The Soothsayer Attends a Bourbon Tasting

October 10, 2010 | add comment

Speckled Crowley – Starved Rock Distillery (5 years old, 86 proof)
Smooth and gentle. Light brown in color. Served in old-fashioned crystal, it glides down easily, settling in like warm, toasted maple. The sweetness gives way to an exotic spice tinged with clove. A firm swish unearths a sense of clarity. It quietly loosens and relaxes my mind. I am happier than I was a moment ago. I feel gentlemanly.

Armstrong & Lloyd – Grand’s Distillery (9 years old, 97 proof)
The nose evokes a woody, earthy retreat—a harmonious sanctuary where everybody is my friend. This small batch bourbon rests comfortably atop a stout, elegant stem. It tastes of poise and confidence. I loosen my tie. A splash of water opens up this golden liquid, revealing an outspokenness that wasn’t present before. Thoughts come easily to me now, my words suddenly jogging to keep pace. The exceptional finish is one of courage. It speaks to me, and I…to strangers, sputtering stories I will later forget. Do I detect a trace of pear?

M. Dubbs Reserve – Calumet Hills (14 years old, 85 proof)
The label is beset with Victorian embossed font. A deceptive sharpness takes me by surprise. It engulfs the senses, a dominant cherry flavor impairing my balance. I stumble, though my laces are tied. When cut with water, the reddish amber intensifies in color, casting a lense over the room. The irises look bluer, the chandelier more delicate, the woman in the silk dress across the room prettier.

Olga, Red Label – Waterstreet Distillery (11 years old, 90 proof)
I hold the snifter to my lips and temporarily forget where I am. I attempt to make eye contact, but I see two of her, as if wearing 3-D glasses. The red and blue lenses fool me. My thoughts are muddled by the hum of surrounding tasters. This alcohol shows heat, its temper glistening through glass. I give it a twirl and a splash leaps onto my neighbor’s sleeve. A cunning spirit…it proves boorish.

111 Waltham – Washington Oak (5 years, 74 proof)
She notices me noticing her. My smile disappears into my glass, as I inhale deeply, closing my eyes. I intend to ponder the heady notes that fill my cup. Instead I picture her naked, in nothing but heels. This burns going down. I approach her, my eyes watering just slightly.

J.A. Brown – Okauchee Distilleries (7 years, 110 proof)
I am missing a cufflink. At 110 proof, this single-barrel whiskey packs an overwhelming bite. The nose demands that I lower my voice and hints at an escort to the door. She suggests we leave. I accept as if a blind puppy, energetic and bemused. We are walking up my front steps.

Brown’s Derby – Brown’s Distillery (8 years, 96 proof)

This bourbon is deep and shadowy.  It tastes of an inability to find my keys and a need to squeeze through the unlocked kitchen window. Sylvie awakens with a frightened hiss when I step on her tail. A complex mixture, it insinuates dizziness—a spinning room devoid of light but rich in dried apricots, vanilla and sweat. It continues to surprise, finishing strong and messy.

Savoy Court – Kensington’s (5 years, 80 proof)
A cavernous snore.

Amel’s Bullet – Bluegrass Farms (12 years, 87 proof)
I cannot place this. Caramel? No. The aftertaste is even less indecipherable—a blackout and a subsequent headache whose fierceness prods like an angry dentist. Any sense of sophistication is lost.

J.J. – Woodrow Distillery (8 years, 84 proof)
The aroma is one of deep regret, bordering on disgust. The taste delivers on both. As the sinister oil rakes my lips, I wince, glancing at the naked sleeper beside me. Her name, I have forgotten. A heaviness stirs. It draws my eyelids shut. Curtains to an embarrassing dress rehearsal.

Tom’s – Kewaunee Distillery (4 years, 95 proof)
The pronounced oakiness leaves me parched. I desire nothing more than a cold stream of water, rushing from a garden hose. And salt. An egg sandwich—topped with crispy bacon and melting cheddar. A young bourbon, it should be kept in the barrel. In several years time it will settle into a faint ring, stemming from a vaguely familial phone number. “Daddy? My name is Timmy.”

David Bowie, Be Mine

February 11, 2010 | add comment

“It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”
– Jean-Luc Godard

On that note, below is a story I crafted using the spacey, heartfelt lyrics of David Bowie.

A Brief, Imagined Love Affair: David Bowie, Will You Be My Valentine?

I just met the wrong guy. Oh man!
Asked for his name: Ziggy.
Ziggy really sang jammin’ good.
Insane sunshine, his soul shines.
Wonder if he’ll ever know how I’ll wish upon, wish upon, day upon day…

Just keep cool.

Dear Ziggy, far above the moon, I’ll run with you.
Mummy is yelling “no,” but I’ll stick with you baby for a thousand years.
Ooo, your face. Your consolations. Your pretty cranium.
Fall into my arms and tremble like a flower.
Look out world, you know I’ve got mine.

Just keep cool. I just keep cool.

Dear Ziggy, I’m looking for a ride on top of Manhattan.
There’s gonna be space to boogie up there.
We like dancing and we look divine.
Let’s sway on top of Manhattan, you and me.
We don’t give a damn. Whop, whop, whop.

Real cool. I just keep cool.

Ziggy, here we are at the center of it all.
Fighting in the dance hall in the dark.
You want more and you want it fast.
You’ve tried so hard to fly in the fog.
But I guess I’m feeling very still.

Walk tall, keep cool.

Ziggy…You could look into my eyes, you know.
Your hands ache in pain. Sweet hands.
I wish I was smarter. Unskilled hands.
The tears on the face stumbled to cry.
It’s so hard for us to really be.

Never look back, walk tall.

Now here this, Ziggy.
You gotta get smart.
A crooked smile. Where’s your shame?
Them toffees…sweetly reminiscent, something mother used to bake.
Kissing all the ladies. Don’t break my heart.

Never look back, act fine.

Dear Ziggy, I got so lost on my own.
I don’t want to leave.
Buy a drink for me, we’ll dance the blues.
There’s only one way to linger on.
Hot tramp, I love you so!

p.s. Ziggy plays my song in tune.
Ain’t that close to love?

Berta’s Tap Room

October 14, 2009 | add comment

My grandpa Woody Berta owned a tavern in Ottawa, Illinois, across from the post office. He and his two brothers sold it ages ago (and he’s since passed on), but Berta’s continues on, with a pool table slightly askew and burgers on toasted buns.

In the Tap Room’s heyday, Woody and his brothers, Ray and Charlie, had a small flyer printed by the local Union boys. The front says “Berta’s TAP ROOM” and has a drawing of a bubbly martini glass. The lower right corner reads “Air Conditioned for Your Comfort.” The inside shows a map of the city limits. And the back has the poem printed below. When I asked my grandpa, he couldn’t remember who wrote it, but talk about atmosphere.

When you’re startin’ out some evening
And the night is cold and drear…
I’d suggest you stop at Berta’s
For a little “Atmosphere.”

Then next morning bright and early
When the “shakes” are getting’ near:
Yeah…you’re getting smarter, brother,
Woody fed ya too much beer.

When you’re reachin’ for the aspirin
’Cause your stomach’s feelin’ weak,
It’s ’cause Chuck was leanin’ heavy
On the bottle—so to speak.

Then you face the little woman
With those alibis galore…
When she’s finished in the bathroom—
Wipin’ Berta’s off the floor.

But you’re wrong, it isn’t whiskey
That’s got ya feelin’ queer—
Ray just poured an over-dose
Of Berta’s “ATMOSPHERE”!!


Big Spaceship: A Ping Pong Proposal

August 25, 2008

How to Get a Ping Pong Table at Your Office

Ping Pong Efficiency

We wanted a ping pong table at Big Spaceship. Founder and CEO Michael Lebowitz had two admittedly justifiable concerns:

1. Space. The green screen room had plenty, but it was at times needed for projects.
2. Noise. Ping Pong players can get rather rowdy. Plus we already had dogs, foosball, video games, etc. and were not lacking in entertainment.

When our request fell on deaf ears, I created a job application from the viewpoint of Mr. Ping Pong Ball.

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