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.


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.



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.

Fringe Benefits

The waiter here at U Kormidla just took the afternoon round of Slivovice (plum vodka) up to the people working in the kitchen. Hopefully that means they’ll be in an extra-good mood as they fix my lunch.


A night on the town.

I have long thought it would be fun to go to a bar with a vast whiskey collection, throw down credit card, and have a knowledgeable bartender pour me a Tour of Scotland, providing wee sips of a wide variety of single malts and telling me about each one. Last night I came close.

There is a bar here in Prague, a copy of one in New York, apparently, called Books and Bar. Or was it Bar and Books? In any case, it is a bar, and shelves of books (mostly in German for some reason, and obviously not meant to be read) adorn one of the walls. It is more upscale than the places I usually find myself, but sometimes it’s fun to pretend I’m sophisticated, and since we had invited Belladonna to join us, it seemed like a good time to try a place that Soup Boy had been encouraging me to visit anyway. Soup Boy (storyboarder for Pirates and now my roommate) had invited some of his friends out as well, but only Little John was free. So we set out for the city center, hoping that Belladonna would also bring friends.

Another acquaintance of Soup Boy, who we will call Hole, spotted us entering the establishment and came in to say hi. We chatted a bit and then he went off to work out. The Boy and I sat, and soon after Belladonna arrived with two friends in tow, fellow med students. Conversation was pleasant and unforced, and when Little John arrived, adding his limitless energy to the affair, things were going quite nicely.

I ordered a flight of Whiskey – six small glasses of the good stuff. (I paid extra for the very, very good stuff, that cash from being an extra burning a hole in my pocket.) As I slowly made my way around the islands and the highlands I appreciated the variety of different flavors, how each achieved a different balance of Earth (peat), Air (vapors), Fire (alcohol’s ‘bite’), and Water (smoothness). Truly the booze of the gods, and I was hitchhiking through the pantheon.

Sometime while I was enjoying my travels Hole returned. Belladonna knew him, and did not like him—not at all. In a cascading guilt by association Soup Boy was demoted a few notches, and I took a hit as well. (This just after she had started to recover from learning my age. I am rather older than she thought—Firenze, bless her sweet heart, guessed I was 29—and Belladonna has about her an air of maturity that made me think she was older.)

A note about Little John. I’ve only met him a couple of times, but I’ve seen how his exuberance can really keep a gathering lively. There is a danger, though, that someone else can turn his power to the Dark Side, and that is what happened when Hole showed up. I don’t think Firenze was aware of the crude humor being directed at her, not at first anyway, but the evening’s vibe, which had survived a couple of bumps, was now deteriorating rapidly. A change of venue was called for.

So we went to another place new to me, called M1, where the seating, inconvenient for large groups, led to me having a very pleasant conversation with Firenze, Soup Boy chatting with Belladonna, and Little John and Hole hovering and getting bored. They eventually left, and the mood recovered, but the evening ended somewhat awkwardly and uncertainly. It was, overall, a lot of fun, and it’s (almost) always nice to get out and meet new people. Hopefully we’ll be able to hang out again sometime.

The Night of the Big Game

It was early when I got to the little café near home. My batteries were already somewhat depleted and I didn’t have my power cord with me, so I didn’t figure on it being a long night.

The place was almost empty when I got there; the only two tables that were taken were the ones I normally gravitate toward. One is directly beneath the TV and close to the outlet, and the one next to it also has good access to electricity. They are both by the window, which can be chilly, but when things get smoky it’s a blessing. They also happen to be the tables that are most out of the way when things start to get crowded. (There are only six tables in all.) That didn’t seem like it was going to be an issue, however.

Soon, though, people started to arrive. One regular took over one of the two tables that can accommodate more than two people, and rounded up extra chairs. The other larger table was usurped soon after. There was talk of turning on the television. At first I thought people were gathering to watch Velký Bratr, the absurdly popular Czech version of Big Brother. Absurdly popular doesn’t even begin to describe it. Then I realized the gathering crowd was all male, except for a small knot of three girlfriends huddling up at the far end of the bar. Sports, then.

I put my head down into my story and raced the batteries. Just as the laptop gave it up, the game was starting. Fotbol. Soccer to the Americans in the audience. It was a big game, I knew, because the Czech Republic, an early favorite to qualify for the World Cup, had lost a couple of important games and was now fighting for one of the last spots.

The graphic came up on the screen: Norway vs. Czech Republic. Wait a minute, they just played Norway the other day. Is this a rerun? Luckily I did not know how to ask anyone and therefore display my ignorance. It was a two-game playoff, the winner going to the big dance.

It was crowded in there by then, but I decided to hang out and watch a bit of the game and see what words I could pick out of the conversations around me. People kept arriving, and when the game got boring there was plenty of activity around me to provide entertainment. By halftime I was sharing the table with a pair of drunk kids in their early twenties.

At the half, an older guy, a fixture at one of the barstools, saw I wasn’t working and came over and asked in czech, “Why aren’t you working? Where’s your computer?” I started to answer, but he had already assumed I couldn’t understand him and had turned to other regulars to translate. It took some time for me to get the six people all translating differently at once to understand that I understood in the first place, so they would stop explaining and let me answer. “batteries are kaput,” I said in Czech, (although the ‘Kaput’ may have been German).

“You need batteries? Batteries? I’ll get us some batteries!”

“He’s buying you a shot,” one of the kids said in English.

I knew that already. I don’t know if “Batteries” is common slang for shots or if it’s just one of those cases where anything would have been taken as a euphamism for booze. No matter, moments later I was holding a shot of Becherovka.

The night did not descend into a long and painful trail of trading shots. The game started, the game ended, the Czechs won, I talked to the drunk kids some more, I managed a few sentences in Czech, and fun was had by all. The bar closed at eleven on the dot, and we all went home.

In the two days since, I have studied my Czech harder than ever. I felt it while I was there. I was close. Afterwards I thought of many things I could have said had I had the presence of mind to dig the words up. A few more words, maybe throw in the past tense (which I hear is pretty easy), and I can have conversations in czech. Slow, painful, conversations, but that’s OK. Once I cross that threshold, I think things will speed up as I get more meaningful practice.

Today as I was walking I was greeted warmly by one of the Little Café regulars as I passed him on the street. It was early yet, and the Little Café was not yet open, so he was heading for the Budvar Pub on the next corner.

The final countdown

Pirates is being made as part of a larger festival, and you can’t have a festival without ceremony. The thing is, when you’re hours from going to camera, the last thing you need is a party with a bunch of people you don’t know who aren’t working on your project.

Thursday night was the hoity-toity hodown for the producers and writer/directors. The mayor was there (I hope he didn’t drive home), along with other people who had done a lot of work to make this festival happen. Christopher Coppola (no sense changing his name) pulled up on his big ol’ bike, and it was nice meeting him and hearing him say he liked my work. He had even sent us an actor, Dog Bone, who has added his own personality to the crew. Other than that, there wasn’t anyone there I was interested in meeting.

OK, that’s a lie. It would be more honest to say that before I got there there was no one I was interested in meeting. I rode there with Rudolph driving, two reluctant partygoers. The event was billed as semi-formal, so while I was at the thrift store that afternoon I had picked up a shirt that buttons up that went well with my last clean pair of shorts. Semi-formal and ready to party, baby! We got there and I grabbed a plate of shrimp and wandered around the beautiful yard, listening to the live music, and generally being ignored by all the other guests. I’m not a mingler, let alone a networker, and these things are all about networking.

So Coppola shows up, and I see him talking to a very pretty woman. “Damn Biker outlaw movie moguls get all the chicks,” I thought to myself. Turns out her name is… um… Nadia. Yeah, that’s the ticket, Nadia. She works for Chris and it turns out it was her job to talk to me. Awesome! This world needs more women who are paid to talk to me at parties. Lots more. Though if there was only one, Nadia would be a good choice. Of course, she had to talk to all the other writers as well, but she enjoyed talking to me the most. Sure, she made all the others think she was having fun, but I could tell.

I did find a couple of other people to talk to, and the beer was free and good, so I was doing all right. I estimate we had been there twenty minutes when Rudolph first suggested we go home. fuego had not even arrived yet, but luckily he had called and said he expected to go home with us. If he hadn’t, we would have been gone before he arrived. I’m ok with being a lurker at parties, but Rudy was getting antsy to leave about the time we pulled up in his truck.

So, while we waited for fuego I lurked a bit more and had another beer. Mmmm. One of the sponsors of the event is a brew pub. I chatted about film stuff with some of the other producers (I have met more producers on the other films than I have writers in the course of working on preproduction stuff. Apparently the other winners are much more hands-off, which baffles me.), discussing how things were going and whether they were ready.

During this time I spotted someone in the crowd who caught my eye immediately. She looked like Rose’s taller sister. (Rose is a bartender in San Diego. She rocks. I still remember her fondly when I hear a glass break. For the uninitiated, search this blog for more about Rose.) She had the dimples, she had the smile. Now there was someone I wanted to meet.

fuego arrived and I used his introduction as an excuse to talk to Nadia again. “Now can we go?” asked Rudy. fuego: “I just got here.” Rudy: “OK… How about now?” Our departure was delayed a little more while we talked to the Mayor (who remembered Rudolph’s name after only a brief encounter previously – a good skill for sure) and chatted with a few others as well. As we were leaving we met Morgan, a pretty blonde film student, and I managed to resist Rudy’s inexorable pull long enough to chat with her for a while.

An aside: some people think that because I co-wrote a screenplay that won a contest and is being made into a twelve-minute video that I can help them with their film careers. It’s the whole networking thing. make every contact you can, because you never know which one of those saps at the party is going to hit big. Some people are more subtle about it than others, but everyone is thinking about it.

Nadia, refreshingly, just seems to be having fun working on movies. Sure, she’s making contacts, but either she’s so good at it she didn’t activate my mercenary gag response or she’s still naive enough to think that enjoying your work and doing a good job are enough to get ahead. Being attractive doesn’t hurt in the biz, either, even if your ambition is to work behind the camera.

Rudy prevailed, and away we went. I did not meet the woman who looked like Rose. Apparently, no one had paid her to talk to me, and she didn’t see me as a rung on her career ladder. A pity. I was even considering the unheard-of, heart-stopping, death-defying act of approaching her, but I let Rudy drag me away with a sigh of relief. Goodbye, woman who looks like Rose. Or so I thought. (<— blatant teaser for next episode).

Friday was hectic, what with going to pick up the machine gun and a host of other errands. In the intervals I tried to make progress on the magic potato and the associated electronics that comprise the Mysterious Device. As I assembled the parts the design was in continuous flux, and continued to suck down my time in huge gulps. Finally I had a successful test shot with all the parts put together, but I wanted more tests. It wasn’t going to happen, though – there were no more of the right sort of ricket igniters in town, and I couldn’t burn up too many testing. fuego’s advice was something like, “test them while the camera’s rolling.” So, not completely sure the design was reliable enough, I set to work configuring the last of the igniters for four shots while rolling the next day.

The device was not finished when it was time to go to another party. This one was specifically for the writer/directors, and fuego and I were strongly encouraged to attend. Tired and grubby from the day’s work I met fuego at his hotel where we were to board a limo to take up to the party. Sweet! I had a beer while fuego freshened up (at least one of us wouldn’t be grubby and stinky). We met Nadia in the lobby of the hotel, where she was coordinating the limos.

Let me say right here that I am going to be mentioning pretty women quite a bit for the rest of this episode. Nadia was looking great in a slinky little black dress. I was so stressed about all the things I needed to do that I was practically vibrating, but seeing her took some of the annoyance out of having to be social with less than 12 hours to go before the shoot. We were in the last limo, so she joined us. Bonus.

The car was waiting and we hopped in. There were two women in there already, a pretty blonde and a stunning brunette. I was first in, and as more people climbed aboard I was forced to push closer and closer to the brunette. Look at her eyes, not her chest. “I won’t bite,” she said. “That’s too bad,” I replied, with a reasonably confident tone of voice. Look at her eyes, not her chest. Her dress was pink and low-cut. fuego was next to me, then Nadia climbed aboard, then in, followed by a couple more honored guests. Nadia started to make introductions, but the two women stumped her. Apparently they were friends of one of the party organizers and were hitching a ride to make contacts with the limo-worthy. Unfortunately for them they got to meet me. “I’m half-Taiwanese,” the brunette said. “What do you think I can do to break into the asian market.?” “Beats me,” I said, aware of her chest, aware of her smooth leg against mine, aware of her striking face and the brown eyes I was successful at meeting simply because there was nowhere else for me to look.

I’m sure they found better prospects once they were inside the party.

Cast and crew were invited to this party, so I did get a chance to hang with some of the people I would be working with. Dog Bone had some good stories – his colorful past hasn’t finished yet, but I’ll leave him to tell his own story. If he ever writes a memoir, I’ll be first in line to buy it. Soon after we got there, while fuego were at the bar savoring a fine malt beverage, a woman asked me if I was Mike. “No, but I can be if you need me to,” I said, and luckily she understood that the stupid line was a joke. The guy on the other side of her started hitting on her with lines of the same caliber, the difference being that he meant them. I would have talked to her more, but fuego and I had a lot to discuss. We turned our end of the bar into a mini production office and committed the sin of working at a party.

I did do some networking that night, looking for someone who could provide music for our film.

Later I ran into one of the women who had auditioned for Ruthie, one of the top contenders. We had a very nice talk. She was very up-front with her networking, making no bones about it. When I told her that I really had no aspirations in the film biz (not entirely true – I would love to do more with the pirates – but I have other interests that are stronger) she just said, “Maybe that’s why you’ll succeed.” A nice thought. I didn’t mention this, but I was regretting not choosing her for Ruthie. I had been in a rehearsal with our Ruthie just before coming over, and she just wasn’t coming through. Ruthie runner-up (we’ll call her Myrtle) did some ad-libbing that, had she done them in the audition, would probably have won her the role. Ah, Myrtle. Maybe if we get that TV series your networking will have worked after all. It would not surprise me at all if Myrtle found success in the business. She had the toughness to stick at it, and the resourcefulness to find a niche. On top of everything else, she just loves doing it.

Finally, home again. Back to the laboratory (pronounced the mad scientist way) for a few more frantic hours of work on the timer and the potato pyrotechnics, then, bleary and exhausted, to bed – too tired even to dream about pink and black little dresses.


The Power of Positive Drinking

Some people ruin their drinks with ice,
and then they ask me for advice.
They say, “I’ve never told this to anyone else before.”
— Lou Reed, The Power of Positive Drinking

I was thinking of that line even before Brian mentioned not putting ice in his beloved Lagavulin. It’s a sad day that that even needs to be said. Ice. pff.

Holy Crap! Sweet Jane just came on the TV radio station. It’s a cover, but it still counts as a plate of shrimp. It’s a good cover. Oh, man I feel good right now. I was feeling pretty good before, but then with head-slap thunder the chama monsoon rain started coming down just as the second beer was finding my nervous system. Late in the season for a monsoon, especially considering the dry August, but just what the doctor ordered for heart and land. And the smell, the smell. Ozone and soft mud. More thunder, punctuating Buffalo Springfield.

The temperature has dropped a few degrees: It’s whiskey time now. On each side of me a dog lies twitching, running with the wolves they’ve never learned they’re not.

I’m trying not to resent the arrival of the family later this afternoon. It’s their house, after all. They paid for it and everything. The only thing is, I have put the Jerry vibe into this place the last few days, and it’s just now building up to critical mass. I feel the vibe most intensely right now. It is a calm feeling despite the loud music. (Next time I get up I’m going to turn down the bass just a wee bit, bringing the vibe incrementally closer to perfection.) My quiet madness reaches out across the Chama Valley and reflects back to me off the far Brazos Peaks, rolling with the distant thunder, dancing with lightning, and I know the storm is here for me. I have called it from the place where storms sleep, roused it for one last grumbly dance across the land.

The thirsty land feels my energy, and amplifies it. The rich mud hosts tiny creatures fleeting across brief puddles, in a madcap accelerated cycle of life. Water! Grow! Sex! Die! In this frantic call to life I am unnoticed, but something rises from the muck that I smell and understand. Some bugs are getting laid tonight.

Ooo! Look! A can of mixed nuts, sitting right here next to me! Truly the Universe is resonating with me today, responding to my needs even before I know them myself.

My vibe, apparently, is a fragile one. Bringing other personalities too close to it pains it. In a bar, I can create a vibesphere, and close myself in my own aura for a few precious hours, but in a house with other people around the bubble shatters into tiny red fragments, needle-sharp little brain jammers. Better not to even try to bubbleize in the first place.

But for now I sit, pupflanked, Scotch Guarded, open, resonating. Feeling the power.

Scotch Whiskey

Scotch Whiskey

Smoky sweet seduction,
Dancing vapors
Air, Water, Fire
Ancient wisdom
She inspires me
as I breathe her
message from beyond the grave


Call Me Gilligan, Part 4

Location: Harbor Reef Restaurant, Two Harbors, Catalina (map)

I’m sitting in the only bar in town—if you can call it a town. A wooden lattice casts shade over the wooden deck without blocking the view of the palm trees swaying with the breeze. I put myself back near the building to get better shade so I can see the laptop monitor better. Which means I’m getting less breeze, but that’s a quibble. Good tunes are playing (Nick Cave at the moment). The bar runs along one side of the deck and is reasonably well-stocked. In the harbor nearby, I can see the masts of the boats swaying with the gentle waves.


The bar has a signature drink, called Buffalo Milk (there are buffalo on the island). The bartender, with a moderate amount of flipping bottles and spinning shakers, puts ice, vodka, creme de cacao, banana booze, and milk into a blender, whipps that up, pours it into a plastic cup, tops with whipped creme, chocolate powder (I think) and dribbles a little Kahlua over the top. I’ll stick to beer.

Note: Since writing the above I have consumed Buffalo Milk, and it’s not bad. The powder in top was nutmeg, not cocoa, but I’m thinking cocoa might be better. Each of the boozes was about a 2-3 second pour, so they are in more or less equal proportions.

Sailor jer The trip over here from Avalon was uneventful, a simple motor over glassy waters with practically no wind. I would have chosen to sail, even if it meant taking a lot longer, but I’m Gilligan, not Skipper, and this isn’t my trip. I’m here out of my host’s kindness, so who am I to complain? I just sat up on my perch and watched the sea, the other boats (none of the others were trying to sail either), and the shoreline of Catalina pass by. It was great. I spent a lot of time thinking about my next novel for November, tentatively titled Worst Enemy. I really should be working harder on The Monster Within, but this trip, the whole tour, in fact, is more suited to the other stories.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned the Flying Fish Cruise yet. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve wanted to see flying fish, and now I have. It was cool! We went bombing down the coast in an 80-year-old open boat filled with benches built for exactly this purpose. It has big spotlights on either side and as we blast along the boat scares the bejesus out of the flyers and away they go. Once those suckers get airborne, they have no control over their course, and at 30 mph they’re relying on good fortune to land them someplace safe. None came in the boat on our trip, but one slammed into the side right near me. While they’re flying, when they are about to splash back down into the water, they can dip their tails in and give themselves another kick, flipping their tail at 50 Hz to launch themselves again.

This picture isn’t from today; it’s actually from the first day out, when we were sailing into San Pedro.

I’m not sure, but I think I sunburned my forehead today. *sigh*

Call Me Gilligan, Part 1

I arrive in LA surrounded by crazy cars. Everywhere is someone who wants to kill me in some innocent act of abject stupidity. I need space. I’d be crazy mad but Santa Margarita is with me, leaving her residual joy even as Jack comes crawling back from the place he’s been, shabby and mad, with his dark Word from beyond: “Wow!”

I was early to the boat, and the others weren’t there yet. I drove around the marina area for a while, stopping off at Ralph’s to buy a bunch of gatorade to quench the powerful thirst I had accumulated on the trip north. I sat in the parking lot at the grocery store, sweat and sunscreen combining to make me clammy and shiny as I give my body what it’s thirsty for. Noam Chomsky was on the radio, trying to convince people that causing change requires hard work. I opened a second bottle and spilled electrolytes and glucose down my beard onto my shirt. Then it hit me. I could be in a bar.

Minutes later I was at Edie’s, settling onto a chrome stool with red vinyl upholstery. Plan A, beer, quickly gave way to Plan B, Margarita. They had a nice big one with decent tequila and I was all over it. While I waited for the preparation I opened up the old Kerouac and found my place. I fear his joy, I fear his power even as I covet it. I fear he will swallow me, and I’ll be just another imitator. But even as I fear losing my voice to his I know I am too afraid and too tiny and too foolish to move people like that or to be moved like that. No, my demons are less exuberant and have their own vocabulary if I can find it. The margarita lived up to it’s promise. Yes, miss, I’ll have another.

Now I’m in the car again; the music is loud and I’m joining in, wondering in a joyous wonder whatever became of the singing voice I once thought I had, it’s gone now and good riddance, silly big-head thing that it was. The other drivers want to kill me and I want space. There’ll be space out at sea, I know.

We show up for dinner, the family and me, Gilligan, at a trendy little place filled with thin beautiful people eating cheesecake. I am the madman in my shaggy beard and smudged shirt and smelly feet and I can see the women look me over with distaste as I look them over. My grin is fierce and manic, and for once I am not afraid of these artificial creatures because tonight they are afraid of me in some kind of superior way. Ha! They move about and they wonder who this disheveled prophet is and my jokes are funny tonight and my eye is keen and I’m seeing everything and knowing everything and they orbit and leave me space but I am the madman and my gaze carries knowlege they are not ready to learn.

Back on the boat we all stay up far too late and drink too much beer and talk too loud, our voices echoing over the still water. It is nice out, a little cool and I’m not sleepy and my enthusiasm seems to have infected the others except Pat who proves he is the smartest of us by turning in while it is merely late instead of ridiculous. Finally I have to give up or I’m going to be watching the sunrise, and the next day is going to be a long one for sure. My berth is the forward stateroom; I lie in state with my toes in the pointy bow of the ship. I plug in the laptop, thinking I’d write a little more while the madness is upon me, but I am fooling myself and soon I’m gone.