy with candy roads lined with lollipops and lit by iridescent unicorns, or B) a concrete hellscape populated by other people more interested in how carefully crafted their latte is than with the immense amounts of human suffering that surround them on all sides that goes unseen and unaddressed because, goddamnit, Chad didn’t use non-fat soy on their order that morning? Fucking Chad. Bringing everyone down. Typical Chad.
The more likely answer to my horribly biased question is B, so there you go. All hyperbole aside, any realistic answer is going to be less than rosy, so you can see why being able to step aside from the grind to have a quick drink makes sense. That is, if you’re the kind of person who pays attention to their surroundings and is affected by the state of the world in which you live. Science, as almost always, backs me up on this: intelligent individuals tend to gravitate more toward alcohol. Sometimes it is just plain hard to be a citizen of the world when the world is constantly going to shit at an ever-increasing pace. A flask in this situation is not a sign of dependence, it’s a sign of preparedness–we know that life is tough and inevitably ends, and sometimes it helps to have a comforting tipple at the ready to remind us that there is still some little light out there, something to give us that feeling of hope and peace that we can share with others when times are dark.
In the war against death and despair, flasks are our ammunition in the field, our pictures of home that we keep tucked in our flak jackets to revisit when the battle rages loud enough to almost drown out the last of our humanity. They keep us jovial. They keep us willing to press on. They are the silent trumpets rousing us to rejoin the fight and maybe, just maybe, share our mutual humanity with someone on the other side of the trenches. If the Axis and the Allied forces can come together during a World War over a game that requires shorts, then why can’t a flask achieve the same thing on a smaller, day-to-day scale? And with pants. Shorts are for children.
3. Fuck Off–I Like Them
If you want to spend $900 of your finest American dollars on a flask, then godspeed you rich bastard. You do you. Personally, I cherish the dinky stainless-steel-and-snakeskin flask that I picked up years ago at a farmers’ market, and which has played host to everything from decent single-malts down to well gins (which are a horrible idea for flask purposes). But no matter what was in them, that scaly bastard was never turned down, never looked at with derision, never ridiculed. When the need arose, it made friends out of strangers and turned awkward conversations into good-natured exchanges among comrades in a mutual struggle against the coming darkness. As much as I would hate to see them turned into status symbols–the same way cars and watches and jewelry have been used–I want to see them out and in the open. They’re both light-hearted and gravely serious. They unite us in honest pleas for good cheer and a recognition that we’d all be better off with a drink.
So let’s mark today (Tuesday? When is this?) as Global Flask Day. If you don’t have one, go pick up a traveler of something cheap and share a drink with someone new. If you have a flask, do the same damn thing. We’re drunkards, not monsters. We know good cheer and universal love better than most. Hell, most of us have professed deep and abiding feelings for everything from a bar stool to a toilet to a street lamp, so we’re basically experts on the subject. Spread some love, share some drinks, and let’s make Flask Day a thing. Or just make it everyday. The world needs us, even if they don’t want us. Take that, world. The Hammers are out in force, and shit’s going to get convivial.