Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Ladies and gentlemen, my parents, Carlotta and Dave. The photo was taken on New Year's Eve, 1970. Which means my mom is three month's pregnant with me and clearly having what they call a "European Pregnancy." Yes, it does look like she's wearing curlers, but alas, that is the mod chandelier they used to have in the background. This might be my favorite picture of them ever.

I'm really not that much of a Sum Up kinda gal. Here we are at the end of a decade again. And everyone is making their useless pop culture Top 10 lists. Top 10 Albums, Top 10 Movies, Top 10 News Events (which now morphs into reality stardom when at the start of the 2000s it was still actual news, remember our collective naivte?), Top 10 Movies, Top 10 Reasons to Make a Top 10 List...

Of course, a lot happened in the world around me that had a big impact. But I'm sharing my personal history here.

The dawn of the millennium was the twilight of my marriage. The fall of the Towers also coincided with the death of a beloved grandmother, only a year after the first one died. The ownership of an apartment was the money pit of despair. The season of hope and change brought unemployment and emotionally complicated health problems.

But there is the good stuff. I found Bruce Lee Kitty the very same day my husband and I began to call it quits. I got dumped the same night I met the person who became my best friend (OK, he also dumped me once, but the kids are alright now). I learned new skills with even better ones to follow (I can only hope that with rejection comes reward with perseverance). Those health problems are going to be the subject of a damn good article, maybe even a book someday.

So sure, after the year 2000, Radiohead's Kid A still holds up while All That You Can't Leave Behind by U2 left the joke in the title. But what I really learned the past ten years is:

1) stop with the drama
2) start with the fun
3) learn from mistakes while leaving past behind
4) when it's cold, wear a hat
5) listen to the signs telling me I need a break
6) never stop learning
7) prevail
8) no hair product truly seals out humidity
9) that last drink is probably a bad idea
10) (but not least) my friends are awesome

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Van Winkle Miracle Snow Story

I sort of have a guest blogger today. With permission, a friend of mine, who requested I withhold his name, has allowed me to post the note I received from him following the big blizzard. There had been an intimate gathering at the home of friends in the Village, and we all departed relatively early (after copious amounts of awesome Chinese takeout, wine, champagne, Waterfront Alehouse Sam's eggnog and whisky) to make it home in the snow. My F train ride was somewhat eventful, diving through snowdrifts on the walk home and clawing my way up my stoop to get into my building. But the following story about my friend's journey home in Westchester is epic. And an impressive recounting considering my friend's state when he was writing it on most of a bottle of Van Winkle 12 Yr, hours after that big boozy dinner. Enjoy.

P.S. He's way too old to play my friend by decades, but I somehow picture Steve Martin in the movie version.

Little after 2. Just got in. Had a bit of an adventure getting here. The train doors didn't open at my stop. Stood there pounding on the glass, pushing the emergency call button, watching my snow covered car getting smaller as the train carried on to the next station. Went back through four or five cars to finally find a conductor who was no help at all and by that time we were at the next station about six miles from my car and home. No trains going back the other way until morning, no cabs in the blizzardy soup and no kind fellow travelers to bum a ride from. So I walked down the middle of the main road in a rather grim parody of Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey on my slow, cold way to Bedford Hills, not Bedford Falls.

         Whiteout conditions up here, I walked a ways, trying to flag down the occasional plow or sander going past to no avail. Got about halfway and wondered if I shouldn't just sit down in the snow and crack open the Van Winkle. Then decided I could walk and drink at the same time. When I was about a mile away from the station, about five miles and a good four fingers of fine Bourbon down, one of the big department of transportation plows pulled over and took pity on me. I explained the situation and climbed aboard, saving myself a little walking. To his credit, the driver refused the drink I offered him and wouldn't take a dime, but dropped me off next to my car. Then I just had to slip and slide in low gear up the lousy hills of Bedford frickenfracken Hills. And here I sit, pouring some more fine Bourbon into a little tumbler of Lactaid eggnog and typing out this long stupid note to you all. Which has oddly enough made me feel much better. That and the fact that "Mansquito" is on the SciFi channel in the background... truly awful in a so awful it's good way.

           Thanks to you all for the presents and booze and company tonight. It's good to have good friends, and after my lovely trip home I'm more determined than ever to move closer to the lot of you. Happy Holidays and safe travels to those traveling! Right. Shoveling snow and then bed. Joy.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Good Grief

So guess what?

I got a job!!!

Patrick Watson of Smith and Vine, Stinky and Jakewalk, businesses I have been a huge fan and patron of since they started five years ago, offered me a job at the brand new Brooklyn Wine Exchange next to Trader Joes on Court St.! The plan was to help them set up, then holiday sales, then eventually become a manager or some sort of buyer once the dust settles. My starting hourly wage was the highest on offer, and everyone was "so excited" to have me on board!

So I spent three and a half days schlepping hundreds of cases of wine up and down steep, scary basement stairs, carefully placing bottles on the shelves according to varietal and region, helping to make shelf talkers, etc. then three more days getting their sales going. All the while tired and sore, but also "so excited" and hopeful. Finally. A wine job for cool people who don't yell at me constantly or sell crap to please the common denominator, five blocks from my house, and some of my very favorite off the beaten path wines to turn people on to. So what if my social life would suffer. So they didn't have a spirits license yet. All in due time. I can be a great wine bitch when it's needed. I am all up in that.

And then guess what?

Patrick informs me that evenings are too quiet. Too many staff on the floor. Not enough to do yet. My hourly wage is too high to maintain. Myself and another staffer had to go. Yes, I was good at what I did and well informed. Yes, I demonstrated sales ability. But they just couldn't afford me. And that was it. Come get your step stool and cash for your last shift. We'll give you a stunning recommendation if you reference us.


Now Elizabeth Kubler-Ross has her classic grief cycle,  but mine kinda goes something like this:
1. Shock
2. Anger
3. Extreme Anger
4. So Angry I Can't Even Scream or Cry
5. Wait I Can Cry Now But There Is Nothing To Throw Without Pissing Off The Neighbors
     a)Screw the Neighbors and Their Newborn, I Have Old Plates I Can Throw!!!
     b)No I Can't Do That
     c)Well, Maybe
     d)OK, No
6. Acceptance (That I Need To Dispose Of Said Plates In an Open Field)
8. Run Errands
9. Pick Up Step Stool and Cash Without Letting Now Former Boss Say Anything Further
10.Tell Parents
      a)Explain Once Again How Call Waiting Works
      b)Explain Once Again DVR Programming Functions
      c)Turn Down Offer To See Broadway Musical
      d)Make Dinner Plans For Random Event 2 Weeks From Now
          1. Look, When Your Cousin's In Town, Where Should We Go For Lunch? 
Cry Again
Order Chinese Food

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Very Schuster Thanksgiving Special

(Sorry no photos, folks. When I get the scanner. I'll add Dave and Carlotta to the top of the post). 

I remember few Thanksgivings prior to 1989, and no, it's not the whisky. It's just that is the year that what has become our annual tradition truly took shape. It was my freshman term at NYU and it snowed. My two best pals, Allan (my future ex-husband) and Jason (my then pseudo boyfriend and now brother-once-removed) made the trek out to CT, where my family lived at the time. Our good friends Chris and John, as well as a couple of my father's graduate students (my dad is a chemistry professor) who had arrived earlier in the day also joined us, as did family friends Paul and Nesren Salkin and their son David, who is my age. Grandma Nina lived with us; Grandma Cele drove out from Long Island. I picked Allan, Jason, Chris and John up at the train station. They had all somehow met and sat together on the huge train, not realizing till halfway through the trip they were going to the same place, and were already joking together like they'd known each other forever. When we arrived at the house, ascending our long winding driveway, the lawn, the trees, the roof, the glow of the interior, were an idyllic New England early winter wonderland setting. Everyone caught their breath at the same moment.

Which is good, because my dad decided to greet everyone at the door by shoving our 18 year old, long, gray-haired cat, Mabel, belly-up in their faces. "Look. Smell her. Smell my cat. Doesn't she smell like talcum powder? Doesn't she smell like a baby?" WHAT? I was mortified. But just as I contemplated running for the hills, Jason nearly fell over laughing. "Smell my cat! Doesn't she smell like a baby, like talcum powder?" my dad repeated to everyone over and over, thrusting all six pounds of poor defenseless Mabel right under people's noses. My dad's student George said, "Dave. Only you would greet Amanda's new boyfriend at the door asking him to smell your pussy." And thus, 20 years later, Jason's love of my family is entrenched.

Then the meal, Mom's chestnut soup, the family recipe turkey, corn pudding and all the sides, my pumpkin pie with pecan brittle, everything all came together. Paul was horribly allergic to cats and asked that Mabel be kept out of the dining room while we ate. "Has the cat been removed?" He asked in a oddly James Bond villain manner. Throughout the evening we kept erupting in waves of laughter at any little thing, especially when my mother slapped her shoulder, which she does any time someone says something peculiar. Like, say, "My cat smells like talcum powder." The grandmothers just shook their heads and chuckled as they held court on their end. Our fun lasted well into the night when Chris sat at the piano (at the time he was the saloon talent at Windows on the World) and the boys and I stood around and sang Monty Python's "Lumber Jack Song." Then we went outside and made snow angels on the lawn and got into a snow ball fight. The next morning, Jason and Allan, who slept on the foldout couch in the office, were greeted by my dad knocking on the door, "Rise and shine, boys." And Allan let out a very audible fart on cue. 10 year relationship, people.

In years to come, we repeated various elements of that night. It was a revolving group of students, but Allan (now my boyfriend, still my future ex-husband), Jason (it would never have worked), Chris and John had become our regular crew. The cat was dead, but the Salkins decided to do things at home from then on. For some reason, for three consecutive years, we kept having little natural catastrophes that would always occur On. That. Day. One year the Koehler faucet in the kitchen broke and my mother declared a "state of E-German-cy" when we had to keep washing and schlepping everything to and from the downstairs utility sink. Another year my dad made a fire and forgot to open the flue, so the house filled with smoke. Jason said it gave the term "flame retardant" a whole new meaning. (Double shoulder slap). Each house in that town had its own well which was electrically pumped. Wouldn't ya know it, the next year, the pump went on the fritz and there was absolutely no running water for 3 days. We managed anyway, using a lot of jugged water and flushing toilets with pool water. No one stayed over.

While dinner was cooking, we would sit around the large living room by the fire (it was only that one time), drinking cocktails and grazing on snacks. We used to play games like "Dictionary" where we agree on a word no one knows and come up with our own definitions. My favorite was John's for "repoussage," which is of course what happens when someone is assaulted using a jar of French mustard.

My grandmothers both died within a few months of each other, between 2000 and 2001, which was also the year my marriage to Allan finally choked on its own vomit. But we managed to get the rest of the group together, plus a new cat. My dad provided the running gag of the evening as he tried to work out his new digital meat thermometer that kept chiming even though the turkey wasn't close to being done. And luckily for Bruce the cat, he doesn't smell anything like talcum powder. Though it was hard for me to ignore two of those empty places. A toast to you two great dames.

My parents finally sold the house in 2005 and permanently moved to a duplex in Manhattan. The first couple of years in that apartment, they had Korean neighbors who occupied the top two floors. My folks kept complaining that the doorbell would ring at all hours. In 2007, our friend Malvina said this van drove up to the apartment as she was leaving. She heard someone say, "Yep, this is the place," and then drove off. By Christmas Eve, the neighbors were all arrested in a prostitution bust. Yep, happy ending massage parlor right above my parents! When my dad greeted me at the door the next day, oh, how I wish I'd had a camera. The ideal Kodak moment, police tape emblazoned with "PROSTITUTION" covering the door leading upstairs. Their landlord was cleaning out the place. By Christmas night's end, the sidewalk was strewn with used mattresses, satin sheets and a lot of clocks.

This year it's nearly a whole new crew. John still joins us, but Chris has to go to Maryland to be with his ailing mother. Jason is spending the holiday with work friends but has already checked in. Malvina, a wonderful lady who gave up a cushy career to become a Bronx public school history teacher will be there. The new upstairs neighbors, Padma and Oskar, who are my age, (They're bankers. For real. Nary a satin sheet up there as far as we know) will be coming downstairs for the festivities. Over the years we got another John, my now ex-boyfriend. So we have gay John and English John. And get this, English John's other ex-girlfriend, Anastasia (we bonded) will be here visiting from Seattle, and her lovely 22 year old daughter Liza visiting from Moscow, and her friend Vanessa (no idea where she comes from) will all be present. English John has to work at the Harefield Road in Williamsburg and will be missed. Yes if I could, I'd draw you all a chart.

What am I thankful for this year? Well, it definitely was one of the worst ones of my life, have to say. But there is no way I'd come out of it OK without my crazy parents and all the love, support and patience they have shown me and the people around me. No way. No way at all.

Thursday, November 12, 2009



Just as Thanksgiving comes upon us every fourth Thursday of November, WhiskyFest, the triathlon of booze trade shows, open to both the trade and public, is the first Tuesday. I apologize in advance for lack of other images, as I was a tad, busy, as you will read.

Getting a ticket this year was a real nail-biter, seeing as my liquor peeps don't have as much to gain by my attendance as in years past when I was a spirits buyer. But one did thankfully come through, perhaps mostly due to my Patron Saint of Brown Spirits. Unfortunately, this was not a VIP ticket, which meant losing out on the first hour of the event, when all the high end drams are available to taste. The anchor was cast with my friends Stephanie and Leo at P.J. Clarke's (my first trip there, and I WILL be back!) for steak and fries right before the event. But once we arrived, I had to wave goodbye to my friends as I stood outside the ropes in the cattle pen, pathetically watching them enter the room like a Kindergartner abandoned by its parents on the first day. I vow next year to buy my own if no one gets me one in time.

I was furious to see that some people had gotten in at that time, only to take advantage of the outside bouffet table!! People, you could be tasting Trace Vintage Collection! Michter's 25 Year! Highland Park 30 Year! Dalmore King Alexander, Papy Van Winkle 23 Yr and countless other gems I am salivating to try and may not get to because they will be hidden from me in an hour. But no, you eat. Way to live up stereotype. You know who you are.

But my time finally did come. Registration. Wrist band. Let the bulls run!

What to drink first? So much build up, so much expectation. I was immediately greeted by my pal Dan Fisher, who had just purchased a VIP dram of Highland Park 1964 and was generous enough to offer a sip. A beautiful way to start. My favorite scotch flavors: a little briny, sea-salty, kelpy, then dark chocolate and yeast. Chocolate covered pretzels with smoke. Love at first sip. Next, my new tasting buddy, Rob (via Twitterati) and I headed to the Heaven Hill table. Met the man, Parker Beam again, he seemed to remember me, unless he was just being polite, which I'll take. I shook his weathered hand and was given a glass of the new Parker's Heritage release. Sharp pie spices, brown sugar, tempered by nuts and sherry. Gets better by the year, I say. Rob had the Evan Williams 2000, which I decided was the dram of the night. Yeasty, a bit like a sweet mash, cinnamon buns, balanced by salt and leather. Mmmmm. We then met up with Stephanie and off to Wild Turkey! Managed to elbow our way in and try the last drops of Tradition, which was also glorious. Pecan brittle, but not too sweet or syrupy, heather and hay.

From there it starts to get fuzzy. I know we made it to Michter's, where my pal Kenny informed me he had been holding a taste of the 25 Yr for me, but couldn't find me and let it go!!! Quel disappointment! Yep, gotta be a VIP next year. The Dalmore table yielded a taste of the King Alexander from Jura distiller Willie Tait. Gloriously mellow, but flavorful, nutty and deep. The 15 Year was pretty awesome too. I could spot my friend Dave, an excited, curious first timer who bought his ticket early on my suggestion. He weaved toward me and said, "You didn't warn me about the pacing!" He luckily had a couple more tastes in him and I steered him toward Andrew Gray of Bruichladdich (pronounced "Brook-lahddy") to taste some of the new finishes, and made sure he went to Wild Turkey. A very quick visit to the Maker's table, with John Henry making cocktails. I got a Mark and Stormy. Nice idea. But I needed this like Liberace needs a sequin.

It was time for Pappy. Pappy, ohhhh, my Pappy! Hello to Julian and right to the 20 Year. But hold on, Dave from Buffalo Trace is here. Would I like to taste the Vintage Collection I missed during VIP hour? Does the Pope shit in the woods? Ok, give me your glass. With half a dram of Pappy 20 left in it. Dave dives under the table. I take a long sip, tip the glass over the bucket, closed my eyes and let go. The shame. Where did my life take a turn that I dump a precious Pappy 20 to taste something else? But my palate and what was left of my sobriety thanked me. Rare, wheated William La Rue Weller softly kissed my throat and hot, tangy Sazerac 18 Year rye jolted me back. Oh yes.

My favorite moment of the night, among many, I spot Macallan master distiller John Ramsey, whom I had just met for the first time the day before at a special tasting at Astor. Wave hello and he warmly greets me and says my name without anyone prompting him! 

The room is steaming, no air anywhere, but we keep going. A quick bite at the bouffet and suddenly it's 9:30. Last call! Scrambling for a final dram, I want to end on a high, sweet note. Highland Park is in its dregs and brand ambassador Martin is elsewhere. Glenrothes already packing up. Yamazaki too crowded. But score back at Heaven Hill! My own pour of Evan Williams 2000. As good as the beginning. A righteous way to end. A final gathering of various Twitter folks and friends. So good to meet you. So good to see you again. Lynnette with her Irish handcuffs, holding two early birthday drams in each fist. Most of us are surprisingly in command of our faculties. Maybe it was the steak. The descent down the escalator and in minutes Steph and I are back on the C train to Brooklyn. Another year gone by. My sticky souvenir glass for 2009 will be washed tomorrow, joining 2007 and 8 in my cabinet like long lost family. Thank you John Hansell and Malt Advocate for just being you.

Crap! Forgot to taste the Jefferson's Reserve!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Where the Month Went

I have been remiss.

Well, I have been busy.

Instead of my usual essay on a single topic, I present to you the entire month of October in a nutshell.

Patti Kelly's stained glass studio. I'm working here two days a week now. Patti is a friend of friends who has had her own studio in the East Village since the late 80s. She recently took on a big project to restore 20 windows for a church in New Jersey. "Restore" means that the windows from the 1960s, which were badly put together in the first place, need new support bars, new frames, new lead phlanges to hold the glass in, which involves soldering, some glass replacement and a lot of puttying and polishing. The windows come four to a box, which weigh upwards of 300lbs, and the windows themselves buckle and sway when they are handled and the glass makes scary, pingy-cracking sounds. Very nerve-wracking when that time comes, and it takes at least 3 of us to flip them over. When they are re-boxed, there's a lot of carpentry involved creating holes in the wood with power drills and saws so the boxes can be handled, and then drilling the pieces together. It's a lot of hard, physical labor and hours on the feet, (at the end of it and for days after my arms feel like dislocated noodles and the bottoms of my feet burn) but I'm loving it. My bod is getting buff too! Patti is very cool-headed and snarky, and our cast of team members - local artists and barflies - are so much fun to be around. Through them, I am learning all about the neighbors, the cops, the worst odd jobs ever, the best parts of human nature, how to swear in Italian and where to get the best sandwiches in Alphabet City. None of us on this church project is a believer. We are sooooo getting smote upside our heads! But if not, we are all planning a field trip to Jersey to see our hard work in place at the end of December. That's me with power tools working on the window boxes. Groovy! Fall colors unintentional, yet timely.

Food Writing class at Media Bistro taught by Andrea Strong. Though in the course of 8 weeks we are only responsible for two articles and two pitch letters, somehow, this seems to suck a lot of my concentration, but in a good way. There are ten of us, all girls (there used to be a boy, Peter, a chef, but he hasn't shown up the past two weeks. I think he felt overwhelmed by the estrogen-charged attention, poor guy). Usually in a class that size there is always "That Person" you don't like (you know the one). But I am happy to report we all really get along and genuinely enjoy hanging out. We read out writings out loud, but we also spend a lot of time just gabbing and giggling, as a group of gals with common interests will do. We are of diverse backgrounds, but we all love food. It is the ultimate bonding agent.  Andrea is super cool too. So glad I decided to do this. I'm learning a lot.

Last week I got to go to a taping of the Daily Show! If I was attracted to Jon Stewart before, I am now officially smitten. So worth standing out in the rain for. It was a total blast.

Tried out Henry Public. Met a cute guy. Who called me immediately and did a lot of enthusiastic texting. Then bailed out of our date when the weather was crappy and hasn't returned my subsequent texts. All I did was mention when I next had a free night, nothing beyond that, nothing stalker-iffic. Sigh. It was indeed too good to be true. But I still like the bar, the cocktails and look forward to tasting their turkey leg sandwich. Maybe he'll show up again. If my life had a soundtrack, this would have been "Da Doo Run Run" followed by the Smith's "Never Had No One Ever." Or maybe just the sound of the trumpet, "Wha Wha Whaaaaaaaa..."

Still looking for work. Joy. More too good to be true scenarios. What's that trumpet call again?

Revisited Saul with my parents and experienced wonderfully-prepared dishes and fantastic service. And ate my first baked Alaska in like 15 years! Hadn't been back there since my 29th birthday. I'm not doing the math for you.

And finally, my uncle, whom I love dearly, has been very sick. It's been an unsteady battle that experiences the occasional cease fire, but doesn't end. We have become close over the years and it's been pretty nerve-wracking. I can only hope this ends up OK.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Here's my only photo from the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. Blind tasting of 4 cognacs and armagnacs during a class moderated by Da Man of the Spirits Journal, F. Paul Paccult, with cocktails by Clover Club and Flat Iron Lounge's Julie Reiner and sexy spirit slinger Charlotte Voisey!

I need a new camera. The iPhone just isn't cutting it for these events and my 5 year old Nikon is too clunky to travel and has weird, useless settings. Now that my computer might have been saved, I think I need to invest in a Cannon Sureshot. Anyone know where this never-retail-paying Jew can get a good deal on one? Please comment and let me know.

Great weekend. Sarah, my close friend since we were 11, came to visit and participated in some of the MCC events with me. It was great to get an outsider's perspective about the industry and just wind her up and watch her go. She didn't know who any of these people were, or who represented what spirits or what the politics of the cocktail bars were about. For her, it was just delicious drinks. By Sunday afternoon she was getting her cocktails directly from Jim Meehan and Guiseppe Gonzalez at the bar, charming them with her high pitched giggle and enthusiasm, and just having a great time. As it should be.

I also got to meet some of you fellow Tweeters! May you lush long and prosper, great to put a face with a chirp, ladies. 

On Sunday, still buzzed from the afternoon, (I went to Wondrich's class on the History of the Cocktail in NYC and then stayed at the bar way too long), Sarah and I met our friend Jason at Po, stupidly drank a bottle of wine with our pastas and fish and went to Clover Club as the rest of the cocktailians attended the gala. I almost had free tickets, but alas.

So we drank at Clover and nearly spent as much on drinks as on a gala tickets. Brilliant. And let me tell you, if any of you catch me asking a bartender for "...the liquor equivalent of an amuse bouche... for the road..." Please make me go home. Please.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October, It's the Tenth Month!

Sorry posting has been so sporadic this month. Been lots going on.

I'm taking a food writing class at Media Bistro, taught by Andrea Strong, of the Strong Buzz. In it, we are writing two food articles and two pitch letters, in hopes that these actual articles will be published in actual publications! Seems like a good move in the right direction, yes? A lot of energy and time and been put into this so far, hence less writing on the side.

The other fun hilarious news is that my laptop has been acting up. It's a Mac iBook, three years old. And running great until I spilled water on it over the summer. Like half a glass. And here I am reacting, furiously trying to dry the keyboard and underneath, without thinking to maybe turn the MACHINE off so it doesn't fry. Then I watched in horror as the screen image literally just slid off and went black. I think there might have been a quick flash of two x's for eyes and a bottle of poison with a skull label, but not sure. Then, because clearly the women's daily multivitamin I've been taking was laced with a 500mg of Idiot and 750mg of Technological Helplessness supplements, I called Apple Care in a panic to see what could be done.

Big no no. Apparently, as nice as they are on the phone with the, "It's going to be OK. Let's just get you into an Apple Store and take a look. No really, you'll be fine." It's so not fine. As cute as they sound over the phone, with the flirting and the helpful calm assurances, once they know you've gotten your machine wet, basically, all your Apple Care is negated. In reality, the flirtatious geek on the other end is a vengeful enfant terrible who knows you need his expertise and gets paid to make you need it and that extra $200 (cost may vary) you spent useless. They wear headsets just so they have their hands free to rub them together premeditatively as they speak. Apple doesn't cover water now because all those people who bring their laptops to coffee shops have had too many liquid-related "accidents" (as well as the countless times other people have most likely dumped stuff on their computers on purpose for snarky comments and bad tipping). And they flag your account in case you try to bring it in for maintenance down the road, if it lives.

Well, somehow, my trusty iBook awoke from the spill and was working fine. But I was warned that since they wouldn't open it up to check, could be some water still inside that will eventually rot and fry the machinery. So it could be fine one day, and not be fine another, with no guarantee of time or extent of damage. In the meantime, back everything up like an Oxycotin addict.

That day started to come last month. It basically regressed, but way faster and more entertaining than Benjamin Button. First it had trouble waking up, then sometimes it got cranky and didn't want to stay awake or perform on command and crash in the middle of activity, sometimes it forgot passwords and couldn't sleep properly, I think it actually tried to shoo me off the keyboard and shake its mouse at me, then one day it simply wouldn't start at all.

Luckily, my friend Max, bless him, knows A LOT about Macs. Max for Macs. So like the uber-sweetie he is, dropped everything two days this week. Unsuccessful first attempt first day, was here all day yesterday uninstalling and reinstalling everything. Plus, bonus, gave me Snow Leopard! She's running like a champ now. Bless you, Max, the Mac Whisperer.

But she could still die any second. I'm basically operating under the assumption I need to plan on about a $1000 addition to my debt in the near future. I'm not a praying gal, but let's see if I can finally catch some breaks this fall. Maybe I could just pay that outright. It's about damn time.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Gratuitous Cookies

It's often common practice that at the end of a big meal at an upscale dining establishment, diners are usually offered some sort of last bite, the "wafer thin mint" moment, or what my mother refers to as "gratuitous cookies." I have had the outstanding privilege in the past year to sample some of the best selections in the city, and decided to rate them. So here ya go. Whether you're a total cheapskate out for a free dessert course or just can't say no to one more bite even after you've just gorged on chocolate financier with peanut butter creme and currant gelee, the best spots (I've been to) in New York City for a complimentary after dinner cookie. I'm sorry I don't have more photos. In these cases, our stomachs were bigger than our eyes:

Telepan, 72 W. 69th St.: It was my mother's birthday, a late weekday night, and we were the last diners in the joint, after completing three out of four nicely portioned, seasonal courses. Our rather patient waitress served this big plate, with our dessert course (these things usually come after), with "Happy Birthday" written in chocolate on the rim, upon which sat six, cute little freshly baked, old school, round cookies of different flavors. Nothing fancy, but a nice touch. They were perfect little goodies balanced between chewy and crunchy. However, I wonder if we would have gotten it at all had they not known it was a special occasion? In addition, we were each sent home with individually wrapped packages containing a single wee coconut macaroon. An odd choice given that most of the population hates coconut, and it's pretty tiny, even by macaroon standards. Makes me wonder why they didn't just serve it on a plate and let people choose instead of going through the environment killing trouble of plastic pouches? But I happen to love coconut and had it next day. Didn't suck. Rating: 3 stars (depending on whether you can score those cookies on an average night), 1 star (if all you really ever get is the macaroon).

Aureole (new location!) One Bryant Park, 135 W. 42nd St.: After a spectacular meal enjoyed during the restaurant's "soft opening" in August (do NOT get me started on that new hideous, overlit industrial bar area, but the back dining room is quiet and discreet), we were presented with a choice of homemade truffles with great flavors like caramel sea salt, dark chocolate pistachio and chocolate delicately spiked with hot chili. The meal had been amazing and my stomach was just on the threshold of its toe curling moment when, once our tea and coffee arrived, we ALSO had several choices of homemade melt-in-your-mouth meringue sandwiches with a fun variety of tastes. Black sesame, popcorn, peanut butter plus various fruits and chocolate, sized in perfect little bites. Rating: 4 stars.

Redhead, 349 E. 13th St.: It was a busy, rainy, Friday night and somehow John and I managed to snag two seats at the bar in the nick of time. Normally this is not the sort of place one expects gratuitous cookies, given the rustic atmosphere and already value-driven menu and rich desserts on offer. Not to mention the ever popular bacon brittle they sell in jars (my friend Jason once said Wilbur from Charlotte's Web is probably the only person he knows who doesn't like bacon). But Southern hospitality being what it is, we were pleasantly surprised to receive individually wrapped dark chocolate and sea salt cookies at the end of our comfort food meal to take home. And since we ate early and had a long night of dive bar drinking, that salty, sweet chewy-crunchy goodness came in real handy by the end of the night. Shareable size too. If you swing that way. This perfect and unexpected package gets 4 stars.

Portherhouse, 10 Columbus Circle: Just what you need after a massive steak, creamed spinach with thick cut bacon bits, onion rings and potatoes, not to mention whatever rich thing you had to start with and all the bread and then after THAT, a slice of cheesecake larger than Glen Beck's head. Right now, what you need is a massive assortment of baked goods. Not just cookies here. Oh no. You get brownies, blondies, marble cheesecake brownies, chocolate chip, plain sugar, peanut butter, basically, if your mother hid it from you as a child, it's all served on a giant plate here like you're starring in some sweet tooth comfort food fantasy sequence. What's really cool is they give you boxes to wrap it all up in to take home. I actually had enough to serve to unknowing guests next day for tea time! Rating: 5 stars.

Eleven Madison Park, 11 Madison Ave.: As if this meal can't get any better after the dessert course that comes with the already gorgeously prepared and presented prefixe, the one that started with not one but three amuse bouche and hors d'oervres samplings plus two kinds of butter for the bread, you get the Rolls Royce of gratuitous cookie offerings. Instead of a tray or two of goodies to select from, each diner is presented with their own rectangular plate of artfully presented truffles, petit fours and bite-sized cookies so no one has to fight over any particular kind. In addition, they give you an individually wrapped madeleine to take home. AND, here is what pushed me delightfully over the edge, they set down a bottle of good Calvados to help yourself from and glasses! They give you a gratuitous all you can drink nightcap! I'm working on a 5 star rating system here, but Eleven Mad goes to 11. You guys rock.

The Mermaid Inn, 96 Second Ave.: Last but not least, I have to include these guys. In a way, this listing doesn't count as all the others serve dessert from their menus and then bring these items in addition to what is expected. But the Mermaid Inn does not have a real dessert offering. So instead, at the end of the meal, they present each guest with a cup of dark chocolate pudding (I assume it's homemade) and a little wrapped plastic novelty fortune teller. This thin little fish sits in your palm and depending on which way it curls or doesn't, supposedly this tells you what kind of lover you are. (I'm not sharing). (Actually, I don't remember what it said). Pretty cute and something to look forward to each visit. Rating: 4 stars.

If anyone else has other gratuitous cookie memories, please feel free to share them! I'm compiling a master list. Would love some entries from the boroughs too, but so far haven't come across anything, despite some meals in Brooklyn and Queens otherwise down for the record books.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Summer 2009: the Season That Killed

Fall can't possibly come soon enough for me this year.

Not only is summer my least favorite season, and this year, it is certainly going out like a lion with days upon end of still air and lethargy, but this one keeps killing good things.

First there were the big celebrity deaths that just kept coming. The phrase "The End of An Era" has been proclaimed something like six times this summer, and deservedly so.

But what was far worse about this summer, was the impact of the economy on the city, and the loss of three of its best restaurants.

In June, we lost both Jarnac and Alfama. Just last night we lost Elettaria.

Jarnac was the personification of comfort and coziness. Nestled (I use that word sparingly) on the corner of W. 12th St. and Greenwich St., it had a small dining area with pretty windows and quaint fixtures, and a menu comprised mostly of Southern French classics with a slight Southern American spin. It felt like dining at a French Provencal "boite," not like being squeezed into a noisy den of fabulousness. The food was rich, flavorful and soothing. The British owner, Tony, is like meeting Basil Fawlty's charming nephew. Instead of being anxious and cranky, he is good humored, gracious and attentive. Yet there is something wonderfully sarcastic underlying each compliment. For instance, if you arrived late: "Oh thank goodness you're here. We couldn't possibly start our entire dining service without knowing you were safe!" he'd say with a wink. I was first introduced to Jarnac via Sunday brunch and was so torn between corned beef hash, duck mole tamales with poached eggs, a wonderful savory french toast toast concoction that was called something like "egg on a brick" or fluffy french toast and bacon. Luckily we were in a big group and ordered everything; I could taste it all (but definitely had duck envy). Our coffees and mimosas were bottomless. We ate and drank like our stomachs and livers were too. The waiter was funny and conscientious. They also had a well-chosen, eclectic wine list that was half off on Sundays.

I finally started coming for dinner only this year at New Year's. Considering what a chaotic night that can be, Tony gentlemanly as always. Our waitress was calm and sweet. The prix fixe menu had tons of delicious options like salads of seasonal veggies and cheeses, soups and charcuterie. Entrees were a fabulous cassoulet (perfect for that icy night), venison and chicken roasts, braised fishes and pasta. Desserts were big and festive, bread pudding (but not dense), chocolate terrine, tarts. The champagne kept flowing. Daniel Radcliffe was at a nearby table entertaining a couple of babes. Helium balloons hanging everywhere. We all had noisemakers and mardi gras beads. Just after midnight, Tony and the staff went outside to let a bunch go, as was their tradition, and the balloons immediately got stuck in a nearby tree. The corpses of those dead balloons were still hanging up in that tree in mid June when we had our final meal on my birthday. They promise to re-open in some manifestation, but no word yet as to when and how.

Alfama was a Portuguese restaurant on the corner of Hudson and Perry Streets. It prided itself on being a mix of tradition and new world flair and succeeded beautifully. My first visit was on a Wednesday night with a few friends. What we didn't know when we first decided to go that night that Wednesdays were for fado, the traditional story-telling Portuguese singing, accompanied usually by a single, loud guitar. It is considered very rude to speak through a fado performance, so this made our usually convivial a little awkward. But the food was so good it didn't matter, and they took breaks often to let diners chat. We had port-soaked chourico cooked ourselves over a flame, baked clams with more chourico, pork and duck meatballs with ginger dipping sauce (a nod to the island of Macao), bacalao with cod and shredded potatoes, shrimp and other roast fishes. We had mine and John's favorite Portuguese wine, Casa de Santar, and a round of ports from their extensive menu of vintages, rubies and tawnies. John was especially impressed they carried a variety of white ports, which he had only seen in Portugal. We ordered a dessert of molten hazelnut chocolate cake with rum ice cream, which we devoured in seconds. It was so fantastic, the four of us ordered another one despite the wait, and gladly consumed another round of ports.

It wasn't till a couple of years later that a new group of friends who coincidentally were also avid patrons of the place, introduced us to the co-owner Tarcisio, who besides having a knack for hospitality, is an accomplished cocktail maven. New to the menu were a list of inventive cocktails using Portuguese spirits such as licor beirao, which he used in a drink he called "Calhambeque," which is Portuguese for "Jalopy," aka, a Sidecar! He was also starting to incorporate new ideas into the cooking. My new favorite dish was a slab of high quality filet mignon which had been marinated in garlic, brought to the table raw on a hot stone slab. So you cooked it yourself and then dipped it into sauces, accompanied by fingerling potatoes and greens. Simple and amazing. To date my favorite steak ever in the city. After this initial dinner with the new mischpucha, we formed what we called the Alfama Rectangular Table, and returned quarterly on a Monday night, with a revolving group of good friends old and new. But sadly, Alfama too too lost its lease due to a greedy landlord, and closed the same late June day as Jarnac. Again, with promises of a new beginning, but still no word as to when and how.

Then the unexpected shock of Elettaria's sudden close just yesterday! In its original inception, it seemed like it was here to stay. My friend John Isom, who I used to work with at Astor, was the beverage guru. Another Astor alum, Jessica Tantillo, was brought by chef Akhtar Nahwab from EU as his sous-chef, and Noel Cruz was the warm, hospitable co-owner and manager. The concept, (the name means the genus of the cardamom seed) was gourmet classics infused with spice and bold flavors without over-complication. My two favorite things were the revolving fresh scallop dish, which changed seasonally, and usually involved some sort of yummy pork ingredient and caramelized onions, served over greens. And the heavenly donuts, with sweet Indian spices, a fragrant, light syrup, and cardamom ice cream. It was something I proclaimed the first time I ate it (and immediately ordered seconds with my friend Ruth), that I wanted served to me on my deathbed.

The cocktails were clever riffs on pre-Prohibition classics, using high quality spirits and fresh ingredients and the wine list was well-chosen to match the food, affordable and playful. Diners sat right in front of the open kitchen, where we used to wave to Jessica before she sadly had to move back to Texas a few months ago. The bar was comfortable and social. The people behind it were constantly coming up with new ideas to keep it fresh, including a fantastic Violet Hour cocktail time every night, with great bar snacks. People I brought there always had fun. My only complaint was that it was so easy to get utterly schnoggered at the bar since you wanted to order everything, and the trip to the restroom required a a concentrated poise as you tried not to wipe out on the hardwood floor while walking the gauntlet across the crowded dining room, a right at the open kitchen, and down the stairs. I usually remembered to wear shoes with good traction. I couldn't bring myself to take part in its final night last night. Just too sad to see this happen to such a talented and gracious staff, but I heard it was fun. Good on you for going out in style, Elettaria!

Again, rumor has it, another greedy landlord situation. More promise of a new incarnation. Another culinary heartbreak. If it could, my stomach would dim its lights for you three. You will be dearly missed.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Read the News Today Oh Boy

Well, this has been quite the week for outrageous headlines.

Here's one from this week's NY Times Dining Section. It gives me this overwhelming urge to gather every single fucking ice cream truck in the city, all boroughs, and make them converge outside this woman's Park Slope house, simultaneously chiming "Flight of the Valkyries." Idling engines evil environment-killer? Absolutely. Shame on them. There has to be a way around that. But to use that as a scapegoat for one's parenting inadequacies? Unacceptable fun-killer. Granted, I am lacking in baby-making abilities and maybe this doesn't give me the right to protest, but I have had enough of these over intellectual parents who blame outside sources for the hard fact that their Little Dylan or Emma (what ever happened to Jennifer or Adam?) is simply a stuck up, bratty hellian. A terror on sneaker wheels who is that way because you don't use your power of denial. You don't want to give your kid ice cream? Say no. Move on. As my good friend Liza pointed out on Facebook, "Our kids are gonna hate us [for one reason or another] anyway. It's not the ice-seller's fault."

The part of this debate I am most relishing, though, is that one of the leaders of this anti ice cream truck movement, or NAMBLA (No Abortion Means Blame Life Attitude) is Vicki Sell, who owns the Chip Shop. Yeah, because frying everything, including CANDY BARS, is definitely a symbol of wholesome nutrition. So you don't let your kid eat at your own restaurant? Yeah, didn't think so. I so want to get a group together to throw ice cream scoops at her glass house.

Image here, by the way, is the notorious ice cream truck from the 1976 John Carpenter classic "Assault on Precinct 13." If you don't get the reference, see the movie. 'nuff said.

In other news, Whole Foods at Columbus and 98th is opening a wine shop. I have a few wine industry friends who aren't happy about this. I don't see this as a huge threat to downtown wine and spirits commerce, per se. Yeah, you will be able to legally buy bitters in the same place as your wine, which until now has been impossible in NYC unless you frequent a place that bends the rules and doesn't advertise they're bending 'em. And fresh ingredients and mixers to go with it. But they can't sell spirits. And think of it this way, you can now buy overpriced organic wine uptown and get the same rude and uninformed shop assistance you endure when you buy your $10 organic tomatoes at their food store. Enjoy your NY State sulfite-free Chardonnays, Uptowners! I'm off to Astor or Smith and Vine for some yummy Txakoli. Mmmmmm. Spanish Sulfitttttttes. Aaalllllllllgggghhhh.

But perhaps the biggest outrage yet this week is the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi from a Scottish prison, where he had been serving a life term for taking part in the December 21st, 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. He was the only person ever convicted of the bombing and served only 21 years of his sentence, having always maintained his innocence. There are many over the years who agree that this man never really had a fair trial and has been the scapegoat since no can find any of the other alleged co-conspirators alive. Much like the Guildford Four, or the Birmingham Six, who all served jail time for terrorism in Ireland and Great Britain, BUT who were all eventually cleared of their respective charges and set free. In speaking to John about this today, he pointed out that his release is being put solely on the Scottish government, which in essence is supposed to represent all of the UK, yet the Royal They are not calling this a British decision, but a Scottish one. Perhaps out of guilt because they know they've been keeping an innocent man? I find it hard to believe they let him go out of sheer compassion for his illness. It's not like John Gotti got out of prison to die. It's all very weird and sets a terrible precedent.

Be that as it may, his, (let's say "alleged" for sake of argument) intent was to kill the Americans on board that Pan Am flight toward NYC, as supposed retaliation for President Reagan's order to bomb the Libyan cities of Tripoli & Benghazi in 1986. This in retaliation for killing a bunch of Germans & TWO (count 'em) US personnel in a Berlin nightclub. On it goes. Ali al-Megrahi has been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, supposedly given only three months to live. He will remain under house arrest upon his return to his Libyan homeland. Where he will have the privilege of saying goodbye to family and loved ones. All I can say here is did my family friend Vanessa, then a teenager in high school, have the chance to bid farewell to her mother as her life was violently ended 4 days before Christmas? Or the families of the other 269 victims? Did the BRITISH people who had even less association with the Tripoli bombings, whose houses the fiery plane bits randomly fell on after the midair attack, get any sort of warning or compassion? Even if the Scottish government is back pedaling for some sort of cover-up, this simply makes no sense. Politically, metaphysically, karmically, philosophically, judicially, psychologically and most of all, fundamentally. Either stand by your conviction or come out and admit your mistake. Give a better reason for this. You cannot have it both ways and you are insulting the victims of this tragedy. Whoever is at fault, there were 270 innocent people killed by terrorists in 1988. Gee, nice ratio for the 72 virgins in heaven. Hey, no one told you what kind they would be, did they, assholes?

Where's Octomom when you need her?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I just did something I never do. I went for a walk without wearing lipstick or carrying a purse.

After finishing off and cleaning up after a meal of whole wheat pasta with garlic, hot pepper flakes and oil and tossed with fresh Jersey tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, I went down to take out the trash with just my keys (fully clothed, you cheeky monkeys!) Feeling the first coolish breeze since last week and having been cooped up all day with still no work and feeling useless, I decided to take a walk. Just around the block, on the residential side, I thought. But after 2 blocks, I'd walked 10, then circled back up another avenue, the long way to head home, but detoured on a pretty 3-block "place street" and by then had gone about 20. It felt good to move and feel the air move with me.

Along the way, guess what, no one cared about my lack of dolled up-ed-ness, no one needed my money and I certainly had no urge to make or receive a call or text. I passed dogwalkers and smokers, last minute grocery shoppers on their way home. Couples. Couples hand in hand, couples arguing, couples walking together but apart. The ubiquitous stroller and anxious toddlers, of course. People in lycra en route to and from the gym. An old man with a cane calling up to someone I couldn't see, inside his house.

There was a hipster on a stoop. Alone. No headphone or cellphone, just staring into the street. Thinking. And from his face, it seemed like more than just contemplation of which ironic bowling shirt, skinny jeans and fedora to wear tomorrow. It made me wonder what other town he'd come from. Maybe I have it wrong and his family lives in the brownstone upstairs.


I mistakenly walked too far on the street before mine and had to circle back on the bustle of Court St., past the new restaurant on the corner. All I can ever smell from there is ketchup. Yet it's alway busy, while the French place down the block that I know has good food, service and wonderful smells was empty as always.

Today, during the day, as yet another week of unemployment set in, I wondered if I should just cut my losses and move someplace where my rent money is more valuable. Tonight I learned I'm just not ready for another place to empty my trash on a breezy August night.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Veiled Attempts

I attended a bridal shower yesterday, and it made me realize, I pretty much suck when it comes to the marital arts.

Not martial arts (my roundhouse kick is pretty good, I must say), mar-i-tal arts. You know, the various *"mandatory fun" events that accompany weddings, usually on the bride's side. The engagement party, the wedding shower, the bachelorette party, or hen night, etc. Even though I'm 8 years divorced, it's not that I hate weddings or the idea of marriage. Usually I'm very happy for the bride, and I want to help them celebrate. But these gatherings are so awkward for me.

The bridal shower for instance. You're supposed to invite all the female guests for an afternoon gathering of presents and parlor games. Both things I like a lot, but somehow these don't turn out to be two tastes that taste great together. I don't have much money these days. My friends always tell me they don't expect a gift from me, but my cultured upbringing commands that I never arrive at any sort of gathering empty-handed. And at my poorest, I can provide one of two things they can always enjoy: booze or jewelry, which is usually purchased or assembled that very morning while hungover. When I arrive at the gathering, I'm asked to place my sad little package or bottle against what inevitably turns out to be the fucking Versailles of gift packages. Some massive box with intricate wrapping, bows, secret passageways and trapdoors. The gift within is either some expensive trinket from the gift registry I could never afford, like a cuisinart and then a whole god damn library of celebrity chef cookbooks, that are also packaged with some fancy paradoxical gadget like a digital bookmark and a recipe stand with an egg timer. Or, it's some lovely, creative homemade sentiment like a scrap book of favorite family recipes and pictures. A gift that is likely months in the making with contributions of photos and letters, sent from family and friends the world over. It was lovingly pieced together in late night sessions following a long workday and gym attendance. The bride always gets teary-eyed, and so do the guests. This gift will keep on giving. And then the bride rips the foil off my bottle of Cava, smiles, cocks her head, and lets me know how thoughtful it was of me to bring this symbol of fleeting gratification that will remain longer in the recycling bin than the happy couples' actual memory of drinking it.

Then, let the games begin! By now, the bride is wearing a hat constructed of a paper plate with bits of the giftwrap carnage stuck to it. The maid of honor will clap her hands and pick teams. While sucking down sugary cocktails through penis straws, we will play charades acting out words associated with weddings that we've all written on slips of paper and tossed into a bowl. These are supposed to be joyous words, things like "celebration" or "honeymoon" or "forever." The happiest word I can come up with is "pedicure" and then I have "accountant" and "therapy."

The bachelorette night is another story. WHY do most bridesmaids feel it necessary to subject the bride to humiliating gauntlets of kitsch? I'm not sure how this evolved, but somehow, in the 21st century, Chippendales has been replaced with 80s nostalgia. There is usually some sort of kitschy 80s dance contest or veil-wearing mechanical bullride or an off Broadway play about high school proms or a boozy cruise (with 80s music) or worse yet, bowling. With veils. There is often an expensive meal involved, usually consumed at some theme restaurant none of us would ever choose on a normal night. Yet for our beloved friend or relative, we are expected to shell out hundreds of dollars on greasy egg rolls served up by Asian drag queens, sashaying to 80s tunes, natch. Stripping embarrasses me, but I'd still take a guy in a thong over this shit. At least it's more, well, genuine.

I am thrilled for my betrothed friends, knowing the stories of tortured heartbreak endured till they finally met the man who is worthy of their love. When all this has died down, I'll be happy to treat them to an expensive meal at a great restaurant with a fab wine list. They won't have to wear a veil while eating it, and nary a penis straw to be found.

*Manditory fun is a phrase that was coined in Northeast Music Camp during the summer of 1983. Used to describe the night time activities that were conceived for us, like "color wars" and song contests, in lieu of just hanging out. I have used it ever since.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Don't You Forget About Me

Yesterday, right as I was leaving my salon after a haircut, I got the text from John, "John Hughes dead at 59."

I was saddened by this news, but the full impact didn't hit me till the next morning, today. Last night when the news broke, I had plans to see a "Purple Rain" sing along in Prospect Park. Melinda and Dave had VIP passes. The weather held. The crowd was totally into it. I even managed to snap one of my favorite photos ever with my iPhone (another posting, doesn't fit here).

This morning, as has become my habit, I put on to stream music while eating breakfast, catch up with emails, think about how to justify not working out again and contemplate my day.

John in the Morning has this great mix that starts around 9am our time. I tuned in around 9:20. By 9:30 I guess he had so many requests to play music off of John Hughes soundtracks, that he decided to go for an all 80s theme for the rest of the show. This sort of thing requires great finesse, but he handled it beautifully. "Dancing Horses" went to "Hardest Walk" into 'Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You") to "Let Me Go" to "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want." And so on. Some songs that were featured in his movies, others that just represented that time and place. "If You Were Here, "Under the Milky Way," "Walls Come Down," "I Could Be Happy," etc.

Suddenly I was transported to my parents' old kitchen in CT, before the drastic 90s makeover. Sunset orange walls, grapefruit colored countertops, orange and yellow flowered wallpaper, Tweeter singing in his birdcage, Woofer asleep at my feet (yes, we had a canary named Tweeter and a Golden Retriever named Woofer). The tiny portable radio had to be positioned just so, corner of the kitchen near the stove, the antenna resting against the window, so I could barely get WLIR out of Long Island to play. All my teenage dramas playing out as I was introduced by that radio station to The Jam, Love and Rockets, Violent Femmes, Depeche Mode, David Sylvian, the Smiths, the Cure, Jesus and Mary Chain, Siouxsie and the Banshees, basically every band I came to love, respect and turn to for comfort for decades to come.

Downstairs, below the kitchen, my best friends from high school, Gabrielle, Monique, Ken, Brian, Sarah, Linda, Anne, Maria, Jenn (now Jenna) would come over every Friday for dinner and we'd screen John Hughes movies, among many others, probably taped from cable, as another soundtrack boomed from upstairs, my dad practicing the piano, Tweeter chirping along. Somehow we all learned to drown out the noise and hear the TV. No one seemed to mind that much, or we would have picked another house. When my dad had his first recital, I remember the few friends who attended would say something like, "That's the theme to Pretty in Pink!" when he was playing Schuman or Chopin or Beethoven.

I was enjoying this wave of nostalgia today. Listening to the music, reading the Facebook entries, the Tweets. But when KEXP played "If You Leave" and my friend Justin posted a link to the video around the same time, I actually broke down and cried. My parents have sold the house, Tweeter and Woofer died within months of each other in 1988, some of those friends I probably won't ever speak to again for various reasons. That world is long gone for me. But still, I will miss John Hughes. A man more than 20 years my senior, whom I never met, who somehow understood everything I was going through as a 16 year old female. Now I know what people really mean when they say someone meant the world to them.

Deciding whether to work out or keep listening. I opted for both. After all, in the words of Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you might miss it."

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Don't Stand, Don't Stand So, Don't Stand So Close To Me

See this? Why do rock shows have to feel like THIS all the time now?

Last night I went to see the Mekons, one of John's very favorite bands of all time. He's been talking about them for years, and we finally had a chance to see them together, at the Mercury Lounge on the Lower East Side. Singer songwriter Megan Riley, a talented act that John's friend, Sue Garner, produces was opening for them. So it sounded like a great night of music.

After a wonderful meal of South American tapas and cocktails at Macondo (the tapas had delicious layers of flavor without being goopy and the cocktails used South American spirits with fresh purees and herbs to great effect) and a stop at Donnybrook, we were excited to see and hear the music. We stayed in the bar for the first act, but it was starting to get crowded already. When we went to the main room to hear Megan Riley, close to the stage right, it had become rather stuffy, literally. John was wearing a new t shirt that friends had made for him, with an image of Rick Astley emblazoned with "Never Gonna Give." People infront of us complimented it, which was cool. But when the music started, other people were loudly talking through the music and getting pushy. The air conditioning was becoming increasingly less effective, something that I suddenly remembered from my last experience there, when we saw Alejandro Escovedo and all emerged utterly marinated. I remember thinking at the time I would search for another venue to see the lovely man next time. Well, that was a while ago and guess I forgot.

Between Megan Riley and the Mekons, people were pressing up against each other, rudely elbowing their way to the stage. John had gone for a beer. This woman behind me thought it was necessary to wedge her purse into my ass. Did she think I was going to shit coins into it? I shot her a dirty look and she just shrugged. I knew it could only get worse once the music started, and I was in no mood to fight, so I made my way to the back. A perplexed John saw me and claimed there was no way he was standing all the way back where I was, so he maneuvered up front without me. The music started right after and suddenly all these people I didn't know and who therefore I'd never screened for STDS, were pressing up against me and breathing hot, germy beer breath right onto the back of my neck. I kept trying to move away and maintain some sort of no-touching boundary, but by the 3rd song I realized it would be impossible. This was just NO fun, no matter how good the music was.

I gave up and went to the bar. Stayed there a long time and tried to hear the music, as people I could only recognize from the feel of their clothing and acrid breath kept coming back to the bar for more beer and then shoving back into the crowd. Lots of people were clustered at the door between the bar and performance space, so it was apparent the show was way oversold and that the air conditioning could not cool this many music fans. I kept seeing angry people birthed out of the crowd into the bar, cursing and storming out. I managed to last way back there until a couple of encores in. But the onstage banter, unintelligable from my vantage point, was getting longer and it seemed like it could still be a long time before it ended and John and I could go for a nightcap at the Grass Roots, so I just texted him and went home.

I had a similar experience last week seeing the Flamin' Groovies at South Paw, but at least once I expressed how uncomfortable I was, people stopped touching me. But the fact they thought it was OK to even attempt it before I protested is a little alarming. I KNOW I have spent the better part of 23 years going to rock shows without people pressing up against me, unless I purposely bopped around in the mosh pit. Have I finally outgrown this or are people just more rude these days?

Or maybe I just lost my capacity for having total strangers up against my rack?

Either way, this isn't rush hour in Tokyo, people. This is supposed to be easy fun and good tunes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cone Boobs and Cocktails

Like my Madmen avatar? Very fitting for last night.

Jason from Embury Cocktails emailed me for an impromptu drink meetup at Zinc Bar on W. 3rd St. Heather Greene, the brand ambassador for Glenfiddich scotch, who also doubles as an angsty songstress, was performing her new album with an open bar featuring 'fiddich and cocktails. Jason was able to get me, and Stephanie, who I had dinner plans with, on the list.

I ran into Jason the street as I was approaching the bar and we walked in together. It was pretty much what I'd come to expect from such events. Lots of suits and skinny girls with strappy dresses crowding the bar, ambient music (for once not blaring), dim lighting with red and green accents behind the bar and narrow, crowded passageways. It basically looked like a real life representation of a liquor print ad. A PR rep found Jason and me looking for a way in to the bar and offered to order for us. There were three drink choices, named after Heather's songs, as well as Glenfiddich 12, 15 and 18 Yr neat or on the rocks. We chose what seemed to be the less sweet of the choices, a sort of scotch mint and lemon daiquiri with a sugar rim.

Stephanie arrived just as we got our drinks, and since Heather wasn't on yet, we were offered to go to the tasting table in the corner. There, a well meaning Hart Agency model in a black strapless dress led us through how to detect fruity, sweet and woody flavors in scotch. We had three small drams in front of us, as well as jars of cut green apples, honey and woodchips, which we were made to sniff at the same time as the scotch, and then taste, first without water, then with a couple of drops. In the end we chose our "favorite" and were offered a free dram of that choice. I ended up choosing Glenfiddich 12 Yr, the "fruity" choice, and least expensive. I love Glenfiddich, but it gets hot in the higher marks. I have to say here that as much as I have made fun of the Hart Agency and even gone so far as to ban model representation for in store tastings when I worked at Morrell, this one stuck to the script and did a pretty good job of pretending she knew what she was talking about!

Not that I approve of them, I'm just saying.

Heather began to play soon after that. Jason had to leave for a dinner date. Stephanie and I stayed for one more song. Not bad, vaguely Alanis Morrissette-esque, but we were already sick of the free bar and wanted a real cocktail before dinner. What is this, 1962? We made our way the few blocks to Elettaria, thankful the day's humdity had burned off some. The bar scene was pretty hopping, but we got seats soon after arriving. I got the Rita Hayworth, pineapple and sage infused Herradura silver tequila, lime and honey. Stephanie got a refreshing version of a daiquiri. We sipped slowly and had some good chats with bar manager Joe.

Stephanie and I went to Perilla soon after for a fantastic meal of lamb belly (!!!!), ribeye for two with an off the hook potatoe and mini crabcake concotion and crisp asparagus, all accompanied by a juicy Arbois red from Jura. Dessert was a trio of ice cream, chocolate, peanut butter and popcorn (again with !!!!) Actress Kristen Johnson was there with a friend (boyfriend) at the table behind us (so now maybe "Third Rock From the Sun" is stalking me?) and chef/owner Harold Dieterle made two appearances out front.

All within a 5 block radius. The sort of night that reminds me why I chose to live here.

And also why I need to lose 20 pounds. If only I could just slip into my avatar in real life. But with better cone boobs.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"One Question: Do you need someone... or do you need me?"

Well, New Orleans is working its way out of my system now. Despite having spent most of the evening last night on my feet at an ear-splitting rock show and drinking three whiskies in an hour before the long walk home (thanks for the escort, Phil!), I feel the most refreshed and energized I have been in weeks.

So is it weird to think you're being stalked by a movie? 'cos I think "Say Anything" is stalking me. It started innocently enough. Cable channel surfing. I notice that it's on The Fox Movie Channel (I know, but it doesn't feel like I"m patronizing the GOP when I'm watching "Porky's"), about an hour in, just as John Cusack (Lloyd Dobler) is teaching Ione Sky (Diane Court) how to drive a stick shift. (Insert John Cusack stick shift joke here). It's been a couple of years since I've watched it, and decide to hang out for a while. I turn it off half an hour later as Diane, mostly at the behest of her father (played by John Mahoney), tells Lloyd she needs to take a break and gives him a pen as a gesture of her friendship. I love this movie, but I know how the rest plays out. I had errands to run and had to beat the impending rain.

Not 10 minutes later, I'm in Trader Joes selecting house brand balsamic chicken cutlets, (which, like all of their independent brand offerings, might as well be marinated in Kool Aid), and "In You Eyes" starts playing. For those of you who haven't seen the film, this iconic song by Peter Gabriel is used first when Diane and Lloyd have sex in his car and he can't stop shaking, (he says because, "I think I'm just happy.") It means THAT much to him. Diane says something like, "It's OK. Let's just listen to the song. It's a GOOD song." Later, when Diane has stopped talking to him and hasn't answered the letter he writes with his Pen of Heartbreak, he stands in the rain outside her window, wearing 80's last gap baggy cargo pants and trench coat, his Joe Strummer hair making cute little wet streaks down his face and emphasizing his impossibly giraffe-like eyelashes, blasting the song on a gigantic boom box held over his head. Over the years, I have selected my best female friends over whether they have always had a crush on Lloyd Dobler after seeing this movie. If this doesn't get you, if you are not totally ass-over-tits in love with Lloyd Dobler, then, sorry ladies, you are not worthy of riding shot gun with me.

Anyway, I found this pretty remarkable to say the least, considering the movie is now 20 years old and the song even older! So random. Next day, Stephanie and I decided to see "500 Days of Summer," a title that instilled utter fear and horror in this heat-despising chick, (like, it might as well be called "500 Days of Water-Boarding"), until I found out that "Summer" is the name of the female lead and it's about the number of days of one man's relationship with an unappreciative bitch. I actually really liked the movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has well outgrown his "Third Rock From the Sun" adolescent goofiness and inhabits failed architect-turned-greeting card writer, Tom Hansen, a male character the likes of which I haven't seen since, well, Lloyd Dobler. This man truly appreciates women, worships them, and the way he discusses it with his friends and his precocious little sister, how he can find a way to talk to Summer, how he can find a way to get her attention, how he can get close to her and how he can ultimately win her back, or even if he should bother, definitely strikes a unique chord. Instead of the usual body-tits-belch-jealous-best-friend-played-by-bloated-actor-who-used-to-be-cute-high-five-fests that most male bonding conversations take the form of in recent movies, Tom's conversations with pals are meaningful and insightful, much like the way Lloyd discussed Diane with his two best friends in "Say Anything," Corey, played by Lilly Taylor and D.C., played by (whatever happened to?) Amy Brooks. The difference in "Summer" is that all of Tom's friends seem to be male, but the little sister, who seems to be his relationship therapist, takes on the thankfully not overly cute turn of his own Corey. I am also grateful that nowhere in the movie does Summer get together with her female friends, who all drink cosmos, and dance around the dining room wearing only baby doll nightgowns.

Incidentally, I can completely understand Tom's infatuation with Summer, played by the hypnotizing beauty, Zoey Deschanel. I've had a girl crush on her for years, especially now that I know she can sing. I can only imagine what she does to an intellectual straight guy like Tom.

Later in the week, I witnessed a couple in their late 30s breaking up on the F train. The woman got off the train in a fury, presumably well before her stop. Leaving the man to yell after her, "Don't think I'm going to come stand under your window blasting 'In Your Eyes' tonight, sweetheart." Unbelievable! Out of nowhere, right?

That said, can he come stand under mine?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ah, New Orleans: Part 4, the Finale

I once again didn't need to be in class on Saturday till 12:30, THSM (Thank Heaven Small Miracles). Ran into Steph and Jen on the streetcar and grabbed some breakfast once again at Cafe Beignet as Steph rushed to her 10:30. Craving A/C I went to ground zero to check out the tasting room, though I seriously didn't want to drink. Yet. Inside the tasting room, people were gathered to watch the show sponsored by Martin Miller's gin, which was celebrating its 10th anniversary. The cute and charismatic English brand ambassador, Craig Harper, led two teams of bartenders, Limeys and Shermans, as a scoreboard kept track of their antics. I walked in just as the Limey side of the gin and tonic competition took place. Objective: to make as many of them in a minute as possible. The guy just dumped a whole tray of ice on some cups, quickly drizzled them with gin and poured in the tonic, plopped in the limes and for show, threw one in the air and caught it in his mouth! Score for the Limeys. Apparently the Shermans took a more analog approach, which slowed them down. Drinks were being passed to the crowd but I abstained, knowing it would be another long day. Next was a game where each team chose a rep to shake a cocktail over their shoulder while stirring another with the other hand, all the while making banter with the crowd. Shermans won that big time. Chants of "U....S....A!!! U....S....A!!!" and then the next event: bowling for limes. Another score for the Shermans. Finally, a contest for a fancy gin cocktail, to be judged by Martin Miller himself, judged on creativity, flavor and appearance. The USA team won it hands down, led by the lovely and talented Andy Seymour of Beverage Alcohol Resource. Cupcakes all around!

I hadn't seen Sabrina and Lisa for a couple of days, as it is easy to lose people at this conference if you miss a couple of parties like I did, and so we had a quick LOFT meeting in the lobby before S. and I headed to our next class, this one over a the Astor Crowne Plaza, Carnivorous Cocktails! Moderated by writer Kara Newman, and featuring stories and cocktails by Adam Seger of Chicago's Nacional 27 and Todd Thrasher of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, VA. We were first treated to a home made Bacon "Cello" (hey Sabrina, think Lisa the veggie would go for making this? Yeah, I didn't think so), which disappointingly smelled and tasted more like vodka flavored with fake bacon, like bacos or bacon bits. I think the spirit neutralized the natural sweetness and left only salty smoke. Next was a wonderful prosciutto cocktail with infused vodka in a perfectly matched, tangy, fruity mix of berries and citrus. Then a "ham and cheese" which consisted of iberico ham-infused bourbon with another suitable fruit mix, a hint of rosemary, and topped with a manchego tuille and rosemary sprig, not easily balanced on those little plastic cups, but they made it work. Lastly, we were treated to a drink version of MacDonald's McGriddle breakfast sandwich: the bacon cello, this time suitably mixed, a whole egg, maple syrup, and topped with fresh (if you can call it that) bacon bits for salt and crunch. A successful combo, despite being the epitome of American gluttony in drink form. Must say, all those pork cocktails were quite the mitzvah to a lushy Jew hussy such as myself!

Stephanie and I decided to skip our Hammer of the Gods class, which would be all Absinthe cocktails that we were both weary of at this point, and met up, along with Jen, and Adam Levy of the NY Spirits Awards (total mensch!) for lunch at Coops, which I was more than happy to revisit. Our seemingly long and sweaty midday hike there rewarded us with another great local meal. While there, received a text from Mike, who I was going to meet up with again later with maybe some chaperones, I mean, peeps, that Cassandra Wilson's publicist had contacted him to do a bit for the local radio station Mike works at, WWOZ, and that maybe we would all meet for drinks that night! Funny, 'cos along the schvitzy walk back to ground zero from Coop's, we saw Cassandra on the street listening to a bunch of kids performing. Again, didn't want to disturb. But I hoped that we could chat about it when and if I saw her later.

Steph, Jen and I would be together for our next and final class of Tales, Agavepalooza. A rousing tequila and mezcal class taught by the most distinguished people in that field: renown maven of all things drink, Steve Olson, star bartender Junior Merino, who would be making our cocktails (psyche!), Ron Cooper of Del Maguey mezcal, David Suro-Pinera of Siembra Azul tequila and Mexican anthropologist and agave culture enthusiast Rodolpho Fernandez, as well as added commentary from Andy Seymour (from this morning). This was the class Steph came all the way to New Orleans to take, and the anticipation was reaching an explosive pitch as we lined the hall (no A/C, we were dyin' here!) waiting to get into the class room. It was going to start late, still setting up, so we were treated a refreshing cucumber tequila drink from Junior as we waited. The classroom was near the pool and we could clearly see Tales bartender antics taking place there through the glass doors. Lots of bikinis, tattoos and wet bowler hats.

We were finally let in, Mexican tunes getting us into the groove. At the seats before us were a printed placemat with relevant notes about tequilas and mezcals, and helpful maps. On it were placed four tequilas on one side, and three mezcals in clay pots on the other, with room for a "mystery" sampling to come later. After a few minutes we settled in and got going, and Steve was a very energetic leader. He passed around a large piece of roasted mezcal for us to look at, there's Steph with it on the left. I have to say the panelists got a little lengthy and detailed, somewhat hard to keep paying attention to, but still, the subject remained intriguing to me.

We learned the difference between high and lowland tequilas and mezcals (highlands are more saline and funky, lowlands usually more concentrated and sweeter), plus sampled offerings from the different villages. Top left to right: Familia Partida Tequila Blanco from Jalisco lowlands, Siembra Azul Tequila Blanco from the highlands, Siete Leguas Tequila Blanco smaller batch from the highlands (a personal favorite since I initially tried it at Astor, complex, balanced sweet, smoke and salt), Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol Reposado (which was one of the funkiest, weirdest things I've tasted, a little rancid buttery, lemony, grass, green pepper, white flower and banana and lots of salinic ocean water and seaweed).

The mezcals were Del Maguey Santo Domingo Albarradas High Mountain Espadin from Tlacolula village (herbal, peppery, smoky), Del Maguey Minero Low Broad Valley clay still Espadin from Ocotlan village (my favorita! sweet BBQ smoke, red hot pepper, cinnamon, salt, cucumber, lime), Del Maguey Tobala High Mountain Wild Mountain Maguet from Tlacula village (hot pepper and smoke again, less complex than the last) and finally, the "mystery" agave spirit: Pechuga! Pechuga is made when a whole chicken (yep, you read that right, CHICKEN liquor mutha fuckaz!) is roasted and fermented along with the agave, with the resulting fermentation bearing a wonderfully drinkable, medium cloudy white, somewhat chocolatey spirit with raspberry and licoricey flavors. We ran way late, even for our late start, and the hotel needed our class room, so the discussion was going to continue out by the pool. We got another superb Junior-made cocktail for our exit, with a pepper-salted rim. Sadly, I couldn't take part as I was late meeting the Mistresses for a Seven Deadly Sins party I was to help them schmooze at, at the W hotel.

I luckily got a hold of Lisa and Sabrina before they got to the hotel, otherwise, no way to get me into the shindig. It was big, loud and corporate, but sort of fun in a cheesy way. All the sins had a respective brand sponsoring and little vignette scene to accompany the cocktails. I don't remember all of them (just recovering from sips of 10 agave drinks), but "sloth" was Firefly sweet tea vodka (what I refer to as the Dave Matthews Band of spirits. Some good notes, but the fans are total assholes). Miss North Carolina lazily swung from a tire swing as though drugged on ruffies by, well, a bunch of white, male Dave Matthews fans. "Lust" was go-go dancers swaying behind a big screen, and I think it was a rum drink, but don't remember which one, though at least it was mixed with Fentiman's superb ginger beer. They had some coconut rum truffles off to the side, and I grabbed a couple of those. Within only 20 minutes I had already heard three Michael Jackson songs blaring. I didn't want to drink sugary liquor at all by then, but a few brand people I knew kept coming up and handing me drinks or tastes of things, so I took small sips and put things down at every opportunity. At least I had some worthwhile chats with people, especially Hanna Lee, a super cool NY-based spirits PR rep who always looks fab (and always seemed to have time for a costume change between events while the rest of us came as we were, in all day strength), Allison Evanow of Square One vodka (yay, female distillers!) and the guys from Pipeline, Jim Pickett and John Henry. I got a text from Stephanie who had just left the pool area, that one of the pool revelers got arrested and tazed! (Next day I learned it was a bunch of locals who crashed the hotel, stole a bunch of stuff and were getting lewd around the pool, called out by security. Dang. No Tales dirt here).

Soon it was time to meet Mike again at 13. I walked all the way from the W to Frenchman street, hoping the walk would sober me up. Although I think I felt more drained, dazed and hot, rather than truly drunk. A quiet bar and healthier food would be just the ticket.

Mike was a little late again, but that gave me some time too cool off in the A/C with an Abita and catch up on emails and facebook postings. We started talking about our days, and soon we were joined by Jason Rowan of Embury Cocktails. I liked him instantly. Very easy to talk to, rich, soothing voice and we seemed to share a lot of the same perspectives about the liquor industry and Tales of the Cocktail in general. The other two pix on the left were taken by him on his fancy professional camera! After another round of beers (wine for Mike), we went for a little ride.

Jason and I both had a curiosity about seeing the Lower 9th Ward, site of some of the worst destruction from Katrina, and the last part of the city to get redeveloped. One of those things you kinda have to do as an outsider, but still, not in the same exploitative way there are tours of Lower Manhattan. It's not like there are postcards and hats to sell near a marked house, or a photo op next to a FEMA trailer. Jason and I were both surprised to see that things had already been built up a lot, it was still bad, mind you, but not as bad as you would think. Work was being done. On the way there, we passed this little gem of a sight, looked to be like a combination meeting house and general store, pictured left. And then we also heard this on the radio! Good times.

Once out of the Lower 9th, Mike decided to take us to his favorite wine bar, Bacchanal. Already I was feeling really comfortable, a rare connection with these two considering Jason and I had only known each other a couple of hours, and Mike only one day. Good friends have often come in trios for me, and I haven't been in one since college. I was happy. Getting happier still as Mike and Jason smoked a very potent bowl while were were parked near Bacchanal. I don't smoke. Anything. Wish I could, honestly, but my lungs can't take it.

Bacchanal is a wine bar out front and huge, lush garden patio out back that feels so removed from the chaos and touristiness of the Quarter, more like something from Tuscany than a fat American city. I selected one of my favorite Northern Spanish wines to take out back with us, Ameztoi Txakolina (Chalk-o-leena) Rubentis, a crisp rose with a zingy fizz, which were shockingly told would be one of the last bottles as the vineyard had been paved over! Bah! It was perfect for a humid night outside. No one else was there, and we freely discussed a lot of things, parents, relationships, tequila binges, hysterectomies, you name it. Very naturally. Jason had a kick ass camera and was taking lots of pictures, including this one at left of Mike and me shooting the shit.

The place was trying to close and I had gotten a text from Steph that she was at another nearby bar called Mimis with an old pal Virle who lived in town, and Jen. We got back into the car and the boys lit up again. Mimis was just a few blocks away. I began giggling appropo of nothing and everything felt warm and happy. Mike looked at me and said, "YOU have a contact high!" Awesome! Something I've truly always wanted! Way better than that hot wheels loop to loop I coveted when I as eight, although that would be so fun to watch in action right about now.

Inside, Mimi's was regular pool table scene downstairs, upstairs, it's a hot, sweaty dance party. A colleague of Mike's at the radio station, Soulsista, was playing some classic R & B and the room was totally into it. I could barely make out Steph in the middle of the floor getting her groove on. We all met at the bar for a beer, and started moving to the sounds again, the one Michael Jackson song no one had played in my presence yet and an old favorite, "Ben." But it was getting so hot, and we had just come from this mellow scene, it somehow wasn't feeling right. I got Steph's attention and then our trio were once more into the night.

By now it was getting past midnight and clearly, Cassandra was dissing us (dang celebrities...), but we went back toward Frenchman St. Checking out some sounds from the sidewalk, we made our way into a bi-level R&B club with a balcony. We stayed a bit and checked out the scene inside, but we were getting tired and wanted something a little less party. Back down the end of the block to where Mike and I saw Cassandra the night before. They would be closing soon, but we got a table inside anyway. More talking, laughing. By now I was positive my makeup resembled the face melting scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark and I was definitely now drunk as well as high. But it felt good. We all felt good. After yet another beer (I know, momentum, remember?) we headed for the taco truck (either I was THAT drunk or grilled pork and pineapple soft tacos totally rock) and Mike drove us to our respective hotels. By now it was nearing 4am. Jason had a plane to catch in 3 hours (he didn't, I later learned. Lucky bastard got another day!) and I had to be up to go to a breakfast meeting with the Mistresses and be packed by 9. As Jason entered his hotel, I knew he would be a keeper.

It wasn't exactly birdies and woodland creatures singing to me as I got out of bed and washed up, but I somehow made it to that breakfast meeting, and in wayyy better shape than the ladies, who had both been out all night and not slept. Mike had offered to drive me to the airport, and luckily he was on time. Before I knew it, this epic 5-day journey was over. I was in the terminal with a lot of NYC people, making sure not to let them discuss mixed drinks in front of me (too soon, way too soon). And it seemed we had all shared in our own version of Tales of the Cocktail that would stay with us, for some, whether they liked it or not. My best college pal Jason Bylan put it best when he once said, as he longingly stared down a bar after a crazy, drunk bartender he had a crush on, "I just found something I didn't know I wanted. And gained something I never want to give up."