Archive for the ‘Drinking’ Category

Big Box Bourbon

August 14th, 2013

costocobooze

Oh my, late to the game again. I discovered that Costo private brands a small-batch bourbon. Today I was in the Avon, MA, store, which has a company liquor department and vot!

Turns out that everyone, his brother, cousin and niece already bought and tasted it. A net search gets lots of hits. For both flip and savvy comments, I point to a few:

I’m not a bourbon snob, but I do like like it. I started drinking in the South, where the choice was bourbon or beer. Also a mixed drink meant with ice cubes or maybe if you really had to a splash of ginger ale.

Now living in Yankeeland — a decade in Manhattan and three in Boston — I’m delighted that bourbon has come into its own. There are fascinating bars, like the 5 Horses (Somerville and soon the South End), and Beacon Hill’s Tip Tap Room for example, that have a good selection and knowledgeable barkeeps. Liquor stores too have a wide selection at many price points and even the most ignorant bartender doesn’t think Jack Daniel’s is bourbon.

I figured I’d try it. Costco’s bourbon also fit another criterion my chums and I often use, is it a good value? We like to find superior wines for $9 that blow away $39 ones, for example.

Turns out that I paid $19.99 for a full liter of the 103-proof stuff. (There’s no state tax on booze here.) Some of the net comments carped that for only $3 or $4 or $6 more, they could buy Knob Creek or some other familiar bourbon, but they don’t think that that is a third less booze for the price, making the Kirkland bottle that much more of a bargain.

A few things I did learn from the mash heads and blowhards commenting (sometimes without tasting the distillate in question) was that this definitely comes from Jim Beam. Also it is aged for 7 years instead of Beam’s Knob Creek version, which is 9 years in barrel. It is also that 103 proof (51.5% alcohol) instead of the more common small-batch bourbon release of 90 or 100 proof, or Wild Turkey’s 101 variety.

Some went though serious research, badgering Costco employees for all our benefit. The best finding was that this is not an open item. That suggests that for whatever reason, Jim Beam did a one-off for Costco, who like Job Lots or Building 19, bought something the distiller didn’t want to sell itself. Likely when this batch is sold out, it’s gone. Following this evening’s tasting, I’ll likely go back to Avon and buy a couple more bottles.

costcotasteHere, three of us tried it two ways. I set out six bourbon low ball glasses (actually made for Woodford Reserve, a fine sipping bourbon), three nude and neat, with three holding a single ice cube. Each glass got a half ounce or so. Who knows what the demons did to me in pouring?

Uxorial Unit, Son #2 (great to have children of drinking age), and I went at it. We certainly did not keep pace with the florid, hyperbolic, pretentious posts pointed to above. Yet, we tried to judge.

The punchline is that this is good stuff, worth more in market terms than competitors. There are other bourbons I like more, but this is a fair entry.

If you extrapolate the local price for Knob Creek ($26.99 for 750ml) and weigh it against Costco’s very own bargain bourbon ($19.99 for 1000ml), the differential is 1.8. That is Kirkland small-batch bourbon is 1.8 times cheaper per liter. So you ask, is KC worth almost two times more? Of course, in the larger scheme, Knob Creek at effectively $35.99 per liter is a relative small differential over Kirkland. As we learned many years ago, a $200 retail bottle of Chablis is not 20 times better than a $10 bottle. It’s a judgment call.

So, this evening, without hyperbole or poetry, we found the neat glass pleasant, powerful, a little too alcohol nosed. That was no surprise for over half alcohol. Certainly there was the predictable vanilla scent, but we didn’t the myriad herbs, spices and fruits the other online commenters strained to ID. We liked the look, smell and taste of the neat bourbon.

I like to sit with a snifter of great Scotch or bourbon neat and dwell on it. None of us thought this was worthy of that. However, with a single ice cube, it was a fine, fine drink. My wife thought it would be good with ginger ale, but to me that means heading to a lower grade of bourbon, like the serviceable JB Black or Evan Williams. Yet, we all liked it cut with a single ice cube, which I suppose would mean two for a full shot or three for a pony.

I already confess to being late to this party. We found Costco’s bourbon to be good but not great stuff. I’ll lay in a couple more bottles.

 

Things I Learned from Space Salesmen

April 10th, 2013

I’m a notorious TV disdainer. That’s odd for a boomer who grew up, enjoyed and benefited mightily from the box. I’ve aged to much rather do a cryptic puzzle, read a book or use the net.

I’m the least TV-centric in the family. Yet, I do like a few series that the family watches — Treme, Downton Abbey, and Mad Men. It’s the latter that had me reminiscing and projecting.

I’m a child who followed the WWII generation, not one of them. I did work with and know those guys (almost all men) and their younger siblings/nephews in the 1970s New York City.

I worked trade and business magazines in the 3-martini-lunch era. In fact, one publisher always ordered the same drink, “A triple Bombay martini, hold the olives and hold the vermouth.” It was all three martinis in one, very engineering efficient and thus appropriate for a construction mag.

Drunken afternoons were less of a shock to me as the dissolute lives of those magic creatures the space salesmen. The very term space salesman seems mythological if not metaphysical. Selling space…ooooo. The mundanity of actually pitching ads for print media does not rise to the phrase.

I knew a lot of these guys, men whose work brought in my salary. They often shocked me with the likes of their casual comparisons of sexual conquests of women customers, sales reps, waitresses and even friends’ wives.

However, I also got a few life lessons that have rooted.

I certainly recall the best space salesman I knew at Construction Equipment magazine. I’m comfortable using his name, Larry Huckle. He was one of the wholesome guys. He was also the company’s best salesman year upon year. That was particularly odd as he had Texas and the Southwest, virtually devoid of equipment manufacturers. He skunked the other reps time after time.

He and I were at a bar at the mag’s sales meeting in Boca Raton one time. As a former newspaper reporter, I just had to ask him how he did it. I had grilled the other editors and they claimed not to know. Larry was candid and had no fear of giving up his secret. He said, “I know one thing the other guys don’t. When you’ve made your sale, shut up.”

Sure enough, later on sales calls with various ad guys, I’d see them goof up a sure deal again and again by talking about themselves, making inane talk about the customer or otherwise souring a deal in the bag.

I found as a single guy that Larry’s advice was as good for someone seeking companionship as well. That’s another sale.

Likewise, I came to appreciate a silly rejoinder from another space salesman. He’d inveritably come back to the rhetorical, “How ya doing?” with “Any day I’m not pushing up daisies is a good day.”

That certainly falls in the class of painfully obvious. Yet, the longer I live, the more emotional, intellectually and physical troubles that visit me, the more meaningful and sensible that seems. It’s certainly better than the meaningless, “Fine.” And it inspires introspection.

A third space salesman had another iterative response when anyone did the drama-queen whine about a birthday. To one who complained about marking another year older, he’d always say, “Consider the alternative.” Sure enough, death would remove any joy or even observance of a birthday.

Space salesmen, as well as engineers and other stereotypical literal sorts can pluck all the feathers from our social conventions. After all, they have jobs to do that yield to metrics. To those other of us who like to think that everything is fungible, malleable, such brutal realism can only be good.

Phat and Fat, Part 1

April 20th, 2012

Striding the aisles of the new Hyde Park Stop & Shop, I was aware how loose my trousers were. That’s smirk making.

Consider yourself warned. Self-absorption follows in this and related posts. Already, chum John experienced that in our recent four-day trip to Manhattan. I had started a low-carb regimen and talked about it. I tried not to harp, but it was everywhere. We’re drinking buddies, usually concentrating on ale. Beer is very expensive in carbs, ale less so, wine even less so and bourbon is free. So I’m sure he got bored suggesting brews and hearing me dither or pull out the carb counter and see if I could afford it.

So what brought me to my own modified Atkins world, you may ask?

The answer relates to that self-absorption we bloggers seem to epitomize but also transcends it. The more salient response is the incompetence and ignorance of health professionals. Therein lies the justification for this series.

I’m tired of being trim for a little bit and chubby for quite awhile. I’m also well beyond the teens and 20s when I could cast aside poundage and excess fat in a few weeks with modest changes in exercise or food choices. Way back in those days, I recall a woman with whom I kept company. She is about 10 years older and even then, in her 30s, has trouble paring a single pound off when I could drop 5 or 10 in a week or two.


Who Ya Gonna Call?


Well, we either age or die. Aging isn’t terrible, considering the only alternative. With that process comes a slower metabolism for nearly all of us. We as a nation then end up late or soon consumed with consumption of food and drink.

We care, we whine, we compare, we plot, we despair.

Of course, there are the tiny subset of exceptions. There are ectomorphic somatotypes. Those skinny men and women with neither visible fat nor apparent muscle mass, women with no breasts or hips to hold and men with no shoulders and wee, wee thighs. These freakish folk tend to have permanently high metabolic rates, as most of us did in puberty. They also tend to disdain the struggles of the 90-some percent of us who discover tighter pants when we have changed nothing about our activity, food or drink.

Being a pretty pure mesomorph with arms and legs like oak-tree limbs, but a tendency to tuck extra fat on the torso, I figured the medical world might give me some advice in my personal struggle. That was naive.

I’m no newcomer to diet/exercise/weight and fat control. Yet, not getting results, I went to the pros. I has used a damned good program, CrossTrainer, to track my intake and exercise. Also, being a pretty type-A tech writer, I backed that up with Lose It! Fastidiously, I plugged in each bit and every step. I counted grapes, measured yogurt, weighed cheese, and used the report of the elliptical machines as well as putting in the distance and duration of each bike ride.

Both programs had me losing lots of weight. I put in serious exercise time, yielding rated 1,000 to 1,600 calories burned six and sometimes seven days a week. Moreover, I wasn’t cheating in the slightest. Every morsel and motion went in accurately. That is my wont. The programs reported I should be losing half a pound to .8 pounds per day.

Yet on the weekly weigh in and body-fat machine measures, I was chubbing up. My doctor’s scale showed that meager confirmation as well.

While I had read a lot about nutrition and weight control, I needed help. I turned to doctors and got a referral to a nutritionist.


DIY Health


Fuggedaboutit!

Docs, nurses, even nutritionists are ignoramuses about food and weight. With the flood of information and the myriad patients in their examining rooms, they remain ignorant, if not stupid. It reminds me of the many ministers I know who decry how little they learn of church management in divinity school, often a single course. Then when they get a parish, they are excepted suddenly to be or oversee the CEO, COO and CFO roles.

Unlike clerics, who look to board members, staff and others for help, medical professionals tend to feign competence and exhibit confidence. I have found they they deal instead in platitudes and formulaic responses.

The worst for my issue is calories-in/calories-out. “All you need to know is consume fewer calories than you burn up and you’ll lose weight,” they invariably say.  Elephant feathers!

Even telling my primary doc and nutritionist, even producing two years of weigh ins, with body-fat readings, and as much exercise and calorie intake printouts as they wanted to see, I got the same jive. It always came with the self-satisfied look of the ignorant. Calories-in/calories-out.

I can believe for some ectomorphs, that works. I can believe that those basal metabolic rate estimates and exercise expenditure estimates are reasonably accurate for a small percentage of people. Yet, I know far too many, including myself, for whom those don’t work, don’t work by a big factor.

In fact, I turned to my doc and a nutritionist precisely because I was assiduous in recording all, but did not get the expected result. My wife is fond of noting that I am an outlier. I am my mother’s son, the one who is precise, detailed, and honest. I do the scientific method.

So, provided with my proofs that the estimates of intake and expenditures did not work for me, what do you suppose the pros did? Of course, they doubled down. Calories-in/calories out.

The doctor was dumb enough to say things like, “Oh, I guess the calories are coming from the air.” The nutritionist had next to no quibble with my three-days of detailed consumption/exercise I printed out. She suggested adding more calories, specifically more fat in the form of olive oil, but had no answer for why I was not losing as the two programs reported I should be.


Medical Deafness


I thought of nutrition overlord/author Michael Prager. He has different issues leading to being fat, a self-defined food addiction. Yet, as a newspaper reporter for years, he had his own methodology. He tracked down a nutritionist west of Philly who didn’t do formula, who didn’t pull platitudes, and who did listen to his story to produce a custom plan.

Instead, my doc and nutritionist shoved the same hand of food cards across their desk to me, not hearing what didn’t work. In fact, at a party I ended up with three other people, all of whom had been to docs and nutritionists. One wanted to gain weight and muscle and we other three to lose. We all got identical diet advice. That’s craziness.

So I read. I went to libraries. I clicked around the internet to pop and academic sites. I went way back to William Banting’s 1864 booklet on who he dropped lots of flab. I did current research. I went so far as to find out that everything of value I wanted had been in Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories all along. I could have started and ended there, but given my anal-retentive nature, it’s better I found it after a lot of research so it had all the more credibility.

Part 2 of this series will go into what’s been working for me.

I have a food site I started in concept before my effort to lose some fat. It will have mostly food-enjoyment articles, recipes, videos and such. I remain a serious foodie. Yet, most of us adults are conflicted about food. I’ll address it all. Look here for the nutrition angle. I’ll announce the food site when I open it to the net.

This series includes:

Call it Lifestyle on the intellectual and emotional commitment to low-carb
Watching the Struggle on my grandmothers diet woes
Wrestling with Fat on overcoming fear of dietary fats
Hunger? do you starve on a low-carb diet?
Low-Carb Eats on what’s on the menu in the regimen
How Much of What Food on calories-in/calories-out cliché
Dr. Cadaver on mindless trust in group averages
Who’s Counting on body fast v. weight
Part 1 on pants don’t lie

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Cold, Lonely New England Nights

April 8th, 2012

The old cliché of chilly Northern nights was of a Mainer or Vermonter bored in the long, cold winters, making friends with a bottle of booze. Sure enough, like another cold clime, Russia, up here folk, particularly menfolk, are prone to alcoholism.

I got a new one tonight as I shopped the dowdy, plaid-favoring Vermont Country Store. We’d been there. My late mother-in-law, herself an Indiana hick, really enjoyed it and fell into nostalgic paroxysms there. Among the old timey treasures we bought and used regularly was its seemingly unique over-the-headboard lamp. We consider that the best in-bed reading choice and have been dismayed that after many years, its plastic shade lining is shedding chunks of off-white.

Well, they still have them and I ordered a replacement.

While I was at it, I checked the sale items (yawn). Then I looked at their left menu and top tabs. Nothing much there, but I checked Health & Beauty to see if there are country cures of amusement. On that pull-down is — What?! — Sexual Wellness.

Well, topple my stone fence. That’s a page of dildos.

Actually, it’s a page of almost entirely powered vibrators. There’s a yeast-infection soap and quite literally a douche bag. The page features 10 highly colorful sex toys for women.

Here’s one example. This is a WordPress blog. I hesitated for a moment before clicking on the Upload choice to Insert Into Post. Insert, indeed.

The various aids include the tiny and brown BonBon Massager (“Better than chocolate…Petite and Discreet…”), the one shown promising “Pinpoint Accuracy,” another “Serves Two Pleasure Points at Once,” and another anatomically realistic except for the lavender color “Feels Lifelike for Greater Pleasure.”

This clearly is my problem. Sudden images of villages of country women thrashing in pastel joy doesn’t jibe with butter churns and flannel nightgowns.

Of course, there’s no reason the Vermont Country Store shouldn’t include sex aids along with its home furnishings and horehound drops. I had just never run across this page. I had a pretty staid image of the store’s inventory.

Have at it. Nights are long, dark and cold up there.

Drinking with the Animals

December 18th, 2011

Eagles, Owls, Lions, Moose and such were oases in the West Virginia desert. When I came of drinking age (18 for beer and wine at the time), WV sold only that soda pop called 3 point 2 beer. That is, the alleged beer could be no more than 3.2% alcohol by volume and was generally even lower, below what even British pubs serve.

eagles

Moreover, the town where I spent my summers and holidays was in a dry county. That was, a dry county of no liquor stores, no booze, beer or wine in restaurants, and no bars, except for fraternal organizations.

Surrounding counties had beer joints, generally called taverns. All they offered was pickled eggs on the counter, maybe burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches, and bottled lagers. My grandfather favored National Bohemian (Bo). My sister and I would have dueling orange sodas — Pal v. TruAde.

If you wanted a real beer, you could head North the PA or MD or East to VA. That was too far if you wanted one or two beers on a hot day or cool night.

Instead, men went to visit the animals. All the birds and mammals were really bars, as were the American Legion, VFW and such. To this day, I think of those opaque glass blocks that formed the exterior walls and where the windows would be as VFW brick. Of course, they were where transparent windows normally would be, except they hid the disgrace of non-productive time for men doing something still seen as sinful by much of the populace.

For us late teen types, there was that other problem. None of us was a war vet; we didn’t belong to those. Nor were we family sorts who were part of the Moose, Elks or other animals.

The Order of the Owls flew to our rescue. Just outside of town on the highway was an Owl’s Nest. This was not the Independent Order of Owls related to the Freemasons. As I recall, this was the Loyal Order of Owls. Membership required showing a driver’s license and buying a membership card for (ta da) $2.

For that, you were an Owl for a year. There was burger-level food, but guys were there for a local beer. Hampshire County regulated this as a fraternal organization. After all, you were a dues paying member.

There wasn’t much memorable about this roadhouse, except for a particularly dexterous waitress. She was middle-aged, our mother’s era, but she could pour. From the first visit, we were impressed. Five of us sat at a round table. She brought five bottles and five glasses pressed together into a glass castle. In one motion, she set them all on the table, with the glasses facing us. She quickly pulled back, taking the five bottles toward her and in the same motion, arced them to the glasses’ rims. She quickly and neatly poured all five simultaneously and slowly enough that no foam frothed over. Next, she set the bottles down and in a final motion, spread the five glasses, three with one hand and the others with her second, so each of us had a full glass in front of us.

That’s not exactly high stagecraft, but it was better entertainment than we were used to for the price of a beer. I bet she got good tips. She did from us.

Hoot.

That Nest and those days are gone. There’s a state liquor store on Main Street/Route 50 in Romney. You can get a mixed drink as well as milder stuff at restaurants throughout the county. The grimy glamour was more remarkable.

Love Through the Ears

October 15th, 2011

Unlike many bar stool warmers, even into a second drink or beyond, I don’t have a lot of brilliant advice.  There is one love-related tidbit from my early 20s that still seems relevant.

Last week, speaking with a female neighbor outside, that arose again. She was lamenting that she couldn’t click long-term with a great guy. She just breached 40 and knows there are fewer gems free in the muck of the mine. She discussed a recent effort to connect to a match from e-Harmony, allegedly compatible interests, bright enough, and nice looking. She said she sent him off to think again with the candid appraisal that his ego and vanity were too well developed.

Hence that personal historical moment.

In my early 20s, I was a single Manhattanite working at a huge trade-magazine publisher across 42nd Street from the Daily News building. We were in what passed for bar and party central in NYC. After the married commuted largely by rail to NJ or CT, we were left to patrols of the heart.

For many of my co-workers, those patrols were frustrating and sad. They’d chat objects of desire up and still return home solo.

Quite a few guys asked me, usually one on one, what was up. They’d note that I always had several women I, as we of Southern backgrounds are wont to say, kept company with. The implication was that I wasn’t rich or 7 feet tall or any of those clichés of evening  love. How was it that I connected and they didn’t, and moreover, how was it that I kept my women instead  of having a one to three-night relationship?

That one was easy…at least for me. My flash was wisdom was simply that I listened to a woman.

Invariably the guy would interrupt to state strongly that he too listened to women and that couldn’t be it. Yet, I’d seen him in attempted action and knew he didn’t. As with my neighbor, women found that he talked about himself and heard only responses that related to himself talking about himself. There’s a huge difference between acknowledging affirmative conversational reactions and listening.

I could ask the guy what he knew about this woman or that. He might know where she went to college or high school, but little else. Pow! He hadn’t asked. He hadn’t left openings for her to swap revelations. He did not value what she had experienced, what she felt, what was important to her, what pleased her, what made her angry. He didn’t know squat about her.

I suppose if I had been savvy or driven by greed instead of the joy of earning a living writing and photographing, I would have started a matchmaking business. I knew something they didn’t.

Cryptic Message From the Basement

October 6th, 2011

Hideaway

Folkies in the basement, oh my.

A request from a high school chum, whom I’ve not seen in decades although spoken with by phone, got me doing a real search. I tried the old Google/Yahoo/Dogpile routine, but ended up actually contacting live humans, primary sources as academicians like to put it.

He wanted to know the rest of the message that appeared on the back of the membership card for the folk music club in the basement of the Jewish deli in near North Plainfield, New Jersey, in the mid-1960s. How’s that for obscure.

He remembered that it started out, “Just for today…”

I learned two things. First is that another friend (his name is blanked for this post) is a packrat. He had his card — from 46 years ago, for the sub-restaurant where we spend a couple hundred weekend evenings.

Second is that I should have recognized the lingo. Searching today for the text, I found it bubbles right under us all. This is part of the much longer Just For Today resource for families and friends affected by alcoholics. It appears Al-Anon sites,  like this one, including the lines from the card that read:

Just for today I will be unafraid.  Especially I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful, and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.

backsmall

Stand-alone, those words certainly fit that place and moment, a transition from beatniks to hippies. No foul.

Yet clearly someone in the small cabal that created the card must have dealt with alcoholics and maybe been an Al-Anon member. It was not a factor in my family or those of my friends. For us, if we drank at all, it would be a small glass of wine or beer or maybe a shot of some liqueur snuck from a parent’s liquor cabinet and shared — a silly tipple for the drama and not effect.

Wisdom and beauty don’t need to come marching to the door, kick it in and yell.

Bike Rental Killjoy or Cassandra?

July 13th, 2011

Gloomy prediction time…I’ll say Boston’s new bike-rental program fails. There it is and I would sincerely like to think I’d be wrong. My neck is on the block, particularly as a velophile (word?)

I’ll plug this on Harrumph! and Marry in Massachusetts, as it has both personal and political angles. I’ll admit if I’m wrong and folk can feel gleeful in calling me on it.

hublogoUnder the urging of Mayor Tom Menino and the excellent dealing and managing from Nicole Freedman, the city’s director of bicycle programs, The Hubway rental system is not only zooming into reality, it’s still on its original schedule, likely this month. With the outside deals, bureaucracy, and finances, that’s close to a miracle (which we have come to expect from Freedman).

Even before the particulars, I was pessimistic on this program. It has worked in other European, Canadian and a few U.S. cities already though. Here though, I don’t see it getting enough ridership, nor making the vendor happy with income levels, nor adding substantially to the cycles on the streets, nor getting citizen respect for the property.

To the latter point, we brag about our huge college-student population, while paying for it culturally too often. The tales of disturbances and destruction abound. Far more than other cities, we see that bottles seem meant for peeing in to leave on streets and stoops, or to smash on roads or sidewalks. I recall that lesson when I commuted daily from JP to Southie by bike. I had to learn to avoid Columbus near Northeastern, particularly by the campus cop station, where broken, tire-ruining beer-bottle shards were the norm.

Prove me wrong, Boston, but I can easily see drunken, drugged or just nasty college students and other youth trashing the bikes in rental stations. What fun, eh?

Today, looking at the announced pricing structure, I think it is too similar to parking garages. In between only a few initial stations and the pricing reality, the system is not all that attractive. Fundamentally, it works only if you will start and finish in those limited locales and can get where you want to go in under 30 minutes.

hubbikeThe stations will be in what most of us think of as the larger downtown area, out to one here and there also in Back Bay, South End, Seaport, Fenway, Longwood, and Brighton/Allston. I don’t see the actual spots on the site yet, but it’s pretty sure they’ll be kind of like Zipcars and only sort of convenient. Yet, this is not Athena emerging from Zeus’ head fully grown. It’ll take many months to figure out the right station locations.

The nut starts out reasonably enough, with an annual $85 fee (introductory $60). Then the nickels and dimes add up very quickly.

Again, 30 minutes is the magic period (set your carriage-to-pumpkin clock). If you have an annual membership or are an ad hoc renter (Casual member in Hubway lingo), you can theoretically have thousands of 30-minute maximum rides a year for no charge. In fact, if the station locations and timing worked for you, it would make the most sense to go up to a kiosk and use a credit card to reserve a bike every time, so long as you kept to the half hour. Annual memberships come with the convenience of a key that lets you grab a bike, as it maps to your data.

In the real world, if you don’t end up in the midway of your trip at a station, you pay by the hour. Here the fees leap up to and then far beyond parking garages. They really, really don’t want you having a bike out for more than 30 or 60 minutes. The whole pricing card is here. A taste of the acceleration is:

Time Annual Casual
<30 0 0
30-<60 $1.50 $2
60-<90 $4.50 $6
90-<2 hours $10.50 $14
2-<3 hours $16.50 $22

And so it climbs by about $8 an hour for casual and $6 per for annual renters. It tops at 6 and one-half to 7 hours at $94 and $70.50 and then from 7 to 24 hours at $100 and $75.  Lord help you if you keep the bike over a day. Hubway will consider it stolen and truly put a parking garage’s rates to shame — $1,000 on your credit card.

If you think Nexflix’ 60% just announced gouging rates are absurd, this gives some perspective.

On the other hand, for a limited number of potential users, $85 for a year of bike use, zero maintenance, and practically unlimited 30-minute trips is such a deal. Truly.

I remain to be convinced that we’re collectively mature enough for the Hubway. I simply don’t have the faith in Bostonians that Menino and Freedman have exhibited here. In fact, announcing this program at City Hall plaza in April, the Mayor committed to the three Italians, adding U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, to taking the first trio of Hubway bikes out of the racks.

Here’s hoping they prove me wrong.

Of all the gin joints

May 28th, 2011

I declared this a gin-and-tonic afternoon — the first of A.D. 2011 here.

At 3:18, it was time and temperature appropriate. I had flogged myself through many morning chores and had worked for several hours, joined in the last one by son #3, in hand scrubbing the filthy plastic deck railing around a two-level deck that seemed to expand unrelentingly. The now white again boundary required muscles big and small, brushes, net balls, cloths, chemicals, and both still and hose nozzle water from belly button to shoe sole level.

The bright sun, breeze-less surroundings, and non-stop detailed work kicked it over to a summer drink afternon. Around here, we make a bottle of gin last a very long time. I think that about once every two years, we order a martini in a bar…just to do that like the 40s movie actors did. Otherwise, on hot, still days, we may draw on our British genetics to slice a lime and carry on.

So, admiring the suburban grandeur before me of re-whitened pickets, I sit with iPad and my first G&T of the season.

How many of us pseudo-philosophers aphorize to the effect of simple pleasures are best? Who cares. I’m posting and going back to revel in a wedge of squeezed lime, some quinine water and a shot of gin. It’s hot and I’ll hold that I earned it.

No Kilt Needed

May 11th, 2011

Little black dresses and wee snifters were the props. Whisky was the feature, that is single-malt whisky (Scottish spelling, if you please), which many of us simply call Scotch.

The Mcallan distiller pumps its promotion budget partly into such dram sipping evening here and there in an annual U.S. road swing. For example, see considerable detail in posts here and here. They write sumptuously on it so I don’t have to. The short version is that we got small snifters of 10, 12, 17 and 18 year old versions, averaging about half an ounce per. Each and more get full descriptions on the company site.

The production fascinated me. It also took me back to my early 20s when I wrote for a big construction magazine, a job which included covering the gigantic Con/Agg show of equipment.

My chum John signed several of us up for the free malt tasting, but only he and I ended up downtown at the Royale nightclub in our cute little theater district. There were no loose ends to this fabric. Mcallan folk had it all neatly woven.

Model types in LBDs greeted us and checked us off the list. They are worthy of comment and what first reminded me of the Con/Agg show. It goes on for days and fills the largest exhibition sites in Chicago. With gigantic earth movers and such, it’s not hard to command such spaces.

What was odd to my young 20s self was women as advertising and sales gear. There was an amusing and pleasing incongruity to the huge, metal machinery and hyper-attractive women in tiny dresses and sometimes bikinis. I recall at the first such show I attended seeing a gigantic dump truck filled with water and a half dozen barely clothed models splashing and swimming and generally showing themselves off in its massive bed. In construction terms, the point was that the bed was as big as a swimming pool, hence capable of hauling terrific amounts of rock and dirt with each load. Yet, the almost entirely middle-aged male potential buyers came to look first at the nearly nude women.

I asked my long-tenured editor how the Caterpillar and Euclid folk got all these stunning women for the show. He knew because he had asked. There was a gold rush of sorts many months before each Con/Agg, with the various equipment makers hitting up the modeling agencies. They wanted xx number of leggy lookers, first come first served.

malt

One might think that in the many years since, we’d be getting over all that. Nah. Men and women alike enjoy looking at and being greeted by attractive women. Exposed legs and shoulders seem to still be the norm. In fact, while they apparently did not have quite enough Mcallan issue LBDs to go around, most of the dozen or so women were in uniform. That was an extremely short and very tight dress, with the right shoulder bare and the left one with shiny black rectangular spangles. The shirt portion barely covered the aspirations of the audience.

Maybe 200 folk got seats at the long tables. A few glasses of walnuts were scattered about with the black and gold company napkins. We got a Mcallan token on the way in, which we traded for a wee glass of the 10-year-old malt. That was the method to keep folk from loading up on multiple shots before the show.

The incongruous disco music played for 20 minutes or so as we got our seats. It sure wasn’t bagpipes. The dark space focused us on the lit stage with the traveling exhibit — a counter for the speaker (brand ambassador Randolph [never Randy, yuck, yuck] Adams), tall display cases of nine different bottles of their malts, and a sports-event-sized touch screen. As the slick presentation started, it was describe Scotland, the whiskies, the process and so forth, interspersed with the women bring around trays of small snifters of the various samples.

There’d be two seatings, so they had it down for an opening at 6:30 and clear the room and tables for the next group between 8 and 8:30. Thank you very much. We can call you a cab if you think you need it.

It was a very efficient operation. Adams had the personality and snappy patter for the job as well. He’s certainly someone you’d, if you pardon, have a drink with. He’d never be a loss for an amusing anecdote.

Back to the temp help, while there were a couple of nice enough looking  20-something men by the doors, they stayed in the background and let the grinning women set the tone. It was a very 1970s tone at that. Also, being Boston instead  of a huge city, the LBD women were nice looking, but not the you-need-to-be-in-movies/Playboy and I-have-to-take-you-with-me types from the Con/Agg show. In that sense, the evening let the maybe 70% male audience concentrate on the snifters instead of sniffing the servers.

The crowd was mostly young men, but with a fair smattering of older guys, older women and a very few young women. I suspect that this is wise promotional expenditure. They’ll certainly keep Mcallan in the public mind, just as certainly sell their bottles to those who attended the next time they hit liquor stores, and get a better return than a similarly priced print ad to the cost of the evening.

I am not likely to be a convert, even though I enjoyed several of the samples. As never-Randy noted early in his palaver, tastes differ. The Irish invented the distilling process and many folk enjoy the lighter whiskey they favor. He also praised other Scottish malt distillers’ products, while holding the Macallan the best.

He made special mention of Islay whisky, saying some Scotch drinkers prefer the peaty, smoky products like Lagavulin and Laphroig. I am in that group and those are my one and two favorite malts.

If you like brown whisky/whiskey, you’d surely enjoy a Mcallan evening. The anachronistic b-girl tone of the severs really doesn’t distract from the purpose of the evening. It’s free and, hey, it’s better than sitting in front of TV.