December 9, 2010

I Must Remember to Keep Off the Trains When Overserved.

New York Sun, May 4, 1896

Seen on a Bridge Train
They Teased Him, Poked Fun at Him, and Sang to Him—He Thought It Wrong that a Gentleman Should Be the Butt of an Orphan Asylum Out on a Toot.

At that hour of the night they ought not to have been out at all. It had been Sunday for an hour, and they were seven little girls going to Brooklyn on a bridge train. The oldest of them might have been 10 years old and the youngest 7, and if they were in charge of anybody it was the young woman on the end seat, who wasn’t interested in them because she was too sleepy to be interested in anything.
As for them, they were equally interested in everything: the guards, at whom they giggled, the other passengers, at whom they snickered, and each other, every remark being greeted with little gusts of laughter. But principally they were amused at the man in the corner, because he was very, very drunk. Which was wrong of them.
It was he who remarked that at that hour of the night they ought not to have been out, adding thereto sundry reminiscences of his own happy childhood when he was wont to seek his trundle bed at 8 o’clock sharp every night, to be tucked in under his patch-work bed quilts which he pronounced “patch-worked bed quilt,” adding “hic!” in a loud voice.
Whereupon the seven little girls fairly twittered with glee. Still the matter might have rested there had not the first little girl in the line pointed the finger of scorn at him, and, making a whittling motion along it with another finger equally scornful, ejaculated:
That started the ball a-rolling.
“S-s-shame!” echoed the second little girl, also whittling her finger, and presently every girl in the line was performing that expressive digital indignity and hissing like an exasperated goose the syllable of contempt.
The drunken man was deeply grieved. Tears rolled down his cheeks. He sought to rise, but the floor was too unstable, so he sank back in his seat. Presently he said in a voice choked with sobs and hics that it was a pity to see a fine man (indicating himself) made the sport and mock of a crazy orphan asylum out on a toot, after which he drooped his head in a manner to suggest that his heart was broken. The first little girl peered at him curiously.
“He’s asleep,” she announced.
“He’s drunk,” said the second.
“Ain’t it awful: te-hee,” snickered the third.
“Awful drunk,” observed the fourth.
“He’s been drinkin’ beer, opined the fifth, and at that the posessor of the jag arose unsteady, but mighty in outraged dignity.
“Tai’true,” he cried. “’Sh lie. Al’ a beer in me. Hic. Al’ a—hic—beer—hic—hic—wazza laughin’—hic—at? Shink I’m shayin’ ‘hic’—hic—cause I ca’ help—hic—shayin’ ‘hic?’ Nossuch thing. Shayin’ ‘hic’ caush—hic—wanna shay ‘hic?’ ‘Tai’ no—hic—beer, zho. Shwhiskey!”

In the eloquence of his disclaimer he waved his arms wildly. His hat fell off and rolled into the aisle. Instantly a very wee girl at the further end of the line started up in a shrill voice the familiar ditty:

Where did you get that hat?
Where did you get that hat?
And all the others joined in:
Ain’t it a daisy one.
And just the latest style.
How d’ye like to have one
Jus’ the same as that?
When I go out the boys all shout:
“Where d’ye get that hat?”

Everyone else in the car began to laugh. But the man with the jag didn’t laugh. He looked first at the little girls. Then he looked at the hat, now rocking gently to and fro on its curved brim as the car swayed. It was to it that he addressed his remarks:
“Joo know,” said he, “joo know, I—hic—shink zhey’re—hic—makin’ funna you’n—hic—me. Wazzashink? C’mere!”
He made a grab for the hat, but his bump of location must have been way out of gear, for he didn’t come within a yard of it. This puzzled him.
“Mos’ shrprisin’ shing,” he observed, “gem’man ca’ getta hat—hic—hic—worn for shree—hic—years. Wazzamazzawezzahat? C’mere!”  He made another grab for it and missed again.
“’F at first—hic—y’don’ s—hic—ceed, y’ may ge’—hic—lef’ secon’ time,” he remarked philosophically and tried again.
This time he lost his balance and fell heavily upon the object of his search, crushing it flat. Instantly the chorus of little girls started up:

T’row ’m down, McCloskey!
Was to be the battle cry.
T’row ’m down, McCloskey!
You can lick him, if you try.

As that was all they knew of that song they repeated the lines several times while the subject of their vocal exercises crawled back to his seat and beat time with a heavy foot on the floor. Silence succeeded, and it occurred to him that he hadn’t recovered his headgear. This time he got it, held it up for inspection, and, observing its condition, set to work as best he might to straighten it out with bitter objurgations upon it for dodging when he first tried to capture it.
“Za’s wha’je git—hic—for tryin’—hic—to git away,” he observed, holding it out at arm’s length, whereupon the seven little girls, who seemed to be ready to sing upon as slight provocation as a comic opera chorus, burst out:
Oh, mamma, buy me that!
“Shing, birdie—shic—shing,” chanted the jag: “wish I—hic—haddashoggun. Wouldn’t—hic—do a shing to birdies. Hic!
He shook his fist at the chorus, who howled with mirth, and sang:

Oh, Uncle John,
Isn’t it nice on Broadway?
Oh, Uncle John,
Here I shall remain.
Oh, Uncle John,
Now that I’ve seen the Bow’ry [this with immense emphasis, which the jag
seemed to regard as personal],
I think the country’s awful slow, and I’ll never go back again.

“Ha—ha—hic—hic,” cried the object of their vocal jeers in an attempt at gayety. “I can shing my—hic—shelf. Hooray for shong:

Hic! How full I am—hic,
Hic! Do’ givvadam’—hic—

“O-o-o-o-oh! Ain’t he awful,” shrieked all the little girls in chorus. “You said a bad word. S-s-s-shame on you,” and seven little fingers went up for seven other little fingers to whittle on in the gesture of contempt.
“Hic! Do’ givvadam!” repeated the jag bravely, but his lip trembled.
“Hic! Do’ giv.”
“Brooklyn! All out!” shouted the guard, and the seven little girls trooped through the door pointing the finger of scorn at the unfortunate to the bitter end.
He sank back in his seat, and to the guard who helped him out of the car he stated in heartbroken tones that he was a highly respected comic illustration, and that all he wanted was a quiet place where he could be pasted up on the wall and left to finish a shattered life in peace and quiet.

[Transcribed by David Wondrich, December 8, 2010]

October 30, 2010


Pleast note, the opinions here contained are not those of the management, (off the record, they are not necessarily not those of the management either…)



You’re just a Plain Sissy If You Mix Your Drinks

By Robert C. Ruark [Syndicated column for October 2, 1955]

Palomas, Spain.—The drinking habits of a nation are an odd thing to contemplate and must reflect some sort of state of mind. Right now, America seems to be on a heavy vodka kick, possibly due to clever publicity, possibly due to world affairs. Vodka is reasonably mild, tasteless and odorless since it is only a grain alcohol and little else and is possibly less harmful to the system than other beverages. But unless the aim was to get stinking, I see no reason for it since you might as well be drinking needled water. They have kicked off vodka with a couple of lame excuses—the Moscow Mule and the Bloody Mary, both of which I find nauseous. Ginger beer and vodka in a copper mug make up the mule and the Mary is Worcestershire, pepper, salt, lemon and tomato juice with a stick of vodka inside. I will take my health food straight, thank you, without confusing it with tipple.

A permanent fiancée of mine, Ms. Inez Robb, was writing the other week about the horrors of commemorative cocktails, notably of the Atoms-for-Peace cocktail made of brandy, champagne and blue curacao—and I never hope to see one. Mrs. Robb did not take her dissertation on roast pigs far enough.

An Abomination.

The contrived cocktail is an abomination. Anybody who would drink an Alexander and still face his friends will eventually abscond with his mother’s egg money. The Manhattan is for people who sneak candy on the side. Even the Martini is a loathsome drink until it is rendered bone-dry, and then it is straight gin and not a cocktail at all.

The jack Roses and things with crème de menthe and champagne, confusing the healing powers of hones whisky, gin and brandy, are for people who lunch at restaurants that cater to ladies. Booze is not a confection. It should taste straight and honest and harsh to the unaccustomed tongue, thereby discouraging drunkenness among women and children.

Bosh on Mint Julep

It is heretical for a Southerner to say so, but I always scorned the Mint Julep as a perversion of decent bourbon or rye whisky and felt that the sugar or mint involved were injurious to the system, possibly leading to diabetes. As for the Old Fashioned, if I desire a fruit salad, I will order one and not confuse the issue with whisky. Cherries, hunks of pineapple, oranges and assorted grasses have a tendency to promote overacidity.

People that put whisky in coffee should be deprived of access to both and Stanley Delaplane, a San Francisco columnist, should hang his hung-over head in shame for starting the “Irish Coffee” fad that currently afflicts us.

If a man is thirsty, and likes Coke, perhaps the addition of a shot of rum will not harm the Coke and I accept the Cuba Libre but only one to a customer because too much Coke makes you fat. The Daiquiri, I believe, is not so much cocktail as highly seasoned ice, and if you like flavored ice, go ahead. You can buy the same thing on a stick from the man in the little white truck.

Not Ginger Ale

Gin when taken with tonic water is an admirable drink for weaklings and women and when taken with ginger ale—ugh! Gin is admirable when poured over ice, rescued, and sprayed with a thin film of vermouth form an atomizer.

It is a shame to desecrate sour-mash bourbon with much dilution but a little water is permissible. Scotch and brandy are on limits for soda if you care for carbonation but both marry much more happily to honest branch water.

The real drinking man still bites the neck of the bottle, tips her down chugalug and watches the hair grow on his chest as he touches the stratosphere without motors. These people never have liver trouble, a malady that is often fatal to people who drink eggnog because of the cream and eggs. Time, gentlemen, please.

[Transcribed by David Wondrich, 10/27/2010]

September 5, 2010

Inaugural Post…

The working writer’s life is shockingly dull. So I’m not going to talk about it. Instead, I’ll use this space to offer transcriptions of amusing, interesting and/or useful documents that I come across in the process of researching whatever the hell it is I’m researching at the time.

For my inaugural post, here are some useful fashion tips for bartenders from the Syracuse Daily Courier, June 1, 1884. The article is, alas, unsigned. I’ve monkeyed a little with the punctuation and taken a couple of guesses at illegible words. I haven’t monkeyed too much, though, lest I step on the original author’s pure Drunkistani.

I’m sure somebody out there must have a good line on bear grease. If so, help a brother out?



The Fashion in Bar Tenders

Wherein the Modern Mixer of Drinks Differs from the One of Twenty Years Ago

A man with a highly colored face, bloodshot eyes, a large moustache, and frayed linen leaned against the bar of a prominent downtown saloon yesterday and conversed with the proprietor of the place in an easy and confidential tone. He was evidently a man who was familiar with the surroundings and atmosphere of the great American barroom. Though his attire was careless, he looked like a man of considerable means, and was evidently well known in the place, for he bowed to every man who came in.

“I observe,” he said blandly to the proprietor, “that you have introduced the latest style of bartender here.”

“I don’t know much about the style,” said the proprietor carelessly. “They’re neat enough young fellows, and most of them are thrifty. I have five of them in all and none of them drink behind the bar. I believe several of them save a good share of their earnings, and they all dress better than I do. I suppose you have seen them Sundays upon the avenue, and if you have, you have seen some rolling swells. Still, I don’t know that there is any particular fashion about them as bartenders.”

“That is where you make a mistake,” said the man who leaned gracefully against the bar and toyed lovingly with the sugar in the bottom of his glass of whiskey. “There is as much fashion in bartending as there is in spring hats. I am surprised that a man in your position of the world of gin is not more acquainted with it. For instance, a fashionable bartender now weighs about 145 pounds, stands perfectly erect, and is clean shaven with the exception of a small, curled, blond moustache. It is of course possible for him to be reasonably fashionable with a black moustache but the blondes are just now the go. He should wear a standing collar, a light tie, a small tight-fitting and scrupulously clean jacket and snow white apron. The best of them do not wear rings when they are behind the bar, and they mix drinks daintily. If it is necessary to put a strawberry or a slice of lemon, a bit of orange or pineapple into a punch lemonade, the fashionable bartender puts them in with a small pair of sugar tongs. This is much better than having him grab them with his fingers, as the old style of bartender used to do.

“Dear boy,” said the dissipated habitué lolling gracefully up to the bar and slowly filling his glass up with whiskey, “it is well to treat patrons at the bar with all possible discriminations, and to encourage their appetite by endless touches of delicacy and refinement.”

With which he winked unctuously at the bar tender and slowly poured the whiskey into the cavernous opening immediately beneath his moustache.

“The fact is,” he continued, there is a deep seated admiration in the heart of every American for the bar. The most prosperous barroom in New York is that started by a man up town who came to the conclusion that the café had lost its attractions, and that a Simon pure American bar would catch the trade if it could be made famous. He made it famous by stuffing his barroom with $10,000 pictures and costly bits of bric-a-brac, and he is rapidly reaping the reward,”

“What sort of bartenders were the fashion when you were a boy?” asked the proprietor of the place.

“That was a tolerable remote period,” said the patron of the bar, quizzically, rubbing his chin. “The first bartender I distinctly remember was of the class which was then popular. He was plainly dressed, mixed drinks clumsily, and presided over a bar that would have been thrown out of any first class place nowadays. Gentlemen in those days thought it more or less a reproach to be seen drinking over a public bar; now, “however” [punctuated sic] continued the rounder in a measured tone, “I think it is rather dignifying to be seen budging at all hours of the day. In the early days the proprietor of a liquor store was not the great man that he is today. He was often his own bartender, and and [sic] never disdained to have his wife help him when there was a rush of business. Later on came the fancy bartender. I tell you he was a gorgeous creature, and no mistake. His hair was elaborately parted in the middle and greased with bear’s grease. You’re too young to know what bear’s grease was in those days. It was the greatest grease I ever saw.  It shone from afar, and it gave off a pale, but distinct and palpable odor, which [was] considered to have a killing effect upon the girls. When the bartender was properly done up in bear’s grease, with his hair artificially curled and his black moustache waxed at the ends, he was, to the eyes of the barroom loungers, a great and glorious creation. He wore several rings upon his fingers, and the crowning glory of his life was a huge diamond breastpin in the middle of an expansive shirt front.  It took the proprietors of the saloons exactly fifteen years to find out how their bartenders managed to save enough out of their meagre salaries to buy diamond pins. Then the bartenders bought them out, and the thing was as clear as day. That was before the introduction of bell punchers, indicators, checks, and other various machines for detecting thefts on the part of the man behind the bar. In those days it was fashionable for bartenders to be black haired, and those who possess light hair dyed their locks a raven black. They mixed drinks with indifferent success. These men in the course of time became too offensive and indifferent. They had their cronies, and they talked sharply to men whom they did not like. In the course of time the Western bartenders made inroads on the Eastern states, and were the rage for several years just about war time.  They were quite little men who had made a study of the business of mixing drinks. They knew to a shade what flavor to give it, and never forgot a man’s face. If you went in on the 1st of the month; was pleased with it, and told the bartender that it suited your taste, you could go in at the end of the month, and he’d make a cocktail similar. They introduced lots of fancy drinks, and had all the business of throwing mixed drinks from one glass to another over their heads. The majority of these men have become proprietors by this time, and they have done much to introduce the present bartender, who are the quickest, most dexterous and presentable of their species.

[Transcribed by David Wondrich, 7/10/2010]