From My Blog

Memoir Experiment Part Eight—The Unplugged Shakespearian

I’m going to teach an online course for the first time this semester. I have certain misgivings. More than that, I wonder if I can even master the bare necessities required to operate the electronic application through which I will be “delivering my content.” It is obscene that we have to debase ourselves by adopting the language of business to discuss what we’re doing, but online education, it seems to me, is the product of business people, not educators.

I’m slow to learn these new technologies; like some savage from a remote jungle presented with some maddeningly complex and advanced device, I stare at it dumbly as my heart fills with rage. But then as my mind wanders from the task at hand, as it always does, I remember the early days of my Ph.D. program. A graduate student named Sean started when I did. He was a renaissance scholar, focusing on Shakespeare. He brought his books and a few necessities down south with him from his native Michigan. He had an old typewriter he used for his papers. This was in the late nineties. I believe he wrote his texts out longhand first, in a most elegant cursive, though I might be romanticizing after the fact. His expression was melancholy, and while he loved the study of literature that engaged all his energies, he saw that the outward trappings of the field were inexorably changing, necessitating the use of the very technologies that had driven him to literature and the supreme humanism of the renaissance. There was email, for example. He didn’t use it. Student and faculty messages went unread. Announcements were unheeded. He was told his email account was already set up, he merely had to check it. But with a Bartleby-esque stubbornness, he preferred not to. Indeed, this was a good deal stronger than preference. There were also grumblings about his antiquated carbons and necessarily mono-spaced typefaces. Harmless eccentricity quickly seems pathological when one faces some minor inconvenience. The writing, alas, was on the wall. Sean knew his days were numbered. He told me one day he was leaving, returning to Michigan. He loved Shakespeare more than anything, but he had discovered that society would not allow him to be a Shakespeare scholar on his own terms. He simply would not use a computer; this would rob him of his very humanity. And so he was gone, abandoning his official studies.

I don’t know what happened to him. I like to think he ended up in a rough cabin on the Upper Peninsula. There he sits in my mind’s eye with long unkempt beard and a look of preternatural determination, rereading Timon of Athens for the 100th time, or going over some favorite passage from E.M. Tillyard’s The Elizabethan World Picture. He cooks beans in an iron pan over a wood fire, and drinks bourbon when he can get it. He mends his simple clothing and subsists on some old fellowship money he squirreled away. He writes his papers and types them up. He has over 500 dead stock Smith-Corona typewriter ribbons. He cannot send his papers to be published, as the journals only take electronic documents. He has no students. But he will not change, no he will not. I respect him immensely.

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Memoir Experiment Part Seven—Baseball

I’ve never really cared for any sports. I could never sustain enough interest to follow them. I did play on some teams as a child. I can’t recall if my parents encouraged me to, or if I simply signed up because of vague cultural expectations. I played baseball one year on the Khoury League. I guess I was probably ten or eleven years old. I remember that we had handsome uniforms. Our sponsor was the Roland Machine Company. I liked wearing the uniform. And I liked that we all got a can of soda and a candy bar after each game. As far as I can recall, we lost every game. We were given some self-esteem boosting trophy, nonetheless. I hated these games and prayed for rain each Saturday during the baseball season. I just wanted to flop on the couch and watch TV. The family room was the coolest room in the house during summer and no one else would be up yet and it would be just me and the television spending some quality time together. But instead I would be out on the diamond pretending I cared about the outcome of the pointless game, really just craving a can of grape soda and the end of the stupid, interminable season. Practice was even worse, with coaches barking out orders and trying to make us into men. That was never one of my goals. I have always tried to limit my participation in athletics as much as possible. I remember once playing soccer and one of my teammates cried because the coach, his own father, took him out of the game toward the end so some one else could play. I laughed to myself. I was an avid bench warmer no matter what the sport. Let me sit on the bench with a book, or just daydream. I was always good at that. One day during baseball practice, the coach was teaching us to catch pop-flies in the outfield, tossing the ball up and batting it right out to us where we could make an easy catch without even moving. He and everyone else must have been hollering at me, desperately trying to bring me back to earth from my reveries, but the only thing that accomplished that was a baseball to the left eye socket. When he ascertained that I was conscious and not concussed, he yelled at me. I could tell he was sorry, but also angry since it was my own fault. Practice ended early that night. I watched television out of one eye and sipped soda through a straw as I sat ignominiously wearing a round steak eye patch, like some carnivorous pirate. I wonder if tofu works the same way? After that season, I never played baseball again. I did eat a few more steaks. And I played other sports on other teams. I finally realized it was fine to refuse, to refuse all of it, and just go ahead and lose myself in the daydream.

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Mangia Italiano’s Infused Spirits on RFT’s Gut Check Drunken Vegan Column

This week on Drunken Vegan on the Riverfront Times Gut Check blog, Patrick talks about Mangia Italiano’s infused spirits. We tried four of them in four different cocktails. All very nice. One we wanted to try was a strawberry and basil infused vodka in — I don’t remember what the drink was called. Shoot. It sounded really good, though. Unfortunately, the infusion wasn’t quite ready. Guess we’ll just have to go back!

Florida Crystals in Vegan Simple Syrup… the Drunken Vegan on RFT’s Gut Check Blog

Yep, yep, yep, it’s Wednesday! You know what that means…. time for another Drunken Vegan Gut Check post from Patrick on the Riverfront Times. This time, learn about why most sugar is not vegetarian-friendly, and how to use one that is (we like Florida Crystals) to make a delightful mint and lime infused simple syrup to use in your mojitos. MMMMMMMM. Drink up!

Cheap Bourbon

Patrick’s latest Riverfront Times Drunken Vegan Gut Check post is up! He tasted three cheap bourbons: Three Potable Bourbons for Less Than $20 at Starr’s, Schnucks and Randall’s. I’ve had two of them. The Schnucks was excellent in a mint julep, and the Four Roses very fine over ice. Alas, I wasn’t invited to the Old Bardstown tasting party… Oh well. I’d always been an Irish fan anyway…. but, seriously, these two bourbons have opened my eyes and expanded my palate. Yipee!

Memoir Experiment Part Six—Hotrod T-Shirt

As I think about this project and sink solipsistically back into it, I grow Proustian in my self-absorption. I am developing a fetishistic attachment to memory—real memory, not the ersatz memories, television-episode like, that we generate from seeing still and film images of our pasts. These are not memory but a replacement for it.

It’s hard for me to recall something as simple as the clothing I wore. There are many pictures from every age. I remember these images—sailor suit, matching brown tweed cap, coat, and short pants, or the red and blue plaid Toughskins daringly paired with an orange Chicago Bears T-shirt. I remember all these costumes from photographs, not from reality. That last outfit was worn on my seventh birthday. I was sick. I received my first bicycle. But I don’t really remember getting sick or first seeing that candy-apple red metallic cruiser with its black banana seat. I heard those stories when I was shown that photograph of myself, looking wan and disconnected, aloof from my surroundings and encircled by an aura of illness. I don’t remember how I felt, and I don’t remember those articles of clothing, just that photograph.

There are the items of clothing that still exist at my parents house, like the maroon wool jacket with gold leather sleeves, bearing the badge of the Washington Redskins. It is quite small. It resides in the closet near a larger jacket of purple nylon with the Minnesota Vikings logo. Why so much athletic apparel? The adults in my family must have wanted to present me with the trappings of manliness, the camaraderie of “watching the game,” the longing for flesh foods, the desire to be fruitful and multiply. Oh, what a miserable failure I’ve been!

I did at least have a modest interest in cars. There is but a single article of clothing from my childhood that I remember more or less clearly. It no longer exists and was not, I believe, ever captured on film. It was a white T-shirt, not reversible, but with an image on front and back. It could be worn with either image facing the front Each image was a Ratfink-like cartoon of a hotrod. I think one was a purple ’55 Chevy. The other is less clear … a green car … a Ford from the ’30s? I must have favored that ’55, or perhaps the color purple, for that is the one that faced forward most of the time. I refuse to try to find those images on Google, though I suspect they are out there. I don’t want to replace my memory with something more precise and so very much less precious.

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Another Successful Bloomsday (2014) at The Civil Life

Hello, lovelies! On 16 Jun 2014 we had another fun and successful Bloomsday at The Civil Life with plenty of #RestorativePints and five readings. We recorded video and audio of four of the five readings, and have made it available to you, our esteemed readers — OK, well, it’s technically available to everyone — on a Bloomsday Vimeo Channel

You can also view the Bloomsday videos right here on Hurley House. Here ya go!

Inventive Cocktails at Mission Taco Joint

We love tacos. I mean, we have a taco party for breakfast nearly every day. I’m serious! Not making this @#$! up.

Mission Taco Joint Mofu Tacos

Anyway, last Saturday, instead of having our taco party at home, we had it at Mission Taco Joint in University City, so Patrick could do some R&D for his newest Riverfront Times Drunken Vegan Gut Check post, Mission Taco Joint’s Inventive Cocktail List Goes Beyond the Margarita. The food and drink were great, and so is his article!

And bonus… Their location in Soulard is really close to opening! We won’t have to drive so far, yipee!

Barrel-aged Cocktails At Sanctuaria Wild Tapas

  • By tree
  • 13 Jun 14 at 10:43 AM

Does it seem weird that I (tree) write posts under “Things I’ve Written” when it’s really Patrick who wrote them? Well, then, so be it. I’m weird. But you should know that Patrick’s latest Drunken Vegan Gut-Check post is up. Check out Comparing Sanctuaria’s Barrel-Aged Cocktails to the Fresh-Mixed Version.

We’d tried some “bottled” cocktails during a recent trip to Los Angeles, then we were perusing the cocktail list at Sanctuaria Wild Tapas in The Grove and saw that they had barrel-aged cocktails. Like the whole cocktail, not just a component like one of the liquors. Naturally, we had to try them. They had a flight where you could get half-pours of three. Perfect for us to share. We talked to the bartender a bit about the idea behind it and then decided it would be cool to taste barrel-aged cocktails next to the fresh-mixed versions. He hooked us up with another flight and we tasted them side by side.

I won’t spoil it by talking any more about it here… why don’t you just go read Patrick’s Drunken Vegan Post about these barrel-aged cocktails at Sanctuaria on the Riverfront Times Gut-Check blog.

Memoir Experiment Part Five

My friend Todd and I used to spend a great deal of time trolling used bookstores, looking for bargains. I remember distinctly one particular shop we visited, though I cannot recall its name. It was on Highland Avenue and is no longer there. I recall I was looking for cheap copies of books I needed for some graduate classes I was taking. I always brought my soiled thrift shop editions to class, where fellow students gripping pristine copies would look on derisively. They weren’t shy about addressing their fears that my different pagination would throw a wrench into our class discussions. But I used to have a remarkable knack for visual memory and could picture a quote in its quadrant (upper left) and location in the book (about a third of the way through, for example), so I found the quotes we would discuss readily enough. They, on the other hand, had a profound difficulty surmounting their lack of wit and talent. My problem was poverty. I was smoking generic cigarettes and drinking rotgut. What’s a poor scholar to do? Buy his texts at eccentric little bookstores, that’s what.

Todd and I pushed our way into the chaos of this crowded little shop and were met immediately with a waft of cumin and frying meat. “Howdy Boys.” The owner was a barrel shaped old man with a military haircut the color of iron and a twinkle in his eye. He had a stove behind the checkout counter, and there he was cooking up tacos. This, he told us was his daily meal. He had dedicated himself to these tacos and feeding his hard round belly. There was little else to do but read, for he had few visitors to his spicy scented lair. Most of the books were genre trash, with a good many romance novels. But there was one shelf labeled “Classic Literature.” I combed these shelves and, lo! I actually found a few of the titles I needed for two different courses. I know I found Updike’s Rabbit, Run! and Conrad’s Victory. I then scanned some shelves of miscellanea and found a fat paperback edition of the Kinsey report on female sexual behavior. It fit in well with the smell segment of my library dedicated to prurience. I must have it in a crate somewhere, but cannot lay hands on it. The last I saw it, my friend Brian was studying it intently at my old apartment on Magnolia (fifteen years ago?). When I took my selections up to the counter, the old man stopped munching on his taco and wiped his hands on his trousers. He handled each soiled tattered paperback with a kind of reverence usually reserved for some kind of religious apparatus. He picked the final book up and shifted its distance away from his face to account for his age-befogged corneas. He looked at the Kinsey report and then at my friend and me. He looked back and forth again then set the book gently down. “Boys, let me tell you, no matter how hard you try, you ain’t never gonna understand that puss!” What was the correct response? A noncommittal ”I dare say”? or a jaunty “Oh I say, you old trout, it’s not as complicated as all that!” If memory serves we smiled nervously, then he let out a guffaw.

I like to think he had come to some quiet and final understanding of the inscrutable puss. He had dedicated his declining years to eating tacos. No amount of reading and study would equal that. He has probably moved on from this life, but if he lives on, I wish him the solid teeth and strong jaws to keep at his life’s work.

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“Whereas other modernists feared the hydra-headed mob, Joyce used interior monologue to show how lovable, complex and affirmative was the mind of the ordinary citizen.” (Declan Kiberd, Ulysses and Us*, page 11)

Yes, reading Ulysses* will make you a better person. And this “forbiddingly difficult” modernist novel is actually a deeply democratic work of art. Reading it aloud is a celebration of its hugely musical language. And bearing witness to the minutiae of a single day magically enlarges our sense of humanity. This is why we still read Ulysses almost 100 years after it was written, why we read it aloud, celebrate it, and in so doing, celebrate life.

Join us June 16th, 2014 from six to nine pm at the Civil Life Brewing Company as we read excerpts from Ulysses. Read a section or just listen. Raise a #RestorativePint and offer thanks to James Joyce for what he gave and continues to give to us.

Download a PDF of the Bloomsday 2014 at Civil Life Poster to share or print.

Join the Bloomsday 2014 at Civil Life event on Facebook

Drunken Vegan and Vegan Drunkard

Hello, there, all you lovelies! I just want to update you on a couple other projects Patrick has going on: he’s Drunken Vegan on RFT’s Gut Check Blog and also Vegan Drunkard on his own blog and on twitter.

Drunken Vegan is primarily concerned with cocktails and includes a bit of veganism where appropriate. You don’t have to be a vegan—or even like vegans—to love the Drunken Vegan! So far, he’s written about Bloody Marys, herbs to grow and use in cocktails, tweaking cocktails that typically contain egg whites with help from Ted Kilgore at Planter’s House, the new Gin Room at Cafe Natasha’s, Vermouth, Campari cocktails, the French 75, and, most recently, alternatives to standard brunch cocktails. If you like his writing… or if you like cocktails… or, better still, if you like both, you should really follow his column. His posts usually go up every Wednesday or Thursday.

Vegan Drunkard will be a little more irreverent and definitely more personal than Drunken Vegan. In addition to cocktails, he’ll talk about cooking, eating, and other lifestyle issues from the vegan’s perspective; hopefully, just like the best cocktails, the balance will be perfect. On the drinking side, he’ll cover beer and wine as well as spirits. You can read about how he was baptized from a whiskey flask, a great restaurant we went to in L.A., Mohawk Bend, one of the Vegan Drunkard’s go-to hangover foods: French fries and some delicious fries we had at 5-Star Burgers, brunch, the Vegan Drunkard’s main go-to hangover remedy: the taco party, and Negroni Week.

I typically announce the Drunken Vegan’s and Vegan Drunkard’s posts on our Hurley House Facebook page and often on our Plant-based Patree Facebook page and we both tweet about them, but I’ll also try to remember to post something here as well.