Sunday, March 26, 2023

Boozing on a Budget

We’ve all been there. It's Friday night and you've paid all the bills to prevent becoming homeless, having your power disconnected, and averting a car repossession. But now there's only twenty bucks left and a drink is needed more than ever. Seasoned drinkers will take this budget as a challenge to be overcome, rather than suffering the indignity of a sober weekend. Like anything in life, there is an easy way and a hard way to drink on a budget. Not all spirits under twenty bucks for a fifth or forty for a handle are created equal. This review of bottom-shelf offers evaluate booze on the criteria of price, taste, and the hangover created. As the author of this article does not have enough experience with tequila, rum, or cheap wines, these categories will be omitted. The prices given are based on Michigan state-mandated minimum liquor prices. These prices may be lower in other areas.


Evan Williams Black Label

Classification: Bourbon

MSRP: $15.99 / 750 ml; $31.99 / 1.75 L

Evan Williams is objectively good. Even, arguably, superior to its more expensive competitors Jim Beam white label and Jack Daniels black label; not overly sweet like Jack, or excessively dry like Beam.

It's enjoyable neat, with club soda, or, if you must, with Coca-Cola. In my experience it produces relatively mild hangovers. Strongly recommended to any bourbon enthusiast, regardless of budget.

Famous Grouse Scotch Whiskey

Classification: Blended Scotch Whisky

MSRP: $35.00 / 1.75 L

Famous Grouse is very drinkable and tastes similar to Dewar’s white label. I recommend mixing with club soda as it will not hold up when sipped in a Glencairn glass. The price for a fifth is omitted because I have never seen it being sold in anything smaller than a handle. Relatively mild hangovers are expected. It's definitely a step up from Cutty Sark.

Gordon’s Gin

Classification: London Dry Gin

MSRP: $10.99 / 750 ml; $21.99 / 1.75 L

With over 200 years of history, Gordon’s was a favorite of old pros such as Kingsley Amis and Humphrey Bogart. And with good reason, it is a decent, old fashioned-style gin at a bargain basement price. My recommendation is to enjoy over ice with club soda or tonic and with a slice of lemon or lime. You won’t be getting the trendy, citrus-forward flavors of something like Hendrick’s or Aviation, but it is a matter of taste. If you are a fan of Tanqueray, Beef Eater, or Bombay White Label you will find little to complain about from Gordon’s. Gordon’s gin with club soda and a slice of citrus is summer in a glass. Hangovers are comparatively mild.

Benchmark 8 Bourbon

Classification: Bourbon

MSRP: $10.99/750 ml; $22.99/1.75 L

Benchmark 8 is Buffalo Trace’s economy line bourbon is a true hidden gem. It features a slightly sweet, peppery flavor and produces relatively mild hangovers. In my opinion, it's superior to both Jim and Jack, especially considering it is roughly half the price. Without a doubt, it's far better than Old Crow, Jim Beam’s economy line whiskey. I originally bought it to see how terrible an eleven dollar fifth of Bourbon would be and was very pleasantly surprised. Benchmark 8 is enjoyable neat, with club soda, or with Coca-Cola.

Christian Brother’s

Classification: Brandy

MSRP: $10.99 / 750 ml; $24.99 / 1.75 L

Christian Brother’s Bandy is sweet and fruity flavored and can be enjoyed neat or with club soda. Exceptional for warming up after spending an hour or so shoveling snow. It is also very nice with some decent wine and frozen fruit for Sangria that packs a wallop.

This does rank near the bottom of the true bargain’s list because it can produce brutal hangovers if more than a pint at a time is consumed in one session.

Hamm’s, Miller High Life, Milwaukee’s Best

Classification: Beer

MSRP: $1.50 to $2.00 / 15 oz "tall boy" can; $13.00 to $20.00 / 30 pack

These beers are not bad; they will make you drunk and they each boast a decent flavor without busting the budget. Hangovers are relatively mild unless more than 12 to 15 are consumed in a sitting.

Pro tip: Very nice during summer or when you want to relive your college days. Best enjoyed along with a whiskey of your choice.


Lauder’s Scotch

Classification: Blended Scotch Whisky

MSRP: $8.50 / 750 ml; $17.50/ 1.75 L

Lauder's is cheap and drinkable. Its creamy and smooth finish make it surprisingly easy to drink. Hints of toffee and cereals are the best part of this whisky and is why Lauder’s has slightly more flavor than the blended Canadian and American Whisky that will be discussed below. Expect relatively mild hangovers. It is best enjoyed with either water or club soda as it will not hold up when consumed neat. One unique feature is that it smells exactly like a pencil eraser that has been dipped in caramel and biscuits.

Sobieski Vodka

Classification: Polish Vodka

MSRP: $10.99 / 750 ml; $19.99 /1.75 L

Sobieski is enjoyable with club soda and citrus, or in a cheap fruit punch. Unlike Popov or cheaper vodka, it doesn’t have to be stored in the freezer to be drinkable. It produces relatively mild hangovers.

Unless you prefer vodka to gin, I would recommend Gordon’s instead.

Old Crow Bourbon

Classification: Bourbon

MSRP: $10.00 / 740 ml; $21.96 / 1.75 L

Old Crow is passable, but it’s pretty bland. Best consumed with club soda or with Coca-Cola.

Although Old Crow isn’t terrible, it’s only worth buying if the far superior Benchmark 8 is unavailable.

Mickey’s Ice, Milwaukee’s Best Ice, Natural Ice

Classification: Malt Liquor

MSRP: $1.50 to $2.00 / 16 oz "tall boy" can; $3.00 to $4.00 / 40 oz

Malt liquor tends to hit harder than its ABV would indicate. The flavor is often not bad, I enjoy Milwaukee’s Best Ice more than regular Milwaukee’s Best. These rank slightly lower than economy beer because of the often-brutal hangovers that are part and parcel of the experience if more than a few tall boys are consumed in one sitting.

McMaster’s, Black Velvet, and Kessler

Classification: Blended Whiskey

MSRP: $8.00 - $10.00 / 750 ml; $15.00 - $20.00 / 1.75 L

All of these are inoffensive and bland. They don’t leave behind severe hangovers unless more than a pint is consumed in one sitting. They will all do the trick when your goal is to get drunk without inflicting too much pain.

Best enjoyed with club soda or in a boilermaker.

Popov Vodka

Classification: Vodka

MSRP: $8.00 / 750 ml; $15.00 / 1.75 L

The flavor of Popov is tolerable when mixed with club soda and citrus of some sort and best enjoyed in a punch and stored in the freezer. It ranks higher than other economy vodkas because there is less of a methanol flavor and the hangovers are not as severe. Make no mistake though, if consumed in any significant quantity there will be a price to pay in the morning.


Steel Reserve

Classification: Malt Liquor

Price - $1.50 - $3.00 / 16 0z "tall boy" can; $3.00 - $4.50 / 40 oz

This very low-quality malt liquor is often tolerable but will leave the feeling of a mariachi band playing in your head the next morning. Yes, Steel Reserve produces BRUTAL hangovers and is best left to the homeless.

As my little brother once said, Steel Reserve is “the relationship ender beer.”

American Style Schnapps and Other Sugary Liqueurs

Classification(s): Liqueurs, Schnapps, Flavored Whiskey

MSRP: $8.00 -$15.00 / 750 ml; $15.00 - $30.00 / 1.75 L

I include, in this review, Dr. McGillicuddy’s, Dekuyper’s, Southern Comfort, Fireball, and Goldschlager.

While these drinks often pack a punch, they are best left to college students. The high sugar content of these liqueurs produces truly terrible hangovers, regardless of the age and experience of the drinker.

Crystal Palace, Kamchatka, Five O’clock, Aristocrat

Classification(s): Vodka and Gin

MSRP: $5.00 / 750 ml; $11.00 / 1.75 L

The worst of all worlds. These beverages are nothing more than flavored methanol.

Crystal Palace has a distinct flavor which can only be described as resembling what would happen if you sucked on a handful of gravel through an isopropyl-soaked gym sock.

Kamchatka, also known as "Shitty K," tastes exactly the way Clorox Disinfecting Wipes smell.

Are you a masochist? Do you love to punish yourself? Do you enjoy consuming tongue-gnashingly harsh and belly-churningly caustic chemicals? Then Five O'clock Vodka is for you!

Aristocrat has a melted plastic-like taste. Specifically, if you have ever attempted to make a grilled cheese sandwich (most likely after a night of heavy drinking) and forgot to remove the plastic wrapper from the Kraft American Cheese single slice, that's it!

All of these are generally only palatable when stored in the freezer and mixed in a punch. In my experience, these liquors have hallucinogenic qualities, and not in a good way. Drinking any significant amount of these types of liquor produces multi-day hangovers. They may well have been the inspiration for Kingsley Amis’s essay on the hangoveras he was not above using supermarket vodka in punches. Consuming well vodka is an excellent way for you and all your friends and acquaintances to discover the contents of your unconscious mind.

These are best left alone unless trying to avoid hypothermia on a cold winter’s night.

Pro Tip: Prepare a gallon of fruit flavored crystal light fruit punch or Kool-Aid to use as mixer.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day

Earl woke up from too much green beer the night before. His head hurt like a goddamn jackhammer was breaking bricks against his skull, but it was nothing compared to the pain in his groin. He tossed the covers aside and looked towards his pride and joy. He'd even named it. Willie.

"What the fuck?" He jumped up and went to the john, the pounding in his head momentarily forgotten. He pulled out his wife's mirror, rushed back to the bed, hoping she hadn't heard him, and examined the gruesome details.

"Holy Mother of Christ!" There, just above Willie, was a huge tattoo. Not just any tattoo, but one with all the colors of the rainbow. A "Lucky Charms" horror of marshmallow hearts, pots of gold, orange stars and emerald clovers danced like diamonds off a man-in-the-moon design. At the bottom of the hideous spectacle sat a pink poodle with a periwinkle butterfly sitting on its nose. To make matters worse, his private parts had been shaved.

He thought back to the night before. His wife Mary took her crockpot of corned beef and cabbage and went over to Agnes' house to play bunco. He headed to Kelly's Irish Pub for his yearly night of being Irish. The cheap beer had flown freely, while the girls led with their sisters, mashing his face between thick cushions of mammary goodness. At least that's how he thought about it, while subconsciously raising one hand to his cheek to soothe a phantom slap.

"You awake, Earl?"

He heard Mary scurry down the hall towards the bedroom, so he quickly covered himself. No sense adding to his problems until he could think of a good story.

He looked at her sheepishly, while she provided a glass of tomato juice. "Here. Drink this." She plumped his pillows while he drank his cure.

"What's that in your ear?" He didn't really care, but he thought if he acted interested, it might soften the blow once she saw that Willie was sharing space with "My Little Pony."

"Earbuds. It's the latest thing. I listen to music while I'm on the treadmill. You should try it sometime." She wiped her brow, apparently for emphasis because he didn't see any sweat or what Mary called glistening perspiration.

"I didn't even know you liked music."

"There's a lot you'll never understand about me. Today, for example, I'm listening to a "Heart" song. Dog and Butterfly." She turned and headed towards the door.

No. She wouldn't do that.

She stopped at the door and turned around, a smile on her face so bright, it could light the way out of a mining tunnel. "Don't worry, dear, it's a temporary tattoo."

"You did this? Why?" He scratched his head.

"Agnes got a call from her niece, Megan, while we were playing bunco. She's a new waitress at Kelly's. Apparently, you were behaving so poorly that the bartender slipped a mickey in your beer to calm the situation. I asked if someone could drive you home."

"That doesn't explain this." He threw the covers down and exposed the colorful display jiggling across his underbelly.

"You need to go on a diet, Earl, and a few push-ups wouldn't hurt, either. Don't think that just because I said so little all these years, it went unnoticed. You've really let yourself go, and the girls were furious with the way you treated them. Megan mentioned your breath reeked like a dragon."

He was still lost in hangover stupor and shocked to hear mousy Mary talk like this, but he did wonder how that young tart Megan knew how a dragon smelled.

"She's one of those new age types, so she sent you home with a package of fake tattoos and told me over the phone how to apply them. She said to make sure the area was nice and clean, so once the men got you settled in bed, I carefully scrubbed and waxed. Maybe I rubbed a wee bit too hard."

He pulled the covers up and winced in pain, wondering what he'd see underneath that infernal disaster once he peeled it off. He hoped the red tear drops dripping down the side of the Bird of Paradise was only part of the design and not raw skin. He wondered if he'd gone too far this time. His Mary seemed on the verge of--

"Oh, and Earl. You ever pull that shit again, instead of temporarily tattooing leprechauns and fairies across your crotch, I'll have a masterpiece of your willie permanently etched across your forehead."

As she left the room, he heard her murmur under her breath, "Dickhead."

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Friends, Lovers, and Wailing

Book publishers and the reading public have an insatiable appetite for celebrity memoirs, even more so if it's a story of addiction and recovery. (Addiction/recovery stories are so popular you don't even have to be a celebrity to have publishers falling all over you, see David Carr, Night of the Gun.) Get an irresistibly handsome actor, or a former actor who had the lead on a number 1 television series, or a former actor was the lead in a number one movie to tell his tale of woe and strife and you've got a book guaranteed to fly off the shelves. Get a former actor who is all three of the above and you've got Matthew Perry's book, dominating the bestseller lists for weeks on end now.

* * *

Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing is Matthew Perry's life story of acting, boozing, doping, and partying. By now, celebrity memoirs of addiction and recovery have almost become boilerplate, but Perry gives us a few unique previously unknown tidbits about his acting career (he made out in a closet on set with Gwyneth Paltrow and he has an inexplicable loathing for Keanu Reeves). In case you aren't able to guess, the "Big Terrible Thing" is alcohol. Perry emphatically states in the prologue "I didn't write all this so anyone will feel sorry for me," and that's not even the biggest line of bullshit in the book. It gets bigger, much bigger. Perhaps a bit of narcissism is helpful in being a performance artist—Perry's got it in spades.

Perry grew up in a well-to-do family in Ottawa, his mother was a press secretary for then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. (Perry claims to have beaten up future Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at school one day.) His parents split when he was young, and he was shuttled back and forth on airlines between his mother in Ottawa and his father in Los Angeles. And it was in Los Angeles where he says he learned how to drink—from his father who drank six vodka tonics each night after work. Perry explicitly states that he does not blame his father for making him an alcoholic, but he recalls with horror at how his father would say "This is the best thing that's happened to me all day," when he mixed his first drink, as if it were a childhood trauma because the words were uttered as they sat next to each other on a couch. He says it's no accident that his drink of choice became a double vodka tonic.

Although Perry has been to over 6000 AA meetings in his life, his first stint in rehab wasn't for booze. An addiction to 55 Vicodin caplets a day sent him to his first rehab at age 26. It became national news when he checked into Hazelden rehabilitation center in Minnesota and he complained "I was not granted the opportunity to work out my problems in privacy... I didn't even get the anonymity everyone else got." It's hard to believe he craved anonymity even then, his entire life has been devoted to getting attention, and in fact that's often one of the reasons people head off to rehab in the first place—to talk endlessly about themselves and their trauma. His plaint here is simply to evoke pity in the reader, to add misery to his sob story.

After leaving that first rehab, Perry, of course, continued using Vicodin and eventually developed a bowel perforation (or as he puts it for dramatic effect, "my colon exploded."). While hospitalized he was put on an ECMO (Extracoporeal Membrane Oxygenation) machine after he vomited into his ventilator tube. It was a last ditch effort by the doctors to save his life and Perry, in fact, claims that he is the only person to ever come back from a perforated bowel, aspiration pneumonia, and an ECMO machine. (There were no footnotes with any references to back up his claim, we'll just have to take his word for it.)

Early on, Perry tells us he could never get enough attention. As a child, he even lectured his own mother about not giving him enough attention. Later, of course, this became the driving force for his desire for fame, saying, "I figured being famous would fill the great hole that was endlessly growing inside of me. But being prefamous, it was a whole I filled with alcohol." Perry says he was afraid to be alone, but then contradicts himself by telling us how he drank alone in his home, watching his favorite movies on repeat, lighting candles after a breakup with a girlfriend. One might suspect that he is adding in these solo drinking episodes for heart-rending dramatic effect—attention seekers like Perry can not stand to be alone with themselves for any amount of time.

One of the reasons (and there are many) that AA is so ineffective is the foundation of dishonesty upon which it is built. In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, Perry came across this quote: "Drinkers think they are trying to escape, but really they are trying to overcome a mental disorder they didn't know they had." He called it a eureka moment, in actuality it's nothing but pseudo-profound malarkey. The real reason for this rehab/relapse merry-go-round is the need these people have for attention (not just Perry, but nearly all rehab addicts); their talk nearly becoming a competitive event as they attempt to best each other with tales over who has endured the most trauma. Trying to overcome a mental disorder is not why people drink, they drink because the enjoy the feeling of inebriation.

People of wealth and fame are just as deserving of sympathy and compassion as anyone else, but not if that rich and famous person is a self-entitled little brat. While Perry formed a few close relationships during all of his therapy, AA, rehabilitation, etc., he treated many of the doctors, nurses and staff with utter contempt. He referred to one nurse at a sober living home as NURSE FUCKFACE, demanded an ER doctor pump his stomach when in fact he had pancreatitis, demanded money back from a business partner when the business failed (yes, he started a sober living house called Perry House that had to close). He forced the staff at a hospital to restart the admittance process on him, a process that took hours, because he wanted to have a cigarette which was against hospital rules. So he checked out, had a smoke, then demanded to be checked back in. In a fit of pettiness he sent a copy of People magazine that featured him on the cover to a teacher who had once disciplined him as a child. He calls rehab facilities prisons, but continuously asks to be allowed in. Perry even had the audacity to consider suing rehabilitation facilities for treating him with drugs, but changed his mind because it would divert more attention to the situation and bring in even more addicts. Shooting had to be shut down for the movie Saving Sara and everyone laid off because he wanted to have another stay in a rehab center. (They sued his ass for that one and he had to pay $650K.) Perry went ape shit on the staff in a New York residential treatment center when they kicked him out—for smuggling drugs in. Even his dentist was a target of his wrath, telling him, "Fuck off, you piece of nothing fuck. Fuck asshole loser fucking fuck face."

Matthew Perry spent about $7 million dollars trying to get sober. It wasn't until he landed at a bucolic residential treatment center in Utah when a counselor finally gave him the cold, hard truth: "You like the drama and chaos of your addiction problem." That's in fact true for a lot of rehab addicts, maybe even most. How much better they and everyone else would be if they would just find a less childish way of indulging their need for drama and chaos.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Recalling Dad on his Birthday, a Son's Recollection

While approaching what would’ve been my father’s 99th birthday, something I heard today triggered this memory. I moved from the East Coast to Los Angeles over two decades ago, but a word from my past came up while on my way to work.

The word was “Bohacks.”

For those not of my ripening age or not from New York, Bohacks was a chain of grocery stores that dotted the city and stretched across the counties of Long Island. It represented the first serious challenge to the grocery supremacy of A&P and was the go-to market for my family from the time I was in fifth grade until I left to join the Navy when I was 18.

What is the connection between a now-defunct market and my now-deceased father? Funny you should ask.

Being on the then-cutting edge of food suppliers, Bohacks not only had its own brand of beer, which ran about a dime a can, but it also ventured into the low-calorie market in about 1967 when it featured a new line that promised to deliver full bodied taste with a lowered caloric content—for the health-conscious drinker I assume.

That beer was Gablingers Diet Beer, and it came packaged in a manure-tinted can displaying a black-and-white illustration of its “founder” although I cannot attest to that.

My dad, ever ready to cut down on calories as long as it meant he could down a brew or two, was one of the first customers for this groundbreaking refreshment. He made a special trip to Bohacks, returning with a six pack of this latest concoction. After the ritual of chilling a can down to optimal temperature, he settled into his favorite armchair, all set to become a light beer pioneer.

The adventure didn’t last long. After attempting to choke down half of the can, he finally admitted defeat and poured the rest down the drain, swearing it was the worst beverage he’d ever had and noting how the label claimed that it “doesn’t fill you up.”

“Damn right,” he spat. “You can’t finish the damned thing.”

He never tried that experiment again. But, for some reason, left the rest of that six-pack sitting in the hallway of our basement. The prodigal son returned to his preferred beer, Schaefer.

He never spoke of the incident again.

Some thirty years later, my parents retired, sold our house, and relocated to Virginia.

Still, every now and then (this day for instance) I picture the new owners, having taken possession of my childhood home, cleaning things up and redecorating to their particular tastes.

I imagine that at some point they were puzzled after coming across a set of oxidized cans—probably barely readable due to the crusty patina of rust covering them—still sitting somewhere near the short set of steps leading out of the cellar and into the backyard.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

New Bartender

those skimpy clothes do nothing for you

your out-of-shape mid section oozes over the top of your pants

you crave the attention of men

but you creep me out

were you a hot little number at some point?

it’s hard to imagine

with your nightmarishly ratty, badly dyed hair

and your methadone dentil work

and your stupid butterfly tattoo over your left tit

and your insistence on calling me “hun”

fill my glass and leave me the fuck alone

or let me smoke inside the bar

or let me start a fire on the pool table

or let me throw a full bottle of cutty sark against the mirror behind the bar

or let me shit in the microwave

these are your choices

Wednesday, February 8, 2023


Fearing the dregs,

The bottom of

The bottle

I head out to

The nearest store

With the biggest

Selection of


Even the cheap

Stuff is better

Than the clank

Of an empty.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Fairy, Part VII

The key is to not give up on life, only on your attempts to control it.

This is one thing I have learned to be true.

There’s a certain wisdom acquired when one learns to surrender. The acceptance of the hand fate’s dealt breeds humility.

Control is a raging, frothing animal with serrated jaws and a very short tail to hold it by. It is always hungry and frequently needs to be fed. So one can never truly have control; you’re just holding it for the moment, until its stomach growls and it feels the need for satiation.

Standing on that busy street, under smog choked stars and amidst the hustle and bustle of city life, I knew there were still people who felt compelled to grab that tiger by the tail and hold on, despite the most certain death that awaited them when that beast became determined to swallow them whole.

My wife, for example, took it especially hard when the doctor mouthed the words “prostate” and “inoperable.” Earlier that year, I was given a certain amount of time left and she didn’t handle it well. Life doesn’t work like in the movies. Strong people can quickly become weak, and those who once promised you forever can be traumatized into reconsideration.

My cancer chased my wife into hiding and the week before my Happy Hour was the last time I saw her. She would eventually move out, promising to still be there for me if I needed.

I miss my wife, but that was the moment she had given up and died. Ironically, it was at that moment that I made the decision to not.

There were things I still had to do, places I still wanted to go, people I had still wanted to meet, in bars and restaurants, drinking high-priced liquor discussing topics long-thought important, only to find that they’re actually as superficial, flat and vapid as anyone else.  That night, all at once, I felt disgusting, and treacherous, and victorious and free; free of inhibitions, reluctance and regret.  I was free of death, free of fear, free from the fear of fear — free from the perpetual drag of a biting and clawing control.

I imagine Samirah made it home safely. I never found out, but I hope that night brought her to similar conclusions. I like to imagine she went home and took control back from whoever gave her those bruises. I imagine she never again permed her hair.

None of the guys from that night spoke to me again. I don’t think it had anything to do with me skipping out on the bill, I honestly think they all just forgot I was ever there.

And that’s okay.

Truth be told, I had long tired of fighting that beast. So fuck him. Let him run his way, I’ll go mine. There’s plenty of room in this damned world for the both of us. And if we should ever again cross paths and I get him in my clutches, I’ll be much more respectful.

Until then and for the time being, I’ll be happy to simply buzz about, unrestrained and unyoked, traveling through the crowded night air among the hapless nymphs and wood sprites, wherever the passing winds take us for as long as this life allows.



< part VI

< part V

< part IV

< part III

< part II

< part I

Fairy, Part VI

The best time to find out how a woman truly feels about you is after sex.

It’s in their eyes.

When she’s realized she’s made a mistake, her entire demeanor will change. The mission switches immediately to one of salvage; search and rescue. It’s almost comical. One minute they’re clawing at your back desperately, dripping down your inner thigh. The next, they’re looking around behind the toilet bowl for their missing underwear, all the while pretending they don’t notice you staring at their naked body.

She didn’t look at me, not once.

Instead, she gathered her clothing and put each article on in slow motion, or at least it seemed. I guess the vindication she had been seeking was less than satisfactory. With the adrenaline and lust wearing off, I noticed that her brown skin was leopard-spotted with several faded bruises, along her back and thighs. They were mostly old, but a few looked new.

For my part I pulled up my pants and got myself together, never taking my eyes off her. When she was done, she stepped close to me. And with her eyes low, she whispered, “Tell me I look beautiful to you.”

“You’re beautiful.”

“And my hair? Is it…I mean…”

“You’re hair’s fine…you’re fine.” Her shoulders slumped with relief.

“I don’t know what you’ve been told, or who convinced you, about…you. But you are beautiful. From the moment I saw you, I. … I thought you were like this cool electric. … Y’know? All fire and ice.”

She laughed, dropping her head to hide tears, “Y’know, you are a lot smarter when you’re not talking?”

She placed her hand over my mouth and kissed it, “I hope you find what you’re looking for, bay’.” And with that, she gently moved me aside, unlocked and walked out the bathroom door. That was the last time I would see her.

Outside there was a sizeable line of agitated and drunk women, waiting to use the restroom. They didn’t seem too happy to see me.

“You fixin’ the toilet? Don’t tell me it’s broken?” One of them yelled as loud as she could while drunkenly clutching the front of her skirt and doing the potty dance.  I shimmied past her, mumbling apologies to the crowd while elbowing my way to the front. I was hoping to get to the front in time to catch Samirah.

But, by the time I did, she was long gone; evaporated into the night like a will-o’-the-wisp. I stepped outside into the noise, movement, and smells of fried food. Behind me, the band was winding down. They weren’t rocking anymore. Instead, they’d slowed to a soulful, rhythm and blues resignation. It was as if they could see the night’s end coming, and decided not to fight it, but rather slowly wave it in.


part VII >


< part V

< part IV

< part III

< part II

< part I

Fairy, Part V

I don’t know why I decided to go into the bathroom with her.

Surely I knew what she wanted. Still I followed her toward the back of the club and its indigo hallway.

We stumbled our way to the men’s room, but it was locked. So we went for the woman’s. Samirah reached for it just as it flung open. A dark stumpy woman, adjusting her skirt looked at us with sleepy eyes and frazzled hair.

“S’cuse me,” she mumbled, side stepping the both of us. We watched her hobble by, melting into the ocean of people packed into the cramped arrangements of the club.

Samirah took the lead. She poked her head in, making certain it was empty and then pulled me inside. She locked the door behind us and shoved me against it.

The bathroom was fitted with one toilet and one sink, which was situated underneath a dirty mirror. A fluorescent light droned unsteadily overhead, dimly bathing everything in a flickering sea of opal green. Also, it buzzed loudly, no small feat as the sounds of funk spilled through every crevice in the walls, ceilings and floorboards. Orpheus began playing “Try Me” and everything slowed to a hip-hugging crawl.

We stood nose to nose, against the locked door, staring into each other. It felt like forever before I gathered the nerve, leaned forward in a rush and kissed her. Her mouth tasted sweet and felt cool. She grabbed the back of my head and pulled me closer and warmth flowed from her open mouth.

We moved frantically now, grabbing at one another, pulling at buttons and zippers. I swung her around, forcing her back to the door and lifting her up into my arms. She wrapped her legs around me.

My shirt flew open and she began kissing my neck, almost biting. I felt the sharpness of her teeth married by her tongue’s wetness. My fingers slipped under her dress and began tracing the waistband of her stockings.

“Do it,” she whispered harshly in my ear as music wailed through the walls. I dipped a finger under the nylon and felt the warm give of skin. She lowered one leg, “take them off.” I pulled off the stockings, followed by her underwear.

I traced the moist outlines between her legs. She threw her head back each time, mouth open and gasping. Our breathing was heavy, rhythmic and synchronized. She fumbled with my belt until she finally dropped my pants to the floor. I lifted her again and lowered her onto me.

There was an explosion in the back of my head that sent tremors racing down my spine. My eyes clenched tight and air rushed into my lungs, before vacating in a loud, unexpected yell. I felt her eyes on me – she was enjoying the control.

She pulled close, clenched tighter with her legs and whispered, “…it feels good, right? Tell me I feel good.”

I gave in to her rolling body and answered dumbly in single words. But still she asked, despite her shivers following each undulation. “You don’t want me to stop, do you? You want me to keep going, right? Just tell me I feel good…”

I felt her digging into my brain. It did feel good. Wrapped up in her thighs, with the walls vibrating long dead soul and swimming in an ocean current of electric green, I had taken a chance and let go, relinquished and released.


part VI >


< part IV

< part III

< part II

< part I

Fairy, Part IV

The bouncer who was checking I.D.s, without a word, waived us in.

I guess we looked old. I followed Samirah into the club – a small row-house sized bar on the fringes of the strip. It was packed tight with a mostly older crowd and there was no entry fee. The live band was playing 70’s soul and the air pulsated with a bottom-driven heartbeat.

We were relieved to find at least one spot on U Street that still catered to the soulful generations that helped create it.

The band’s bass player was entirely in control. He was an eccentric looking fellow in a cowboy hat. His leather jeans looked to sap all air from his body, his Fender Jazz Bass was his life support.

He was connected to the groove, as if by umbilical. The others were tethered to him, unable to move or escape. There was something both sexy and predatory about it. Whether they wanted to or not, they had all agreed in some unspoken way that they would go to the bottom with him. And he reveled in this power.

“We got that funk for y’all tonight! Y’all ready for that funk?!” The band leader screamed into a microphone that was unnecessary given the cramped conditions. Inside the club was simple. The front of the club doubled as the stage, the players faced the audience, while their backs were to the front of the building and the windows behind them, which were at least two feet above, allowed people on the street to look down and see them work.

Beyond that, tables were set up along one side of the thin room. The bar was on the other, leaving about three feet of space between for people to stand or wait for a drink: this area was shoulder-to-shoulder packed.

In the back of the club was a dark corridor that led to the restrooms. Drunken patrons stumbled back and forth, mostly one at a time, with their flies undone and skirts tucked into their stockings.

Yes, this was a slice of the muddy decadence. Here, the funk lived, tenuously kept alive by the electronic pulse of an automated external defibrillator, hanging by a strap, over the shoulder of a feral bass player.

The band launched into a rendition of James Brown’s, “I Got That Feeling,” which gyrated into an Earth Wind and Fire set.

I maneuvered myself to the bar and ordered two drinks. Samirah asked for a Melon Ball, and for whatever reason I asked for absinthe. The woman behind the bar looked at me like I had just been caught drowning kittens. She took a bottle of something labeled absinthe that looked colored and flavored and poured me a shot, then went on making her regular two-ingredient cocktails.

I paid and Samirah and I pushed our way into the back of the club, away from the rhythm and ruckus into the shadowy hall.

“What’s the deal with your wife?” She asked as if the topic was an elephant, she had grown sick of feeding. “You seem like a nice guy, despite what I may have said earlier.” She sipped her drink, avoiding my eye directly.

“Like I said,” I sipped. “There’s been a sickness in our family. Someone close to her, to the both of us, is sick. I’ve been down lately, so I decided to take a break from worrying. My wife’s a homebody and I’m not, so...”

“No, you said that already. I’m sure you’re lying, but whatever.” She leaned in close, so as not to compete with the music, “Let me rephrase, why are you here…with me?”

The question shocked me. Not because she asked, I’m sure most women would. It shocked me because all night I’d been consumed with the mystery of why she was with me. I had never thought to ask myself why I was apparently perfectly fine to ruin every relationship in my life, whether personal or business, for the company of a strange, possibly insane, woman.

I didn’t have an answer, “I thought you just wanted to get away and forget about what’s-his-face. Why do you care all of a sudden?”

Her face was silhouetted by dancing shadows, but I could see her frown, “I do want to forget about Lawrence, but I also want to know what I’m getting into…and why? I just don’t buy these excuses you’re giving. There’s something more.

“So, what is it? Let me guess. She doesn’t respect you as a man. Or maybe she emasculated you in public once? Hmmmmm…That’s it, isn’t it? … She hurt your little male ego somehow. Didn’t she? What is this, ‘get back’?”

“Do I look like the type of guy that cares about a ‘power position’?”

“All men want power. It’s why your boys back at the restaurant wake up every morning. It’s why they liquor themselves up and slave through mindless, corporate busy work every day. And it’s why you played tag along for their night out tonight; even though you didn’t fit in. You’re just like every other man.

“You want to take over the world. You want power. Admit it.”

We were nose to nose. I could smell the fruit scented alcohol on her lips.

“You,” I began, breathing deep as I spoke. “You are a very bitter woman.”

“I’m not bitter,” she quietly reassured. “I just want to know why a guy, a married guy, would choose to risk so much over someone so unimportant”

“You know what I want? I don’t want to die who I am now. I hate who I am now.”

I said it loudly and with a frustrated, almost angry conviction that surprised us both.

“I hate who I’ve allowed myself to be. … I’m despicable. I’ve allowed life to creep up on me, run me over and then pass me. I didn’t even look up when it happened; I didn’t even notice. I was too busy with my head in the damn ground, trying to drag myself along with everyone else that I didn’t realize everyone else is going straight to shit. Everything is going straight to shit. I was just following along because I thought that’s what I should want out of life and…I hate that now, because for a while…it was what I wanted.

“Do you know I fucking begged those fuckers to invite me out tonight? I begged them. Every day for a week, I begged them until they caved. I was so sure that they were who I was supposed to be, I didn’t even take the time to notice who they actually were. Chris beats his wife…regularly. Everyone knows. And then there’s Silas…he does coke. Like a lot of coke. He’s ruined every relationship he’s ever been in but he’s successful and fuck me, I wanted to be just like him. I don’t even know their fucking last names.”

The club was loud. No one heard us, and things were still rowdy enough that I questioned whether Samirah had heard anything I’d said. Her reactions said she got the point. She walked up to me and placed her forehead to my chest. I took a deep breath and enjoyed the feeling of her weight against me.

We leaned against a wall, letting the human traffic move back and forth to the bathroom. We began the evening standing about an arm’s length away from each other. Throughout the night, we had moved closer until she was now at a distance where her breath still felt warm even after traveling across space, from her lips to mine. I nestled my face into the small of her neck where I could smell her.