July 7, 2020
Hello you! Did you see or not see The Bertrams Part I Cocktail Talk, in which I called the immortal Anthony Trollope “Tony” and talked about this book we’re quoting from? If you didn’t see that yet, then by all means, go read it now (and you could read all the Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talks, too, if you want). But if you have, and so you really have all the background and build up and such, then why not dive right into the below quote, which focuses on two mad military men, who aren’t really a large part of the overall story (heck, they barely feature at all). But, this quote was my introduction to “tiffin-time,” which is like (or was? Still is? You tell me) an Indian afternoon tea, round 3 p.m., and where it seems they also had beer! I like it. And of course, I’m always happy to see the boozy wine punch Sangaree make an appearance!
“And the brows of Major Biffin and Captain M’Gramm were clouded. They had been filling the plates and glasses of these two ladies all the way from Calcutta; they had walked with them every day on deck, had fetched their chairs, picked up their handkerchiefs, and looked after their bottled beer at tiffin-time with an assiduity which is more than commendable in such warm latitudes. And now to be thrown on one side for two travelling Englishmen, one in a brown coat and the other in a black one for two muffs, who had never drunk Sangaree or sat under a punkah!”
–Anthony Trollope, The Bertrams
June 30, 2020
Well, anyone who is anyone knows that I love myself some Anthony Trollope. More than anyone else is the world? I’m not sure about that, as there are some fanatical Trollope-ites out there, and more power to ‘em. But I do love old Anthony (or, Tony, as I call him when we’re chatting), and have read I think all but two of his books, or three, perhaps, which is in a way a nice feeling, as I have that to look forward to. I also have re-reading (and re-re-reading and onwards in some cases) the books I have, one of which is The Bertrams (pubbed 1859), a tale theoretically of three chaps, but really one (George Bertram) is the spotlight guy most of the time. Is The Bertrams my favorite Trollope, or in the top half? Probably not (just lacks a little of the Trollope balance, parallelisms, and rounded characters, and such, to me). Am I still really glad and re-read it, and do I hope to be around long enough to re-read it again? Damn straight Tony! And does the book have a number of Cocktail Talk worthy moments? Damn straight again! Starting with the below, which is probably one of the few Milk Punch moments in classic literature.
“Having uttered these very lugubrious words, and almost succeeded in throwing a wet blanket over the party, he sat down.
‘Now, you’re not going to do anybody else, are you?’ said Madden.
‘Only Twisleton, and Gerard, and Hopgood,’ answered Bertram; ‘and Fortescue looks as if he expected it. Perhaps, however, he’ll let us off till the day after to-morrow.’
And then, with a round of milk punch, another cigar apiece, and a little more chat, the party broke up.”
–Anthony Trollope, The Bertrams
June 23, 2020
Our final Cocktail Talk featuring the mostly mild crime-solving Father Brown (now even more famous from the wonderful BBC show that I’ve watched, and that you should watch) takes place in France – Father Brown’s a bit of a globe trotter in the stories. And may not like absinthe, though that could be writer G.K. Chesterton, too. If you want a little more Father Brown – and you should – quick, then for gosh sakes don’t miss Father Brown Cocktail Talks Part I and Part II. And then maybe have a little absinthe and sip it while reading, good on you.
M. Armagnac looked at M. Brun. M. Brun borrowed the letter, read it, and looked at M. Armagnac. Then both betook themselves briskly to one of the little tables under the chestnuts opposite, where they procured two tall glasses of horrible green absinthe, which they could drink apparently in any weather and at any time. Otherwise the cafe seemed empty, except for one soldier drinking coffee at one table, and at another a large man drinking a small syrup and a priest drinking nothing.
— G.K. Chesterton, “The Duel of Dr. Hirsch”
June 16, 2020
Hey, first up: don’t forget to read the Father Brown Part I Cocktail Talk, or you’ll hate yourself when you wake up from your nap. Done? Back? We are into the second now, from the Complete Father Brown Stories by ol’ G.K. Chesterton. In this story (as in many) the good Father is traipsing around the globe, solving mysteries, making friends, spreading the legend. In this particular story, he’s in the midst of millionaires and revolutionaries (the amount of millionaires Father Brown hangs with is wild, really), and drinks, a bit, with murder right around the corner.
Perhaps the one point in common to the two council chambers was that both violated the American Constitution by the display of strong drink. Cocktails, of various colors had stood before the three millionaires. Halket, the most violent of the Bolshevists, thought it only appropriate to drink vodka. He was a long, hulking fellow with a menacing stoop, and his very profile was aggressive, the nose and lips thrust out together, the latter carrying a ragged red moustache and the whole curling outwards with perpetual scorn. John Elias was a dark watchful man in spectacles, with a black pointed beard, and he had learnt in many European cafes a taste for absinthe.
— G.K. Chesterton, “The Ghost of Gideon Wise”
June 9, 2020
As I, like others, have been at home perhaps more than usual lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading (well, I do a lot all the time, but even more perhaps), and one thing I dove into during this time was The Complete Father Brown Stories by old G.K. Chesterton, which is a massive tome – ideal for right now! And I have to admit (cause we’re all pals here), that I watched the currently TV Father Brown tele show before reading any of the stories. Which is weird, cause usually I go at it the other way round. And, even weirdly, since we’re admitting things, I like the TV show better. Don’t throw things at me. Mark Williams is a genius actor, I like the small town England focus, and, well, I like his Father Brown a bit more than the book one. And skipping some of G.K.’s dated and wrong, oh, opinions, is okay, too. Which is not to say that the stories in the main aren’t good and shouldn’t be read. They totally should be, cause lots and lots of awesome is contained therein. Enough that I’m going to have a trio of Cocktail Talks from different stories, starting with below brandy bellowing.
“And you will have your usual, Sir,” said Mr. Wills leaning and leering across the counter.
“It’s the only decent stuff you’ve still got,” snorted Mr. Raggley, slapping down his queer and antiquated hat, “Damn it, I sometimes think the only English thing left in England is cherry brandy. Cherry brandy does taste of cherries. Can you find me any beer that tastes of hops, or any cider that tastes of apples, or any wine that has the remotest indication of being made out of grapes? There’s an infernal swindle going on now in every inn in the country, that would have raised a revolution in any other country. I’ve found out a thing or two about it, I can tell you. You wait till I can get it printed, and people will sit up. If I could stop our people being poisoned with all this bad drink——”
— G.K. Chesterton, “The Quick One”
May 19, 2020
Well, I know what I’m doing today: waiting around watching my mailbox, sidewalk, and street for the postal person who today is supposedly delivering to me the new book of poems by Ed Skoog, called Travelers Leaving for the City. At least, I was told it would arrive today, when I ordered it. Hopefully you are doing the same thing – unless you’re lucky enough that your copy has already been delivered? – but if you aren’t, then for gosh sakes make your life better by ordering now. If, by some strange and cruel twist of fate, you aren’t already acquainted with Skoog (feels that should be all-capped, SKOOG, but I’m resisting. Or not), then let me tell you, not only is he a genius poet and writer, but also a champ banjo player, snappy dresser, fleet-footed dancer, and more, but also one of the swellest bar companions you could ever desire. While I’m waiting to spend many hours devouring his newest, I thought I’d ramp up my synapses by re-reading one of his poems from In Their Cups: An Anthology of Poems About Drinking Places, Drinks, and Drinkers. He has two poems in there – both awesome – as well as a few translations (also awesome), which he can do cause he is, as mentioned, a genius. In the feeling of community, I felt you also might want to read a snatch of Skoog if your copy of the latest hasn’t shown, and so here we are with the below.
The Last Saturn Bar Poem
Around the art barn, Mike Frolich’s bar-tab
bartered paintings hang the hell that rose with him
from the Gulf of Mexico floor too fast, torturing
blood with air: maniac fish, demon in a diving bell,
and then from cadmium sunset through marsh comes
the boat bearing forward in grand roving the name
O’Neal, our bartender. Theirs are the dreams we enter,
entering the Saturn Bar’s owly heat re-tooled for unlovely
loss, the rattled corner leaning away from Chartreuse, neat,
and when I’m able to dream jukebox damaged warbling,
a Saturn-like-thing opens within me, but this is the last
Saturn Bar poem–I’ll try, I’ll try–to stop singing
shadows of St. Claude and Clouet on security camera
pavement grays we keep talking about with increasing
reluctance, ready to move on to fresh bewilderments,
spiraling neon, neon that lights up my nameless shot.
–The Last Saturn Bar Poem, Ed Skoog
May 12, 2020
Some May days, don’t you just wake up thinking about 65 B.C. Greek poet Nicaentus? I mean he who in the big W (Wikipedia that is) is called Nikainetos, which is probably right, but by golly, when he and I were talking (in my dreams, that is) he goes by Nicaentus. And, in said dream, we were sipping a little wine and chatting about the news of the day and days past, and reclining on some chaise lounge type loungers, and eating a few grapes, and wearing laurels in our hair, and sipping a little more wine. Then we had some dates, which were a little date-y, but still good, but left me with one of those catches in the throat that leaves you unable to dialogue, and without thinking I said, “could I get a little water,” to which he replied the below.
Wine to the poet is a winged steed
Those who drink water gain but little speed.
–Nicaentus, Greek poet, 65 B.C.
May 5, 2020
Robert Bloch was a well-known writer, novelist, short-story-ist, pulper, and though he wrote a fair amount of crime fiction, his best known work is Psycho, which as you could probably guess was the book made into the famous Hitchcock film. He started, interestingly enough, as a student of the legendary brain expanding horror master H.P. Lovecraft, even. Wowsa! But here we’re taking a nice quote from a crime novel, Spiderweb, which was originally an Ace Double, meaning a book from well-known pocket-book publisher Ace that actually contained two books – whatta deal! Here, it was with David Alexander’s The Corpse in My Bed. Though I don’t have that book (I might like to have it!); instead, I have a modern reprint of it from the happening folks at Hard Case Crime. Here’s the ringer: said modern reprint is also a twofer, combining Spiderweb with another Bloch book, Shooting Star. Get it! And enjoy the short quote below, which I thought would fit nicely with the last Friday Night Cocktail, I Should Classicoco, as they both have an apricot component.
’Your order?’ I looked at her. Then, ‘two apricot brandies.’ She slid into the booth across from me and she smiled.
–Robert Bloch, Spiderweb