Bully (Boy) for the Blizzard

January 7th, 2017 No comments »

Those whose parents trundled them off to factories to watch candy bars, Q-TIPS® or Fords being made, know there is a more adult alternative. We skidded six and one-half miles in a blizzard this afternoon to keep our tour appointment at Bully Boy Distillers.

Better than shoveling snow or fighting crowds for the last gallon of milk, the tour was worth the $10. (I note here that a long time ago, we toured the chateau of the original Cognac, Otard. They poured liberally, even by French standards. At the end of the tour, the very jolly group bought phenomenal amounts of the brown juice. Good marketing ploy.)

I took notes and intended to write up a walk-through. Then I saw that Boston Bar Hopper had already done that, with pix and product descriptions. You should go there and enjoy that.

Note that:

  • Bully Boy has moved its main operations across the street from 35 to 44 Cedric Street
  • The primary still was 150 gallons that is still at 35 and devoted to their Estate Gin
  • The new primary is 750 gallon and gorgeous
  • The Bar Hopper tour included tastes of six types of their booze. Today’s had eight — American Straight Whiskey, White Whiskey, Boston Rum, White Rum, Vodka, Estate Gin, Hub Punch, and The Old Fashioned

 

Our tour guide Alex knows more about cooperage and barrel aging (first American Whiskey for 3 years the dark rum for 3) than you or I. Cost, origin, legal requirements, reasons for using them for this or that drink. Listen and learn.
The new site centers on a 750-gallon still. The old 150-gallon is across the street and for gin. The rums and whiskeys start here.
Paired with the still is a bubble column for drawing off the booze at various proofs. They might be at 160 proof (80% alcohol) before dilution and barrel aging. By the bye, Bully Boy used the great Boston water via the Quabbin Reservoir (we concur).
Subtly on the shelves below the antique bottles from great-granddad’s speakeasy hooch are some Bully Boy bottles adorned with some of their many medals.
The barrel room for aging has maybe 120 of them. Whiskey and dark rum sit for 3 years in one of these. They hold 53.5 gallons each (roughly 300 bottles). After the whiskey has aged, the same barrel ages dark rum. After another 3 years, they sell the barrels to craft-beer makers.
The specific oak for the barrels is now rare and the barrel prices have roughly tripled. Alex said they locked in a very good rate years ago for the handmade barrels.

Pix Notes: You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons, so just cite Mike Ball once. Click images to enlarge.

In the Bar Hopper post and on the Bully Boy site, several great tidbits thread through. Apparently the Willis guys, Will and Dave, had a fascinating great-granddad. The latter was a college classmate of Theodore Roosevelt (must have been Harvard the Fly Club). He apparently was a bootlegger who ran a speakeasy. They guys found a walled-in room in his basement chock-a-block with old booze, with known names like Bacardi and gone ones like Very Old Cow Whiskey. The distillery displays some of these.

They named their business for their ancestor’s favorite draft horse, a gigantic beast named in turn to Teddy’s, “Bully!,” catchphrase.

Snowy Afternoon

To our particular blizzard experience, we loved getting samples of the eight current Bully Boy products at one time in one place. Alex started each of us by putting a light cocktail in our hands before we began. It was the prepared Hub Punch from a found 19th Century Boston recipe mixed with something like ginger ale…a harmless diversion while we gawked at the distilling hardware and watched Alex’s little beagle in the next room.

  • American Straight Whiskey – really the lead booze of BBD, it is kind of like bourbon but not as sweek because it hkas 45% rye. The dryness offsets any innate sweetness. My wife and I both like this, although I’ll take a good bourbon (think Woodford reserve) in the price range.
  • White Whiskey – fundamentally milder, safe moonshine (only 40%/80 proof). Not barrel aged. My wife liked it. I found it oily, like tequila.
  • Boston Rum – their dark rum is beautifully aged and complex. We both liked it.
  • White Rum – pleasant, harmless, good for mixing, but a taste and smell weak cousin of the dark version.
  • Vodka – made with corn. This extremely smooth vodka could easily sneak up on you.
  • Estate Gin – my wife has gotten to like gin, particularly American-style botanical varieties such as Berkshire’s Ethereal limited edition ones. Hearing the description of this one, she really expected to love it. Alas, she figures they used too many herbs or the wrong ones. I found undertones of sharp flavors, like a cinnamon bite.
  • Hub Punch – one of two gimmicks to my way of thinking. This is what we got at the sart. By itself, it is too thick and sweet. As a cocktail, you could do a lot better with their American Whiskey or Boston Rum.
  • The Old Fashioned – not a bad gimmick. This is a premixed cocktail and a pretty good one.

Fortunately for the tour, each taste was a splash. No one got tipsy and we got to consider each of the eight samples without them stepping on each other. When a single whiskey at a bar can cost $10 or $20, $10 for the eight samples was a good deal. Plus, we got snappy patter.

 

 

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Stuffing, dressing and one vulgarity

December 26th, 2016 No comments »

Back to yesterday and yesteryear, the stuff of stuffing emerges. Most of us, it seems, just know what is supposed to go in the roast bird. Our grannies or other family cooks did the perfect version — in our hazy memories. Anything different or less fails.

I too grew up with plugged up and trussed turkeys, ducks, chickens and geese. I am honestly indifferent to stuffing on my own and really prefer the control over the appearance, flavor and cooking times with an empty carcass. If you really want the best flavors and looks, cook a hollow bird.

However, do not delude yourself; holiday food fans want to see and smell (and in a perverted Proust madeleine moment) fully recall and relive stuffings of childhood. I advise acquiescing and producing the expected here. You can be creative with the rest of the bird and meal. At the least concentrate on a groaning board of beautiful, memorable appetizers.

Yesterday was the Christmas feast for a dozen. We did not go to mass on Christmas, rather massed for languid frivolity, gift and jest swapping and popping Christmas crackers.

As I prepared stuffing for the too-big turkey, I thought back to a Thanksgiving nearly 50 years ago in an alley in Cambridge, MA, with the grandiloquent address of King Place. It is a quarter block long, dead ended and perpetually shabby.

Oh, 10 or a dozen of us college types shared this narrow house of four tiny apartments in a brick building cheek to jowl with the next. We did not know each other except in pairs or small subgroups before moving there, but heck it was Thanksgiving away from family and friends. We’d make our own communal feast.

Then as now I was the primary cook. Our house consensus though included two essentials. First, we needed a sizable turkey, and second, it had to come from the oven extruding bread stuffing. Then democracy and family became obvious. We were all WASPy types, but our family and regional differences became pronounced. Each of us knew exactly what was necessary for a proper stuffing.

We had outlying votes for oysters, chestnuts and other favorites from other homes. We ended up agreeing as youth are wont on too many, just to make sure everyone would fork through to find the right bites. As I recall, in addition to the requisite cubed junk bread, stuffing stuff included celery onion, walnuts, prunes AND raisins, onion, poultry seasoning, pepper, salt, sausage and more and more.

I finished prep with far more than the turkey or any bird short of an ostrich could have held. Hence came the trays of patties, morphing from stuffing to dressing. My companion of the period loudly dubbed the patties buffalo turds. She was born in North Dakota, but more to the point, she was charming and attractive enough that she could and did get away with such vulgarities. I am sure to this day there are a few from the house who will refer to dressing patties that way.

We were all happy with our democratically derived stuffing and dressing.

Flash forward

Back to fewer than 24 hours ago, our Christmas feast benefited from that memory. I relented and decided to stuff the gigantic bird.

I’m not much for too easy and quick. Those result in bland or worse. I think Stop Top stuffing is more like wood wool, a.k.a. excelsior, than food. I fell back on childhood, King Place, restaurant, and previous stuffing goes. Still I was surprised as virtually all at the table went on about the stuffing.

  • The previous day, I cubed two family sized, thick sliced loaves of junk white bread into a huge bowl.
  • I added things that wouldn’t go bad, including 12 ounces of chopped walnuts, two teaspoons of kosher salt, a teaspoon of black pepper and a teaspoon of powdered sage. I mixed these and left the lid off for the cubes to harden up a little.
  • I cooked the turkey neck and giblets to death, removed the neck meat and minced everything. to this, I added a pound of smoked ham run through the food processor. These meats rested overnight in the fridge. Separately, two cups of turkey broth from giblet cooking cooled overnight.
  • I minced two medium onions, one long celery stalk, the celery core including the fine leaves, and a half cup of fresh parsley. Those too rested in the fridge.
  • Early in the morning, I ran about 12 ounces of rinsed baby bella mushrooms, stems included, through the food processor.
  • I got the broth from the fridge and microwaved a cup of golden raisins in it on high for two minutes. The idea was to pre-plump the raisins before stuffing the bird.
  • I heated a stick of unsalted butter and softened the onion mixture, and added the mushrooms.
  • All the ingredients went into the jammed bowl (I have some huge bowls) in the sink to permit an occasional errant lump. When all were squished by hand, I pressed as much as possible into the body and neck cavities of the dry-brined turkey. Six hours and one turning later, the bird received much praise.

To me, stuffing is merely a side dish. Yet, it got the level of compliment a well scrubbed, smelling and looking deb would have at the ball.

We should not overlook or deride simple pleasures. As one of Robert Frost’s poems concludes, “One could do worse than be a swinger of birches. ”

 

 

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Midtown, snow, long legs and a tree

December 22nd, 2016 No comments »

Here in Boston, the light snow on Christmas week reminds me of Radio City Music Hall. A dear family friend, Evelyn Justice, took it on herself to guide my sister and me to our first Christmas spectacular there in 1963.

We waited in barricade queues, caught snowflakes on our coat sleeves and tongues, and grokked the Midtown essence of Christmas at Rockefeller Center. Yes, gigantic tree. Yes, ice skaters. Yes, a stage awash with long-legged Rockettes. Yes, a first-run movie.

Pic note: Public domain image by U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Gabriela Hurtado, 2006.

Evelyn was my biscuit lady. More on her here.

We’d known her as little ones in far Southern Virginia (Danville). We were delighted years later when we moved from rural Virginia (Chester) to New Jersey (Plainfield) to learn that she and hubby Rollins Justice (Justice to everyone) had moved there before us.

Evelyn was the kindest, most gracious, most empathetic human I’ve ever known. Of course, she’d be the one who wanted to take us to Radio City. I played chess too and she knew that two blocks away Brentano’s had a magnificent selection of boards and pieces.

She made even waiting on line fun, with jokes and stories of her childhood and things we didn’t remember about ourselves. We saw the wonderfully garish kick-dance show, kind of like Vegas showgirls, minus the decolletage and jiggling breasts. As I recall, they twirled mini-hula hoops that glowed under the lights around their calves and ankles. And the flick with Charade, starring the unnatural cervix lovely Audrey Hepburn.

I’ve been to the center since, seen the shows and tree, and of course the skaters. They aren’t as magical without Evelyn. She died in 1997. She was swell.

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The bloggers are dead. Long live the money makers.

December 12th, 2016 No comments »

laptop keysToday, Meetup sent around the obituary for The Greater Boston Area Webloggers Meetup Group. It was not so much a changing of the guard or the end of an era as a faint echo of T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men — “This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.”

Founded in 2002, the group was some slag in the furnace from when the fuel was content. Depending on your seat, in this era of Instagram and Twitter, blogging has evolved or devolved into self-marketing. We bloggers always wore clothes woven of our egos. Now though the abstract is insignificant. The literal minded own the field.

Yes, there are blogging groups in and around Boston. The real difference is that we are hard pressed to find one that does not concern itself almost entirely with monetization. A couple of years ago, success came in “creating your brand,” and now it is exclusive in the measurements. How many clicks, links, and cash payments?

We are too close to this, at least I am, to say the new form is inferior. In fact, we need only go back, way back to Samuel Johnson, from his Life of… Vol. III, to read, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”

Yet of course, many did and do. There’s the vanity. There’s the conceit. There’s the drive to record and announce our brilliance and insight. There’s the hope to alter minds and change the course of events. Blah, blah. Blockheads all? Maybe.

Back to the 14-year-old just taken off the respirator, Meetup had warned us that without a replacement coordinator, it would be shut down. There had been a few managers over the years. Flaky (my description, not her given name or formal epithet) Emma was in charge when I attended. No one, including I, was inclined to take on the clerical work involved.

I have my own excuses and reasons. I’ve run several non–profits and professional groups long term and am worn out. I am sure many of the peak 102 membership can whinge right along in tune with me.

Plainer, blogging for its own sake remains a solitary endeavor. Yes, there are group blogs, think BlueMassGroup, and fame-paying freeloaders, think Huffington Post, but people who want and need their ideas in the ether don’t really need to meet regularly with others like themselves.

The new classes though do. What can you do for me? What can we benefit each other with links and contacts? Are you ready to marvel in my latest glory?

I acknowledge only that the old Boston bloggers group is dead. I kicked some dirt on it by my indifference.

 

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Old coots, chaws and vegetable display

November 19th, 2016 No comments »

The farmers’ co-op in Romney WV was integral to my childhood. It had been moribund, then closed after long-time manager Fred Judd had a dreadful fall from which he never really recovered.

Just this week, it’s reopening in a form I would not have recognized. It is now the Hampshire County Co-op & Market Place. It offers local artists’ work and fancy food. The promo on the town FB page includes, “PS: Eric Hott’s smoked bacon pieces dipped in dark chocolate will change your life forever!”

That’s not the way I knew it.

Next door to the co-op on South Marsham Street was my grandfather’s tailor/dry cleaning shop. Abutting that was the family house where I spent summers and holidays. For a peripatetic  lad and his sister, that town and that specific street were home. We moved every couple of years but Marsham Street was always there for us.

We could sit on the front porch (and did often) watching as rain storms sheeted down the mountains before us, first wetting the apple and peach orchards.

Two doors down was a playground inside the co-op. The manager, Carl, let us play. In the big room by the entrance were bins of seed. If a farmer or gardener needed just a few pounds of corn to plant, he could fill a bag using a tin ladle and weigh it out. Likewise, you could get 16-penny spikes loose.

We kids were fascinated with the offerings. We’d also bury a toy in the seeds and challenge each other in a primitive hide-and-seek.

For the big games, the warehouse was filled with 50- and 100-pound bags of seed, feed, flour and such. We’d hide, chase each other and play battle with pea shooters.

Back in the front was a pot-bellied stove, replete with one to six old men. Several were excellent at sitting on nail kegs across from the stove and accurately spitting a big drop maybe 10 feet into the teardrop openings of the stove grate.

They’d tell true tales or maybe lies about their farms and WWI times and such. Highlights included remarkable vegetables they grew, like a 14-inch long bean pods. As I recall McCaslan was the usual champion bean.

I loved the stories and characters who told them. The co-op was a social club for them and me.

Next time I’m in town, I’ll surely visit the artisinal food and art version. I am pretty sure there’ll  be no stove glowing red and certainly tno tobacco-spitting performances.

 

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Splayed Social Skills

October 30th, 2016 No comments »

Occasionally, I wear a kilt. That has become a family thing.

alkiltMy first daughter-in-law, wife of our eldest son, is singularly proud of her Scottish heritage. She’s not a skirt/dress person, but does wear a kilt. Our son does too and so does their son. He is one of the two males pictured here; you can decide which is his image and which mine.

A Scottish neighbor discussed the manners and mindfulness involved in kilt wearing. His was a long tale about a wedding. He was in the groom’s party and sat in the nave during the ceremony. Of course, as a Scott, he was kitted in kilt.

During the wedding, he wondered what dementia gripped his wife and other family members. The women he could see gesticulated repeatedly in some indecipherable sign language He smiled faintly by way of acknowledging them but did not get the message until after the nuptials.

mbdouglasTurns out, the women in the pews were trying strongly to say, “Close your damned legs!’

He was, as I do, wearing his kilt traditionally  — with no clothing underneath. The whole church other than those standing or seated with the wedding principals had no doubt of his gender.

I thought I had gotten the hang of it. I observed other kilt wearers and saw that most men push the front material in a fold between their thighs, making a crotch curtain. Yet last evening at a fair sized party at our house, my wife crossed the room to provide my own close-your-damned-legs moment. She was more pleasant but the message was the same.

In my experience, women are no more polite or considerate than men. Yet nearly all try to preserve modesty when they wear a skirt or dress or kilt. The Sharon Stone Basic Instinct reveal when it occurs is intentional.

Men on the other hand (other leg?) do not grow up learning to keep their knees together when seated. For all but men with the least muscled thighs, keeping legs closed when seated allows no hanging room for what the Brits call naughty bits.

I enjoy wearing a kilt, for the variety and comfort. I only once was out in the bitter air and wind of winter in one though.

I suspect I’ll master the physical and social skill of the seated curtain. I also tend to travel with my kilt watcher to remind me.

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Donnie Dewlap

October 19th, 2016 No comments »

donjowlss-copyI’m old enough:

  • to be nearly be a peer of Donald Trump
  • to remember and have read Any Rand

She was and he is an awful lookist. The great irony there is that both were or are pathetically unattractive. She was an anorexic sort devoid of stereotypical feminine traits. He goes on and on about the virtues or shortcomings of specific women, while he is at best the Pillsbury Doughboy.

I recall Rand nailing one of her antagonists as “fat over the collar” (I think that was of Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead.  She disdained and loathed body fat, so that glance was all the damning she required to make her view clear. The humor here is she did not have enough adipose tissue to have visible hips, breast or waist. She was physically an imitation woman.

Trump on the other hand, or head, is rife with flab. His neck and jowls and wattles hang over his clothes. I remember an article I wrote for American Management Association’s Management Review magazine when I was on staff, interviewing Mortimer Levitt, founder and head of The Custom Shirt Shop. He was a cartoon faced, scrawny guy, a male Rand as it were. He also hated visible body fat. His standard slide show included pix of President Kennedy showing flab bulging over too tight shirt collars.

The points here are how dare parody-of-women Rand disdain any body fat and how dare physically repulsive Trump judge women’s attractiveness? Let’s leave it as they were or are egocentric, asocial fools.

 

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Early voting, even in MA

October 2nd, 2016 No comments »

New, Improved, Zap, Pow! For the first time ever, MA including Boston will allow early voting. That’ll be Monday, Oct. 24 through Friday, Nov. 4.

Yes, yes, this is long overdue. At least MA is one of the states going the right way. Sixteen or more other states have been legislating nonstop to limit voting. On the other hand, I’d like to see at the least:

  • Prolonged early voting
  • Same-day registration
  • Automatic voter registration upon becoming 18
  • Choice of any ballot in a primary to those registered in a party or political designation (popular in MA

However, I’m sure the legislature and secretary of the commonwealth will  look carefully at turnout this and the next few elections.

The way it work in MA and Boston this first go will be designated locations on specified days and times. You can see Boston’s locations and times here.

The overview is each neighborhood gets one ore more four to eight hour periods. Boston’s city hall has early voting every few days. For example, my Hyde Park area gets a single period, Wednesday, Oct. 26 from 2 to 8 PM.

I haven’t gotten my training for the pending general election. As a precinct warden I’m want to understand some details. For one, the election polls open Tuesday, Nov. 8 at 7 AM.

We’ll get check-in and check-out books that list each registered voter in the precinct. I assume there will be a designation beside each early voter’s name that indicates they have already voted. We have a version already for absentee voters (AV). I assume there’ll be EV or the like. So the data-entry minions at city hall area likely to be clerking away from Friday afternoon on to make sure the books we get are up to date.

Note: This also appears at leftahead.com.

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Urine and Mine

October 2nd, 2016 No comments »

tallurinalsOf course, most women have no need or desire to visit men’s rooms. I doubt they ask XY counterparts for details on urinals.So they don’t know there are a wide variety, which have changed in style in my lifetime.

I write of one memorable, re-emergent style. For details and pix see Chris Higgin’s post.

Meanwhile for the women who have never toured the men’s john, the snap left shows a pair of the ones that impressed me as a lad. This happens to be in Stoddard’s in downtown Boston.

It’s an adventure in that the stairway is very steep, very long and very narrow. Not only do the runners bring food up and dishes down, but M and W facilities are there. It’s a true test of how sober you are.
newcenturywThis tall urinal style used to be real common, mostly in fancier places. I first saw them in the hotel build in my childhood hometown (not birthplace) in West Virginia. The hotel was called the New Century; it went up before WWI and lasted into the ’70s. (For the New Century Hotel, a hat tip to Historic Hampshire. It’s a trove of snaps and postal cards of the Romney area.)

Romney long had east-west traffic on Route 50, from D.C. to Cincinnati, as well as being on the B&O line. It also featured a must-stop-at restaurant, the Green Palm, loved by Duncan Hines among others. However, until the New Century, it was short on hotel rooms, relying more on guest houses.

As a child in the ’50s and early ’60s, I’d occasionally visit the hotel, either with my grandfather for a meal or a pop, or sometimes for a meal.

Oddly enough, the urinals stay in memory. They are very much unlike toilets, small wall versions, and certainly different from the metal troughs at fairgrounds. Instead, the New Century’s looked like a boy, had he interest in doing so, could have stepped in for a shower.

They were about the right size. I see that new versions tend to be up to 38 inches high. In memory, the New Century’s were bigger. Then again, I was wee (if you pardon).

Nowadays, fancy joints tend to use flushless urinals, basically large bowls smaller than a regular urinal. They don’t require or allow flushing, which seems great until you know that someone has regularly to drain them and replace the lighter-than-pee chemical that lets the urine pass through while deodorizing the bowl. (Yuck. A job no one should have to do.)

I bet some hipster restaurant ended up with the salvaged New Century tall urinals.

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5¢ Victory

October 1st, 2016 1 comment »

Ifairmounttoot can be as cynical as anyone about befuddled, unthinking, unresponsive bureaucrats. One thoroughly surprised me last evening.  I got an almost instantaneous reply…from a human…with a resolution to a complaint.

I felt like a panel in one of Keith Knight’s Life’s Little Victories.

It was just over a nickel. I figured the rules-are-rules, that’s-the-way-it-is forces would likely ignore me or eventually tell me to go away. Instead, I got a callback within 10 minutes of emailing a complaint.

Maybe it was the French connection. Keolis manages the commuter rail here, including fare collection and ticket issuing on trains. After a terrible winter with many skipped or late trains, they try to be efficient and revenue producing.

As of July 1, the MBTA hiked fares roughly 5%. A few fares fell on one side or another of a price fence. The one at issue here was the zone 1A train fare for those with a senior card, i.e. me. The rate as of July 1 went to $1.10 one way from my Fairmount stop to South Station.

Recently and suddenly, the conductors have adamantly demanded not $2.20 for a round trip, rather $2.25. There’s a bureaucratic logic to that, in that senior prices are almost all 50% that of regular adult tickets. Yet, it’s not $1.125 one way, just $1.10.

Someone had clearly trained the conductors poorly on this fine point. One after another told me strongly that the round trip was $2.25. They just knew it. I on the other hand had seen the initial price hike info, including the posters that appeared for weeks in each train with the $1.10/$2.20 info.

No Chewing Gum

I admit that today’s nickel is yesterday penny. When I was wee, it would buy a five-stick pack of gum. Not in 2016. 5¢ pieces are earning the same disdain as 1¢ ones. They are more of an inconvenience than currency.

Yesterday I decided to test my memory. I bought a $1.10 ticket to South Station. There, I went to the commuter-rail ticket office to:

  1. Buy a return ticket and
  2. Ask the clerk what the round trip fare is

She must be used to alter kakers and other sticklers. She didn’t laugh or tell me to drop dead. She immediately said $2.20 and then verified that by calling up the ticket on her database and computer screen. Sure enough, $2.20.

Last evening, I used the MBTA site’s contact-us tab. I sent my whiny complaint by their form.

Within a few minutes, I got a call. That was remarkable enough. Moreover, she said, “You’re right.” Beyond that she said they’d immediately send a memo to all the conductors informing them that the senior round trip in zone 1A is $2.20, not $2.25. She agreed what 5¢ was small change indeed, but “We should all be on the same page.”

Mirabile dictu!

 

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