Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Masked Drinker's Guide to Benders

In drinking, like all things, moderation is the key. What some people never tell you about that guide is that “all things” includes moderation, so one must moderate in moderation as well. And there sometimes—not too often—comes a time in someone’s life when it’s time to go a little off the deep end. A good bender can be a damn fine thing, but you really have to do it right. I’ve done it wrong in the past and learned from my mistakes. I just got back to work after a week and a half off and I quite explicitly decided to make it a bender. So I’d like to now share what I’ve learned about this noble and horrible experience.

First off, make sure you have ample time to be to yourself. You’re going to need anywhere from a weekend to two weeks (longer than that I really highly don’t recommend) where you are pretty much free from normal human responsibilities like family, work, and hygiene. (Just kidding.) (Kind of.) Point being if you need to check in on Granny every now and then or work with children or make spreadsheets to keep yourself employed, don’t go on a bender then. Self-destruct in moderation! I’ve often used spring break, but it’s very vital not to do it in the way low folks like Floridians would. A bender is not an excuse to yell lewd things at impressionable girls. A bender is a hedonistic self-exploration.

It often helps to have something of an impetus for the bender. It can be something as simple as “I have time off” to something rather more serious like, “Holy shit, my marriage just ended.” Sad-started benders need to be monitored more carefully than others, as the point is to come out a little better than you started, not way more depressed. I’d say stick to a good reason at least your first time. No bender is trickier than the barely-avoiding-depression bender.

I should add that you should let people know what you’re about to do; at least the ones that won’t give you hell about it. I, uh, in particular mean people that you share some sort of activity or some such with. Like, uh, a blog. I’d like to publicly apologize right here for not sending anything in last week. Sorry, theoretical adoring fans, arch enemies, and lovely crushes. Also, sorry Colonel Harmon. Really should have kept you of all people in the loop on that one.

Mostly go to bars where they know you. Now, don’t only go there, as they’ll get really tired of you. A bender’s a nice time to explore joints randomly. Remember, though, not everyone’s on a bender so don’t be an asshole, at least not more than you usually are. Respect the rules of trying out new bars, just do so within a week-long stint of drinking.

Remember to eat. Some nights you’re going to be stuck with the dregs: a friend’s leftover sandwich, microwave bar food. That’s unavoidable. But make sure you eat normal food too. Pasta keeps your stomach from completely revolting and just leaving by way of the first orifice it can find. At times when you’re just starting for the day or nicely buzzed, eat something really good and tasty. You’ll appreciate it whilst swimming in your debauchery.

Speaking of food and digestion, be prepared to not digest too well for the entire time. We’ve all had beer shits before, but understand that a real bender’s gonna involve beer shits pretty much every day. Stock up on TP and the stomach placebo of your choice and just roll with it. You get used to it, anyway.

You’re going to be tempted to bathe less. This is not a great idea. Everybody skips a day every now and then but if you skip more than one, you’d better have a major excuse, and it has to involve either an explosion or sleeping with someone ridiculously hot. Otherwise, for Christ’s sake, nobody needs to smell your drunk ass. If you must, buy some cheap beers to drink in the shower for motivation. That’s actually really fun.

Bender friends help. They’re not always available and do make sure they’re good bender friends. Bad ones quickly lead you down paths that not even you want. But someone who shares your break or purpose and can actually hang with your drinking style is pretty awesome. Nothing’s worse, though, than a lightweight bender friend. Can I call them frienders? When you’re out and ready for a multi-hour stretch and he or she is hiccupping after one beer, problems arise.

It also helps to have a non-bender friend, someone who’s generally staying sober, or at least normal. This has to be a close friend you trust and who is not judgmental. You need someone watching out if you’re about to step over a line, like drinking a fifth of whiskey near some cops or hitting on someone you really shouldn’t hit on. REALLY SHOULDN’T. But if you’ve got a judger, they’re just going to be on your case about everything so you never know what to take seriously. A cool non-bending friend can be a real ballast making sure you don’t go about this all wrong.

Keep some sort of record of what you’re doing. I don’t mean some weird OCD list of every drink you have. But a journal or something. Personally, I like to keep my camera around. Benders often lead to amazing, unexpected times. It’d be a shame if you couldn’t remember them. So make sure there’s something that will keep these good times around even after you clean up.

Lastly, when it’s time to rein it in, do so. When you’ve set yourself a time limit, never extend it, not even for a day. You’ll feel terrible for a day or so but, man, you will feel great once you’ve worked it through. Elongating a bender is the surest way to wreck it. There’ll be another time. Besides, it’s time for moderation in your excess.

Photos by the Masked Drinker

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Morning After, A Syrcls Brunch Review: Easter Sunday Brunch!

Let’s face it, the last thing you want to do when you wake up from a long (and possibly regrettable) night out is to get out of bed and cook yourself something awesome to make yourself feel more human again. At least for people like me, who pretty much don’t cook at all, going out to brunch is pretty much your best friend. So that’s why I’m here: to share my tales of urban brunching— tales of caution, and/or tales of awesome.

The ressurection of Jesus Christ can only be celebrated in one way-- and that is by going to a giant loft party in Bushwick the night before, dancing with the fabulous Nomi Ruiz from Hercules and Love Affair, eating part pot brownies, and drunk dialing everyone you've ever known in life until you are, like Jesus, a total zombie the next day.

This past Sunday morning, I opted out of a cold, windy rooftop yoga session, and instead found myself at Fiore, on Grand St., with all expenses paid courtesy of my roomate's Jesus-lovin' mother. It could not be a more convenient and beneficial time for me to indirectly participate in zombie worship, as I am dead broke. No pun intended.

Aside from crazily stealing a complimentary donut off a nearby unnattended table (whatever dude, they were just gonna throw them away after those people left! But it was still the most hobo thing I've ever done), I decided to be non-traditional and get pasta. Specifically, the Rigatoni con Melanzane E Pecorino-- i.e. Rigatoni with eggplant, tomato sauce and pecorino cheese.My roommate got the beff hash with fried egg:

And my roommate's brother got the eggs benedict:

Overall, I would say we were all satisfied...partly because it's free. Though, I could've used more pasta to revive me back to life. Oh, and their coffee was good.
We got more free donuts at the end. And this time, they were warm and not secondhand. Though the ones at Dumont are better (as is the orange juice...though NOBODY beats Motorino's), Fiore's are bigger.
Random observation: Why would you line a wicker trashcan with an ugly, cheapo blue 99-cent-a-pack trashbag? I demand an explanation, Fiore.

Anyway, thanks to my roommate's mom as well for the crazy amount of easter candy she sent us. That and brunch will certainly be able to get me through till my next paycheck.

Photos by: misoserious.com

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Masked Drinker Gets Poetical

“She turns and looks a moment in the glass,
Hardly aware of her departed lover;
Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass:
'Well now that's done: and I'm glad it's over.'
When lovely woman stoops to folly and
Paces about her room again, alone,
She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,
And puts a record on the gramophone.

'This music crept by me upon the waters'
And along the Strand, up Queen Victoria Street.
O City city, I can sometimes hear
Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street,
The pleasant whining of a mandoline
And a clatter and a chatter from within
Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls
Of Magnus Martyr hold
Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold.”

Thus sayeth T.S. Eliot in “The Waste Land.” Why bring it up, especially since I am clearly an idiot in a mask that drinks too much? The answer is threefold. I’ve been teaching “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” to 10 year olds this past couple of weeks and it’s been kind of awesome. Also, as you might know, the poem quoted above begins with the famous line, “April is the cruelest month.”

Thirdly April is National Poetry month, which may or may not have something to do with the previous two reasons. Poetry and drinking have a long, weird history, really. I mean, pretty much any poet worth his or her salt (from Shakespeare to Hank Williams Sr.) was a giant drunk, or would have been if they weren’t so goddam nuts they weren’t ever around booze. I’m looking at you, Dickenson.

It was only last week when I was about to enter Shades of Green in Manhattan in order to a) play a nerdy board game with my friends and b) try to flirt with a cute waitress (the two go together like peanut butter and chocolate IF YOU ARE ALLERGIC TO PEANUT BUTTER). I was finishing up a cigarette when a fellow came from inside and asked me for a light. He then began to expound upon all sorts of topics, like the original location of Tammany Hall, how kids only study things like business today, and the genius of song and poetry. He then recited “The Harlot’s House” by Oscar Wilde from beginning to end. It was impressive on the other hand, and long and weird and creepy on the other. So maybe if you want to memorize a cool poem suitable for bars, perhaps a multi-stanza epic isn’t quite the way to go. (Although that may have been super impressive to some Ren Fair girl, but if you want to impress a Ren Fair girl I don’t want you reading my goddam blog in the first place and getting your greasy little fingers on it.)

(I was going to post a photo of Ren Fair people here but realized I hated neither you nor myself enough to do so. But now the image is stuck in my head so I have to look at something awesome.

Whew, much better.)

So, with that in mind, I have decided to supply you, my reader, with your own easily-memorizable poetry to use and enjoy this month or whenever the fancy strikes you. For convenience sake, I’ll keep it in “fun size” haiku poems. Enjoy!

Home with cold beer
Oh no where is opener
My life is pointless

You are beautiful
I think that you should make out
With the Masked Drinker

Oh man gotta pee
I should have stayed with liquor
Beer goes right through me

This is like magic
I’m pretty sure that whiskey
Just made me charming

Dear God I’m hungry
Oh, look, it’s a White Castle
This is a mistake

I have bought four drinks
I hope next comes a buy back
Yay life has meaning

This party is lame
So I will play this guitar
Wait, I don’t know how

You’re familiar
How is it that I know you?
Oh, yeah. We had sex.

Holy shit this beer
Tastes like homeless dude asshole
It’s free? Glug glug glug

What is the best blog?
It’s “Here Comes a Regular”
It’s because of me

Eh? Eh? Whattaya think? Should I start sending to publishers?

Feel free to add your own!

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Morning After, A Syrcls Brunch Review: Beast

Let’s face it, the last thing you want to do when you wake up from a long (and possibly regrettable) night out is to get out of bed and cook yourself something awesome to make yourself feel more human again. At least for people like me, who pretty much don’t cook at all, going out to brunch is pretty much your best friend. So that’s why I’m here: to share my tales of urban brunching— tales of caution, and/or tales of awesome.

Sunday morning, I found myself in Prospect Heights and in the middle of the most gorgeous, most perfect Spring day of the year. I danced with a few of my good friends at the Rub, a hip hop party at Southpaw, until the sun came up. Though I could've looked at this weekend as a raging bummer disappointment due to an unfortunate rude awakening the previous morning, this weekend unexpectedly turned out to be just what I needed after all.

Some of the other much-needed things included but were not limited to: Schooling some offensive asshole on nature vs nurture(I had him at "nature vs nurture"), getting a set of amazing massages and genuine affection, spending some QT with my girl friends, going to a new yoga studio with a friend who was originally against it, semi-surpassing my expectations at my first attempt at making baja-style fish tacos, and "pimping" out my bed (new down pillows and jersey sheets!).

But back to Sunday, me, my friend Alexi, her boyfriend, and their roommate (who I used my magical powers of persuasion and shoulder-riding...what? I wanted a ride to brunch!) decided to have brunch at Beast, a bar/restaurant down Vanderbilt. Because we all stayed up dancing, etc., we got a little bit of a late start, waking up around 1:30pm. Had I been in Williamsburg, it would've been such a shitshow trying to go to brunch on such a coat-less day, so that made me even more happy than waking up next to an open window with the sun and spring weather coming in.

Admittedly, we were all pretty hungover and a bit out of it. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, they were out of my top 2 choices for brunch: French Toast and the Sauteed Polenta (the latter especially sounded amazing). I'm also fairly sure that the Australian waitress wanted to kill us. Not entirely sure why, but, I guess it must have sucked to have to be working on such a gorgeous day. Also, I'm pretty sure I was laughing about me mistaking something Alexi said for "a dingo ate my baby" fairly loudly.

We started with some mimosas & bloodys (included in the $13.95 brunch special), and a bread basket that was pretty damn amazing. Alexi and her bf got the bloodys, which are according to them, the best in the United States. For the main thing, I ended up picking the veggie wrap with chipotle aoli. Alexi had the pan-seared scallops, Alexi's bf had something egg or meat-related that I forgot, and Alexi's roommate had an egg and spinach special with a side of fruit.

As Foxy loves to tease me, I'm obsessed with portions. Although overall, I liked the fact that the veggie wrap claimed to come with a salad and potatoes, I in fact found a total of TWO (yes, as in one-TWO) little potatoes on my plate. Had the wrap not been so tasty, I probably would've minded way more. I have to say, though, I would've really like to try the sauteed polenta.

I would definitely go back...but perhaps when I'm less loud and hungover.

Pictures from the interwebz

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Masked Drinker's Bourbon Pairing: Shotgun Willie

Let’s talk music. Now I might be a man of strong opinions when it comes to music, but I make no attempt at seeming like I’m an expert. I’m basically one of those annoying guys who “knows what he likes.” But I can freely admit when I like some terrible fucking things, and when I hate some amazing stuff. It’s nice when what I like coincides with What Is Good, but not necessary.

Today I want to talk about an album that is not only Good but Perfect Drinking Music. And that’s Shotgun Willie by Willie Nelson. I don’t understand how this came out as a country album in 1973. It’s funky, jazzy, funny, and completely awesome the entire way through. The title track starts off with this crazy bass line and simple guitar work. The lyrics are silly, metatextual, and make fun of the Klan on top of it. When the horns kick in you know you’re in for something special. Willie’s classic, often underrated guitar work doesn’t hurt too bad, either. Listen to it.

Then, of course, you get that second track, “Whiskey River.” Now, I’m a man of certain traditions and rituals. When I see a “L’occatan en provence” shop, for instance, I say the name out loud in a terrible French accent. This was designed to drive an ex of mine nuts, but I still do it, even when alone. I dunno, I like this stuff. Anyway, whenever this song comes on, no matter my state or the time of day, I take a glass of bourbon. The lyrics are simple, but exactly what you need them to be.

Whiskey River, take my mind
Don't let her memory torture me
Whiskey River, don't run dry
You're all I got to carry me

I'm drowning in a Whiskey River
Bathing my memory's mind in
the wetness of its soul
Feeling the amber current flowing from my mind
To warm an empty heart you left so cold

Damn, I couldn't find the album version, but here's a good live one.

Those two stanzas are just repeated in between some great music and solos. Everybody gets a turn, classic jazz/bluegrass style. That funkyass bass is still there, and the vocal harmonies are churchly beautiful.

Incidentally, Willie released his own bourbon called Old Whiskey River and it’s pretty damn good, actually. I remember being offered it by a waitress friend whilst in a heartbroken state. I took it because it was nice of her and, hey, free bourbon, but I really didn’t expect much. Blew my mind that a celebrity bourbon could be so damn tasty. Pretty hard to find these days, and it’s not my absolute favorite, but it’s always a welcome sight.

Next up is “Sad Songs and Waltzes,” a sad and funny little tune where Willie tells some woman that broke his heart that she doesn’t need to worry about anyone finding out, because no one will listen to this song. Cake (remember them? Faux Bee June does.) did a good job covering it, I recall. It’s kind of hard to find a good waltz these days. OK, let’s start a movement, Waltzcore. Who’s in? Cotillion INSANITY all the way. Man, we will make some parties that will be THE THING.

The whole album’s great. There’s classic great country like “Local Memory,” more crazy 70s countryfunk like “Devil in a Sleeping Bag” . . .it’s all over the place in all the right ways. “She’s Not for You” is a minor key masterpiece. The Bob Wills cover “Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer)” is what we all want to say after that fourth drink and that cutie next to you just cracked the perfect joke and smiled that smile.

Anyway, I can’t recommend this album highly enough. Don’t be afraid if you don’t like country; it’s barely recognizable as such. Just get a tall glass of straight bourbon, nothing too fancy. Sit back, relax, and have a damn fine time with an American genius. (Not me, Willie. Although you’re welcome to try me sometime, too.)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Morning After, A Syrcls Brunch Review: Smoke Joint

Let’s face it, the last thing you want to do when you wake up from a long (and possibly regrettable) night out is to get out of bed and cook yourself something awesome to make yourself feel more human again. At least for people like me, who pretty much don’t cook at all, going out to brunch is pretty much your best friend. So that’s why I’m here: to share my tales of urban brunching— tales of caution, and/or tales of awesome.

This weekend solidified my 30-day fast on booze as a complete failure. It all started with Rosé at Mother’s, which turned into Tempranillo at Huckleberry, which spilled over to the next day after The Vagina Monologues. I did start out drinking two mocktails very, very fast. But I caved and drank beer, beer, beer at B-Side, Lakeside Lounge, and some no-name bar in the East Village. Abstaining from meat, sex, and alcohol is way, way too hard to do all at once. Since something had to give, I’ve decided to let it be alcohol, since I only drink on the weekends anyway.

I wasn’t really hungover all weekend, which was nice, though I did feel super guilty about letting myself down on the pact. I had originally planned among other things for (what turned out to be not-) sober weekend was a screening of Cool Hand Luke at BAM. The friend who invited me is an aficionado of BBQ style food, and wanted to go to this place Smoke Joint, pretty close to BAM, off the Fulton stop on the G. So instead of a traditional brunch, I opted for that.

I guess it was a little bit of punishment for failing the alcohol pact. The funny thing was, after failing in that arena, it was a hell of a lot easier to not eat meat, even at a place like that. Go figure. Anywho, I split a side of BBQ-seasoned fries with my friend, and had the mac & cheese with a side of BBQ spicy corn. Oh, and I had some really, really sweet sweet tea.

The best thing about the meal was the fries, I have to say. The mac & cheese was a super small portion, and I didn’t even finish it. It was pretty rubbery and tasteless. The corn was pretty good, with all the spicy BBQ seasoning, but it wasn’t as good as I expected. I definitely contemplated getting a second order of fries My friend had the pulled pork sandwich. I’m sure it was pretty good, since it’s like one of his places to get BBQ. Oh, and he swears that BBQ sauce has restorative powers for hangovers. I don’t know about that, but I do, as a rule, know it to be true that BBQ sauce is categorically superior to ketchup when it comes to meat and fry condiments.

After the fry fest, I got a chocolate chip cookie for the movie. It was huge with huuuuuge chips. It was aight, probably better than what I could get at BAM, but nothing to write home about. Overall, I spent like a bit over $10, and though much of it left a lot to be desired, it was cool to be full with pretty small portions of 4 different things. It did kind of get me in the mood for Cool Hand Luke too, what with all the almost subtitle-worthy heavy ass southern accents, which must be at least partly due to the characteristic heaviness and spiciness of BBQ cuisine.

Pictures from the interwebz

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Masked Drinker's Guide to Las Vegas

I’m not a huge traveler. I came from shit-town, Kentucky and climbed my way to the heights of awesomeness in Brooklyn. New York City has just about anything you could want in any place, so rare is the time that I leave it. When I do, it’s with a mission in mind, be it food (lobster rolls in Maine), friends (wedding in Arkansas), or duty (family in-sigh-Kentucky). But way back in my college days my two best friends were attending college in Las Vegas. So, every spring, I’d go visit them.

And, seriously, fuck Las Vegas. Jesus Christ is there a worst place on the planet? (Other than the internet.) “Oh, but it’s party central, Masked Drinker!” you might be shouting at your screen (your coworkers hate you). No. It is stupid central. “But they have no open container laws!” (Stop shouting.) And, yes, that’s pretty awesome, at least, until you realize that most people in the world have no business drinking so much as to need to take it out from building to building.

Drinking in Las Vegas is a lot like going out to eat on Valentines Day or having pizza in Los Angeles: fucking amateur hour. Screaming morons with retarded novelty cups half-filled with shitty drinks or shittier beers lurching from specially-designed human maze-trap to otherly-themed human maze-traps wasting money that could be used for something useful like curing AIDS, getting me a better phone, or curing phone AIDS.

My friends did the best thing they could possibly have done for me when I first arrived. They picked me up at the airport and drove me straight to some casino. They gave me twenty bucks and let me choose where to spend it. I sat down at a blackjack table and lost it all within ten minutes. Don’t go to casinos in Las Vegas. They are designed to take your money and sense of time away. You might get a free drink or two, but they will taste like they were poured through the sole of your shoe.

It’s not that I mind gambling. Hell, I love poker. (Real poker, not that “Hold ‘Em” bullshit. Poker isn’t an exercise in card counting. Well, not that explicitly. It’s an opportunity to drink and lie with your friends. And sometimes lay with them.) But big casinos are just awful wastes. Also, you inevitably will find yourself faced with a line of elderly people mechanically dropping their savings into slot machines, and I don’t know about you, but pondering the meaninglessness of my own mortality isn’t high up on my AWESOME FUN list.

And casino bars suck. Hell, all theme bars suck. If I may paraphrase Tolstoy in a blog entry about how much Las Vegas sucks, all good bars are similar; but each shitty theme bar is shitty in its own themey way. Again, I lucked out as I had locals, or local-enoughs to be able to be hooked up with a normal bar filled with normal people who actually knew how to drink. It’s the only place, other than peoples’ apartments, I’ve happily been drinking in Las Vegas and I don’t mind telling you what it is. It’s called the Stake Out. Now, this was back in college so maybe it’s too college-y for me now, but I never had less than a good time there.

I’d like to take this time to anti-recommend a bar in Las Vegas, now that I think of it. There’s a Cheers branch there, and one friend and I went to see what it was like. HOLY SHIT IT WAS AWFUL. You’d think the most famous bar license in the world would have a bit of quality control. It was a horrible little hellhole with only two people other than us in it: the bartender and a customer, both with long, curly hair. We found the juke and played some early Van Halen and dude turned it off. He had the audacity to purport Santana was a better guitarist. Suffice to say the night ended with us throwing bottles in a rage and scooting on out.

That’s what Las Vegas is like. It brings out the retarded in you. Sometimes that’s funny, or at least is in retrospect. There was the time we semi-accidentally Cool Hand Luked a college parking lot; an epic story filled with danger, superhuman feats of strength, and a miraculous shopping cart. Unfortunately, even masked, I don’t think it’s the best idea to share it online, but let’s just say mistakes were made and we’re all very lucky to be where we are today.

So I guess I’ve had good times in Las Vegas. But it should be noted said good times were had with the people I had good times with in the middle of nowhere, Appalachia, so that may have just been the company. Go if you have to. Maybe it’s an experience people need. And you won't do so badly if you get some locals and get away from the strip. But understand that it’s going to be a weird, depressing experience filled with the lowest thoughts and deeds mankind has to offer at the moment. And that at one point you’re going to be totally wasted, carrying someone’s booze through a shortcut that takes you through a loud casino, and all the sudden you’re going to realize what Hunter was really talking about.
Images stolen yadda yadda. I'm just happy I remembered how to do roll-over text.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Morning After, A Syrcls Brunch Review: Roebling Tea Room

Let’s face it, the last thing you want to do when you wake up from a long (and possibly regrettable) night out is to get out of bed and cook yourself something awesome to make yourself feel more human again. At least for people like me, who pretty much don’t cook at all, going out to brunch is pretty much your best friend. So that’s why I’m here: to share my tales of urban brunching— tales of caution, and/or tales of awesome.

This past Friday, me and a few friends went out for Broke Ass Stuart’s book signing/reading/walking tour/drinking fun (check out BrokeAssStuart.com). We stayed out fairly late, and partially because my friend Abby decided it would be a great idea for she, my friend Chloe, and I to split a huge bottle of champagne at like 4am, after already having drunk quite a bit, I was a total wreck Saturday morning.

I had decided that it would be my last day before making my pact with a friend to go off alcohol completely for 30 days. I know it sounds crazy, but I’m going to give it a shot and see what happens. Especially because, on Saturday, I had been planning on going to yoga, but I could barely get off the couch, and I feel gross about it. Also that night, I was also supposed to go see my friend Matt’s improv show at the UCB theatre, and meet up with other friends at what I later discovered to be an amazing party on S.5th & the Williamsburg Bridge (that big white old building everyone wants to live in. One of my friends didn’t get home until 9:45am, because she was dancing for so long! Instead, I put in Season 1 of Arrested Development, got ready to go out, and accidentally passed out at 12:30am.

So, I slept until about noon today, and it was possibly the best thing I’d done for my body since I last worked out, a few days before. And since that nice, long sleep left me slightly lazier of a lazy ass, plus the weather being in the high 50s, my roommate & I decided to walk to Roebling Tea Room. Though in the past he swore he’d never go back due to a pretty bad service experience we had there once. But, I have a pretty short-term memory/concern about that sort of thing.

For some reason, lately, I have been obsessed with Ricotta, and I had my eye on the ricotta, fig spread with walnuts & greens plate. [Sidenote: they also have the most AMAZING Baked Brie platter on the evening menu. Seriously, I go out of my way for it]. Unfortunately, and probably because of the recession, the portion was significantly smaller than I remember. But it was just as tasty. I think the greens they use now are slightly more bitter, but it was a nice contrast with the sweet, lightly creamy sweetness of the ricotta/fig/walnut mix. When I’m craving ricotta in the morning, I can truly think of nothing more satisfying, semi-healthy, and meat-free. Then again, I can’t think of any brunch dish that typically pairs ricotta and meat, but whatever. Oh, and I looove the orange juice there, and the large sized glass they give you.

My roommate got the baked eggs and grits with cheddar, 2 huge slices of fancy toast with apple butter. Although the grits at Roebling are different than my faaaaaavorite grits ever, at Relish, I like that they use sharp cheddar as opposed to something more mild. The only thing I didn’t like about this was again, the small portion of everything but the toast—opposite from my plate’s issue. We didn’t have a service problem this time, and even though it always looks crowded, we were seated in like 10 minutes. Also, there is always some waiter I or whoever I’m with thinks is cute. The one I normally like wasn’t working this morning, unfortunately. He has black glasses, brown hair and I think at least one sleeve-- which I normally find unappealing, but on him it doesn’t bother me. I think they might have hired new/more people, because there seemed to be way more waiters working brunch than usual…or at least the presence is more obvious.

Oh, and we both also thought we saw Perez Hilton when we first walked in, which essentially, would be THE nail in the coffin to this neighborhood. But we can all thankfully breathe a big sigh of relief that this was a false alarm. The dude turned out to be more of a John Norris lookalike. Funny though, because my roommate and I always seem to be at the same events and restaurants as the actual John Norris. Anywho, yay for Roebling Tea Room ricotta, and figs!

Photos by Misoserious.com

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Masked Drinker's Bourbon Pairing: Garth Ennis comics

I’ll be honest. I’m not doing so well right now, folks. I have had a bit too much too many days in a row. Jobs that start early and nights that go late can add up. And that goddamned animal holiday yesterday filled every bar with rank amateurs of questionable skill, knowledge, hygiene, and moral fiber. But I soldier on, fear not. I’ve got another bourbon pairing aimed right at your soul, high caliber style.

You may have noticed I’m a man who enjoys the occasional dip in the nerd pool. OK, fine, I’m prune-fingered from staying in too long. THIS METAPHOR IS GETTING TIRED. So this week’s bourbon pairing is all about me bringing you, the reader, into a pleasant nerd cave filled with excellence.

See, one thing that always goes well with bourbon is the comics of one Garth Ennis. Ennis is an Irish writer that came to American comics by way of a slightly different route. Most comic writers grew up reading the same superhero comics that are around today, but not Ennis. He grew up on a steady diet of British war comics, more anthology-based, more morally complicated, and often laden with irony and honor like ketchup on a classless person’s steak.

He’s worked on a number of books that are prime bourbon material. One of his few forays into (somewhat) traditional superhero fare was Hitman, the story of an Irish gangster with x-ray vision. Superheroes were skewered and satirized while keeping the action going and the humor ribald. Friendship between men, a common theme in his work, is an important strand throughout. I honestly don’t think it’s his strongest work, as some of it seemed derivative of the works of John Woo.

He’s more famous for the series Preacher drawn mostly by Steve Dillon. There were sixty-six monthly issues now collected into nine trade paperbacks. Both a love letter to the myth of America and a deconstruction of Judeo-Christian (especially Catholic) belief, Preacher is the story of Jesse Custer, a tortured man with a complicated background and a strong right hook who one day acquires the “Word of God,” an ability to make people do whatever he says. He, a hitman girlfriend, and a vampire best friend go off to find God and “make him pay for all the suffering.”

The tone moves from slapstick, gross-out humor to elegiac romance to action buddy-movie and everything in-between. Steve Dillon’s artwork is clean, full of expression, and representational enough to ground even absurd concepts, like the failed suicide called Arseface. There are lots of great moments and overall it’s an impressive, personal work. There are unfortunately points where Ennis falls a bit too in love with his characters, and tidies things up a bit too neatly, and other points where his critique of religion is more adolescent petulance than thought-out theology, but it’s a remarkable work well worth checking out.

It’s my masked opinion, however, that a more recent epic is even better, and it comes from the strangest place. Ennis and various artists spent the past few years working on the Marvel Superheroes gun-toting vigilante, The Punisher. The character debuted as a Spider-man villain, but eventually became popular enough to support several of his own titles (including a near pornographic “file” book detailing the various guns he uses). Largely and for ages thought of as something of a joke by readers over the age of 13, Ennis was given free reign to do whatever he wanted with the character. He started with a dark comedy called “Welcome Back Frank” that teamed him again with Steve Dillon. Sort of a morbid Road Runner cartoon, villains were dispatched in increasingly violent, absurd methods. But then Ennis wrote “Born,” a sobering look at The Punisher’s time in Viet Nam and here is where he seemed to really find what he had to say about the character, and, more, through the character.

He quickly relaunched the book with rotating artists for different stories and a darker, more serious tone. Now an adults-only book, it tackled various issues in the world today from sex trafficking to the war on terror. In truth, it became a years-long epic examination of the world and especially the United States, in today’s both post-Viet Nam and post-9/11 environment. Harrowing, poignant, and yet never losing the pulp excitement and action that carries the character, the series is one of the most significant pieces about America I’ve seen in the form. Frank Castle, the Punisher, is portrayed as a man of his time, completely dedicated to his psychopathic war, a relentless killer who just happens to kill terrible people. But the Punisher is more a vehicle for the social examination that Ennis is doing; he’s often less a character than a device.

A book about a guy with a skull symbol on his chest killing bad guys has no right to be such a vital, amazing work of art. But it is. Also collected in trade paperback form, I cannot recommend it more highly. Crack it open, pour yourself something brown and hot, and let the two things rattle your brain together with toughness and meaning.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Morning After, A Syrcls Brunch Review: Balthazar

Let’s face it, the last thing you want to do when you wake up from a long (and possibly regrettable) night out is to get out of bed and cook yourself something awesome to make yourself feel more human again. At least for people like me, who pretty much don’t cook at all, going out to brunch is pretty much your best friend. So that’s why I’m here: to share my tales of urban brunching— tales of caution, and/or tales of awesome.

This weekend, my parents were in town from California. I always enjoy going to places I would otherwise not like to spend the money on, or would otherwise not like to drag my ass very far to get to ordinarily. Every chance my parents get, they always ask me to get reservations to Balthazar.

There is a chance Balthazar is kind of an annoying place to go because it’s almost always crowded, people think celebrities do nothing but go there, and it’s sorta on the expensive side. But, as long as you get reservations, don’t order something insane, are lucky to have someone paying, and don’t let your dad embarrassingly gawk at Paulina Poriskova at the table behind you, it’s not too shabby. Well, even though the last part actually happened, it was still ok. Oh, and did I mention that they have the best desserts/baked goods in the history of humanity? And I’m saying this having also been to Almondine, which was just proclaimed by NY Mag as the best pastry place in NYC.

I was VERY tempted to either get a burger or French Toast, but decided to be somewhat healthy and ordered the grilled trout salad with greens and lentils, with a side of amazing Balthazar fries that me and my Dad split. My mom got the moules frite, and my dad got a French onion soup with beef stroganoff. My salad was really, really good. I’m a big fan of equal part lentils to arugula. Plus, I think there was some sort of balsamic dressing that was sweet and good, contrasting and marrying well with all the other three flavors. I tried a couple of my mom’s mussels, and I have to say, though Fada is definitely a, if not the top contender in the fresh moules department, this was really extraordinary.

We HAD to have dessert. That's just what you do there. My mom ordered some sort of lemon tart-y kind of thing with 3 different types of lemon things. Though I’m usually not a fan of lemon-based desserts, this was pretty tasty. Being no fool, though myself, I went straight for the Chocolate Pot De Crème.I’m totally going to sound like a stupid yogurt commercial/Kathy comic stereotype, but this shit is like everything good about the sensory experience in a pot. It is, hands-down one of my favorite things that exist in life. If you never eat a meal here, the very least you can do is order this. You will not be able to understand how you were able to function without it. It’s better than drugs, getting a nice alcohol buzz, and seriously almost as good as sex. I am not fucking with you. It is REALLY this amazing.

All in all: DO IT!

Pictures from the interwebz

Dawn Weiner on Hitting on Boys in Bars

Syrcls apologizes for the delay in her brunchery, but promises "a free round of e-bloody-marys-on-facebook." I have no idea what those words mean in that order but it sounds promising. Thankfully, faithful reader and previous contributer Dawn Weiner has more words of wisdomfor ladies in bars. Enjoy.
--The Colonel

In my youth, when no one around me had figured out how to work a proper relationship, my friends were falling in and out of first loves, and no one knew what they were doing at all when it came to the opposite sex. Most every guy you liked was single. Or willing to dump his girlfriend to be with you. But it’s a different story now. I realized this when I admitted to a freind that I was hot for our student teacher at NYU.

"Nope," my friend said. "He’s married."

"How do you know?"

"Dude, he’s got a ring on his finger!"


That was me at 25. I’m 28 now and I ain’t playin’ anymore. People are married now. They’re in serious relationships. I’m nowhere near any of that. I can’t even get a kiss. The last time I got licked was by my cat. I recently got dumped by a guy who didn’t appreciate that The Wire was the best damn drama series in the universe. And the guy before that had never even seen The Big Lebowski until he met me. I have been in perpetual dating FAIL mode since I moved to New York over three years ago. Forget About Intimate Lovemaking, Fucking Avoid Infected Lovers, Fear All Imbecilic Losers.

Where do you meet people in this city? Bars. How do you hit on men? Like this:

(The following doesn't mean I had any luck, mind you. Just very large balls.)

I'm in a Park Slope bar with some of my perpetually single girlfriends and my perpetually single self when a hoard of guys walks in. One of them is carrying a blow-up plastic doll and all of them are drunk. Bachelor party. Congrats to the groom-to-be and his soon-to-be ball-and-chain, but huzzah! I spot a cute guy in the bunch. I tap the dude with the fake woman and ask him to point out all the single men in his posse. My friends squeal, "Oh my god, Dawn, what are you doing?" They’re embarrassed. I’m not. The groom drunkenly obliges, giving me a rundown of who has a girlfriend, who is married and who is single. The one I liked was taken. Shoot!

I’m at a bar by myself in the lower east side early on a Saturday afternoon just after getting off work. I’m downing a few before I pick up some Chinese to-go at Congee Village nearby. A very attractive (to me) guy comes through the door with a friend. "Mmm mmm mmm mmm mmmmmm," I think to myself. I can’t see if he has a ring and I don’t care. I think I’m drunk. Fantasies of sharing my soysauce noodles, shrimp paste pork ribs, sauteed pea shoots with garlic, and fish with ginger congee, with him dance in my head. I ask the bartender to the "guy in the hat's" next beer is on me, pointing out the dude out. When he gets his pint, he cheers me from across the bar. The bartender comes back and tells me that he has a girlfriend and wants to buy my next drink in return. I accept and walk over to him to apologize. He says he’s flattered, but his girlfriend will be at the bar any minute. My fish with ginger congee tastes watery and thin the next day, because I couldn’t finish it by myself.

This one didn't occur in a bar, but in a restaurant. They serve alcohol in restaurants and I sure do drink it, so there. I was at Momofuku Noodle Bar to celebrate some kind of school-related milestone that I invented for myself (I went to class sober! Or, I went to class!) and I ordered one glass of sake, and then several glasses of white wine. The waiter asked if I switched to the wine because it was cheaper and I said yes. When I got the bill I wasn't charged for any of the wine. Wowee zowee. After several more visits and friendly exchanges I decide I like him. But I do nothing. Then one day I'm allowed to leave early from work because I'm crying after having just found out that I didn’t get the world’s most perfect job for me. I walk into Momofuku Milk Bar to pick up a slice of friendly chocolate cake. My eyes are red and my nose is leaking and guess who’s slicing my cake? A few weeks later I take my friend to the Milk Bar and we order two slices of cake. He wordlessly packs me a blueberry lemon cookie for free. I’m, like, totally bonkers for him at this point. Finally, back at the Noodle Bar, I point him out to the girl with the clipboard. Seat me in his section I say. We eat very well and he brings us a free soft serve to share at the end. "Do you have a girlfriend?" I ask. "Yes."

So there you go. Buck up ladies. Don’t fear making the first move. And don’t waste your time. Find out if he’s single first before you get totally disappointed after you’ve been talking to this guy for like an hour about your favorite Simpsons episodes of all time when he casually slips in mention of his girlfriend of four years.

More tips for girls drinking alone who want to get chatty with the bodacious boozing boy at the bar:

Read something interesting. I don’t even know what that means and I personally don’t care what someone thinks about what I read, but if it’s interesting it could be a conversation starter.

Listen in on their conversation and jump in if you have something to add. But only if it's appropriate. Guy having intimate conversation with a girl. Inappropriate. Guy with buddy out for a few beers. Appropriate, sometimes. Use your common sense.

Smile at him if he glances your way more than a few times, buy him a drink through the bartender, ask him to watch your stuff when you go to the bathroom, ask him what he’s drinking, drink something weird so he can’t help asking what you’re drinking, bring your dog to the bar because he’ll probably want to play with it (and maybe you, later), start an argument with the bartender about stuff that people like to weigh in on, like who has the best pastrami sandwich, NY or LA (LA wins IMHO). Do whatever. But don’t act a fool. You’ll make us all look bad.

--Dawn Weiner

photo appropriated by my assistant. It seemed appropo.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Masked Drinker's Guide to Karaoke

There are a lot of things you know about me already. You now that I wear a mask. You know that I drink. It can even be inferred that you know I’m completely fucking awesome. But there is something that you may not have known about me that is a subset of my overall awesomenity. What I now refer to is my status as a Main Guy of Karaoke. Underneath this writerly exterior lies a wailing behemoth of rock, and from time to time it gets out.

But karaoke is no amateur’s game; it is not to be approached willy-nilly. There are certain tips and guidelines I’d like to share with you that I’ve garnered over my years of belting out tunes in establishments built up by Asian immigrants.

First, perhaps most obviously, drink. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Extremely handsome masked guy, why for you tellin’ me such obviousness?” Well have you ever seen the people who karaoke sober? Let’s put it this way: you know when you’re not wearing shoes and you stub your toe; and you don’t just stub it but you bend a toenail back; and there’s that rush of painful air on your tender, exposed, stubbed skin? That sucks. But sober karaokeers suck worse than that. They take this shit way serious.

That’s the crux of a lot of these tips. Don’t take it too seriously. To that end, avoid singing songs that have emotional value to you. This isn’t a recital, nor a serenade on a first date. This is having some funtimes and blurting out some funsongs. If you have a wedding song or a song your dad had played at his funeral or a graduation song and for some reason you actually like thinking of high school, do not sing these songs. You will ruin them, and then you will feel bad.

Have some go-to songs, too. They should be fun, light, and recognizable. I recommend having at least one solo go-to and a couple duets. Duets are automatically better than solos, as you’re having fun with a friend (or a stranger that maybe you make out with later), and no single person must carry the burden of hitting every note in the song. One of my solo go-tos is the theme from “Cheers.” Getting the bartenders on your side is a nice step in karaoke rockage.

If you’re going to rap, be sure that you really, really, really know the song. I dialed up “Intergalactic” by the Beastie Boys once, because I love that song. Well it turns out I knew about 60 percent of the lyrics and thus 40% of the time gawped and looked an even bigger fool than usual. That shit is fast and difficult, and after a few drinks, the tongue doesn’t want to work like that. But I’ll say this: in the rare event someone does pull it off? MINDS ARE BLOWN.

You know those songs that you assume you’re going to hear when you go to karaoke? Like “New York, New York” or “Crazy” or “Piano Man”? Well, you are going to hear them. So don’t sing them. Nobody wants to hear the same song, no matter how good it is, over and over and over again all night. Put a little variety into the evening. Something you loved growing up, but don’t hear all that often. And if you know it, never fear a little old country. Even in Downtown Manhattan you’re going to be surrounded with more fans of David Allen Coe than you would have ever guessed.

Speaking of the people around you, show them some love. The best karaoke is public karaoke. I’m not so down with the private rooms with just you and your palsies. Do that a few times and you can predict what everyone’s gonna do. And it gets boring. One of the pleasures of karaoke is interacting semi-artistically with total strangers. So when somebody goes up and gives it their all, you goddam well better applaud! Especially if they’re into it. (Not taking it seriously, into it. Very different. Serious-takers have pained faces and sing important tunes with vibrato and heartfelt emotion. They make you want to leave, die, or both. Into-its are totally rocking out and having funtimes.) Cheer, high five, spread the love. It’ll come back to you. Don’t be one of those shitty groups that only listen to their own friends and never have fun with anyone else. They are like stepping in dog poo, except at karaoke and with singing.

Speaking of Into-Its, totally be one. Rock out with your best moves. Nobody expects David Lee Roth, but do what you can. A little dancing and rock posing goes a long way. Which is not to say do only the barest minimum amount. Let the rock flow through you like electric fuck. A lot of rock stars are neither hot nor that good at singing. It’s all about that electric fuck juice. Drink heartily of it.

The most important thing is just to let loose and have fun. Bring some friends who are ready to party, meet some new folks, and rock it out. The second most important thing is not to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody.” You can’t sing it, it takes forever, and everyone else in the room will hate you. If you MUST sing it, wait until right before closing time. Then people will be drunk enough to form a chorus with you instead of resenting your sorry ass.

portrait by girl the Masked Drinker wishes he remembered. And, yes, that's open mic and not karaoke but it's the best I had. Shut the fuck up. Other picture stolen from internet and written on using photoshop in its basest form by the Masked Drinker.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Syrcls Brunch Review: Ordering In!

Let’s face it, the last thing you want to do when you wake up from a long (and possibly regrettable) night out is to get out of bed and cook yourself something awesome to make yourself feel more human again. At least for people like me, who pretty much don’t cook at all, going out to brunch is pretty much your best friend. So that’s why I’m here: to share my tales of urban brunching— tales of caution, and/or tales of awesome.

The night before the brunch in question, I had to a whiskey tasting at Bottlerocket
right after work. I tasted a Hudson Baby Bourbon, a Hudson Manhattan Rye, and a Spirit of The Hudson Vodka. Unfortunately, I seemed to have misplaced the information I got about each of these drinks, due to me clearly getting way in over my head with this tasting, so to. I think my favorite was the Rye, though I’m not much of a hard alcohol drinker. I think my only comment was “yep, that’s alcohol all right!”Anyway, I somehow thought that night that it would be a good idea to not only meet my friend Foxy at a bar back in my neighborhood, but to also have some additional drinks with colleagues in the West Village. By the time I got back to Williamsburg, I should have probably just gone home. Instead, I proceeded to hang out with Foxy, and then some neighbors of mine, until I was too embarrassed to admit that I was too drunk to continue hanging out, walked out of the bar without saying anything to anyone, walked home, and passed out in my contacts.

Despite the early call of spring that Saturday morning, it was definitely an ordering-in brunch moment for me. Hey, sometimes, you don’t have the wherewithal to leave your apartment until absolutely necessary. Sometimes all you can do is lay on your bed and/or couch and sit still until that horrible spinning fades away. OK, I wasn’t that bad, but I was extraordinarily lazy. Oh, and ordering in is also good if you have a guest in your bed and you’re not quite “done” with them yet.

But on regular, non-sex partner nights, my roommate and I rely on Willburg Café pretty much across the board for ordering in brunch delivery. It’s not particularly outstanding in the quality of food, much less the service, it’s just that it’s really the best we have to choose from in our delivery area.
I have to say, the girl who takes delivery orders is has pretty far below average mental capacity. It’s been more than four times that she’s put us on hold and forgotten, royally messed up our order, or can’t spell anything we tell her. But, their tofu “omelette” (which is really more like a scramble), with combo of potatoes and toast, is pretty good and reasonably priced. In this case, though, we both got their yogurt, granola & fruit plate, which is a nice portion and a healthy option.

It takes them about 20 minutes or so to arrive, and unless that genius of a girl on the phone has messed up something on her end, they’re usually good about getting there on time. Oh, and they have fresh orange juice, which is possibly a better than a burger for your hangover.

Friday, March 6, 2009

HCAR Drink Tasting: The Southern Bride

Hey, folks. I know Faux-Bee June usually writes up these drink thingees, but she’s off in the hills of Scotland collecting the heads of her enemies, so we drew straws and guess who got the short one? The hint is: he wears a mask and is me.

This week we had a gin drink called the Southern Bride. I thought maybe this meant it was 16 years old but it was actually 2/3 Gin, 1/3 grapefruit and a splash of Maraschino. Gin and grapefruit both prove to be pretty strong tastes, so we got some pretty strong opinions. Onwards.

Our roster:
Staff members Faux Bee, myself, Syrcls, and Rachel and frequent guests Meatball, Fraulein N, and The Pet sat around on a cold end-of-winter’s night and tried to enjoy life.
Generally folks didn’t like this drink. Every single contributor mentioned that it was too tart or bitter, and that gin and grapefruit just do not go well together, like peanut butter and knifestabs. Rachel felt that the drink was best suited for old ladies in Atlantic City, but Meatball put down a Johnny Ryan comic long enough to comment it was for Upper East Side Ladies. I felt it was more for sorority girls, and the Fraulein darkly commented more literally that it would be suited for “A woman getting married south of the Mason Dixon line.” So we basically thought it was for women of low taste.

When asked where and under what circumstance they pictured themselves having this drink, The Pet, Rachel, and Fraulein all flatly said they would never drink this. Syrcls allowed that if she were depressed and there was no Nyquil, she’d give it a whirl. Faux Bee would indulge if she were dating a fellow with a deep expense account. I was more lenient, thinking that on a hot summer’s day this might be a bit more pleasant.

On the subject of improving the drink, everyone mentioned some sort of replacement. Tossing the gin for vodka was a popular choice, but the Fraulein and I agreed that the grapefruit was the most offensive part. I thought maybe lemon juice and some sweetening agent would make this a pretty nice summer drink. Syrcls would improve it by “throwing it in the toilet.” She went on, “Dark chocolate beforehand probably made this even worse. Eww. Just eww.”

In conclusion, Ms. June donned her lab coat to tell us that grapefruit actually hinders the liver’s ability to process alcohol, so it’s basically the worst mixer of all time. I still hold to the belief that nuclear waste and razor blades are a worse mixer, but to each his own.
Sorry if I did this wrong. Faux Bee is better at it. Let’s hope the Quickening doesn’t drive her mad with power.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Masked Drinker's Bourbon Pairing: Mad Men

The Masked Drinker was having computer problems, so I have posted this week's article for him.

--The Colonel

A main fact about me is that obviously I am extremely wise. I have been dropping twenty dollar knowledges on you from the inception of this blog. But my role as educator need not be limited to how to guides for bar living. Starting this week, I’m also going to occasionally talk about booze pairings. Specifically, I’ll be talking about bourbon pairings.

Now when I say this I don’t mean foods you should eat that go well with bourbon. I love bourbon more than I love a lot of people, but it’s not exactly refreshing or thirst-quenching. And the rich, caramel overtones in truth blend well with very few edible things. No, when I talk about bourbon pairings I’m going to be talking about experiences, media, and non-edible concepts that are great in and of themselves, but pushed along to splendor with a nice glass of Kentucky’s finest.

Today I want to talk about a television show that goes so well with bourbon, partially because it’s so often consumed by the characters of the show. That show is Mad Men. Now, 99.99999999999% of TV makes me wish the robots would finally rise up and destroy the puny humans, but every now and then something worthwhile gets by. Upon seeing ads for a show on AMC of all places about advertising guys in the fifties, I was certain that this would not be one of those worthwhile times. Hokey jokes about “Hey, back then people sure did act different!” and some weird deification of the world’s most disgusting business.

Well I was wronger than a Klansman in Bed-Stuy. While the first couple of shows did have some snickery, “Boy, wouldn’t it be great if we had a machine that could copy papers for us?” moments and the constant smoking seems to overdrive the point home, quickly something far more subtle comes through. The show, in truth, is actually about the societal change this country went through in the mid-twentieth century and, more importantly, how that affected different people.

The show covers all sorts of people, from executives to housewives to children to the nearly-invisible black help . . .and each person reacts to and is affected by these changes differently. Some fear it, as it represents the end of their control; some fear it because it gives them control and they don’t know what to do with it.

Both the writing and the performances are pretty goddam sublime. January Jones turns what could be a typical frustrated housewife into a vibrant, discordant ball of petulance and neuroses. Jon Hamm, handsome guy extraordinaire, plays Don Draper so perfectly that every revelation both fits and shocks. Anyway, there’s countless places to read up on what makes Mad Men so damn good, so I won’t belabor the point.

What I really want to talk about is that it’s a damn fine show along with which to drink. The characters drink pretty freely, at home, at bars, and at work (oh, how I wish . . .) and they drink well. Lots of bourbons and ryes consumed throughout an episode. But here’s the catch, folks. Don’t drink in your ratty old t-shirt with that band you don’t even like anymore on it. Dress the part. In Don Draper’s world, men and women dress well, all the goddam time. At the very least, have a pressed shirt unbuttoned with a loosened tie. You’ll feel better. Ladies, put on a dress. Match your underwear. Make your drink an occasion of awesomeness.

But if any of you assholes want to make a drinking game out of it, I will personally crawl through your internet tubes and shit on something you love. Drinking isn’t a game! Drinking is an art, it’s a life, and it’s a pleasure. You heard me! Don’t fuck around.

So, I hope you enjoy this bourbon pairing. Mad Men Season 1 is available on DVD and season two probably will be soon. Make a party of it and live it up. Enjoy a drink, enjoy a cigarette, enjoy your friends, enjoy the show, and enjoy living in a world that can completely remake itself when necessary.

Mostly the drink.

pictures again stolen, I almost feel bad, but these dudes are awesome

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Syrcls Brunch Review: New Orleans Edition

Let’s face it, the last thing you want to do when you wake up from a long (and possibly regrettable) night out is to get out of bed & cook yourself something awesome to make yourself feel more human again. At least for people like me, who pretty much don’t cook at all, going out to brunch is pretty much your best friend. So that’s why I’m here: to sh\are my tales of urban brunching— tales of caution, and/or tales of awesome.

Earlier this week, I got back from an amazing (and spontaneous!) vacation to New Orleans with my friend, Foxy. I thought I’d be missing Mardi Gras, as I was leaving the Monday prior. Oh, dear, how exponentially far, far from the truth that was. Here’s the thing about New Orleans that I really didn’t understand before going: NO ONE STOPS DRINKING. EVER. Seriously. It’s a 24 hr/7-day a week shitshow.

While that can be kind of cool— everyone’s pretty laid back, no open container law (beers TO GO!), etc.—it can also be kind of a bummer, i.e. any and all sexual harassment is magnified times 5 million, Bourbon St.= Frat Central, shit moves SOO FUCKING SLOW if you want to get shit done, etc. Overall, I had an amazing time wandering around that amazing, culturally rich city, partying my ass off, randomly playing the bongos with legit Cajun musicians, and of course, EAAAATINGGG.

I had brunch my last morning there, directly after a night I had seriously lost my shit on more than a couple of dudes who made some of the most unwelcome sexual advances I’ve ever encountered-- not that I remember specifically, but hey, I’m fairly confident there was definitely SOME good reason I smacked, threw tater tots at, and chucked beads to injure those various fuckers. Not that I’m endorsing that sort of behavior (my specific reactions, that is), but it can be VERY frustrating to be a woman in your mid-twenties who’s drunk, angry, and feeling powerless against the overwhelmingly dick-baggish entitlement some men love to shove in your face at every second of the goddman day, everywhere you turn. Foxy and I did, however, meet some very nice men there who didn’t try to get fresh (we both have our own one particular person on our minds, respectively).

Anywho, at the recommendation of the fine Southern gentlemen we met (um why am I sounding like I’m about 90 years old? Whatevs), we went to a ridiculously picturesque place called Café Amelie. Unfortunately, it was pretty cold (compared to the rest of the time we’d spent there) and windy that day, and the inside was a long wait, so we were forced to eat outside. We were RAVENOUS and RETARDEDLY hungover from the drinks neither one of us paid for the majority of all night.

I ordered the crabcake (on a bed of greens, with citrus drizzle) and a side of potatoes. Foxy ordered the potatoes as well, and for the life of me, I cannot remember what she ordered, but I think it involved seafood. Anyway, if you are in New Orleans ever, seafood is a MUST. I don’t think I’ve tasted anything that fresh since I was in Hawaii a few years ago. The potatoes, however, were underwhelming, and I thought the crabcake portion was a little small, though that could’ve been my own fault for ordering nothing else.

On a nicer day, eating in that garden would have been a complete and utter delight. Take a look at that shit! I’ve rarely seen that level of non-showy combo garden/old building quaintness outside of Tuscany. And though the potatoes and waitress left a little to be desired, I highly recommend this place if you feel like dropping mad bones on a truly good quality brunch in a lovely environment. I think it definitely played a part in saving my mental health from the raging lunatic in my brain from the night before.

Photos by Syrcls


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Masked Drinker's Guide to Gay Bars (For Straight Dudes)

So I was at Fashion Week last, uh, week, surrounded by bizarre examples of genetic perfection, free wine, and toilets whose seats never stand. I spent some time trying to get the designers of Original Penguin to release a nice line of comfortable-yet-stylish masks, but they just don’t yet see the market for it. Anyway, this is all just to say that it made me feel now was a good time to write up why gay bars are basic places of superfun.

My first experience with a gay bar wasn’t really my best. However, it was a bar in West Virginia, and that state and the word “best” never go hand-in-hand. See, my high school buddies and I found out that there was a gay bar in the town near where we grew up and we were overcome with curiosity. It was what you’d expect in an Appalachian gay bar: dudes whose only idea of gay culture is what they’ve seen in bad comedies and ladies who could kill every one of us without even loosening their large-custom-buckled belts. The music was loud and bad, and we were too young to get served. The best part was a redneck football player we had grown up with running up to my friend and proclaiming, “I always knew you were, too!”

Anyway, that’s not the usual scene from what I can tell. Gay bars, maybe especially if you’re straight, are just fun, relaxing places to be. Even some fairly open-minded guys are a little freaked out by the idea that “OH SHIT I AM GOING TO BE HIT ON!” Listen, in New York, at least, gay dudes are hell of picky. If you DO get hit on (which probably won’t happen), then consider it a pretty awesome compliment. If you can make it in the NYC gay scene, you are one hot fellow. (Unless you’re at a chubby chaser bar, but whatever, you probably aren’t.)

Gay bars—and I stress bars here, not clubs—usually have decent selections, prices, and specials. The happy hour at my favorite gay bar, Nowhere, is two for one domestics and well drinks for, like, four or five hours. That’s fucking crazy! A man can get much loaded on Yuenglings and whiskeys while hardly spending anything.

Gay bars are actually pretty amazing for dates, too. Bring a girl to a gay bar and you know no asshole’s gonna try to hit on her while you’re peeing. And, at gay bars I’ve patronized at least, straight couples are almost as cute and exotic as puppies playing with tiger cubs. That’s pretty fucking exotic and cute. Also, there’s usually a juke or DJ with danceable music, and after a few cheap rounds you are so on that, admit it.

Lesbian bars are a bit trickier. First off, if it’s a really anti-male lesbian bar, don’t be an idiot; just don’t go. But most lesbian bars are just bars that happen to be run for and by lesbians. Whenever I’ve found myself in one, I act like I always act in a bar not really meant for me. Just stay friendly, and don’t hit on anyone. And don’t hit on anyone by not hitting on them, either. Girls are totally onto that trick, guys. It’s just that straight girls sometimes pretend it works because it’s easier that way.

I don’t know if I have any gay readers yet, but I just realized that if I do, this is probably the lamest article they’ve ever read. So here’s a picture of Clive Owen as a measure of apology to you, my theoretical gay reader.

Anyway, not all gay bars are alike, obviously. But I’ve never been to one that wasn’t a fun time. I’ve never been forced to dance ala Police Academy. The bartenders are sometimes happy to hear about girl-dating problems to remind them of some of the reasons it’s awesome to be gay. This is, at least, what I’m telling myself whilst I bemoan my latest girltragedy.

So try it out. I recommend, as I said, Nowhere on 14th between 2nd and 1st Avenues. Good juke, pool table, nice seating, fun environment. But please don’t go all at once. Then you’ll ruin it. I know my audience is comprised of ruiners. RUINERS.

pictures stolen from the internet, as he so often does, by the Masked Drinker

dude how hot is Clive Owen? It's ridiculous.


Monday, February 23, 2009

The Vodka Vixens

Apparently the office suffered a power outage over the weekend. I suspect some sort of kitchen-appliance blunder, but as yet have no proof. In apology for the lack of content, I felt that I might contribute something.

As I have mentioned before, after the War, I made my wages as a writer of novels for men and certain jaunty ladies who crave adventure. My recent forays onto this internet have shown me that my works are out of print and rarely spoken-of. Forgive the ego of an aging man who wishes once more to share the stories he found inside his brain. From time to time I'll share excerpts from my older novels; truly, going back and having my loyal manservant type them up has reawakened the love of the craft. I have begun taking notes on a new work, my first in many years. As for now, I hope you enjoy this selection from The Vodka Vixens, the sequel to my 1965 book, The Vodka Killers.

Charles checked the .44 like he did every morning when he woke up. It was a routine that almost comforted him. There were no complications. There were no expectations. There was no anger, no sadness, no emotion at all. Ever since that fateful day in '56, uncomplicated times were seldom indeed.

But that was a long time ago and far away from his current location. Getting into Cuba had been easier than he had anticipated. The agency had set him up with a rubber raft after he disembarked from the so-called "fishing ship" the Orca. It had seemed legit, but civilians rarely are used in such a capacity as this Quint. Charles also knew that in this line of work, it was sometimes beneficial for the right hand to be kept in the dark about the left hand's activities, lest they find themselves handcuffed together.

After his other routines and calisthenics Charles put on the sort of linen shirt popular in the area as an attempt to blend in. There were fewer Anglos doing business here than in Batista's days, and fewer still vacationing since the embargo. But there were enough, and the dark, swarthy features Charles inherited from his Apache grandfather would help him look more like the local Spaniards than most Agency men.

He winked at the girl at the front desk as he left the hotel and her tan skin blushed even further. He walked the streets a bit, turning here and there, in an elaborate pattern established to discern the presence of tails. Finding none, he went to his meet-up destination, a bar hidden away on a side street.

It was dingy, sparsely-populated, and hot. Charles immediately felt at home. The bartender's hair was tight and curly, but Charles couldn't draw his eyes off her lips. Thick like soft pillows inviting him to come rest on them for a night or two. Perspiration caused her white linen shirt to cling to her in ways that Charles' never would.

"Hola, Senor," she said with a voice somehow both thick with sensuality and lilting with promise. "What'll you have?"

It took Charles a moment to notice she'd spoken to him in English. Nerves ajangle and ready for death-causing action. "You speak English . . .very well," he said, testingly. He wondered if his meeting place for his contact had been compromised.

"I was born in New York, actually," she replied. "I welcome the chance to speak the way I grew up."

"New York, eh? What brings you here?" Charles' hand slid subtly down towards where he kept his sidearm hidden.

"And I'll have a bourbon, neat."

"No bourbons here . . .have to go somewhere that can get past the embargo. Let me make you a local drink." She began mashing a mint into a glass, mixed it with cane surgar syrup, carbonated water, and rum. Charles was intrigued.

"You never answered me why you're here," he asked, watching her top it with a lime.

"Here in this bar or here in Cuba? I'm here in Cuba because I had family here. I'm here in this bar to meet you, Charles."

In less than a second Charles' .44 was leveled straight at her, but her smile nor the sparkle in her eye remained unperturbed.

"Canary Jackanape Soluble," she said.

"Moist Familial Arbitrary," Charles returned.

"I've never known a man with seven heads," she continued.

"Babe Ruth was a fat bastard," Charles continued, knowing he was a phrase away from success.

"Kitty kitty meow meow smell the HELLO," she said.

"Abraham Lincoln was a homosexual," he finished and put the gun down. "They should have told me my contact was . . ."

"A woman? Oh, Charles, I'd heard you were at least a bit more open-minded than that."
He took a long swig from the drink she'd made. "No. That my contact was so . . .intoxicating. What is this drink?"

Smile and eye still unperturbed, yet eyebrow arched, she replied, "A mojito. The sin here almost makes the rest of it worthwhile. Cigars, rum, love . . .but I get the feeling the Reds won't stand for it too much longer."

"Well, I always say 'Enjoy it while you can.' Besides, we'll kick this bearded Marxist out soon enough. Now what say we get down to business?" Charles said, downing the rest of his drink.

Her finger traced her collarbone and her smile widened. "Business before pleasure?"

Charles smiled, but before he could decide they were interrupted.

"Oh, Charles, it pains me to see you drinking this filth," one deeply accented voice said.

"With this filth," an almost identical one replied. Before even turning, Charles recognized it. Olga and Natasha, the Rasputin twins. Two of the Kremlin's deadliest and most beautiful agents. And he had a feeling this time he wasn't going to get off so easily.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Masked Drinker's Guide to Etiquette and Protocol

So far my Masked Drinker’s Guides have been pretty situation-specific. But I get asked fairly often about very general issues dealing with drinking. It’s kind of surprising and amazing what some people don’t know. However, I have to remind myself that not everyone is a seasoned, well-worn barhound. Some people go to bars pretty rarely and are therefore unaware of some standard practices that seem obvious to a guy like me. So I’m going to try to address these general issues for the inexperienced drinker in this column; topics like tipping, buybacks, flirting with the patrons or staff, etc.

First off, tipping. The basic rule is: tip, you fucking asshole. Bartenders make an extremely low wage, and, like all of America’s service industry rely on tips to actually live. So they’re busting their butt to get you that sweet sweet booze that makes the sad go away. So tip. Bare minimum is a dollar a drink. But here’s the thing; some drinks are more work-involved than others. If you’re asking for a martini or a cosmo or anything that involves shakeage, it’s courteous to leave something more. I tend to leave two dollars for my first drink, and alternate between two and one for most of the night. Never tip with coins, it’s a pain in everyone’s ass. And if you think your tender is doing a substandard job, tip anyway. Just tip a dollar. Everyone has an off day, but if you shirk on a tip you can guarantee you’re persona non grata in every bar that tender knows. That’s just assy.

Another big topic people ask about is that of buybacks. In case you don’t know, a buyback is a drink the bartender buys for you, usually after three or four that you’ve paid and tipped for. It’s a personal thing on the number, and some bars don’t even allow it. So, for Pete’s sake, don’t ask the bartender about it. That’s basically heck of gauche. It either happens or it doesn’t. And when it happens it’s a magical, wonderful time full of rainbows and superpowers. Appreciate it. And always tip for it; I tend to tip extra for a buyback. Not the full price of the drink, obviously, but two or three bucks is a nice way to show your tender that you appreciate them. And the buybacks will come more often if you do so.

“Hey, is that bartender hitting on me?” If it’s a male bartender, maybe. Remember, it is his job to talk to you, in a way. But it certainly happens. If it’s a female bartender, the answer is almost always no. So don’t hit on them. They’re at work, they hear it all the time and they don’t want to deal with your drinking ass hitting on their sober ass. Be friendly, respectful, joke around, but don’t hit on them. If they’re interested, they’ll let you know when they’re off shift. But they aren’t. Trust me. And guys, as Ms. Weiner’s article shows you, be careful about hitting on patrons, as well. I already went over how to meet girls at bars, but let me reiterate that going up to random girls in bars is very rarely a good idea. Make sure you have your signals straight if you think she wants you to, and be ready to immediately and politely retreat at the first sign of resistance. Better for everyone that way.

I know there’s a lot of debate about bringing babies and children to bars. My parents had a favorite bar that I was in a lot as a kid, but it was a bar-restaurant (with the best fried shrimp EVAR). That’s a big part of how I feel about it. If there’s food there, sure, bring your kid. If the place doesn’t serve food, leave the rugrat with a sitter. Babies under two get special exemption as long as they are not loud asshole babies. But once the little critters start becoming mobile, please leave them out of my bar. I know they drive you nuts and you need a drink; trust me, I know. But they drive us nuts too, and we didn’t choose to bring them into this world. I’m sometimes willing to make an exception if the kid is cute enough, shuts the fuck up enough, and basically sits there with their Shirley Temple/Roy Rogers/inappropriate whiskey drink and lets me forget they’re there. But that happens about as rarely as the Colonel not having an anecdote so just forget it.

I feel like those are the main topics I most often get asked about. Readers, if there are any other questions you’d like answered, respond to this post or email me at themaskeddrinker at gmail dot com. I look forward to hearing from you maybe.

retarded, spent way too much time on it photoshop by the Masked Drinker