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Julie Sheehan
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David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, a 1948 recipe book and glimpse into privilege, has this to say about an after-dinner cordial called the Widow’s Dream: "This is a Benedictine Flip (see Flips), topped off in the glass with sweet cream. And may heaven help the poor widows if that is what their dreams are like!" Tee hee. But now, poor widows don’t need heaven. They have the GOP! A Republican minority is blocking resolution on a national budget unless they get their pet ideas, defeated in the last election, put into action. These include getting rid of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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A b ar survives as a small business because people come in and buy drinks. How does that happen? Well, it might be because people sense a hip vibe, it might be because the beer is cheap, it might be because all the Yankees fans in the neighborhood have decided to watch the tragic series against the Tigers together on one particular flat-screen TV, it might be because the bar gives out that terrific goat cheese thing at happy hour, it might be because everybody knows your name. Any of these and more might make a bar successful. None of... Continue reading
Posted Oct 20, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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When I was an undergrad at a fancy university, I remember being criticized on several occasions for not being “discriminating”—it was suggested I should be more exacting in whom I accepted as friends; it was said also that, as a Midwesterner by birth, I was “too nice.” Nice, Midwestern, not discriminating—those were euphemisms for consorting with the wrong sort of person, for an unseemly lack of contempt. In truth, I could be plenty contemptuous when faced with a bad argument, but when faced with a human being, I took all comers, high and low. Not bad training for tending bar.... Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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The feast of the wealthy upon the little guy should long be over and we should have moved on to after-dinner drinks: tax hikes in gleaming snifters for the country club set; for the rest of us, a minimum-wage hike and jobless benefits, lifted to our lips and kissed like the whipped cream on an Irish coffee. Yet the little guy, despite his morsel size, is still being battered, fried up and served with a side of frozen fear to an already obese elite. That glob of fear on the plate is that the superrich, poor fragile creatures, won’t create... Continue reading
Posted Aug 10, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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In last night’s anxiety dream, I was suddenly tending bar at an unfamiliar restaurant, a wine bar with a sprawling, open floor plan of tables and a sleek, steel and glass bar. It wasn’t busy, but nonetheless I fumbled around trying to locate even the most basic items, like ice, an order pad and lime wedges. My apron lacked pockets—it was, in fact, an Amish-looking calico thing out of keeping with the clean aesthetic of the joint. As the dream wore on, the place got steadily busier, so that the 15 minutes it was taking me to find a gin... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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Bars are not democracies, but in both cases, you get what you order with regularity. Voters pick the guy who’s going to deregulate, reform education and cut taxes, and lo! that’s what he does. Voters pick the guy who’s going to reform health care, cut taxes and get us out of Iraq, and lo! Ditto! There are few surprises. Scott Walker’s bait and switch aside, elected officials are actually kind of predictable. So what do voters mean when they complain about slippery politicians? It means they ordered up something they don’t want after all, and instead of admitting their own... Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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Equal parts gin, whiskey and brandy, shaken and strained. According one Prohibition-era recipe book, Here’s How!, once you serve it, you’d better run. The Thunderclap does sound pretty awful, and lethal too—a hit-and-run act of weather not unlike the real weather we’ve been having, most recently, a coordinated attack of tornadoes across Oklahoma, Kansas and a few other Midwestern states. Who is responsible for this vile concoction? Here’s How! suggests that the bartender is, and that his best course of action is to leave the scene of the crime. But when it comes to the equal parts raw sewage, mining... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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To see pigs feeding at the public trough, look no further than for-profit schools, which, like “private” prisons and Blackwell, aren’t the market solutions to failed Big Government that our conservative, pro-business friends tout them as. These entities aren’t market-based at all. They’re dependent on taxpayers. Call them socialist pigs instead of capitalist ones, because what they’re doing is redistributing your wealth to their owners. And these owners are rich enough to bankroll big fights against any attempt to regulate the flow of federal dollars coming their way. That’s because they charge higher tuition than self-identified state schools like the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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The case against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. ObamaCare, is not nearly as fun as an Imperial Fizz, though it's definitely fizzy. All of the law's ingredients, the whiskey, rum, lemon juice and sweet, sweet sugar of insurance policy arcana--all except the sparkling water of a mandate--have already been mixed and are being shaken as we speak. They can’t be taken apart at this point without dumping the whole shebang down the drain, which is not to say that the Supreme Court won’t do exactly that. And the glacial pace of the Affordable Healthcare Act's implementation, like... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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Entertaining as Rick Perry’s November 9, 2011 “Oops” moment was—you know, the one when in his frenzy to take a hatchet to government, he forgot which heads he was chopping off—the more significant and now completely repressed “oops” moment for the American right occurred three years earlier, on October 23, 2008, when Alan Greenspan confessed his “state of shocked disbelief” that markets don’t regulate themselves. Without rules, the free market is kind of like the punch you might have served at parties in your college dorm. Who knows what toxic assets were swimming around in there? Fermented Hi-C? Grain alcohol?... Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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I see into your heart. Not really. I wouldn’t presume, not while Rick Santorum’s on the case. He’s like Santa, knowing whether your theology is naughty or nice. Or phony. If your “worldview” is one that “elevates the Earth above man,” for example, it’s phony. Never mind that no one on earth actually has such a “worldview,” or can figure out what it is. Is it a pre-Copernican understanding of cosmology? Could Santorum draw a little diagram, please? Most of us value Earth selfishly, as the planet upon which we selfishly live. Though we acknowledge the solar system in a... Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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Cordials took a hit with the advent of infused liquors. They used to be our sturdy flavor friends, rarely useful, but rising to the taste when called upon. Now they’ve been downsized, as vodka got more productive, infusing itself with a frightening range of non-vodka tastes. Many of the flavors, raspberry or mint, to name just two, supplant a hard-working cordial like Chambord or crème de menthe in contemporary drink recipes. And cordials have another problem: their biggest purveyor in the US is probably DeKuyper, whose labels tell all: I WAS DESIGNED BEFORE POTTERY BARN EXISTED! Enough bartenders brew their... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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What am I doing in January, you ask? Why, I'm teaching a poetry workshop in Kenya. As Robert Frost, who clearly did not have my good fortune, would say, you come, too! The dates are January 2-11, 2012, and the trip is offered though the MFA in Creative Writing program at Stony Brook Southampton. That means you can take this trip for credit. You can also apply as a curious outsider. The idea here is to gather an ecclectic bunch, including creative minds in fields other than poetry, to write some poems, learn a little Swahili, take a few field... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
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Here’s a drink I would never order: an Everybody’s Irish. It calls for despoiling Irish whiskey with green Chartreuse, green crème de menthe, and an olive. Ugh. There are any number of reasons to shun this drink. It tastes awful. The name incites me to resentment. Everybody’s not Irish, and three of the four ingredients in the drink aren’t either, though they are green, which is the only reason they are in the drink. I resent that color, not taste, should determine what goes into a cocktail. Moreover, if you go to Ireland and actually look at it, you quickly... Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
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Sitting in a bar with a guy’s guy, a man so manly he not only writes crime novels, but also solves actual crimes, I lost control of the debate and joined him in ordering a Sambuca. To illustrate how far from sophistication I’d slid,Sambuca does not rate an entry in Alexis Lichene’s Encyclopedia of Wine and Spirits. Ouzo gets an entry. Pernod. Pastis. Absinthe. But not Sambuca, refuge of ex-cops and the Common Man, especially the Italian-American, went-to-community-college, Tea Party version of the Common Man. Sambuca is an angry liquor. If you don’t believe me, set it on fire. Watch... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
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Yes, it’s Oktoberfest, which means beer selections in a faux Gothic type so ornate you can’t read it, as if Germany had a corner on the Middle Ages. Okay, printing press and all that, but hello, Ariel Narrow, anyone? That said, there’s some fine beers out there in Oktoberfest land—I just can’t get past the font to tell you what they are. I had something that began with an H as I sat with my Libertarian friend (!!!) who works for a right-leaning think tank. My “H” beer (Haufbrauhaus? Hefeweizen? Hichbineinberliner?), according to the waiter, was “on the dark side,”... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
This was a fantastic conversation with two really smart people. And me. Oops!
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Until its death by Anheuser-Busch in 2006, there was one and only one reason to order a Rolling Rock. You were slumming. Rolling Rock occupied that peculiar little niche, described in the linked article as “economizing drinkers, college students and, to a certain extent, hipsters who might be attracted to its painted-on labels, cool iconography, and the mildly mysterious number ‘33’ printed on every bottle,” happily for decades. While it passed as a working-class beer, at home in dive bars and the banged-up hands of plumbers and electricians, Rolling Rock was equally likely to be found in hands whose most... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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Satire amazes me with its quickness on the uptake. No sooner had Arthurian legend started making the rounds than Marie de France began collecting these oral tales and making fun of them. Chaucer has the Knight’s tale, a Romance, and the Wife of Bath’s Tale, a parody of a romance, cheek by jowl in the same book. Sarah Palin and Tina Fey performed in near perfect synchronicity, as if choreographed by Busby Berkeley. So what cocktail is the satire of a cocktail? I suppose the recipe would have to be the key—a skewed catalogue of mismatched ingredients. Catalogues are often... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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Okay, Cosmo drinkers out there, maybe I was a little hard on you yesterday, with the hypocrisy comparison. I don’t want to get bonked on the head with a Kate Spade bag the next time I step out, so I’ve chosen to feature a cocktail nobody’s heard of, the Pain Killer. It’s made with dark rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream, nutmeg and orange juice, which makes it a natural for drinkers who are underage, hung over, or hiding something under the cover of strong fruity tastes. The Pain Killer is as shocked as his parole officer to learn that, wow,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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The Cosmopolitan is the most hypocritical of cocktails. All Juicy Couture, with magenta sequins on the hip pocket and a heart over the "i," it is in reality a stealthy, dark, sleek, long-range, off-the-radar missile designed to get you bombed. You're drinking a vodka martini, folks, even though it doesn't taste like one. Don't kid yourselves. But you do kid yourselves. You wouldn’t order one of these horrors if you weren’t trying to kid yourselves. You’d order a martini, preferably made with gin, which shouts itself out, not vodka, that trickster, and certainly not pink vodka, sweetened with Cointreau and—arghhh!—dressed... Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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The problem with Latin is that it sounds all egg-heady. Cocktails, which could conceivably both have eggs in them and go to your head, nonetheless rarely have egg-heady names. Would you raise a Pulchritude to your parched lips? Nope, it’s an American Beauty. Sip a Vehicle? Sorry, try a Sidecar. Our Old English, Celtic and Anglo Saxon words just sound better to put in your mouth. They’ve got chewier textures, a whiff of sensuality, the promise of tasting good. Browse a bartending guide and you’ll find Fizzes, Flips and Rickeys, Cobblers, Coolers and Kirs, Sours, Slings and Sledgehammers, Sharks, Derbies,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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“Drill, baby, drill” is to slogans as Bull’s Blood is to wine and “subprime” is to finance. A risky proposition. Duh. It says so right there in the name. Who would care—or dare—to drink the blood of a bull? The same people who want to drill, baby, and who bet that “subprime” will suddenly translate to “above par” as soon as they pour their money down that drain of wishful thinking. What is going on with these people? Don’t they know that “subprime” means “not good,” as in, “bad”? Or consider the similarly risky mortgages called “liar’s loans,” as if... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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Here’s a bumper sticker concept for you: Free the Pour! Surely the Founding Fathers made room for free pours somewhere in their intentions, right? After all, we're talking about freedom, and freedom is exactly what good Americans all love, the Founding Fathers most of all, except when they weren’t so darned busy owning slaves. If I were Justice Scalia--such a dreamboat mind reader!--I’d know for sure. He's the psychic who could tell that corporations were yearning for freedom to express themselves. Maybe those little poems that corporations are constantly scribbling in their journals will finally be published. And not a... Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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Jun 9, 2010