Archive for category Uncategorized

Animal Geniuses

Recently for the kid’s magazine I was asked to write an article on the world’s smartest species of animal. (Species, so not specific animals, so the chicken who could do math in that Liam Neeson film was out). Of course, I found that our animal friends are quite intelligent and talented. What started as surprise led to admiration and then, as usual, terror.   

How smart? Look. Whenever someone makes an observation, there are morons on the internet to point out the limits of the statement. These limits had already been assumed by most people who possess a brain, and so let’s just say that, no, most animals could not draw us a map to Munich and most animals wouldn’t be able to get us back from Jupiter after space travel gone wrong or start cooking a pot roast before in the slow cooker should we be running late home. Many animals are, however, more intelligent than those who force us to point out these things. Those people are also responsible for warning labels telling us not to clean your eyeballs with Windex or to eat chemical laundry pods to fight respiratory disease. But here we are.

Nevertheless, there are some smart animals. Should you be the type of person to mess with animals, you might want to lay off your local populations of octopus or crows. Both can recognize specific people and gain revenge on those who wrong them. Octopus have the added benefit of owning eight arms and being able to open containers. Crows understand physics. You wouldn’t piss of Neil deGrasse Tyson, so why would you piss off his spirit bird?

Raccoons can break into homes and play chess. As for which is more terrifying to me, it’s a tossup. I don’t want a racoon to break into my house, but I really don’t want to lose to one in chess. And the thought of one who can break into my house and then beat me in chess is an existential threat nobody ran by me when they were registering me for a trip on Planet X. The African Grey up the road from you is as smart as the three-year-old human child next door. I mean, virtually everything is. But still. Spooky.

Not just that, but many animals seem to be learning. A shark just carried a turtle with a plastic bag around its neck to a chip of people. How? Is Earth so endemic with people making ‘watch me save the animals’ videos that sharks have gotten wise to the practice. Also, are sharks and turtles now teaming up? I gotta be honest, I didn’t have sharks and turtles team up on my 21st century Bingo card. But then, neither did I have congressional republicans and Putin. So, there you go…

Animals are smart. Sure, we have opposable thumbs and airplanes and aircraft carriers, but you’re not ready 100% of the time, are you? No, one minute you’re just some guy bringing home his groceries and the next minute you’re being tricked into the Rook-King switch by some local racoon who broke into your house. My dog and cat are geniuses in their own way. My cat’s genius fully centers on her ability to drive a 49-year-old man clinically insane. My dog’s genius is all related to getting food or getting carried.    


Perhaps a good rule of thumb is to just be nice to animals. They may, after all, be in charge one day. Not of us, for we will thankfully be dead long before they hit their Stone Age. But for our kids’ kids’ kids’ kids, who may one day be working in the court of a local crow and his octopus friends, just be nice.

No Comments

Pain in the Neck

I wake up in the morning and sit up, a good yawn breaking the quiet. It especially broke the quiet as it culminated in a yelp of pain. I froze, not because I was scared, but because I couldn’t otherwise move. The dog – whose immediate morning stratagem is to play with me until she gets her belly rubbed – stopped her goofing and watched me in expectation. I walk like Igor to the bathroom and appraise my pain-crinkled face in the mirror. Ah yes, no doubt about it, my old friend the pinched nerve is back.

I remember times when my mother would be laid up in bed. She’d be in a nightgown and a thick neck brace. She lay on a heated pad. We were to leave her alone (her orders) unless we were bringing food and/or ginger ale. I also remember these times as those when we ate cold deli meats and sandwiches for all meals. Pinched nerve.

In things we get from our parents that we don’t want, my 0 to Mr. Hyde in 2.3 seconds temper and my tendency to show up 40 minutes before scheduled events are up towards the top of that list. But somewhere close – perhaps between my dalliance of ear hair and mild numerical dyslexia – is my conducive-to-pinched neck. Every now and again, my neck decides it will not only go on working hiatus for a while, but will leave in its wake a throbbing, all-encompassing pain. There are people who no doubt have it far worse, but when your neck is causing a headache you wouldn’t wish on Mussolini’s ghost, it’s hard to think of them.

I go to the internet in an attempt to self-heal. I learn some stretches and they are effective, but the cure is not long lasting. Thus I begin acting like an insane person in public. On the tram, metro, in shops and pubs, I break into some yoga, neck bent, arms out. It’s anyone’s guess what I am doing. But I greatly fear that I am being ‘that guy’. That look-at-me guy who does yoga, plays a guitar, prays in public. I don’t want to be the main character; I only want to be pain-free for a little while.

An extraordinary fact about semi-chronic pain – wherever it exists on your body – is that I can’t seem to remember life without it, despite the fact that I have lived most of my 49 years in that state. It’s just there – all the time.

I don’t have kids – a fact that fills me with great joy. Usually. Now, of course, I wish I had someone to bring me food and ginger ale while I recuperated. The dog and the cat, love me though they do, seem to view food and drink delivery as a one-way system. Not that I can’t see their logic, it would not be terrible if the cat suddenly handed me some cake. I’m just saying, it wouldn’t be turned down.

No Comments

Setting Free the Crabs

Digital StillCamera

I bumped into my neighbor downstairs a little while ago. Literally bumped into him. He gave me a look that you give a guy who talks to his underpants in public. The scowl itself took minutes off my life. Had I had the lexicon at hand, I’d have explained that I was in a daze, had been for some days now. You see, a friend of mine has explained that YouTube is in financial trouble.

Now, a massive faceless organization’s money woes usually bring me a wee chuckle. That is, until I figure out how it might adversely affect me.

In this case, if YouTube dies off, all of my entertainment options will be shut off after drinking alcohol. For when I do put away a few and then wander home and then find that I have another two cold ones in the fridge, there’s nothing better than YouTube as a chaser.

Why? Because you can watch anything you want. Long gone are the days when you had a few drinks or just found yourself at a loose end and then had to be entertained based on the whims of a table full of TV executives. Could the youth of today even survive that world? When your late night choices are Major League and Congo? No. What about a world in which one’s only hope of seeing nudity on a screen was in late night movies where you had to watch a bad movie and were occasionally rewarded with a glimpse of breast or butt? No.

I didn’t explain this to my neighbor because he doesn’t seem to like me very much. Well, he doesn’t like me well enough to sit through my painfully low-level description of the above paragraph. So I let it go.

But the death of YouTube would remove so many little visual joys. Highlights from the 2008 World Series, any Phillies’ no-hitter, the Miracle at the Meadowlands (number 2). And then there are the movie clips: Hoosiers, The Natural, Saving Private Ryan, Annie.

And then there are the videos of people doing niceties for others. It used to be people doing nice things for other people, like giving them shoes or giving them a lot of money and then some shoes. Then people realized how much others suck and they moved onto animals. The most recent trend of self-videoed do-goodery is people removing animals from humanmade accidental entrapments. Men cutting loose a seal from a fishing net, a man freeing a goose from a plastic 6-pack container. A woman cutting loose her idiot husband from his Barcalounger. And I love it, because what goon doesn’t like to see an innocent animal immediately removed from a death trap? Not this one.

Well, usually.

I was down the shore a few weeks ago and noticed a group of young people standing above something on the beach. Everyone was terribly consternated about the proceedings and I wondered if I might be about to witness the shipment of a dolphin back to the ocean. Maybe a shark! Oh, the irony in our minds that we would do a good for this thing most of us fear. I approached the young people and looked into the sand at their feet. Standing beneath everyone, looking back up at them with what was clearly a look of alarm, was a crab. Surely this crab was wondering just what it was these people needed. Perhaps he was a do-good crab and was wondering if they needed some help with something.

He was no doubt alarmed when the young people began grabbing at him and trying to pick him up. The young people developed a pattern: reach down, grab, wince, retract hand in pain, try again, repeat. See, crabs are gifted by little sharp hand pincers and they probably don’t like it when people crowd them and then poke and prod at them. I was going to suggest that perhaps the crab understood how the ocean worked as it had been navigating it for about 500 million years. But I decided instead to stay out of internet videos.

In any event, that would just go on YouTube and, as we know, that might not exist in a while. This too I decided to keep away from my neighbor. A man who, it must be said, would probably help me into the ocean.

No Comments

Down the Shore

We are heading to the shore today. Not the beach, the shore. I have taken every opportunity to tell anyone with ears that the Jersey Shore is the only place they call it ‘the shore’ and not ‘the beach’. What I expect when I tell a person this, is for them to rub their chin and gaze thoughtfully at the ceiling and an eventual head shake and something like ‘you got me, you’re right’.

But – and this should be mentioned directly – this doesn’t happen. What does happen, is the person looks at me as their memory snaps into gear. Then they say ‘Oh yeah, Jersey Shore. I hated that show’ followed by my soul being crushed.

The shore is a place of utter relaxation – or at least that’s what it claims. To some extent I have to agree as there’s nothing as soothing for the soul and mood than looking out at a wide ocean. Well, nothing legal anyway. However, what the shore doesn’t take into account is that I will looking into that ocean with my family. And, as we all know, your family has the owner’s manual to YOU and, more precisely. YOUR BUTTONS and HOW TO PUSH THEM.

Learning the trade is the newest addition to the family – a 3 year old girl whose name will never leave me because in the 20 days I’ve been here it’s been said aloud by various kids and adults roughly 290,391 times. I will call her Barry. I have learned many lessons in the last weeks. For instance, in no way should you ever say the words chocolate, ice cream, chocolate milk, or water ice near the child unless you have them behind your back and are ready to hand it over immediately. If not, there is hell to pay. To many people.

I have also learned the truth behind the old axiom ‘sometimes you do everything right and you still lose’. What do you say to a 3 year old named Barry when you see her? I figured ‘hi’ would be a safe bet. And I figured wrong.


A level of wailing and shrieking that would suggest that instead of saying hi I had indeed begun sawing her in half with a butter knife.

And then I get in trouble.

This happens a lot. I say hi and get shrieks. I ignore the child and get shrieks. I make eye contact (big mistake) and got something bad, but I can’t remember because I blacked out. She begins playing with me and I play back. Mistake. Wails. Tears. Shrieks.

You get the picture.

Life is not fair.

But here’s the thing – I’m not unconvinced that she’s doing this on purpose. She handed me a toy lobster and then began shrieking leaving me holding the lobster. My mom and sister came in and I am holding a lobster and the 3 year old (Barry) is pointing and shrieking. I tried to explain, but my laments fell upon deaf ears. As she was assisted out of the room she gave me a smile.

‘Well played, Barry.’

Shriek. Shriek.

As payback, I made sure I was in earshot and then enjoyed a chocolate milk more vocally than I had any other activity in the last thirty years. The shrieks were delicious. But the neighbors thought we were watching an internet video of ill repute.

This is the shore that awaits me. Mortal combat between me – a productive member of society – and a 3 year old – a non-tax-payer, who can’t mow the lawn.

I am packing the lobster.

No Comments

The New Li Bai


Like many writers in college, I spent a great deal of time looking for a voice. When I was younger writing was a thing I just did. I didn’t worry about voices, I simply used my own. But in college, I was introduced to a bunch of writers through classes and instantly realized that if I wanted to make it as a writer, I had better sound like one of them. And, for about 10 years, everything I wrote read like the last writer I had read.

After a Farewell to Arms, I went through my Hemingway phase. And so for some time everything read like this. I wrote and it was good. I wore earthtones. And I drank. In the rain.

Lord of the Rings brought forth my sage voice. For down a merry round in the area called Oakland on a way called York Avenue, there existed a young man, a boy merely, who lived in the most awful of hovels, and who tried and tried to put pen to paper, where before him a woman had done the same and before her a man had done the same and before him another woman, but when she did it, the place was called Broke Bench Alley after the singular bench left over from the time before when the city’s denizens slept on one bench. And then that boy lost consciousness trying to read one of his sentences aloud and moved on from Tolkien in a hurry.

When he found himself in his Raymond Carver phase. Where he wrote like this. Too many times. Indeed. He only wrote a normal sentence. And then split it. Into about four more. By simply adding periods. And removing adverbs. And it was. Good.

Unfortunately my sophomore self found Donald Barthalme and was too dumb to understand him, but on the bright side, three hundred pancakes and a tomato and a dwarf were found riding the City Elephant out of Minola and saw the third face of the conductor. When he had stripped off his third body and made for the caboose, we all danced taps and some elf set a bonfire and lasered a hole in the roof with his indignation. And then, at the end of this phase, the sophomore’s friend-not-friend poked her face into the window and – images being larger than in real life – mentioned in passing that for a few weeks she hadn’t understand a fucking word the sophomore had put down onto paper and, for good measure, shave that dumb fucking beard.  

But then at some point in my second junior year, I found Charles Bukowski. I’d like to report that I found him in the exact place Charles Bukowski would be, like a torn copy at the bus station, or at the bottom of a used book store’s $2 bin. In reality, someone told me about him and I went out and bought a book of his stories Tales of Ordinary Madness.

Soon my writing was narrated by drunks and filled with other drunks and all the drunks were drinking. There were people reading newspapers in the bathtub and befriending similarly down and out cats and ruining their lives with various decisions all related by their stupidity and apocalyptic consequences.

It was all part of the mystique of being a writer, rather than actually sitting down to work every day and developing voice and language and narrative style. No. instead, many of us emulated those that seemed to be writers and more to the point, what we had to do to get there. Bukowski (or any actual writer) wouldn’t have spent a second on us.

On August 12, 1969 Bukowski wrote a letter to John Martin, the owner of Black Sparrow Press. Martin was one of the very first to realize Bukowski’s genius or potential and famously arrived to publish him. When he did so Bukowski pointed him to a closet overflowing with notebooks overflowing with poems and stories. For years, each night he had just written them and put them in there. He worked each day at a job he hated and then drank alcohol all night and wrote stories and poetry. That’s what he did. He was a machine. A perfect drunken machine.

And so when John Martin wrote him a letter promising him $100 a month for life if he quit his job at the post office and wrote full time, Bukowski took the chance. What followed was decades of alcohol-fueled stories of alcohol-fueled people making alcohol-fueled decisions. And alcohol.

Another alcoholic writer, you say? Oh, how unique, you say.

True. The alcoholic writer is a motif so tired that plopping one into a story is as predictable as a rainy funeral or a toothpick chomping cop who rejects a rookie partner because he ‘works alone’. But Bukowski isn’t an alcoholic writer. He was the alcoholic’s writer. The list of alcoholic writers can be printed in font size 8 in neat lines on twenty feet of paper. Hemingway. Joyce. Highsmith. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda. And no doubt absinthe and gin and whiskey and beer dot Hemingway stories and a dusty road in a Faulkner story represents his childhood innocence gliding away in a mint julep. Bukowski on the other hand pulls no such allegorical punches. He was an outsider who didn’t have time for allegory, he was a cynical and a misanthropic rogue. And he wrote that way.  

For this he arguably took over for writers like Jim Tully, who was another outsider who wrote about the Hollywood that was to be left unwritten about in the early 20th century. Tully wrote about prostitution, gambling, being a vagabond. In other words, what he had experience with. The same as Bukowski. Perhaps this is what separated the wannabe college writers who fancied themselves boozehound writers and people like Bukowski and Tully – if things went sideways for me I could go into accounting. They would die.

We can trace Bukowski writers all the way back to Li Bai, the 8th century Chinese poet whose poems include Drinking Alone under the Moon. Sure, Bukowski was wracked by self-loathing and depression and a host of other problems, but he never shied away from his love or need of alcohol.

It’s hard to say where Bukowski would fit these days. He was always an outlier, and in the current social climate he would be more so. However, he never asked to be part of the group. He tried and failed to achieve mainstream notice in the 50s and then drank for a decade and came out the Bukowski we now know. Surely he was a shy, sad abused kid who turned to booze for solace. He lost the love of his life early on and cocooned himself in alcohol. But now in 2023 if certain swaths of society were to read Bukowski, they would keel over of a heart attack on the spot. His work is undeniably sexist, grotesque, profane to a degree no barometer can measure. The women are often called by their age (a 24 year old and a 25 year old blonde fought in my apartment). He wrote about his large prick and his hemorrhoids and his herpes and always somehow included both vomit and blood into his stories.      

Chances are, if he were still writing he’d smile his shy smile at everything and throw up his arms in a shrug. In a day and age marked by people – mostly celebrities – who have a wild old time and then get sober and then tell everyone about how great sober life is, I do hold hope that Bukowski would not be one of them. He was a drunk to the end. Even Hemingway knew that drinking had had a hand in destroying all he loved and wanted and no doubt other writers did too. But Bukowski took his money and ran. All the way to the bar. And for that I have some admiration for the man. Even if I could never write like him.  

No Comments

Happy Place

I wake up on a pullout couch bed. It’s dark, but I can make out the contours of Philadelphia Eagles regalia. There’s also a basketball hoop in the corner, an air conditioner whirring away in the corner and Halloween decorations in the corner. The bed – having been designed by Gestapo scientists – contains two bars that are numbing my toes and fingertips. But it’s my full bladder that gets me out of bed. As I maneuver to the door I step on a trampoline. The dream was real: I am home.

As I unload my bladder other details come to mind. The 20 hour travel day, the 9 hour flight from Frankfurt to Philadelphia, the babies (so many babies), customs, the woman in front of me taking several minutes to master the esoteric technology of a pen and a piece of paper, the ride home, the cheesesteak, the baseball game, the blinky eyes, the pillow hurtling towards my face. And here I am. I go into the kitchen and start working on my sister and mothers’ leftover cheesesteaks. Their stomachs are weak and I am not going to pass up this opportunity. I put on the early edition of Sportscenter.

Yep. That’s it. I am in my Happy Place.

Read the rest of this entry »


To Home?

Today, I am moving. I also moved last week. And I think the week before, too. It never seems to end and I’m not entirely sure I didn’t die a little while ago, go to the place downstairs, and end up with a Sisyphus sort of dealio. But instead of pushing a boulder up a hill for eternity, I get to move for eternity.

I am now waiting for a moving man. I have never met this person, but he and I will pack the contents of my flat into his van (which better translate to ‘big fucking truck’) and then we will bring it to my new flat. Each time I move I implore the gods with a repetitive ohm, which, while less than Zen to be sure, does grasp the root of my present state of mind.

“How the f*** do I have so much s***!?”

I say that about 300 times about 5 times a day. By the end of my entreaty, I usually and miraculously find myself in a pub being served by a waitress with a concerned look on her face and a tray full of drinks that happen to be for only me. The move isn’t only distressing because of its physical acts, but rather for the psychological impact it’s having on my – evidently – fragile psyche.

I am a routine fool. I get up early, I take my vitamins, I drink my water, I push a button on the coffee maker, which was already filled and set the night before. I sit in my chair and I do my work. Now, owing to the disruption in my schedule, I am up in the air, unmoored by my routine and my work. Until now, I did not realize how badly I could fall into depression without that routine.

I am jealous of everyone. Men, women, especially children, who don’t have to worry about doing anything at all. If their parents move, they probably don’t have to do too much to help them out. Oh, to live a life of no worry. A woman I was walking behind yesterday abruptly stopped, dug through her bag of recent shopping and removed a bottle of white wine. She then sat down and unscrewed the bottle and drank a big pull from it. I gaped with envy. This was not the act of a person who didn’t have a place to go back to. This was the act of a woman who was going to a well-established home and going to sleep. I could have cried.

Sometimes nowadays I lie awake at dream about padded walls and high dosages of mood elevators. Oh, the utter joy. Especially if some guys were to just, you know, move my stuff into my place while I was in there. This thought keeps me warm.

Now it’s time to bring things – once again – down some steps so that I can bring them somewhere and then bring them up some other steps. I wonder what waitress I will awaken to this afternoon. I wonder what will be on her tray of goodies.

No Comments


I am surrounded by bags and boxes overflowing with my things. Bags of trash lie heaped in the corner. The dog and cat give me leery looks from stacks of books so that they look like revelers at Stonehenge. Nobody is happy. Burke is in the office listening to a Joe Rogan podcast. I hear a groan.

One never knows how much stuff they have until they have to move it to another location. In my brain, my flat is more or less four rooms that don’t have that much stuff in them. My brain is a moron. I always overlook the bathroom. And the closet space. And under the bed. And in the drawers. Then, when my brain starts understanding the level of hell it’s about to get into, I am reminded of my storage space in the basement. I groan.

For something that isn’t altogether a bad thing, moving is unbelievably unpleasant. In my case, I am moving to a flat that I have bought – by most barometers, a positive thing. Nevertheless, I am still in hell and hell is four rooms filled with boxes and bags and angry cats and dogs. Once I started pulling things out of drawers and closets and books off shelves, my flat stopped being my flat and started being a wasteland of random tidbits. It’s unrecognizable as the flat it once was, like if you took apart a car and laid it out on a blanket. But that’s only academic, unless one were to make the car’s owner bring it to another location in a van and then reassemble it.

Everyone I have told about moving has responded with the same tongue clicks and grimaces as though I’d told them I’m going to the hospital for ‘additional tests’. Sometimes I wish that was so. For moving involves not only doing something you don’t want to do, but doing that thing within a merciless deadline, and must be done to completion. My inner procrastinator and my inner half-ass nature will not be satisfied.  

When I moved from my last place, there was a bunch of stuff that wasn’t mine. For I had lived there for thirteen years and had had four roommates. And we all know that the person simply moving out of a flat but leaving someone behind in that flat does not have the same task. Someone will remain, so they take every advantage to not move things. So when I left the last place I was moving things from four people. And I hated them. I have permanently earmarked hideous revenge for each of them and they should spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulder lest they suffer a head blow from a toaster they left in a Podolian flat in 2015, emotional or otherwise.

But this time it’s my fault. All the stuff here is mine and I can’t blame anyone else for it. Even though Burke borders on the hoarder, I am no better and any judgment from me will come back to haunt me seconds later. I am in hell.

And then it got worse. I woke up in the middle of the night last night from the heat. I was stuffy and uncomfortable and it looked like I’d woken up in the basement of a museum of middle-aged men. There was no place in the flat to go to feel comfortable. I was in the bowels of hell.  

I know. I know. This is positive. But the only thing that gives me any pleasure right now is the knowledge that since I am buying this new flat, I technically will never have to leave it. I may never have to move again. In the midst of all this madness, an astounding thing happens: I smile. It’s all going to be OK.

But on my way down the steps, I glance outside on our balcony. Two bikes look back in. More stuff to move. I am back in hell.

No Comments

It’s a Bad [Enter Body Part Here] Day

“I’m taking the dog for a walk,” I call to Burke as I fit the dog into her harness.


It’s beautiful outside so I will walk with the dog aimlessly for a while and, since I got no deeds to do and no promises to keep, I’ll let the dog bring me where she wants and smell whatever she wants, no matter its state of decomposition. I will then carry her for a while, because she is a Shih-tzu and can only be pressed into walking for brief periods. But it’s while carrying her around like a four-manned sedan carries Chinese royalty that I will subtly aim us towards a pub with outdoor seating.

I have packed a bag: a book, my notebook, a few doggy biscotti (mostly for dog, but if I’m being honest I’ve tried one). We leave. The day is perfect in every way. It’s cool in the shade and warm in the sun, it’s breezy and comfortable. By the time the dog ‘tricks’ me into picking her up, I am excited to note only a minor layer of sweat behind my knees. It’s a good day. I direct us towards a pub called The Windmill.

The Windmill is perfect, set in a garden off the road. There are a few scattered people there when I grab a seat. It’s days like this that make me appreciate life on Planet X. Burke will be joining me shortly and until then I’ll read and have a beer and enjoy the warm weather. If everyone would just appreciate such content, the world would be a better place.

I take out my book and search for my reading glasses. They’re not to be found, sadly. I huff. And then I do something ill-advised and rash. I start reading without my reading glasses. I squint, realizing a dark cloud has moved over the pub. It’s black.  

One of the joys of aging is the appreciate the smaller things. A free afternoon, a good cookie, an hour of reading, lounging in bed on a Saturday. One of the great ironies of aging is that one small misstep can alter those joys into discomfort. And what body part causes that discomfort is like a rolling wheel of fortune either based on poor decisions or a universal joke.

While working out last week I stepped on the edge of the workout mat one time, turned my foot a fraction of an inch, and had to wear a compression brace on my knee for three days. A month ago I slept on my right side throughout the night and couldn’t use my right leg for a good forty minutes after I woke up. Two weeks ago I made the mistake of sneezing while holding an apple and couldn’t walk upright for two days. I find myself explaining these things as a Bad ____ Day. It’s a Bad Back Day, a Bad Knee Day. A whine in the ear makes for a Bad Ear Day.

And today, foolishly, I try to read without my reading glasses, thus creating a Bad Eye Day. I ask Burke to bring my reading glasses and she does, but the damage is done. I spend the remainder of our visit squinting and rubbing blurry eyes.

On the walk home, the clouds have moved in. Four beers have added to my sight issues. The trees in the distance look like green giants. I hum a tune to myself. Only as I get home do I remember the words

“Hello darkness my old friend…”    

No Comments

The Booze Muse

Her story is a good old fashioned cautionary tale. A small town girl who, through a perfect storm of events, becomes the biggest thing in the known world. She catapults to fame, becomes the muse of the writers and the philosophers and the painters, who write about her, philosophize about her, and use her as a model. She changes the way of life in Paris during its famous Belle Epoque. But alas, before she can even enjoy her fame, her world collapses. She’s blamed for the emasculation of men, for violence, for the downfall of French society. She is blamed for murder. And just like that, she is cast out, unwelcome, marked. This is the story of Absinthe.

Absinthe’s story starts in Ancients Egypt and Greece. It wasn’t Absinthe then, but just wormwood, which, like so many other things that would become booze, was used medically. It was used for stomach aches and lung ailments. The Greeks soaked leaves in wormwood and had a fortified wine called absinthites oinos. During the Bubonic Plague wormwood was burned and used to fumigate houses with infected people. You’ll be stunned to learn this didn’t really work. The rats and their fleas weren’t terribly concerned about the fire. Absinthe pops up as a drink in Switzerland in the late 18th century, where doctors used it as a cure-all elixir. Part of the global trend towards alcohol-based medicines. They made you feel better, but when you’ve just had a shot of 140 proof liquor, you’re not going to notice your femur sticking out of your leg, let alone a sore throat. But Absinthe really starts spreading its wings during the French (always the French) campaign in Algeria in the 1840s, where French soldiers were given it as an anti-malarial. The soldiers loved Absinthe. And when they came home they brought it with them.

Normally French wine would have scoffed at some newcomer to the booze scene. The French have a relationship with wine that only rivals their love for Jerry Lewis, cigarettes, and sleeping with more than one person at a time. Never could another booze overtake wine. Usually. But a massive wine blight being caused by a grape lice which was brought to France from the U.S. (they probably didn’t realize that when they gave us the Statue of Liberty). So with wine production diminished and the French still looking for booze to help them yell at people with poorly-accented French, in stepped Absinthe. And boy did it take off. For a while, everything was green. It was so popular that instead of happy, 5 o’clock was called the Green Hour. Absinthe had the added attraction of coming along in a catchy color (green), neato terminology (the green hour), a mascot (the green fairy), cool tools and a process (slotted spoon, reservoir glass, cold water, sugar, low morals).

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments