late quiet drink on a holiday

On Thanksgiving I drove to Boca Raton to visit my mom at her apartment where she made a terrific meal and also found occasion, as I guess a mother must, to stare and wince at my brother’s tattoos and beg him please to stop.

The total roundtrip was 80 miles long and afterward I was feeling fatigued about three things, the long drive being an obvious chart-topper, but also the recent news of a friend’s hospitalization, which came outta nowhere and seems pretty dire and of course prompts not only concern but a kind of existential awareness of one’s own susceptibility to such random misfortune, and also (a lesser but still foreboding bit of news) I was brooding intermittently on the fact that Penguin Random House will be acquiring Simon & Schuster for $2 billion. A “cash” purchase, as several outlets are putting it.

            All three of those things prompt a kind of dread, shapeless or not, and after brooding over the latter two things during my two-hour drive home I decided I needed not just a beer but a change of scenery and so I walked the 9 p.m. mile to Batch Gastropub where the lighting was low and the music was soft and the guests all somewhat muted and tired from whatever the day had occasioned.

            I had my Kindle with me and my notebook and after a couple pages of freewriting about the abovementioned troubles I had two pints of Elysian Spacedust, which is heavy and smooth and appropriate for lowlit drowsy contemplative moods.

            Given that it was Thanksgiving, and I’d gotten this news of a friend’s illness and a publishing icon’s demise, I decided to be thankful for and to celebrate the fact that I myself am healthy; or, just as important, that if I’m not healthy, if something inside me is irreparably broken, it hasn’t yet gotten so bad that I’ve noticed. Either way, I ordered another beer.

            When the bartender served it he said something so interesting I opened my notebook and wrote it down.

            This is what he said:

            “If you’d like a pecan-Jameson shot on the house, brother, just let me know.”

            First of all, it’s very nice of him to offer.

The day on which I’m posting this, December 1, has been a very bad one indeed, so I’d like to share with you the small joy I’ve just discovered in the work of Eduard von Grutzner, an early 20th century painter who mostly depicted fat men looking very humble and grateful about their beer.

Second, I like how he mixed the colloquial “brother” with the hipster “pecan-Jameson shot”. It’s like when a barista turns his cap backward and talks shit about the police while handing you something pumpkin-flavored; it’s not that the two don’t go together, there’s just a contrast.

            Third interesting thing about the remark: I had no idea such a drink as pecan-flavored Jameson existed.

            Once at American Social I had two different bartenders try to sell me a shot of coffee-flavored Jameson within an hour of each other. They both know me as a regular so when I cited the relatively meager bit of money in my pocket and asked them earnestly if the $8 drink was worth buying I have to give thanks for one bartender’s wavering retreat and the other one’s outright confession:

“Nobody’s buying this nasty shit. Whichever one of us sells the most shots gets a bonus.”

            I suspect the good folks at Batch are similarly burdened with their pecan Jameson.

            Gotta just give the stuff away.

            But a shot of whisky is a shot of whisky so I accepted the offer and sipped it down to the halfway point before surrender.

            My friend Steve Donoghue is a well-read and strident advocate for animal rights and is opposed to even the most scientifically fruitful experiments conducted on mice. He’s been a vegetarian for years. But he surprised his viewers recently by saying that if somebody prepared him a chicken dish with love and elbow grease then he will accept the dish with gratitude and eat it in front of them.

            “You can hold values and beliefs without beating them over the heads of others,” is along the lines of what he said on the matter (this was because somebody took him to task for the fact that he said he cares about animals, and yet he carries a leather bag).

            For these and other kindnesses, I am thankful.

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