Monday, September 1, 2014

A Captain Marlow for David Mitchell and The Bone Clocks

Photo by Tom Galleguillos
The New York Times has sources everywhere, and maybe things aren't as secure around Books Inc. International Headquarters as they could be - regardless, the Times got wind of the fact that in the bookstore's September newsletter, David Mitchell would be getting his own drink to celebrate the wildly anticipated publication of his newest novel, The Bone Clocks.

Learning this, the Grey Lady decided to give Mr. Mitchell the entire cover of yesterday's Book Review.  Either that, or they chose to review the book so prominently because it's another example of the prowess of Mr. Mitchell's audacious storytelling.

I mean, it could be that.

Please, tomorrow, when the book is available?  Go buy it, go read it - then we'll talk about it over drinks.

Speaking of drinks.  I'll mix you up a Captain Marlow - named for the pub where you'll find the teenage Holly Sykes at the beginning of The Bone Clocks.  Holly isn't trying to sneak a sip of beer - her parents own the pub.  We'll follow Holly from the moment in 1984 when she runs away from the Marlow - leaving behind the Talking Heads on her record player, her parents, her brothers and sister - and runs into her future, all the way into the middle of the 21st Century.

Mr. Mitchell again weaves disparate story-lines containing a cornucopia of characters.  Some of these you'll want to drink with, some you'll want to throw your drink at - like Hugo Lamb, an upper-crusty Brit who has something of the vampire in him.  A thieving vampire who wears great clothes.

For Mr. Mitchell's drink, I started with a good Irish whiskey as a nod to Holly's Irish grandmother.  There's a lot of posh in the Bone Clocks, though, and I'm certain that Hugo would wrongly look down his nose at the whiskey, so I added to bit of port to make him look up.  We'll drink this one after dinner, so I added a splash of Grand Marnier.  Maple Bitters echo the flavors of both the whiskey and the port.  A little lemon, some ice - and it's good to go.

So tuck yourself into The Bone Clocks.  When you're good and ready to talk about it, I'll be good and ready to mix you a drink.

Captain Marlow:

2 oz. Knappogue Castle 12-year-old Irish whiskey
1 oz. Warre's Otima 10-year-old tawny port
.25 oz. Grand Marnier
10 drops Urban Moonshine Maple Bitters
1 tsp. lemon juice

Stir all with ice.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with an orange twist.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki Toddy

It's been two weeks since Haruki Murakami's new novel came out stateside.  That's given you plenty of time to have read Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage - so if you haven't, get cracking.  Murakami has created the exceptional in the guise of a conventional novel, when of course it's anything but.  Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is now my favorite of his, so did I say get cracking? 

In Tsukuru Tazaki's freshman year of high school, he's lucky enough to connect with four other students.  These five become that rare thing, the best of friends.  Truly.  Two girls, three boys, as inseparable as the sides of a pentagon.

Tsukuru feels a bit left out, though, because the other four all have a color in their last names - red pine, blue sea, white root and black field.  "Soon, the other four friends began to use nicknames:  the boys were called Aka (red) and Ao (blue); and the girls were Shiro (white) and Kuro (black).  But he just remained Tsukuru.  How great it would be, he often thought, if I had a color in my name too.  Then everything would be perfect."

The almost perfect is too good to be true, and a cataclysm - precipitated by his move to Tokyo for college - cuts Tsukuru off from his friends, setting him on his years of pilgrimage.  The first changes are physical.  After months of barely eating, his soft looks are replaced - his cheekbones appear to have been chiseled by a trowel:

"In any case, the boy named Tsukuru Tazaki had died.  In the savage darkness he'd breathed his last and was buried in a small clearing in the forest.  Quietly, secretly, in the predawn while everyone was still fast asleep.  There was no grave marker.  And what stood here now, breathing, was a brand-new Tsukuru Tazaki, one whose substance had been totally replaced.  But he was the only one who knew this.  And he didn't plan to tell."

I wish I could read that passage in Japanese.  It's such a brilliant echo of Dante's journey out of his own dark wood - and like Dante, Tsukuru has a guide.  It's not Virgil, but the seductive Sara.  They meet after Tsukuru's years of pilgrimage when he's in his late thirties, and he'll tell her parts of his story that he's told no one before.

Their story begins, like so many stories do, over drinks.  Sara's drinking a mojito, Tsukuru a highball - though he only finishes half of it.  Half of a highball?  Who does that?  Tsukuru does because he isn't a big drinker - but at one point, he wishes this weren't true.  "At a time like this it would be nice if I could drink more, he thought.  At this point most men would find a bar and get drunk."

Sara's the catalyst for Tsukuru's revelations, and you'll follow him into the past as he retraces the steps that led him out of that dark wood.  I followed, greedily, relishing his story, delighting in Murakami's prose - the musical elements are there, as they so often are, as is the ennui, the melancholy - but the pulse of the script is always carrying you forward... the drink, already!

Although Tsukuru doesn't drink often, he knows how to enjoy himself when he does.  Near the novel's end, we receive this glimpse:

"Tsukuru drank the Cutty Sark, savoring the fragrance.  His stomach grew faintly warm.  From the summer of his sophomore year in college until the following winter, when every day brought thoughts of dying and nothing else, he'd had one small glass of whiskey at night like this."

The warmth of the whiskey is palpable here, so I thought Tsukuru would enjoy a toddy on his contemplative nights.  But the toddy needed to be colorless, like our hero, so instead of whiskey we'd use shōchū - Japanese white liquor.  Yokaichi Mugi - a brand of shōchū - is sweeter than some, but like using brandy instead of whiskey, it makes for a perfect toddy.

Instead of lemon, I used juice from the yuzu fruit.  This citrus is popular in Japan, and though it's hard to find, it's well worth the search.  It's a little bit grapefruit, a little bit mandarin, and all good.  Grapefruit bitters highlight the yuzu, and a little bit of sugar rounds everything out.

It would be perfect, of course, if my copy of Murakami's novel were signed, but that would be like wishing for a color in my last name - so I'll make do with a good drink.

You should, too - while reading.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki Toddy

1.5 oz. Yokaichi Mugi
.75 oz. yuzu juice
.5 oz simple syrup
10 drops Bittermans Hopped Grapefruit Bitters
2 oz. boiling water

Add all to a warmed mug and stir well.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Memories of Mr. Williams

The funniest hour I've ever spent in my life was at San Francisco's Holy City Zoo in witness to Robin Williams - furiously unscripted.  What made the night so special was that it was just me and six shitty comics in the audience.

Excluding my pal, Sean Murphy.  Sean's a funny guy.  Still.  Just us and a handful of unfunny souls.

In my mind, Open Mic nights at the Zoo were on Wednesdays, so it was an unremarkable weekday night in San Francisco.  The Zoo - long since shuttered - was the smallest comedy club I've ever been in, but it was also the most important.  Back then, when comedy clubs were relevant, anyone of note went through the Zoo, tiny though it was.  Hell, maybe that's why they did it.

That day, Sean had called me and said he'd be heading out to the Richmond to take advantage of the free stage-time at the Zoo.  Did I want to join him?

It didn't (doesn't) take much nudging to get me to head into the city, so I joined.  It was an off night.  Usually the comics who take the stage have friends in tow, so a couple of comics, a couple friends, and we'd make an intimate - but loud - crowd.

That night?  Only Sean had let his fingers do the walking, so the audience was just the comics and me - each of them bravely taking the stage, performing to a crowd of bitchy rivals (even a bad comic can be funny if he's not on stage but in the crowd making fun of the comic actually trying to be funny).  After a few comics had performed, Sean included, had belted their best, one of them asked if anyone had a light.  He - instead of even pretending to support the others who had gathered that night -  needed his nicotine fix.

I always have a Zippo in my pocket, so I volunteered to head out onto Clement Street with him.  I sparked my lighter, he started puffing, and when I look up, Robing Williams is heading right for us.  Mr. Williams and a handler, or a friend, or some star-struck schmuck like me who leached onto the Star as he walked down the street.

Since I'm star-struck, I want the autograph of Robin Williams - bad - but the only thing I've got is a manual on black-and-white photography.  It's in my bag, in the club, so I exit stage left to grab it.  When I come back out, Mr. Williams is chatting with the comic, the smoker.  Or being chatted to.  Mr. Williams seemed uncomfortable with the attention being heaped on him by this up-and-not-comer, and here I was, about to ask for his autograph.

Which I did.

I've never been asked to sign a photo manual before, Mr. Williams said - still uncomfortable.

But he politely signed, and the handler or friend or schmuck-like-me grabbed my book out of his hand and said, I'm signing, too.  And I said, Sure.  Go ahead.

Then I tried to make some witty platitude.

Have you ever tried to make a witty platitude to someone as funny as Mr. Williams?  Maybe you'd be better at it.  Me?  I sounded like an idiot.

Hard to imagine, I know.

But he was kind.  Courteous and polite and kind.  How many times in his life had he been approached by an up-and-not-comer?  Or by a grabby fan who wanted a piece of him?  And yet that night, quiet in the cool fog of San Francisco, Mr. Williams cordially signed my book.  Made awkward pleasantries.  And then excused himself while he popped into the club.

Can you believe that? the smoker said as he looked down at the hand that had shaken the hand of one of the most famous comedians in the world.  I can't believe it, the smoker said.

Believe it, the handler/friend/schmuck said.  And stick around.  It's about to get better.

It got better because Mr. Williams had just popped into the club to see if there was any room left on the bill for him to also take the stage.  On Open Mic Night at the Holy City Zoo.  On an unremarkable Wednesday in San Francisco.

I still enjoy picturing that conversation.  Especially tonight.  Especially right now.  I like to imagine Mr. Williams tapping the doorman's shoulder and asking, Is it ok if I add my name to the list?  Is there still room?

I walked back into the club as Mr. Williams was walking out.  I found Sean in the second row of seats in that tiniest of comedy clubs with the smallest of audiences - and Sean just looked at me and said, I know, I already heard.

A little intimidating, I said.

Are you kidding? Sean said.  I've already gone on so I don't have to follow him - and my resume is about to get a whole lot better.

How do you figure, I said.

I'm about to be able to say that I've performed alongside Robin Williams, Sean said.

The guy at the Zoo also figured no one wanted to follow Mr. Williams, so Mork would take the stage last.  He also wouldn't watch the other comics - Sean let me know that some had accused Mr. Williams of ripping off their acts so he'd made it a policy not to watch others perform. If he didn't watch you, he couldn't steal from you.

I don't know whether those allegations were true - but I know this.  Anyone who ever saw that mad genius on stage, with his brain erupting like fireworks on the Fourth of July, knows that when he went off on stage, he went off on stage.  Observations leading to one-liners leading to white-hot jokes leading to scorching thoughts on everything.


So what if in the midst of that mayhem, in the midst of his flailing stream-of-consciousness hilarity, Mr. Williams included a quip that he might have overheard from your lips in some smoky club in 1979?

Really?  How adorable.


When he did take the stage.  When Mr. Williams took the stage at the Holy City Zoo.

In front of me and six others.  And the guy who handled the door.

What happened next -

What followed -

What we witnessed that night was the funniest hour I've ever seen on stage.  Or screen.  Mr. Williams - uncut, raw, unchecked.

Trying to wrap my head around the fact that this was the same soft-spoken man I had spoken with earlier - out on the street asking for his autograph.  That quiet man bore no relation to the sharp, frenetic, loud and acerbic whirling-dervish who entertained us.  Mic in hand.  Mic on stand.  Comedian on stage.  Comedian in crowd.  Prowling back and forth, standing stock still - but the quips never stopping.  The observations and accusations and pyrotechnics never fading.

I've never seen anything like it in my life, I said that, right?  And he did it all for this rag-tag group of souls who had come in out of the cold to try and be funny for a few minutes on stage.  And then he lit the place on fire and it burned for an hour - and after?

Really, there was nothing left.


I wish I could tell you what he riffed on that night - but the takes were so fast that you couldn't hold on to the last thing because you were already laughing at the next thing.

Damn, he was a funny man.

So I'm remembering him tonight because my friend Phil let me know the news.  Let me know just a few hours after I delivered ice cream to my daughters - strawberry for Elizabeth, cookies and cream for Kristina - just a few hours after they sat on a curb, ice cream dripping from their waffle cones as they watched the Disneyland Parade angle towards Main Street here in Anaheim.  And in the midst of that merry parade, in the midst of Marry Poppins and Bert on their carousel horses, Anna and Elsa on their frozen float, and Ariel waving her tail high above us all, one of the largest cheers erupting from the crowd was for The Genie.

Daddy! a little girl on her father's shoulders yelled, Look! Genie! and she waved frantically, trying to get The Genie's attention.

Would she have screamed so hard if not for the life that Mr. Williams breathed so terrifically into that character?

And then, just an hour or two later, Phil let me know the news via a tag on Facebook.

Phil and I worked together at Books Inc. on Chestnut Street more than ten years ago.  During our working time together,  Phil and I helped Mr. Williams more than once when he came into the store to shop.

My God, the size of the stacks of books that he would bring to the counter?  Some of the obscure graphic novels he was interested in?  And his kids were as nice as he was - nice and courteous and always so polite.

So there he was - a quiet, kind, nice guy.  Just like the man I had met years before outside that comedy club in another part of the city.  I always thought it was like he kept that furious intellect on hold for the stage, or for the movies - that if he let it seep out, it would start to pour and then burst, so maybe he needed to keep it in check to prevent himself from drowning.

Except that one time when he was on Chestnut Street and poked his head into E'Angelo Italian Restaurant and hollered out, Arafat! Party of six thousand!

How many times like those?

That was more how it was hanging out with Sean and some of the comedians he performed with, like Johnny Steele.  Those guys were on fire all the time.  I didn't try and keep up because I couldn't.

And no one could've kept up with Mr. Williams, not when he was blazing.

Depression is brutal.  It's brutal, arrogant, corrosive - pick your poison.  It's all of that, and worse.  So I'm sorry to read the reports I'm reading tonight.  Sorry to hear that Mr. Williams lost his battle.  That maybe he couldn't keep the shit in check anymore, that maybe it burst, that maybe it finally made him drown.

I'm just - sorry.

Damn, he was a funny man.

Friday, August 1, 2014

So many Painted Horses

So many good books, so little time - even in high summer when we should have more lazy opportunities to read.  Do me a favor, though, and make time for the debut novel by Malcolm Brooks, Painted Horses.

This is a good, old-fashioned, sprawling tale set in Montana.  Rock and roll music is still young, but the idea of the American west is already old and slipping away.  The story has been set in motion by the hiring of a young archeologist, Catherine, who's been tasked with conducting a survey of part of the state - before it's inundated by the waters a new dam will generate.

I mixed a Painted Horse for Mr. Brooks a few months ago, and it's good (he humbly says).  I wrote thenPainted Horses called out for whiskey - we're in Montana in the '50's so that's what we're drinking.  But I wanted to class it up a little bit - paint the horse, in other words - with a few other flavors for Catherine...who's quickly captivated by big skies and everything under them.

So this was that drink.

Painted Horse No. 1:

1.5 oz. High West Double Rye
.5 oz Maraschino liqueur
.25 oz St. George Absinthe
.25 oz fresh lemon juice

Stir all with ice.  Strain into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass. 

Still, do this for me, ok?  Go read the book.  Read it with that drink in hand.  Then when you come upon the painted horse for the first time in the novel's opening pages, you'll think, like Catherine does, that you've encountered the ghost of a war horse, an angry beast with its legs painted in bands of color - red and yellow.  Stamping furiously, head thrown back.  It's a powerful image conjuring another part of the West, Arizona's Painted Desert, and with such a strong suggestion in mind, I thought a layered drink would be perfect to mimic what Brooks had put on the page.

My friend Paulina - the best bartender ever - hated having to make a pousse-café (that's French for how about a beer, instead?) but they can be pretty.  So I went with pretty because so much of Brooks' novel is flat-out gorgeous.  This, then, is the drink you'll find in our newsletter for August.  Enjoy.

Painted Horse No. 2:

Baileys Irish Cream

Float carefully, in the order given, by pouring each over the back of a bar spoon into a chilled pony glass.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Jack & Lydia - from Everything I Never Told You

To celebrate the full swing of summer, this month's Books Inc. newsletter features a cocktail that goes down easy on a hot, July day (really, it goes down easy regardless of the day, but I'll use anything for an excuse).

The drink pays tribute to Celeste Ng's debut, Everything I Never Told You.  The novel follows the complications set in motion when a blonde graduate student marries her Chinese-American professor.

Since the year is 1958 - almost a full decade before the Supreme Court would invalidate the prohibitions against interracial marriage - the aftershocks of this act will be felt for years, leading to a convulsion that Marilyn and James didn't foresee.

(I should have asked Ms. Ng if she chose 1958 because that's the year the couple in the Court's landmark Loving v. Virginia decision actually married - but, alas, I did not, so I don't know whether this is Art imitating Life, but it's pretty to think so.)

I wanted to use ingredients that would reflect James Lee's heritage, and for me the most accessible component was Tsingtao beer.  Beer cocktails can be refreshing, and since Everything I Never Told You is a summer debut, that worked perfectly.

The name comes from two of the principle characters in the novel - the teens Lydia and Jack.  In flashback, we'll see Lydia - the  from the book's title - befriend the complicated Jack.

Lydia is not as she seems, nor is Jack - and the same goes for our cocktail.  The collins glass you'll hold will look like it just contains beer, but the addition of Galliano gives it an unexpectedly sweet complement.

Because Galliano gets its licorice flavor from star anise, this was the perfect opportunity to use Bar Keep's Chinese bitters.

These play off the traditional Chinese five-spice powder, and since one of those five spices is star anise...see what I did there?

Please - purchase the novel, from us or some other fabulous Indie, and then belly up to my bar.

Jack & Lydia

5 oz. Tsingtao beer
1 oz. Galliano
2 shakes Bar Keep Chinese bitters
Garnish:  Lemon wedge
Stir all gently with ice.  Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass.  Squeeze lemon into glass and add wedge.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Postcard #1 -- Galveston & the Caribbean

Want to know how to tell that you're not at San Francisco International Airport and are instead in the George Bush Airport in Houston, Texas?  The first words you overhear at Bush are from a gentlemen - wearing a tshirt with longhorns - asking the lady in the gift shop if she has any chew.

Chaw?  I don't think he asked for chaw.  Chew it was.

Want to know how to tell that you're in the buffet line aboard the Navigator of the Seas, steaming towards Honduras, and not at home?  It's when you overhear a father, wide of girth, happy and hungry, telling his teenage son, in all seriousness - I guess we could take the healthy route and go for the fried chicken.

Want to know why specificity in all things is good?  For instance, when you're trying to decide on which excursions to take, and on the Honduran island of Roatan, they're are many to choose from - they're are dolphin experiences, they're are friendly monkeys to pet, is there a zipline?  Maybe.

But when you're trying to decide, and you get all excited because your niece expresses uncharacteristic interest in the monkeys, only to have your hopes dashed because the monkeys are all sold out - so you won't be able to travel that day with your niece.  She wasn't that interested in the dolphins, alas.

And then, at dinner last night?  When you discover that indeed spaces opened up for the monkey trip, and you're talking about that, and the mom of your niece laughs, she laughs and says her daughter was indeed interested - but she was actually interested in the Monkees.

If it was the Monkees, she would be in - but White Faced monkeys?  Those kinds, not so much.

So Honduras awaits, the island awaits - with its monkeys.  Not Monkees.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!

Last night.  We're getting ready for our vacation, but with time slipping away, we - Karen and I - we take the easy way out and decide on Happy Meals for the kids so we don't have to do dishes.  Or, you know, cook, since we have no time to spare.

Karen's a better packer than Daddy - she's a Master Packer, like her father - so I'm elected to do the McDonald's run.

When I return from the Golden Arches, Kristina opens her Happy Meal, oohs and ahhs over the blond dolly - that night's secret toy surprise - but then she rummages, and rummages some more, before asking, crestfallen, Where's my barbecue sauce?

I get it, right?  That's a drag.  You're expecting a Diet Coke and a Regular comes to your table instead.  You order Rare, the sizzle comes all Medium.  And you're disappointed.

The kids had been great all day - excited about their trip, looking forward to seeing their cousins for a week on board the Navigator of the Seas as that ship takes us from Texas to Honduras and points beyond.  But Kristina hides her disappointment and says, It's ok, Daddy.  I'll just eat my Nuggets.  Dry.

It was the way she squared her small shoulders before saying 'Dry' that really got me.  I told her it was ok, I'd drive back to the Arches and get her some sauce.

I wasn't happy about it, but that's what parents do sometimes, right?  It's Father's Day in just a few, so I'll go do my Father thing.

In the car, heading back over our little bridge into Oakland, I'm stewing something good.  Irritated that, when I should be selecting clothes and books for our trip, I'm instead returning to a Drive Thru to retrieve barbecue sauce.  For six nuggets.  I'm not mad at Kristina - it's not her fault - but getting steamed just the same.

I stop in front of the box and wait for the guy to ask what I want.  After he does, I explain what happened and in response only receive silence.

Then, finally, his voice says, Drive to the window.

The tone was curt, I thought, and the way he said Drive was like he was sending me to the Principal's office.

What's your story? he said when I got there.

That wasn't the most propitious of beginnings, but I again explained what happened and asked if I could have my packet of sauce.

Can I see your receipt? he says.

He doesn't apologize, that's beneath him, of course.  It's been a long shift, taking money from customers, all of us in a rush - Yes I want fries with that No I don't want fries with that Are the apple pies still two for a buck?   

Long shift.  I get it.  Still.

Join me while I head down the rabbit hole?  Just a quick trip?

I don't actually have my receipt, I say.  It's back at home, in the bag you incorrectly packed when I was here - five minutes ago.  You must remember me, right?  I ordered two Happy Meals.  From you.  I paid for them.  Money was exchanged.  Me to you.  Ring any bells?

Sir, he said, can I see your receipt?

I will admit, I was already geared, exasperated with the whole situation - so right then?  I went a little Greek.

I don't have my receipt, I said, getting loud.  It's in the bag, I said.  At home.  Being cradled by a disappointed seven-year-old who is patiently waiting for me to return with her Barbecue Sauce.  Little packet.  About yea big? and to be helpful, I held up my forefinger and thumb a few inches apart.

Sir, he said, it's Policy to see your receipt.  I'm only following Policy.

(unknown to him, we'd suddenly entered Nazi Germany, yes?)

I'm confused, I say.  It's almost nine o'clock at night, I say.  What exactly do you think I'm doing?  Driving around all the Micky D's in the East Bay and scoring a single packet of Barbecue Sauce in order to, what?  Sell them on the freaking Barbecue Sauce Black Market?

Sir, he says, trying to remain passive in the face of my increasing anger, I need your receipt.

Why do you keep saying that? I say, and now I'm really loud.  I told you I don't have my receipt.  I told you I'm trying to rectify your mistake.  I was just here.  Five minutes ago.  You took my money.  For two freaking Happy Meals.  But I didn't get my freaking sauce.  I paid for the sauce but you didn't give it to me.  That's part of the deal, isn't it?  I order a six-nugget Happy Meal, you ask me what kind of sauce, I say Barbecue, and then you drop it in the box.  Except this time you didn't drop it in the freaking box and I'm confused, really confused - so, can you end my confusion and give me my sauce?

Sir, he begins again, there's no need to get angry.  I'm just doing my job.  You don't have to raise your voice.

(and here, I play the Retail Card.  Didn't want to, but did.)

You know what? I asked.  I do the Retail thing, too, but what my coworkers and I do if a customer comes to us - with a mistake of our own devising - is actually really simple.  We apologize.  First.  We say, I'm sorry.  We say, What can I do to correct our error?  But (and yes, the Greek is rising now) I haven't heard that from you, not even a whisper, so I'd like my sauce please because I have more packing to do.

Maybe, just maybe, I did not say please to this Night Manager.

When, he says, did you say this happened?


What time did you say you bought this meal?

Meals, I say.  And I don't know, I say.  Five minutes ago?  Ten?

But he's not listening.  He's scrolling on his computer.  Scrolling.


Galled with all the scrolling.

Is this it, he says as he reads from his screen, not looking at me.  Two Happy Meals?  At 8:24? About forty minutes ago?  Not five?  And in his voice he's all excited that he caught me in a lie.

Oh, I say.  I see where the problem began.  It began with you.  You're just prone to error.  Because, yes, I may have exaggerated, maybe it took me longer than five minutes to drive home with my Happy Meals only to break my daughter's heart with your incompetence, and then maybe it took longer to drive back here than the five minutes I said it took, but can I tell you something?

He just looks at me like I'm Humphrey Bogart in Treasure of the Sierra Madre and he's a Federale not accustomed to answering questions.  But I tell him anyway.

Not only can you not pack a Happy Meal to save your life, but you're terrible at math, because if that says 8:24, and it's now 8:50, that's not forty minutes.  Not even close.  Your incompetence is legion.  But really?  Really?  Have I said how confused I am?  That this all started because you didn't pack a tub of Barbecue Sauce in my daughter's Happy Meal, and I drove back to get it, to correct your error.  Your.  Error.  And you're refusing  - why?  What exactly is the problem?

Did I mention that I may have gone a little Greek?  Just a little?

Ok, deep breath.

I honestly don't know when Alice showed up with the Mad Hatter to pull me out of that rabbit hole, but someone did.  Pull me out.  Our national nightmare ended, somehow.


And I left, finally, with my packet of "tangy BarBeQue sauce."  To the everlasting delight of Kristina.

Happy Father's Day to me, right?

Now - that port at Galveston?  Waiting for us on Sunday?  With Belize in the Caribbean distance after that?  For the trip that Karen is packing for all of us right now?  Can't come soon enough.