Arch Stanton Guest Post: Episode 20 of Today I Learned – Michael Malloy

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I attended grad school about an hour away from my undergraduate college at the same time my brother was finishing his undergrad degree there. One Alumni Weekend, a friend flew in and encouraged me to make the drive to see each as we no longer lived across the street from each other. I drove in Friday after class, looking for a casual night as I was to play third base in an all-day softball tournament the next day, only to learn my friend’s arrival had been delayed, and she was going to be in town much later than originally intended. As two idiots in their early twenties are wont to do, my brother and I hit the bars. Our drink of choice was a “trashcan” – essentially a Long Island Iced Tea with a can of Red Bull shoved in the top. As two idiots in their early twenties, we were incomprehensibly shitfaced almost immediately, which did nothing to deter us from selecting something less volatile. After spending roughly a hundred bucks on these drinks in a bar where a $40 bar tab was a wild aberration, you could say I was inebriated.

Given the alcohol and the Red Bull, the rest of the night is spotty, a night deserving of the concept of ‘browning out’ – never quite blacking out, but retaining no clear memories. After stiff arming my late-arriving friend on the way out of the bar, the rest of the night consisted of an Impressionist-painting of fleeting recollections, with the only clear memory I have being of me laying on a couch at 6 sharply aware of how fucked I was for my 8 am alarm.

My alarm rings. In that instance between “asleep” and “conscious”, my mind panics and expects a catastrophic hangover. But no! I open my eyes, and feel positively delightful! I grab a bagel, hop in my car and drive straight to another bar (gotta pregame for the softball tournament, obviously!). I walk in, and one of my teammates immediately remarks “you are so drunk right now”. Well, that explains the lack of a hangover. Our tournament goes off without a hitch, assuming drinking a bar out of Bud Lights throughout five games is “without a hitch”. I play third base during the third or fourth game with my glove on my left hand, and a beer in my right; despite my inebriation, there was no one else on our team who could throw a ball from third base to first base – grad school does not attract the finest athletes. I drink all day, and all night, and go to a bar Sunday afternoon to keep drinking – it is football season after all. After twelve hours drinking on Sunday, we go to a strip club to round out what was certainly the drunkest I have ever been in my life.

I don’t tell this story to brag (it should be more of a warning if anything). I tell this story because I look back astonished I could drink that much, and then realize this bender was only a fraction of what Michael Malloy experienced, the drunkest human to ever live.

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Michael Malloy was a coffin-polisher (I’m sure you could rustle up an internship on Indeed if this career path sounds promising) during the Prohibition. Malloy was a great worker, not because he was talented, but because he was paid solely in booze. Not only did he consume his liquid paycheck, he had also had a running tab at his dear friend Tony Marino’s speakeasy. Tony Marino, what a great pal for letting Malloy run a tab while everyone else had to pay for their drinks as they went along! Good ol’ Tony!

Turns out, Tony was deeply in debt and had devised a clever ruse to get himself out of it: he took out a life insurance policy on his drunk friend Malloy, and would let him die of alcohol poisoning in order to collect the pay out. Did I say Tony was a friend? I meant Tony was a total motherfucker.

Tony started pouring shots for Malloy – as soon as Malloy finished one, Tony topped him off. This happened for THREE DAYS STRAIGHT. Three straight days of Prohibition-era moonshine, and Malloy walked in on day four and allegedly proclaimed, “ain’t I got a thirst!” Today, we would call this a drinking problem, to which Malloy would respond how his only problem was his drink wasn’t topped off. Tony, being the enterprising entrepreneur he was, decided a change was needed – he gave Malloy a few shots of whiskey, and then switched in wood alcohol. The “alcohol” following “wood” is misleading – it’s poison. It’s literally methanol, and causes blindness and death because it is ACTUAL POISON.

A spot of poison never slowed our protagonist down though! By “spot”, I mean “another three days of drinking poison”. Day six of this bender and Malloy gets faint and collapses to the floor, his breathing slowing dramatically. Tony must have given an audible cheer that his plan finally worked, only for Malloy to start snoring on the floor of his bar. Malloy is pretty good at holding his alcohol-poison apparently.

Pissed, Tony and some friends wake Malloy up and start feeding him oysters covered in denatured alcohol (also literal poison) and give him more wood alcohol. Nothing. They graduated from oysters to rotted sardines stuffed with shrapnel between bread. Malloy ate that and asked for a second. Tony and his friends had begun shoving antifreeze, turpentine, horse liniment and rat poison into Malloy in attempts to accelerate the process. Not only was Malloy not dying, he was having a delightful time, hanging out with his dear friend Tony, who was kind enough to feed him in between drinks!

Malloy passes out again. Tony and his friends pick this grizzly-bear-masquerading-as-a-human-man and drag him to a park bench in the middle of a snow storm and soak him in water. Malloy’s liver may be able to process poison (at least until the cirrhosis sets in), but he is still merely a man, and “soaking wet in a snow storm” is a death sentence. PSYCHE! Malloy ambled his way in the bar the next day complaining of a “wee chill”. At this point, Malloy has already established himself as a Wolverine-like superhero incapable of death.

THERE IS STILL MORE. Malloy has been impossibly drunk, poisoned, fed shrapnel, poisoned again, and left to freeze, and just pushed on through that the perseverance is inspiring. Tony, outright pissed at this point and moves from “passively letting a man die” to “let’s kill this son of a bitch”. Tony and a friend drag Malloy out into the street and hold him up so a third friend can hit him going 45 mph in a car. Just to be safe – history has shown there is no such thing as “overkill” in regards to Malloy – they back over him before leaving him in the street. Dead in the street, Malloy’s asshole friends left to collect their hard-earned insurance.

Just kidding! Five days later, Malloy high steps his way into the bar where he proclaimed “I sure dying for a drink!” There’s a thought experiment about how we are all technically immortal until proven otherwise – God had attempted to show otherwise, and Malloy had issued a rebuttal to God and shown he was immortal. After another undefined window where Malloy drank everything in sight, he passed out. Tony dragged Malloy to a hotel with gas lamps, which he proceeded to hook a nozzle into the gas and put it directly into Malloy’s mouth.

The next morning Michael Malloy was dead. Seriously. He was not coming back this time. Tony and friends collected their insurance, and had a story they would be sure to laugh about down the road. Local police heard rumors of this unkillable man, and eventually looked into it, exhuming Malloy’s body and discovering he had died from pneumonia and not the previously proclaimed gas leaked. Consider – this man had been poisoned for roughly ten days, abandoned in the freezing cold, hit by a car, poisoned some more, and had gas pumped directly into his lungs, and a cold killed him. Long story short, Tony and his friends were eventually sent the electric chair for killing this earthbound deity.

Everyone knows the story of the impossibly-difficult-to-kill Rasputin, but Rasputin doesn’t have shit on Michael Malloy, a man many would confuse as an exaggerated drinking tale masquerading as folklore. But no, Michael Malloy really existed, and he was the drunkest human being who ever lived, putting your best drinking story to shame a dozen times over.

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