Last-Minute Halloween Booze-Buying Advice

I have been remiss in reminding you all, faithful viewers, that the definitive (and well-written) article for best pairings of alcohol and halloween candy can be found here: The Most Comprehensive List of Halloween Candy & Alcohol Pairings Ever Written.

You can get a little more background on the process here on MR&HBI at All in the Name of Science.

Enjoy!

All For Me Grog

As I type this, I am drinking grog. The couple at the next table were buying rum for the other two people here, and I initially misunderstood the offer. I thought he asked “are you having rum?” as part of a medical recommendation. I am not sounding too healthy right now. I laughed and said that no, my tea had no rum in it, and he took that to mean that I was not interested in his offer because I was not feeling well. His solution: good ol’ grog. I don’t expect it was served hot on the old sailing ships, nor with a slice of lemon, and for that matter not with the stuff the Czechs call “rum” either.

Even so, this isn’t bad for the pipes.

Update: Now he’s bought me the Czech cure for all respiratory ailments, Slivovice (rhymes with “Heave-ho, Mitsy!”). I’m hoping to last here long enough to chat with That Girl, but it’s getting dangerous (rhymes with “Pozor!”).

Sailor Jerry Rum

Recently I was at a bar and I noticed a bottle on the shelf labeled “Sailor Jerry Rum.” I was intrigued, but it was not a rum-drinking time. It wasn’t a rum-drinking time yesterday at Press Café either, but fuego was there and I mentioned that I should have some before I left. Turns out Sailor Jerry is also found in the United States, but fuego decided that I may as well check off that to-do item anyway. We ordered a pair of small shots.

I’m not a rum drinker, but this stuff didn’t seem very good at all. Sweet. fuego dubbed it “girl rum,” though it was certainly not as bad as Captain Morgan. A pity, with such a noble and tasteful name, that the product didn’t live up to expectations.

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Rent-a-Drunk

fuego and I were sitting in a bar this afternoon, plotting our next step in World Domination (mwa-ha-ha-ha), when a drunk woman arrived at the bar and sat next to a guy. Eventually the guy scooted over to get away from her… and landed right next to a pretty woman. They struck up a conversation that went on for at least an hour, filled with smiles. All thanks to the drunk girl.

fuego thought about that for a bit and came up with “rent-a-drunk”. Need a little push to get you closer to that pretty girl? Call rent-a-drunk! It’s a special sort of wing-man who is never connected with you. I took the idea further; there are definite chivalry points to be scored. Want to meet that lovely woman? Rent-a-Drunk will send an asshole her way, and you can stand him down, perhaps at apparent personal risk. Can you say knight in shinig armor?

So now you have a chance to charm the woman of your desires. The thing is, if you use a plan like this, you’re probably a jerk, and if she finds that out you’re sunk. No problem. Any time the conversation gets uncomfortable, with a hand signal the drunk is back, and you can dominate him again.

If everything else fails, at least he can drive you home.

The Bubbles! The Bubbles!

Yesterday was That Girl’s birthday, and although we are far apart I thought I would mark the day. I was at the Little Café Near Home and had the brilliant idea to order a bottle of bubbly. That Girl likes her bubbly.

Today I’m thinking that may not have been such a good idea. I awoke to that not-so-fresh feeling. OK, I feel lousy. Furry in head and tongue. This boy needs cheesy home fries!

Something’s Brewing…

One of the nice things about the house where I live is that the back yard has several large fruit trees. A month ago my landlord was forcing upon me all the apricots I could possibly eat, then a few more. Recently it’s been plums.

On a couple of occasions in the last couple of weeks the smell of plums in the stairway has been pretty powerful. Obviously Otakar was not finding uses for the plums as fast as he was collecting them. Time waits for no plum.

But here, sometimes the obvious is not the same as it would be in other places. Anyone who live here would already have figured out that the plums downstairs were not going bad, they were going good. As I came down the stairs this afternoon there was a pot of plum juice, complete with peels and some of the pulp, sitting by Otakar’s door. The light bulb suspended over my head blinked on. He’s making Slivovice.

The Czech Republic has two national boozes. Becherovka is a brand name, made from a supposedly secret recipe; it hails from the Jagermeister school of boozemaking but is far less foul. Slivovice, or plum vodka, is just the opposite. It’s a people’s drink, the recipe owned by all collectively, and the best stuff is homemade. (I have had three chances to confirm this, and the homemade stuff really is better.) You have to love a country with a national tradition of making hooch. I wonder if old-timers lament that kids these days are content to drink liquor from factories rather than make their own.

A Quiet Afternoon in Moravia

“And then I coughed” my host narrated as I reacted to the bite of the Slivovice. “That’s how I knew it was the good stuff.” He laughed, then turned serious. Like many people, he knows what I should be writing about, and now he was starting to write it for me. “People in America, they would want to read about this, about life here. There are lots of stories here.”

‘Here’ is a farming village whose name I’ve never caught. Horní Something. I was sitting in the home of my sister-in-law’s parents, enjoying the homemade plum vodka (it’s not just wishful thinking, the homemade stuff really is significantly better), while Jirka regaled me with stories of his life in the village, his adventures elsewhere, and most of all, the ongoing restoration of the home in which we sat.

He gestured out the window, where across the street is a small church in moderately good repair. “I was a choir boy in that church,” he said. “800 years old. I could have had a villa in Florida, or an apartment in London, but when I came back here I started to feel it and I knew I had to come back here. Home. I can never be lonely here, even when there is nobody around.” I weighed mentioning some of my own thoughts on home, but for conversations like that I prefer to think slowly, and with Jirka there is none of that.

The house, too, is old, but though the plank floors had fallen victim to moisture and long neglect, the thick walls of stone and brick stand straight. The tile roofs on the main structure and most of the outbuildings were also intact, and the exceptions have now been removed. As with any place that has been filled with humans for a long time, there are stories attached to this old building, and I think more than anything else that is why Jirka bought it.

Some of the stories are larger, and reflect the ebb and flow of history. Before the communists came, a wealthy farmer lived here with his family, and apparently he kept a journal. With the communists came an inversion of the social order, and the family’s lands were confiscated and the people who were put in charge knew little of farming. According the Jirka, the man wrote of mistakes and incompetence as the productivity of the land plummeted. Jirka summarized. “They did not know to spread the manure in February, then they took the man’s last two horses for the slaughter. ‘It is all tractors now,’ the communists said. Too late they found out that their tractors would not work on that land, it was too soft.”

I would like to be able to read that journal myself, not just for the sweep of history, but for the smaller events that transform a building into a home. I don’t know what I would find there, or even if the diarist recorded things like that, but it would be an interesting read.

The house has come a long way since the last time I was here; in fact, it wasn’t really habitable before. The rooms that are complete are very comfortable, and parts of the project reinforce some of my stereotypes of the Czech work ethic. It is obvious Jirka is of the “do it right the first time and never worry about it again” school, and the local craftsmen he has hired do quite well with the message, “time is not important; what matters is precision.” The woodwork is the most obvious example, and one I am less unqualified to comment on. In many cases the old woodwork was lovingly restored, and once again reflects the beauty it must have displayed in the 1930’s, or perhaps even the 1830’s. When new parts were needed, the old style was carefully followed, often using wood from the same era. In the wine cellar he has stripped away plaster to expose the old brick vault, and then coated the brick with modern products to preserve it’s rediscovered glory.

So, you get the idea. It’s shaping up to be a nice place. Assuming Jirka’s money holds out, he should be done with the restoration of the house and outbuildings (“the barn will be a local playhouse”) in another fifteen years or so.

Jirka tells me that there’s another fixer-upper (although already habitable) in the neighboring village going for a pittance. His description of it is intriguing, but I’m not in the market for a career in home repair. It does seem a great chance to build up some sweat equity, though. If anyone’s looking for an escape hatch and isn’t afraid of a hammer, you could do worse.