Archive for January, 2022

The Ad Campaign that Birthed the Brandy Alexander (or Brandy’s Dad, anyway)

Late January seems to be a dead zone of (interesting) alcohol-related history. So it was with relief that I found that today (January 31) is Brandy Alexander Day. If you haven’t run across the Brandy Alexander, then you should. With brandy, crème de cacao, cream, and ground nutmeg, it’s like a milkshake that makes you forget math. It’s the favorite drink of two Anglophone heroes – Mary Tyler Moore and John Lennon (who called it “the milkshake”). No wonder the Brandy Alexander gets its own day.  

But there doesn’t seem to be any reason why that day is January 31. One article suggested that the cocktail was invented in 1922 to celebrate the wedding of Princess Mary and Henry George Charles Lascelles, but that wedding took place on February 28. January 30, 1969 is the anniversary of The Beatles’ last appearance as a group and their famous rooftop concert. So, maybe drinking a Brandy Alexander on January 31 while listening to Yesterday might set you right. But Yesterday was written by Paul, and his favorite drink is marijuana. The origins of this cocktail is so hearsay and multi-claimed that my research proved fruitless. In the depths of despair I came across Brandy Alexander’s dad – the Alexander. While the Alexander’s origins aren’t 100% certain, it’s story is interesting. So we turn to the obvious – trains.

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How to Know You’re about to Die in a British Mystery

If the guy on the right thinks he’s in love with you, run!

Anyone who likes mysteries understands the joy that only comes from seeing one British person murdering another British person. In America, you’re going to die if you’re in the same room as the guy with the gun, so if you can just avoid him (i.e. all of them), then you’re theoretically good. But in Britain, where this convenient tool for murder is nonexistent (because they are all in America), they have to be a bit more imaginative.

And let’s just say you end up in Britain, and worse still, a British mystery, how do you know how to avoid being murdered? The sad fact is, when you realize you are going to die in a British mystery, it’s too late. You’re dead. And you will be found the following day by Inspector Morse, Lewis, Poirot, Foyle, Barnaby, or a Polish maid. So, just in case you end up in a British mystery, here’s how to know if you’re about to die.

You are the primary suspect for the first murder

If you are an unlikable person with a motive in a British mystery, sorry but forget it. You’re so dead that any mystery watchers knew you were dead when you became the primary suspect. If it makes you feel any better, everyone will feel bad that they suspected you of being the murderer. For a while.

You’re alone and have a conversation with a person we can’t see

If you say something like: “Hey, it’s you! Oh I was worried!” You have about 9 seconds to live. There’s a great chance that the next (and last) phrase out of your mouth will be something panicked like: “Hey, what are you doing?” Then you’re dead. You should have just sprinted away through those woods.

You know who the murderer is and you’re about to tell the police

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Runner’s High

There is a duality that goes with getting exercise accessories for Christmas. On the one hand – neato, accessory! On the other – ah man I gotta work out to use this. For Christmas I received the JLAB sport earbuds and it was this accessory that quelled my sad cries while dressing to run.

Running in the winter is sort of like dressing up like a tank for Halloween. I put on my sweats and my unfortunately matching vest. The vest is a necessity for warmth and for holding my phone through which I listen to my groovy tunes that help me chug along and stifle the sounds of my own implorations for a quicker death. Today I put the earbuds in and am immediately informed by a woman’s voice that my earbuds are waiting to be synched.

I set on my Bluetooth and the woman informs me that the earbuds have synched. The woman’s voice is digital but alluring in a way that brings back oddly stirring memories of the Jetson’s maid. I put on my Spotify playlist and begin my run.

It’s amazing to me the possibilities that technology has wrought upon on. When I started teaching, I would carry a pile of papers into class and a CD player for listening activities. Now, everything I need for class fits on a flash drive the size of my thumbnail. My phone is a bankcard, a camera, an information portal, and a place to put my drink.

While I am running, the earbuds make every song so clear that I can hear the musicians’ heroin dealers show up to the studio. I chug along slowly, urged along by Bob Dylan and Otis Redding. Despite the fact that I am running and trying not to die, I am as relaxed as I can be. But then I scratch my ear.

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The Drinker’s Dictionary

When Benjamin Franklin arrived in Philadelphia from Boston, he was warned off of going to a tavern called “The Three Mariners.” Told it attracted a bad element, he was instead told of a place called “The Crooked Billet” which was far more reputable. It seems that Philly already had a bad reputation for ruffianism.

One of these people who warned him might have given him the hint: go away from the water. As taverns started popping up around the new colonies in America, they started at the water. This makes sense. Sailors and merchants coming from sea would want to wet their whistle and catch syphilis from a prostitute before heading back out to sea. And what better place to do those things than in a tavern. The further away from the water a tavern was, the more reputable the establishment and its clientele.  

About 38 years before people were telling Franklin to stay away from coastal pubs, William Penn was consternated with the rowdy elements drawn to the taverns in the caves along the Delaware River. As most Philadelphia area residents know, not much has changed.

In the mid-1700s the Brits were noting the difference between beer drinkers and gin drinkers. As have drinkers for the last three hundred years. In 1751 in England, artist and social critic William Hogarth painted Gin Lane and Beer Street to point out the difference between the two lifestyles. Beer Street is full of mellow people admiring art, looking for a chip shop, perhaps a bit gassy, but otherwise just enjoying their day without ruining their lives and society. Gin Lane is rife with negligent parents, decay, suicide, wasted waifs of alcoholism, and what look to be some Disney characters.

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An Antigen Test Family Christmas

Twas the early afternoon before the night before the day or two before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring except for five frantic Galeones who’d just found out there had been positive COVID exposure.

It seems that the youngest Galeone, a one and a half year old who has a predilection for launching food items across any room she inhabits, had been in contact with another such aged chap who had the plague. Fortunately, that boy was neither bothered by nor understood that he was carrying the plague, but nonetheless, all adults were stressed. It seemed, sadly, that Christmas might actually be ruined.

I don’t have to tell you about traveling in the time of COVID. Even with vaccines and masks and tests, the best laid plans can be thwarted by the terms “exposure” or “positive” or “omicrom,” “delta” or just plain ole “COVID.” My trip to the U.S. involved 20 hours of sweating in an itchy mask and popping out to eat food and guzzle wine like I’d imagine a trapdoor spider would if he visited relatives in Philadelphia and enjoyed a merlot with his airline chicken pot pie. But it was all worth it.

Like many, COVID has thrown off my life in a variety of ways. They’re probably the same for you: less travel, more worry, far less doorknob licking than I am used to enjoying. For many, myself included, there has been a huge slash in face-to-face time with friends and family. For me, this is difficult. I live far from my family, but we have two prescribed visits each year – at Christmas and in July – that refill my familial saddlebags.

In those times I am reminded of why I love those people more than any other people on earth and am equally amazed at how after spending a half hour with them that I am somehow not in jail for third degree murder. This is the duality known as “the family paradox.”

When I stepped into the arrival hall at Philadelphia International Airport on the Friday night a week before Christmas, I could not have been happier. My brother was in the hall, my travel was almost done, my mask was peeled away from my beard the second I stepped out of the airport. We zoomed towards home with the knowledge that cheesesteaks were awaiting us. There was talk of Christmas Eve fare – the ever present meatballs, ziti, sausage, eggplant parmesan, and dueling lasagnas (the result of a bet between my brother and our Uncle Dan). Joy was afoot.

For most of the week I lived in utter joy. I was home for the holidays. I visited the mall Barnes and Noble, where I got a coffee and browsed books. I mourned the ghost town look of the mall in which I had gotten little tastes of freedom throughout my young life. Across from the food court, next to the Bath and Body Works and nearby a calendar shop I got my booster shot with my sister. We ate, we chatted, I watched football with my dad and cooked with my mom.

But then on the 22nd the text came from my sister’s quarters in the attic: bad news, baby has been exposed. Mayhem. We drew a cross in lamb’s blood (OK, red crayon, but the symbolism was heavy man) on the attic door (where, by the way, she lives willingly watching Blacklist and Cocomelon). Could Christmas be ruined? No. There were meatballs at stake. Something must be done.

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