Five to nine

Have a drink.

September 23, 2004


The important ingredient in booze is ethanol, or ethyl alcohol. It is a "light" molecule that is perfectly soluble in water. It's like being on the guest list to the cell party. It can get in without waiting in digestion line. Most of it is absorbed in the small intestine. How quickly you get drunk depends on many factors, but the most influential is how quickly your stomach empties into your small intestine. Once it slips through the membranes, it begins depression of your central nervous system, and your mind and body can begin to lag as your spirit begins to soar. It will dull your senses, including that oh so inconvenient gag reflex. Some will use this time to fill the stomach with a new load of booze, because that's when it is easiest. Result: about the time your first grace period is over, your stomach will be dumping the oh-so-impressive round two into the intestine and shortly, you will be about four times drunker than you'd figured, without having to drink much more. It is these miscalculations which give new drinkers a hard time, and pickled old souses a reason to live. They can get real ugly real fast, and so we could fill a thesaurus with the words we use in polite conversation to refer to this terrible/great feeling.
Tipsy, tight, blind, snookered, blitzed, blasted, done, plastered, plowed, sloshed, tanked, wasted, spent, gone, arse-over-tit, blotto, bombed, crocked, destroyed, hammered, juiced, loaded, obliterated, sauced, shit-faced, smashed, stewed, three sheets to the dang ol' wind man, under the table, you get the picture.
Like mixing a little lemon juice into gin drinks, mixing these euphemisms with our reasoning makes this hard-to-swallow proposition a little easier to, uhm, swallow.

September 17, 2004

Cheers to the talented Mister T.K. Wang

There is no friend like the old friend, who has shared our morning days,
No greeting like his welcome, no homage like his praise:

I had an open bar laid before me tonight, totally unexpectedly, but most welcome. It was the bar of a retirement reception. Not full, but chilled tasty chardonay, and hefewizen with a lime will perfect any outdoor summer night. On a perfect summer night it's hard to tell wether the setting is more intoxicating than the brews.
But tonight there was no contest, as this reception was preceded by the final concert of the Los Angeles philharmonic season. This concert of Russian composers managed to intoxicate 9000 people all at once.
The concert was introduced by the director of the philharmonic, saying that it's a melancholy time of year, because the family of musicians, so used to all their time together, would separate and go their respective ways for their time off. But especially melancholy because tonight was the last performance of anyone retiring this season.
And with that, she introduced T.K. Wang.
T.K. joined the philharmonic in 1964, and has been with the first violins through 4 directors, 51 tours, 4000+ concerts, tonight being his last, "Ladies and gentlemen would you please welcome Mr. T.K. Wang"
And he got to walk onstage all by himself, to the roaring applause of the crowd.
They played their concert, and it was a good one. Those Russians are very dramatic, and the setting, America's largest natural amphitheater , was dramatic too.
T.K. is the father of one of my oldest and best friends. Oliver is cool, smart, handsome (not to be a homo or anything, but c'mon he is Half Asian), unbelievably nerdy, and always willing to plunge headfirst into whatever seems exciting. Technology, motorcycles, food, recreationals. Living proof that music is not the only thing T.K. excels at reproducing.
After the concert, I managed to run into T.K. and his lovely wife and daughter. They were very surprised and happy to se me. I was less surprised, but no less happy to see them. I gave them my condolences because their son could not attend. They then invited me to come celebrate a bit with them at the reception his colleagues had planned for him.
And now I get to walk onto a rooftop patio with dozens of the worlds most talented musicians alongside the guest of honor. A waiter offered us wine, and I took chardonay, but by then I was already drunk on my sense of satisfaction. The Wangs of course, had some mingling to do, so I excused myself and went for some Hors D'oeuvres while T.K. introduced his women to the few who did not yet know them.
I was at the buffet, in front of the very same Harpist who nearly brought me to tears not half an hour ago, reaching for a little roast beef sandwich when the Bread top part of it falls, almost mustarding her, then hitting her feet. She then gives me this little look, 'you should be a little embarrassed young man' it seemed to say. I was mortified. But I looked straight at her, smiled, and said "It's about time i jumped on this low-carb bandwagon anyways." She smiles back and says "you may as well, everyone else already has." Whew, this woman does not think I am a toad.
I sat and was joined by Mr. Wang's family for the rest of cocktails. "where is Essa Peka?" asked Mary, his wife. "I noticed earlier, Essa Peka didn't even come" replied her daughter. It took me a second to realize they were talking about Salonen. Whoa. During cocktail hour, T.K. put on some of those Neon flashing sunglasses, he was gifted a backpack (as something of an inside joke by the first violins), and the crowd erupted into chants of 'T.K. T.K. T.K.' more than once.
As cocktails gave way to coffee. T.K. was summoned to cut the first slice of cake, "After this slice, you're officially retired"
He did, and there was much applause. But then, he didn't stop, he started slicing the cake with very much gusto, untill someone suggested to him that perhaps he should let the good people from the Patina group take care of that, since that was their trade, and they might do a better job of it. He conceded. The evening wore on. As the crowd dwindled it became easier to overhear all the nice things people were saying to and about Mr. Wang, all the gratitude for being a good colleague, and a good example and unselfish teacher from the younger violins.
I finished my cake, my coffee and my conversation. I congratulated him one last time, as I said goodbye to his family, who I'd been sitting with.
As I walked to my car, I couldn't stop feeling so lucky to be well acquainted with such an extraordinary group of people, and that I got to share some of this most special evening with them.

Thank you for everything and Cheers T.K.!

September 15, 2004

Cheers to Mexico, Love and...

Taking advantage of Spain's problems with Napoleon in 1808, Mexicans began to consolidate an outcry against Spanish rule. When the followers of an insurgent priest, Hidalgo, freed a whole prison (kinda like Bastille day), and apprehended native spaniards a revolution for independence had begun. He yelled a war cry, that is repeated every september 15th at midnight by jubilant Mexicans. September 15th is a National holiday in Mexico, and like all of those, there is universal dry law. No booze for sale. Anywhere.
About a hundred and eighty nine years later, to the date, I was remarking this to one of those most deadly-intoxicating of libations, a beautiful girl.
This became a double anniversary of mine, as it marked the very first time i started falling in love. I say started because, like revolutions, love-falling is a long process. Really, it's more like digging than falling.
Hidalgo, Allende, Aldama y Jiménez, the revolutionaries were betrayed and executed, decapitated and that marked the end of that chapter.
Love sometimes feels like it's over, and you were silly for giving it a try. It's not. You weren't.
The war was picked up in the south by Morelos and many others. They more clearly defined their goals and made much progress, but Morelos too was eventually executed,
After his death there was a lull in popular support and armed effort. In this period, a few especially brave men and movements stand out.
After the collaboration both political and military of two great generals, Guerrero and Iturbide, the tides begin to turn, and insurgents are kicking ass and consolidating. IT'S GREAT!
11 years after the first cry, we have Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos as a sovereign state.
As it turns out, like revolutions, the stock market, and sex, love is best right before it's over.
Unlike revolutions, when it's over you wish it wasn't. And you remember all the good stuff while you're wishing. Over and over.
And here, maybe a theory as to why God gifted man this thing, wine. Because He can sympathize most with not being able to forget. Some things you just can't forget. But if you pull up a stool, and tell me about 'em while I pour you a drink, maybe we can turn remembering into something different.

Viva Mexico!

September 11, 2004

Some drinks you just don't forget.

They start long before you crack open the bottle, and they don't finish until long after you realize the glass at the bottom is not going to tint anything rose. It was a Tuesday morning when my habit was a beer on Wednesdays. It was bright, and i was rowing. And then in class. And then the class was interrupted. All of them were, the rest of the afternoon. I woke up Dan, and explained to him why everyone uptown was going to have a lot of free time that afternoon, and why we wished we didn't. I told Julia I needed a hug and some headache medicine. She gave me both. Night eventually came, and no one had any more plans for the day except to sit around and hurt. We sat around with my bottle of gin and his bottle of whiskey and a few of them for good company. It was Bombay sapphire with ice in a shapely tumbler, which had been a gift for my 19th birthday. Despite the fragrant, well-spiced nature of the drink, it was bitter all the way down.
Like all days, like all drinks, this one eventually ended, but it never went away.

September 07, 2004

The thing about Afrikaaners is,

...they got used to some pretty messed-up stuff back in the Motherland. And tending bar for them is an experience I would not trade for all the shares of the Dutch East India company in the world. There's a small bastion of expatriate south african jews in orange county. They throw nice parties for each other, and sometimes they summon me to tend their cocktail bars. They share a few easily recognizable traits. They dress well, they are willing to travel far for Mitzvahs, they have impeccable if slightly paternalistic manners, and there never fails to be one among them whose breeding deviates considerably from the norm. They are always in the slightest of minorities, and they all deviate in exactly the same way.
Yesterday, an especially nasty Boer, baited me into doing something I had never done before, will never do again, and am really glad I did once.
Here is how it went. After a long and tedious order by an older woman, the kind who'se lived 85% of her life on the sweet side of apartheid, a kindly older gentleman asks me if I can make a margarita. I explain to him that this bar has only neutral spirits, and I cannot oblige. The ol' woman interjects,
"You can't ask them like that, tell him what you want and let him worry about making it.
Tense pause as all the other Americanized guests feel a little awkward, having overheard the wench. Think fast, diffuse, make it okay, say something that makes everyone feel good about standing around at your bar feeling weird.
ME: I'm sorry then, sir, I'm afraid I have no choice but to disappoint you.
HE: That's fine, young man, [Jane], did you hear what he had to say
SHE: You can't take that kind of insolence from them or else they'll get used to it.
and then, as if to prove a point, and cutting in front of all the people waiting patiently,
SHE: You can make me another apple martini.

Now, There's different ways to make them candy cocktails. Vodka, appropriate schnapps, then some amount of whatever filler you may or may not want to use. If you use store bought sour mix, it adds a little more sugar to the mixture, which means you can add more vodka, which means it is stronger, and sweeter. But this cheap sour mix has an unfortunate side effect, when shaken violently, it makes the drink opaque instead of translucent, and on top of that, it makes a little bit of foam at the surface of your cocktail glass. Foam I used to hide the mouthful of barkeep she got for her manners. Before you feel to bad for her, this is the kind of woman who bought the Johannesburg Deluxe 7 series BMW. The one with the flame-thrower option available only in South Africa, to ward off would-be car-jackers. Before you applaud me for my heinous act, a little sympathy for her too. All her life, the people at her service were also under her heel. Some set of circumstances made it easy for this woman to grow up like this. It's hard to judge her. But it was real easy to size her up, and reeeeeeeeeeal easy to spit in her drink.