An Evening Out



A Play in One Act

Jeff and The Duchess meet a friend for dinner. They arrive early at the restaurant and sit at the bar.

JEFF: A whiskey, please.

THE DUCHESS: And chips! And guacamole! And a bottle of wine!

The BARTENDER pours Jeff a whiskey roughly the size of the ocean. Imagine a bottle of Scotch, poured entirely into a tumbler the size of Jeff’s fist, and you have some small, meager idea of how deep this pour was. In the history of heavy-handed bartenders pouring deep drinks for you, this one ranks as possibly the deepest pour ever known to man. If Dylan Thomas had drinks this deep poured for him he would have died after three, maybe four.

JEFF: <sizing up drink> Yes, that seems about right.


BARTENDER: Another, hon?


BARTENDER (the true hero of this play) proceeds to pour another entire bottle and perhaps a bit of a second bottle into the tumbler. JEFF’s eyes grow wide and his whole body begins to tremble.

JEFF: <whispering> As it was prophesized …

<TIME PASSES. JEFF and THE DUCHESS meet their friend and are seated at dinner. JEFF finishes his second whiskey and begins to work on the bottle of wine>

THE DUCHESS: What do you think?

<JEFF smiles beatifically at her. One eye is apparently focused just over her shoulder>


THE DUCHESS: We were discussing politics, and you need to tell your friend here that he’s wrong.

JEFF: Bizzurp. Fonda! MINGUS!

THE DUCHESS: Oh, dear.

JEFF: <standing up and tearing off trousers with one motion> MIIIIINNNGUUSSSSS!

And: Scene.

The lesson here, my friends, is that you’re never too old to be a jackass. Also: The Drink is good. But the Drink is Chaotic Neutral.

Literary Devices: Booze



In some of my writing, I have characters who use guns a lot, and every now and then I get some detail about guns wrong and I get flooded with notes from helpful people explaining my mistake. Which is fine and good. So, let’s turn the tables a little. I may not be an expert on firearms, but I am an expert in firewater (see what I did there? Me good professional word person).

I am in many ways, a walking cliché: The writer who enjoys his liquor a little too much. It’s certainly not my fault that my ancestors made alcohol both delicious, all-natural, vaguely healthy if you believe European doctors, and man’s best friend. I am the victim here, is what I’m saying. And my books often reflect this lifelong love affair with The Drink: In the Avery Cates books, in Lifers and Chum and We Are Not Good People my characters all drink heavily and while you might argue this also explains why the stories they find themselves in are so dark and awful (and yet, hilarious!) because getting shitfaced is itself dark and awful (but hilarious!) it remains a literary device I use a lot. Admittedly, I use the Booze Device mainly so my characters have something to do with their hands (see also: Cigarettes).

Still, if you’re imagining that I myself get all ginned up and plow through fifty pages of golden prose while my eyes are crossed (method writing, in other words), you’re wrong. I remember once Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane being interviewed and he was asked about playing live shows while high, and he dismissed it out of hand, saying something about how you can’t do that because the guitar strings would suddenly seem like they were as thick as firehoses and everything would go to hell (I’m paraphrasing). While a glass of the brown stuff has often been my companion when writing, it’s not like you can guzzle a fifth of bourbon and then write fifteen pages of really coherent prose.

Of course, characters actually in the book? Why not. From what I can tell no one wants verisimilitude when it comes to liquor in our stories.


Bring Me Your Finest Single Malts and Cheeses

This essay originally appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 12, Issue 1, 2006.

Ice is for suckers.

Ice is for suckers.

The Inner Swine Goes to Whiskyfest 2005

OPERATION: WHISKYFEST. Generally speaking, I’m not one for overly formalizing everything; there are people in this world who just don’t feel right unless every single activity has been choreographed and arranged according to in-depth bylaws. These are people to whom ‘expertise’ is darling, who love to be able to explain why something is better than some other thing, in great detail. Many of these people are baseball fans, who will bore you to death with long-winded diatribes about the infield fly rule or how to throw a breaking ball. Many others are wine enthusiasts for whom simply enjoying a glass of wine is not good enough, you must be able to feign an appreciation of 655 subtle characteristics, many of which were made up a century ago and still amuse the French to this day.

Despite my appreciation for a good breaking ball, I am not one of those people. I like wine, but my palate does not advance much past knowing what I like, which tends to be just about every single bottle of wine I’ve ever imbibed, with the sole exception of a bottle given to me by TIS Staff Artist Jeof Vita a few years ago, a nondescript green bottle with a plain label that read, in toto, CHEAP WHITE WINE. That wine was. . .not good, and I wish someone had told me it was a joke before I drank the entire bottle and spent a week shivering. I like baseball, too, but I grow weary of endless discussion of minutiae—I just like to have the games on about a hundred times a year and get out to a few games. I am, in other words, a pretty simple person. I like what I like, and I distrust unnecessary complexity.

Despite this lack of sophistication, I’ve come to love whisky in general and Scotch in specific. It’s amazing how you can be a kid and love cheap beer and peppermint schnapps and wonder why anyone pays more than a dollar and change for their liquor, and just two decades later you’re willingly shelling out lots of money for specific types of booze because you actually believe they taste better: Maturity is obviously just a code word for crazy. But I digress; although I’ve always had a taste for bourbon, I’d never really investigated Scotch or any other type of whisky. Partly it’s the cost—you can’t just shell out for bottles of booze on the off chance you’ll like it—and partly it’s just my general lack of focus and energy. I’m a lazy, lazy man and discovering new booze usually falls under the heading of more shit I gotta do. Eventually, however, good sense prevailed and over the past few years I’ve gotten into Scotch and appreciate its subtleties. This translates to: Jeff has been drinking an awful lot of Scotch.

So when my wife, The Duchess, presented me with a ticket to Whiskeyfest for my birthday and informed me that founding member of TISIC Jeof Vita was also planning to attend, I was immediately excited. It’s not often you are handed a ticket to drink—by your wife, no less—and I immediately went into training and plotting, determined to make the most of my sudden opportunity.


When Booze Attacks

This first appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 14, Issue 1.

Hangover Cat is An HeroIn general, liquor been very very good to me. In a storied career stretching back several decades I’ve had a lot to drink, and certainly had my share of hangovers. I still have a suit of clothes I woke up wearing in Philadelphia one night, with absolutely no memory of how I acquired it. It hangs in the closet waiting for the day that we either invent cheap at-home DNA testing or time-travel, and the truth will be revealed. Until then I assume I drank too much and traded clothes with a much richer man of my approximate size and weight.

Still, I’m an old, frail man now, and I think I’ve tested my depth when it comes to killing myself with The Drink. Or at least I thought so. I mean, I ought to know my limits, right? I ought to be able to walk up the watery line of Lake Puke and toe it gingerly, and do a jaunty little dance of defiance. And usually, I can.

Recently, however, I’ve had several inexplicable brushes with the ancient stigma of being over-served, and the only thing more depressing than being a middle-aged zine publisher is being a middle-aged zine publisher who’s about to hurl his cookies all over the place like a high school kid after his first pint of blackberry brandy.

The first time, to be honest, I had consumed enough booze to pickle myself, I admit it. The evening got away from me in an excess enthusiasm for someone’s whiskey collection, and despite the way everything ended I don’t have any real regrets. The most recent episode, however, involved barely enough booze to register, and yet I ended the night swimming home in a taxi, turning various shades of green.

This is disturbing.

The cycle of life, as far as I imagined it, was this: You’re born. Then nothing happens. Sometime around your thirteenth birthday, you have your first drink, and then you fuck up multiple times, spending brain cells to gain experience. A period of happiness ensues, wherein you can pretty much drink without fear of consequence. This goes on until your liver explodes and you die, probably around age fifty. Suddenly returning to the earlier stage puts a distinct crimp in my plans for the future. Not to mention supplying me with ample embarrassment for those occasions when I attempt to be witty and erudite with my adult friends.

The only course of action is to continue to experiment until I figure out the problem in my technique. I’ll continue to report my progress as events warrant.

The Worst Whiskies in the World Part One

Many people exist in this world with a purpose, to make the place better for those who come after them. I’ve never been one of those people. I was, in fact, kind of bummed to have an epiphany at age 28 and realize I was not only not immortal, but I was not even living in a universe custom-create for me. I was just one of several billion shlubs muddling through, and that was kind of depressing. Then followed a period of Super Villainy, where I not only didn’t try to help my fellow man or improve the world, I actively tried to ruin both.

But now I am mature. And I am here to do what I can to help. How can I help? I considered my talents: Rare and often not obviously useful. I can, for example, almost remember your name after meeting you just four or five times. It’s eerie. Also, I can do simple algebra equations in my head, so if four ounces of chicken has ninety calories, I can tell you how many calories three ounces has. Every time.

Still, none of these talents seemed like the sort of thing that would help the world in a significant way. So I despaired for a while and turned to writing, and we all know the damage I’ve done there. And then it hit me: If there’s one thing I know something about, it’s booze. And I’ve had a lot of really, really awful whiskies in my time. Why not share that horrible knowledge and spare my fellow man such suffering?

Of course, even there I fail, because I am not a fancy man who can tell you things like how whiskey is made or what it is, exactly, I am tasting. I have the palate of a bum used to drinking moonshine and antifreeze. All I know is whether I would gnaw off my own foot to escape further shots of a whiskey or not.

So, our first candidate is a German whiskey called Slyrs. German whiskey! Next thing you know we’ll have a lady president or something! No, seriously: German whiskey. Rather than bore you with a befuddled and confusing essay about the horrors going on in my mouth when I drink Slyrs, I thought I would use a simple video representation of the fact that if told I had to either drink instantaneously fatal poison made from the crushed testicles of dung beetles or drink another shot of Slyrs, I would choose the poison without hesitation.

Here’s the visual of that reaction:

You’re welcome.