Any bad habit that drags on long enough eventually becomes tolerated as tradition. It's why we (in the United States) set aside a day every summer to play with dangerous explosives and hold contests to see who can eat a whole pie the fastest. The Fourth of July is packed with reckless indulgences because we've carefully disguised them as rituals, and now, assuming everyone is willing, I'd like to toss one more on the heap. For the past two years, I've celebrated my country's independence by taking full advantage of, perhaps even abusing, the freedoms afforded to me, or more specifically, I sit in front of a computer getting drunk by myself while writing about animals that I think are neat.
I can't remember which amendment grants me that right. 26th maybe?
It's part of a drinking game I devised to help me finish an article while simultaneously celebrating the Fourth every year, and like any drinking game, the rules are painfully simple to ensure that I don't quit in the middle and walk to Taco Bell. Here's how it works: I write an entire column, and whenever I have to research anything, I take a drink of beer (as denoted by an asterisk). The last two times I did this, I stuck to topics I knew fairly well so that I'd stay interested, and so the game wouldn't end with me dying drunk and alone on a holiday. This time around, however, I'm feeling a little more veteran. I'm ready to tackle a more heated, socially charged topic that seems to have incited a lot of controversy around the world lately: the matter of which animals look the most like candy and whether or not I would eat them.
Also this seems like as good a time as any to say hello and welcome to all the new readers this article will no doubt attract after being syndicated by Reuters and Al Jazeera* for such an unflinching look at a hot button issue. Let's get started!
6 Eastern Mud Salamanders
The eastern mud salamander is like the snow leopard of muddy substrates* and decomposing leaves. They are elusive* and endangered*, and no one seems to know much about them. Part of the reason it's so uncommon is that salamanders in general are notoriously susceptible to the degradation of water quality*, and this one in particular is disappearing at an alarming rate*, which is sad because it's very clearly made out of delicious Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups.
John White/ animal.memozee.com
If you look closely, you can almost see the perforations where you're supposed to tear out the stars.
If I saw one of these in the wild, even knowing what I know about its scarcity, I still couldn't promise that I wouldn't try to taste it. Fruit Roll-Ups are awesome. Whether it's because they're loaded with sugar* or because each box has enough packaging to fill a dumpster, moms always seemed hesitant to buy them. As a result, I learned at an early age that if you stumble across a Fruit Roll-Up, even if it's in a stream and has legs, you goddamn eat it. That's how ingrained in my psyche this snack is. And speaking of ingrained, look at those seeds buried in its skin to remind you that this salamander is made from real fruit! There's no way Mother Nature designed it as anything other than a lunchbox dessert.
Sadly, the chances of me ever finding one are slim, given that they live exclusively in the eastern United States*, a fact that I'm now realizing was not worth burning a drink on, given the salamander's name.
Drink Count: 8
5 Beluga Whales
The beluga lives primarily in arctic and sub-arctic waters*, which explains why it's packed into a coat of blubber thicker than any other whale*. They are highly social, with a complex language of clicks and whistles*, and they love playing with anything that resembles a toy*. In fact, in the wild they've been known to carry around everything from buoys* to whole caribou skeletons* just for fun in their oversized, perpetually smiling mouths.
"I can't distinguish between fun and serial killer behavior!"
Their massive foreheads (aptly called "melons"*) are used for echolocation*, and they have extraordinary hearing*, which is surprising because their ears are practically nonexistent*. Experts suspect that the beluga hears through the vibrations in its lower jaw instead*, which would mark an extraordinary advancement in mammalian evolution* and also, come on, this is clearly a giant marshmallow with fins.
If I had enough money to create my own aquarium theme park, I'd keep all my belugas in a massive vat of hot chocolate. It wouldn't even matter if anyone could see them through the murky goodness because I'd sell mugs at the front and we could all sit around in cozy sweaters, drinking cocoa and making "ahhhhh" noises after each sip. I'd only be open around the holidays. I think that would be really nice.
I don't have enough money, by the way*.
Drink Count: 21