BIT Blog

Tequila and the Big Guy

When I was about to turn 40, I was struck with a Great Certainty……..namely, that I needed to drag about six of my best friends down to a beach in Mexico and carry on as if we were all not nearly so long in the tooth as we were.  Oddly enough, given their kids, jobs and various other commitments, I was able to get five amigos on board and a date was selected to fly down to Cancun and end up at a small German beach-side resort just south of the little town of Playa del Carmen.  

Here we are in the Austin airport bar on the way down:

Sidebar:There is so much of this tale that I simply can’t relate in this forum, due not only to space but also decorum constraints, but one episode stands out in my mind to this day.  It has a real David vs. Goliath aspect to it, and many of us are after all hard-wired to root for the little guy.

But first, a short prelude:  

When I set up the trip, one stipulation that I was very serious about in talking to the guys (one in particular…..let’s call him Rosencrantz, whom you may remember from my previous “Lonely Hats of Doom” blog) was that there was to be NO dice games that involved penalty drinking.  I felt, quite reasonably, that we had all put in sufficient time with that activity in our 20s and that it would not only be unduly damaging to the corpus to revisit it in our 40s but would also look pretty damn questionable to those around us (at the time, I didn’t know that “those around us” would consist entirely of newlyweds and large 90-year-old Canadian women wearing thongs, but more on that later).  No dice were to be brought.

Spread across four cities, all agreed via e-mail to this condition.  1.5 of them were lying through their proverbial teeth, as it turns out.

Finally, the day came.  We were seated in groups of twos, scattered across the small-ish charter plane as we winged our way over the Gulf of Mexico.  We’d only had a couple of preparatory beers in the Austin airport, and so reason and propriety still prevailed.  Until…….

Somewhere very far from land, I started to hear a commotion toward the front of the plane.  Now, if any of you have every flown on one of these package deal, all-inclusive charter flights down to a Mexican beach resort, you can attest to the fact that the flight down is MUCH more festive and raucous than the flight back.  Much.  So when I first heard the surge in the already-substantial hubbub of merriment and good feeling, I didn’t consciously register any concern.  But then, certain elements of the soundscape coming from up the aisle triggered deep sense-memories in the hindquarters of my brain.  I began to feel signs of stress and queasiness that were not there a moment before.  

Listening harder, I realized what I was hearing.  Over the general anticipatory conversations and ancillary drinking going on all over the plane, I could distinctly hear the sound of a dice cup being slammed onto a flat surface, followed by spirited crowd reactions.  

I had heard these sounds before.  Hell, I had MADE these sounds before, a couple of decades back.  On numerous occasions.  And it was then that I knew, without even having gotten out of my seat,that The Covenant had been broken and that dice had indeed been brought on the trip.  And not only that……they had already been broken out and put to their insidious use.

With a fatalistic flash, I saw how the entire tenor of this trip was going to change from the relaxing, not-too-punishing party on the beach with my friends into a retrograde  revisiting of our, shall we say, “hard-charging” youth.  But hell, it was literally my 40th birthday that fateful day in July, and so I ventured up the aisle to see what was going on. 

Immediately I could see that many passengers had left their seats and crowded around one row near the front of the plane.  I didn’t need to see past the crowd to know who was at the center of it all.  If anyone was going to break the dice prohibition, it was Rosencrantz.  And if it wasn’t done in active collusion with Holmes (we’ll call him…..), I was at least damn sure that he raised no objections to it.  And sure enough, the two of them were playing a bold, two man version of the infamous dice game on a seat tray.

A short digression about the dice game:  while it has many regional variations, the essentials of these games are the same—in that two dice are rolled under a cup onto a table, and the roller has to beat or tie the roll that came before.  If you think a person is lying about a roll made to you, you pick the cup straight up.  If you are going to believe the roll, you tilt the cup and retrieve the dice (or, if you’re an experienced player with great panache, you don’t look at the dice at all), following which you now have to beat that roll whether the person had it or not.  If you get caught lying, you drink.  If you call someone a liar who was not in fact lying, you drink.  As played by this cabal of guys, the drinks were measured……no honor system based on sips.   And if the roll in question is a 21(a 2 and a 1), then the penalty is a large shot of tequila (if a beer bong is not available, which it was not on the airplane as even Rosencrantz couldn’t sneak one of those into a carry-on).   And of course the usual “off the table” penalties apply if someone loses control of the dice.

Anyone who has played this game knows that a two-man version of it is quite brutal, in that it would take one hell of a lucky streak to avoid getting quickly sauced.  And anyone who has played this game with Rosencrantz knows what an inveterate cheater his is, having an astonishing ability to slip a pinky under the cup and alter the dice while distracting the other player(s) with crafty talk.  Holmes, of course, had played this game with his row-mate many times over the years and knew very well how intent he was on cheating almost continually, and so he kept his eyes locked on the other man’s pinkies.  

And so this two-man dice game was a heavyweight bout between two very wily veterans, and was being vigorously played as such.  There was a great deal of gamesmanship (gratuitous lying, etc.) in evidence, as had always been the case in our particular cabal.  And this style of play had attracted a large crowd of people who seemed to have gotten very emotionally involved in the various triumphs, tragedies and controversies of the game.  By the time I got up there and leaned down to curse Rosencrantz for breaking the agreement and bringing dice, he merely responded that “We’ve already floated the plane of all its beer, and now we’re playing for tequila……with a 21, you have to do a shot of scotch.”  Dead soldier little airplane bottles were piled up faster than the flight attendants (some of whom were in the cheering crowd) could clear them.

I watched a few rounds of the game until it came to an end because: a) we were getting ready to land soon; and b) the plane was now also out of tequila, and the players didn’t have the stomach to play entirely with scotch.

When we landed in Mexico, got our bags and found our shuttle van, the driver was induced by Aggie (let’s call him…..) to stop outside of Cancun and buy a 12-pack of beer at a small tienda next to one of the numerous (largely unmanned) machine gun posts that dotted the highway as it shot straight through the jungle.  And so the game continued in the back of the van, played on the lid of a Styrofoam cooler that was purchased along with the beer.  A koozie was used in lieu of a plastic cup.  

But anyway, this was not the part of the story I wanted to tell you.  What I wanted to tell you was THIS:

Our nice little German resort, which was made up of a series of two-story fourplexes that never rose above the level of the palm trees, was completely full of newlyweds on their honeymoons.  The only exception to this (until the last night of the trip, which is outside the scope of this telling) was the group of 250 lb. (or should I say 113.398 kg.?) Canadian ladies who we guessed were all in their 90s and who (we did NOT have to guess) were all wearing thongs.  Really.  With no self-consciousness.  Does it make us bad people to have avoided this sight to the extend we could each day?  Maybe so, but we remain unrepentant.  I suspect our beer guts were not aesthetically pleasing either, I will fully admit.  

But still.

These preliminaries aside, what I am here today to tell you about happened on the second night of the trip.  The first night was spent out under a palapa bar near the water, where the ongoing dice game and general rowdy style of play caused us to get a fair amount of attention from the other guests, but with any hard feelings being assuaged by Rosencrantz laying a heavy propina on the bartender when he tried the usual all-inclusive resort bar trick of closing the bar at 11pm. Suffice to say that it stayed open quite a bit later.  

There was much rejoicing.

The next day, we fooled around in the water and got respectably sunburned.  That evening, we were back at the palapa commencing the game, fueled by a large box of supplies that a contingent of our group had bought in Playa del Carmen late that afternoon via taxi.

As the game got going in earnest, a very large guy in his early 20s approached us, hand-in-hand with a blond cheerleader-looking girl of the same age.  He somewhat formally introduced himself to our ragtag crew.  It turns out that he was an offensive lineman for the UT Longhorn football team in Austin, and was on his honeymoon with his new bride (who was, in fact, a cheerleader).  He very politely said that he had spent the night before watching our game, and was keen to play with us as “now I think I’ve got the hang of it.”  Rosencrantz (all 160 lbs of him) immediately got a predatory glint in his eye that I had seen way too many times in years past, and as I looked back at the 280-lbs-with-no-fat Big Guy, I began to get nervous.  

And well I might!

Rosencrantz quickly took control of the situation, introducing himself to the Big Guy and seating him on the adjacent bar stool.  The new bride stood nervously behind, obviously not sharing her husband’s interest in the game nor his trust in those playing it.  Smart girl.  A quick (much too quick….) run-through of the rules ensued, following which play resumed.  I noted that Rosencrantz had arranged the seating so that he would be the one rolling to the Big Guy.

The beer for ordinary penalties in the course of the game was supplied by the kegs behind the bar.  The bartender seemed largely unalarmed as he kept the plastic beer pitchers filled.  He had seen all this the night before, and had every reason to think another big propina was coming (it was).  But when a 21 was rolled (or claimed to be rolled by someone then caught in the lie), special penalties came into play involving the supplies purchased earlier in the nearby town.  In the large cardboard box were:  1) several plastic yard glasses, which had bulbs at the end and were about 3 feet high; and 2) several cases of airplane bottles of mescal (each bottle with its own little worm, which tells you something about the quality).  The person faced with a special penalty could choose his method of execution, as it were.  Equivalent amounts of tequila from behind the bar could also be selected.

As I had feared, Rosencrantz began cheating ruthlessly right from the beginning, with a clear aim in taking the Big Guy down.  This surprised no one in our group.  The fact that the Big Guy didn’t really understand the rules, with his understanding not being improved in the slightest by all the penalties, was not helping at all.  I think it fair to say that the Big Guy had never, in what was undoubtedly a long and illustrious career on the gridiron, been so decimated by a another guy weighing over 100 lbs. less than him.     

In our version of the game, if a 21 is rolled (or claimed to be rolled), the rolling of the dice reverses direction around the table.  Because Rosencrantz was clearly seeking special penalties in his efforts to bag his big game target, the proceedings kept getting bogged down between the two of them, with the Big Guy desperately alternating between the yard glass full of beer, the airplane bottle of mescal (he was told eating each worm was a mandatory part of the penalty), or three shots of tequila from behind the bar.  I heard him mutter, with increasing frequency as the night wore on, apologetic statements along the lines of “Oh, ok….I’ll drink…..I just thought the rule was…..but I see now what you mean…..”.    I felt sorry for the guy.  

Did I mention that Rosencrantz was, at the time, a high-dollar entertainment lawyer in LA?

The cheerleader was not amused, but was unable to get her new husband to disengage from the game (which he could not see was rigged, even though she very much could) now that his lifelong competitive instincts were aroused. 

The rest of us drifted into our own conversations, since the dice never seemed to reach us.  But we quickly turned around when we heard a high-pitched triumphant shriek from Rosencrantz.  It seemed that the Big Guy had reached the limits of even his imposing physique.  Throwing the half-full yard glass down into the sand,, his spine seemed to stiffen ramrod straight, and his eyes shot unnaturally open and stopped blinking.  He then started to try to walk to a nearby bush, but was very unsteady on his feet.

Spontaneously, I pictured a scene from the Peter Falk/Alan Arkin movie “The In-Laws” and found myself yelling “Serpentine, serpentine!” as the big guy walked an invisible letter ‘S’ in the grass before spinning twice and falling dead to the ground with a thunderous crash that we could feel through the bottom of our feet.  I would be lying if I said there was no regurgitation involved on his way down.

 

The cheerleader screamed and ran over to her fallen beau.  She looked murderously at us, back on our barstools under the palapa, but before we could stifle our laughter and go help, a very efficient squad of resort employees appeared and grabbed various appendages of the Big Guy and hauled him off in the presumed direction of their honeymoon suite.

And then he was gone.

I couldn’t help but feeling a bit bad for the guy, and will confess to also having a thought about how he might react when he saw us the next day in what was, after all, a pretty darned small resort.  Meanwhile, Rosencrantz seemed quite pleased with himself, and even cheated a bit less for the rest of the night (maybe having gotten it largely out of him system during the massive cheating earlier in the evening).  And so we played on into the late night, to the strains of the music mixes I had brought down with me, flowing from the ancient boombox after sufficient propina had been delivered to stop the dreadful tourist music.  The bartender might have liked the change from the usual tunes, but we couldn’t tell.  He was fairly inscrutable, for which I don’t blame him a bit.

The Lonely Hats of Doom

Those outside of Central Texas may not have heard of Wurstfest.  Every year since 1963, in the little town of New Braunfels just north of San Antonio along Interstate 35, a 10-day festival celebrating the German heritage of this part of the state sloshes through endless gallons of beer and meat-bombs countless tourists with more greasy sausage than the human body should have to endure.  Then there’s the oompah music, about which the less said, the better.

Nevertheless, when I was in high school in the late ‘70s in San Antonio, we looked forward with great, hormone-addled anticipation to Wurstfest every year.  Because what Wurstfest meant to us was:  a) fun unencumbered by adult supervision; b) a legendarily-lax approach to IDs in the beer lines; and 3) girls!, in combination with a) and b).   Looking back on those trips up the highway, it’s obvious to me now that they were very much a facet of pre-Reagan America.

In 1980, I moved up to Austin to start classes at the University of Texas.  Now legal upstanding drinkers, for the first couple of years my no-good friends and I still drove down to Wurstfest, as a salmon-like migration as much as a conscious decision.  Using a friend’s lake-side trailer at nearby Lake Dunlap as a base, we would engage in various preparatory activities and then head out to Landa Park and dive in, as it were. 

Our ’81 expedition turned out to be the last, following certain cataclysmic events that could not (at least in their specifics) have been foreseen.  It is a bizarre tale, even in the abridged version I give you here, but I assure you that it is entirely true.  Really!

By Pfadilederhosentom at German Wikipedia(Original text: Pfadilederhosentom) - Transferred from de.wikipedia to Commons.(Original text: eigenes Bild), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2031399

By Pfadilederhosentom at German Wikipedia(Original text: Pfadilederhosentom) - Transferred from de.wikipedia to Commons.(Original text: eigenes Bild), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2031399

In several carloads, we trooped down I-35 and met at the lakehouse, carrying cases of college-budgeted beer (Schaefer, Hamms, Black Label, and a few quarts of Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull bought out of a sense of sheer belligerence), as well as a few bottles of gold tequila.  Although it seems immature and scarcely-believable now, I must confess that a beer bong was also in tow.  Not the crappy, rookie amateur type with short hoses and funnels like the Tin Man’s hat, but the Real Thing:  2+ foot long transmission oil funnel from the auto parts store, attached by sturdy hose clamp to a 4 foot length of not-insubstantial diameter clear tubing. 

*  *  *

A short digression about beer bongs:  I had never seen one of these things, or even heard of them, before going to college.  But my dorm suite-mates, from a different San Antonio high school, had evidently long perfected the techniques involved in beer bong construction and use.  After a short introductory period, it wasn’t that successfully finishing your beer from the device was so bad.  What made it hazardous (apart from whatever medical impacts we were blithely unaware of) was that these guys from the rival high school evidently had a long tradition of distracting the drinker/victim just before he did his beer bong and, in the process, pouring Other Substances (eg. tequila) into the funnel while he wasn’t looking.  Due to some vaguery of chemical interaction and fluid dynamics, the liquor would not mix with the beer and would instead float at the top, so that the beer bong-ee, right at the apex of his extremis when he was sucking on the tube for all he was worth (that sounds bad…..) had his hopes suddenly and alarmingly dashed by that last unexpected one-foot of liquid in the tube (that turned out to be a fair amount of straight tequila).  Sometimes the body would, quite sensibly, spontaneously decide that this was Too Much and proceed to reject the entire operation.  This was deemed Deeply Amusing to the others in attendance, especially to those who had done the earlier distracting/tequila sabotage. 

*  *  *

Upon arrival at the lakehouse, all these supplies were duly unpacked and employed, good tunes cranked on the rickety Radio Shack stereo in residence, the nutria rats chased out of the undergrowth, and a Good Time was muchly had by all.  The trailer belonged to the family of Rosencrantz (I’m changing the names in this story, for reasons that will soon become all-too apparent), who also happened to be one of the Main Instigators of the bait-and-switch beer bong/tequila technique referenced above.  On this particular night, he and his high school pal Guildenstern (whose family owned another lakehouse just down the way) were very much employing The Technique.  Hilarity/extremis ensued.Overall, the mood was one of gleeful anticipation with more than a hint of reckless bonhomie. 

Finally it was time for the short hop to the Fest. 

A brief note about Wurstfest attire:  Although it wasn’t something we thought much about, Wurstfest is a German-themed festival.  While it’s true some attendees dress up in lederhosenfor the event, we would not have been caught dead doing so.  Not only would it have been deemed staggeringly uncool, but it was also thought to be entirely counter-productive to the Meeting Girls Imperative (MGI).  But the strange exception10 of our group made to this rule of thumb that nightin 1981 proved disastrous for all involved, as you will soon see.

After paying and entering the fairgrounds, the first booth by the walkway was one that I scarcely noticed until all were boisterously waved back by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  What the booth was selling were deeply cheesy cheap green flannel elf hats, upon which the gullible purchaser’s name would be written in Elmer’s Glue and gold glitter.  These hats were being sold as ostensibly appropriate accessories to a lederhosen outfit. 

They looked beyond ridiculous.  And not in a good way.

However, somewhere in the addled minds of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the idea had become entrenched that wearing these hats, with the word “lonely” in gold across the front substituted for the name, would be of great service in the evening’s sacred MGI.  Now, both of these guys were (and are) possessed of the gift of outstanding bullshit.  They can be quite persuasive, damn their hides.  So out of the 14 of us, a full 10 succumbed to the siren’s song and purchased identical Lonely Hats.  And thusfestooned, they walked proudly down the promenade, which followed the gentle bends of the Comal River.  They looked like a motley procession of pituitary elves, disgruntled from having been kicked out of Santa’s Village for snarling at the children. 

The remaining four of our group (including myself, your humble Virgil for this coming tour of the Netherworld) walked a little behind, fascinated by the spectacle but determined not to be tarred with the same brush.

Did I mention that the Lonely Hat group had the beer bong that Dante managed to sneak into the gate?

Given the cumulative effect of the evening’s various consumptions, I have to say that the rest of the night deteriorated into a series of vignettes, some of which I personally witnessed and some that were related later on, after an initial sorting of legal difficulties.  But it did not take long to see that A Pattern was emerging, one that would eventually lay waste to the Lonely Hat contingent of our merry little band.

As is customary at Wurstfest (well, at least customary in certain circles….) once each beer was consumed, the highly-prized large souvenir plastic cup would be saved and the newly-purchased full beer cup stacked on top.  After a time, this led to each of our group walking around holding a precarious tower with a full beer swaying and splashing on top.  I have a distinct memory of Dante and I walking down the path next to the river, very much in the middle of the fray and surrounded by hundreds of people, balancing impressive towers of cups without spilling (much) of the beers at the summit.  Dante still had the beer bong and suddenly stopped cold, yelling out “Load me up!.”  So, as we stood in the middle of the busy walkway, I put my tower down and plucked the beer from atop his and poured it into the beer bong, my thumb snuggly fit over the far end of the clear plastic tube.

Did I mention these cups were quite large, and held an impressive amount of beer?

So, having “loaded him up,” I passed the tube end to Dante and he replaced my thumb with his own (again, that sounds bad…..).  Still holding the funnel, I picked up my beer tower and held it with the other hand.  Dante then assumed the tradition stance, dropping down on one knee while simultaneously bringing the tube to his lips and diligently emptying the beer bong while I held the funnel high. 

What Dante couldn’t see behind him at that moment was the two uniformed cops walking briskly toward us.  I watched them approach, six-cup beer tower in my one hand and funnel in the other, with a sense of dread and inevitability.  Upon arrival, they stood just behind Dante with their arms folded, watching as he finished off the beer bong, stood up in one fluid motion, taking the funnel from my hand and blowing out the foam on the ground in the traditional mannerwith a great spewing and trumpet-like flourish(the foam landing not far, as it turned out, from one cop’s shoes).Like a choreographed set piece, Dante dropped the beer bong on the ground and raised his arms up in the air—Rocky-like—and joyfully whooped “Yeah!”, at which point the cop whose shoe was violated reached up, grabbed Dante’s arms from behind, brought them behind his back in one continual motion and put the handcuffs on him.  This had all happened before Dante even knew they were there. 

It was quite the well-oiled Greek tragedy.  It could have won a Tony.

Meanwhile, I’m still standing right in the thick of it, holding my teetering beer tower and looking helplessly into Dante’s eyes as his face processed through a variety of emotions.  I say something to the cop along the lines of “hey, come on now…..”, at which point the other cop says “do you want to go, too?,” which had the desired of effect of immediately silencing me and causing me to step back and watch as Dante was led away, his green Lonely Hat receding through the crowd.

I stood alone on the walkway, lost in thought and holding one beer tower with Dante’s equally-impressive tower down at my feet.  Sensing it would be wise to relocate, I combined his cups with mine and walked off into the crowd.

*  *  *

In the interests of space constraints, suffice it to say that ALL 10 of the Lonely Hat group were arrested that night in separate incidents, while none of the hatless schism were put in the hoosegow.  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were trying to chat up some girls while sitting next to them on a stone wall, and had the bad luck to teeter and fall off it just as some police were walking by.  Downtown they went, toot sweet.  The tale of LaMotta and McMahon is more concerning, but does have interesting legal aspects to it.  The two were standing outside of their car, keys in pants pocket, still wearing Lonely Hats and pumping gas in the car when a cruiser pulled up and disgorged cops who ran over and arrested both for DWI.  Interestingly, it turned out that the police never saw them actually driving at all (which they certainly should not have been doing anyway….), and that was later grounds for dismissal of those charges.  As these facts were emerging around a desk just the other side of the jail cell bars downtown, McMahon (the car’s passenger) was told he would be released with no charges after signing for his personal effects.  However, as it was later told to me, McMahon was too drunk to sign his name and was thus put back in the pokey for public intoxication.  And thereafter, in certain circles, “too drunk to sign your name” became a moniker for those who were held to have over-indulged and should cease. 

The four of us with the good judgement to abstain from Lonely Hatswere left to cage rides from strangers back out to Lake Dunlap, followed by long walks down dark dirt roads and subsequent loitering outside the locked trailer.  Various observed vignettes were related and compared, and the true import of the Lonely Hats of Doom soon became apparent. 

Now, the Comal County Sheriffs’ Department was (and is) famous for using public intoxication arrests to stoke up the public coffers every year when Wurstfest rolled around.  But I can attest that there was not an appreciable difference between the levels of inebriation of the Lonely Hat group versus the four hatless members of our troupe.  While the level of unacceptable behavior very well may have been somewhat greater in the former versus the latter, it is still difficult to ascribe the arrest vs. non-arrest statistics to anything other than the wearing of the Lonely Hats themselves.  Of course, you will have already noted the interesting psychological questions raised by the very lack of judgment that led to the purchasing and wearing of such headgear.

It goes without saying that no wearer of a Lonely Hat experienced any success in his MGI that evening.  In fact, I’m willing to go out on a limb and state for the record that those chapeaus created an impressivefield of GRE (Girl Repellant Effect) that radiated out at least to the line of sight.   

Au Naturel at the Chicken Ranch

Now I know what you’re thinking, but today’s tequila blog has absolutely nothing to do with an infamous Texas cathouse that was sanitized for a (shudder) musical starring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton.  Well, maybe “absolutely” is stating it too strongly, but more on that later.

Before I moved to Mexico, I lived in Austin, Texas for 37 years, working and playing music in the city’s teeming music scene.  As you might imagine, there were a lot of characters who passed through those ranks.  Way back in the ‘80s, there was a drummer who went by the self-anointed nickname of “Ned deDrumma” (I’ve changed the first name, for reasons that will soon become apparent).  When he wasn’t in the room, he was also known as “Missile Command” for his tendency to launch drum sticks at high velocity all over the stage or practice room as they slipped accidently out of his sweaty hands.  There was no time to yell “incoming”…..you just had to rely on blind luck to avoid getting pranged by one.  Aside from the launched sticks, he was a good drummer, and had the great panache to replace one of his toms with an ancient metal minnow bucket which had “Greatest Fucking Drummer” painted across it in bold green letters.  It made quite a clamor when struck. 

One day the word went out that Ned was getting married, and that a bachelor party would be held out at The Chicken Ranch.  This was the name given to a very dodgy house that several musicians we knew shared down in South Austin, sitting on a couple of acres but still in town.  As you might imagine for a crash house shared by punk rock musicians and their friends, it was fairly unadorned and “rustic.”  Actually, it was pretty foul (more on this later), but it had the great advantage of featuring some much-needed space between the house and any neighbors.

There were going to be so many musicians at this party that the word went out to bring the amps and guitars.  Ned was going to have his drum set there, too.  So when that afternoon came, I headed over there with a bottle of tequila, an amp and this red guitar:

Everyone pitched in on some 16 gal. kegs of Shiner Bock, the de rigueur choice in those days in Austin (so much so that if you tapped the veins of any 20-something-year-old in the city, they would run dark brown with a beige head).  Once I got to The Chicken Ranch, I saw that there were already several bottles of gold tequila there (I know, I know…..but we didn’t know better than to buy gold tequila back in those ancient times).  I set up my gear over by the drum set, and looked around.  We seemed locked, stocked and ready.

A moment to describe the main house at The Chicken Ranch:  if I had to quickly come up with two adjectives that captured the structure, I would have to say “old” and “shoddy.”  It was as if someone decided that the construction budget could be shaved by leaving big gaps between the boards that framed up the house.  And by just skipping the dry-wall altogether.  So raw boards with 2-3 inch gaps between them was what you saw, inside and out.  Might have been some critters living in the walls.  The fact that the house was probably “built” in the ‘50s didn’t help matters either.  That there was no air conditioning…..in Texas…..in August…..should surprise no one.  Also, there wasn’t what you would call a lot of designer lighting in the place.  In fact, the big living room was only lit by one naked lightbulb handing down from wires that protruded from a hole in the ceiling.

And the less said about the bathroom, the better (at least there was some dark acreage outside to provide a more pristine and appealing option).

Anyway, since it was punk rock musicians and fans who lived at The Chicken Ranch, that stripe of music was quickly cranked up on the patchwork stereo as the guests started to arrive.  When the bachelor finally pulled up, a great cry arose from the throng.  Now Ned was a little older than the rest of us, and so we were a bit unsure regarding what he would allow himself to be subjected to as part of this ritualistic affair.  But when the kegs were flowing and the tequila cracked open, he dove in there with everyone else in high style.  Things ran at a fever pitch for quite a while, and then the amps were turned on and the jamming started. 

Actually, that descriptor really doesn’t really cut it.What it was, in fact, was a Big Honking Sweaty Nasty Bleedingly-Loud Power Jam.  Or somesuch.

It was gloriously awful, and between the paint-peeling volume and the cacophony of a bunch of perspiring dudes jumping up and down, it’s very likely that some of the wall critters decided to high-tail it elsewhere for the night.

In short, it was Good.

It was at this point that another car arrived, and I saw that a couple of the fellows had arranged something a little different for the night’s itinerary.  The jamming was stopped and we were all lead outside by the grinning twosome in question.  A flicker of understanding passed through the rest of the guys in the yard.  An attractive tall and leggy woman stepped out of the dented Olds 88, followed by the car’s driver. 

--a brief digression on The Napoleon Complex:  I realize that generalizing about any group of people based solely on a physical characteristic is really not a good idea because, among other reasons, the generalization very often just ain’t true when you get to know the person in question.  However, if truth be told, we must confess that in our busy lives we’ve all met short guys who seem to have a chip on their shoulder.  It seems too obvious and part of some discredited Freudian theorem, but given the macho shitheadedness that is so pervasive amongst cadres of The American Male, it’s no surprise that a short guy likely has to deal with a lifetime of crap about his stature.  And that can, it seems, sometimes have a psychological effect.

And so the…..what do we call him?......”escort” of the exotic dancer who got out of the massive Olds 88 (hmmmmm…….) was a short dude.  Pretty darned short, it has to be said.  And the comic, exaggerated swagger he used to approach us did not help dispel the impression that was forming in the minds of a group of guys who really didn’t care, generally speaking, how frigging tall another guy was.

With the much-taller girl behind him, wearing cut-offs and a t-shirt and big hoop earrings and carrying a black leather bag, the gentlemen started bellowing loud and aggressively to our little group, demanding to talk to the guys who had set up this liaison.  So the two fellows (both, unfortunately, over 6 ft. tall) stepped forward and proceeded to get yelled at in a very obnoxious manner by the shorter man.  Picture the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket and you wouldn’t be far off.  Quite a dick, really.

Oh, did I mention that he was an off-duty cop?

Res ipsa loquitur. 

And so, with the various threats, curses, etc. by which The Groundrules were established out of the way, the party cranked back up…...the punk rock was blasted again and everyone started doing what fellows do when supplied with close to 50 gallons of beer and a tableful of tequila bottles.  The exotic dancer seemed to be comfortably in the spirit of things (which means she was a lot braver than I would have been in her shoes, driving up to a dubious location like The Chicken Ranch), and happily was able to suss out that we were not a group of guys that she needed to worry about in any way.  It was a friendly (if loud, and drink-y) vibe, and everyone was having a good time.

Except for the off-duty cop.  We soon found that his belligerent and comically-aggressive entrance was not an anomaly.  It was rather, from what we could tell, his baseline personality. But we all wanted Ned the bachelor to have a great night, and so there was an unspoken agreement amongst our crew that the short cop should be catered to, libationally and in terms of flattery and excessive deference, to that end.  And so we did, which he ate up with a Big Spoon.  “Oh, tell us more of your big, brave cop stories that feature you as the hero and everyone else as schmucks”, etc. etc.

After about half an hour, the exotic dancer signaled that it was time to do her pre-arranged show.  And so the music that she’d brought was put on the stereo, the bachelor told (by her) to sit on a rickety wooden chair in the middle of the living room (the amps being pushed aside to accommodate), and the bachelor party guests formed into a big circle around the room.

When she came back out of the kitchen, she was dressed in a spangley red sequined bikini-like get up, with a cowboy hat and a feather boa. 

“Strip to your underwear,” she commanded to Ned, “and sit back down on your hands.”

A respectful silence blanketed the crowd, heads bowed in admiration and a sense of Great Moment.  You could have heard a pin drop as…….

Nah……Actually, we all hooted like gibbons and heaped mountains of gleeful verbal abuse on the bachelor in the time-honored, traditional fashion.  Lots of clapping, bellowing and stomping of feet…….the room lit only by the one dangling lightbulb, hanging—as it happened—right above the seated bachelor…..the buffeting from the ceiling fan causing the light to sway across the room and illuminate, it must be said, a pretty striking and dramatic scene.

As the bump-and-grind music started to, well, bump and grind, the dancer called for a cup of beer for the bachelor.  This was, as you can imagine, quickly proffered.  Because she had commanded him to sit on his hands during the entirety of the performance, she pushed his chin up and poured the full beer down his throat.  He did well in this task, but would have likely done better had he expected it….and so a not-insubstantial amount spilled down his face and onward to parts south.  

So Ned was now sitting in his underwear, on his hands, hot, sticky and somewhat chagrined in front of about 30 hollering friends (and one short, scowling cop).  His lot would not improve for a while yet. 

Now some of the usual provocative gyrations around the bachelor commenced, following which the dancer called loudly for two tequila shots.  These arrived to the front in an admirably short time.  Knocking back the first one herself, she then poured the second one down Ned’s throat.  This time he was better prepared and there was only minimal spillage.  More enticing gyrations around the bachelor followed, all with repeated admonitions for him to keep sitting on his hands (which he honorably did at all times).  

Then she went into the kitchen and pulled out another stash of equipment, this time from the refrigerator.  As she walked back into the living room, from behind the bachelor, there was a surge of anticipation from the crowd as we saw that Something New was going to be employed.  Not yet seeing her, but seeing our reactions, Ned started to sweat more heavily and take on a concerned aspect.

And well he might!

Yelling for the music to be turned up, the dancer stood behind the bachelor and pulled out a spray can of whip cream.  A great huzzah arose from the assembled crowd (sans the cop).  Reaching over Ned’s head, she started covering pretty much all of him with whip cream, moving sinuously all the while.  Was it in his ears?  Yep.  In his eyes?  Certainly.  Squirted in a beer that she then poured down his throat?  Without question.  Squirted under the waistband of his boxer shorts?  It must be said….yes.

This was, needless to say, tremendous fun for the rest of us.  But when she pulled out the squirt bottle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup, we—as they say—fell out.  As she approached with the bottle, Ned’s face ran through a range of emotions in quick order……alarm……The Urge to Flee….and, finally, grim acceptance.  In a manner much like the whip cream, the syrup was applied all over the bachelor.  Was it between his toes?  Indubitably.  Was it in his hair?  All signs point to “yes.” 

“And now, the cherry on top!” she announced saucily with a gleam in her eye.  And so the jar of maraschino cherries was extracted from her bag of tricks and used to finalize the dessertification of Ned the bachelor.  It was quite a sight, but he growled at those who tried to sneak a picture and so I can only describe it to you here.,,,,,You will have to fill in the rest via your lurid imagination. 

What followed was more of the traditional snake dance until suddenly she grabbed Ned, pulled him to his feet, and dragged him outside by his wrist.  Our friends who had arranged all this, no doubt being in on the gag, had a garden hose at ready.  And so Ned was positioned in the dirt driveway, under a mighty oak, and the hose was turned on.  The dancer then ran around him and let him have it, full force.  Truth be told, he needed it and probably would have done it to himself at that point (although he certainly would have enjoyed it less). 

At the conclusion, Ned stood before his friends in all his sodden majesty, soaked to the gills and gird only in his soggy plaid boxer shorts.  There was a slight undercurrent of uncertainty from those gathered around, wondering how he would process all that had happened to him.  Was he still a Good Sport?  Would the party continue?

Well, we needn’t have worried about that.  What happened next was something we didn’t expect, but which would truly help cement this nightas legend amongst a group of guys who had their fair share of noteworthy bachelor parties. 

Ned threw off his shorts, ran buck-ass-naked into the living room, sat down at his drums, and started to play like there was no tomorrow--the swaying bulb still giving a strange German horror movie lighting effect to the whole thing.  Once I had wrapped my mind around what had just happened, I ran in (clothed), cranked up my amp and joined in on guitar.  Bass and other guitars followed suit, and soon the paint was peeling again as the Big Honking Sweaty Nasty Bleedingly-Loud Power Jambecame that much more so.  A mosh pit formed, and the dancer dove into it.  The little cop seemed about to go apoplectic until a couple of our friends took one for the team and said “hey, can you come outside with us where it’s quieter so you can tell us more of those stories about all the wild stuff you’ve done and seen On The Job?”.  Their sacrifice was mighty, and will never be forgotten. 

Decorum prevents this narrative from continuing on to the tail end of the night, but suffice to say that Ned’s bachelor party at The Chicken Range would be very, very hard to top.

Until my bachelor party six or seven years later.  But that is another story for another time.

Why Tequila is Better Than Irish Whiskey

In my last blog, I reminisced about Antone’s, which was the club where I saw so many blues legends in Austin back in the ‘80s.  In a way, this was our neighborhood bar at the time, and as such it was the scene of some notable nights out.  One that comes to mind involves the late great, ebullient Texas bluesman Albert Collins.  Albert was a one-off, for sure, who did his own thing and did it well.  We were lucky enough to see him on many occasions back in the day, but this one particular night stands out in my memory.

There were five of us that particular night, and in retrospect it should have been obvious to Bruce and I that the other three guys (Gary, Joe and Derrick) were in a bit of a fiendish state of mind.  But such a realization would likely not have deterred the two of us, in that we were young and not given to wise acts of discretion at the time. 

At the duly appointed hour, the crew piled into Gary’s dented orange Volare and drove the short distance to Antone’s.  We got to the show a bit early, per usual, and immediately bellied up to the long, battered wooden bar that ran along the left side of the club.  Bruce and I ordered Shine Bock longnecks, alternating with tequila Screwdrivers.  The other guys, however, were in the nascent days of an infatuation with Jameson Irish Whiskey and were downing shots of it at an alarming rate.  I have to say that the look in their eyes gave me a sense of foreboding.  I had seen this Look before, and wondered if we’d make it to the end of the show without there being An Incident. 

Bruce and I moved down the bar a bit.  Just to create a bit of separation, you understand, for when the club’s giant bouncer finally decided to go beyond the death stares and get off his stool by the door and come over to put the quietus on the increasingly-rowdy horseplay.

When the opening band started up, our three friends didn’t seem to pay them much mind and instead continued down their Emerald Isle rabbit hole.  It wasn’t line-dancing (thank god!), but it was getting more rambunctious down at their end of the bar.  I glanced over at the humongous bouncer and, if looks could kill, these would be three dead white boys.  I couldn’t blame him……the whiskey drinkers were now flicking each other in the ears and laughing hysterically at the resulting pain and indignation.  Juvenile shoulder punches, while the other guy wasn’t looking, were interspersed.  Eyes became increasingly unfocused.  At times, the volume rivaled the band’s. 

I sensed an iceberg approaching, but felt like my power only extended to keeping myself out of the sea.  These were not men to be reasoned with.

When the opening band finished up, Bruce and I sauntered up to the front of the stage to get a good vantage point for Albert’s show.  Based on past experience, we knew that it was going to be a good one.  Albert’s band, The Icebreakers, were great, real-deal players who had been together forever and were super-tight.  And Albert himself was a consummate showman.  He played a Fender Telecaster (using a mysterious tuning idiosyncratic to Albert alone), which is a type of electric guitar known for its high-pitched, stinging sound.  Over the course of a night, Albert would unleash endless stabbing, bent blues licks that pierced right through the mix and got the crowd more and more worked up.  Sweat would pour off him and he clinched his eyes closed with every fusillade unleashed.  He gave his all at these shows, and tonight would be no different.

As was common with the blues legends, the band came out first and warmed the crowd up with an up-tempo instrumental tune.  It cooked, popped and sizzled, and Bruce and I quickly forgot about our Jameson-swilling compatriots behind us in the club.  As the band launched into the second number, Albert was introduced and he came out firing on all six, launching javelins of sound out into the crowd from his Tele.  The energy level in the room leapt up several notches, and everyone started moving and grooving.  Fast numbers with the occasional slow blues.  Wonderful pacing, and the energy in the room kept building.

And we had a ball. 

After about 45 minutes, I thought to look back from our position at the front of the stage.  Through the crowd, I could see Gary, Joe and Derrick sitting at a big round table in the middle of the room.  I couldn’t be sure, but they appeared to be spitting on each other.  Of the many dead soldiers on the table, several were knocked over.  They seemed unsteady but determined to ride the jag straight down into the depths of the peat bog. 

I wondered if the bouncer remembered that Bruce and I came in with those guys.

One of Albert’s famous show-stoppers that was used for the last song of the night was to hook his guitar up to a 100 ft. long chord and start walking.  At Antone’s, that took the form of exiting stage left, going off the stage and out the emergency exit of the club, continuing on through the parking lot and out into the middle of Guadalupe Street, stopping traffic and playing crazy leads all the while.  Just when he started his stroll this night, I looked back and saw that the bouncer had finally had Enough and was heading to our friends’ table.  This seemed like an excellent time to follow Albert outside, and so Bruce and I—longnecks in hand--sidled right over to that side of the stage and then trailed Albert right out the door and out into the street (no doubt breaking multiple Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission regulations in the process).  When the rest of the crowd saw what we were doing (and not knowing out special motivation), they followed us out and soon there was close to 100 people standing in the middle of the main drag, screaming and hollering for Albert to take it higher.  And he did!  Beers were thrust up in the air, frantic dancing erupted, people got out of their cars on both sides of the road to join the party, and all the while The Icebreakers kept it cooking back in the club, with the sound pouring out the side door. 

Just as things were reaching their peak out in the street, I heard a commotion and looked over to see our three wayward whiskey drinkers being thrown out of the front door by the mountainous, scowling bouncer.  Seeing that as our cue, Bruce and I left the crowd and walked over to herd our friends around back to the car, sensing that whatever responsibility we might have abdicated earlier in the night could now no longer be avoided.

As you might expect for aspirants trying to qualify for the James Irish Whiskey Shot Team, the trio were not in a frame of mind to consider that their behavior might’ve had something to do with their ejection from the club.  Great was their indignation, and mighty were their protestations.  But finally we got them into the car and headed back over to Joe’s house.

The less said about the remainder of the night, the better, but I will divulge that the sad inventory of the next morning included a broken window and a broken pinky.  But I think it telling that the beer/tequila contingent behaved with great personal aplomb, while the Irish Whiskey drinkers made beasts of themselves. 

Would a change of beverage have made a significant difference?  Well, if a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his ass when he hopped.

Tequila Shots with James Cotton

Any of y’all (note the regional second-person pronoun) from Austin, and “of a certain age,” are no doubt familiar with the old Antone’s nightclub.  It was truly a legendary blues dive which opened back in ‘75, moved a few times, and essentially (if not legally) perished when changing musical tastes and the ever-dwindling number of surviving blues legends required the club to start booking more general fare in the ‘90s.

The club’s namesake was a colorful character named Clifford Antone, who said the business was started because “Me and my friendswanted to hear blues before these [old blues musicians] died."  A noble sentiment, to be sure, and Antone’s provided a haven for many wonderful blues legends in their final performing years, at a time when blues music couldnot have been any more unfashionable.  He poured a lot of his profits into helping them with travel expenses, medical care, etc., and always made it a point to treat them like the musical royalty they were, which you could tell really touched them at that late point in their careers (when they had to struggle to get shows in the rest of the country).

 Antone did a bit of federal time twice for dealing weed, which by all accounts was used as an alternative funding source to keep the club open and champion the music he loved.  He was a larger than life personality--carousing, holding court and talking smack, but always evincing a true love for the blues and the musicians who played it.  He passed away in ’06, and one has to wonder if his zest for life waned as the last of those old players passed away.

 I moved to Austin in 1980 to attend the University of Texas, and immediately fell in with a bunch of fine no-goodniks with whom I had countless sordid adventures around town.  Not a small number of these involved going to Antone’s at their best location, which was on Guadalupe Street (otherwise known as The Drag) just north of the giant campus.  During that decade I was lucky enough to see Albert King, Albert Collins, John Lee Hooker, Hubert Sumlin, Otis Rush, Jimmy Reed, Mel Brown, Buddy Guy, Pinetop Perkins, Grey Ghost, Johnny Johnson, and James Cotton there along with a whole bunch of others who I can’t remember at the moment (and my concert ticket book doesn’t help because you never got ticket stubs at Antone’s). 

 Antone’s was a place of respite from the relentless MTV new wave that was pervasive at the time.  You knew there would be kindred souls at the club, soaking up the blues like there was no tomorrow.  It wasn’t museum piece music, or those cold blues gigs you sometimes experienced at other venues that had no soul and featured a black performer who seemed disgusted to perform for an all-white audience that had a hard time letting go and boogying.   Antone’s shows were different.  It was a special time and place, as they say.

 As 18-year old kids new to town and ready to fling our considerable youthful energy into the new experience of unsupervised living, we were also still in our early years of discovering Great Music.  Most of us had stuck our toes in the water of classic blues by the time we got to Austin (and had surely been rocking out to Johnny Winter, Robin Trower, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Rory Gallagher), but we surely had a lot to learn and were ecstatic to find old Muddy Waters and Lightnin’ Hopkins albums in the cut-out section of Sound Warehouse (you younger readers are not going to understand multiple parts of that sentence).  If we swallowed our pride and used coupons from the student newspaper to “eat” (if that’s the correct word) at Arby’s and Pancho’s Mexican Buffet, we could spend the resulting savings on blues LPs.  It wasn’t the only kind of music we were listening to, but with blues we felt like we were onto a rich vein that we greatly looked forward to mining further.  Not to mention actually getting to see these guys play live! 

 Looking back now, we were truly spoiled during the ‘80s and didn’t take full advantage of all the opportunities we had to see the legends of the blues while they were still alive and putting on great shows down at Antone’s.  Sure, we saw Albert Collins and John Lee Hooker many times, but we could have seen them more and others besides, but we just had this unspoken notion that they…..the club….the scene…..would always be there.

 They weren’t.

 But we saw some great shows, all the same.  On one early ‘80s night that comes to mind, we went to see James Cotton, the superlative harmonica player who had spent years with Muddy Waters and then even more years fronting his own band.  For some reason we got there pretty early and (as was our wont) bellied up to the long, battered wooden bar and ordered Shiner Bock longnecks and some tequila shots.  As we sat down to commence, I looked just to my right and was bowled over to see James Cotton himself sitting on the barstool next to me!  We were all pretty blown away by this, and didn’t quite know what to say (the idea that we should say nothing and just leave the man in peace before he had to start playing a show was evidently beyond us). 

By Zaldi64 - Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4413799

By Zaldi64 - Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4413799

 The house lights were still up in the dingy club, and so we all had a good view of each other.  We were just skinny young white guys with long hair, feeling our oats.  But let me describe Mr. Cotton:  he was wearing a faded old green t-shirt that looked like it wouldn’t even fit me, stretched to the absolute limits of the fabric tensile strength.  He was about 5’6”, give or take, had a medium ‘fro and was (if it’s ok to say this) the most sway-backed man I have ever seen.  But the main thing I remember is that he had a huge, open, welcoming smile crowned with a gold tooth display right in front. 

 Upon noticing that such an imminent musician was sitting next to me, I was stymied for what to say, and so I sputtered out:  “Mr. Cotton, will you drink a tequila shot with us?”

 He graciously agreed, and soon we had one in front of him, clinked shot glasses, and together we knocked ‘em back.  All my friends stayed over around the poor man, surrounding his bar stool and stammering out whatever blues-related questions we could think of.  He was down-to-earth and just couldn’t have been nicer to us, although you could also tell that he was a bit shy and soft-spoken.  Several more shots of gold tequila later, and I was starting to feel it.  Cotton seemed unfazed, however, and after slamming down the last one said “Well, boys, I guess I gotta go play.”

 At that moment, we looked to the stage and realized that the house stereo was off and the band had set up and begun to play.  Cotton shook our hands, walked over to the stage, strapped on his Pancho Villa leather double harmonica bandolier and started to blow the meanest harp that I’d seen before or since.  While we weaved unsteadily to the stage, cheering wildly, he was charging ahead at 110 mph and never wavered for a fantastic two hour show.  To get a small taste of what it was like, listen to this (and jump up on your coffee table):

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ytwsi00yFsQ

 He showed us how a bluesman rocks a crowd, and how a bluesman drinks tequila.  And I can remember his huge smile and gold tooth display like it was yesterday.

 

Ghost Stories

Día de los muertos and Noches de Brujas are right around the corner. What better way to celebrate than with some tequila and haunted houses. Jalisco is not only home to makers of tequila but also a few legendary haunted locations. Below we have taken the liberty of compiling a short list of these spooky places to visit this fall:

1. The Vampire Tree- During the early 19th century it was said that a mad man went wild for the thirst of blood. This man was soon to be know as a vampire and ran rampant in Guadalajara feasting off the 'sangre' of livestock and newborn babies. The townspeople were on watch during the hours of the night and finally found the vampire heading home after killing his prey one evening. Grabbing their pitchforks and torches they marched to the home of the vampire (literally like a scene from Dracula). When the townsfolk finally caught and staked the vampire they took his body to a cemetery named El Panteon de Belen. He was buried with no ceremony in an unmarked coffin. They say the ground became nourished by the Vampiric blood and a tree bursted through the coffin. If you cut a limb from the tree it will ooze with blood mixed sapping. The cemetery has been said to be haunted by a few different entities but the tree has drawn the most attention. The cemetery has been turned into a museum but several sightings and hauntings of the deceased vampire are still reported. You can only visit the museum during the day but if you can sneak in at night be sure to check out the Vampire tree.  

2.  Casa del Trébol Negro built in 1908 was a family home for several years until the Husband went mad. Legend has it that the mother and daughter were grotesquely murdered in the house by the father and the spirits today still wander the house screaming and shouting leaving blood marks in memory of their angry deaths. The mansion now is often used for real haunted house adventures or festivals in the area. If you conduct a quick google search you will find several videos of individuals and their paranormal experiences in the house. The mansion now known better as Casa Clovers, is often used for real haunted house adventures or festivals in the area. Actually, if you do a quick google search tons of paranormal home videos will pop up. We personally believe this might be your best bet for some spooks, so don't have too much tequila if you decide to go.

3. In 1805 Hospicio Cabañas was constructed. For the first few years it served asan asylum, military barracks and aprison. Eventually it was settled for the use of an orphanage. Supposedly every time a child died, the monumental clock in the building would stop. As if the clock itself was marking the end of another existence. The building has since been preserved as a classic piece of Mexican history which is open to the public. Visitors report hearing laughs, screams, cries and footsteps of children from time to time when roaming the halls. Doesn't sound too scary but an asylum turned orphanage has got to have some ghosts still hanging around.

4. Hospital Fray Antonio Alcalde y Barriga still currently functions as a hospital even though it was built in the 1700s.  Patients report several paranormal entities appearing in the hospital. But critics reason that they just may be flat out crazy from being sick. The most active sighting is a female nurse named Manuela Lozano, who wanders the Internal Medicine wing. We couldn't find much on her death but some patients swear to her sightings. You may not be able to bring in a bottle of tequila but if you are need of getting your stomach pumped after drinking too much tequila, this might be a great choice hospital to go to.

5. Last on our list isLa Casa de los Perros.This colonial mansion housed the first independent newspaper in America. The Mansion now serves a historical museum of journalism and is open to the public as well. Overnight staff and visitors have reported sightings of a woman and sometimes a man. Those more familiar to the home identify the lady asto the original owner's wife, who took on a lover and later conspired to kill her husband. They do not tell how she attempted to kill her husband or if maybe in his rage he killed her. But any love story that ends in affairs and deaths is sure to produce some ghostly activity.  

So grab your pals, some Ghostbusters gear and a bottle of tequila. We dare you to take your chances and visit these locations in the tequila state of Jalisco. Don't forget to report back to us, if you make it out alive.

How Not to Be a Margarita Pariah

For my entire adult life, I have been a chili-head.  There, I said it.  I feel better now. 

We are a misunderstood tribe, us lovers of hot peppers.  We confront consternation at best, and social stigma at worst, when we inquire as to the availability of serranos or habaneros at restaurants.  People from cultures widely-rumored to love spicy food stare at us in horror and disbelief when we bring our own death peppers into a dining establishment and proceed to dice ‘em up and add them to our meal. 

We are a scattered tribe, existing largely in isolation throughout the Western World, enduring our culinary loneliness with stoicism as we blow our heads off with ghost chilies, Carolina Reepers, etc.  We live proudly, yet alone, in our own little corners of Endorphin City.

What place does such a confession and lamentation have in a tequila blog you may ask? 

A reasonable question.  My purpose here is to provide you with some context in which to judge my actions in two separate instances that brought great social sanction down upon me following the act of making margaritas for friends.  I relate this to you unrepentant, seeking no absolution, but nevertheless my tale may prove instructive in terms of maintaining good relations in your life and avoiding friendly fire.

Back in ’92, I had some friends over to the house one night for adult beverages and general merriment.  Things were percolating nicely, the music working its way up to Iggy & the Stooges “Search and Destroy,” and my prickly pear cactus nectar margaritas were a big hit.  I will admit to being entirely unimmune to the buzz which my compatriots gleefully manifested.  We were having a Good Time.

As a crucial aside, I will tell you that I had a very healthy pepper garden out back at this time.  The habaneros I grew had none of that unattractive translucence that you often see in the few measly specimens offered for sale at the local grocery store.  My peppers were a solid bright orange, magnificent and robust.  And they would melt the melt the beard off an Austin hipster at 40 yards.

As all chili-heads will tell you, peppers can be kept in the freezer for years without losing too much of their heat, if kept in a paper (not plastic) bag.  And although I was eating peppers from my garden with great abandon, my plants were so prolific that I ended up always having a few peppers stashed away in the freezer for later.

I think you see where this is going.

So as I gathered ice from the freezer to make another batch of margs, my eyes were drawn by some evil impulse to the innocuous-looking brown paper bag in the freezer door.  As I rooted through it, I saw one habanero that was small.  Very small, really.  About the size of a marble. 

How hot could it be?

The rationalizations poured through my brain in a torrent.  All this will do is put a little “zing” into the drink, I thought, congratulating myself on how reasonable and sound my argument was.  And without further ado, I popped the pepper into the blender and cranked it up.

At thing point I should add that no one saw me do it, and I may well have failed to make a full (or any) disclosure to my assembled friends.  As I poured the bright pink cactus nectar frozen margaritas out of the blender, there was no visible evidence of the small additive I had included in this particular batch.  The drinks were passed around and folks dug in, as it were.

Then the screaming started.

I know you may think this hyperbole, but sadly it is not.  I was almost instantly assailed from all sides, cornered in the kitchen and pelted with aggressive and accusatory questioning.  Lips were burning.  Eyes were watering.  Some were spitting copiously into the sink.  The fact that, due to supply constraints, this was to be the last blenderful of margs for the night only added to the vehemence and lasting rancor that I experienced.

Sipping my own glass, I had to admit that my lips, too, were burning more than even I could enjoy.  There was a very real question in my mind as to whether I could drink this margarita.  And I was, far and away, the only chili-head in attendance.  And so the entire blender, and all the glasses were emptied into the sink and I suffered great stink-eye as the mood was shattered and people filed out to go home (or at least go somewhere that didn’t poison the drinks).  The party was most-definitely over.

It was several weeks before I sensed any normalization in the peace process.

In my defense, I can only say that a pepper that small, even a habanero, would not reasonably be expected to maintain that level of brutal, skin-searing heatonce it was distributed through the volume of a large kitchen blender.  It was just the luck of the draw that this particular pepper was a bad motor scooter.  Sometimes such is the way when dealing with a product of nature.

************

Fast forward to 2006, with my friend The Jones over at my place for another night in the studio.  I was producing one of his solo albums, and playing on it as well, and it was not unusual for us to have a few beverages during the process……solely to keep the creative juices flowing in interesting directions, you understand.  A libationary zen approach, really, to avoid clichés and musical ruts.  We were nothing if not zealous in pursing oblique strategies.

During one of these breaks, around 1am, we retired back to the kitchen and The Jones inquired as to whether a frozen margarita might be on offer.  I said indeed it was, and that I would whip up a batch while he returned to the studio to finish off some last lyrics for the songwe were working on. 

NOTE:  About a week before this time, I had received my annual shipment of fresh death peppers from Chiliplants.com, which is a hothouse in New Jersey (of all places!) that sold the largest selection of hot chilies available on the internet.  They mainly sold seeds and plants, but for a few weeks each September you could order boxes of fresh peppers, overnighted to your door.  To get the ones in the “extremely hot” category, you had to pre-order in January, since they were highly prized by the scattered members of our tribe.  And so I had two deep dish pizza-sized boxes in my fridge, full of bhut jolokias, Trinidad Scorpions, chocolate habaneros (dark brown and the size of your fist), African Fataliis, Thai Dragons, Naga Morich hybrids, etc.  Each year during this time, I frantically ate as many yummy death peppers as my stomach could handle before they started to get a bit squishy and had to be frozen.  At this time, I was right on the cusp of the point where the freezing was going to have to start.  But I always preferred using them fresh, because the taste was better.

I think you see where this is going.

Now, I knew that The Jones did not like spicy things.  And I may even have had some recollection in my mind of “the incident” back in ’92.  But there is sometimes a bit of a sharp edge in the way that The Jones and I conduct our repartee, which is just the way of things with some male friendships, and so I plopped a very small Thai Dragon into the blender and let fly.

The personal animus aimed at me this time far exceeded what I experienced 14 years earlier.  Suffice to say that The Jones was Not A Good Sport about it.  Copious cursing, spitting and hopping around commenced in the small kitchen.  Wild gesticulation ensued.  Things got ugly, and dire recriminations were promised.  The friendship was strained.  He would not drink ANY of it (although I have to say that that this batch had none of the terminal lip burn of the ’92 batch).  I thought it was pretty good, actually.  But The Jones did not agree.  Recording was definitely done for the night, and my friend left in a huff. 

If I am unfortunate enough for the subject to come up even today, a dark cloud descends and there is No Humor in The Jones.

So what lessons can be extrapolated from these unfortunate historical tableaus?  Is it to never, under any circumstances, put a pepper into your adult beverages in a social situation?  Clearly, that can’t be it.  However, nature’s wonderful creation that is the chili will not be reigned in……two identical peppers may have wildly different amounts of capsaicin in them.  Ultimately, you just don’t know.  And yet we cannot allow this natural variability to stifle our mixological creativity or—indeed—our Sense of Fun.  And so the true solution seems to be the donning of protective gear, not unlike a lacrosse player, before hitting the “Frappe’” button on the blender.   Because life is adventure!  Tequila is a playful spirit!  Go forth and spice things up!  Scoville ho!!

A Sublime Shot (of Tequila) From the Deep Rough Or The Bear’s Revenge

Back in the mid-90s, when people were still deigning to marry my friends, I was invited to Tim’s bachelor party out at the lake.  I was happy to get the news for several reasons, first among them being that I knew this particular bachelor party was having a hard time finding a place to roost.  Hard to imagine why someone wouldn’t want to subject their property to a loud, flailing late night bacchanal from this group of guys, but nevertheless the situation was dicey for a while.

It turns out that the soiree would take place at the cabin belonging to Ted’s brother.  We were told it was up on the hill, nestled in the trees, overlooking Lake Travis.   None of us had ever met the guy, and Ted said the place would be vacant because his brother was going on one of his many far-flung international hunting trips (which, now that I think of it, raises the interesting question of whether permission was ever actually sought in advance for the party….).   According to Ted, his brother was a “big hunter” (more on this later).   We were told everyone could crash on the floor that night so that no one had to attempt an ill-advised drive home.

This all sounded great, given that we essentially just needed a place to behave poorly without undue neighborly and/or judicial hindrance.  Just about anywhere would be ok, as long as we were left to our own questionable devices.

And so a 16-gallon keg was duly reserved, commitments were made to bring “certain films” on VHS tapes, and I was in charge of bringing the jambox and tunes.  As the date got closer, I asked Ted about this whole “hunting” thing and was told that his brother shot large animals all over the world and that the cabin contained a disturbing amount of Ted Nugent-like accouterments…..taxidermy, guns everywhere, bear hunting razor arrows with giant compound bows, a “size-able” knife collection, etc.  I remember having a fleeting moment of pause about the combination of these items with the dogged level of intoxication and merriment that I knew was going to take place, but the moment soon passed as I was struck with an idea for a performance art piece that we could have the bachelor enact, using some of the aforementioned props that would be lying about.  I had this old CRT computer monitor that was giving up the ghost, and I thought it would be a fine thing if I wrote the word “SINGLE” on a thin piece of paper in big bold letters, taped it to the monitor while it was glowing that sickly green, and then had the bachelor shoot a bear arrow into it with the giant compound bow.  I envisioned special effects-quality sparks flying everywhere in the night as we all cheered, drank, hollered, etc.  It would be a Cathartic Moment.  And if it blunted the arrow tip in the process, damaging the vile killing machine, then (karmically) all the better!

So, when the day arrived, we all took off work early and hauled the supplies out to the lake.  Loud rock and roll was quickly instigated, the keg tapped, and films shoved into the VCR.  A dilapidated strobe light (which I had bought as a kid at Radio Shack in the early ‘70s, and which was now held together with masking tape) was stuck in an upstairs window for no good reason.  It was a multi-media extravaganza!  I plugged in the CRT and it provided a bilious green glow out on the deck overlooking the trees and the water. 

And we had a ball.  I’m not saying the scene would bear up, in any way, to much outside scrutiny.  But the fifteen of us dove into the pool of bachelor party behavior with belly flops of gusto, and Tim the bachelor was made the continuing center of attention and could be seen smiling quite a bit.

When the time seemed right, I gathered the fellows together and made a big production out of taping the “SINGLE” sign onto the glowing CRT screen.  The giant (and frankly quite dangerous looking) compound bow was fetched from a corner of the living room, as was a razor arrow.  None of us had ever used one of these things before but we had seen lots of bow-and-arrows in movies and so thought, with classic hubris:  “How hard can it be?”  With two rows of beer-armed guests on either side of the projected flight path, we started lustily ribbing the bachelor and chanting “Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!” 

As he struggled unsteadily to notch the arrow and pull the brutal bowstring back, Tim’s face was covered in sweat.  Was his perspiration testimony to the difficulty of the bow pull, I wondered? Or was it in contemplation of his brave step out of bachelorhood?  In any case, with a mighty exhalation he let the long, gleaming arrow fly.  The crowd cheered as one.  The scalpel-sharp arrow tip glinted savagely in the moonlight.  The shaft rocketed right to the screen of the computer monitor with its thematically-significant sign……….

…….and bounced harmlessly off, falling un-impressively onto the deck like a small stick.

This was followed by an odd, massed deflating sound as all the men in attendance sighed at the anti-climax of my performance art concept.  The arrow was picked up and put away, along with the bow, accompanied by an unspoken air that maybe we had dodged a bit of a bullet (to mix metaphors) in terms of ricochets, drunken drives to the hospital, awkward questions about whose idea this was anyway, etc.

And so the guests put their heads down and partied with greater diligence.  The music got louder and rowdier, the strobe flashed uselessly on, and the films ran in a loop.After a certain number of hours had passed, two biological imperatives manifested themselves at roughly the same time.  People became Hungry….and…..people wanted to shoot some tequila.

Neither food nor tequila had been brought, which constituted an unforgiveable lack of planning.  But from the depths of despair, Ted shouted out that he’d found some things rummaging around the cabin kitchen.  In retrospect, this is where events took a turn toward Great Consequence.  Dark and Light……the Sacred and the Profane.  Drastically divergent gastric experiences.

To address The Hunger, Ted found several pounds of grizzly bear sausage in the freezer.  None of us had ever heard of such a thing before, much less tried it, and actually we all had some real qualms about having anything to do with such an ethically dubious product.  But given the state of libationary group mind and, of course, The Hunger, these misgivings were set aside and the sausage run through the microwave to defrost.

As these things are sometimes wont to go, people became impatient with the defrosting time and insisted that the sausages be put in the skillet on the stove while still largely frozen.  The kitchen was bare of all other food products, including cooking oil, and there was much spattering of ice crystals accompanied by the smell of burning meat.  Beer was put in the skillet as a (poor) substitute for oil.  One thing that became quickly apparent was that grizzly bear sausage is greasy.  Quite greasy.  Actually really damnably greasy.  But reason had long since fled, and soon links of half-cooked, icy yet burned sausage were being passed around on plates to the line of bleary, ravenous guys.

We dug in.

For reasons that will very soon become apparent, at this point in the narrative it is necessary to obscure the facts a bit.  Suffice to say that one member of the group, who will remain unnamed, was the first to feel the pangs deep in his nether-guts.  Beyond pangs, really.  Truth be told (and, after all, our very lives depend on truth, as Bill Hicks used to say), it was a full-on case of The Grabs.

And so this (unnamed) individual ran at half-crouch to what turned out to be the only bathroom in the entire cabin.  Mighty were his efforts, and great his distress, all of which was certainly not aided by the increasingly ill-tempered and desperate cries and bangings on the other side of the bathroom door.  But it was safely locked and, as the bards say, this too shall pass.  Eventually he emerged.

He was not well received.

Some of the stricken had been able to wait it out, albeit with superhuman powers of zen concentration.  One had run upstairs in a panic, looking for a second bathroom, and run into a waist-high Russian Boar mounted and sitting upright in the middle of the floor, which nearly scared the bear out of him when he turned on the lights. 

Some had not found the needed level of focus and had been forced to run out into the trees (which brings to mind an ironic adage about what a bear is usually doing out there…..).  Any sense of nature’s justice having been served was entirely lost on the assemblage when they discovered that the one cabin commode had been incapacitated by the ministrations of the first victim.   

In all fairness, it has to be said that the mood turned quite ugly at that point, with much unwarranted and heated abuse poured upon Patient Zero. 

*********

Things were eventually sorted out, because there really wasn’t much choice in the face of such an en masse biological emergency.  Music of a less frenetic pace was put on the box as the assembled sat tentatively around the living room and tried to regroup.  The strobe light was extinguished after some complaints about the unwelcome psychedelic accompaniment it had provided to those recently in the woods.  The films, however, played on in the same loop.

It was at that point that Ted told us what else he had found in his earlier scavenging of his brother’s kitchen.

Way back in a cabinet over the fridge, with boxes placed in front of it (no doubt purposely) to obscure it from view, was a bottle of tequila.  And this was very good tequila.  In fact, everyone later agreed that it was The Best Tequila We Had Ever Had.  My later research found it was $75 a bottle, which was quite a bit in the mid-90s!

tequila-calls-you-1258780-1278x956.jpg

This being a bachelor party and these guys being…well….these guys, fifteen shot glasses were lined up across the kitchen counter and the shooting began.  For all of us, it was our first experience trying a really good tequila.  In Texas, as you may know, we had been saturated for many years with a cynical yet effective advertising campaign that led us gringos to believe that Jose Cuervo Gold was the best tequila around.  And for some reason, for most of those years, it was just about the only drinkable tequila around Central Texas.  The boutique brands had made it quietly into the stores by the mid-90s, but weren’t really known to people of our incomes, and frankly I only discovered them as I set out to find out more, based on this fantastic blanco tequila we had that night to soothe our bear-ravaged pallets/GIs/psyches.

Now I know what you’re thinking, but if all you’d had around for a couple of decades was Jose Cuervo Gold, you’d shoot tequila, too, rather than sip it!  It was a defense mechanism, really.

But, like a diamond shining in a rough of bear effluvium, we had all experienced the special joy of a Really Good Tequila that night.  And our pallets would never be the same.It just goes to show that any group of reprobates can be rehabilitated, given the right impetus.

The Tequila Revolution

Tequila Stories: A Unique Tequila Tale to Be Read in One-Sitting with a Sip!

When I was in college I didn’t like to drink tequila. The popular brand on the market, maybe the only brand on the market, was the color of piss and sat like an oil slick on top of everything else in my stomach. I was in a fraternity then, so I went to a lot of parties and at the same point in every party - when everyone was teetering on the brink of drunkeness and the best come-ons had been used with no success - a brother would pull out the bottle and hold it aloft like a trophy amidst hoots and hollers before passing it around so everyone could take a pull. It was a recipe for vomit and not the way I wanted to impress the latest girl of my dreams. So, rather than face questions about my manhood when I refused my turn, I would find my way to the door.

Tequila, the sipping kind. Photo by Sean Reagan Photography (c)

Tequila, the sipping kind. Photo by Sean Reagan Photography (c)

Years later, when I had achieved four degrees of maturity - job, wife, kids, mortgage - I stumbled across Sammy Hagar’s autobiography, “Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock.”  Now, I’ve always preferred Van Halen with David Lee Roth fronting the band, but I have to give Sammy credit for forever changing my opinion of tequila. In his book, he relates a story about sitting in his car early one morning in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, when a local materialized out of the sand dunes. The man had apparently had a late night, or gotten an early start on his next night, and Sammy and his date sat laughing as they watched the guy wobble back and forth across the road and into the sunrise. This incident inspired the name for Mr. Hagar’s own brand of tequila and reading his book compelled me to visit my local liquor store to renew my relationship with the famous elixir.

In my mind, tequila had always meant Jose Cuervo, so when I entered the store I was surprised to see tequila bottles spread over several shelves.  There were blancos and reposados, especiales and anejos, glass bottles and plastic with cool names and designs of deer and skulls and jewels.  Tequila had undergone a revolution in my absence, dethroned the golden rey, and instituted a more tranquillo regime. I could now sip it to savor the taste rather than go bottoms up to cover it. No longer did I have to make a mad dash to the bathroom to spill my guts after wetting my lips.  Instead, I could enjoy the smoothness and the warmth it brought to my being as it settled into me.

Yes, tequila had matured over the years, just like I had.  And although the make-up of my fraternity has changed from slackers, stoners, and drunks to fathers, professionals, and armchair quarterbacks, we still enjoy a good time. So, I don’t cringe anymore when a brother shows up at my door with a bottle of tequila. Instead, I raise my hands like we just won the Super Bowl, hoot and holler, and go get the glasses.

Nights at La Cucaracha, Episode One: The Dave Chappell of Sinaloa

Tequila Stories: A Unique Tequila Tale to Be Read in One-Sitting with a Sip!

We met The Dave Chappell of Sinaloa at La Cucaracha in San Miguel deep into the late night, several weeks back.  He had volunteered his birthplace.  We came up with the nickname, in appreciation of his highly-entertaining rap and general way of moving.  Plus, he kind of looks like Dave Chappell.   After telling us where he was from that first night, he was quick to add “but I’m not that kind of Sinaloan…..I’m a lover, not a fighter.”  He then initiated some tequila shot rounds, and a fine time was had by all (until the piper was paid next day, anyway).  

When we walked in the door on this night, there he was again, down at the far end of the bar by the jukebox, where Jonathan, my Aussie friend, and I like to hang out.  With him were four large, stern-looking dudes who looked enough alike to be brothers.  Turns out they were.

“Hey, man, I want you to meet my cousins!  They’re visiting from Sinaloa.”  Firm, solemn handshakes were exchanged.

“They don’t speak any English, but there’s great guys.”

Now, Jonathan speaks Spanish fluently, albeit with the same thick Antipodean accent that makes his English hard for me to understand in loud barroom situations (which is where we tend to congregate).  My brain, however, has demonstrated a lifelong resistance to representational systems like other languages.  I berate it for this, but so far it remains resistant and unrepentant.  And so I struggle.

Cucaracha was hopping on this night as the clocked danced heedlessly past midnight, and things were loud enough where even Jonathan was having a hard time trying to communicate with the taciturn (and still large) cousins.  

And then Dave Chappell started The Shot Buying.  

I had an immediate flash of how this was going to go:  seven guys taking turns buying rounds of shots for each other.  Rinse and repeat.  I felt my skull get an anticipatory jump on things by starting to throb, pulsing in and out and putting a rhythmic pressure on my brainpan.

Disclaimer: This is not Walter! It's another tequila lover, Kevin Holloran, hanging out in La Cucaracha taking cheap tequila shots.

Disclaimer: This is not Walter! It's another tequila lover, Kevin Holloran, hanging out in La Cucaracha taking cheap tequila shots.

And so it went.  I’ve always been deeply impressed by the Mexican ability to consume tequila throughout a night without making faces, hopping about, cursing or otherwise showing any effects from the ingestion.  Whereas growing up in Texas in my day, we were the subject of a ruthless, comprehensive and effective advertising campaign that created the pervasive false impression not only that gold tequila was GOOD, but that Jose Cuervo Gold was the only tequila anyone should buy.  And so, as you might imagine, much sputtering and hopping about was always involved, accompanied by some truly creative expletives.  And this in turn produced “tequila stories” (eg. waking up in the back of a pickup truck as it sped down the road, driven by people you didn’t know) as well as a Pavlovian response to further tequila drinking (which of course was not a deterrent).      

So after a round or so on this night at Cucaracha, I realized that my only hope was to introduce a different kind of shot into the rotation.  I needed some relief from the not-Cuervo-Gold-But-Still-Not-That-Great-Quality blanco tequila shots.  So when my turn to buy came around again, I asked our friend Herman, the bartender, for “siete kamikazes, por favor.”  Herman was not familiar with this one, and so Jonathan helpfully pulled out his phone and the recipe was quickly pulled up and passed behind the bar.  Herman read it, nodded once, and soon we had a long line of cloudy little shot glasses lined up for us.  The four cousins looked a little dubious at this break from tradition, but without objection they each grabbed a shot glass and we all tossed ‘em back.  I waited with some trepidation for their reaction. 

They loved it!  Turns out none of our group but myself had ever had a kamikaze before.  One of the cousins even ordered more as the shot buying rotation came his way.  I started to feel better about maintaining a bit of dignity and poise for the rest of the night.  But then more low-grade tequila shots were ordered, and I began to feel a certain uncertainty in the rigidity of my legs.  Nothing too serious yet, but let’s just call it an increased potentiality of toppling.  

So as my round-buying turn approached, I began to consider something truly desperate……something I had not done in a very long time……something that might not even be possible (or legal) in a Central Mexican cantina.   I scrolled through my besieged and sputtering mental Roladex, trying to remember how one might make the damn thing.

And then it was my turn.  “Herman,” I asked with some hesitation, “can you make a Flaming Dr. Pepper?”  One furrowed brow and recipe look-up on the phone later, Herman got down to some serious alchemy.  He seemed deep in thought……a true craftsman, enjoying a new challenge.  It took several trips for him to ferry all the parts of these shots over to us, and when lined up it covered the entire length of the bar.

As you may know, a Flaming Dr. Pepper is a combination shot whereby a large shot glass is filled with Amaretto and topped off with Bacardi 151, which is then lit on fire and dropped in a full mug of beer, which is itself then immediately chugged in its entirety.  Against all odds and reason, it tastes exactly like a Dr. Pepper.  No one knows why.

To say that the Sinaloans appeared dubious of my new order would be a bit of an understatement, but they did enjoy the fire display (Herman had been so enthusiastic with the lighter, and the bar so saturated by booze from its venerable 69-year history, that our entire end of the bar caught on fire for a bit).  And so all seven of us stepped up in a complicated ballet, since the timing of the lighting of the shots, the deposits in the mugs of beer, and the beer chugging itself, was crucial for the Right Effect to be delivered.  

It was brutal, as I knew it would be, but it did provide that diversity so craved by my palate and soggy brain stem.  But how would the Sinaloans react?

They loved it!  They all slapped me on the back, smiles and handshakes all around, and two of the cousins ordered the same thing when their turn next came around.  Everyone in the bar seemed to enjoy the fire spectacle, and Herman seemed well-pleased with this new mixology arrow added to his quiver.  It was Good.

Sure, it took 2-3 days to feel human again (with my skull on Day One feeling as if it were cracking open a’la Zeus birthing Athena), but in the end it was a small price to pay for the whole hands-across-the-sea brotherhood and libationary solidarity that our diverse little group shared that night in the same little Mexican cantina where Kerouac and Ginsberg where drinking when Cassady got hit by the train on the outskirts of town.


Rather than drinking ANY of what we drank that night, try this much more sensible and tasty alternative:
Prickly Pear Margarita
--4 oz. Blue Iguana Silver Tequila
--2 oz. prickly pear cactus syrup
--2 oz. Cointreau, Mathilde Orange XO Liqueur, or Triple Sec
--1 oz. orange juice
--4 oz. lime juice
On the rocks:  Mix ingredients, pour over ice.
Frozen:  Put 4 cups of ice in the blender with ingredients.
(serves four, or two with large tiki mugs)