Saturday, March 10, 2012

Le Mixeur Sharky Menu - Anu Apte: Teddy



Teddy looked at him directly for the first time. "Are you a poet?" he asked.

"A poet?" Nicholson said. "Lord, no. Alas, no. Why do you ask?"

"I don't know. Poets are always taking the weather so personally. They're always sticking their emotions in things that have no emotions."

Nicholson, smiling, reached into his jacket pocket and took out cigarettes and matches. "I rather thought that was their stock in trade," he said. "Aren't emotions what poets are primarily concerned with?”

... “Nothing in the voice of the cicada intimates how soon it will die,' " Teddy said suddenly. "'Along this road goes no one, this autumn eve."'

"What was that?" Nicholson asked, smiling. "Say that again."

"Those are two Japanese poems. They're not full of a lot of emotional stuff."




ANU APTE

There's little point in profiling Anu Apte here. I wrote about her in Left Coast Libations, and clearly everyone in the entire world has bought and read that book by now. So you all know. Just to be safe, I will make sure you know that Anu owns Rob Roy, a superior cocktail lounge and swell place located at 2nd & Battery in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle. She more recently has engaged heavily in the creation of her own drinking academy, Swig Well, which provides the drinking public with education and fun on how to do it right, or how to swig well.

Anu is the only contributor to this event who was in Left Coast Libations. I intentionally sought out great bartenders in Seattle who were not in the book, because it's a full time job keeping up with how many great ones there are (and there's still so many yet we've yet to get to, so stay tuned for future fundraising events and other projects). But Anu had to be involved because she was so integral to this event from the beginning, and it was in fact her who convinced me to do this event in the first place. I had hung up my Le Mixeur jock strip, literally. Anu literally took it down off the peg on the wall and (figuratively) strapped it back on me.

So thanks and praise be to Anu, and without further ado, let's get to the drink.

TEDDY

Bulleit bourbon
Logic Apple Cider*
Dolin blanc vermouth
orange bitters
served on the rocks with a lemon "life preserver" wheel garnish**

*This cider contains all logic of the world that Anu will eat and then vomit back up and bottle. It will have some Indian spices, be made with Granny Smith Apples and lots of love from Anu.

**These are lemon wheels placed over the top of the glass. The straws will be placed in the middle of the wheel into the drink. As if the garnish is a life preserver for the straws.

(editor's note: no proportions are available at this time because Anu is making a vat of her Indian spice Granny Smith bourbon cider life preserver punch in her secret alchemical laboratories for us to simply pour into your cups, or mouths.)

HEY TED, TELL US ABOUT TEDDY!

No, I don't want to. But for the sake of explaining Anu's drink, here's a segment from the story. This will get you through tomorrow night. Then you'll just need to read the story in its entirety.

"You're just being logical," Teddy said to him impassively.

"I'm just being what?" Nicholson asked, with a little excess of politeness.

"Logical. You're just giving me a regular, intelligent answer," Teddy said. "I was trying to help you. You asked me how I get out of the finite dimensions when I feel like it. I certainly don't use logic when I do it. Logic's the first thing you have to get rid of."

Nicholson removed a flake of tobacco from his tongue with his fingers.

"You know Adam?" Teddy asked him.

"Do I know who?"

"Adam. In the Bible."

Nicholson smiled. "Not personally," he said dryly.

Teddy hesitated. "Don't be angry with me," he said. "You asked me a question, and I'm--"

"I'm not angry with you, for heaven's sake."

"Okay," Teddy said. He was sitting back in his chair, but his head was turned toward Nicholson. "You know that apple Adam ate in the Garden of Eden, referred to in the Bible?" he asked. "You know what was in that apple? Logic. Logic and intellectual stuff. That was all that was in it. So--this is my point--what you have to do is vomit it up if you want to see things as they really are. I mean if you vomit it up, then you won't have any more trouble with blocks of wood and stuff. You won't see everything stopping off all the time. And you'll know what your arm really is, if you're interested. Do you know what I mean? Do you follow me?"

"I follow you," Nicholson said, rather shortly.

"The trouble is," Teddy said, "most people don't want to see things the way they are. They don't even want to stop getting born and dying all the time. They just want new bodies all the time, instead of stopping and staying with God, where it's really nice." He reflected. "I never saw such a bunch of apple-eaters," he said. He shook his head.


Thanks for reading everybody. Hope you can join us tonight. We're all going to vomit... figuratively speaking.

Le gra (with love),
ted








Le Mixeur Sharky Menu - Kevin Langmack: Just Before The War With The Eskimos



"Look at 'em," he said. "Goddam fools."

"Who?" said Ginnie.

"I don't know. Anybody."

"Your finger'll start bleeding more if you hold it down that way," Ginnie said.

He heard her. He put his left foot up on the window seat and rested his injured hand on the horizontal thigh. He continued to look down at the street. "They're all goin' over to the goddam draft board," he said. "We're gonna fight the Eskimos next. Know that?"

"The who?" said Ginnie.

"The Eskimos.... Open your ears, for Chrissake."

"Why the Eskimos?"

"I don't know why. How the hell should I know why? This time all the old guys're gonna go. Guys around sixty. Nobody can go unless they're around sixty," he said. "Just give 'em shorter hours is all. ... Big deal."




Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories is Sunday, March 11, 5-10pm, at Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe, 419 Fairview Ave N, Seattle. Tickets are $25 (includes 3 cocktails) and should be pre-purchased here: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/229073

KEVIN LANGMACK

Goddammit Kevin's worked at a lot of places in Seattle, for Chrissakes. He's been goin' all over the goddamn place working. Goin' to go work for the Eskimos next. Know that?

Let's see, where has he worked? (Remember, research = fascism, fragmented memory = utopia). I remember Spur, and Sun Liquor, and Vessel, and Knee High Stocking Company, and I foresee future Vessel, in 2016 when Vessel reopens. There were others. I know there were. But who cares? Where you worked doesn't define you as a person or a professional. It's your actions, your personality, and most importantly your je ne sais quoi.

Kevin's got good actions and personality, but more than anything, homes gots je ne sais quoi out the ying yang. That's right, Kevin's a Taoist I Do Now Know What.

(editor's note: it is possible, just possible, that the author of this blog is punch drunk from the demands of event preparation and is babbling at this point, but this editor could be misguided).

It is a great privilege to have Kevin involved in this project and event. He has quietly been one of Seattle's best bartenders for many years, and one of the Seattle bar scene's most affable and unassuming presences. It's genuinely good to to at long last work with him. It makes me feel all je ne sais quoi and shit.

OK, get on with the drink already...

JUST BEFORE THE WAR WITH THE ESKIMOS
AKA, MILK & COOKIES FOR GINNIE & FRANKLIN

1 ½ ounce Sun Liquor Distillery's Hedge Trimmer gin
1 ounce heavy cream
½ ounce Vanilla Syrup*

shake and strain into a milk glass
serve with an assortment of cookies

*Vanilla Syrup: Combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water and 1oz vanilla extract, or steep vanilla beans in a 1:1 simple syrup to taste.

Note #1: Kevin was also working on a highly experimental and daring concoction that was unfortunately not perfected due to certain oversights in nuclear physics. But it shall be perfected some day. No more information is available regarding this invention due to patents pending and such.

Note #2: Ginnie & Franklin are the two main characters of the story. They both could really benefit from the childlike comfort of cookies and milk, and they both could really benefit from the adultlike comfort of gin.

HEY, HOW COME GINNIE & FRANKLIN BOTH COULD REALLY BENEFIT FROM THE CHILDLIKE COMFORT OF COOKIES AND MILK AND THE ADULTLIKE COMFORT OF GIN?

If you're asking me about the story, then I'll tell you. Ginnie is a young teen from New York City, who is tennis partners with Selena. She considers Selena "the biggest drip" at their school, yet plays tennis with her because Selena provides the balls, yet resents Selena's unwillingness to help with cab fare home after tennis. When she addresses this with Selena one day on the way home, it leads to snit fits and Ginnie going home with Selena to collect what she's owed.

Ginnie's left alone while Selena goes to trouble her poor ailing mother for money. During her time in the living room, she ends up having two separate meaningful interactions that affect her thoughts on the Selena situation and perhaps beyond.

The first, and central, interaction is with Selena's brother Franklin. He is odd, an outcast, agitated and sometimes distracted, yet kind and strangely endearing. He would seem to be the type of person Ginnie would dismiss, and at first she attempts to. But she can't for some reason. She learns of his rheumatic fever as a child, which lead to heart problems, which lead to him being unable to serve in WWII and instead working in an airplane factory in Ohio during the war, and of his unrequited love for Ginnie's older sister, now married to a Naval officer. And as they talk, once can sense Ginnie's unquestioning allegiance to the status quo of the adult world and its values melting away, and discovering her own inner qualities, such as compassion and individualism.

More happens. But I'm already telling too much. Nine Stories is for sale at Inner Chapters Bookstore and Cafe, and we'll also be giving away a couple of copies as raffle prizes. That way you can read it for yourself. Just try to forget everything you just heard from me. It's all a bunch of crap.

But also remember what Kevin told you: gin and vanilla cream, with cookies. All for Ginnie & Franklin.



Friday, March 9, 2012

Le Mixeur Sharky Menu - Philip Thompson: De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period



"The bare truth is as follows: If you do not learn a few more of the rudiments of the profession, you will only be a very, very interesting artist the rest of your life instead of a great one. This is terrible, in my opinion. Do you realize how grave the situation is?"





Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories is Sunday, March 11, 5-10pm, at Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe, 419 Fairview Ave N, Seattle. Tickets are $25 (includes 3 cocktails) and should be pre-purchased here: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/229073

PHILIP THOMPSON

Here's a little lineage that explains Philip Thompson's place in the grand ole scheme of bartending things:

1) Philip's first name is the same as the middle name of fellow Le Mixeur Sharky contributor Ben Perri. They even spell it the same way, with one l. In case you have extremely short capacity for thought, the name we're talking about is, "Philip."

2) Philip's last name is the same last name as my Barbados brother David, who went with me to my first ever Tales Of The Cocktail , David was a friend of Chesterfield Brown of Mount Gay Rum, who once famously said, "MOUNT! GAY! RUM! WITH COCONUT! WATER!"

Actually he said it about 20 times, at a seminar at Tales that David Thompson and I were at.

3) Philip used to work with fellow Le Mixeur Sharky contributor Nathan Weber, AKA The Laughing Man, at Tavern Law. On more than one occasion while working together, these two mans were seen laughing.

4) Philip now is lead bartender at The Coterie Room, owned by chef duo Brian McCracken and Dana Tough, who also own Tavern Law, and Spur, which is less than a block away from Coterie Room. Fellow Le Mixeur Sharky contributor Marley Tomic-Beard, AKA Uncle Wiggily In Connecticut, used to work at Spur. But neither Philip nor Marley actually has an Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut.

5) Nathan Weber, Dana Tough, Brian McCracken, and Marley Tomic-Beard have never had a blue period. I asked Philip if he has had a blue period. He wouldn't say. That to me sounds like the response of a man who has.

All I'm trying to say is that Philip Thompson is one of the great bartenders in our fair city. He makes wonderful drinks and is an impeccably cordial host. He has excelled in some of Seattle's all too rare establishments where world-class food and world-class drink peacefully co-exist and actually enhance one another. And he has now invented a drink interpretation of De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period. What could possibly be next?

Well, how about the damn recipe?

DE DAUMIER-SMITH'S BLUE PERIOD
AKA "Le Chat de Schrödinger"

1 ½ ounce of (whiskey or gin or vodka it is not known until it is made)
½ ounce blue curacao
½ ounce lime juice
dash of angostura bitters
dash of orange bitters

shake over ice and strain into a...

HEY WHY DID PHIL MAKE HIS DRINK ABOUT THIS STORY SO WEIRD?

"I went upstairs to my room and lay down on my bed. Some minutes, or hours later, I made, in French, the following brief entry in my diary: 'I am giving Sister Irma her freedom to follow her own destiny. Everybody is a nun.' (Tout le monde est une nonne.)"

De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period is a story of a precocious 19 year old, recently returned to New York after nine years in Paris, who fibs his way into a job in Quebec providing correspondence art instruction to students of the art school of M. Yoshoto. Unimpressed and mostly depressed by the submitted works of most of his students, he finds himself smitten with the simplistic work of Sister Irma, commissioned to study art by Father Zimmerman at Les Amis Des Vieux Maitres. He especially adores her watercolor depiction of Christ being carried to the sepulchre in Joseph of Arimathea's garden.

So inspired is he by her work, he immediately writes her a letter even more long-winded than this blog about what she must do to refine her painting and achieve genius status. When she doesn't respond and instead Father Zimmerman writes to say he has reconsidered his decision to allow Sister Irma to pursue her art at Les Amis Des Vieux Maitres, De Daumier-Smith (not his real name) writes another long-winded letter even more desperate to corral Sister Irma's artistic spirit.

He then takes to the streets and observes a young woman in the display window of a shop, working hard to re-dress a wooden dummy with a truss. In the course of his observation and interaction with the female stranger, she reacts strongly to his appearance, and he experiences an epiphany. We are not sure what exactly this epiphany is, but when he returns home, in his own mind and diary he permits Sister Irma her freedom.

Mr. Philip Thompson interprets Smith's actions, and his statement "Tout le monde est une nonne" to mean everyone can make their own choices. And to quote Phil, "De Daumier-Smith came to this conclusion by witnessing an event in which the act of watching affected the outcome."

And so with the drink Le Chat de Schrödinger, inspired by De Daumier-Smith's blue period, everyone can make their own choices. You choose your base, mix with Blue Curacao for your blue, and add in lime and the bitters because, as is always important, it will make it taste good.

Freedom! It tastes good!

What does Le Chat de Schrödinger mean? I don't know. I think it sounds like it means a cat named by a guy named Schrödinger. What's the deeper meaning? I intentionally didn't ask. Now you all have to come to Le Mixeur Sharky and ask Phil himself. He'll make a choice as to how to answer. And each answer will be true.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Le Mixeur Sharky: The Back Story Part 3


I was supposed to write a blog post about Philip Thompson and his contribution to the Le Mixeur Sharky menu tonight. But I'm dead to rights, fatigued from a full day of work and hours of preparation for Sunday. So I'll write about Phil tomorrow. In the mean time, here's probably the last segment of re-posts from the Still Life With Shark blog. This one's from May 4, 2008, but based on a day in August 2005 when Sharky moved from Olympia to Seattle with his mothers. As I was living in Olympia and tied into a lease and a job, it caused a separation between us that I was not quite prepared for. So I figured I'd better write him a letter that one day we'd both enjoy.

Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories is Sunday, March 11, 5-10pm, at Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe, 419 Fairview Ave N, Seattle. Tickets are $25 (includes 3 cocktails) and should be pre-purchased here: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/229073

August 1, 2005


Today was a very special and very painful day. Today was the day that you would leave for Seattle to live with your mom in your new home on Capitol Hill. I think that it’s a good idea for you to make this move, and I will make the move along with you once my lease in Olympia is up. In the mean time, I will see you almost every weekend, and we will spend the whole weekend together when we see each other. But still it’s very hard for me to see you go.


Do you wonder why that’s hard, when I will still see you all the time anyway, and will be back living near you in a few months? Well, I wonder why too, and I think after wondering why I have a few explanations.


One is that this town, Olympia, has been your home and mine for as long as you have been alive. When I walk around town, I see places that we have spent times together, and had fun, that we will probably never go to together again. Just today, I walked through the area of Capitol Boulevard and Union. This is near where you and your mom used to live. I would take you for walks in your stroller through that area when you were very little. We would go to Wagner’s Bakery and get a muffin and share it. We’d walk around and look at the nice houses in that neighborhood, and sometimes I would wish I had enough money to buy one of those houses for us to live in. It is a big change. I think change is good, and I think this change is good for you and for me, but it’s still hard to let go of happy things, like living in Olympia with you.


Another thing that makes me sad is that I worry about you. I worry that this big change will be very hard for you, and I will be so far away that I can’t help you with it as much as I want to. I know you are a very tough little boy, and you are always OK, and that your mom will take good care of you. But because I am your father, I feel very protective of you and I want to personally ensure that you are OK. I worry that you are in a big city now and there are more dangers there, and I am not there to protect you. I am listening to a song right now, with lyrics that go like this…


“yellow hair…you are such a funny bear…it’s so hard to be in the city, because you want to say ‘hey’ to everybody.”


I wonder if you will want to say “hey” to everybody in the city.



I also feel sad because we have been spending so much time together lately, and now you are gone. I feel like a part of me is missing (I even wonder sometimes if the sadness I feel is from you being gone, or if I am just feeling the world’s sadness because you are not there to protect me from it anymore…do you understand?). I feel like you can’t possibly understand why I am not with you anymore. I know you will go on, being brave, living life and enjoying yourself. But I worry that you are having fun despite your worries. I don’t want you to do that, I want you to not have any worries. I know that isn’t realistic, but that is what I want for you.


This morning, I woke up very early with a very heavy heart because I knew it was going to be very hard to say goodbye to you. I almost just got up and left you sleeping with Lela, so I wouldn’t have to say goodbye and maybe you would be less sad if you woke up and I was gone instead of having to watch me leave. I went into the kitchen to mix a cup of juice for you or for Lela to give you when you woke up, and I heard you crying. You came walking out of the bedroom as I was walking from the kitchen to see what was wrong. You had woken up and were sad because you didn’t see me in bed next to you. I comforted you and came back to bed. You settled down and then started to play. We got up and got dressed. I told you that I was going to take you to see Terry and you started to cry. You asked for mama, and for grandma. I told you that you would stay with Terry for a little while until your mama came to pick you up. You sobbed, “ok” and then you cheered up. I was happy you felt better, but I knew that what you understood was that you were going to see mama, not that you would have to be left with Terry first. I made you some toast and we got in the car. You were smiling and singing along to Ernie and Bert, and munching on your toast. You were so happy, and I felt very guilty because I knew I was about to do something that would make you sad.


We were early, so we stopped at Bagel Brothers and got a bagel and a coffee. I figured I’d eat half of the bagel and drink the coffee for my own breakfast, then save the rest of the bagel for you to eat while you were with Terry.


We drove to Terry’s house, which is right next door to the house you and your mama were moving out of. Terry wasn’t home. I called her and she said they were at the store and on their way home. You squirmed from my arms and ran away from Terry’s over to your house. Except it wasn’t your house anymore. We went inside and everything was gone. You went upstairs to the place where your TV was, and you said “Uh-Oh, where TV?” I tried to put on a brave face, and tell you how exciting it was that you were going to have new place to play, and that your mama had taken everything to this great new place so you could have fun playing there together, and she would be back soon to take you to the wonderful new place. But you are three years old, and those words don’t make much sense to you.


Terry came home, and I carried you over to her place. You knew where you were going, and you didn’t want to go. So I had to clutch onto you very hard to keep you from running away. I handed you to Terry and she carried you inside. I walked over to the doorway and waved goodbye to you, and told you everything was OK and mama would be there soon. You were red in the face, crying and screaming. You begged me not to leave and reached your little hand out to me. I had to wave goodbye and close the door. I knew the sooner I left the sooner you would start to get used to your new surroundings and have some fun.


I felt a strange feeling wash over me as I walked to my car, like I was going to fall over or collapse. I felt like all of the life was flooding out of me. I drove out of the parking lot quickly and found a spot off the road to pull over. I started to cry very hard. I felt alone, so I called Lela on the phone. When she answered, I couldn’t even speak, I just cried into the phone.


After a few minutes, I calmed down a bit and took some deep breaths. I got off the phone with Lela and then called your mama. I left her a message asking her to please hurry up and go get you, and to please call me when she had you so I knew you weren’t unhappy anymore. I also told her I would like to come see you this Saturday morning. I needed to have a set date and time when I knew for sure I would see you again.


Then I went to work.


I was scared to go to work because I felt so sad, but it kind of cheered me up. I went with a client of mine to his first day of work, and he was so happy to be at his job that it made me happy. Later, I was helping another client with his job. He noticed I was feeling down, and asked me if I was tired. I said, “Yes, I’m very tired today.” And he said, “I’m sorry you’re tired.” I thought that was very sweet.


I spoke with your mom later and we decided I would come get you on Friday evening, and we will spend the whole weekend together! And then I went home and wrote this letter to you, which I think you will probably read sometime when you are older. Now that I’m finishing writing it, I feel like maybe I am ready to put this whole sad day behind me and get back to being your happy father again.


But here’s the funny thing: I’m very pleased to know that I can feel this strongly still. When you’re three years old, your emotions are so strong it’s almost scary, and maybe sometimes you come to wish they would just calm down. But as you get older, it gets harder and harder to really feel strongly about anything, and you start to wish you could feel more. I feel so much love for you that it makes me feel very very sad sometimes, like when you are leaving, or when you’re sad. But most of the time, it just makes me feel very very happy to love you so much. So thank you for making me feel so much.


I can’t wait for Friday evening. I hope you are very happy in your new home.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Le Mixeur Sharky Menu - Marley Tomic-Beard: Uncle Wiggily In Connecticut


Mary Jane pushed her chin farther forward over the edge of her forearm.

"El. . ." she said.

"Why won't you tell me how he was killed? I swear I won't tell anybody. Honestly. Please."

"No."

"Please. Honestly. I won't tell anybody."

Eloise finished her drink and replaced the empty glass upright on her chest. "You'd tell Akim Tamiroff," she said.

"No, I wouldn't! I mean I wouldn't tell any--"

"Oh," said Eloise, "his regiment was resting someplace. It was between battles or something, this friend of his said that wrote me. Walt and some other boy were putting this little Japanese stove in a package. Some colonel wanted to send it home. Or they were taking it out of the package to rewrap it--I don't know exactly. Anyway, it was all full of gasoline and junk and it exploded in their faces. The other boy just lost an eye." Eloise began to cry. She put her hand around the empty glass on her chest to steady it.

Mary Jane slid off the couch and, on her knees, took three steps over to Eloise and began to stroke her forehead. "Don't cry, El. Don't cry."

"Who's crying?" Eloise said.



Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories is Sunday, March 11, 5-10pm, at Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe, 419 Fairview Ave N, Seattle. Tickets are $25 (includes 3 cocktails) and should be pre-purchased here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/229073


MARLEY TOMIC-BEARD

As I mentioned in the previous post on Ben Perri, sometimes Seattle gets lucky and a some of the most superest bartenders around move here to Seattle and make really super drinks and act like really super people in public places called bars. And Marley is one of these super types. Since moving to Seattle, most of us first got to know her while she was bartending at Spur. Then she started sneaking down the alleyway to Bathtub Gin and making drinks there too. Then she disappeared from Belltown all together and helped open the bar at Golden Beetle in Ballard! Oh that mischievous Marley! (It was right at that time we all started calling her "Crazy Marley." We stopped calling her that a few moments later because, well, it was pretty silly.)

After proving her point at Golden Beetle, she moved on to create a brand damn spanking new bar program at the brand damn spanking new restaurant and bar The Sexton (at least is was brand damn spanking new at the time. After a few months the city comes out to the restaurant and removes the brand damn spanking seal. Then you're just "new"). There you will find the bar front and center and Marley making delicious drinks, and you will also find a menu of southern-influenced food items that are delicious. And the best part, all you have to is ask for them, and someone brings it right to where you're sitting and you can eat it! Woohoo!

Marley came to us from Boston, where she was inspired to pursue a craft cocktail lifestyle by Misty Kalkofen, these days of Brick & Mortar in Cambridge. Misty is organizing a Le Mixeur Sharky event in Boston in April. Marley is contributing to the Le Mixeur Sharky event in Seattle. See how everything is coming full circle? Perhaps it's more like two straight lines going back and forth between Boston and Seattle. But if you push the ends of those lines towards each other, they might bow into two arches, at which point the ends can be welded together to form a circle. Our operatives are working on this as we speak. Bow those lines, m'boys! Bow those lines m'ladies! Raise High The Roofbeam, Carpenters!

All I'm really trying to say is, I'm glad Marley's here now.

UNCLE WIGGILY IN CONNECTICUT

1 ½ ounce Dewar's blended scotch
¾ ounce Riesling Simple Syrup*
¾ ounce Campari
¼ ounce lemon juice
2 dashes Laphroaig

Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass
Strain into Collins glass, top with soda and ice

*1 part water to 3 parts sweet, aromatic Riesling, heated to boil and then mixed with a 1:1 ratio of sugar. For example: 8 ounces water, 24 ounces Riesling, mixed with 32 ounces sugar (by volume).

Marley took seriously the task of making a drink that relates to its story. Also, her story has some elements that make for guides to the drink. For instance, the two principal characters in the story are described as drinking highballs throughout the afternoon they spend together. Towards the end of the story one picks up a near-empty bottle of scotch, revealing that they've been drinking scotch highballs.

They also chain smoke throughout the story (as do pretty much all adults in Salinger stories) so Marley adds the dashes of Laphroaig (which worked much better than the original idea to build the drink in a Collins glass over ice and a wet cigarette butt).

So essentially what Marley has done (and I will paraphrase her own description), is to create a scotch highball with nostalgia, love lost or gone up in smoke (the real reason for the smoky Laphroaig). The Riesling syrup represents the sugar-coated sophistication, or plastic/candy facade, of the life of comfort that Eloise, the main character leads. The Campari represents the bitterness of her life, caused by the loss of her true love.

SO IS THIS STORY ABOUT ANYTHING BESIDES DRINKING AND SMOKING?

Yes and no. It is about two women getting together one snowy afternoon in Connecticut. They were college roommates their freshmen year, and neither one of them would finish school. Both fell into romances instead. Mary Jane ended up a career woman. Eloise ended up marrying a successful man she doesn't love after her true love, Walt, died in the war. Eloise is spirited, sharp, and funny. But she's miserable. She doesn't even seem to like her husband, and her daughter is a source of annoyance and embarrassment for her, despite the fact that she is a sweet child. Eloise complains about the maid, the pillows, the furniture, and anything else that comes up.

As the afternoon turns to evening and Eloise keeps serving up scotch highballs, convincing Mary Jane to cancel her work appointments and stay with her, the women get more inebriated, the topics of conversation become deeper and more emotional, and eventually it is revealed to us with heartbreaking clarity how Eloise, once a sweet, naive, and fragile girl in love has become a lonely, isolated, and bitter woman buried in her Connecticut palace.

This is my favorite story in the collection, and I don't want to reveal anymore about it here or give any hint as to the meaning of the title. One day, please make yourself an Uncle Wiggily In Connecticut (or go to the Sexton and see if Marley's got some Riesling syrup she can use to make you one), get out a copy of Nine Stories, sip, read, and don't worry. Everything's going to be OK. It really is. You were a nice girl, weren't you?




Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Le Mixeur Sharky Menu - Ben Perri: For Esmé - With Love And Squalor



Esmé was standing with crossed ankles again. "You're quite sure you won't forget to write that story for me?" she asked. "It doesn't have to be exclusively for me. It can--"

I said there was absolutely no chance that I'd forget. I told her that I'd never written a story for anybody, but that it seemed like exactly the right time to get down to it.

She nodded. "Make it extremely squalid and moving," she suggested. "Are you at all acquainted with squalor?"

I said not exactly but that I was getting better acquainted with it, in one form or another, all the time, and that I'd do my best to come up to her specifications. We shook hands.

"Isn't it a pity that we didn't meet under less extenuating circumstances?"

I said it was, I said it certainly was.

"Goodbye," Esmé said. "I hope you return from the war with all your faculties intact."

I thanked her, and said a few other words, and then watched her leave the tearoom. She left it slowly, reflectively, testing the ends of her hair for dryness.




Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories is Sunday, March 11, 5-10pm, at Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe, 419 Fairview Ave N, Seattle. Tickets are $25 (includes 3 cocktails) and should be pre-purchased here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/229073

BEN PERRI

"He is perhaps the most graceful, affable, and considerate bartender that I have ever witnessed in action."

This is what Richie Boccato, the brains behind Dutch Kills, PKNY, Tribeca, Weather Up, and who knows what else in NYC, wrote to me about Ben Perri. I asked Richie if I could quote him in writing about Ben for this event. He didn't respond. I'll take that as a yes.

(editor's note: Richie will be hosting a Le Mixeur Sharky event at PKNY and Dutch Kills on April 15, more on that to come once the Seattle massacre is done after this weekend).

Pardon me for belittling the craft of writing, but I'm going to quote myself on Facebook here...

"Tonight, at Zig Zag, I asked Autumn to ask Ben for the dirtiest, nastiest, strongest thing he could conjure up... He gave me his phone number."

True story.

So Ben is a bartender at the Zig Zag Café. When Murray left Zig Zag, there were those who did a lot of hand-wringing. But there were certain visionaries such as me and Ben and Murray and others who knew it would be a blessing. Ben and the mighty Erik Hakkinen were more than ready to assume front stage and carry on what we'd all loved about Zig Zag. And some of the groupies subsided. And we all lived happily ever after. And so did Murray.

Ben routinely tests my will to not play favorites. The only thing preventing me from saying that Ben is my favorite bartender in Seattle is all my other favorite bartenders in Seattle. Let's just say there's none better. How can we conclude who the best of anything is? As Steven Wright said, a conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.

And as Sharky once said, when asked who was his favorite, Batman or Spiderman, "Batman and Spiderman." Or as Sharky once told me, "my favorite color is green, blue, red, yellow, and purple."

Picking favorites is for the weak. Ben Perri is for the strong, strong at heart, strong of spirit, and strong of base spirit. I'm not going to prattle on any longer about the man. Just go to Zig Zag and enjoy what he does for yourself. He is truly a marvel. And even better, a genuinely good human being.

For Esmé - With Love And Squalor is my mother's favorite story in Nine Stories. I trusted Ben with the creation of a drink in its honor and naturally he did not disappoint.

FOR ESME - WITH LOVE AND SQUALOR

1 ounce Evan Williams bourbon
½ ounce STRONG Earl Grey Tea syrup*
¼ ounce Cocchi Americano
¼ ounce Bonal
dash of Cinnamon
stir and strain into flute
fill with champagne
garnish with lemon twist

*Earl Grey syrup is 2 parts very strong brewed Earl Grey tea, mixed with 1 part rich simple syrup. Rich simple syrup is 2 parts suga' dissolved into 1 part wata'. Wata' is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A wata' molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. F'shizzle.

HEY ARE YOU GOING TO TELL US ABOUT THE STORY?

Yes!

But not much. It's late and I'm a little drunk.

For Esmé - With Love And Squalor is a story about a little girl whose sincerity saves a grown man's sanity in the face of the horrors of war. The man meets her while stationed in rural England, undergoing specialized training before being sent off on some sort of madcap mission in WWII. They have tea, along with her younger brother Charles, and share conversation of an illuminating sort. She shares with him that her father died in the war, and while she puts on a brave face he notes the oversized men's wristwatch on her wrist. He shares with her that he writes stories, and she makes him promise to one day write one for her. She herself promises to write him a letter.

The story jumps forward to the officer post-war, still stationed in Germany. He is falling apart. He is now referred to in the story as "X." He shakes uncontrollably, avoids sunlight, smokes constantly, rarely eats, never leaves his room, torments friends who attempt to speak to him, and cannot sleep.

"When he let go of his head, X began to stare at the surface of the writing table, which was a catchall for at least two dozen unopened letters and at least five or six unopened packages, all addressed to him. He reached behind the debris and picked out a book that stood against the wall. It was a book by Goebbels, entitled "Die Zeit Ohne Beispiel." It belonged to the thirty-eight-year-old, unmarried daughter of the family that, up to a few weeks earlier, had been living in the house. She had been a low official in the Nazi Party, but high enough, by Army Regulations standards, to fall into an automatic-arrest category. X himself had arrested her. Now, for the third time since he had returned from the hospital that day, he opened the woman's book and read the brief inscription on the flyleaf. Written in ink, in German, in a small, hopelessly sincere handwriting, were the words "Dear God, life is hell." Nothing led up to or away from it. Alone on the page, and in the sickly stillness of the room, the words appeared to have the stature of an uncontestable, even classic indictment. X stared at the page for several minutes, trying, against heavy odds, not to be taken in. Then, with far more zeal than he had done anything in weeks, he picked up a pencil stub and wrote down under the inscription, in English, "Fathers and teachers, I ponder `What is hell?' I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love." He started to write Dostoevsky's name under the inscription, but saw--with fright that ran through his whole body--that what he had written was almost entirely illegible. He shut the book."

X eventually delves into that catchall for at least two dozen unopened letters and finds one is from Esmé, sent many many months earlier. He reads it. I have so far avoided giving away endings, but I'm going to do it here, because the story at hand is so beautiful. So stop reading now if you want to read the story in its entirety, which I highly recommend, and so does my mother. You need to read the whole story to get the beauty anyway. So you might as well go away now.

No. Seriously. Fuck off.

Go buy a copy of the book.

Impatient? Here's a link to the full text:



OK and now here's the part I wanted to share.

"DEAR SERGEANT X,

I hope you will forgive me for having taken 38 days to begin our correspondence but, I have been extremely busy as my aunt has undergone streptococcus of the throat and nearly perished and I have been justifiably saddled with one responsibility after another. However I have thought of you frequently and of the extremely pleasant afternoon we spent in each other's company on April 30, 1944 between 3:45 and 4:15 P.M. in case it slipped your mind.

We are all tremendously excited and overawed about D Day and only hope that it will bring about the swift termination of the war and a method of existence that is ridiculous to say the least. Charles and I are both quite concerned about you; we hope you were not among those who made the first initial assault upon the Cotentin Peninsula. Were you? Please reply as speedily as possible. My warmest regards to your wife.

Sincerely yours,

Esmé

P.S. I am taking the liberty of enclosing my wristwatch which you may keep in your possession for the duration of the conflict. I did not observe whether you were wearing one during our brief association, but this one is extremely water-proof and shockproof as well as having many other virtues among which one can tell at what velocity one is walking if one wishes. I am quite certain that you will use it to greater advantage in these difficult days than I ever can and that you will accept it as a lucky talisman.

Charles, whom I am teaching to read and write and whom I am finding an extremely intelligent novice, wishes to add a few words. Please write as soon as you have the time and inclination.

HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO LOVE AND KISSES CHALES.

It was a long time before X could set the note aside, let alone lift Esme's father's wristwatch out of the box. When he did finally lift it out, he saw that its crystal had been broken in transit. He wondered if the watch was otherwise undamaged, but he hadn't the courage to wind it and find out. He just sat with it in his hand for another long period. Then, suddenly, almost ecstatically, he felt sleepy.

You take a really sleepy man, Esme, and he always stands a chance of again becoming a man with all his fac-with all his f-a-c-u-1-t-i-e-s intact."





And in case you haven't figured it out yet, this story, For Esmé - With Love And Squalor, is the story X promised he would write for Esmé. Duh.

And nighty night.



Monday, March 5, 2012

Le Mixeur Sharky Menu - Nathan Weber: The Laughing Man


"Actually, I was not the only legitimate living descendant of the Laughing Man. There were twenty-five Comanches in the Club, or twenty-five legitimate living descendants of the Laughing Man--all of us circulating ominously, and incognito, throughout the city, sizing up elevator operators as potential archenemies, whispering side-of-the-mouth but fluent orders into the ears of cocker spaniels, drawing beads, with index fingers, on the foreheads of arithmetic teachers. And always waiting, waiting for a decent chance to strike terror and admiration in the nearest mediocre heart."




Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories is Sunday, March 11, 5-10pm, at Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe, 419 Fairview Ave N, Seattle. Tickets are $25 (includes 3 cocktails) and should be pre-purchased here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/229073

NATHAN WEBER

Sometimes we here in Seattle get lucky and some really super bartender from another city moves here. And sometimes we get even luckier because that really super bartender gets really even more superer once he or she (for she, stay tuned for soon post on Tomic-Beard, Marley) lives here and tends bar in Seattle.

Of course, it's not luck. Seattle really is just that really super to lure in really super bartenders like Nathan Weber and then use its really superiorness to make him even more really superer.

Are you still reading? If so, let me tell you a little about Nathan. He worked bars in San Francisco. Then he moved to Seattle. When I met him he was working at Tavern Law, where he'd eventually assume bar managerial duties. He probably worked other places in Seattle too, but in keeping with my vow not to ever research anything I write about (research = fascism, as you know), I don't know anything about that, nor would I admit it if I did.

I can remember times when I couldn't get a damn seat at the damn bar at Tavern damn Law because it's so damn popular, but Nathan would manage to make it out to my table to chat about my drink and other things. He always seemed to stand right behind my head where I'd need to basically hold my head upside down in order to make eye contact, and nodding in agreement became an act of gymnastic contortion. I speculate watching me do this made Nathan laugh, and thus, he gets to create a drink for The Laughing Man.

Nathan's now at Canon and Rob Roy. He laughs a lot at both places. Occasionally, a patron says something like, "Hey dickhead, stop laughing and make some drinks!" Nathan just laughs, then mutters under his breath, "Fuck you asshole. I'll laugh all I want. I'm in love, with life, my job, and my fiancee." Then he makes the asshole something awesome. Something like The Laughing Man, also known as Eagle's Blood.

THE LAUGHING MAN, AKA EAGLE'S BLOOD

Here's the version for making at home...

1 ounce Averna
½ ounce Ramazzotti
½ once lime juice
¼ ounce muscovado syrup*
dash angostura bitters
freshly grated nutmeg

Combine all ingredients with ice in a shaker.
Shake and strain into a chimney or Collins glass.
Add ice and top with sparkling wine.

*Muscovado Syrup is made by combining muscovado sugar and water at a 2 to 1 ratio. Demerara sugar may be substituted.

For Le Mixeur Sharky, Nathan "The Laughing Man" Weber is going to carbonate these beverages and bottle them. Like in sealed bottles where carbonation finds no exit. Order one and we'll pop it open for ya.

SO WHAT DO YOU WANNA TELL US ABOUT THIS STORY ANYWAY?

The Laughing Man is an incredibly intricate story within a story, so summarizing it in a brief space is a hopeless endeavor. A group of boys called the Comanches revere their male adult leader "The Chief." They engage in many after-school activities but mainly sports, mainly baseball. It is a boys' club. The Chief tells them fantastic and elaborate tales of The Laughing Man, a mythical character from China who was horrifically disfigured in childhood by kidnappers, exiled and rejected by humanity, only to become the world's most cunning thief and criminal mastermind and a hero to many.

When The Chief falls for a woman named Mary Hudson, the boys struggle to accept her presence into their boy world, then struggle to interpret and understand their own childlike affection and perhaps love for her. When the romance ends badly, The Chief ends the love affair for all the boys before they have a chance to understand their own feelings. All is made worse by the adults' insistence on ignoring the childrens' questions, on shielding them out of everything that's going on, leaving them to guess and make sense of tiny little fragments.

The Chief's broken heart leads him to end the Laughing Man tale heatbreakingly, breaking the hearts of the Comanche children. He was an adult hero to the boys. But he was too weak to acknowledge the fullness of a child's humanity, and too weak to overcome his own romantic frustration in order to nurture the wild and beautiful spirits of the children who counted on him.

"Offhand, I can remember seeing just three girls in my life who struck me as having unclassifiably great beauty at first sight. One was a thin girl in a black bathing suit who was having a lot of trouble putting up an orange umbrella at Jones Beach, circa 1936. The second was a girl aboard a Caribbean cruise ship in 1939, who threw her cigarette lighter at a porpoise. And the third was the Chief's girl, Mary Hudson."


"She was a yellow bird and I was a red and blue and green fish. The birds explained to me that only I could save her because we were both humans, except we were also fish and birds. Every day when we were hungry we went to the store, and there was a bear who was the bodyguard. But we were too sneaky for him, and we would sneak past and buy a Hershey bar and a Skittles. And The Special DE Light Force (pandas who had armor on them and didn't like birds or fish) were trying to get her, but she wasn't captured because I had a watch and I turned into Hellboy and saved her. When they were destroyed we were going to another city. There were fish and birds who were going to help us, but there was a shark who didn't want us riding on him, and the fish and the birds were all over him. And then the shark didn't care and decided everyone could ride on him.” -Sharky




Sunday, March 4, 2012

Le Mixeur Sharky Menu - Sidonie Rodman: Pretty Mouth And Green My Eyes


"I start thinking about--Christ, it's embarrassing--I start thinking about this goddam poem I sent her when we first started goin' around together. `Rose my color is, and white, Pretty mouth and green my eyes.' Christ, it's embarrassing--it used to remind me of her. She doesn't have green eyes--she has eyes like goddam sea shells, for Chrissake--but it reminded me anyway ... I don't know. What's the use of talking? I'm losing my mind. Hang up on me, why don't you? I mean it."

The gray-haired man cleared his throat and said, "I have no intention of hanging up on you, Arthur."




Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories is Sunday, March 11, 5-10pm, at Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe, 419 Fairview Ave N, Seattle. Tickets are $25 (includes 3 cocktails) and should be pre-purchased here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/229073

SIDONIE RODMAN

Sidonie Rodman is the only Sidonie I've ever met, but there are others out there. If you look the name up, you'll find all sorts of gifted artist-type ladies, such as Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, noted French author of Gigi and many other works, Sidonie Villere, accomplished painter and sculptor, Spanish rock group Sidonie, and Portland-based fine artist Sidonie Caron.

I'm a little jealous. Look up the name Ted and you'll probably just find serial killers, alcoholic dead senators, and washed up sitcom stars.

Sidonie belongs in that group of gifted artist-type ladies. There is definitely an artistry to her drinks, which in my experience lean towards the simple, elegant, and refined. She has an impeccable knack for taking familiar ingredients and formulas and twisting them slightly yet definitively, creating something new that feels, looks, and tastes like a timeless classic.

That's the arts and crafts portion of the bartending profession, as for the hospitality portion, Sidonie's a notably warm, engaging person with a vibrant personality both behind and away from the bar. She is brimming with passion for what she does, and can get really worked up when talking about it. It's inspiring to witness.

So naturally, being a twisted degenerate, I assigned Sidonie the story in the book that dwells on people who seem to be victims of their own passions. Adultery, heartache, betrayal abounds. But perhaps it's more the dispassion with which these characters have pursued their passions that has lead them astray. Sidonie would never do that.

When I first met Sidonie she was working at Mistral Kitchen. From there she moved on to The Four Seasons. I tried to go visit her there but there was no way security was letting a reprobate like me into a swank joint like that. She then had a stint at Golden Beetle, bounced around a bit, and now finds herself splitting time between Belltown's Rabbit Hole and The Sexton in Ballard.

Sidonie created just the sort of drink I imagined she would: a spiritous, brown, simple drink that makes sense as soon as its recipe is read, and does exactly what it should once it's in your hand. I don't normally geek out too much about the drinks themselves (which is another way of saying I don't have much of value to say about them), but I will say that this drink discovers some sort of very special relationship between Peychaud's bitters and grapefruit peel.

PRETTY MOUTH AND GREEN MY EYES

2 ounces rye (originally created with Rittenhouse 100 but works with Bulleit as well)
¾ ounce Cynar
¼ ounce maraschino liqueur
3 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass over ice.
Strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with grapefruit twist.

SO WHAT'S THIS STORY ALL ABOUT ANYWAY?

Originally published in the New Yorker in 1951, Pretty Mouth And Green My Eyes is the only story in the collection that involves only adults. In a related note, it is possibly the most unrelentingly grim and dark story in the collection. In Salinger's writing, the adults are mostly hurt, twisted, and spiritually lost. It's only the children that convey any ray of humanity to the scenario.

The story is basically a phone conversation. A gray-haired man and a woman are in bed together late at night at the home of the man. The phone rings, he answers it, and it is a younger colleague from his work. They were both at a work party earlier in the night, along with the younger man's wife. Now he's home and he doesn't know where his wife is. It's the last straw he says, she's done this too many times before.

As the conversation continues it becomes harder to deny that the younger man's wife is the woman in bed with the gray-haired man. As this unsettling notion becomes evident, the dialogue between the two men - with the silent observations and subtle movements of the woman - becomes a striking and depressing deconstruction of the politics of masculinity, the calculated and measured way in which we communicate, and the common failure to find genuine compassion and empathy for the people in our lives.

Who else could use a drink? Sidonie has created one that captures that sense of longing and desire that has lead these three people astray, but that twists it into something beautiful and optimistic. No, I'm not kidding. And she's confirmed to be joining us on March 11, and she's bringing her bar tools. Rose my color is, and white, Pretty mouth and green my eyes. Soon, you'll know in your heart what this means.




Saturday, March 3, 2012

Le Mixeur Sharky: The Back Story Part 2


This was originally published on October 16, 2008, on the Still Life With Shark Blog. My brother Ben re-posted it on some site that I can't remember what it is. It ended up getting over 10,000 views in the next few hours, resulting in many comments praising me and my first comments of people calling me names and attacking me. In anticipation of Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories, here it is again...



This has been much written about in many spaces with far greater readership than this blog, but I feel compelled to take a break from my tales of school placements to share some comments that reveal the emergence of an inevitable autism backlash.

Michael Savage is a UC Berkley Graduate and former herbalist, turned "Compassionate" Conservative talk show host. In 2003, he was fired from his show on MSNBC for the following rant after a caller insulted him, then identified himself as being gay:

"Oh, you're one of the sodomites! You should only get AIDS and die, you pig! How's that? Why don't you see if you can sue me, you pig? You got nothing better than to put me down, you piece of garbage? You got nothing to do today? Go eat a sausage and choke on it. Get trichinosis. OK, got another nice caller here who's busy because he didn't have a nice night in the bathhouse and is angry at me today?"

He later defended his actions by claiming he didn't realize he was on the air when he said it. Savage has waged a long-term (and still ongoing) assault on the gay and lesbian community, often referring to "the gay mafia," likening the legalization of same-sex marriage to making it legal to marry a horse or a mule, and comparing flamboyant homosexuality to the excesses of the Weimar Republic, which he claims gave rise to Hitler and the Nazis.

Despite having lost his show on MSNBC, Savage remains one of the most popular radio talk show hosts in the world. His show is broadcast on 350 stations, with 8.25 million listeners.

On his July 16th show, Savage took time out from the gay-bashing to unleash a sickening attack on some old standby targets of conservatives - minorities and the poor - and also upon two new targets: asthmatic children and children with autism.

From the July 16 edition of Talk Radio Network's The Savage Nation:

'Now, you want me to tell you my opinion on autism, since I'm not talking about autism? A fraud, a racket. For a long while, we were hearing that every minority child had asthma. Why did they sudden -- why was there an asthma epidemic amongst minority children? Because I'll tell you why: The children got extra welfare if they were disabled, and they got extra help in school. It was a money racket. Everyone went in and was told [fake cough], "When the nurse looks at you, you go [fake cough], 'I don't know, the dust got me.' " See, everyone had asthma from the minority community. That was number one.

Now, the illness du jour is autism. You know what autism is? I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is.

What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, "Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot."

Autism -- everybody has an illness. If I behaved like a fool, my father called me a fool. And he said to me, "Don't behave like a fool." The worst thing he said -- "Don't behave like a fool. Don't be anybody's dummy. Don't sound like an idiot. Don't act like a girl. Don't cry." That's what I was raised with. That's what you should raise your children with. Stop with the sensitivity training. You're turning your son into a girl, and you're turning your nation into a nation of losers and beaten men. That's why we have the politicians we have.



It can be daunting, even awe-inspiring, to stare straight into the face of such galactic proportions of stupidity, wretchedness, and depravity as these comments. There's also a temptation to just ignore it. After all, why even dignify such pap with a response?

But consider this: 8.25 million listeners. And consider this: now we have "comedian" Denis Leary joining in on the fun in his newly released book:

“There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can’t compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks . . . to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don’t give a shit what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you - yer kid is NOT autistic. He’s just stupid. Or lazy. Or both.”

Pardon me for the jarring juxtaposition, but let's go straight from Savage and Leary to a slightly more enlightened human being, Martin Luther King:

“Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' But conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right.”

And let us make no mistake about it: the Savages and Learys of the world are cowards. They are cowards, and thus the question "is it safe?" comes up. Sadly, they don't even need to consciously ask this question any more. Of course it's safe. Assaulting children is always safe. Persecuting those without a forum to defend themselves - whether they be children, people with disabilities, the impoverished, the sickly, or some blessed combination of these - is always safe.

And there's no doubt it is all expedient and politic. It's vitriol such as this that fuels the allegiance of the "Savage Nation," keeping the ratings up. And as far as Leary, the "edgy" persona he cultivated in order to propagate his comedic career has now expeditiously found a tow hook in the form of Savage.

And so where does conscience and what is right enter in? Sadly, it once again is left to the muted voices of those who are being attacked, those voiceless people that bullies like Savage and Leary delight in piling on. Usually, those people consist of people of color, homosexuals, immigrants, poor folks, Muslims, or some combination of the above.

Today, as a parent of a child with Autism, it's my turn.

Let's start with what is not right.

The assertion that minority children fake asthma in order to garner excessive welfare benefits - even when divorced from the repugnant and typical insinuations that people or color are lazy free-loaders who devote their lives to exploiting "the system" - is inane.

According to a study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH), low-income children with diagnosed asthma, compared to children generally, suffer disproportionate levels of hardships such as gaps in insurance coverage, housing problems, and insufficient food after diagnosis.

Furthermore, the children most likely to experience hardships are those afflicted with severe asthma. In fact, 78% of low-income children with severe asthma experienced one or more of the above-mentioned hardships, compared to 64% for children with mild to moderate asthma.

And, in spite of this obvious need for services, according to NIH, "children with severe asthma were no more likely to use housing, childcare or SSI benefits, and were less likely to get WIC benefits than children with less severe asthma."

So not only are children with asthma not reaping untold fortunes from the debilitated social welfare system of the United States, they are actually suffering most from its failures. And the more severe their condition, the less assistance they are likely to receive.

The reason minority children are suffering disproportionately from asthma is because minority children are suffering disproportionately from poverty. And with poverty comes greatest exposure to the side-effects of our corporate, toxic culture.

Environmental Racism. What could possibly be more tragic than the fact that such a phrase needs to exist? Yet it exists out of perfectly legitimate reasons. Our society, as presently constructed, necessitates the creation of massive quantities of filth and toxicity, and all that toxic mire must be generated, exploited, and dumped somewhere. And you can rest assured that isn't going to happen in an affluent white community. It's going to happen somewhere where the people are poor, powerless, and disenfranchised. It is going to be inflicted upon the same people that the Savages and Learys of the world inflict their vitriol.

Take an extreme case for example. East St. Louis. East Saint Louis is 98% African American. It has one of the highest rates of child asthma in America.

The people of East St. Louis are impoverished and powerless, as is the City itself. Most rely on welfare to survive, as local commerce and industry are almost non-existent. Even the city government has laid off most of its employees over the last 20 years due to lack of funds.

East St. Louis lies in the Mississippi River's floodplain, surrounded by the Illinois Bluffs. The bluffs, predominantly white and middle to upper class, have never been compelled to pay taxes to assist with flood control, despite the fact that it is their drainage that floods the floodplain and East St. Louis. East St. Louis lacks the funds to be able to pay for this itself.

The flooding in East St. Louis is especially problematic, because the deficient sewage systems of the town are entirely contaminated with the toxins of the chemical plants that surround the town. When flooding occurs, the poison in these sewers flows through the streets and the homes of East St. Louis.

Monsanto and Pfizer have maintained chemical plants here for years. Apart from the release of toxins into the sewer system (not to mention the soil and the drinking water), the plants release a steady stream of smoke that literally forms a perpetual cloud over all of East St. Louis. From time to time, the plant emits a blast considered to be toxic, at which time an alarm sounds. People who have breathed the smoke get a payment of a few hundred dollars, if they first sign a release relieving the company from liability. The companies that operate these plants have formed small incorporated areas, outside the jurisdiction of East St. Louis, and therefore are exempt from paying any taxes to the city.

So, to recap: affluent white communities on the bluffs are excused from assuming fiscal responsibility for the preventable occurrence of the flooding of East St. Louis. Multinational corporations, earning billions of dollars in revenue, are excused from taking responsibility for preventing the release of their toxic chemicals upon the environment and the residents, and from cleaning up the released toxins. The voiceless people of East St. Louis absorb all the misery that comes from all this, and their children become afflicted with asthma and other diseases, such as lead poisoning, liver tumors, and abscesses.

But heaven forbid a mother in East St. Louis, out of desperation, should ever once coach her child to fake a cough in the misguided hope that this will somehow derive them an additional benefit of some sort. For this act will surely be noted by the ever-observant, astute mind of Savage, who will quickly pass it along to his 8.25 million "listeners" as evidence that their bigotry is actually righteousness.

As for Leary...Diagnoses of Autism tend not to come from a "shrink," or a "crackerjack whack job" as he so assonantly describes them. Perhaps Leary has not heard, but autism is not a psychological or psychiatric condition. It is a neurological disorder. Diagnosis, in our case, initially came from a medical practitioner, with the advisory of licensed physical, occupational, and speech therapists. Eventually, a proper diagnosis should come from a neurologist, a process we have yet to go through, but will likely have to if we ever hope to receive a state-provided benefit.

Between the two of them they did say something that is right. That would be Savage. He is right that Sharky - a child diagnosed with autism - lacks a father who calls him an idiot, a moron, a putz, a dummy, a brat, or a fool. He is right that Sharky lacks a father who tells him not to cry, not to act like a girl.

Savage claims to have a father who told him all these things, and out of cowardice proclaims his father was right, and begs us all to not deviate from his father's methodology, perhaps out of some desperate dream that universal adherence to this cancerous way will somehow vindicate it, and provide Savage with a specious peace in the sewage-flooded nest he has sought shelter in.

Despite his venom, despite his daily efforts to seduce 8.25 million listeners into his own cauldron of hell, I feel genuine compassion and pity for him.

Years ago, in his HBO special, “No Cure For Cancer,” Leary spoke – touchingly in fact – of his tough Irish father, and the understood rule that even a small child was not permitted to cry, even upon having an arrow lodged in his head.

I feel genuine compassion for him as well.

I cannot, however, adhere to the path they beckon us toward. I will never do my child like that, and I trace it back to a lunch break years ago at a Wendy's in Bellingham, Washington.

I was working as a barista, and if I neglected to bring a lunch with me to work, the only place I could make it to during my 30 minute lunch break was the Wendy's adjacent to the the coffee shop. I sat there one day, eating a salad, and noticed my place mat was adorned with rows and rows of pictures of children.

I read that these children were all foster children, and we fast-food eaters were being asked by the Wendy's corporation to consider adopting one of them. About 3 rows down, slightly to the right of center, my eyes locked in on one of the photos. Even in small size, on a fuzzy printout discolored slightly by my soda's condensation, this child's eyes burned. The look was simply, purely, unmistakably one of wounded pride. The child was cooperating with the adults around him by posing and smiling for the picture, perhaps realizing that the emotions he exuded for this photo could very well dictate whether or not he found a home to live in. And at the same time, he seemed fully aware of how wrong this all was.

This child, as all children, had an innate sense of the promise of existence, and consequently knew that this promise had been broken. Born a proud warrior, and now, by the age of 8, disillusioned and hurt. Wounded pride, the promise of existence betrayed.

And I thought to myself right then and there, that should I ever have a child I will fight with everything I have to make sure this never happens to him. And years later, when I found out I was to be a father, I made this vow to myself and to my unborn child:

Whatever happens, no matter how tired, frustrated, or desperate the challenges of raising you make me, I will never shame you. I will never insult you. I will never, ever do anything to take away your pride. If I ever were to do this to you, it would be a violation of what is right, and it would be a betrayal of you. And should I ever betray you as such, I would not at all blame you if you found it difficult to ever trust another soul. And my apologies would then go out to the world for having cast another lost, hurt, betrayed soul into its midst.

And I thought clearly of what my hopes were for my child. And they were simple. I hoped that I would have a healthy, happy child. And I hoped that my child, both from his own innate strength and from my support, would have the self-confidence, pride, and strength of character to be his own person, to follow his own path, and withstand any indignities the world might throw at him and stay true to himself.

That, to me, is what it means to be a man (not a beaten man: Savage and Leary are the beaten men). And at the same time, let's not draw lines along gender. Sharky is a boy, and so I talk in terms on what it means to be a man. But truth be told, this is what it means to be human.

There exists a higher plane of being, one that transcends this messy matter of arguing with the crippled and wounded thinking of Savage and Leary. Having just now sufficiently vented my spleen, I now am on this plane, and I find myself – oddly yet comfortably – capable of devoting the same vow I gave the unborn Sharky to Savage and Leary.

The Savages and Learys, when taken in proper context, are our Bodhisattvas, always nudging us closer to enlightenment. Their attacks on children with Autism, people of color, the poor, and homosexuals, have reawakened me to the presence of all of these communities within me.

I am the parent of a child with Autism, and am raising that child with a lesbian couple. I am the child of a man who grew up in abject poverty, suffering all the hardships outlined in the NIH reports. The same man spent the better part of his adult life as a devoted teacher and advocate for low-income youth, incarcerated youth, and miseducated youth - the vast majority of whom were people of color.

All of these communities come together within me, just as many communities come together within most of us. And as the attackers grow bored with their usual punching bags, their expedience and cowardice compels them to seek new targets that they perceive to be voiceless. But with each new community they attack, they step upon the sacred grounds of more and more of these "voiceless." And in doing so, they awaken us to our commonality, they drive us towards the realization that we are all together. And perhaps this realization will give us our voice.

For Savage and Leary, I truly have the same hopes as I do for Sharky, just as I hope for this for myself, just as I hope for this for all of you.

Really now, what else could I possibly hope for?

“A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.”

- Mohandas Gandhi