Testing the buffalo theory

You’ve probably heard about the buffalo theory. There are two actually: one is that the Native Americans killed them all, and the other has to do with alcohol and brain cells. Neither theory is true, and both are dangerous.

The Buffalo Theory of Brain Cells, though, will get you into more trouble. It claims that our brain cells, I’ll call them neurons to prove how smart I am, are moving around in our heads like a herd of buffalo.

When we ingest alcohol, whether it’s just to take the edge off or because we’ve got crippling emotional damage we refuse to face, some of the neurons get killed. According to the theory, the ones that get killed will be the weakest and slowest moving, leaving a leaner, faster herd behind. In other words, the more you drink, the smarter you get.

Mike Peterson was the first person to tell me about the theory. Since we were at the Lion, and since Mike Peterson could have been a neurologist for all I knew, I put the theory into practice immediately. I drank like a freshman. My friends and I started the weekend on Wednesday and decided it should end late Monday night. Tuesday was rough. I didn’t mind the occasional fit of shaking or the extreme sensitivity to light because, in theory, I was trimming the fat in my head. I was improving myself.

The results were great at first. I forgot all kinds of useless things. The state capitals were the first to go, then the beatitudes (who is getting the wind, and why do they get such a raw deal?), then history – all bunk according to Henry Ford, and he made lots of money, then grammar.

In most cases, I was forgetting things – the Japanese I learned in high school, for instance – that I was going to forget anyway or that I was never going to use, like the theme song from Heathcliff and the Cadillac Cats.

Of course, there was a down side. I’ve forgotten things, like my childhood, that I probably had an interest in remembering. There were also those times I forgot to go to class or forgot to study for exams, and things like that can cause real problems when you’re a student.

Now that my herd is thin and lean, whenever a member of it dies, it’s going to be an important one. I live in fear that I’ll drink a can of Busch and forget the multiplication table. I used to just live in fear that I would have to drink a can of Busch.

Nearly two years of the Buffalo Theory, and it’s caused me nothing but problems. Being drunk all the time has hastened the onset of senioritis. I noticed almost a year ago that I didn’t care about classes, but my indifference was a concern for me; it made me work even harder. Now I don’t care about not caring, and that can wreck an academic career.

It’s all my fault, of course, for listening to someone who wasn’t an expert. Mike Peterson probably doesn’t know the first thing about neurology. He’s a political science major and can talk for hours about the culture of poverty or what it means to be a neo-liberal, but brain cells – what do they have to do with politics?

I don’t know any neurological experts, unless I do and have forgotten them, but for expertise on drinking, I usually consult Bessie Smith, Empress of the Blues. During the height of Prohibiton, she told her audience Don’t try me nobody, `cause you will never win. I’ll fight the army, navy – just me and my gin. She went on to say, When I’m feelin’ high, t’ain’t nothin’ I won’t do. Keep me full of liquor, and I’ll sure be nice to you.

After a few more years of drinking and casual sex, she concluded,I’ve lived a life, but nothing I’ve gained. Each day I’m full of sorrow and pain. Then she died in a car accident.

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