Inhuman Swill : Bars
            

Yesterday I mentioned a pub in Brooklyn called Mooney's, which sadly no longer exists. It was on Flatbush Avenue near Park Place, right around the corner from the apartment where I lived from 1995 to 2001. My 30th birthday party there was a very memorable occasion, but thinking about Mooney's reminded me of another funny memory from that place.

It was June of either 1997 or 1998, I can't be sure which. I don't usually watch much sports, but I was still a relatively recent transplant from Utah and the Jazz were playing the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals. I made a habit of slipping out to Mooney's to have a few beers and watch the games.

Mooney's was a great bar and always drew an eclectic clientele. I got to know a few of the other patrons over the course of the series, simply because they were curious about why I was cheering so loudly for Utah. I had been noticing one other patron in particular, who seemed to know a lot of other folks in the bar. He looked like an Orthodox Jew, with a white dress shirt, black pants, prayer fringe, skullcap, thick beard, and side curls. He always had a lit cigarette in one hand and a pint of beer in the other, and as he watched the games he was more vociferous and profane in his cheering than just about anyone else in the place. He looked to be about my age, and was the biggest bundle of contradictions I think I'd ever seen.

One night late in the series, I was sitting by myself at a high table opposite the bar when this fellow came weaving my way. "Hey," he said to me over the din, jabbing his cigarette at me. "I just heard from some people that you're a Mormon. From Utah."

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A-E-S-T-H-E-T-I-C-A-L-L-Y

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I overheard the most heartbreaking exchange yesterday. Well, it's not like I was eavesdropping, exactly. It happened right in front of me, while I was enjoying a beer and some lunch at the bar of one of my favorite local haunts. I posted the punchline yesterday by itself on Twitter, but I'm growing more and more dissatisfied with the constraints of Twitter and the way it tends to short-circuit my intent to blog. (But that's a subject for another post.) I think there's far more pathos in the full story.

I was reading a book so I wasn't paying much attention to the conversation between the guy to my left and one of the bartenders. "Hey," the bartender called to one of her colleagues, "how do you spell aesthetically?"

To my right, another bartender stalked over, grabbed a slip of paper and a pen from behind the bar, and scrawled something.

"Now we'll have to decipher his writing," said the first bartender.

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The amp
First off, I must say that I made it home and back safely.

There was some debate about whether or not this month's Tuesday Funk reading would even happen, what with the blizzard and all going on here in Chicago. Hopleaf's opinion was that snow doesn't tend to keep audiences away as much as rain does, so we should go ahead and do it.

And I have to say, they were right. At least in a sense.

With so much snow predicted to fall, I didn't want to take the car over to Clark Street, so I tied our bass amp up tight inside two blue garbage bags, picked up the mike stand, and staggered the (according to Google Maps) 0.8 miles from my house to Hopleaf, with the frigid wind blowing in my face most of the way. I stopped to rest once in the lee of an alley just about sixty feet from Ashland Avenue when I felt like I couldn't continue. After a couple of minutes, the final stretch no longer seemed so daunting, and soon enough I was warm inside Hopleaf, setting up the speaker and mike and enjoying a Chimay our bartender provided free of charge.

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'Bye, "Boys"

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It was Laura who discovered the show in late 2006 and convinced me to start watching it with her. A sitcom about a female sportswriter in Chicago and her circle of male poker buddies. We were both hooked, not just because the group of friends were so damn nice and charming and funny, but because the lead character, P.J., seemed so much more like a real woman than most women on television. I guess the show reminded us of our circle of friends.

The second season of "My Boys" (later canonically folded into season one) started the same month we moved to Chicago from New York City. It was like a group of old friends welcoming us to the city, right down to the shot of Wrigley Field in the opening credits (which is where we saw The Police in concert the very week we moved here). If it wasn't already our favorite show, it took that slot then.

That summer season of "My Boys" ran a scant nine episodes, as has every season since. Like a butterfly migration, it arrives unexpectedly in the spring or summer and is gone again too soon. The gang's hangout, Crowley's Tavern, became for us the adult analog of Sesame Street—the mythical happy place we wanted to find and inhabit.

No more. It turns out that the season just ended is the "My Boys" swan song. TBS has canceled the series. We watched the two final episodes back-to-back last night, eating ice cream, happy for the characters' happy endings but mourning their exit from our lives.

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R.I.P. Ryan Maguire's Ale House

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Fans of the monthly New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series in Manhattan are used to gathering for good food, good whiskey, and good beer at Ryan Maguire's Ale House, on Cliff Street near the South Street Seaport. Unfortunately, Ryan Maguire's was destroyed by a fire early this morning:

It's great that no one was hurt, but this is a real loss. It was a warm, welcoming place, and I always looked forward to heading there with Jim Freund and a big, interesting, varied crowd after readings while Laura and I still lived in New York. I'm glad I had a chance to go there one last time, in January, when Paul Witcover and I read together at NYRSF. RIP.

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So, as threatened, Paul (of [info]theinferior4 fame) and Colin and I went down to the Brandy Library yesterday evening to attend a Spirit School class in rare & precious scotches at the feet of Ethan Kelley (hereinafter referred to as my hero).

I'm hoping Paul will post more about the evening's de-scotch-ery, along with the photo our estimable server Raj took of us, but for now I will simply post the evening's menu:

Before class at the bar

  • 1 Godfather (scotch and amaretto) (me)
  • 2 Old Fashioneds (rye, muddled orange, and cherry) (Colin and Paul)
  • 1 Imperial 16yo(?) single-malt (calvados cask) (me)
Class curriculum
  • Buchanan's blended scotch over ice (warmup drink)
  • Glenlivet 31yo (bottled by Glen Master)
  • Tomintoul 27yo (this one just keeps turning up)
  • Macallan 1876 replica
  • Dallas Dhu 27yo cask strength (bottled by Dun Bheagan) (rum cask?)
  • Glen Grant cask strength (notes incomplete)
  • Bunnahabhain 25yo bourbon cask
  • Highland Park 30yo (sherry cask?)
  • Springbank 1969
  • Edradour 30yo (bonus spirit)
At least, that's as best we can jointly piece together from our notes today, the taking of which deteriorated somewhat over the course of the evening. There may be corrections to post later.

Next up: rum class?

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Happy birthday, Robert Burns!

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Yesterday's Times had an interesting and often amusing article about how haggis in America has mutated into something rather tastier than one can gets in Scotland, thanks in part to the fact that FDA regulations and other factors prevent the use of much of the offal that traditionally gets used as ingredients.

The article was strange to see when Laura pointed it out to me, because just Tuesday night we had met Paul and Kim for dinner and scotch—lots of it—at what purports to be the only Scottish restaurant and pub in the city, St. Andrews on 44th Street near Times Square. We had a fabulous time, and the haggis was very tasty indeed. (Not that Laura and I are afraid of traditional haggis, which we have eaten in Scotland and more or less enjoyed.) So was the other delicious food, which for me and Paul both included an entree of fresh brook trout stuffed with crab meat and oatmeal, in a whisky-maple sauce. Dessert for Laura and me was the cranachan, which is essentially whisky and whipped cream with berries and oatmeal.

Take note that it was painfully easy to get a table on a Tuesday night.

But while it was the prospect of haggis that drew us all there, it was the amazing scotch selection that had us arrive early and stay late afterward. I mean, 200 whiskies? Please. The bar at St. Andrews is our new favorite place in the world.

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

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