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We arrive just after nine at night, and there are two burgundy Naugahyde stools left open at the bar; mostly people are standing up and crammed in tight, clutching Martini glasses and draped with vintage purses. Acapulco-patterned dresses and bowling shirts swish and slide against one another as San Diego’s waist-deep-in-hip leisure aristocracy jostle to sizzle their own steaks at the diminutive and crowded indoor grill.

“What can I get you?” the tender asks.

“Two Old-Fashioneds.”

With a nod, he’s off to pluck orange slices from a tub and find the little bottle of bitters. At seven bucks apiece, it’s a bargain to spare me from cleaning any more sugary gunk off my kitchen counter, walls, and cabinets.

Stacks of cash clutter the bar between pools of splashed liquor. Women apply makeup with the aid of pocket mirrors. Men drop hunks of their paychecks in exchange for icy glasses of liquor. The jukebox rattles. People shout and clamor.

The girl says, “This is perfect.”

The right place with the right drink, gold shimmers in the hearts of the people, me, and her.

Oh yes, takin’ it easy is serious business.

— Ollie


Tears of the Prophet at Parallel 33

-2 oz. orange vodka-3 oz. pomegranate juice-Fresh mint leaves to garnish

Pour vodka and pomegranate juice into a cocktail shaker and add ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

I am not someone who wishes I were still 21. Or even 29. I could have skipped the decade after 19 and happily ended up at 30. Sure, I had fewer wrinkles in my 20s and could sleep in on weekends, but I had almost no money and even less self-confidence. I worked at a series of unstable ad agencies, and I was suffering from unsuitable boyfriends and the breakups that followed.

Luckily, I had friends willing to put up with my stream of complaints, and for a while, my friend Mick had a weekly ritual of Friday happy hour at Parallel 33 in Mission Hills. This was back in 2001, when Washington Street was still charming, before the Gathering burned in the fire and Phil’s BBQ moved to the Sports Arena area. It was wintertime and always dark when we met, or at least that’s how I remember it, although that might be due as much to those dark times as to the time of year.

Mick, his friend Ralph, and I were an anomaly in the upscale restaurant. Most people came in to eat, but we couldn’t afford the entrées. Instead, we stayed in the bar and ordered pita and hummus, or sometimes ahi poke. But, really, we were there for the drinks.

Ralph knew the bartender, a fellow runner named Scott who had traveled around the world and could juggle three cocktail shakers at once.

“Hey,” Scott said to me one night as I climbed onto the bar stool between Mick and Ralph. “Tears of the Prophet?”

“Of course,” I said and watched as Scott filled the shaker with ice, Absolut Mandrin, and pomegranate juice. He shook it with his right hand, while with his left he poured three Martinis, which a waitress whisked away. Scott placed a mint leaf in my glass and pushed it toward me.

Ralph, Mick, and I raised our drinks. “To the bartender,” Mick said, and Scott bowed his head and smiled. As always, the first sip was heavenly. It tasted like going back in time, maybe to New York in the ’40s, when glamour was easier to find, or at least not hidden by a Starbucks or a strip of condos, like the ones springing up down the block.

Mick said something funny and I laughed. There was a mirror over the bar, and my own happy face surprised me. I stared for a second at my reflection and then at an older couple in their 50s who were entering the restaurant. The woman had an expensive haircut, and a gorgeous cashmere wrap draped her shoulders. She must have felt me looking because she turned for a second and caught my eye. I looked down, suddenly self-conscious of my cheap shoes and wrinkled Old Navy suit.

A longing wound through me then, tangled with shame. I wanted to be that woman. I wanted her seat by the window, her husband, her life. For years I had prided myself on my independence, but really all I wanted was to be with someone who liked me back, someone who would stay with me, who would call when he said he would and tell me I looked beautiful in the candlelight. How had my dreams become so small?

Scott turned to me again and refilled my glass with his shaker. “On the house,” he said. “The benefits of front-row seats.” He went back to the conversation with Mick about his latest six-month trip to Central America. As he filled two glasses with gin, he talked about the surf off the coast of Belize.

“How do you do that?” I asked him. “How do you just pick up and travel for half the year?”

Scott shrugged. “I bartend for a while, save up money, and go. Don’t you have a passport?”

I nodded.

“Then what’s stopping you?”

I caught my reflection again in the mirror, as well as the reflection of the couple seated behind us. My own reasons were stopping me: my childish desire to be safe, to be taken care of. Instead of a life of adventure, I had chosen a cheap suit and a lousy job, thinking all the while that someone — some man — would ride in to save me. Instead of tasting real freedom, I settled for exotic drinks and someone else’s stories.

And yet, I was also aware that I was only 28. I could still travel to Central America. I could join the Peace Corps or go to grad school. I could get another job. I could move to a new town and start over. I could save myself.

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Comments

violadace May 17, 2009 @ 7:23 a.m.

Oh, yeah, I forgot. Shel Silverstein is one of the great writers of American literature. . .

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magicsfive May 3, 2009 @ 5:07 p.m.

what about shel silverstein? the great smokeout? that was awesome!

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SDaniels May 3, 2009 @ 5:25 p.m.

I grew up on his poetry for children. My, what degenerate results!

... cute, magics; thanks for bringing it up :)

"And she reaches 'cross the table and she grabs his bony sleeves And she crumbles his body between her hands like dried and brittle leaves Flickin' out his teeth and bones like useless stems and seeds"

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magicsfive May 3, 2009 @ 5:28 p.m.

EXACTLY!! isn't that a great read though? my kid has one of his books of poetry and just loves it!

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lallaw April 24, 2009 @ 2:19 a.m.

Mr. Lickona: great recipes and great piece! I'm going to print all of them out and keep them poolside for a sweltering day. Thanks for putting that together and making me look good the next time I host a bacchanal. Cheers!

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Matthew Lickona April 24, 2009 @ 9:19 a.m.

Thank you, lallaw! I must confess, it's not really my piece - I just wrote the intro (and one section). The fine editorial staff of the Reader put it together. But I'm very glad you enjoyed it!

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David Dodd April 24, 2009 @ 12:59 p.m.

"Oh, no. All of us writers work out of our homes. They like to keep us separated — if we were all together, we’d just sit around and drink."

This is a truth, at least in my case. Spending hours with my fellow border writers at the Dandy del Sur is one of my favorite pass-times. Of course, I rarely sit at this computer without some sort of beer while occasionally sipping a small glass of tequila, but it certainly gets slightly out of hand when I visit the Dandy.

http://entertainment.signonsandiego.com/places/el-dandy-del-sur/

Try a Michelada:

1 bottle of Tecate beer 1 glass, salted rim, filled with ice 1 bottle of Clamato Squirts of Worcestershire, lime juice, and Tabasco sauce

Mix to taste.

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lallaw April 24, 2009 @ 1:06 p.m.

I LOVE that drink...have you ever had a Colorado Bulldog? Is it too early to start drinking? You guys have gotten me thirsty...

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magicsfive April 24, 2009 @ 1:23 p.m.

ok i know this is going to sound juvenile but there is an app on myspace called Cheers, where you can send people drinks. but the really cool part about it is they give you the recipe for all these drinks. every time i send one, and i do it a lot, i write down the recipe so i can experiment later. perhaps we can try one of each this summer, huh? :)

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David Dodd April 24, 2009 @ 1:23 p.m.

I've never had a Colorado Bulldog, but it's similar to a Dirty White Mother, which is too sweet for me now but I drank them when I was younger.

And in refriedgringo-land, it's never too early to start drinking.

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lallaw April 24, 2009 @ 1:35 p.m.

Colorado Bulldog is: (roughly :)

Tall glass w/ice Baileys Cream Diet Coke (in equal proportions)

Sounds gross but tastes soooooo good. My boyfriend does a Vodka/Diet Vanilla Pepsi tall boy drink that goes down very smoothly and before you know it yer shnockerd. You can also use Vanilla Vodka and any diet or regular Coke or Pepsi product you like...except that cherry flavored stuff is too much, in my opinion, to use with the Vanilla Vodka.

The best Vodka I've ever had was Stoli's pepper flavored Vodka. I went to this authentic Russian restaurant here in the States and they served the stuff straight, non stop all night. Oddly we drank club soda along with it on the side and the food never stopped so I swear I didn't get drunk (I'm 5'2 105lbs and was called 1 beer L---- [the "L" is my last name which rhymes with beer"] in college). But I felt just fine! And that Vodka was sooooooooooo smooth, even if it was Stoli.

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violadace April 24, 2009 @ 3:06 p.m.

My fave is a soymilk variation on a White Russian:

cold vanilla soy milk tons of kahlua ice

healthy never tasted so good. you can guzzle these and get protein at the same time.

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Josh Board April 24, 2009 @ 3:07 p.m.

Stoli's Vodka played an important, subtle role in the movie NO WAY OUT (can't explain why, or it gives away an important plot point).

What is it with women? They love the Baileys. I know a lady that named her child Bailey, which is a cute name. But I suspect she did it because of her love of the alcohol.

Refriend -- aside from Hunter Thompson, the whole writer/drinking thing, was best portrayed fictionally, in "A River Runs Through It," with Brad Pitt being a reporter, who seemed to have a drinking problem (among other things).

It was poorly portrayed in the very disappointing Ron Howard film "The Paper." Randy Quaid, I believe was a sports writer. Maybe a columnist, can't remember. He would drink and act crazy, and everyone in the building was scared because he carried around a gun, too.

But, in regards to Lall mentioning a bacchanalian party with all these drinks, I was at a party in Rancho Bernardo 5 years ago, where they did this very thing. The counter had all kinds of bottles of booze, and various index cards with the recipes for the drinks you could make with them. It was a clever idea.

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David Dodd April 24, 2009 @ 3:20 p.m.

Josh,

Most of my favorite authors were notorius alcoholics. Steinbeck, Saroyan, Fitzgerald, Bukowski, the list goes on and on.

Cheers!

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Josh Board April 24, 2009 @ 6:27 p.m.

I'm heading out to go to parties and drink in a few minutes here. I never knew Steinbeck was a drinker. Saroyan, yes. Check out his son, he writes some interesting poetry as well.

Bukowski. Yeah, I think that's all he wrote about!

I was looking at the cover of the Reader, and I just assumed it was Mike Myers. But the photo credit listed the "model". Strange.

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SDaniels April 24, 2009 @ 7:49 p.m.

There is a commercial for some local pottery store with a Austin Powers impersonator. Maybe they hired him.

I'm still really looking for a good Pisco sour, anyone?

Angostura bitters seem hard to find, so (gasp) many local bars, if they even make them, omit this ingredient...

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SDaniels April 24, 2009 @ 10:36 p.m.

There's plenty of anecdotal evidence on a link between creativity and use of alcohol and mind-altering drugs--check out fin de siecle opiate-infused novellas and novels. More in your area, refried: Carver's alcoholism might have been fueled in part by Gordon Lish's excisions of his drafts...

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David Dodd April 25, 2009 @ 1:11 a.m.

Lish would have pushed any good writer into the depths of alcoholism. It wasn't just Carver that was affected, Michael Himmingson just published a book about Lish's propensity toward editing anything and everything he could in order to supplant his dynamic on publishing. It makes my skin crawl, like some sort of bad horror film.

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SDaniels April 25, 2009 @ 2:03 a.m.

My point exactly, with a bad joke. Will have to check out Hemmingson's book.

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a2zresource April 27, 2009 @ 4:48 p.m.

Got turned on to cans of Foster's beer while taking Journalism at City College... "Drunkedness in a Drum". No, we weren't allowed to drink it on campus!

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OttoB April 28, 2009 @ 2:45 p.m.

Just as I'm pouring the bourbon in what was gonna be my FIRST new Old-Fashioned, I read where Ollie says "...Really, drinking an Old-Fashioned in this updated and fresh way (don’t forget the oranges, backgammon, and girl) is delightful." Delightful? DELIGHTFUL? I guess I can only hope and pray he NEVER uses that word again. I've yet to have that New-Old-Fashioned.

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Barbarella Fokos April 28, 2009 @ 2:56 p.m.

Viola, I used to love White Russians. So sweet and tasty! Regarding writers and drinking, Dorothy Parker, one of my favorites, was a big drinker. I always thought my most interesting journal entries (the private ones) came after a weekend of heavy drug use. Perhaps there is something to that whole, "unlocking the pathways of the brain" thing. But now when I write, the only drinks I like to have on my desk are coffee and water. The wine only dulls my senses, which is why I wait until I close the laptop to pour a glass.

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Josh Board April 29, 2009 @ 12:20 a.m.

one of my favorite songwriters is Jim Morrison, who obviously drank (among other things). I now realize he would've written more interesting, less cryptic stuff had he been sober.

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SDaniels April 29, 2009 @ 4:09 p.m.

Barbarella:

"Oh, gallant was the first love, and glittering and fine; The second love was water, in a clear white cup; The third love was his, and the fourth was mine; And after that, I always get them all mixed up."

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magicsfive April 29, 2009 @ 5:18 p.m.

you know this reminds me of something...speaking of writers that HAD to be under the influence of something...i wonder what Anne Albright is up to these days. you remember her - she had that column here called Kid Stuff, lots of kids. she used to get a lot of grief from her readers. she quit, oh i'd say about 4-5 years ago. I read her column faithfully. Now mind you, i am not criticizing her. you can be sure i will have knocked a couple back before i write the blog i have been promising ;)

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violadace May 3, 2009 @ 6:31 a.m.

Barbarella-- The Revised White Russian (with vanilla soy milk) is a drink you'll appreciate when you reach menopause. (natural estrogens in the soy milk. . . with the upbeat note of a little booze. . .) Thanks for responding to the boys about creativity and alcohol. It's destroyed infinitely more writing careers than it's made. No one, no one is a great writer under the influence. Drinking just makes a drunk think he's a great writer, it medicates the pain under the creativity, and gives the biographers something juicy to chronicle.

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SDaniels May 3, 2009 @ 3:24 p.m.

Maybe you prefer opiate abusers, then:

"And all should cry, Beware! Beware! His flashing eyes, his floating hair! Weave a circle round him thrice, And close your eyes with holy dread, For he on honeydew hath fed, And drunk the soy White Russian of Paradise."

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magicsfive May 3, 2009 @ 4:43 p.m.

what about lewis carroll? you know he was under the influence.

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SDaniels May 3, 2009 @ 4:50 p.m.

Yep. I wouldn't want to go on a long "trip" with him.

"He had bought a large map representing the sea, Without the least vestige of land; And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be A map they could all understand."

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Joe Poutous May 18, 2009 @ 10:20 a.m.

We have 2 copies of "Where the Sidewalk Ends" at home... an old copy and an newer copy...

Some ass decided to PC the new one up. It's no longer "The Gypsies Are Coming" it's "The Goonies are coming". There are other changes to the book as well.

arg. - Joe

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SDaniels June 3, 2009 @ 1:47 a.m.

violadace, this was meant to be a fun discussion starter, and no one suggested Silverstein was the great white literary hope. There are many writers who have (and have not) either survived or even used mind-altering substances to write enduring prose--whatever our thoughts or judgements may be on the matter--and thank the deities for many of them!

Joe, that is the lamest substitution for "gypsies" imaginable, and I'm sure you'll be holding onto the original! My copy was passed along to other children in the family. I bet you liked Paul Zindel, too ;)

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magicsfive June 3, 2009 @ 7:07 a.m.

wait....is viola being sarcastic? and if so, why do some people always have to try to wreck a perfectly fun discussion????

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SDaniels June 3, 2009 @ 1:44 p.m.

Hey magic girl, good to see ya.

I don't know, I'm still new to online blogging, but it often seems to be more about momentary moods and quick keystrokes than helping to build or take something apart. Then again, people mistake each other's tone online all of the time. Then again, it takes a variety of opinions; I just think it is more interesting when people elaborate a little on alternative topics/views.

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magicsfive June 3, 2009 @ 4:38 p.m.

good to see u too darlin...i guess you're right. now where's lallaw lol...

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