He Said It Out Loud

bathroom bottles

The bottles of these 3 discontinued brands were much better than their contents. In fact, the plant water they contain now is better. Scene is from my bathroom.

Yes, this is about beer. Yes, again.  Yes, I will reiterate my frustration over “craft beers” that taste like cake topping or citrus punch – on purpose. Brewers carefully mix in everything from pigeon pee to craisenette squeezings in search of flavors traditional brewers would have been skinned alive for concocting.

“Just because you’re an old fart that resists change doesn’t mean everybody else is,” (I get sniffed at, dismissively). “Not all beer has to taste the same.

Yeah, fine. I agree. Nobody with functioning taste buds would confuse a Guinness Stout with a Grolsch Lager. But they both taste like beer, don’t they? And evidently, this isn’t important anymore, at least to this local brewer:

“I want to make beer for people who don’t drink craft beer, but also beer that enthusiasts will love,” Artanis says. “My wife doesn’t drink craft beer, so I try to make beer that doesn’t taste like beer.”  — Corey Artanis, owner and head brewer, 3 Sons’ Brewery in Dania Beach.  Sun-Sentinel

I’ve not sampled his wares yet, but there’s no doubt he successfully achieved his objective of cooking up beer that doesn’t taste like beer. Look what’s out there already: Mango chocolate. Bacon cranapple. Daffodil teriyaki. Sarsaparilla smegma.

It makes a certain degree of sense, I suppose. For decades, fast food franchises have been making hamburgers that don’t taste like hamburgers. Good Humor makes ice cream that doesn’t taste like ice cream. All over Florida, bakers bake bread that doesn’t taste like bread. Ever tried those hydroponic water bags that pass themselves off as tomatoes? So why not beer that doesn’t taste like beer?

How quaint: all us decaying fossils who want food that tastes like food, and beer that tastes like beer. And get off my lawn!

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 5 Comments

Monk Business

monkWhenever April Fool’s Day comes around, I remember an incident briefly caused a stir some years ago, then abruptly vanished. But as you’ll see, it has relevance all over again today.

In the late 19th Century, a Belgian monk was dispatched to the United States with the idea that the nation’s population was ripe for a spiritual renaissance. Disembarking on the east coast, the young Religious dutifully made his way across the entire continent, sampling the customs and cultures of the budding population and rocking his faith, but, as he wrote later, his heart wasn’t in it. Turns out he was stunned by the rawness and beauty of the country, and felt a powerful spirituality that rendered his own beliefs dusty and trite.

Upon his return to the monastery, the report he delivered to his Superiors was nothing they wanted to hear. The monk prepared himself for a sacking. But the Abbot had other ideas. Knowing the younger man’s artistic skills, he encouraged him to commit his spiritual transformation to graphic arts: paint, charcoal, ink, etc., whatever moved him most. “Stay among us for another year,” he suggested, “after which we’ll look at your work and decide what comes next.’

Long story short: the young monk produced prodigiously that year, and his finished products enthralled the Abbot beyond his fondest hopes. An exhibition was arranged first for the resident brothers, and then for the families in the region who supported the Order. The young monk proved to be a low-key but extremely compelling presenter as well, whose plain, pure speech complemented his extraordinary drawings and paintings, and quite soon the exhibition went national, then global, drawing audiences all through Europe.

Over the next few years, the artist supplemented his work with a book of essays based on both his artwork and his observations as he traveled through America. He became a much-demanded speaker at conventions, salons, and even at the Courts of European Royalty.

Not bad for a doubting Religious in sandals and a burlap sack, innit.

But the story began unravelling in Paris, when a journalist, who had attended these exhibitions elsewhere, noticed that the monk at the podium wasn’t the same one he’d seen a few months prior. When he confidentially confronted the speaker, the replacement Religious admitted the switch, explaining that the original artist has taken ill, and it seemed less problematic simply to make the substitution, especially insofar as he’d been part of the entire process from the outset and was well-versed in the art, essays, and entire experience.

The journalist wasn’t having any of this and probed deeper. He learned that there was a virtual team of speakers, each claiming the identity of the original monk. He also discovered there was no record of the original monk’s travels to America! And ultimately, he couldn’t find any proof of the very existence of the monk at all.

Enlisting the assistance of a Parisian gallery manager, the journalist determined that the exhibited art was created by no fewer than six separate artists, possibly as many as a dozen. As for the essays, a closer review turned up passages and expressions found elsewhere, including among the writing of de Tocqueville, who had made his own memorable American journey decades before.

Not so much shocked as disgusted – fraud among the Creative Class and their fawning socialite patrons had been de rigueur for centuries – he wrote to the Abbot demanding an explanation, saying he would withhold the sordid tale’s exposure pending a response.  Unfortunately, that response is lost to history. But the exhibitions and presentations abruptly stopped, and the story exposing the fraud never made the newspapers. The account finally came out years after the journalist’s death, when a descendant discovered the tale among his private papers, and publicized it (on April Fool’s Day, perhaps coincidentally.)

I omit all proper names here – the young (nonexistent?) Religious, the Abbot, the Order, the journalist —  and I’ve never seen anything on-line about this scandal. Maybe it’s available in French, German or Dutch: my skills aren’t sufficient to search.

But the parallels to today’s world of social media – fake news, fraud, gullibility, greed – it’s all here, plus one ingredient that doesn’t seem to have survived: shame. And that’s a shame in and of itself.

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Posted in Gen. Snark, Maj. Snafu, Corp. Punishment | 11 Comments

Honest Abe

lincoln-bdayBefore “Presidents’ Day” was concocted, the February birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington (12th  and 22nd  respectively) were celebrated separately. That meant TWO days off from school, which in the dead of winter was a most welcome hiatus.

The big joke back then was, “Did you know Abe Lincoln was Jewish? Yeah – he was shot in the temple!” Just as funny today, innit.

Arguably, Lincoln was America’s greatest president, but he was no saint. Saints don’t get to be president. But like many saints, he was a tragic figure who endured crueltyand suffering tossed his way by forces beyond his control, many of them human (technical term: “assholes”).

When I think of Lincoln, for some reason I flash back to this corny 60-second spot for CLEP (College Level Examination Program), where his character’s basic decency and intelligence is simultaneously acknowledged and disparaged as inadequate (I know you’re a smart guy. You know you’re a smart guy. But without the sheepskin, you ain’t goin’ anywhere….”). Defeated, downcast, dismissed, he departs, despondent.

Too bad there wasn’t Trump University back then.

Happy Birthday, Mister President!

 

Posted in People Who Died, Died | 5 Comments

Fruitless

moonscape lot

The Florida Department of Agriculture’s vision for the ideal homeowners’ lawn.

Right around 18 years ago, state-sanctioned thugs removed three citrus trees from my yard and trucked them away, leaving me paperwork I refused to sign. This, you may remember, was part of the state’s ill-conceived plan to if not eradicate citrus canker, at least prevent it from infecting commercial groves to the north.

It was bad science and worse policy accessorized with Florida’s unique incompetence. Workers (not bothering with hazmat suits or cleaning up afterwards) chain-sawed the trees, scattering (infected) debris through the air, then loaded them on open-back flatbed trucks which they drove to wherever they were disposing of them, further distributing whatever canker was on them over every street they covered.

If you wanted to spread citrus canker around, could you concoct a better system than this?

And by the way, the trees weren’t necessarily infected to begin with. The imbecilic theory was that any healthy tree within 1,900 feet of an infected one had to be removed, too. This strains credibility, of course, but if this was the pseudoscience to justify their arboreal assassination, why not cut a 1,900 foot margin around the commercial groves they want to protect, and leave everybody else’s trees alone? Why are we paying for the citrus industry’s problems?

It didn’t work, of course: with help from a few hurricanes, nature took its course, and canker spread throughout the state like gossip in a church of crones. But with the damage already done, attorneys eagerly filed class action suits that eventually produced judgments against the state, which led to appeals and more filings, then more appeals and stalling. Year after year the state refused to appropriate money to pay…. just your government doing its best to protect the wealthy and powerful and screw everybody else.

Then in May, 2017, the state Lege finally approved payouts, and last week I received a check for $318.24. After 18 years. Imagine my joy. Picture all the tangerines I can now afford.

The best joke is, they did such a poor job of removing one of my trees (the grapefruit) that it actually grew back from the root stock, which was a very durable sour orange. We had hundreds of them each season for a while, but they’re not much use for peeling-and-eating like grapefruit. Guido used them for sauces and marinades, and we gave them away by the dozen.  That tree eventually perished on its own. Last winter I replaced it with a young ruby red.

So soon, when anybody asks me why I despise government so much, I can spit a grapefruit seed in their eye.

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 7 Comments

Happy Brew Year!

Construction dust is thicker than Bigfoot’s dander when I push open the door at the site of what will soon be the new Liquor and Rubber Balls Sports Emporium and Artesian Headlamp Fluid (but see below).  And here’s Don Tequila, frowning over blueprints, giving directions, scowling personably at day laborers and contractors alike, scaring them past shitlessness.

Let me catch you up: the old LRB is no more. “The only creatures lower than the slime-sucking commercial property owners in the city of Hollywood,” Don Tequila growls to me a few months back, “are the execrable stinking vermin that live under their buildings.” (Very pregnant pause.) “But at least those parasites have the decency to stay out of daylight.”

While Don has never confirmed or denied ownership of Liquor and Rubber Balls – he’s there 8 days a week, opening to closing, behind the bar, working the door, back in the office – the place has always has been his. So now, although it’s soon to be someplace else, he’s still The One.

Welcome to #RubberBalls&Liquor.

“Doors’ll be open for the Superbowl,” Don promises. Assures me the new place will cater to the same customer base – like LRB, it’s a lesbian sports bar, come one, come all, come often – great beer on tap and in bottles, full bar, and old fashioned bar snacks like hard boiled eggs, nuts, pickled shrimp, oyster crackers, fried cheese, etc. Pet friendly, too: Dortmunder, Don’s rhino-sized Rottweiler, patrols the perimeter even as construction roars around us.

#RubberBalls&Liquor. New name (sort of.) Why the hash tag?

Don waves his hand dismissively. “Marketing people. Something about expanding the customer base using social media. Like I give a crusted shit. Cold beer, good food, fun time ain’t enough? Whatever.”

Sure thing, Don – but look, I’m here because you wanted somebody to help test the taps! Gimme reasons to be inside talking to you instead of outside cultivating my basal cells.

Don fixes his gaze between my eyes and exhales noisily. Even though he’s not quite seven feet tall, and just short of 400 pounds of cut muscle, he can be a trifle intimidating. I remember a picture in his office of him carrying his 1958 Roadmaster to the dump. (“There’s nothing deader than a dead Buick,” he said, at the time.) But he knows expertise when he sees it, which is why I’m here.

We assume our positions: him behind the bar, me standing before it. He pours me 4 cold ounces of golden yellow bubbles and head, which I solemnly accept, sniff, then sip. I let it soak, swallow, then take a breath, and finish. I look him straight in the eye.

Don, this is one of the best beers I’ve ever tasted, and not just because it’s free.

He almost smiles. Nobody on record has ever seen Don Tequila smile.

The next one is a bit darker, almost amber, and also wonderful. The third one is putrid pineapple juice (“That’s the IPA. I knew you wouldn’t like that swill”). After that it’s a very dark stout, not bad, but hell – why compete with Guinness?  You can’t win, and this one doesn’t.

“Two out of four,” he says, opening a bag of salt and vinegar chips to cleanse my palate.  “These are from a guy I know in Washington state. If he can get them to me at a decent price, I’ll stock ‘em when I can, along with the standards.”

Anything brewed locally?

Again, the laser gaze. “Quit yanking my chain,” he growls. “Like I don’t know what you think about Florida beer.” He flicks at some plaster dust in his nose. “Which I agree with. If I was the new governor, Executive Order #1 would be to close down Florida’s crap breweries indefinitely, until any one of ‘em learns to make a drinkable beer.”

Not a fan of mango coconut, eh? Or mint smegma?

Behind me there’s a sudden loud crash, the sound of something breaking, and chorus of cursing and screams in Spanish. Don’s on it like an echo. He moves fast for a giant.

Dortmunder lays his wet jowls on my knee. I give him some chips.

“Clumsy assholes,” explains Don, returning to the bar. He grabs a tap and pours me 12 ounces of pure delight, known commercially as Grolsch. The taps are ready, anyway. I ask him if he’s planning on taking my suggestion of setting up an axe-hurling station. It’s all the rage.

“Against my better judgment, I actually looked into that,” he says. “The insurance agent is probably still laughing. She says if we really want to do something stupid, dangerous, and utterly tasteless, we should consider dwarf-tossing – would be cheaper.” He sets his jaw. “Besides, we got enough hurling going on already.”

Where can you even find dwarfs these days. Maybe put an ad in Cahoots Quarterly – in fine print?

“No idea,” sighs Don. ”But there’s no shortage of mental midgets.”

He’s kind enough not to look at me when he makes this observation, but it’s time to make like horseshit and hit the dusty trail. I thank him, wish him well, and promise to return on Opening Day to root passionately against the Patriots and their Greatest Of All Tom.

Posted in The Adventures of Don Tequila | 9 Comments

Young Kipper .. Again!

Gosh look what day it is! Time to rerun this post, last seen in 2015, and edited ever so slightly to accommodate the day the holiday occurs. Some holiday — its celebrants refrain from eating, although most Jews of my acquaintance limit their fasting to between meals. And they complain about that, too!IDagwood

f you know any Jewish folks (and “some of your best friends are Jews,” right?), you might be aware that they’re in the midst of the holiest time of year. The 10 days between Rosh Hashanah (New Year’s) and Yom Kippur (Juvenile Sardine) include Shabbat Shuva, the “Sabbath of Returning,” a period for self-reflection in which to justify their existence to god. The way it works, god opens the Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah, and by the time he slams it shut 10 days later on Yom Kippur, he has determined whether or not your dirt nap is scheduled in the next 12 moons.

Sounds cut and dried, no? But the way it’s set up, you have those 10 days to repent, to cleanse, to ask forgiveness of those you’ve screwed over or treated badly in the course of the year. And if your performance is satisfactory, maybe the Big Guy cuts you a break, although let’s face it—the god of the Old Testament was known for having a shorter fuse than Donald Trump. And a little less money.

On Yom Kippur, often referred to as the Holiest Day of the Year, Jews are required to fast, avoiding all food and beverages from sundown to sundown (actually, 25 hours). In so doing, they emulate the angels, which never eat or drink—or bathe, and in fact, certain Orthodox Jewish groups practice this omission as well. In sticky South Florida, this is inadvisable if popularity is a priority. In any event, it means that at the conclusion of the holiday—yeah, some holiday, sort of like calling a trip to the colon cleanser a holiday—there are lots of teeth-grindingly hungry people let loose in the streets. Many head for restaurants to break their fast.

South Florida has a large Jewish population, which suggests that area restaurants must brace themselves for an influx of ravenously hungry diners. I called around to a few that share their neighborhood with synagogues to ask what it was like. (None of them would talk to me unless I promised not to identify them.)

“It’s the worst goddam day of the year,” one deli owner exploded. “I wanna tell you, and remember, these are my people I’m talkin’ about, they’re pushy and demanding when they’re not starvin’ to death. When they bust through that door tonight they’re positively drooling. Some of ‘em start licking the salt shakers!”

The manager of a Spanish cuisine restaurant shrugged his shoulders. “The customers are no worse than they are any other night around here,” he said. (Pause.) “They’re no better, either.”

The Chinese restaurant manager got indignant. “Jews good customers! Jews very good customers! You no make fun of Jewish customers! Thursday very big day here for Jewish customers. You come you see! You no make fun!”

The guy behind the barbecue waved his hand dismissively. “Nobody’s eatin’ pulled pork sandwiches on Yom Kippur,” he said. “A lotta Jews come in here alla time, but Yom Kippur Pork? Even I know that’s just fuckin’ wrong.”

At the pizzeria the chef laughed and clapped his hands. “Oh, boy, Young Kipper!” he exclaimed. “Bigger than the SuperBowl! Better’n Christmas and the 4th of July! What I do is I bake ahead—I got dozens and dozens of shells all set to go half heated. They come through the door all dressed up screamin’ and wavin’ and shovin’ aside the old and the lame and I’m slicin’ and boxin’ and grabbing the cash! You never seen so many people burnin’ their mouths, tomato stains all over their white shirts, neckties, and beanies. Hooey! I bring in my whole family to help out. I fuckin’ love Young Kipper!”

So there’s your story, South Florida. Family values, respect for tradition, celebration of diversity, observation of faith. Maybe a little gluttony– but it’s holy gluttony, godammit! What a great community we share.

 

Posted in Golden Oldies (Deja Vu All Over Again) | 1 Comment

BSO Busts BSO

In case you missed it, this month the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) obtained a risk protection order against one its own bailiffs, leading to a seizure of that employee’s collection of 67 weapons.

The order was signed after the bailiff, Franklin Joseph Pinter, allegedly exhibited troubling behavior in the courthouse, and he’s since been relieved from duty.

Court documents obtained by the Sun Sentinel detail several allegations leveled against Pinter by his colleagues. In one May incident, a bailiff said that Pinter told him to “get the f— out of here” and that “all you rats should be exterminated.”

In another incident in January, Pinter was allegedly seen pretending to hold a rifle and shoot the people walking below the court’s atrium. He also told another bailiff that he wanted to burn two other bailiffs with a blowtorch and “exterminate” another of his colleagues.

The court was also concerned by an alleged statement Pinter made that “nobody will take my guns, not over my dead body.” Court documents cite another incident in which Pinter showed off a new Glock in the courthouse parking lot and told a colleague that he had bought an AR-15.  [via]

Said BSO bailiff is the first neighbor I met when I moved to my current location — I’ve known him for 30 years. While it’s not surprising he has his own personal armory socked away, the only weapon I ever see him brandish is a church key. He has occasional confrontations with other neighbors, but then, so have others up and down the street among themselves, including me (although not with him). This is south Florida. People aren’t all that neighborly, have you noticed?

BSO has been dodging shit flung from all quarters ever since the Douglas School shooting incident, parents, the local and national media, politicians, even schoolchildren. They manage this badly, make a lot of mistakes, and prove themselves inept at playing defense. It’s hard not to see this latest action as a bravado attempt to look proactive. I can practically hear them in executive session: “Hell, we got to do something,” to get their mojo back in the public eye, rather than wait for the next incoming splatter.

A few days after the bust, Channel 7 Local news (“If It Bleeds, It Leads!”) sends a “reporter” and cameraman out here to knock on doors and probe neighbors’ reactions. I’m out on the lawn hacking down overgrown dracaenas and clerodendrums, so I see them canvassing the neighborhood. Inevitably our paths cross, and the reporter engages me.

She asks me what I think. I tell her I don’t know anything – which at the time is true. All I see that day is a bunch of BSO vehicles outside the house. When she asks me if I’d like to know, I say Sure, and she tells me, and THEN asks me for a reaction.

With the camera pointed at me, I opine that one county law enforcement employee referring to other county law enforcement employees as rats deserving of fiery extermination is unfair to rats – call Truly Nolen. (She blanches somewhat.) I tell her that I know my neighbor casually, that we’ve talked over the years, and that he has a tough job where he says they’re trying to get rid of him: he’s been there a long time, costs them a lot of money, and doesn’t like listening to suck-up assholes with less experience than he has pushing to get ahead in government service.

Naked landscaper displaying less credibility than hair.

This is not what she comes out to hear.

I explain that over the years I observe any number of squabbles and arguments between neighbors over minor infractions and misundertsandings, and while I see this guy red-faced and belligerent plenty of times, it never escalates into genuine violence. I don’t mention the incident where I personally shove my own next-door neighbor on his boney ass, who then makes a threatening remark about “getting his .38,” in turn inspiring a call to the police who come out and tell us both to grow the hell up already.

This is south Florida, I remind her — a crowd, not a community. It would be useful if BSO’s armed clods would concentrate on the genuinely dangerous. So if you took an analysis of everybody on this short block, yeah, Frank is one of two people who might be ranked as potential threats. But in the Real World, neither one is.

Needless to say, it’s that remark about “one of two people” that makes it into her report, because teevee news isn’t really news, it’s plebian entertainment. Her goal is to advance her agenda, push this story about danger in the neighborhood, a hostile bastard despised by his own colleagues and neighbors, outed and disarmed! Film at 11! Bullshit round the clock!

Here’s her 2-minute report. She gets a few others to comment, too. Judge for yourself .

Frank’s never gonna win the Mr. Congeniality trophy, but he doesn’t deserve to be scapegoated like this, even though it sounds like he made it easy for them. There are hordes of dangerous people around, many armed with weapons they shouldn’t own, but he’s not one of them. Law enforcement as well as government need to deploy their power and resources sensibly, fairly, and responsibly, three adverbs rarely applied to their activities. If BSO and the justice system can’t tell who’s who, we’re in just as much trouble as it appears we are.

Posted in News From the Nation's Dicktip | 6 Comments