What Am I Doing Here?!

All of us want more money.

(Many, perhaps most, people actually need more money.)

I want a little more money…and a lot more time.

(I acknowledge that I’m certainly not in a “need” situation. For that I am absolutely grateful.)

Time. That’s the commodity that really matters at this point in my life.

So really, the question is not, “How do I make more money?” but rather, “How do I make the same money without having to use as much time?” And eventually, “How do I increasingly make a little more money while maintaining the reduction in work energy?”

What would I do with that time?

Be healthy. (I not only want to spend daily time pursuing health and fitness, but I want to teach, serve, and share my experiences and knowledge.) Be creative. (I want to move forward with both writing and podcasting, and perhaps even music. I want to dive more completely into mixology. Bartending. Spreading joy through libation and conversation.) Be well. (I want to meditate, float, read, learn, and explore both my inner world and the outer world…through travel…so that I can find the self-worth and inner-calm that has eluded me to this point.) Be free. (There is double meaning here. I want to do the work I prefer doing without worrying about payment or income AND be able to do what I want to do when I want to do it. That is, I can provide people with all the “free Greg” I desire and also be the free-Greg about which I’ve dreamed.) Also, I want to do and share all of this with my wife, and with my family, and with my friends.

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t want to sacrifice the fullness of life, my joy and happiness right now for the sake of the dream. Why be unhappy and unfulfilled now for the sake of tomorrow? Tomorrow rarely comes…and when it does, it’s often quite later than we desire…perhaps later than the point where we can physically or otherwise actually enjoy the future-now-present reality.

So then…I acknowledge that right now I am both happy and content. I also acknowledge that I have a simple-to-state dream that I believe is attainable. I want and enjoy my cake…I want to eat it too…and I want diverse and delicious cake in the future, which I will both have and eat.

Great, Del Duca. That’s what we all want. So what can we do about it? What are you going to do about it?

I’m writing. I’m podcasting. I’m polishing and gaining experience and exposure in both of these realms.

I’m making drinks for friends and family, and they’re really digging them. I know what I’m doing behind a bar.

I’m doing quite well regarding my health and fitness.

My audience is nearby and it is small…but the audience members are true fans. They…you…dig what I’m laying down, what I’m saying, writing, teaching, and mixing. I appreciate that.

The “time” situation is quite good, but the “money” situation is only treading water.

I’m not entirely sure about the next steps.

Do I cease self-publishing, bear down, and submit to others? (I’ve done this, gotten nothing but no-responses and “No, thank you” responses to this point. Though I haven’t shifted from the blog to a full-on pursuit of outside venues…venues which have the audiences I seek.)

Do I suck it up and use loans/credit to purchase the podcasting equipment that I want? (I’ve used credit in the past to fund considerably less worthy endeavors. But I’m really trying to work towards debt-free. Do I need to sink in the hole a little further to finally find my way out?)

Do I just fucking stop-it with the writing and the podcasting and really take the leap to grow Family First of Greater Pittsburgh? (It grieves me to think about relinquishing the newest creative elements in my life, but they’re producing nothing but good vibes, insight, and some external chatter. I don’t want to diminish that, but it’s hard to avoid that when finances dwindle.)

I don’t know.

I’d sure love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and opinions. (Now that I have a real spam filter, that which belongs to the [inbox] actually goes there…and now my [spam] box is always full whereas the [inbox] is desolate.) So please, make that [inbox] busy!

-G

Wile E. Coyote in heaven's name what am I doing

Ate Up By a Shark

Hello good people of Earth. Here you will find a podcast in which, for the first time, we record using microphones on the Zoom H4. Unfortunately, the device shit the digital bed (…with zeros, ones, AND number twos…) on the first recording. But we persevered and got a good conversation signed, sealed, and delivered. Furthermore, we figured out a low budget method of sound-boarding (…it’s like water boarding but for your ears and, perhaps, not so tortuous…) and music-playing with Jen connecting her phone to our bluetooth speaker then putting her microphone next to said speaker. It’s an indication of things to come when we can afford proper microphones, integrated hardware and software, and our own recorder.

Given our standard vocal mics (…borrowed from a cappella groups past, thank you very much M.L. and Evolushun…), Jen needed to remember to always hold the thing like an ice cream cone, or, better yet…well, a penis. As one’s head moves, so must one’s microph…allus. Additionally, Kate thought the mics were laser lights. So that was fun times.

So what about the booze?!

Greg has Southern Tier Compass, and gives it a resounding thumbs up. It is bottle conditioned imperial sparkling ale brewed with rose hips and citrusy hops. Fun, huh? ABV: 9.0% Very fun!

Jen enjoys Lagunitas Hop Stoopid, which is the best cheapest IPA on the market by fucking far. Don’t let the “cheapest” dissuade you, it stands up to much more expensive beers, but it’s in the vicinity of $5 for a 22 ounce bottle at our local grocery store. This has become our “go to” IPA.

So what about the episode?!

We explore locals ordering “Eye-talian” food using a pseudo-accent at the Olive Garden; Paul McCartney whoring himself out to play shitty, uncreative chords under Kanye West’s auto-tuned vocals (Four Five Seconds, click at your own risk, particularly if you have even a modicum of respect for Sir Paul); Greg’s preference for Yoko Ono over Kanye West (…who seems to be Paul McCartney’s Yoko Ono…); and the wonderful & hilarious Sister Veronica-Pooh Nash Poleate with her sound advice (ambiguity intended) for Summer beach vacationers.

The featured intro music is composed and performed by a dear friend R.J. It’s called “I Can Read Your Mind.” The outro music is the “That’s the Shark’s House” remix, brilliantly done by Brett from LA. Nothing like a good viral video remix to get you in the mood for fun! So listen, and have some. Fun, that is. And booze.

(BTW, we did not heed Sister Poleate’s advice and obviously did not get ate up by a shark during our recent vacation to South Cackalacka, though we spent plenty of time in the ocean.)

-G

you-tube-shark
(Oh lawd.)

Karma is a Mirror (Not a Window)

In my late twenties and early thirties, I often intoned variations on a classic meme, “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger.” (Thank you, Rod Stewart.) Now in the dawn of my forties, I feel the precise opposite. I would take it a step further and say…hell, maybe even sing, plugged into “Ooh La La” with alternate lyrics, “Everything is perfectly what it is, whenever it is.” Keeping with dated pop cultural references, Lauryn Hill perhaps said it most succinctly with, “Everything is Everything.”

I don’t wish I knew then, don’t fantasize about having done anything differently. Ever.

Why?

Not because I’m anything but massively imperfect. Not because I haven’t made mistakes and bad decisions. Not because I haven’t hurt others both physically and emotionally. Not because I’ve never stolen, lied, or cheated. I’ve done it all, and I’ve done it more often than many of you might imagine (…but not quite as much as my tendency toward hyperbole, drama, and Bill Brasky inflations imply). I have no regrets because I am where I am right now, and everything I’ve said and done was all perfectly necessary to carry me to this very moment. Where the fuck would I be today if I hadn’t danced uncomfortably with Snow White (…while I don’t need to protect myself, others certainly deserve anonymity…) to “Sexual Healing” in my shack of a residence in 1989? I’m not entirely sure, but I am certain that it would not be precisely, perfectly HERE. The course of our lives may or may not be cosmically written, randomly accidental, or something in between…but each event, each reaction, each decision leads to the next, and the next, and the next, and the next up until right now. Knowing this, and desiring to be an ever happier, ever healthier person, I can only own, appreciate, and laugh knowingly at every head-scratcher, every face-palm, every cringe-worthy bit of bullshit I perpetrated across my brief time flying around the universe on this carbon-hospitable rock.

If you are a regular reader, you know more than a couple of my regretful decisions…though I like to think of them as just decisions. Not only have they somehow guided me to my present place of homeostasis and authentic joy, but they have also provided me with insights and further emotional healing as I’ve written about them. Furthermore, if they’ve brought you any joy, perspective, understanding, or entertainment, the icing on the cake is as delicious as the foundation.

I encourage anyone…you, regular reader, in particular…to explore your indiscretions, sins, mistakes, guilty pleasures, errors in judgement, and self-identity. I’ll take it step further and suggest that you write that shit down. In a journal, in a word document, even as a speech-to-text memo if you have that capability with a recorder or your smart phone. This process is like looking in a mirror, but you get to see way deeper than the surface. You can then take it a step further and share what you’ve written with one or several trusted people. Not people who’ll just nod, raise their eyebrows to mask the indifference lurking just below, and say, “nice job.” (This is the equivalent of the dead fish handshake. It communicates, “I’m here. You’re here. I can’t bother but you apparently want me to say or do something, so…fuck it, if it’ll get you off my back…sure, let’s shake.” You don’t want these people in your life, particularly if you already have any apprehension or self-doubt.) Conversely, you also don’t want those people who’ll be shocked and critical, not really listening to you but wanting to pour all of their emotional baggage, negativity, and misanthropy into your vulnerable psyche. (The sure sign that this person is across from you is that you immediately, deeply, and always feel bad, inferior, and wrong.) No, I mean people who you trust to read/hear you and to offer honest thoughts, even if they be abrasive or tough to process, in the spirit of loving-kindness and healing. For me, I’ve taken the whole thing to the extreme of hanging all of my stained undergarments on public clotheslines. (Sometimes you really do need to just rip the bandage off. It never really hurts as badly as you’d imagined and what’s underneath is often more interesting than ugly.) That’s been my journey, and it’s been the thing that’s helped me to dig even deeper, to remain uncomfortable a bit longer so that I can receive the insights for which I’ve been searching many years.

I can’t offer any quick fixes. I still believe that there are small things anyone can do to become happier and healthier, and I’ve written about those things (Six Undeniably Simple Things You Can Do To Be Happier Today and Healthier Tomorrow). But ultimately we must all accept ownership of our entire earthly presence in our own ways and times. That journey, however, cannot happen unless we actually intend to make the journey then commit to it.

An Indigo Girls lyric comes to mind here:

But the wood is tired, and the wood is old,and we’ll make it fine, if the holds.But if the weather holds, we’ll have missed the point.That’s where I need to go.

-G

karma

Paradise Found

Natrona Heights to Chesapeake, Virginia…11 hours with construction, traffic, and stops.

Chesapeake, Virginia to Edisto Island, South Carolina…another 11 hours considering the detour waiting for Maddy in Barco, North Carolina. (She’d been on vacation 1-A with her other family on the Outer Banks.) Barco is at the intersection of the only way in or out. Barco seems to be populated by considerably more disturbingly-large flying bugs, chickens, and broken-down cars than it is by humans. Oh, and a 7-11. With no bathroom. (But a well worn path leading around to the back, presumably where Sid Haig awaits unsuspecting tourists with tiny bladders and large prostates.) I couldn’t bring myself to go back there.

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That’s 22 hours in a car across 48 hours. Even Ghandi and Jesus would have arrived at the end of their emotional ropes and considered relinquishing a life of non-violence, swampy nether-regions and leg/thigh chafing after so many hours with the southern sun creating a greenhouse on the lower body as air conditioning precipitates permanently rigid nipples and a mild head cold at torso level. You can’t find a comfortable position by the second day. I seriously considered vacationing on the border of North and South Carolina in some unsuspecting family’s back yard just to end the fucking car torture. How do you people who do it do it?!

Late in the trip, we came across two amazing old Black gentlemen in a rest area. I couldn’t understand a damn word they were saying, but the cadence, the rhythms, the call-and-response, the overall musicality of these two just made me happy. I’m not sure what the dialect actually was, but I deemed it, “Crawdaddy.” I recorded them for just a brief period. The quality is as good as you’d expect at an open-air rest stop with me trying to get as close as possible without looking suspicious. Just turn the volume up!

crawdaddy

Regular readers/listeners may remember the “Bonus: Open Letters to People at a Coffee Shop” post. In either case, here is one letter from that post:

Dear person who pours liquid in the trash can,

Have you ever needed to deal with ounces of liquid at the bottom of your trash can after it’s filtered through a day’s worth of snot rags and food debris? I bet you have. Or maybe you haven’t. In either case, it’s foul and it’s entirely unnecessary. If you need to pour out coffee, use a sink or use the bus bin or even your fucking gullet. Drink a little then have at it with the cream and sugar. Or hand the cup back to the barista and ask him/her to pout some out. You might think that the employees at the shop should need to deal with everything you do just because you paid for a cup of coffee. You’re wrong. They are busting their asses and getting paid close to nothing to actually do something. Something for you that brings you joy and perhaps morning sanity. They need to take out the trash, sure…but they shouldn’t need to deal with puddles of cold putrid coffee dripping all over the goddam place. So don’t do that.

Yours,

A non-scientist who understands enough about liquids and gravity to avoid what you just did

Starbucks is everywhere, like Summer acne on Mediterranean skin. However, when you need the fix and there’s nowhere else to get the drug…there is always that green and white siren calling you to the burned beans. I don’t prefer standing in long lines awaiting expensive overcooked coffee behind busloads full of high school volleyball teams, men with cellphones on braided-belt holsters, and confused geriatric turnpike travelers…but when the migraine is knocking at the front door, well, I’m willing to do what I gotta do:

TheCoffeeBar_TrashCan

As with any adventure, eventually the protagonists arrive at their destination and a period of respite and restoration prevails. I’m currently sitting in an air conditioned coffee shop on stilts, the Allen Stone Pandora station in my ears as morning vacationers, sea turtle rescue volunteers, fishing charter captains, and locals buzz about, looking out at the Atlantic Ocean and composing my thoughts for you to (hopefully) enjoy. It’s Paradise, even if only a fleeting window view.

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I’m 40. I’ll be 41 in two months. Today is Wednesday, July 22nd. (It’s Maddy’s birthday, too. She’s twelve. I met her when she was three. I can’t process that. Nine years having the fortune to have traversed the planet with this exceptional human. If I think much longer about it I’ll be crying.) Three days ago (…I promise I’ll stop with the numbers soon, but they matter to me right now…) for the first time in my life I rode a bike from point A to point B. I just never learned. There comes a point where it’s embarrassing to not have that skill. For me, that point expanded across my lifetime. Now…well, I’m on vacation and I was motivated and don’t give a shit how foolish I look. That combination of complete emotional decompression and focused desire multiplied by a healthy dose of “fuck it” got me there in less than an hour. It’s amazing. I don’t regret not having learned, because there’s no benefit in that exercise…but I can’t wait to travel further and faster than my feet can carry me but more grounded and exhilarating than any enclosed motorized vehicle can offer.

WhatBob

So that’s all folks. South Cackalacka. Try your hardest to enjoy tiny moments that reveal Paradise, those glimpses of Truth, when your eyes mist for no apparent reason, your heart rate speeds and a warmth spreads across your abdomen, your mind clears of all worries and you can just…see. Paradise really can be every moment.

-G

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Feminist Mix Tape

Those of you who regularly read will recall the “Sexual Healing” incident. Those of you who have come to Driven to Drink recently, I first welcome you, next appreciate you, and finally suggest you take a gander at the Middle School Erections post.

The “Sexual Healing” incident, and the fact that I held a conviction well into my twenties that Snow had strung me along, played me, and crushed my heart with cold, apathetic conviction, is actually not the most embarrassing and pathetic example of heterosexual male immaturity in my life. Not by a long shot. There’s another tale, one that tap dances around the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This story starts on a cruise ship and it ends with me on my knees in Boulder, Colorado dry-heaving for sympathy.

Semester at Sea, Spring 1996.

I earned a full scholarship, plus stipend, to spend four months on a floating university campus, traveling to seven ports of call and experiencing the world as I learned about it among pods of dolphin, schools of flying fish, unending buffets and booze, and a moonlit wake cutting 360 degrees of unimpeded horizon. We traversed the Atlantic, the Indian, and the Pacific…even flirted with the Southern and Arctic oceans on the longest two legs of the journey. If there is such a thing as real magic in this world, it swirls around the emotions, experiences, and relationships of journeys such as this.

In the late Fall of 1995, my academic advisor at Pitt provided me with a moment of Shakespearean foreshadowing in just four ominous, yet intriguing words. “Beware the shipboard romance.” Beware, indeed.

In January, 2006, my family and several friends dropped me off at the airport, all of us dressed in our warmest Pittsburgh Winter layers, and I got on a plane headed for the Bahamas. Up until that point in my life, I had never seen anything more startlingly beautiful than the seemingly unending Caribbean hues of transparent blues and greens as we touched down in Nassau. The only ocean or beach I’d seen to that point was on the Connecticut side of the Long Island sound. (There, one can’t avoid the hues of browns and grays available in the world as well as the relentless smells of seaweed, guano, and dying sea creatures attempting to escape whatever karmic hell into which they were spawned.) I stepped off the plane and was smacked with brutal, humid heat as I stripped down to a t-shirt. After several days acclimating to the fact that I’d be living on a de facto floating community for several months (…in a Nassau tourist resort, mind you. Not bad digs for a poor kid from Lawrenceville who never envisioned crossing the Allegheny let alone the world…), we boarded the ship.

My larger Semester at Sea experience may seep into future essays, but this one is about Karen. If a lifetime can be condensed and conceived across the passage of a one-semester cruise, Karen and I met at birth, became best friends as toddlers, and were inseparable by Kindergarten. That…is how life moves aboard a floating University. I was smitten by Bahia, Brazil (…our second port…), hooked by Capetown, South Africa (…third…), and in love by the next port, Mombasa, Kenya.

Karen brought me Dave Matthews Band, U2, The Indigo Girls, Ani Difranco, and Sarah McLachlin…well before her barrage of animal holocaust commercials. Karen made me mix tapes with liner notes, art, and inside jokes. Later, after Karen unambiguously closed the relationship and it felt like I’d never be able to take an unfettered breath ever again, I went to the very first Lilith Fair only because of the connection to her, her feminism, and her music. I sat near the front row and drank in every ounce of pain, yearning, and emotion. I swam in the muck of my emotions and proceeded to hold a yearlong pity party.

After the shipboard romance (cue dramatic sound effect), we lasted another 6 months, and then my whole world crumbled around and within me. We were finished by early November, but we’d already planned to be in Boulder, Colorado with several other shipboard friends for the New Year. In a stunningly stupid but entirely understandable decision, we boarded a plane in late December and arrived on the Rocky Mountains a few hours later. By this point, Karen was done with me. I was needy, and whiny, and entirely fucking annoying. (These days my wife occasionally sees that side of me, though I’ve overcome most of it, and it irks her to profanity when I’m in “whinging bitch” mode. It’s never a good look, gentlemen.) Back in 1996, I might as well have been a not-quite-potty-trained anxious toddler with an intellectual disability, though being with me was likely slightly more challenging. Karen wouldn’t sleep in the same bed with me, and I didn’t understand why. Karen didn’t dance with me when we went out to a club, and I didn’t understand why. Karen rarely smiled at me and never laughed around me, and I didn’t understand why. I tamped down the sadness, outrage, and the depth of my dysfunction for as long as I could…and that ability ended on a long road quite near the house where JonBenet Ramsey was murdered literally days before we arrived. They never found her killer, but I found the depth of my emotional bottom on that mountain. I started to double over in the back seat, perhaps letting out a little moan. “What’s wrong?” someone asked. Not Karen. (Fuck!) “Not sure, not feeling good.” I looked at Karen, and she was looking at the scenery. (FUCK!!) “Can you stop?” I had them stop the car, I exited, and I dropped to my knees. I poked my finger in my throat and I dry-heaved. And I cried quietly. I prayed that Karen would get out of the car and take care of me. She didn’t. Nobody did. (…fuck…)

On the airplane back to Pittsburgh, I began sobbing quietly…shaking just enough to alert Karen. She turned, “Stop it!” I stopped it, slack jawed and stoic. “Just stop it! It’s over. And you need to get over it. So just stop it!” Those may have been the last words she directly spoke to me with any emotional foundation.

I’d never to that point and have never since been put in my place and smacked out of a stupor so immediately and effectively. That moment actually gave me just enough of a jolt to find my spine and my confidence. The process of letting go started right there.

I ran into one of Karen’s Penn State friends at the Lilith Fair, a guy with whom I got along with. “Did you know she’s dating Dustin now?” Dustin. Of course. He was Karen’s closest friend in Happy Valley, and he was an all-around dreamy dude. Really, he was a good guy…handsome…fun…and he seemed to have his shit together. And now he had Karen. So, as the Indigo Girls played “Closer to Fine,” I let the final ounces of saline shed solely for Karen fall from my eyes.

Later, I’d come back to those mix tapes. Later yet, I’d find the strength to listen to them and read the liner notes. One of the songs that impacted me most on the ship back in the Winter of 1996, “Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around the World,” by U2, played first on one of those cassettes. The one line that I thought was so deep, that I discussed with Karen on the ship, came back 12 months later to both haunt me and wring a few more ounces of my sorrow out of my consciousness. No more tears, just arid sadness.

“And a woman needs a man, like a fish needs a bicycle, when you’re trying to throw your arms around the world.”

-G

mixtape

Levon

After having watched “The Last Waltz” (…this link is for the actual concert, not the movie. The movie is also worth your time…and on Netflix…) and then “Ain’t In It for My Health,” also easily obtainable, Greg became mildly obsessed with Levon Helm, drummer and lead singer for “The Band.”

On this evening, Greg punched up “The Band” on Pandora and let the vibe roll.

Unfortunately, that vibe carried him straight on to a soap box, which Jen entertained…until she didn’t. Sometimes she deserves a congressional medal of patience.

This episode is the genesis for both the “Protect the Badge” (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) and “Grill Skill” posts.

On this evening, Jen punched up “The Departed” (De-pahh-ted) and Greg was taken by the alignment of two disparate Martin Scorsese flicks. But mostly, he said, “microprocessors” a lot. (My-crow-prahw-cessuhs)

This episode’s beer of choice is Duclaw “Sweet Baby Jesus,” and sweet baby Jesus is it good.

This episodes highlighted music includes: “Tupelo Honey” by Van Morrison, “The Weight” covered by Joe Cocker, “Up on Cripple Creek” and “When I Paint My Masterpiece” both by The Band and both spotlighting Levon Helm, and “Mean Old World” by Duane Allman and Eric Clapton. Have fun, kids. Good, clean, responsible…oh fuck all that, have fun!

-G

LevonHelm

Internet Fairy – The Humble Barber Company

There is a man I adore. His name is Bradley. He’s kind, considerate, gentle, funny (…really funny…), positive, honest, optimistic, hip, and full of joy and love. Really, he’s that good.

I met Brad in High School. He organized a coffee shop/acoustic night at his local church called “The Well.” Brad was a hipster of today…but in the early 1990’s. Scratch that…he was hip. Just hip. No pretense, no ironic bullshit, no holier-than-thou attitude. Genuinely hip. He moved through punk, acoustic, country; dabbled liberally in Monty Python and all manner of oddball humor and hilarious unusualness. I remember Brad always stealing the show in musicals and school plays. He could, in high school, make an entire audience laugh with a pause, with an eyebrow raise, with an impeccably timed physical movement. I loved Brad. We all did. It’s impossible not to.

In school, Brad and I played a game we called, “The Thirteens.” While engaged , we’d lavish each other’s Mothers with compliments. (Thinking about this now, perhaps we should’ve called it the “negative dozens” since it’s the perfect antithesis of “The Dozens,” or “ripping on” a person’s Mom. “Ripping on” is a Pittsburgh thing, I think. In England and parts of Europe, I’ve heard, “Taking the piss.” In New York and New England? “Busting balls.” What does this have to do with anything? I don’t know.) Anyway, The Thirteens. I have a distinct memory of the final time we ever played. I thought I’d won the game with, “Your Mom’s so nice she got the Mom of the Year award.” But Brad immediately stole the context and ended the game forever, “Your Mom’s so nice she gave my Mom that award.” Snap.

Brad has been unimpeachably awesome since as far back as I can remember. People like being around him…because they feel welcome, wanted, important, liked, and just better.

There was a period, probably 15 years or so, through which I didn’t see Brad at all. He went this-a-way, and I went that-a-way. Life intervened. Then our worlds again collided as he found himself smack dab in the midst of Pittsburgh’s craft coffee insurgence and I found myself self-employed, itinerant, and using said craft coffee houses as de facto offices.

I saw Brad several mornings per week, and for that my life was appreciably improved.
But then, Brad exited the coffee scene as unexpectedly as he’d entered.

And…

…he became a barber.

The Humble Barber Company,” to be exact.

Now, you have a decent idea of the depth of exceptional humanity that Brad exudes. That’s about half of what you want in a barber. Maybe more than half if you’re balding or looking for something easy. Part friend, part counselor, part community activist, part neighborhood watch. But then, there’s the other part, the part that actually defines barber. Can the man cut hair?

Hell yes. The man can cut hair. I’ve seen and heard about him absolutely nailing various textures, ages, and genders. Hell, he found a part in my hair that I never knew existed. He then highlighted said part, contended with the various unruly cowlicks that cause my hair to look like a van Gogh nightmarescape, and made my head flawless. On fleek, nawmsayin’? Add to that hot towels, warm shave cream, clippers and straight razors, pomades and balms. One could easily imagine being transported back to the 1950’s for a straight up craft coiffure. A pristine environment with eclectic furniture (i.e. bleacher seats and church pews), artwork (i.e. exceptional paint by numbers salvaged from a church basement), antiques and relics (i.e. clippers, chairs, and barber equipment refurbished by Brad himself), time-gone-by ephemera (i.e. posters and gadgets), and music (i.e. Brian Wilson, Johnny Cash, or perhaps even a mix geared toward one’s visit…if the barber happens to know you and that you’re coming).

As if it weren’t already obvious, I cannot recommend The Humble Barber highly enough. As a human. As a man. As a friend, counselor, and confidant. And of course, as a barber. Dude’s got skills. (Skills to pay the bills.)

-G

Humble
(The Humble Barber Co.)

Be a Rockstar Home Bartender – The Old Fashioned

You combine this with last week’s podcast, “Be a Rockstar Home Bartender – The Highball,” and the previous week’s, “Tasting Whiskey,” and you are sure to be well on your way to bringing joy and inebriation to your friends and family!

Things you should also have:

1. “Tasting Whiskey” by Lew Bryson
2. “Bitters” by Brad Thomas Parsons
3. Local booze and bitters. This includes: Wigle Whiskey and Maggie’s Farm Rum.

Today…The Old Fashioned. Three ingredients: Syrup (water + sugar), whiskey (rum will also do the trick), and bitters. You add citrus to this mix, then vary those elements and really the possibilities are almost endless. In this episode, we drink several old-fashioned cocktails and we even venture into the land of the Manhattan. We discuss how to vary and diversify all elements of the basic cocktail, and we give you music to boot.

Today’s selections include John Lee Hooker with, “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,” and The Blues Brothers with, “Hey Bartender.”

We’re still learning Audacity and finding ways to polish this podcast toward some semblance of professional. We appreciate you coming along with us, and for your trouble I’ll share with you this recipe:

Maple-Rumaretto
(This is a variation on an old-fashioned cocktail. For this recipe you’ll need:)

>> Real maple syrup (No Aunt Jemima in my cocktail!)
>> Favorite spiced rum
(I certainly suggest either Maggie’s Farm Spiced Rum or Wigle Landlocked Spiced)
>> Favorite Amaretto
>> Aromatic and citrus bitters
(Again, I suggest Wigle Aromatic and Pomander Orange…though Angustora will certainly do.)
>> An orange from which you’ll cut a sliver of rind
>> A rocks or old-fashioned glass (or small water glass)
>> A pint glass
>> A cocktail strainer (or table spoon)
>> Standard shot glass
>> Ice
>> Spoon

Set the smaller glass to the side. In the pint glass add 2 shots of rum, 1 shot of amaretto, 1/2 shot of maple syrup, & 5 drops of each bitters. Fill the glass with ice and stir so that the liquid gets nice and cold. Using either a cocktail strainer (…you can get this anywhere, including Walmart and Target or Amazon…) or a table spoon, pour the liquid contents from the pint glass into the smaller glass WITHOUT THE ICE. You’re holding the ice back. Twist the orange rind, rub it around the rim of the glass and drop it in. Enjoy.

Folks, have fun with this!

mapleoldfashioned
(Wigle Wry Rebellion & maple old-fashioned)

Internet Fairy – Tröegs and Voodoo

My lovely and ceaselessly amazing wife, Jennifer, often surprises me with mini-getaways to macro-breweries, “beverage trails,” and other libation-leaning excursions.

Our first “Wow” moment came at Tröegs Brewing in Hershey in 2013. You’ll remember from the “Internet Fairy” Wigle-edition that our exceptional tour of Tröegs prompted Jen to suggest I do the same for Wigle. It should also be noted that Tröegs has a “Snack Bar.” I put that in quotes because it’s no more a snack bar than The Ritz-Carleton is a youth hostel. The food at the bar (…the reason it’s called that is because one stands in line to order then goes back to pick up the food when a transponder buzzes…) is creative, stunningly presented, and undeniably delicious with local ingredients. It is “farm to table” and, certainly in my case, immediately table to stomach. On the way home we stopped in Lititz, primarily for Wilbur Buds, but also to experience the beautiful little shopping district. I’ve been mildly obsessed with Wilbur chocolate, and in particular their tiny buds, since an old friend began bringing them to me in 1995. Whenever I tell someone, “We’re going to Hershey,” and they respond, “Oh, to the park and factory?” I always counter with, “We go to Hershey for the beer, and Lititz for the chocolate.” I should also add that I’m a pumpkin beer aficionado, and Tröegs 2014’s “Master of Pumpkins” blew Southern Tier’s typically unbeatable “Pumking” completely out of the patch. Bottle conditioned, fragrant, complex on the palate, and quite big but not at all boozy. You may also remember the Hershey Howard Johnson’s podcast, “Black (Sabbath) Friday,” released back on January 13th. (If not, go listen to it, will ya?! You can also find it on the Libsyn site and iTunes, released as “Episode 10” on those sites.) That was the night I tasted “Master of Pumpkins” for the first time. Jen drank, “Blizzard of Hops,” an IPA made from the buds at the very end of the hop cycle. And really, who doesn’t love a couple of musical puns?!

Knowing that we can’t always travel for extended weekends, Jen and I began looking for breweries in and near Pittsburgh, and there are at least a dozen that are worth your time and energy. Today, I’d like to focus on one of them.

Several months back, we stopped in Meadville and found ourselves in one of the funkiest, funnest spots we’d encountered in quite some time. Voodoo Brewing. Massive ceilings with reclaimed doors hung above a bar, also constructed with reclaimed materials. Whiskey barrels as swivel chairs, barn doors as banquet tables, metal and wood and glass combining to create the look and feel of an art installation plus a hip antique shop with upscale/modern touches where reclamation was impossible. The atmosphere was relaxed. The food, simple and incredibly good…incorporating Voodoo brews and local ingredients. And the beer? The beer was a revelation for me. That is not hyperbole. It is fact.

Until that trip, I’d not consumed a lager since my days as Pitt student. The lagers we drank then rank as beer the way Palmer’s chocolate-flavored Easter candy ranks as…well, chocolate. That day, I had both a Polish lager, Poznan Zdjecie, and an IPL (India Pale Lager) both of which changed the way I think about and order beer.

Until my next Voodoo excursion, this time to their amazing space in Homestead (…in a previously abandoned fire station…), I was quite hesitant with stouts and brown ales. Wynona’s Big Brown Ale (…another awesome musical pun…) and (…I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more…) Cowbell Stout changed all of that. After having too many experiences with watery browns (…yikes, that can be read differently out of context…) and bitter, metallic stouts, I had given up even sampling them. Again, Voodoo turned that around.

The vibe at both of the Voodoo establishments is casual, inclusive, welcoming, funky, and completely “lived in.” I feel comfortable there, as close to being in my living room without being in my living room. Furthermore, the Homestead firehouse is dog friendly and completely community-oriented and integrated. Voodoo seems to pride itself in being a good neighbor, and our neighborhoods undoubtedly need more people and businesses like this.

But the beer. That effing beer. Interesting and creative styles as well as tried-and-true favorites. The beer is as good as it gets. I promise you.

Find it. Drink it. If you can, go there. To both the taproom in Pittsburgh (Homestead) and the brewery in Meadeville. (Keep in mind that Meadville offers relatively easy access to a handful of other wonderful microbrews including Timber Creek Tap and Table in Meadeville, Sprague Farm and Brew Works in Venango, Lavery in Erie, and North Country in Slippery Rock…all of which also have excellent kitchens. Future “Internet Fairy” posts could easily highlight each of these. And might. Hell, if it means I have to go have great beer and food among great people, I suppose someone must sacrifice.)

Eat (sensibly), drink (responsibly), and be merry (unabashedly).

-G

Walken-Cowbell
(…one leg at a time…)

Be a Rockstar Home Bartender – The Highball

I remember the first time I modified a drink. It occurred well before my 21st birthday. Somebody introduced me to the “Fuzzy Navel,” a sweet, thick combination of orange juice and peach schnapps. Today I get reflux just thinking about it. But then, it was a damn epiphany. I remember getting my hands on vodka, perhaps from my parents’ liquor cabinet, but most likely from Anthony’s parents’ liquor cabinet. (We all have that friend or two whose parents aren’t really drinkers but who still keep a full bar. These are the very people who don’t pay much attention to said bar, and we were just the teens to capitalize on that.) I made a Fuzzy Navel, and then I splashed in vodka. It tasted no different but it got us where we wanted to be significantly more quickly. I deemed it a “Hairy Navel.” It all starts there, with the Hairy Navel.

(NOTE: You can use a high quality vodka to make just about any mixed drink pack a more powerful punch without sacrificing flavor. What do I mean by “high quality?” You ask. I certainly don’t mean a $30+ bottle. Those are way too expensive. Vodka is, by definition, grain-neutral. That means it should taste and smell like just about nothing. That’s it. To some extent, talking about more or less delicious vodka is like talking about more or less delicious filtered water. I realize there are taste savants out there who really can discern seemingly imperceptible differences of “neutral” gradation…but for most of us with average palates, the argument is entirely bunk. There are several vodkas that fit the bill of high quality AND phenomenal value. These include: Absolute, Russian Standard, Penn 1681, and Tito’s, among others. All of those vodkas are easily obtainable for approximately $20. You really do NOT need to be spending $30 or more on vodka. You can even amp-up your wine by splashing a little of the clear stuff. Really, you can. Try it. Just a little, though. Remember, we’re grown-ass, sophisticated people now. No shots, no Mad Dog, no quarter drafts, and vodka with moderation, please!)

Across the course of my life as a casual drinker, I’ve gradually shifted from indiscriminate cheap-drunk to exceptionally discerning buzz-seeker…and I’ve become the de facto mixologist of my family, friends, and immediate neighborhood.

In this podcast, I propose that any person can become a rock star home bartender with absolutely minimum equipment, without having to spend extravagant money on ingredients, and with the knowledge of just two drink categories and the seemingly innumerable variations therein.

Today we start with the “Highball.” Booze, bubbly, and ice. That’s it. That’s the foundation. Super simple. It’s a fun journey with Jen inserting her usual wit, wisdom, and ball-breaking. It’s a crowd favorite, or so I’m told.

We also reference Brad Thomas Parsons (Twitter feed) and his book, “Bitters.” It’s worth getting this book, as it provides a wonderfully written history of bitters then launches into drink recipes, including anecdotes and historical notes. This book can serve as your sole reference for a while, and really the writing is exceptional.

Before signing off, I’m going to share two of my recent modified recipes. Both of these drinks have become crowd favorites among my circles. Here goes:

1. The Ginetto
This is a variation on a classic gin and tonic, a staple “highball.” You’ll need the following ingredients, all of which are easily obtainable:

> Favorite London Dry Gin
(Our favorites, in decreasing order, are: Hendrick’s, Bombay Sapphire, Bombay, Beefeater, Bluecoat)

> Favorite Amaretto
(We use Disaronno, which is the most readily accessible “premium” amaretto.)

> Tonic water
(We use “Fever Tree,” available at many grocery stores. They use filtered water, cane sugar, and real quinine. You can also use the more traditional brands, but I avoid these because of chemical flavorings and high fructose corn syrup.)

> Angostura orange bitters
(Easily accessible in grocery stores and typically only $8 per small bottle. You can search around, however, because the market is now flooded with bitters of all sorts. Pittsburgh’s own Wigle Whiskey produces, among it’s bitters variations, a wonderful “Pomander Orange.”)

> 1 lime

> Ice

> Pint glass (or something “large”)

> Long spoon

> Standard shot glass

Fill glass with ice (…crushed or whole, to preference…), squeeze the juice of one full lime into the glass, put in two shots (approximately 2.5 ounces) gin and one shot (approximately 1.25 ounces) amaretto. Fill the rest of the glass with tonic water, then put in the bitters …3-5 shakes. Stir and serve.

2. The “Aaargh”
This is a variation on a rum and coke, another classic “highball.” I pronounce it like a cartoon pirate, because this drink makes me feel like a pirate. You’ll need the following:

> Favorite spiced rum
(I prefer two local spirts here. First is Wigle Landlocked spiced. In position “1A” is Maggie’s Farm Rum Spiced. Both are available at select Pennsylvania wine and spirits stores and they can be obtained online. However, use whatever you love.)

> Favorite root beer
(I prefer “Virgil’s,” which is available in four packs at grocery stores. They make a delicious Stevia version for those of you trying to shift low carb. They also make a specialty “Bavarian Nutmeg,” which is extra delicious.)

> Citrus, molѐ, or chocolate bitters…or all three!
(Again, you can go with the Angostura orange here…but a real “Aaargh” has molѐ bitters. Wigle Whiskey makes a wonderful version, and it’s what I use.)

> One-quarter orange

> Ice

> Rocks or double old-fashioned glass (or an 8-12 oz water glass)

> Long spoon

> Standard shot glass

Fill glass with ice (…crushed or whole, to preference…), put in two shots (approximately 2.5 ounces) rum and fill the rest of the glass with root beer. Put in bitters…3-5 shakes. Squeeze in one-quarter orange then twist the rind and rub it on the lip of the glass to get the oils and scents on top. Stir and serve.

Have fun with this people!!

(The intro music is “Cold Beverage” by G Love and Special Sauce, and the outro piece is, “God Moving Across the Face of the Water” by Moby, which, incidentally, is my favorite piece of running music for the very beginning of a long race. Check out both of these artists if you’re intrigued.)

-G

CooperstownStill
(The still at Cooperstown Distillery)