The Engineer Has An Adventure

“Looking back on it,” the Engineer said reflectively, “I realize I that when they told me about the third distillery, I was more or less doomed.”

It actually goes back a couple of years to an occasion when he picked up a magazine at the dentist’s, saw that a craft distillery had opened downtown –according to the article, the first actual distillery in DC since Prohibition — and decided to take a bike ride. When he fetched up at New Columbia Distillers, home of Green Hat Gin,* he asked for the distillery tour and was told to wait; a group would probably show up shortly. He waited. A group showed up. He followed them to a subterranean room lined with casks and found that he had joined a bottling party peopled with friends of the distillery. For an hour he filled bottles from the casks, copied the alcohol percentage onto a tax stamp, and sealed the bottles, departing at last with some of the wares at a ten per cent discount. Since then, as an avid lover of gin and tonics in the summer heat, he’s been careful not to run out. I have never been that big a gin fancier but this stuff is more like an herbal infusion, full of flowery perfumes and not suffocated in raw alcohol aromas and juniper.

So about a week back I got on their Instagram feed, on account Azahar’s friend Chantal Tseng is involved with a literary bar in another part of downtown, and was making concoctions with Green Hat gin (yes, I know this gets a little convoluted), and there was another distillery that they linked to, producing heirloom bourbon about a mile away. The Engineer likes bourbon in the winter. So he got his bike back out and headed for the premises of Jos.A. Magnus.

It was a working day for me and not till it ended did I get a call.

“I just wanted you to know I’m okay,” he said. “I’m at the third distillery. There was another distillery. One-Eight. I’m okay. I ought to be home in about an hour.”

He sounded disturbingly exhilarated. “Can you back up a little bit?” I asked.

“Ummm…. well they had a whole tasting menu at Magnus,” he said, “and after that I was still able to get to Green Hat, but after I tried the new vermouths they have and everything else really, the barman asked if I had been to One Eight. It’s another distillery. We have a distillery district. Seems like. I figured I wouldn’t be back this way in a while. They make gin. And white whiskey. It’s not bad. I should be home in an hour or so.”

I digested this. Quickly. “Are you actually okay to cycle?”

“There’s no law as far as I know against drinking and cycling –”

“I mean are you going to wipe out.”

Chastened, he said, “Well if I’m not sure I’ll take the bike on the Metro.”

Phew. “Just saying,” I pointed out, “I haven’t heard you sound like this since we were at that winery out in Leesburg in oh-eight and my client who was behind the tasting bar set us up three extra wines that weren’t on the menu, and you saw the winery cat up on the fridge and told the whole tasting bar that your mom’s cat used to do that and your mom said it’s warm and vibrates, what more could a girl want.”

(True story. The observation had fallen into one of those spontaneous silences that occurs now and then in a populous room. People edged away from us and I told him he was cut off. We had a long walk around the vineyard after. Nota bene, the Engineer’s mom is a cool babe.)

About an hour and a half later he fetched up with four bottles of liquor in his panniers, self-confessedly still slightly buzzed, having ridden the subway from downtown to the local station.

I made him document the damage while it was still fresh in his mind.

Jos. A. Magnus Distillers:

One half shot apiece vodka and signature bourbon (“$92 a bottle, gorgeous but too rich for my blood”)
A “fig ginger cocktail”
Something with gin, bitters, and a candied orange

New Columbia Distillers:

A quarter-shot apiece of
Spring Gin
“Summer Cup”
White Vermouth
Dry Vermouth
Sweet Vermouth
Navy Strength Gin

One Eight Distillers:

A half shot each of
White Whiskey

2 oz of the #2 whiskey aged in Sherry Casks

… which is the point where he phoned.

Amazingly, he benched his usual the next day, with no sign of damage. I reflected that with German, Czech and Irish ancestry, the man has been genetically selected to metabolize alcohol at the rate of a small incinerator. Still, he does not propose to repeat the performance any time soon.

“I found out later there was a fourth, but all they do is vodka,” he said. “Meh.”

If you follow old Cratinus,a my learned Maecenas, no poems can please long, nor live, which are written by water-drinkers. From the moment Liber enlisted brain-sick poets among his Satyrs and Fauns, the sweet Muses, as a rule, have had a scent of wine about them in the morning. Homer, by his praises of wine, is convicted as a winebibber.b Even Father Ennius never sprang forth to tell of arms save after much drinking.c “To the sober I shall assign the Forum and Libo’s Welld; the stern I shall debar from song.” Ever since I put forth this edict,e poets have never ceased to vie in wine-drinking by night, to reek of it by day.

Horace doesn’t mention engineers, but the liberal arts were, well, more liberally interpreted in his day.


*The Green Hat story is pretty dandy. Seems there was a chap who functioned as the official bootlegger to Congress during Prohibition, importing primo stuff from offshore –no bathtub crap for our legislature — and when he had a shipment in, he would wear a green hat to report to his office in the Cannon Building (oh yes), where Congressional aides would discreetly pick the stuff up. He was busted once and treated gently through Congressional intervention, but the next time his customers let him hang out to dry, and he sang to the Washington Post for sixteen weeks leading up to Election Day, when the hypocritical Dry Congress got the boot and Roosevelt got his Congress, giving us the New Deal, so ain’t that some history???? I salute the New Columbia guys for commemorating the guy.







Gillian went on a road trip.

She’s my client, the one on whose clothes Nickel Catmium likes to roll and perv, and I swear in between massages she never stays put. This time she hauled ass down to North Carolina, in the company of one of her “coveninis,” on account she is a committed and playful Wiccan who does earnest spells on behalf of her friends, in this case, someone tackling the quotidian horror of chemotherapy. They were occupied for the weekend putting up frozen homemade soup and performing hair spells for abundant regrowth as the pre-emptive head-shaving took place.

On the way back through some wide spot in the North Carolina road system, Gillian heard a thonk under her car and a succession of flap-flap-a-dab-a-daps as she rolled on. Pulling over at the nearest sign of intelligent life, she was told that about three miles on there was “a tire place,” where someone could at least get her car up on a lift and discern what had gone amiss, as the obvious conclusions like a blown tire didn’t seem to be responsible.

Substantially close than three miles, she saw a large illuminated sign reading Mechanic on Duty, which on closer inspection fronted a tractor maintenance and repair business. Surmising that anyone there could at least scope out her problem, she pulled over and stuck her head in the door, to be greeted by a purple-faced, white-haired redneck who seemed distinctly well into the late day’s drinking ration.

“Y’all lost your bumper liner here,” he said. “Used to they put these things on with solid clips. Now it’s all cheap plastic shit. See here? All in shreds. I can cut it off and stop the noise, throw it in the trunk so you can show it to who’s-ever does your car work. Bumper’ll rattle a little but no harm. How’s about?” Well that was fine, said Gillian. They stashed the damaged part, and as she was ferreting in her wallet the redneck added “Now, I don’t know if y’all are interested, but we got some of the best shine around here, just pulled off a new batch. Care for a slash?”

Gillian pleaded a weak head and the need to drive, but their new friend was undaunted. “Give you a good price. This ain’t like you read about where drinkin it can kill you, you gotta pull off that first few gallons. Don’t sell that part, it’s about a hunderd thirty proof.”

“Yow, you could put that in the gas tank,” said Gillian.

“Y’all hear that generator out back? Whatcha think that’s runnin’ on?” winked their new friend.

Gillian forced a twenty into his hand, and as they piled into the car, he said “Well if y’all get back through here, you know where to find the good stuff okay? My name’s Buddy.”

“Of course it is,” said Gillian as she got back into the car, and floored it.

Gillian usually brings me the pain relief unguent of the locality when she travels, which is typically far and wide. This time, she came back empty handed. All to the good, I figure.

Klingon Opera (II)

Well, opera with Klingons, anyway. Not just any opera, but Mozart with Klingons. How the hell did I miss this the first time?

Yes, that’s the whole production — a little over two hours of kick-ass singers performing Mozart’s music with English dialogue, Trek-inflected, adapted from the original libretto.

“You find where in the opera you can make ‘live long and prosper’ fit and then you find a place for ‘boldly go where no man has gone before,’” says [Pacific Opera Project artistic director] Shaw, “and you just fill in the in-between with a bunch of rhyming words.”

I’m still trying to make out some of the rhyming words, but you almost don’t have to, when your tenor has finessed the hammy body language of William Shatner and the heroine’s servant is an actual green Orion slave girl. “Captain” Belmonte’s sidekick Pedrillo has pointed ears, a nice touch especially in the drinking scene (we’ll get to that).

Abduction is not as often performed as Don Giovanni, Cosi fan Tutte or Magic Flute, but festooned with the elements Mozart loved to play with: an exotic culture, twinned pairs of lovers, moral ambivalence. Reportedly he had a hand in the libretto, which whiffs of a Masonic  ecumenism: the young women are captured by a lustful Turk, the go-to villain of the period, along with Belmonte’s servant, and somehow they all have to conspire at escape. Slapstick and suspense ensues, and at the end — just as failure and death seem inescapable (think: “Scotty! I need engines now!” “I canna gae any faster, Captain!”) — all is forgiven, all is reprieved – in this case because the big bad Klingon Turk has decided that a show of mercy becomes him more than the exercise of vengeance, turning the tropes of the times on their head. The Masonry of the period was earnest in its assertion that all men are brothers, human, Vulcan and Klingon alike. I mean…

If you aren’t up for two hours of Singspiel right at the moment — I admit I am still skipping around in it — may I recommend 40:00 – 44:00, the drinking bout at 1:14:00 – 1:20:00, or if you have a little more time, 1:45:00 till it’s over or you need to pee or something.




This is just stupid.


poor Lua-Vanessa

The Engineer’s office just moved, so instead of driving halfway around the Capital Beltway to some office park in the asshole of creation, he will be working downtown, near the subway hub. Boy Scout that he is, he asked if I would drop him at the subway the first morning, so that he’d be sure to be on time, after which I gather he plans to figure out the buses. So I poured cold water on my head and off we went.

I get to the nearest station by driving north on the four-lane divided that passes one side of my lot and hanging right at a signal in the middle of the nearby garden apartments. I don’t do it in the mornings, usually. This morning there seemed to be a  ridiculous number of people turning right a block before the signal, into a side street lined with parking bays, meaning people who lived there were trying to get out of their spaces, well, bottom line, bottleneck. I crawled forward inch by inch, riding the brake, until the last blivet in front of me managed to get himself into the side street (I later figured out this was an evasive cut-through used to avoid the traffic signal, because, horrors! How can you ask people to wait at a signal?). I took my foot off the brake and started to roll forward at about sven miles an hour, and

PRANGGGG!!! some random gobshite in a red pickup truck takes a right turn out of the left lane, athwart my bows, across the part of the asphalt I am already rolling into, his passenger-side rear tire hooking my front bumper so that it flies up in front of my eyes and then clatters back into the roadway.

I exit the car, shaking like Hitler in the last scenes of Downfall.

The Engineer gets out of his side.

The other driver gets out.

It is the ninety-three-year-old geezer who lives next door to me, the family who had the Oak of Damocles until I implored them to take it down, the ones that leave nastygrams on cars parked at my curb, yup, THOSE PEOPLE.

What have I done ever to them that these bozos have it in for me?

I don’t drive a lot; I’m a timid driver with bad eyesight and I know my limits. I haven’t been in a real accident — two cars moving, BANG! — since I was on my learner’s permit and an old babe in a beater sedan with four bald tires and a dead dog in the front seat passed me at forty in a 25-MPH zone over a double yellow, just as I was turning left. It was too eerily similar for words. (Yes, a dead dog. It’s a long story.) It just did for me. I tried to dial my auto insurance company while the Engineer called the cops, I got a non-working number message because my hands were shaking too badly to dial the number right, I finally got a robot that I started to scream at and then a live person on whom I melted down, and then the cop showed up, took information, handed the geezer a summons for making an unsafe turn, and loaded my bumper into my hatch.

Fortunately I can still drive her. I mean she goes. I’m not sure about me. No one hurt; that’s pretty big.

“I’m really sorry,” the old geezer kept saying.

“Maybe his family will stage an intervention,” mused the Engineer as we went the rest of the way to the Metro station.

I came home and drank an IPA, I don’t give a fuck what time of day it was. The adjuster is available on Wednesday to look over poor Lua-Vanessa Aspasia Himmelblau. As I understand it, the geezer’s insurance carries the full liability.

I’m going to go lie down now.

Do What Thou Wilt

My gardener, David-Talks-To-Cheese, has been waging a losing war on the voles, who have taken to hollowing out the unripe tomatoes like a posse of snarky rodent pranksters. It is hardly uncommon to have voles around here but for some reason this summer they have gone crazy. I don’t know if they got in an extra breeding cycle or are simply flocking to my yard because the jungle vines are overtaking it and providing shelter. Usually I police these things up but the heat index has been up over a hundred fucking degrees way too many days already this summer. The response to “Do what thou wilt” has been pretty much “wilt.”There are voles; okay, there are voles. Tough titty.

David is persevering though, and he shipped in a gallon container of some sort of vole and chipmunk and mole repellent whose active ingredient — David being relentlessly organic — is castor oil. Maybe it gives the voles the shits, or something.

He and Mrs. David were casting about in the garden rows trying to pursue one of the little bandits, as if they intended to spray him directly, when I came around the corner of the house to fill the birdbath. Just standing there next to the birdbath with the garden hose feels like being under twenty Kleig lights at close quarters. I don’t know how they found the spunk to chase a vole around. Or why.

A little while later I was on my way to the gym and found them packed up to leave; David was toting a couple of cucumbers. “Would you like a cucumber?” he asked. “I got a big one, or would you like the small one?” (You have to imagine his accent, which is right out of Hee Haw.)

I restrained myself from saying I was not a size queen and took the small one, tossing it in my gym bag, which was going to be in a cool room, after all, till I got it home again.

That was yesterday. Today I opened up my bag at the gym. Um.


Further proof that the heat is driving me out of my mind

Please just let this end. If it won’t end — which the Capital Weather Gang says won’t happen till at least Monday — can I have my very own climate change denier to stake out on the lawn? In the direct sun? On top of an ant hill?

Dog days, dog breath. Just trying to hang on.

All Hail Fancy Feast

Not the stripper (and yes, there is a badass plus-size burlesque performer by that name), but the canned cat food. I never thought I’d be saying this, but this comminuted slaughterhouse-sweeping gravy-suspended meat collation is my current Gratefulness Object. See, a client who nursed an old cat through the terminal kidney disease of old age brought me the book she came to depend on, and I frantically opened it to the chapter about CAT WON’T EAT ANYTHING. “Cats who reject everything else,” said the oracle, “will sometimes eat Fancy Feast.”

If you are not a cat person, understand that this is pretty much Burger King or Popeye’s for cats, pulverized and pressed-looking fragments of vaguely animal flesh swimming in gluey sauce. The Engineer ran right out to Shoppers Food Whorehouse on his lunch hour. We put the dish in front of Torvald, who was sitting rather glumly on the bath mat in front of the first floor commode — somehow, that was the new favorite place, a bit inconvenient for clients. He looked at it and looked up at us. The Engineer hugged me. I was sad. The Engineer patted me on the back. The Engineer dug his blunt chunky fingertips into my deltoids and forcibly turned me around, a wildly out-of-character act, and there was Torvald ear deep in the dish of soupy crap.

He’s been eating it ever since, at the rate of about three little cans every day. Another client had a case shipped to him from Amazon; he’s got fans, that one. No more turkey baster. The vertebrae have stopped sticking out like nailheads and he trots and leaps and butts me with his head.

No idea why the vet didn’t know about this.

A day may come when his appetite for everything fails. But it is not this day.