Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What I'm Drinking: the Sazerac



The Sazerac is the definitive New Orleans cocktail (though the meaning of "definitive" in this context is rather complicated since there are relatively few places in town where a Sazerac may be safely ordered and plenty where they would stare at you blankly). It's the elegant, refined cousin of the Old Fashioned, and it's quite lovely.

My favorite drinks are those whose character is defined at least as much by how they are made as by what they are made with, (think of the Martini: the ingredients couldn't be simpler; it's all in the doing.), and the steps to make a Sazerac are wonderfully baroque. You will need the following ingredients:
  • Rye whiskey. I use Old Overholt. (You may substitute bourbon.)
  • Herbsaint. A local pastis akin to Ricard or Pernod. (The latter are perfectly adequate substitutes.)
  • Bitters, preferably Angostura and Peychaud. (Peychaud is another local item, an orange flavored bitters, and I'm not sure how available it is elsewhere. If you can't find it, skip it.)
  • Simple syrup.
  • A twist of lemon.*
Now for the fun.
  1. Fill a rocks glass to the rim with ice. Set aside and allow to chill.
  2. Fill a cocktail shaker** with ice. Add a good pour of whiskey (about 2 oz.), several dashes of bitters, and a modest splash of simple syrup (no more than a tablespoon—the goal is a gentle sweetness, nothing cloying). Stir the contents until frost forms on the outside. (If you've got a proper cocktail stirrer, you're all set. I use a plastic chopstick.)
  3. Empty the ice from the rocks glass. Pour in a splash of Herbsaint, tip the glass to the side, and roll it gently around, lining the entire glass. Pour out the excess liquid.
  4. Strain the liquids from the cocktail shaker into the glass.
  5. Twist the lemon twist over the glass, spritzing it with a tiny mist of lemon oil, run the twist around the rim of the glass, and drop it in the cocktail.
  6. Place on a cloth cocktail napkin monogrammed with your initials, and serve.
As you sip your exquisite, ruby-colored drink, you will find that the world is far lovelier than you ever realized, and all your woes are mere trifles. Enjoy.

* I'm honing in on the perfect twist. Back in my old work-a-day bartending days, at the beginning of the evening we would peel an entire lemon and then just slice the peel into narrow strips. These days I take a paring knife or vegetable peeler and slice just the outer layer of the peel off in a long spiral down around the fruit. The result is a thinner (it's only the exterior zest of the fruit we're interested in), broader, longer, rougher hewn twist that I'm quite liking.

** Or a second glass, though you'll need one of those little hand held strainer-thingies.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Absurd and Abhorrent

As a vaguely Ludditic and undeniably snobbish aesthete, I find those Bluetooth-cellphone-ear-thingies absurd and abhorrent. Yes, yes, I'm sure they're quite practical; I'm sure they improve driver safety and save lives and enhance one's stock portfolio and all that good stuff, but really, they're so damn ugly. (Personally, I'm holding out for the implantable phone-chip—much more tasteful.)

There's a guy I see around. He wears one. And it's not just any old ear-thingy: it's the biggest, most ridiculous, wrapping-all-the-way-over-the-top-of-the-ear-and-back-down-around, sticking-way-the-hell-out ear-thingy you can imagine. He wears it all the time. He's kind of a scrawny, geeky guy to begin with, and it dwarfs him. It makes him look for all the world like a surly, trench-coat-wearing Borg.

I saw him recently. He was, of course, wearing the thingy. His phone rang. He reached into his pocket, opened his phone, and held it up to his ear......

The Anatomy of a Bruisers Show

Though any given show may deviate from the norm, this is the essential template:
Chug............chug............

The wobbly start in which we cast off the weeks or months (or in this case, really, years) of atrophy, thinking to ourselves, "Damn, I forgot how hard this is." By the third song, the set list is abandoned.

Chugga...chugga...

The train picks up steam. We begin to sound like we know what we're doing. Mary smiles. Somebody in the crowd get's drunk enough to dance.

Choo-chooooo!

Everybody in the crowd get's drunk enough to dance. Mary dances. Everything gets stupid and lovely. There is lots of hollering. There is lots of singing along. We think to ourselves, "Damn, I forgot how easy this is." Life is beautiful.

Trainwreck!!*

The train jumps the tracks. Any semblance of a planned, structured event is abandoned. We sing eighteen "last" songs. Weirdos from the crowd get up and sing songs. We play our favorite songs a second time (which is okay since it's been hours since we played them the first time, and nobody can remember that long ago, and they sound much better this time anyway). We play songs we don't really know (but it usually somehow works out). There is even more hollering and singing along. On a good night, somebody collapses to their knees screaming and/or falls into the band, knocking over the mike stands. We sing a couple last-last songs. Then, finally, by some mysterious, unspoken agreement, we stop.... And then Jason sings several more songs by himself (though Saturday he had lost his voice so he just croaked one song).... And then he stops.... And then... it's over.
Yeah, that's pretty much how it works.** Saturday night was true to form.

* I mean this in the best possible sense. It's often my favorite part of the night.

** I should probably print this up and start handing it out as the program for future shows. It's good to have everybody clued in.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Slimbo from the Block (An Annotated Schematic of Our Little Neck of the Woods)

Sometimes I try to give you folks in the arid highlands a general idea of what's going on down here, but of course, it's impossible to give a comprehensive account of the storm's impact and our city's erratic recovery in its wake. So let's just take a little sampling, hopefully a reasonably representative one*, of one little neighborhood and where it's at. And since I'm lazy, let's make it really easy for me. Let's do my block.

Here's my block (give or take a house):



And here's what's going on in each of the houses:
A: Miss Elmer's house (of the Elmer Candy family). Miss Elmer died before the storm; the house was sold and then remained vacant for about a year. After the storm, the owners promptly gutted it and secured it, but made no moves towards restoring it. Later, a "For Sale" sign appeared, then disappeared. It's still gutted and vacant.

B: Us. You know our story.

C: A rental property before the storm. For a long time afterwards, there was no activity, and we feared we'd be stuck with a festering mold-farm next door. Finally they gutted it, then did nothing else for many more months. Now, once again, there are drips and drabs of activity, but the pace is glacial.

D: A couple (the wife of whom giddily hugged us after the Saint's last victory) and their dog. They moved back in a couple of months ago and were the first ones back on our block though they're living exclusively upstairs while the downstairs is still being restored. (They just got sheetrock.)

E: The blue house. That house. Pretty much every not-so-fancy neighborhood around here has at least one "that house" (and sometimes several)—the house with an excess of sociological woes: a large and indeterminate number of residents, many with irregular or non-existent employment, lots of kids with not lots of supervision, lots of coming and going, more than their share of public disputes, and the occasional visit from the police.

And it was home to Montrell, the incredibly sweet older girl who would stop by our house regularly to play with Louise and June.

After the storm, I was concerned that they were precisely the people who would have the hardest time making it home, the ones with the fewest resources to return and rebuild, but surprisingly they were the first one's back in the neighborhood, months before the rest of us. Not all of them—at first it was just a couple of the men, then others trickling in. It's still not nearly as crowded as it used to be, but I'm happy to report that I just saw Montrell for the first time the other day. (Looking a lot older. With us grownups, we just feel eons older, but with the kids you can really see the time that's passed.)

F: A younger couple and their new post-Katrina baby. They're not back yet but expect to return shortly.

G: A couple and their adult son. They've lived their for decades. They're not back yet but expect to return shortly.

H: Miss Sally's house. Before the storm, Miss Sally was the eldest of four generations of family living in the house. After the storm, they were scattered to Texas and elsewhere, and I recently learned that Miss Sally has since died.

It's a grand, glorious old house but was in serious disrepair before the storm and would now take a small fortune to fix. The family was not wealthy; they were, I suspect, underinsured; and their prospects for return don't seem promising.

I: A modest shotgun double. I didn't know the people who lived there before the storm. There are no signs of work.
So that's it. Some good. Some bad. Some back. Some coming back. Some gone forever. The city in microcosm. Any questions?

* Though "representative" is a tricky business since there's such a huge variation in the pace of recovery across different parts of the city.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Vive les Brusiers! (Saturn Bar, This Saturday)


Click to make all big-like.

What: The time of your life.

Where: The legendary Saturn Bar, home of abundant funky charm, innumerable broken appliances, and now, your favorite bands. 3067 St. Claude Ave.

When: This Saturday, January 27, 10-ish-ish (Really, it's all rather tricky. We've never been known for our promptitude, but Mary's pushing for a reasonably early start, and the rest of us are game, but then there's the complicating factor of Jason's rich inner-world and its tenuous connection to the theoretical machinations of so-called "time". So who knows. Come early. Stay late. It's all good.)

Your mission: Bring yourself and five of your drinkenest (we get a cut of the bar-sales), most enthusiastic friends. Instruct them, in turn, to bring five of their drinkenest, most enthusiastic friends. (Actually, non-drunks are also welcome, but the enthusiasm is mandatory). Repeat ad infinitum. It will be a glorious pyramid scheme of joy and jubilation.

Now I know what you're thinking. "Where the hell have you all been? What's your deal? Are you just going to up and disappear again? Can I really commit to this? I don't know..."

Look, there were mitigating factors. Mary had to leave town to fulfill her lifelong ambition of being a goat-herd-ess. There are no goats here. You must understand that. Then there was a storm, and sadly, our dual-drummers, Ana and Zack (two drummers? whoah! just like the Dead), were blown west to the magic land of Austin where they now spend their days shopping for organic vegetables and basking in the warm glow of progressive living. But on the up-side, the storm blew Mary back, where she landed once again on the fair and funky shores of our ol' hometown. (And she'll be picking up additional rhythmic responsibilities, shaking her maracas and tambourine with the beatific fury of the divinely possessed. It's a sight to behold. Really.)

So here we are again. It's been a long time,* but we're back. We've grown. We've changed. Please, trust us. Come on, let's hug.

Re-u-nit-ed and it feels so good. Reunited 'cause we understood.... (Did I mention we're now a Peaches and Herb tribute band?)

Come on down this Saturday. It's the don't-miss event of the season. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll go home afterwards and get frisky with that special someone so you can make kids so they can make grandkids so you can someday tell them about it.

You won't regret it. I guar-awn-tee.

* For all but the chosen few in the inner sanctums of the Lusher cabal.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Thick, Moisturizing Sheen

Like many young lasses (and undoubtedly a few lads), June has a penchant for chap-stick, and she is lavish in its use. On occasions when she covertly acquires a stick and applies it without supervision, the result is a whole face glistening with a thick, moisturizing sheen.*

* I can't help but be reminded of the scene late in Betty Blue when Betty slowly applies lipstick in large, psychotic swoops across her face. But one really shouldn't liken one's adorable two-year-old daughter to a mentally unhinged character from a French-cinematic freak-fest. At least June hasn't stabbed anyone with a fork. (Yet.)

Rat-Attack-Tack

This neighborhood might at one time (a century-and-change ago) have been described as the back o' town swamp. It's seeming more swampish* again. Maybe it's the rats. I guess rats aren't particularly swampy, but they remind me of nutria, and it doesn't get much swampier than nutria.

* "Swampish": I'm liking it. I think it might actually be sufficient justification for this post which is, otherwise, a near complete non-entity.

Oh Well

Oh well. Oh well. Oh well. Next year. Oh well. Oh well. Oh well.*

* And that Reggie Bush flip-into-the-endzone was one of the loveliest sights in the history of existence, even if we did lose (and even if it was shameless showboating).

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Crazy, Man, Crazy

It may have been crazy last week, but it's going to be some kind of crazy tomorrow when the Saints win again.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Shiner Diner

So we went out to dinner the other night, and our waitress had a black eye. This wasn't a biker bar; it wasn't a greasy spoon. It was a fancy-ish restaurant. In our careers as diners, Sarah and I have had a number of waiters/waitresses with black eyes. (We tried to do an exact tally but couldn't quite nail it down.) Unless one travels in particularly pugilistic circles, black eyes are not a very common sight, and our waitron-shiner index strikes me as significantly higher than that of the population at large.

Are waiters/waitresses, as a group, more prone to bludgeonings? I waited tables for many years with nary a bruise. Is our experience just a statistical anomaly? Have the random machinations of the universe flung us haphazardly onto the tapering flange of this obscure bell curve?

Or is there something larger at hand? Is this the role destiny has cast for us? Is this our work? Is this our fate? What does it all mean?

Why, God, why?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Fine and Dandy



You want a picture, you get a picture. Not too shabby, eh?*

* For some reason I feel a compulsion to keep saying, "There's more to do! There's more to do!" Anyway, there's more to do (I bought a rake yesterday because the dead grass in the yard is still thick with flood and construction debris), but the great abundance of work that's been done is damn fine.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Who Dat Think They Gonna...



So it may be quiet around here sometimes, but it sure wasn't last night. As the final seconds ticked down on the clock and the Saints claimed victory, a wild roar arose outside. We, our friends and us, dashed out the front door, and up and down the street, people were pouring out of houses (well, the occupied one's at least), dancing on porches, dancing in the street. They chanted "Who dat think they gonna beat dem Saints! Who dat think they gonna beat dem Saints!" They mobbed passing cars who honked in cheer. They mobbed a cop car who flashed his lights in joy. Strangers high-fived us. A complete stranger hugged me. Our middle-aged neighbor lady, giddily drunk and near tears, hugged us and told us she loved us and was so glad we were back.*

It was a beautiful, beautiful thing. It was good to see we could make that kind of noise.

* We hardly knew her before the storm, but shared misery is a powerful bond.

Friday, January 12, 2007

It's All Good (But Kind of Quiet) in the 'Hood

Monday morning I walked Penny around the neighborhood for the first time since August 26, 2005. Things have changed.

It's a little weird around here. Though we're certainly not the first folks back home, more than half the houses are still empty, and at certain times of day it feels a bit like one of those scenes in some old cowboy movie where the camera pans down the street, and the gold rush is long over, and there's just a few tumbleweeds rolling by and a few dusty knick-knacks in the window of the long-closed general store, and I'll round the corner and some grizzled, toothless old-timer will be sitting on a stoop spitting into a can, and I'll say "Where is everybody?", and he'll say "Don't nobody come around here no more" and start laughing maniacally, "Ah ha ha! Ah ha ha!", until his body is racked with coughs, "Ack aggck! Ehhkk oo-eck-schh! Uck! Uck-ggg!", and the camera will switch to a closeup of my eyes squinting with steely determination. It's a little like that. (Actually, there really are a couple grizzled old-timers living in an RV down the street, and a scene like this one doesn't seem entirely implausible.)

More people come back every week, but in the mean time, I'll keep wearing my Stetson.











Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Home)

I knew it would feel good. I didn't know how good it would feel. Sometimes, when you've lived with a heavy burden for so long, you sort of forget you're carrying it. And then one day it's gone, and you're like "What the hell? Was I carrying that thing this whole time? Was that my problem? Oh..." It's like that.

So the move was smooth enough. I had the misfortune of suffering from a severe chest cold for the duration (as in character-from-Magic-Mountain severe; as in covering-my-mouth-with-my-hand-when-I-cough-not-out-of-consideration-for-others-but-because-I-want-to-be-sure-to-catch-my-lung-in-case-it-pops-out severe), but I survived and am on the mend. The new appliances got delivered Monday. We roughed it the first couple of days—no gas (and consequently no stove or heat or hot water), but that was more or less resolved yesterday. Everything's still just piles of boxes, but that will also change.

For the first time, the gals each have their own room (we took over a bedroom from the tenant's side), and they're quite pleased though June was a little lonely the first night and spent part of it in her sister's bed. Their walls are painted a tastefully muted, parentally-selected shade of pink (there will be no Barbie-pink in my house, thank you very much), and Louise has endless ideas about how she wants to arrange hers—it will be very quiet and orderly and not a lot of toys but lots of art supplies and maybe a big desk and some plants and perhaps some purple and...

There are still lots of workers around, working on our house and on the houses across the street. They're all very sweet, and it's kind of funny to wake up in the morning and come out on the porch with a cup of coffee to (hopefully) grab the (erratically delivered) newspaper and wave to the carpenter who's sawing some piece of trim or the plumber who's toting some pipes around. They all seem very pleased to have gotten us back in there, and we've become something like the block mascots.

Eventually boxes will be unpacked and furniture will be arranged. Bar implements will be found. Then there will be parties—lots and lots of parties.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The 11th Hour*

Today we pack. Tomorrow we move. Shazam!

* Do you hear the cows?**

** A shamefully inside joke—and more than just a little bit twee, don't you think? A li'l bit twee... A li'l bit twee... A li'l bit twee...
A li'l bit twee...***

*** An even more shamefully inside joke. I'm trying to create a post that will collapse in on itself from the weight of its own obscurity, forming a black hole of cryptic, clubbish idiocy.

Friday, January 05, 2007

This Ol... This N…n... This Here House

Language is a funny business. For most of our exile, we've referred to the house as "the old house". Then, a little while back, as the old house stopped looking so old and started looking newer than it ever did before, our tongues got tripped up. We started calling it "the new house"… sometimes.* Sometimes it's still "old". Sometimes we use the street name. Sometimes we just sort of stutter.**

Fortunately, in the very near future, it will once again just be "the house".

* June, who has no recollection of ever having lived there, always refers to it as "the new house" (though it comes out sounding more like "new howsh").

** Help! Is there a Wittgensteinian in the house?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Random Crap: a Photo Essay



















King Claus

"You aim for the king, you best not miss."*

"You're not the king. Santa Claus is."**

* Me, dorkily spouting slightly erroneous quotes from "The Wire" which is proving to be a remarkably fertile source of new tics. (Okay, we're going to have to talk about "The Wire" soon, currently my absolute favoritest tee-vee show in the whole wide world. Warning though, as cable-less Netflixian heathens, we're hopelessly behind the curve and are only just now entering Season Two. No spoilers, please.)

** Louise, adamantly spouting slightly erroneous cosmologies from her five-year-old brain.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

What's Up?

So things have been a little quiet here in bloggy-land due to the severe absence of quietude in the rest of our lives. There have been good things and bad things.
The good: Lots of fine folks were in town, family and friends, people we hadn't seen a while, some blown away by the storm, some otherwise.

The bad: New Year's Eve Eve, somebody busted down the back door of our house and stole all of the brand new, recently delivered appliances from our kitchen. (And they didn't even have the courtesy to turn off the water lines, causing our kitchen to re-flood until it was discovered late the next morning. Rude bastards.)
We're not alone in this. Theft from unoccupied homes is an epidemic right now in this city. With an understaffed, overstretched police force and the absence of neighborly eyes and ears, it's easy pickins'. The officer who took my report said that they have one to two similar cases a day just in our area.

Considering what a dominant role the house plays in our lives right now, I've said relatively little about it here. We're in the end game—our return is imminent—which is tremendously exciting, but this stage is also turning out to be one of the most exhausting. We're ready, we're done, but the list never quite seems to end: an infinitude of small finishing details, the still ongoing back and forth with the insurance company, getting the big-ass pile of construction debris hauled out of our yard, the replacement of stolen appliances*, etc.

But soon we'll be there. There's plenty left to do, but we'll be there.

I think I could sleep for a week. Can somebody arrange that?

Onward and upward.

Good night.

* As plain old infuriating as it is to have someone break into your house and steal your stuff, really our main reaction was, "Are you fucking kidding me? There's more?"

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year

Blogging will resume shortly. Really.