the story of QOO rabbit

June 11, 2010 | add comment

This is the story of Qoo Rabbit, which I wrote for my friend Ayaka Ito. Her Weekly Tea Story project allows you to enjoy a daily moment of relaxation and humor. For each day of the week, she designed adorable tea bag holders containing: tea (of course), a story card, and an accompanying charm. The tale is told over seven days.

Monday’s tea
When I woke up this morning, I decided to surprise my mum with a special cup of tea. My name is Qoo Rabbit.

Tuesday’s tea
I tiptoed into the garden and picked some farfigberry flowers. Those are her favorite, especially the pink ones.

Wednesday’s tea
Then I put the kettle on the stove and climbed onto a loaf of bread so I could reach the fancy teacups.

Thursday’s tea
Mum was still asleep when the kettle whistled. When I added the tea leaves, they smelled like honeysuckle gumdrops!

Friday’s tea
I took the cup and saucer upstairs. But on the top step, I tripped over my little brother’s toy gun.

Saturday’s tea
The tea spilled everywhere. So I cried. Mum looked down and said, “Dear Qoo, don’t you know the glass is half full?”

Sunday’s tea
I said, “But there isn’t one drop left in that teacup!” She just smiled and made me butterscotch pancakes.

In closing…I hope you enjoy meeting Qoo Rabbit, since she will likely resurface. As for her name, I wanted to draw from Japanese culture, so I went with the most amazing apple juice ever to grace Japanese vending machines.

the soothsayer attends a bourbon tasting

March 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?

december in august

December 4, 2009 | add comment

When the sun sets on other lazy towns, hushing them into a quiet slumber, you’ll find this city stirring restlessly. There are more than eight million people living in New York City. Even deep into the night, endless voices drift through the air – sipping cocktails, kissing, whispering, shouting. And each is connected in some invisible way, like how stars form constellations. You can’t see the lines, but you know they are seamless and unshakable.

Allen was rushed to St. Vincent’s hospital at 10:47 pm. He had been checking on orders in the kitchen when broke out into itchy red hives and his chest suddenly tightened.

“Yo, what’s up with your lips? They’re all puffy and shit,” said the dishwasher. The general manager walked over. He’d been in the business long enough to recognize an allergic reaction to food.

“Call 9-1-1,” he barked.

Earlier that night, Sherry and Brandy met for dinner at the same restaurant. The sisters meet every other week to discuss life, love, et cetera, always choosing a cozy little place downtown. This week they opted for the snug European joint, August, which recently killed its no-reservation policy.

“This place looks so romantic, Brandy.”

“I’m actually setting you up on a blind date,” she replied amusingly. Though she might as well have been serious – one of her favorite past-times was finding a soul mate for her shy sister.

Though twins, they were about as different as the drinks their names shared. Brandy: a distilled spirit. She was the brash, outgoing one, with dark messy curls and long lashes. Sherry: fortified and amber in color. The slightly older sister, she was the protector – intuitive and cautious with quiet green eyes.

They were seated at a warm candlelit table in the corner, offering a good view of passers-by. Their contrasting personalities did not transcend their eating habits, as was observed by Allen, their tall and bookishly handsome waiter. One ordered the wild mushroom and radicchio pizza, along with a vodka martini, the other ordered the chilled pea soup with marinated fluke and a glass of Italian white wine.

“Ok, well I dare you to ask him for his number,” said Brandy, noting that Allen had his eye on Sherry all night.

“Now? He’s working. Come on, it would be awkward.”

“Well, then write your number on the bill.”

“Hmmm, it’s your turn to pay if I recall correctly. Besides, that would just be lame.”

“Fine then, I’ll triple dog dare you,” said Brandy mischievously. “How about you take his pen after I sign the bill, and if he comes after you for it, you’ll have an excuse to at the very least continue flirting.”

They walked down Bleecker towards 10th Street. Pausing in front of Good Fellas to hail a cab uptown, the sisters wondered aloud why the pizzeria’s owners chose to repaint the interior in such awful colors. In mid-discussion of the red and gold hues, they were taken by complete surprise when Allen jogged up to them. For a fleeting second Sherry thought and hoped he was going to hit on her. Her heartbeat quickened.

“Ladies, sorry to interrupt, I was just wondering if you had my pen? I wouldn’t normally bother but it’s my last one.”

“Um, oh, I don’t think so,” said Sherry nonchalantly. “Let me check my purse.” She could feel herself blushing. Fumbling through her hobo bag, her mind suddenly went blank. In fact, she thought that somewhere inside her brain’s twisting roadmap, a lone deer stood frozen in headlights under a pitch black sky as a truck was charging towards it. And she couldn’t find his pen. Unbelievable. In fact, the only one she could find was candy cane shaped and smelled of peppermint. “I have this?” she offered shyly.

“As long as it writes,” he said smiling before rushing back up the street.

“A candy cane pen? Come on!” said Brandy, laughing hysterically once he was out of earshot.

“I swear, I couldn’t find his pen!” She felt foolish and wished her sister would just shut up.

Back at the restaurant, Allen smiled at his new pen, granted it wasn’t the most professional. He liked the smell of peppermint too. It reminded him of his grade school cello teacher, though come to think of it he never remembered her actually eating mints. He sniffed the writing tablet heading into the kitchen to pick up an order of soft-shell crabs and a braised rabbit dish.

Sherry and Brandy rode home in near silence for five blocks. On the sixth block, they simultaneously giggled at the situation. “A candy cane pen, brilliant,” Sherry muttered as they pulled up to her sister’s apartment.

“Hey, maybe that can be your thing, the candy cane pen – playful yet seductive. Good night, sweetie,” said Brandy.

“Night,” said Sherry. The cab continued uptown.

At the same time, Allen was feeling hot, feverish even. He figured it was just the heat from the wood-burning oven in the tiny kitchen. But now his arms were itching. Seven minutes later, he was in a cab on the way to the hospital. He was suffering from an allergic reaction to peppermint oil.

Back at the restaurant sat New York Times foodie Frank Bruni. Satisfied and sipping coffee, he was waiting to sign his bill and head home. The problem was, both the bill and his credit card were in the check-presenter, which was in Allen’s apron, which was with him at St. Vincent’s hospital.

Frank had been teetering between a two and three star rating since first tasting the panna cotta with rhubarb. Though he strove to maintain objectivity in his reviews, he was only human. And he was becoming impatient. In a world where restaurants live and die by a critic’s bite of soufflé, the difference between two and three stars is a vast culinary cosmos.

Allen left the hospital after an injection of Benadryl and two blood pressure tests. For the remainder of the holiday season, he froze up at the sight of candy canes, peppermints, and – occasionally – barbershop poles. Sherry never learned of the incident, nor did she ever find his pen. On occasion, she day dreamed of Allen and wished she had the guts to return to the restaurant. She wondered whether he thought of her. Frank’s credit card was delivered to him the following day. He gave the restaurant two stars.

Though the three of them were unaware of the tangled path their lives wove, for that night there remained a connection between them. It wasn’t fate, nor was it coincidental. It was just New York. And far, far up in the night’s sky, three stars connected to form Orion’s belt.

this is some deal

August 25, 2009 | add comment

Fellas…how many times have you seen a pretty lady fawn over a puppy dog in the park? And the next thing you know, she’s chattin’ up the pup’s owner (who, by the way, isn’t the best looking of the bunch). It happens time and time again.

I’m sure you’ve thought about buying a pooch for the very same reason these guys have one: to meet girls. But let’s face it, a dog is a sizable commitment. It means training and plastic baggies and vet bills and finding someone to watch over man’s best friend when you decide to skip down to Atlantic City for the weekend.

My name is Larry Gordon, and I’m here today to present a limited time offer: The Doggone Package™.

The Doggone Package, Since 1932

The Doggone Package™ is guaranteed to get you the gal without the hassle of owning a real dog. This step-by-step guidebook and five-piece set gives you the one thing better than having a dog in the park. That is: losing a dog in the park.

So what exactly is the Doggone Package™? Well for starters, the package includes:

  1. A well-worn leash
  2. A frayed tennis ball
  3. Mutt Cologne™ (peppered with the complex hint of mixed breed)
  4. A box of Doggone ™ dog biscuits
  5. Tear Droplet™ (a patented and safe liquid that produces tears in the eyes)

You’re probably thinking, “Why the heck would I need all this stuff if I don’t have a dog?!” That’s the beauty of the Doggone Package™. These may seem foolish as standalone items, but the guidebook shows you how to use them to your advantage. It’s simple. Your goal is to pretend you lost your dog in the park. You’ll appear sad and delicate. You may even cry (with help from our tear-producing droplets). You know how much women love a sensitive man. With this no-fail system, that dame will be in your arms by dinnertime.

The Doggone Package™ includes several scenarios and tips for you to follow. For example…let’s say you’re in a tree-lined park on a sunny afternoon. Simply put a few dabs of our special Mutt Cologne™ on your neck, hold onto your leash and start yelling the name of one of the dogs we list on page 11 of the guide – Fritz, for instance. Continue to yell his name every 30 to 45 seconds. More often will seem ridiculous.

If no amiable lady takes interest in your plight, walk at least 20 yards to a new part of the park and repeat. Use the tennis ball to your advantage. Roll it towards that young woman you fancy. It’s an ideal introductory mechanism. As you apologize for hitting her flip-flop with the ball, explain that you are just looking for your poor lost dog.

We’ll teach you how to deal with unexpected moments, too…like what to do if a real dog responds to your calls (Yes, this may actually happen!). Or how to react if your new lady friend asks what kind of dog he is. Don’t worry, this and more will all be addressed in the contents of the guide.

The entire Doggone Package™ – brought to you from the makers of Kitten Caboodle – can be yours for just $24.99. Act now and we’ll include two dozen wallet sized photos of real dogs to authenticate your story.

Order today. Trust me, your guidebook will be dog-eared in no time!

when it comes to horse racing, i’m an expert

May 21, 2009 | add comment

Psst…hey kid, over here. You look like you got an honest face, so I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. You wanna make a pretty penny on the ponies? Well, that there newspaper in your hand—the one with all the little numbers and the fine print—it’s useless. Junk. A waste of my time.

If you want to know how the horses are gonna do, look to the jockeys. No, not to see if they look underweight or if they’ve got a good handle on the horse. The secret, I’m telling you, is in the jockey’s silks. Go ahead, smirk. They always smirk at first. But this three-piece suit didn’t pay for itself. Same goes for the patent leathers. The pocket watch? That was a hand-me-down from my grandfather, the late Ulysses Marigold. But everything else I earned at Pimlico or Santa Anita, or somewhere in between.

You’re gonna walk away just like that, kid? I used to be just like you. I used to be you, poring over the newspapers, scribbling down which horses ran better on dirt or grass and who was the long shot or the jolly. I’m telling you—it doesn’t matter. Start studying jockey colors and you’ll be swimming in green. Take the one there riding Timbuktoo in Race 5. His silks are mustard yellow and forest green. Twenty bucks says he comes in dead last. Why?

Aha…there you go. The glimmer’s back in your eye. So now you wanna hear more? You’re making the right choice stickin’ by me. Don’t take my word for it though. Just watch me place this quinella box bet with the easy of a young Fred Astaire, dancing all the way to the bank. Trust me. I know what I’m doing.

You might be wondering how I became such an expert in deciphering the hidden meaning of the silks. Well, it’s a convoluted art. Fortunately, I hold a degree from the Martha Pullen School of Art Fashion. I’ve made a lot of clothes in my day, and I know how colors affect people. Horses are no different. The jockey wears the clothes, the horse wears the jockey, so in a way the silks belong to the four-legged beauties.

Seabiscuit was a fast horse, sure. But he also had an affinity for red, the color of his jockey’s silks. His jockey was even named Red. That and a polka dot jersey? Unstoppable. It turned a swift horse into a powerhouse. Here’s another tip—are you writing this down? Write it down. Spotted horses don’t like horizontal stripes. It confuses them, makes ‘em feel ugly.

And another thing, I was born in 1966, the year of the horse. So come with me kid, and I’ll show you how it’s done. Oh! Drats. I left my wallet in my other three-piece jacket. Wanna cover this one for me? I’ll give you a cut of the winnings. What d’ya say sport?