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To your health

Empty margarita glasses lie overturned on the floor. A loud thump-thump-thump, like a sport utility vehicle playing Goldie’s latest drum ’n’ bass CD, sounds in my head. The sulfurous scent of launched bottle rockets hangs in the air. My tongue feels like a damp beach towel that’s been left in the trunk of the car after a hard day of fun.

I must be coming down with the 24-hour flu, I decide.

"You mean the 24-ounce flu," says the Lizard of Fun, perkily hauling out the vacuum cleaner and proceeding to Hoover up a small mountain of potato chip crumbs beside my head. "Besides, it was your idea: ‘Let’s have a party to practice for the Fourth of July,’ she says. ‘Bet I can finish that bottle of Cuervo Gold,’ she says. Uh-huh. Stop wincing, freak girl, it makes you look like Hillary Clinton."

I haul my ass off the floor, and search for the bottle of vitamin C I know exists somewhere between the rings of my current personal hell.

"Gonna take more than vitamin C to get you running again," says the Lizard. "Might need a valve job. Possibly new spark plugs. And you definitely look like you’re about to blow a gasket."

"And what makes you so chipper, Mr. Two-Gallons-and-a-Chaser?"

The Lizard looks especially pleased with itself, and shrugs a little. "I just drink scientifically, is all," it says. "If you do it right, you don’t end up feeling like hell in the morning."

"That’s what they say about voting, too," I note.

The Lizard shrugs again, and starts quoting Frederick M. Beyerlein, a Sacramento-based nutritionist, who wrote Drink As Much As You Want and Live Longer (Loompanics, $14.95, 195 pp.).

"A title like that and it’s not on the best-seller list already?" I say.

According to Beyerlein, the way you feel the morning after has nothing to do with the buckets of mint juleps, whiskey sours, margaritas and Absolut mandarin martinis you consumed the night before.

Rather, he suggests, the rotten side effects usually attributed to too much alcohol (hangovers, beer bellies, inappropriate relationships, whatever) can be largely circumvented. All you have to do is counteract alcohol’s natural tendency to deplete the body of nutrients by, among other things, swallowing lots of extra vitamins and herbal supplements, such as B-complex vitamins and goldenseal, milk thistle and echinacea, before, during and after a binge.

"That’s why I want the vitamin C," I say, hunting for it under a mound of empty carryout containers from Lafayette Coney Island. "To complement the essential nutrients found in coney dogs."

"Coney dogs aren’t enough to restore your body’s nutrients," says the Lizard. "In fact, they’re part of what this drinking dude says are bad."

Beyerlein suggests there’s no excuse for waking up with a hangover, as it can easily be avoided by eating the right foods – and avoiding the wrong ones – when you’re also planning on consuming alcohol.

Unfortunately, the wrong foods are also the ones which taste best when scarfed down in a sodden stupor. Pizza, chips, fries, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, pepperoni, nuts, coney dogs … they’re all on the bar food menu, and all on the banned list. According to Beyerlein, such foods are "difficult to digest," "form putrid substances when in the presence of alcohol," and "cause fat gain and fatty liver."

The right foods, no surprise, are fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, which Beyerlein recommends consuming at least three hours before you begin drinking, in order to give your body a chance to build up a good store of nutrients. And while you’re drinking, it makes sense to actually eat the olives, maraschino cherries, celery sticks, orange slices and lemon wedges that garnish your drinks – they’ll all add to your nutritional arsenal.

"Think of it as power-training," says the Lizard. "It lets you have fun longer, because you’re prepared for it. This scientific method really rocks."

It probably works best, though, if you really believe it’s going to work. Like the 250-odd people in Belgium who got sick earlier this month after they drank Coke from cans that smelled funny. ("Would you drink something from a can that smells weird?" asks the Lizard. "Very odd.")

It turned out that even though the cans had traces of a disinfectant on them, Coke officials said there was nothing wrong with the pop inside. One expert suggested that the Belgians, after having been scared silly by a recent study showing that their food might contain dioxins, were susceptible to a "collective psychosomatic reaction," and got sick because they believed they would.

"So if you don’t believe you’re going to get a hangover, you won’t," says the Lizard. "The power of suggestion is an amazing thing."

"Yeah, sure," I say, rubbing my thumping head. "And you’re suggesting I just talked myself into this?"

"Naaah, I’m suggesting that after we get you back on your feet, we get out the blender, mix up a few fresh-fruit margaritas, and start all over again."

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