Just about everyone has heard of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The original lyrics that were sang when the sitcom would come on are below.
Now this is the story all about how, My life got flipped, turned upside down, And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air. In West Philadelphia I was born and raised
On the playground is where I spent most of my days. Chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin all cool, And all shootin’ some b-ball outside of the school. When a couple of guys who were up to no good, Started makin’ trouble in my neighborhood. I got in one little fight and my mom got scared, And said “You’re movin’ with your auntie and uncle in bel Air.” I whistled for a cab, and when it came near, The license plate said “fresh” and it had dice in the mirror. If anything I could say that this cat was rare, But I thought “Nah forget it, Yo home to Bel Air.” I pulled up to the house about seven or eight, and I yelled to the cabby “Yo homes, smell ya later.” Looked at my kingdom, I was finally there, To sit on my throne as the Prince of Bel Air.
Pretty catchy, no doubt. But, what if we could sing this song using old English…
To begin, this is a tale of how my very existence was twisted and transformed in a most peculiar way. Please have a seat, for I wish to take a moment to relate to you the fascinating odyssey which ultimately led to my reign as the Prince of Bel-Air. I was sired and reared in West Philadelphia. As a lad, most of my time was spent at the neighborhood recreation center where I would laze about and relax in a most charming manner – that is, when I was not engaging my chums in a friendly game of basketball at the schoolhouse. Around this time, two young hooligans had begun to stage a campaign of vandalism and intimidation in my neighborhood. When my mother discovered I had had a bit of an altercation with the ruffians, she insisted I leave town at once and take up lodgings with my aunt and uncle in Bel-Air. As the taxi approached, heeding my beckoning whistle, I could discern the word “FRESH” emblazoned upon its license plate, and took particular note of the pair of plush novelty dice which hung from the rear-view mirror. I was a bit taken aback by these strange omens, but quickly put them out of my mind as I cheerfully called to the driver: “To Bel-Air, my good man!” We arrived safely in Bel-Air at dusk, and as the driver came to a stop in front of the house where I was to live, I left him with the words: “Farewell, sir. Perhaps my nostrils shall delight in your aroma once more!” To be sure, it was a long journey, and as I gazed upon my estate in all its splendor, I knew once and for all that my rightful place was on the throne – as the young scion of the great and mighty kingdom of Bel-Air!
As we all know, smoking is really bad for your health. What a lot of people don’t realize is that when you smoke, those few minutes of your expected lifespan are literally transformed into the ash you flick away into an ashtray. Ashtrays, each and every one of them, are constructed by a single group running several dozen front companies.
Basically, unless you’re putting out your smokes beneath your heel or in the ashtray your kid made at camp, you’re dispensing your ashen life into this group’s eager little recepticle. Their ashtrays absorb the life force from the ashes and sends it to a central holding facility. No one knows for sure what these guys are going to do when they’ve collected all that life energy, but it’s probably going to be huge.
Incidentally, there’s talk of a rival organization leading the anti-smoking political agenda from behind the scenes. They probably figure removing smoking sections, and thus ashtrays, from restaurants and bars is a good first step towards thwarting whatever it is this ashtray company is trying to do.
1. Admiral Edward Russell’s 17th-Century Throwdown
Think you can drink like a sailor? Maybe you should take a moment to reflect on what that truly means.
The record for history’s largest cocktail belongs to British Lord Admiral Edward Russell. In 1694, he threw an officer’s party that employed a garden’s fountain as the punch bowl.
The concoction? A mixture that included 250 gallons of brandy, 125 gallons of Malaga wine, 1,400 pounds of sugar, 2,500 lemons, 20 gallons of lime juice, and 5 pounds of nutmeg.
A series of bartenders actually paddled around in a small wooden canoe, filling up guests’ cups. Not only that, but they had to work in 15-minute shifts to avoid being overcome by the fumes and falling overboard.
The party continued nonstop for a full week, pausing only briefly during rainstorms to erect a silk canopy over the punch to keep it from getting watered down. In fact, the festivities didn’t end until the fountain had been drunk completely dry.
2. The London Brew-nami of 1814
The Industrial Revolution wasn’t all steam engines and textile mills. Beer production increased exponentially, as well. Fortunately, the
good people of England were up to the challenge and drained kegs as fast as they were made. Brewery owners became known as “beer barons,” and they spent their newfound wealth in an age-old manner — by trying to party more than the next guy.
Case in point: In 1814, Meux’s Horse Shoe Brewery in London constructed a brewing vat that was 22 feet tall and 60 feet in diameter, with an interior big enough to seat 200 for dinner — which is exactly how its completion was celebrated. (Why 200? Because a rival had built a vat that seated 100, of course.)
After the dinner, the vat was filled to its 4,000-barrel capacity. Pretty impressive, given the grand scale of the project, but pretty unfortunate given that they overlooked a faulty supporting hoop. Yup, the vat ruptured, causing other vats to break, and the resulting commotion was heard up to 5 miles away.
A wall of 1.3 million gallons of dark beer washed down the street, caving in two buildings and killing nine people by means of “drowning, injury, poisoning by the porter fumes, or drunkenness.”
The story gets even more unbelievable, though. Rescue attempts were blocked and delayed by the thousands who flocked to the area to drink directly off the road. And when survivors were finally brought to the hospital, the other patients became convinced from the smell that the hospital was serving beer to every ward except theirs. A riot broke out, and even more people were left injured.
Sadly, this incident was not deemed tragic enough at the time to merit an annual memorial service and/or reenactment.
3. New York State of Mind: The Dutch Ingratiate Themselves to the Natives
In 1609, the Dutch sent English explorer Henry Hudson westward for a third attempt at finding the fabled Northeast Passage. A near mutiny forced him southward, and upon reaching land, he encountered members of the Delaware Indian tribe.
To foster good relations, Hudson shared his brandy with the tribal chief, who soon passed out. But upon waking up the next day, he asked Hudson to pour some more for the rest of his tribe. From then on, the Indians referred to the island as Manahachtanienk — literally, “The High Island.”
And not “high” as in “tall;” high as in “the place where we got blotto.” Most people would agree that Manhattan has stayed true to the spirit of its name ever since.
4. The D.U.I. That Roused a Nation: Paul Revere’s Medford Pre-Party
The key to a good drinking story is not really how much you consumed, but what kind of idiocy you engaged in afterwards. Idiocy like, say, sparking a war.
Turns out, Paul Revere’s famous ride didn’t start out as a hootin’ hollerin’ wake-up-the-villagers sort of trip. According to historian Charles Taussig, Revere embarked on the stealth mission from Charlestown to Lexington in order to warn Sam Adams (the beer guy) and John Hancock (the big signature guy) that the British were coming. But by chance, his route took him through Medford—the rum capital of America. At the time, rum was colonial America’s number one commercial industry. So naturally, Revere stopped in for a brief rest at the house of Captain Isaac Hall, the leader of the local Minutemen and distiller of Old Medford Rum.
By the time Revere saddled up again, he’d sampled his fair share of Captain Hall’s hospitality and “he who came a silent horseman, departed a virile and vociferous crusader, with a cry of defiance and not of fear.” Not surprisingly, Revere was “pulled over” by the authorities (Redcoats) and detained for an hour before being released. So, it was actually Revere’s drunken caterwauling that roused Adams and Hancock at about 4:30 in the morning, only half an hour before fighting broke out on Lexington Green. Unfortunately, history has no record of Revere’s reaction when he awoke the next day (presumably nursing a hangover) and was informed of what he’d done.
5. Indian Elephants Raid the Liquor Cabinet
No wonder they don’t sell beer at the circus. Apparently, elephants like to get wasted. In fact, an outpost of the Indian army in the jungle region of Bagdogra has been under attack ever since a local herd of elephants raided the base in search of food and discovered the soldiers’ entire winter rations of rum.
Since then, the pachyderms have regularly raided the base for a drink and have smashed down all defenses put up by the army, including electrified fences and firewalls.
According to The Daily Telegraph, “An officer recently posted there explained that the elephants broke the rum bottles by cleverly curling their trunks around the bottom. Then they empty the contents down their throats. They soon got drunk, he said, and swayed around. They enjoy themselves and then return to the jungle.”
This is by no means a singular incident, though. The animal kingdom is well-known for its ability to identify fruit that’s begun to ferment. Anthropologists even believe this is how early man discovered alcohol — by observing the strange behavior of animals on a fruit bender.