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Thoughts While Waiting for a Dog to Pee

It’s in the middle of a dream that I hear a light whine. Our Shih Tzu seem to have a wheel of fortune made of up whines, squeaks, and trills at different pitches, tones, and volumes. I can now interpret each as a different signal. A really high-pitched feathery wail conveys: “You best be getting back in this room, chunky, or I’m gonna wake up this whole building.” A soft snort followed by a single whine in the nose-throat (throse) means “I’m about to bark the fuck out this room if you don’t share that thing you’re eating with me, I don’t care if I don’t know what it is.” Though I have been marginally wrong before on the meaning, I’m getting better.

So I prop open an eyelid at 3:21 am. Two clear, rough, whiney comments from the foot of the bed chime up at me and I know I’m hearing: “Yo, up and at ‘em my man or else you gonna be cleaning up some urine.”

Like a firefighter, I’m up, and with no less heroism, either. Missing a pee means taking part in activities of frustrating futility. First, you still have to take the dog out. But you’ve both missed the opportunity and now you just walk around the lawn, the dog sort of overjoyed but confused and me sort of confused and depressed.

Tonight, this morning, I groggily put on my sweats, my jacket, my crocs designated for walking around the minefield of our front lawn, I grab my equipment (bags, flashlight, two treats). I tuck the dog under my arm and we walk down the stairs. As we go, she licks my cheek, perhaps showing appreciation, more likely drawing off the night sweat that bedewed my cheek.  

Lots of things come up when you’re aiming a flashlight at a dog’s ass on a lawn at 4 am. Life decisions, the irony of status, the task, deeper implications of.

I never realized how much I was missing encouragement in my own bathroom experiences. I follow the dog and congratulate her each time she poops and pees. I wonder at the possible outcomes were I to be extended the same courtesy. Healthier. Happier.

We had started giving her a treat each time she peed, but she would look up at me with a quietly intense gaze every of the four magnanimous times she’d squat to pee as if saying: Where’s my treat, Bojumbo? I would gladly hand down a treat to her little lips, which she would take with slow reproachment. I’ve since stopped when realizing that every time she’d come up after peeing four times and unload a stream of urine onto our rug. We deduced that she’d figured out the code and would fake pee to get treats only to forget to actually pee. I was mildly annoyed by this, but not only would it be a boldfaced lie to claim that I wouldn’t do the same, I’m not altogether certain I never have.

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Hemingway: Birth of a Booze Lover

“Don’t bother with churches, government buildings or city squares. If you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars.” – Ernest Hemingway (informal travel advice)  

When he wasn’t on safari, catching a marlin, or leaving one wife to marry another one, that’s just where Ernest Hemingway was. Perhaps the only stories more famous than the ones Ernest Hemingway wrote are the ones about his drinking exploits. Hemingway drinking lore has him running up a tab of 51 martinis during the liberation of Paris, inventing the Bloody Mary, and measuring F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s evidently undersized…pen. But whether Hemingway drinking stories are apocryphal or not, he is synonymous with the drinking writer.

He was born into it. Over half of the American writers renowned for their drinking were born in the last fifteen years of the nineteenth century. One theory for why they were such drinkers is that they fought World War I, which pitted new weaponry, such as mortars, artillery, and Gatling guns against the slightly less effective method of walking slowly towards trenches with bayonets. In reaction to these horrors and inconceivable loss and waste, they felt lost and disillusioned and were so dubbed the Lost Generation. And in 1919, the Lost Generation needed a drink.

Hemingway among them, for a few reasons. While serving in the Red Cross Ambulance Corps on the Italian front, he was wounded by mortar fire. He recovered in a hospital where he fell in love with a nurse who tore out his heart, leaving an empty gap which Hemingway promptly filled with wine. Brokenhearted and most likely suffering from PTSD, he returned to America, where he drank and he fished and he drank. Then he moved to Paris, where he drank and he wrote and he drank. For Hemingway, moving to Paris and drinking there were acts of freedom and rebellion towards the mores of the U.S., a country which had sent him off to war and then would not let them have a drink to help him deal with it.

In Paris, Hemingway continued engaging in the two things he had a special talent for: drinking and writing. His tolerance was unmatched and he consumed large quantities of booze with little physical effect. He attributed this to a rigorous physical regimen of boxing, wilderness sports, and writing really mean things about his friends. By sheer physicality he remained healthy and by determination he was also productive. He drank constantly but refused to have a drink before he had reached his daily writing quota of 500 words, zero adverbs, and at least 3 friendships irreversibly damaged. If he was ever tempted to drink while writing he needed only visit his friend, the walking cautionary tale named F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald tried to inspire creativity and writing with alcohol, only to kill his creativity and writing with alcohol.  

Drinking, among other issues, caught up to Hemingway’s in the 1930s. For the first time, his drinking caused his work to suffer and his mental health to deteriorate. He was depressed, so he drank, which made him more depressed, so he drank more. Stabs at his manhood came in the memoir of a former ally (paybacks = a bitch) and what followed was the Hemingway many now think of – cartoonishly macho, drunken fights and wrestling matches, and spewing proclamations of his manly abilities to “outdrink, outwrite, and outfuck” anyone who isn’t Gertrude Stein.              

But more important than his own drinking is the deep reverence to alcohol and its rituals that permeate the fictional worlds that Hemingway created. Each book depicted a culture’s alcohol traditions and ceremonies surrounding it. In The Sun Also Rises, two men in Basque country are taught to drink wine from leather flagons like the locals. In Paris cafes they drink wine, champagne, and absinthe. In the Hotel Montoya in Pamplona, they drink rioja alta and fundador. In Islands in the Stream his characters in Cuba drink doble daiquiris. His characters drink what Hemingway drank, their livers become secondary characters, and they all follow the lesson Hemingway himself followed: “travel globally and drink locally.”           

Just as culturally significant to the cultural rituals in Hemingway’s fiction are the bars, which are treated as sacred places. The actions within a bar are purposeful, meaningful, and result in deep consequences. Confrontations are made, allegiances forged, critical decisions taken. Hemingway created a language for those who inhabited his bars. Unlike other writers who made the dialogue in bars raucous, vulgar, or chaotic, Hemingway’s characters spoke in a laconic and controlled way and thus existed in a secret community of drinkers who knew how to handle their alcohol. This was of utmost importance to Hemingway’s characters and clearly to Hemingway himself.

“I like to see a man drink. A man does not exist until he is drunk.” – Hem

Or, to paraphrase Descartes: “I drink, therefore I am.”

Let’s have a cocktail that would do old Hemingway proud. He drank everything put in front of him (or in front of the people to his left or right). But he especially liked to modify cocktails to his own specifications. He drank gin and tonics with a few drops of Angostura bitters (try this!) and on fishing excursions he modified a Tom Collins by omitting sugar and replacing the soda water with coconut water (dubbed the Maestro Collins). He loved Campari and the Americano, but with gin instead of sweet vermouth. We at Hammered History recommend his favorite drink from El Floridita Bar in Havana – The Doble Daiquiri (link is to the 1934 menu of El Floridita and apparently Hemingway usually went for daiquiri #3 and modified it as follows)   

The Doble daiquiri (ingredients)

–          4 ounces white rum (this is the double part, start your engines)

–          ¾ ounce fresh lime juice (half a lime)

–          ½ ounce fresh grapefruit juice

–          6 drops maraschino liqueur

–          Ice (shaved if possible, broken or small cubes if not)

–          Metal shaker  

–          A liver the size of Toronto

–          A designated driver, preferably a combat hardened ambulance driver

Instructions from Hemingway *

Chill a martini glass before you go to work making the drink. Next, reach into a bag of shaved ice or ice cubes and bring out a handful. It will be cool and your hand will be cold, but you will feel good because of the cold. Put the ice in a metal shaker. The ice will frost it. Measure two full jiggers full of good white rum and add it to the shaker. Squeeze one half of a lime into a jigger. When it is full and there and good, add the lime juice to the shaker. Fresh lime juice is best, but Rose’s is fair if you are in a combat zone or in a cave. Squeeze a quarter of a grapefruit into a jigger. When it is full and there and good, add the grapefruit juice. Taste it. If it lacks authority, add more rum. If it is too strong, add more rum. Like a man. The cool liquid will jewel the sweat on the shaker. Don’t add any damned sugar. Add 6 drops of maraschino liqueur into the shaker with an eye dropper or a spoon. Enclose the shaker with a rocks glass or a pint glass. Shake well. Pour it into the chilled martini glass. Drink 5 of these until you are true and real. If you don’t, add more run.              

* outright lie, instructions from me

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William III Wins the Battle of the Boyne and Gives the Protestants a Drink

The armies of James II and William III were squaring off across the River Boyne near Drogheda, Ireland. Roman Catholic James II was making a push to regain the throne, from which William had deposed him the year before. James’s 23,000-strong army was mostly made up of Irish Catholics, but he had several regiments of French soldiers, as well as Scottish and English Jacobites. His soldiers were armed with outdated muskets and his Irish soldiers were mostly pressed into service and poorly trained; some were armed with scythes.   

But there was brandy. According to John Stevens, a soldier at the Boyne, there was perhaps too much brandy. It was meant to calm the nerves of the untested men, but was so effective that more than 1,000 of them passed out drunk in the fields.    

On the other side, Protestant William III (William of Orange) had 36,000 troops, half of which were British, the rest were made up of soldiers from Denmark, the Netherlands, and France. They were better trained and equipped with more modern weapons. We don’t know if William’s soldiers were drinking, but they won. (Irish Catholics never win.) In the aftermath, James II ran off to France, where he would spend the rest of his life presumably eating cheese and bitching about French employment laws. His flight earned him the nickname within Ireland of Séamus a’ chaca (James the Shit), so we probably wasn’t in a rush to put that on a customs card anyway.   

Though not a decisive win, William’s victory had important implications. William was fighting to keep Protestant control over Ireland and to forestall future Jacobite (et al) attempts to restore James to the throne. James II had put forth the Declaration of Indulgence, granting freedom of religion for all of Ireland – which just about everyone saw as a sneaky way to reestablish Catholic rule. Victory at the Boyne helped William establish Protestantism in Ireland because his supporters were both Protestants and zealots. They were victorious, they needed a drink, and that drink need to be “Protestant.” But what?

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The Explorer Drinker’s Club

One of the downsides of a global pandemic is what it did to my pub intake. Say what you will, but there’s nothing like a good pub. Even if you’re one of those sociopaths who drinks tea at one, a good pub is warm, inviting, and makes you relax. And COVID took that away.

Because of this I was forced to drink at home, which is just not as fun as drinking in a place where you get to pay people to bring you alcohol while you judge others for getting drunk so early in the day. I made it a habit of swinging by our local pubs once a week to get beer from the tap. But it’s not the same.

Good news was heralded with the vaccination numbers, the low numbers of infections, and the reawakening of the city’s pubs. But as I am not yet fully vaccinated, I didn’t want to go inside and I didn’t want to sit within big groups of drinkers. I yearned for a pub, but one in which I could sit outside and not near anyone else. I now consider everyone diseased and riddled with the pox. And I don’t think this makes me a bad person at all.

I enlisted Burke in my quest for such a pub. As she is also interested in getting tipsy in the waited-on great outdoors, she was in.

The first place we found was in the shadow the Ferdinand I’s summer palace. Its foundations were laid in 1555 by his son (the predictably-named Ferdinand II). The park which I walk in almost every day was a game reserve also established by Ferdinand I.

By game reserve, we are referring to a fenced-in hunting ground stocked with various exotic animals. These included antelopes, gazelles, camels, a plethora of exotic birds, some cheetahs and a great ape. These animals were locked in with slate fencing, unlike the large walls that are there these days and which frankly seem a hell of a lot better suited to keeping in cheetahs and orangutans. These animals apparently thought so too, as they occasionally escaped and caused what must have been considerable ruckus in Prague 6 environs. Though one has immense joy imagining a 16th century Prague 6 farmer try to scare a cheetah away from his radishes while wondering just what in the hell the neighbors were feeding their house cats.   

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On March 17, 1766, New York has its first Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.

At dawn in New York city on March 17, 1766, a group of Irish soldiers serving in the British Army marched and paraded with fifes and drums. Records suggest they were heading to the Crown and Thistle Inn on Whitehall Street, others that they blew into bagpipes. There are no records about the reaction of the locals to bagpipes at 5 am, but it was no doubt colorful. The revelers breakfasted and then “spent a joyous tho’ orderly evening at the house of Mr. Bardin in this city.” They gave speeches and offered toasts to various entities, including “the glorious memory of King William,” “the memory of the late Duke of Cumberland,” and “the Protestant Interest.” Their last two (19 & 20) toasts were “May the enemies of Ireland never eat the Bread not drink the Whiskey of it, but be tormented with itching without the benefit of scratching” and to “our Noble Selves.”   

This was fitting, as their noble selves had just put on the first Saint Patrick’s Day parade in New York City. It’s also probably the first time an angry New Yorker shouted “stick yon bagpipe up thine ass!” at Saint Patrick’s Day partiers. This celebration is nowhere near the first celebration for Saint Patrick in North America. A Saint Patrick’s Day celebration took place in St. Augustine, Florida in 1601. Probably marking the first time an Irish festival was celebrated while dodging alligators. There were celebrations in Boston in 1737, in New York in 1762, and at Fort William Henry in 1757. In 1778, George Washington, honorary member of the Friendly Sons of Patrick, issued an extra grog on Match 17 for his soldiers. In 1768, African slaves on the island of Montserrat planned an uprising on March 17, because they knew their Irish overseers would be drunk. The Irish got wise to the uprising and squashed it…and then got really drunk. The 1766 New York parade is arguably the beginning of Saint Patrick’s Day as a day of tipsy revelry, which primarily took place in Colonial America.

If you’ve never perused one of the 14,000 articles that come out about him between March 15th and March 17th every year, Saint Patrick is a fifth-century Anglo-Irish saint who is surrounded by myth. He rid Ireland of snakes, a feat made more impressive by the fact that no snakes existed there. I could be heralded for ridding the Czech Republic of tarantulas, but I don’t think I’d get a Saint Day. Saint Patrick is said to have brought Catholicism to Ireland and likened the triumvirate of the Catholic Church to the ubiquitous shamrock. There’s a pretty good chance he did neither, but evidently he had the same PR rep as a lot of Catholic saints. The real Patrick was born in Roman Britain and was kidnapped by Irish pirates. He spent six years as a slave in Ireland, where he spent much of his time looking after animals (not snakes). He eventually escaped back to Britain, but after he became a cleric he headed back to Ireland and became a bishop. By the seventh century he was the Patron Saint of Ireland.

Like many religious festivities that turned into booze fests (hello, Mardi Gras), Saint Patrick’s Day started out as a pious event. Pubs were closed in Ireland on Saint Patrick’s Day until the 1970s. In 18th century Canada, the celebrations were temperate, pious, and probably very cold. Even in early America, the celebrations differed greatly between the two religious groups of Irish Americans. The Protestant celebrations were evidently formal, elite, and rife with speeches. In the afternoon, celebrants would go to mass and think about Saint Patrick. And as much fun as it is to think about a saint, America’s Irish Catholics had a different celebration in mind.  

Catholic St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were typically more working class and public, and they involved alcohol, green, and shamrocks. This seems to have carried over from traditions within Ireland that had been celebrated for at least a century. When Englishman Thomas Dineley travelled the island in 1681, he noted the three tenets of a Saint Patrick’s Day celebration were alcohol, wearing a green ribbon, and wearing shamrocks. They “drowned the shamrock” by placing the shamrock worn on their lapel in their beer, whiskey, or punch. St. Patrick’s Day would become a more festive occasion in America when it became considered a “day off” in the middle of Lent. Self-bans on alcohol and meat were encouraged to be lifted and Irish Catholics in America took advantage. This festive St. Patrick’s Day was propelled forward in America by heavy Irish Catholic migration and the rise of Independence movements and Irish patriotism societies. This took a step away from the Protestant celebrations in the mid-1700s and by the 19th century, the Catholic ones had all but taken over. In a word, for probably the first and last time in history, the Catholics were the fun ones.  

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Tis the Season for Bad TV

Photo Very Courtesy of Hallmark

For some reason, my tolerance for a movie’s quality goes up about 40 points if it features an evergreen conifer or a wreath. Nevertheless, Christmas movies are a good way to have little blasts of Christmas without all the additional weight gain. While we usually save the big guns for just before or on Christmas (looking at you, Clark), here are some we have watched that will bring the ho ho to your ho.

Office Christmas Party

Watch it. Without your kids. This is a surprisingly funny movie with snappy dialogue, a clear goal, and enough nudity to thrill you while not making you feel guilty. TJ Miller tries to jump a bridge in a Prius, Jason Bateman fellates eggnog out of a statue’s willy, and Kate McKinnon farts herself nervous. Just like any great comedy, the story builds into a crescendo and ends crazy into an appropriate Christmassy(ish) finish. For eighteen-year-olds. It had never occurred to me how lacking Christmas movies were in psychopathic hookers and eggnog blowjobs.  

A Bad Moms Christmas

I know, I know. I made the same face you’re making now when A Bad Moms Christmas was suggested last Saturday as our evening entertainment. But this movie is not bad. In fact, it’s pretty funny. Three moms have bad moms and those moms come to visit at Christmas. Hence – bad moms. If nothing else, it’s a great way to enjoy schadenfreude at the expense of someone else’s insane family over the Christmas holidays. Again, a bit off the wall and raunchy (sensing a theme here?) but still delivering a good theme and even a few little tearjerker moments. Also, who can miss with Susan Sarandon and strippers?

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How to Party like a President

Abe, just before the Gettysburg F****ng Address

At around 6 p.m. on November 7th, we in Prague, along with the entire world, were informed that Joe Biden had beaten Donald Trump for the presidency. The world reacted with an ecstatic joy that probably matched that of VE Day. Church bells were rung in Paris, global leaders were quick to offer endorphin-packed congrats to Biden and Harris, and people danced and celebrated in the streets of cities all over the world. Now, I’ve been very clear about my dislike of Donald Trump, who I have seen since 2015 as a hypocrite, a coward, and a bully, but 95% of the civilized world celebrating your termination cannot feel good.

Trump’s response to the loss is both true to form and seemingly an agonizing farewell, meant to give about 76 million of We the People one last acrid taste of the awful daily circus that he has subjected us to for the last four years. I am no political pundit, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for analysis on what Trump’s goal is. Though it seems pretty clear to anyone with a working machine between their ears that since he’s been moaning about a rigged election with no evidence since polls suggested he might lose, maybe the pettiest and most psychologically disturbed president in the history of North America is just trying to soothe his own bruised ego.

Who knows?

What I do know is that America needs a drink. And, like, now. And if you’re going to have a drink, you might as well have one that gives a nod to history in some way. So, the question is, what to drink to celebrate Trump’s loss and to steel us against the coming weeks of what is sure to be the political equivalent of breaking up with a coked up honey badger with a leg caught in a trap? Let’s see.

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My Vote is with Mr. Rogers

MR. ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD, (AKA MISTEROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD), FRED ROGERS, (CA. 1970S), 1968-2001

Imagine you are in a Starbucks or wherever your brain brings you when you imagine picking up a coffee and a cake. Now imagine two men (or women, up to you) are in line in front of you. Guy the First speaks politely to the barista. He orders his coffee, waits, and gets his coffee. When it’s clear the barista has forgotten to include a lid, he asks her for one, dismisses her apology with a light-hearted joke about his own forgetfulness, thanks the barista, and goes on his way. Guy the Second is the opposite. He snaps his order to the barista, orders her around as if is something less demanding of human decency, and calls her a fucking moron for not including a lid. Instead of thanking her, he harshly berates her for ruining the rest of his day because of her gaff. And then he goes his way with a whistle.

I don’t think I have to go into the question of which of those two men you’d feel more comfortable or happy with and which you’d feel aggressively unpleasant towards and maybe be kind of embarrassed for. If you were the person standing behind these two men, you probably wouldn’t concern yourself with the first person at all. Your life would go on and so would his. The second guy would be different. You might think for a while – what the hell is wrong with that guy?

Last week Donald Trump took two stabs at Joe Biden. The first was that Biden would make the apparently embarrassing mistake of believing scientists. A good deal of American voters couldn’t quite figure out what the jab was and we looked around at each other with narrowed, confused eyes saying “I don’t get it. What was the jab?” Trump might as well have said “I’ve heard that Biden is just unbelievably good in bed” or “This Biden character pays all his bills on time and works out five times a week.”

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The Second War of the Flies

In the morning I go to the kitchen and I smile. I’m at the age that a clean kitchen in the morning makes me happy. Since I spend my early mornings there working, it makes me extra happy. N between these times, I often wonder what disappointment my twenty-year-old self would regard me with.

The table is clean. The counter is clean. I rub my finger along the stainless-steel stovetop and find embarrassing happiness at the cleanly squeak it makes. I click the coffee maker. It’s when I turn on the tap that something disconcerting happens.

Something takes off. From the sink. Correction: somethings.

Fruit flies.

I’ve dealt with these guys before.

It was 2016 when I first dealt with fruit flies. Not really, but 2016 was the first time I cared that I had fruit flies. In the two decades before that, I acknowledged fruit flies as annoying little roommates that moved in during the summer and died in the fall. They didn’t pay rent and they only ate stuff off the counter, but I didn’t like them. They were flying around like shrapnel. Also they were judgmental. The way they flew around and made jokes about my cleaning ability in the voice of the third-grade nun.

In 2016 I waged a war of cleaning products and internet hacks.

I begin a similar campaign in 2020.

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The Corona Hours

Here in the Czech Republic, we’ve been under self-isolation rules for about 20 days. For some that’s not a big deal, for some it’s a nightmare. For me, well, I spend a pretty good amount of time trying to figure out how I feel and washing my hands.

I try to structure my days more or less in line with my normal life. I get up early, make coffee, and fend off the advances of my cat who has spent the night locked out of the bedroom and is thus recovering from the trauma of not being able to get her rectum as close to my face as possible. Pretty normal.

Things can be normal still when I sit at Mission Control (my desk), check my MITs list (most important tasks), and get started with my morning of work. When I am working on coursebook materials, an article, or fiction, I can mostly escape into those places and leave the stresses of the world behind, whether it’s a Corona World or not. I also find that when I am in the kitchen cooking and watching a show or listening to a podcast then I am also able to block out current stresses.

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