A World of Pure Inebriation – Part Two

Hello there! We’re glad to have you back for the concluding installments of our serialized booze-a-palooza! To recap: One Friday night, several weeks back, Greg and Jen made their way through 7 alcoholic beverages and recorded mini-podcasts per drink. Last week, we presented, “The Belfast,” “One Miller Lite,” and “Mr. Burton Baton.” Today, you’ll move through the final four.

As always, we appreciate your eyes, your ears, and your willingness to comment, to share us with your friends, and to keep coming back. And remember, the more you drink, the funnier we get.

(Episode 4, in which we crack open a 64 ounce growler of Troeg’s Nugget Nectar, discuss a friend’s upcoming birthday, consider framing a very old British newspaper, and spread love to other wonderful people. For Greg, the official Head of Hyperbole, everything becomes “amazing,” and “incredible.” Additionally, the word “like” escapes his mouth so much one might be tempted to drown him in the Pacific Ocean along with a venue of vapid valley girls. We present to you, “20 Ounces of Nugget Nectar.”)

(Episode 5, in which the Nectar continues to flow. Greg becomes the drunk man trying to articulate soberly, and Jen makes home made cheese crackers, a la “Cheez-Its.” Greg says, “Gelana Abaya” perhaps 5 too many times and Jen claims, “I’d rather you look like Guy Fieri than Donald Trump.” The Drunk Ducas close this one out strong discussing “The Coolest,” a bag of live chickens, and family alcoholic dysfunction. Cheers. We present to you, “20 More Ounces of Nugget Nectar.”)

(Episode 6, in which the final 20 ounces of Nugget Nectar disappears along with both Greg’s and Jen’s sobriety. Greg becomes the drunk man who is assuredly drunk, and Jen begins her steady decline toward sleep. The discussion moves from home made didgeridoos and shekeres, to “The Weekly Pint,” and the fact that Jen wants a subscription to receive artisinal cheeses. Additionally, it becomes clear that Jen loves to fuck with Greg when Greg is drunk and feeling self-conscious and sensitive. It’s funny. We present to you, “The Final Ounce Down.”)

(Episode 7. With his frontal lobe incapacitated and sound decision-making no longer possible, Greg makes himself a rum high-ball. He is a hot fucking mess. Jen is losing steam quickly. Nonetheless, the Drunk Ducas discuss Jen’s middle school rapist (…wha?…), dive into literary criticism (…yikes…), and end with scabs. Scabs are bad. We present to you, “Welcome to the Shit Show, and Good Night.”)

demotivational-posters-beer

Middle School Erections

When I was 15 years old, I was obsessed with, “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye. (What do you mean, obsessed, Greg?) I had a 45 of the song and a shitty old record player, and I would spend my nights, more than half of them per week, playing that song over and over for hours. (You can’t be fucking serious, man?!) No, I’m serious. Furthermore, I lived in a “house” that was approximately the size of Charlie Bucket’s shack from, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” (Surely your parents wanted to kill you.) They did, for a variety of other reasons including my douchey demeanor, my need to constantly argue (…Who you, Greg? No! That’s unbelievable…), and my tendency to neglect showering after an eight hour shift at Wendy’s, thus making me smell like a stale, fermenting ass-warmed french fry. But also, I was turning a classic song, likely a song that meant something to them, into aural torture. (Did you also sing along?) Fuck yes I did. Loud and proud. “Beeeeeeeeeeeee-bayyy. I’m hot just like an oven. I need some lovin’.” (Did you understand the song?) The words? Sure. Structurally the thing made perfect sense. The innuendo? (Did I ever tell you the joke about the Italian suppository?) Not one word of it. As late as 8th grade, at 14 years of age, I was still constructing zip lines out of old shoe laces for G.I. Joe figurines and masturbating in a manner entirely detached from sexual thoughts. From age ten through puberty I contended with unpredictable, unseemly, and embarrassing erections, and the only way to get rid of them was to…well…play with them. I had never seen a naked tit, save the old National Geographic magazines around the house, and I was still a year or two from making the connection between my birdie (…that was the euphemism used in my home…) and the emotional centers of my brain. And one day, it occurred when I opened Santana’s “Abraxas” album (…scroll to the bottom of this post, you’ll see why…), my visual cortex connected with whatever system had caused those perpetual, inconvenient hard-ons (…Al Gore, can you hear me?…) and life was never the same.

The woman inside of that album cover made that critical connection, but there was really nothing other than two-dimensional naked tits and a bird covering up whatever in the hell it was covering up (…her birdie? How was I to know…) as far as my brain was concerned. This was 1989. There was no internet, and thus no unlimited free internet porn. There was the occasional Playboy magazine. Sometimes someone’s father had Penthouse. None of it really made any sense. (In a year or two I would come across a nameless VHS tape, tucked away behind “Top Gun” and “Eddie and the Cruisers,” that would crack open my sexuality like Humpty Dumpty falling off the Empire State Building. Feathered and bleach-blonde mullets, white men with perms and thick moustaches, unshaved parts all around, a dinner party at which the attendees shared their wildest fantasies […flashback fucking in fuzzy, sepia toned frames…] then retired to the den for cocktails and an orgy, and a soundtrack that implanted in my subconscious so indelibly that I still get a boner every time I hear Kenny G.)

But in 1989, when I listened to “Sexual Healing,” and learned and sang every last word, I had…NO IDEA…what the hell I was saying. I understood none of it. Like Dickens spent copious time, right up front in “A Christmas Carol,” explaining just how dead Jacob Marley was, none of what comes next will be as stunningly absurd or embarrassing if you do not understand that in 9th grade, I understood “Sexual Healing” as well as a 2 year old understands the consequences of pulling on an entertainment center, or touching the side of a just boiling kettle, or tugging the cat’s tail. Which is to say…not at all. (But unlike the 2 year old who NEVER touches the television, stove, or cat again, I would need another 20 years or so to learn my lessons.)

In the midst of my teenage obliviousness, I also arrived at the first true crush of my life. Let’s call her Snow White. I thought Snow was the most beautiful, best smelling, funniest and most perfect girl. Snow and I were friends, and remained friends even after the incident I’m going to relate. (Hold tight. It’s coming. I promise. And it will be worth the wait.) I maintained my crush, and Snow broke my heart each time she dated another guy who was not me. How could she string me along knowing how I felt? (Falling for friends comes up multiple times in my life, and I needed many years to learn all of the necessary lessons, starting with Snow and proceeding through my 20s and well into my 30s.) I was engaged in a classic gender struggle: “Men are from “The Wizard of Oz” before Dorothy lands on the wicked witch, in black and white and with absolutely predictable, familiar content. Women are from “The Wizard of Oz,” in dazzling Technicolor, ever surprising, and with intense emotional complexity, after the house drops.” Again, I didn’t resolve this shit until I was well into my 30s.

So…we have an obsession with “Sexual Healing” and we have an obsession with Snow White, neither of which were particularly sexual, though both required a lot of fucking healing. I’d been trying to get Snow over to my “house-partment” for weeks. To hang. Really, that’s it. Turns out the night she was able to come hang, we had a brief window in which my parents would be out and we’d be the only ones in. Cue Marvin. (“Wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up.”) Perhaps you see where this is going. It ain’t good. I cringe with each additional word I type, bringing me to what is coming next.

Snow is over, and I ask her if she’d like to dance with me. (Oh no?!) Oh yes. My memory only informs me she said, “Sure,” but has erased the fact that she’d undoubtedly hesitated…perhaps hoped I’d seen the hesitation and would retract my question. Of course, I sensed nothing, only heard “Sure,” and commenced with countdown. I ran to my bedroom, which required I travel through my parent’s bedroom, and put the needle to the record. She had no idea what was coming. (“Let’s make love tonight.”) We danced like Catholic middle school zombies, stiff arms and straight backs, and talked about…absolutely nothing. (“Get up, get up, get up, get up.”) I was completely satisfied. Snow was stoic. The song ended. I ran back to the bedroom and put it on again. (“Cause you do it right.”) Truth be told, I put that record back on until I heard a car outside, and I can’t remember if it was my Parents or her Parents come to get her. In either case, that was likely the greatest relief she’d felt up to that point in her life. Who knows. Perhaps it still is.

In the upcoming months, I continued to play that song incessantly, likely until GnR’s “Sweet Child o’ Mine” or Tesla’s “Love Song” took over the top spot. Also, Snow remained friends with me all the way through high school. Looking back now, I see the weird, uncomfortable positions in which I constantly put her. I also see that she genuinely liked and trusted me. For a young boy, and likely for many a grown-ass man, life is black and white. (And the dreams that you dare to dream…actually end up sucking most of the time.) Shades of grey (…be they several or 50…) do not compute. It all starts with that inconsolable pre-pubescent boner, always on a toggle switch, either entirely off or entirely on, demanding immediate attention. I feel fortunate to have broken largely free of my genetic AND indoctrinated masculine chains and come to some semblance of nuanced and realistic sanity.

Unfortunately, Kenny G’s music still makes me horny.

And tragically, Marvin Gaye’s does not.

-G

annunciation-1961

(“Annunciation” by Mati Klarwien. 1961)

A World of Pure Inebriation – Part One

Greetings regular readers and listeners. Today and next Wednesday, we have quite a treat for you. Did you like NPR’s “Serial?” Do you enjoy conversational podcasts? Do you adore your ‘happy drunk’ friends as they travel through the evening? If you answered unequivocally “No” to even one of these, I’m not entirely sure what you’re doing here in the first place. However, if any of these questions sparked even a modicum of interest or intrigue…come with me, and you’ll see, a world of pure inebriation.

One Friday night, just several weeks back, Greg and Jen made their way through 7 alcoholic beverages and recorded mini-podcasts per drink. Today, you’ll move through the first three…and next week, the final four. (No worries, Pitt won’t be there.)

As always, we appreciate your eyes, your ears, and your willingness to comment, to share us with your friends, and to keep coming back.

So, without further ado:

(Episode 1, in which Greg is incredibly excited to have “invented” a new drink, the Belfast…only to later realize that he’d made a Rob Roy. It was smokey and delicious, and Greg stands by his minor modifications on the classic cocktail in creating a new, albeit not ultimately creative, drink. We present to you, “The Belfast.”)

(Episode 2, in which Greg unveils a Miller Lite. Why? We propose, why the hell not?! Here, Jen researches the ingredients of Miller Lite, among many other common and popular beers, and Greg is gobsmacked. We present to you, “One Miller Lite.”)

(Episode 3, in which the soon-to-be Drunk Ducas enjoy a “Burton Baton” from Dogfish Head. Oak aged, 10% alcohol by volume, imperial India Pale Ale. And holy shit what a whack in the palate after the Episode 2 debacle. We present to you, “Mr. Burton Baton.”)

Meow

(Colonel Meow is watching. And judging you. Harshly. Drink responsibly. Don’t disappoint Colonel Meow. This is Meow in a good mood!)

The Gregory Del Duca Show

I’m a pediatric speech/language pathologist by trade. A “speech terrorist” as my friend Ken often quips. Today, I had a sub-par session with a bright, strong-willed, difficult-to-understand young man (…my Pappy would’ve called him a “whipper snapper” who “don’t take shit from no one”…) who stated in completely certain terms that he didn’t want to work one-on-one. I tried to convince him, then cajole him, and eventually I begged. (I fucking begged a four year old to hang out with me.) “I just don’t want to,” he finished the interaction, clearly exasperated and uncomfortable. I ultimately shifted to more integrated work and we reconnected just fine, but my confidence was shot…and I became dull and listless. A Nerf ball could have bowled me over. Immediately, I knew that I’d be dealing with my brain the rest of the day, obsessing over the minutiae of my self-perceived ineptness.

Sitting here now, I think back to “The Chris Farley” show on SNL, and the interview with Paul McCartney in particular. (My mind often drifts to Chris Farley when I find myself in the dark caverns of my perception.) An initially confident and ecstatic Farley is rendered bumbling and ineffective in the face of the legendary Beatle and he ends up revealing something that is simultaneously hilarious and heart-wrenching. Here’s a bit of that transcript:

==========

Chris Farley: Um, Hi. Welcome to The Chris Farley Show. I’m…Chris Farley…and, my guest tonight is…one of the…greatest musicians…uh, rock musicians…I guess, songwriter, ever. [Smacks himself. Speaks to himself, but out loud.] God! That sounds stupid! God, I’m an idiot! I never know how to start these things!

Paul McCartney: You’re doing great, Chris.

Chris Farley: [Hopeful] Really? No, I’m not. [Hyperventilating] Anyway…I guess…I didn’t have, have to say, who you were, because…man, I mean…everyone knows who you are. Mmm…you’re Paul McCartney.

Paul McCartney: Well, it’s great to be here.

Chris Farley: [Utterly uncomfortable] You…you…you remember when you were with The Beatles?

Paul McCartney: Yeah, sure.

Chris Farley: That was awesome!

Paul McCartney: Yeah, it was.

Chris Farley: [Now feeling confident with Paul’s seeming acceptance] Okay. Oh! You…you remember when you went to Japan…and, uh, and at the airport they arrested you ’cause you had some pot, and…it made all the papers, and everything?

Paul McCartney: Well, to be honest, Chris, I’d kind of like to forget all of that.

Chris Farley: [Smacks himself harder] IDIOT!! That’s so stupid! What a dumb question!!

==========

Such comedy and tragedy rolled into one. Unfortunately, when one actually approaches oneself and the world this way, there is no comedy. It’s all tragedy. I held it together through the rest of the morning and two additional sessions, dreading the moment my feet hit the cold pavement, thus initiating my walk of shame to the car. In the car with only my emotional dysfunction to keep me company, I cast my memory back there…entirely overwhelmed thinking about it. Instead of processing that morning interaction through a realistic lens, I conceived my entire life through the prism of what my brain proclaimed was an utter failure. And let me tell you, when I look through the goggles of my narrowly focused emotional loathing, I see a landscape…a lifescape…of foundational, pervasive, to-the-core failure.

In moments like that, and even now sitting at a computer, hours later, with a clearer consciousness, I find solace thinking about Chris Farley…because it’s painfully clear that he meant it all. He put on tight pants, torso sweaty and abundant, and donned a bow tie as he danced alongside a svelte, muscular Patrick Swayze. He portrayed Matt Foley as a complete buffoon and abject failure. He did stupid, self-depreciative, and ultimately brilliant shit. Why? Because he knew it would be hilarious? Partly. Because he knew he was agile, both mentally and physically, for a funny fat man? Sure. But really, I believe it was because he deeply doubted, likely loathed himself and if he could at least make people laugh with this reality…well, it would prolong him needing to take a really long look in the mirror and contend with the deeper demons. Look…what the fuck do I know?! Perhaps I’m just projecting my own shit. (Obviously I am.) However, Farley’s ultimate demise and the comments of his closest colleagues and allies proved the point.

I Google searched a variety of terms: Self-Loathing, Self-Hatred, Self-Doubt, Fear of Failure…and ultimately I found a bunch of definitions (not helpful) and people who’d figured it all out and had the solution in several “simple steps.” These simple steps are almost always founded on some psycho-spiritual jargony bullshit suggestion to, “Just let it go.” When I’m calm and relaxed, these posts cause me to nod in agreement. (“Yeah, brother. I dig. Cool, sister. I’m with you.”) However, when my anxiety is high and my self esteem is low, I can only think, “Oh, fuck you. Take your loads of money, ample free time, California sunshine, healthy outlook, self-control, prayer gong and vegan smoothie…make a nice enema sack and shove it all up your ass.”

Freud would have assumed the self-hatred was the tip of an iceberg…and that I need to explore underwater extensively. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) would have me perhaps purposefully sit with these thoughts, even “fail” on purpose…and ultimately realize, nay, deeply understand, that these thoughts are ultimately harmful and indicative of nothing deep, nothing that is the core “me.” Then there’s the third wave of psychology, the mindfulness camp. It’s really just a classic Buddhist method of meditation, of allowing thoughts and feelings to float by like clouds. We don’t need to explore them (Freud), we don’t need to battle them or counter them or even change them (CBT), we need only acknowledge them then let them pass. Here self-hatred comes. “Oh, hi there.” There self-hatred goes. “Okay, bye. See you soon.”

I’ve done these all. Several times each. And all of the experience and practice means not a damn thing after a four year old rejects me. The depth and strength of the emotional plummet is almost indescribable, except to perhaps compare it to actual plummeting. When you’re falling, you can’t stop yourself. Gravity gives zero shits about your ability to explore, expunge, or dismiss. As does the cold, hard ground waiting for you at the bottom. Zero. Shits. That’s what it feels like. Like Goose, in Top Gun, when he simply can’t pull-out of the flat spin and needs to eject.

The fortunate piece, I suppose, is that I am better able to eject today than I was just several years ago. I spend a bit of time wallowing, but I rebound…after a run, an hour at the gym, an hour at the keyboard (…thank you very much for reading, responding, sharing…), just a minute with my wife and step-daughter. Hell, even a positive interaction with a barista can pull me back out. I *can* find perspective…and let go of the failure from earlier this morning. It baffles me, however, that such a small thing can still push me straight off the cliff and into an emotional freefall. (Christ, are you also sick of my fucking falling analogy?! I’ll stop, I promise.) Perhaps this is where the lesson lies. It’s not that I find myself again in a position of self-loathing and depression, but rather that I find myself again in a position of regained self-confidence and optimism. I’m better today than I was yesterday, was better yesterday than I was the day before yesterday, and if I keep working (…writing, running, meditating, exploring, living, loving…), I’ll be better tomorrow than I am right now.

Remember that time you were happy?

Yeah, that was awesome.

-G

Grasshopper-in-hand

(Grasshopper-In-Hand)

On the Road Again

On today’s episode of the D2D podcast (#12, for those keeping track) Jen and Greg travel on 79 South toward Pittsburgh after a wonderful day and evening in Erie. They discuss how to make shitty, burned, convenience store coffee (kind-of, sort-of, maybe, not really…) palatable, and also how to make delicious coffee in a style that has come to be known as “bulletproof.” (For Greg’s recipe, 10-12 ounces of delicious coffee, likely from Commonplace Coffee, made on a pour-over bar. 1 tablespoon of grass fed, unsalted butter. 1 tablespoon of unrefined coconut oil. Organic ginger and cinnamon. A few dashes of organic Stevia. Craft bitters can be quite fun here too! All go into a blender and are spun on high for 10 seconds or so. When the blender is shut down, the new concoction forms a wonderful, frothy head. PLEASE NOTE: For those of you who drink tea, this absolutely can be done with your beverage as well. I suggest using black tea, steeped for at least 5 minutes but perhaps even 6, then do everything else as described above. PLEASE ALSO NOTE: frothy heads on animals are to be avoided.)

D2D also exalts the folks at Lavery Brewing, who have created a warm, welcoming, non-television-having environment with consistently stellar craft beers. Even my Mother-in-Law fell in love…with a breakfast stout! Ulster Breakfast Stout, to be specific. (This breakfast stout was amazing. None of the tangy, metallic, bitterness that can often be found from either poorly managed coffee and/or poorly managed barley and hops. It was smooth and thick and creamy.)

Speaking of “creamy,” Greg describes a “creamy mouth feel” one too many times and causes Jen to beg cessation. (Unlike many, Greg quite enjoys the word “creamy.” And “moist” for that matter. In the world of food and libation, these things matter!)

Discussion then turns to Colao’s Ristorante and the amazing food, drinks, and desert therein. Greg’s pappardelle (…thick, hand made, linguini-like noodles…) all’Arrabbiata (…which means “angry” in Italian…) with Pancetta (…I like saying, “Pahn-CHET-ahhhh”…) was exceptional, as was the White Chocolate Bread Pudding. All participants in this gluttonous extravaganza then waddled out onto the icy streets of Erie, more ready for an immediate nap than the Olympic pairs skating routines required to get to the car.

Have fun with this one, we sure did!

LaveryBeerFoodTicTacToe

(Lavery Brewery. Charcuterie board, beer sampler and menu with descriptions, 3-D tic tac toe game)

Mount Judgemore

Perhaps this is no great insight. Perhaps my assertion will cause you to think, “Uhhhh…yeah! I’ve known that forever.” But…I’d certainly been in the dark until about 10 minutes ago. Sometimes insight is like a dimmer switch, gradually moving from opaque to transparent, and sometimes it’s like a toggle switch, the shift fairly immediate from “off” to “on.” And then, like this time, sometimes it almost takes your breath away with the abruptness and strength of the realization. Walking to the restroom at my favorite coffee shop, I rudely cut between…head down and shoulders square, overcome with bitter sarcasm…the “indiscriminately & perpetually chatty loud-voiced guy” and the employee to which he was giving an unadulterated ear-beating. I walked in the restroom, locked the door, and BAM! It stopped me, literally (no hyperbole, no euphemism), in my tracks.

Okay…so here it is:

The very people I harshly judge, and their personality traits, are the traits that I worry about and harshly judge in myself. Basically, it’s my self-loathing projected onto another human. I cannot view a person who reminds me of myself at my worst with even a modicum of dispassion or, ideally, compassion. It’s zero-to-hate in less than 1 second. For them. And certainly for me.

In the opening paragraph, above, exist several of my largest societal frustrations, call them my social-pet-peeve “Mount Rushmore,” and as my very recent insight would indicate, four of my most prominent character flaws on which I can’t seem to get a good handle.

1. Person who rudely walks between conversations or otherwise blindly forces interruptions without excusing him/herself (MYSELF) or even giving visual regard.

2. Person who chats up anyone, anywhere, at any time, and for entirely too long a period, dominating a one-sided conversation with his/her (MY) pious righteousness.

3. Person who talks entirely too loudly in public spaces, as if the world must be interested in his/her (MY) drivel. “Look at me! Listen to me! Like and accept me!”

4. Person who harshly judges another person without knowing the other person’s back-story, context, experiences, or reasons for breaking whatever unspoken (SELF CREATED) social rule has been broken. *Addendum* Anyone who consistently places people in judgmental, discriminatory, limiting boxes to make sense of the world. (For as much as I despise being categorized, I am generally the Chief Pigeon-Holer in Charge.)

Like Johnny Depp across his multitude of quirky roles, each of those carved faces on my Mount Judgemore (Judge MORE) is simply me with some clever (…now that I think about it, actually not clever at all…) disguise that, apparently until recently, I never saw as me. I’ve been looking at a mirror this entire time, wearing my enamel down with each clench, each grind, each gnash of supreme courtliness.

And here’s the emotional tightrope I now walk. (Warning: I’m going to stretch this tightrope analogy to the point of perhaps breaking, but my brain won’t let go of it. Please stick with me.) Fall off the left side, and I judge you harshly. (This is what I did to the guy as described back in the first paragraph.) So there I was leaning far left, harshly judging another. And the over-compensation? Generally, I feel guilt or get some karmic rebound that forces me to look deeply at myself, my behaviors and thoughts. So I lean far right…and I end up hating myself. (Yes, hating. Again, no hyperbole.) And then, I get caught up in anxiety, worry, and self-doubt and tumble off the wire and into depression. How do I stay on the rope? Better yet, how do I just get off the fucking highwire, because I really don’t love heights and I’ve had a fear of plummeting my entire life. Sure, there’s some amount of excitement being up there. At times, I’m funny as hell. At times, I’m calm and aware and able to toe the line. However, I’m just as often, if not more often, mean as hell. A little shit. A douche of Massengillian proportions. I’m just as often anxious, frenetic, and entirely unaware of my impact on the world and people around me.

So really, finding solid ground makes the most sense. The problem is that I always end up back on that high wire. It’s so difficult to break free of the cognitive and emotional patterns which have controlled my reactions and behaviors across my life. But here I’ll start another journey. I’ll attempt to change the direction of control permanently.

I’m deeply grateful for the insight.

Also…I’m open to suggestions.

-G

120503_Exp_Scream-EX.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-large

(The Scream. Perhaps there’s a deeper reason why this is one of my favorite pieces of art?)

mmm…Beer Tasting

On this episode of the D2D podcast, you’ll find ample joy, laughter, anecdote…and beer. Pay close attention for all of the mentions of delicious food and drink (links provided below), and please support all of the amazing people and places mentioned in this podcast. Really, it’s all incredibly good stuff.

In preparation for judging the “Battle of the Brewz” at The Commons at Franklin, Greg purchased several bottles of disparate brew types, nuzzled in next to Jen and the recorder with clean beer goblets and several printed tutorials on beer tasting (…check out ratebeer.com, craftbeer.com, and beeradvocate.com…), and let the not-entirely-perfect pours commence. (Note: The competing breweries were North Country and Timber Creek. The other judges were from Lavery. These fine establishments and people will be featured in next week’s D2D pod!)

First up was Southern Tier 2XPRESSO (…yinz guys gawt expresso? How baht a mawkeeawdoh? It was ruhl good!…). Actually, I’ll let the folks at Southern Tier do the talking, “Our 2XSTOUT is considered by many to be a perfect milk stout. We started with that in mind, and added espresso beans and lemon peels for a true Italian style pick-me-up. The result is a stout so black, so rich, so creamy, it’d be at home in a café along a cobblestone street in some neighborhood in Rome. Yet, it’s beer.”

Greg’s assessment: I love this. It’s ruhl good! Jen’s assessment: [contemplative pause] I don’t dislike it. (Note: This is high praise from Jen for a stout.)

Next was Belgian Coast IPA by Green Flash (California, USA) and St. Frau Blucher…uh, Feuillie (Le Roeulx, Belgium), which was an entirely different beast than the dark, bitter, minimally bubbly beer with which we began. Bottle conditioned, amber, with a stiff head that did not dissipate (…that’s what she said…), and incredibly lively in the glass. As with most Belgian style IPAs we’ve tried, this one leaned heavily Belgian rather than finding the balance for which we’re consistently searching in this sort of fermented mash-up. Jen loves big hops with big fragrances (e.g. grapefruit, flowers) and big alcohol. Greg loves…well shit, Greg would drink anything…but Greg does love a good Belgian, and ultimately that is what this looked, smelled, and tasted like.

So again, Greg’s assessment: I love this. It’s ruhl good! Jen’s assessment: I like it. [contemplative pause] It’s definitely sweeter than the previous beer. (Note: Jen plucked out the distinct sour cherry flavor which was entirely welcome by both of us. She also shares, in the podcast, that our tour and tasting at Brewery Ommegang, last year, opened her mind and palate to the complexity, variety, and joy of Belgians. Plus, she has an Einsteinian palate. It makes Greg extremely jealous.)

We then dove into the topic of barbeque, and the fact that native Pittsburgher, all around awesome human being, and culinary sorcerer Kevin Sousa and his restaurant, Union Pig and Chicken, are making smoked meats that would convert a vegan Buddhist and cause PETAs entire executive board to literally dive into a vat of his barbeque. (Additionally, you’ll find exceptional fried chicken, southern-style sides with a Sousa-the-sorcerer twist, craft beer, cocktails, and an extensive whiskey selection…as if one couldn’t love this man any more.)

Greg’s Assessment: I mean, holy shit. Really. And not just the brisket and pork, but also the chicken. I’ve never experienced a piece of chicken quite like the breast I encountered there, and I’m not sure that I’ll ever feel so amazed and satisfied. Just go there. Like fucking now. Go. Jen’s Assessment: Yeah, ditto that.

And for a little levity, we discuss a young Italian boy’s disdain of uncomfortable mittens and a well-meaning Grandmother’s ability to condition children with Autism to utterly fear the words, “I love you.” Oh, and Kate plays the role of Foley artist, providing a background of shaking spray paint cans (…listen for it, it makes me smile every time I hear it…), intrusive squeaks, and jingle bells.

How can you resist?!

tasting sheet image

(The tasting sheet from linguistic hell!!)

A Slurring of Drunks

I’m a tour guide at a local whiskey and spirits distillery. It’s fantastic…the touring and the spirits. I was also a tour guide while at the University of Pittsburgh. I love local history, and Western Pennsylvania has plenty of it. I find great joy in connecting history to the present, drawing threads across the years to understand why we are where we are, why we do what we do, and how shit evolved into greater or lesser (…generally greater…) degrees of shittiness. Also, I’m a social creature, a story-teller, and a person who generally loves people. But…this isn’t a tour, and my intention isn’t to prattle on about my illustrious, verbose, backwards-walking past. It’s about what drives me to drink, and hopefully what compels you to read this.

Today, it’s bachelor and bachelorette parties. Now, at first glance, the following seems like an amazing and quite appropriate experience for a soon-to-be-married person and his/her friends, and particularly appealing for a modern hipster ethic: Tour a contemporary microbrewery, distillery, or winery. Take in the local history and learn a bit about how grains, sugars, and fruits ferment, become alcohol, and, with a little human ingenuity, pack a punch that allows even the shyest of beings to quickly find their drunken confidence. Then, sample fresh, delicious booze, often served by the brewer, vintner, or distiller. Right?! Seems amazing. But think about this…you’ll be cavorting about with a drunken gaggle (…would it be a “gaggle” of drunks? A case? A flight? Perhaps a slurring?…) of your closest friends, sporting matching Hawaiian shirts and cargo shorts, or sipping gin and juice out of plastic penis straws, perhaps looking to flirt your way through your final weekend of bachelor(ette)hood. Point is, it’ll be all about you, and all about your friends. You’ll be loud, you’ll be intrusive, you’ll be drunk (…which will simply amplify and exaggerate said loudness and intrusiveness…), and all of it will be justified as a rite of passage in contemporary American culture. So ask yourself this question…Do I really, really want to spend an hour or more of my party-day walking through a factory, exclusively focusing on a tour guide yammering about the historic implications of whiskey and taxation in the late 18th century or how spent grains are fed to local cows, comparing the copper pot still to the continuous/column still, being guided through a beer tasting seminar, then exiting through the gift shop? I’ll answer that for you. No. No you don’t. But more specifically, no you can’t. Not that you can’t come. You can, of course. And you’ll be welcomed with open arms, open bottles, and a cash bar. You are physically and financially able. But you cannot temporarily disable the insular, private-joke-laden, smart-phone and schedule-addled, “Isn’t there a strip, nay, gentlemen’s club nearby?” (…yes, there is…), pervasively jovial and oblivious-to-everybody-around-you vibe that will impact the energy of, get this, EVERYBODY around you. So no…a tour is not for you. (And stand-up comedy? Also, not really for you. A nice cabaret show? NO!) When you’re at a stand-up or cabaret show, it’s about the performer, the ENTIRE audience, and the context of the club. When you’re on a tour, it’s about the tour guide, the ENTIRE group, and the accepted context of a guided tour. When you’re in a bachelor(ette) party, it’s about anything BUT anyone else. And that’s okay. (For one day. Maybe on your birthday too. On a day when you’re feeling incredibly shitty? Sure. But…please don’t live your life as if there’s nobody else around you; as if your behavior doesn’t impact others. I digress. That’s for another post.) But, it’s really not okay on a tour.

A tour?!

Think about it. Who the fuck wants to take a tour on the one day you’re allowed to walk around with actual double-headed dildos flopping around your head, when you’re encouraged to drink publicly and unabashedly, soliciting hugs, kisses, and body-signatures from strangers…and generally have people laugh, smile, and congratulate you for it? I don’t. And…you don’t. Really, you don’t. Even if you’re the one guy (…or gal…) attempting to make up for the behavior and limited attention span of your 6 friends by asking too many questions, nodding vehemently as if I were the Dalai Lama offering words of spiritual actualization, and laughing a bit too heartily at my “bung-hole” joke or malted barley anecdote. [Yes, the plug for the barrel is a bung and the hole into which it goes is a bung hole. Beavis would have loved a whiskey tour. Again, I digress…] Actually, particularly for you. (I have been that guy…and it’s a really shitty, uncomfortable position to be in. You’ll also end up being the one to leave a shockingly large tip that you really hadn’t intended to give. And you’ll feel obliged chat-up the tour guide for an awkward amount of time at the end of the ordeal.)

Go to the brewery’s/distillery’s/winery’s bar. Drink a few fancy cocktails or try the Merlot. (Paul Giamatti will not chastise you.) And…move on with the plan. Come back for the tour later. Then you can have a great time twice rather than one subpar experience that didn’t quite meet expectations and you don’t remember anyway.

Cheers.

-G

Del Drunka

(Two Del Drunkas…or would it be Drunk Ducas?)

Bible Buttocks

In this episode of the Driven 2 Drink podcast, Greg remembers that George Thorogood needs 4 minutes to get to the chorus of, “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.” (…but only after listening to the song for 4 minutes.) Please feel free to also listen…or fast forward to the 4 minute mark!

We also find out that Jen, while not a booze snob, has a super refined and accurate palate; while Greg’s palate, unlike his highbrow, smarty-pants demeanor, has the fidelity of a late 19th century phonograph (…or this damn podcast. Thanks for listening. I’ll purchase microphones soon. Promise. K? K. Try the fish.) We also discuss vascular dudes at the gym (…think He-Man figurine on top with Waldo on bottom…) and a tattoo so egregious it became the title of this post. We love having you with us, and hope you love having us with you.

He Man

(By the power of Greyskull…)

Za Waldo

(…why the hell are my legs so skinny!?)

I’m agnostic, but I’m not confused.

The closest concept to how I would describe myself is “agnostic.” It’s the spirit of: I don’t know (but I really want to figure it out). A dear friend of mine, Oliver, once described to me that he would invite any person into his house, would entertain any conversation with any person…as long as that person was willing to honestly admit, “I might be wrong.” (For me, particularly when I’m feeling passionate, being wrong is always a strong possibility.) I’ve also claimed myself a Truth-seeker, capitalizing “Truth” and clinging to the monotheistic Catholocism with which I was loosely raised but obviously courses through my genes and psyche. “Truth,” with a capital T…recognizing, perhaps just hoping, that there is an ultimate truth beyond, ‘You’re born. You live. You die. That’s it. Hope you enjoyed the fish.’

I could be a complete shit-head as a child.  Impossible to wrangle. (I know that comes as a HUGE surprise to those who know me best.) I questioned and railed against authority at every opportunity. In Kindergarten, we used to have large beads of various shapes and colors to create patterns on strings. We were required to look at a piece of paper that indicated a 5-7 bead pattern (…thinking about that now, it was excessively challenging to expect a 5 year old to memorize such a lengthy pattern incorporating both color and shape…), then turn it upside down and make the pattern. I have a clear memory of experiencing the Kindergarten-equivalent of the thought, “Why should I do this?! I know the pattern. Why do I need to hide the card?!” So I peeked. And I ended up in the “cloak room.” I found myself in the far corner of the coat closet, buried among toddlers’ jackets, years of dust and floor wax, and warming egg-salad sandwiches…and I ended up there often. It was the kid-in-the-corner-with-the-dunce-cap equivalent. This was 1979. But instead of a dunce cap, it was more of a “shut-up-kid” cap. I remember another occasion while waiting to use the restrooms. The teacher, Mrs. King (…quite the appropriate name both in her demeanor and the fact that she looked more like a gluttonous male royal than a “missus.” At least, my memory has turned her into an Orc-ish creature of Tolkienesque proportions…) absolutely forbade the girls from going in the boys’ room and vice versa. Again, I have a distinct memory of the thought, “Why can’t I go in there? What’s so special?” So I went in. There were no urinals. That was weird. And it smelled better. And it was better lit. Very bright. Overall an upgrade. “Greg! Get out here…” And there I found myself again in the sweater-armpits of uncleansed classmates staring at a wall with chipping, unquestionably lead-based, paint. I got pissed once that Mrs. King wasn’t being fair (…This comes up a lot in my life. My deciding something isn’t fair and then making a rash decision rather than stopping to think before acting. I know, it’s forgivable in a 5 year old…not so much at 40…) and I took my anger out on some unsuspecting girl sitting near me. I poured my chocolate milk on her head. Seemed like that would make everything fair. Turns out all it did was land me back in the closet.

In Catholic school, which I attended from first through fourth grade after having received a full scholarship (…more like scholarshit…), I did the same thing. But, being of the final generation who still had nuns as both teachers and principal, that behavior really didn’t fly. Soon enough, as I lay on the floor after having been punched in the head by Sister Mary Masochist, with her whistle or key poking through the knuckled fingers for an added explosion of pain, I was dreaming of the cloak room. I would have done anything to smother my face in the lice-ridden winter caps and shit-stained snow pants of my classmates. The Catholics didn’t do the cloak room. No, they tried to literally beat the hell out of you. The principle, Sister Agatha Christie, had a wooden paddle with holes drilled in it. And, she’d dip it in water just before beating your bare ass if you did something particularly un-Catholic. (Fortunately, Agatha Christie took a liking to me and actually protected me. Mary Masochist always popped me when no-one was looking and so she was able to perpetuate whatever child-torture fantasy she’d created without being caught.)

It is not my intention to tell a relapsed Catholic tale, of which there are millions in the world. It is my intention to explore the fact that an agnostic resided within me apparently from the start. The experiences at St. Keiran’s did not fashion an agnostic. Rather, an agnostic simply didn’t get along in a world where folks didn’t feel the need to explain themselves. The first true phrase I ever spoke was reportedly, “Un-tow Day-weez fow ah tsit.” (For those not versed in the dialect of a toddler with a speech disorder, that’s: Uncle Jerry’s full of shit.) Well, so was Mrs. King and Mary Masochist.

To where can I trace this? My Mother is a very good candidate. Her Catholic school story goes something like this: (And no, this is not a recycled George Carlin bit. It really happened. As did the George Carlin bits. That’s the beauty of great comedy…it is born of real-life tragedy in a brain just twisted enough to laugh in its face. It’s born of a smart-ass poking holes in dogma.)

[Josie raises her hand]
Sister: Yes, Josie
Josie: Sister, how did Mary have Jesus if she never had sex?
Sister: To the office, young lady!!
[In the office, Josie gets beaten]

It’s a legitimate question, really.

Interestingly enough, I am a fairly rigid rule follower. I don’t break laws…even unjust and/or inequitable laws. I’ll rail. I’ll complain. I’ll stew internally. I’ll arrive at a panic attack. But I’ve never been able to bring myself to actually protest, to conscientiously object. It’s a terrible burden, really. I have the spirit of an angry revolutionary crusader with the demeanor and behavior of an anxious, worrying, nebbish intellectual. The guilt-ridden Catholic lives in constant disharmony with the agnostic. A very close friend recently wrote to me about my, “fierce ambivalence,” and that about captures it.

I don’t know.

I might be wrong.

(L. Ron Hubbard might’ve been right. I’ve pretty much ruled him out, along with just about every other systemized, dogmatized, mythical, allegorical religious sect, but…)

I’m constantly searching for truth, in the myriad and mysterious ways it exists, presents, and transforms itself. I appreciate your willingness to share your experiences and your understanding of truth. I really want to hear about your facts, analyses, and opinions. But please…recognize the difference between the three. I’ll try to do the same.

-G

Maggie's Farm Rum
Maggie’s Farm Rum, about which I am decidedly NOT agnostic. I believe in the rum. And the rum is good.
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