Thursday, January 15, 2009

Drinking and knives are a bad combination.

Earlier this week I had a language exchange over aperitivos. Later as I walked through Campo de Fiori I noticed there were several police cars. On weekends there aren't that many cars. What was going on?

The Italian I was with told me the Mayor had deployed more cops after an American tourist was stabbed the other week. The man was visiting from California. He went to an after-hours, members only club and got into a fight with two Romans from the 'burbs early Sunday morning. The fight spilled into the street. The neighbors called the cops. He is in critical condition after a major artery was cut. The two Romans were arrested quickly thanks to neighbors and the club owners.

The residents of the area have been complaining for years about the bars on the Campo. I noticed on Christmas Eve when even Aristocampo was closed the American owned The Drunken Ship was open. I should take a picture of their window. They have T-shirts that say things like "Show Us Your Tips". Clever no?

In any city there is a battle between the resident and bars/clubs. However, the residents were here in the Historic Center long before the pubs and pubs crawls became popular. The drinking rates among younger Italians is growing, which is something new.

I only rent so I just throw on ear plugs to sleep. I don't even live on the square but on warm nights you can hear the noise from blocks away and all the side streets get crowded with mostly drunk exchange students. However I understand why my neighbors are annoyed. Trust if I paid 1.1 million for a two bedroom condo and couldn't get any sleep because of all the drunk kids I'd throw buckets of water on them too.

I get that Friday and Saturdays are bad but when it's every night during the warm months, it's a pain. Some of us have to actually work and don't get to spend our parents money aboard drinking instead of studying. One expat professor I know told me one of his students got so drunk she fell off a bridge.

There's a movement back in the States to change the drinking age back to 18. I wish they would. Binge drinking is a major problem on our campuses. It's crazy to me that at 18 we can vote, fight in a war, but can't have a beer with pizza. We as a country have a bizarre relationship with alcohol (and sex) and think by telling a young adult they can't drink that they won't. As a freshman in college, during the first semester I did get caught up in the drinking to get drunk atmosphere. I understand why the under 21 studying abroad crowd goes nuts when they come to Europe where the drinking age is around 16.

I do worry when I see the drunk American girls weaving around the Center. While Rome is very safe when you are that drunk you don't have your wits about you. This is still a big city and not Disneyland.

I'm curious if the increased police presence will be here all year. I heard the Campo a few years back was even worse with constant fights, Ultras (soccer hooligans) getting into fights with fans from visiting teams, etc. I'm not sure what the solution is. What role do the bars play? Should they be held responsible for the behavior of their customers? You can't ban them from selling shots.

Why do you think about the American drinking age being 21? Should it go back to 18? Why do so many young people drink to get drunk?

18 comments:

Skywalker said...

I went to southern school so drinking is a part of the culture. For a freshman - its liberating because your parents aren't around. Its something to do you know, I'm at a party and I don't have self control.

When I was a freshman, if you took the freshman experience - you had to have an hour instruction of the legal limit and self control while in college. So there are some things in place but it should more discussed.

As you get older (hopefully) you know that you don't need 15 drinks to have a good time.

I agree that 18 should an age to drink but it is also should be met with temperance and self control. A beer with pizza is great but 25 is poisoning.

J.Doe said...

I think 16 would be a good drinking age. Personally I was drinking way before that though. I remember my father giving me a beer at age 7 (I spit it out because it was so bitter), and drinking cups of red wine as soon as I could hold a cup (for religious purposes, but it wass also too bitter for my tastes)
I never went through a drinking phase as a young adult because I saw nothing special in alcohol. I think if the US government drastically lowered the drinking age it would lose it's taboo as a special drink and young adults/kids would actually drink less of it and not do binge drinking.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

skywalker - I look back on my college years and it's amazing there weren't more problems on campus given the amount of alcohol consumed. Most people do grow out of it but are still many young adults who think to have fun you have to get wasted.

j. doe - I agree that making it taboo is one reason some many teens have no idea how to handle it. I read in the New York Times there is great resistance to lower the drinking age back to 18. We'll see what happens. I remember when the age was 18 in most states then there was a federal law saying highway funding would be cut to those states who didn't increase the age to 21.

Romerican said...

I don't know if you've noticed but they also ban the sale of alcohol in grocery stores when there's a big soccer match in Rome. I happened upon it this fall, the entire wine/beer/liquor section of a grocery store in my 'hood was roped off with an official notice from the police.
It's insane to think that people are so incapable of controlling themselves that the government has to step in and act like a parent!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

romerican - no. really? wow. The darn Ultras are ruining it for everyone.

glamah16 said...

I was one of those teenagers long ago. Now it saddens me when I see people still in theri 30's carrying on with pub crawls and such. One of our friends travels to Europs quite a bit& seems its still all about the bars and drinking, whereas I have slowed down and just dont find it interesting. There is so much more to do. I read about an English student in Val D'Isere who got lost at night and froze to death after falling in the river. Drinking may been involved.Why cant people enjoy a cocktail or two without it leadin to excess and crazinees. I dont think limits help, because when its restricted the allure grows. Like the first commenter, at first its part of the growing up experinces,but after a while you shouldnt need it as a crutch to have fun.But I wouldn't want to be a party with no alcohol either...

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

glamah16 - I agree. Doesn't that whole drinking to the point of blacking out get old? I do like to have a cocktail once in a while and I will have a glass of wine with meals but I don't need to drink to have fun.

Ms. Violetta said...

I think 16 would be a good age to allow legal drinking. It removes the "forbidden nature" of drinking and may promote making more responsible choices. I suppose I'm going by personal experience too. I did all my heavy drinking around 16 & 17 and by the time I became legal, (age 18 in Canada) I was done with the whole scene.

gibber said...

If the drinking age were 16, it would certainly help the first year of college syndrome that people go thru. I wasn't so bad, but then again, I spent the summer before my senior year in high school in france drinking colored beer and kir royales EVERY NIGHT. So I guess I kinda got it out of my system :)

That's not to say that I don't occasionally over indulge. And it's not because I'm trying to get wasted, it's because as I get older, my tolerance for certain things has dropped, and I don't realize it until it's too late. FOR EXAMPLE...I can not drink Fat Tire beer. I drank slowly, had lots of water, even had a big meal. I was so hungover the next day, I almost missed my flight because I couldn't get out of bed. Did I ever tell you that story sis? It was redic.

Anyhoo, I think we need to de-mystify alcohol. I'm just afraid that it's too late for any of that to happen.

Black and (a)Broad said...

To be honest, I think drinking etiquette should be learned at home and not necessarily left to legislation. What I've noticed in Dutch society is that alcohol isn't hidden. It's present at dinner as well as informal get togethers at home. Our kids see us enjoying a drink not getting drunk. America is a country of extremes: drinking alcohol is either shrouded in mystery or openly abused. Conscientious parenting, not the government, is the first step toward finding that middle ground.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

ms. violetta - I agree there is a taboo thing about alcohol that I don't understand. If teens learn to drink responsibly (i.e. don't drink and drive) instead of picking some random age, like 21, we probably wouldn't have so many problems.

gibber - no you didn't tell me that story. I think about your study abroad program that summer and I agree that is why you didn't go nuts in college. I don't see the drinking age in America dropping to 16 anytime soon given the fight over dropping it back to 18.

black and a(broad) - I agree it does begin at home. The legislation part kicks in regarding at what age can people buy alcohol. One thing I find interesting and frustrating at times, about America are all the extremes. Like how we use sex to pretty sell everything under the sun but get bent out of shape about teach sex ed or showing nudity in film, art etc.

erynchandler said...

i totally agree that the drinking age in the US should be 18...then there wouldn't be such an allure to getting totally smashed at or even before college. i'm sorry to say that i also got caught up in that culture my first two years of college...when i studied abroad in florence when i was 20 was actually when i realized it was really dumb and started drinking for pleasure...not to get drunk!

also, i'm totally with you about how americans have such an aversion to sex/nudity. it's so stupid how seeing someone's head blown off on cable television is perfectly ok...but as soon as you see a woman's nipple it's total taboo! Give me a break!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

"We as a country have a bizarre relationship with alcohol (and sex) and think by telling a young adult they can't drink that they won't."

I couldn't agree with you more. I absolutely think that the drinking age should be 18 or lower. I'd like to follow the model that's true in most of Europe - with parents at 14, legal at 16, but you DON'T DRIVE until 18 and then only after paying 1000 Euros for a license and major, major drivers ed. I also think we're way behind in our approaches to sex and sex ed. Our puritanical roots really shoot us in the foot.

There's nothing like making something taboo to up the interest in it.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

eryn and jen - I agree. Our current policies are not working. Binge drinking is getting worse not better.

msday said...

It is almost expected for Americans to be drunks over here. Our reputation is horrible. People are often surprised that I don't drink.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

msday - yes we do have seem to have a complicated relationship with drinking, it's either all or nothing for many folks. Haven't people heard of moderation?

Kataroma said...

I don't really have that much sympathy for people who pay 1.1 million euros for a 2 bedroom near campo di fiore and then complain about the noise (sorry! and I realise that you rent...) Campo di fiore is not Infernetto or Parioli - there are plenty of other more 'family oriented' wealthy areas of Rome for those who want peace and quiet.

On the other hand - no one should be stabbing anyone else or throwing bottles so I'm glad the police are stepping in.

I agree that the drinking age should be 16 or (in the US) 18 like everywhere else. I also think that the organised 'pub crawls' here in Rome should be banned. I've seen too many too drunk to stand foreign 18 year olds - yuk!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

katarina - True if I was buying now there are quieter areas in the even in Center for those who don't want to live in Parioli, which is pretty but far. I agree with you to demand complete peace and quiet is unrealistic. Weekends during the spring/summer I get. Carrying on Tuesday morning at 3:00 a.m. off season is ridiculous.

I feel for my neighbors who have been here for years and own their places. They don't want to move. Some are luckier than others if their bedrooms face the back of the building and not the street.

I don't think they can ban the pub crawls. I was speaking with an American Journalist and his British partner who live in an area that was normally quiet but suddenly became nuts because a pub crawl started stopping at one of the places down the block. They said it's unbearable.