Sunday, June 10, 2012

My Baby Flaps His Hands


The following is from Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM IV. Diagnostic Criteria for 299.00 Autistic Disorder:
(C) restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities, as manifested by at least two of the following:
1. encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
2. apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
3. stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)

1. If your patterns of interest are abnormal in their intensity and focus, this does not mean you have a mental disorder. This means you are sane. This means you are alive, and you are free. Much more alive and free than most people.

2. No one but yourself can ever possibly judge whether your routines and rituals are nonfunctional. Maybe your closest loved ones have some insight. No diagnostic and statistical manual created for the convenience of bureaucrats ever can.

3. Sharky flaps his hands.

Sharky does not have a mental disorder. His mentality is very ordered. 

Sharky does not have autism. Autism doesn't even exist.

Sharky fits the criteria for autism, and if Sharky needs extra help at school, or help with the development of his speech, or help understanding how to make his body do what his mind wants it to do in a variety of typical life situations, he needs to have autism. He needs to have a mental disorder characterized by abnormality, inflexible adherence to nonfunctional routines and rituals, and hand flapping. Because if he doesn't, people aren't allowed to help him.

Sharky flaps his hands.

Many years ago a Doctor and leading expert on autism met Sharky. This doctor is a good man and brilliant physician who has dedicated his life to helping children with autism, and as far as I can tell he has succeeded many many times in achieving the goal of this dedication.

He told us to do whatever we can to discourage Sharky's hand flapping. He said it reinforced autistic patterns in the mind, and would help to hardwire the brain circuitry in ways that encouraged abnormal intensity and focus, inflexible adherence, etc. Hand flapping, he in essence said, is a nonfunctional routine.It might even be an anti-functional routine.

I obeyed for a moment. The next time I was with Sharky, he started to flap his hands, a joyful and exuberant act he undertakes when witnessing something beautiful, amazing, and exciting to him. He bounced up and down at the knees, his mouth agape, both hands flapping at his sides as if he fully anticipated he'd fly away at any moment.

I said to him, "Sharky, stop flapping your hands."

He looked at me, bewildered, and said, "But dad, I'm just excited."

That was the quick end to my obedience.

An unmitigated expression of joy when witnessing something beautiful, amazing, and exciting is not a nonfunctional routine. We humans engage in a lot of nonfunctional routines every day, like going to jobs we hate, having empty exchanges with the people in our lives, surfing the internet to read things we have no interest in, watching TV shows that deaden our souls... But hand flapping in response to truly being tuned in to something? That sounds very functional to me. That sounds like a gift.

Grunya Sukhareva in the 1920s, and Hans Aspberger in the 1940s, conducted research largely independent of one another and came to develop similar concepts about their child subjects. And their combined work created the original idea of what autism was. And to this date definitions of what autism is derive from their work. In Aspberger's words, these boys afflicted with autistic psychopathy suffered from "a lack of empathy, little ability to form friendships, one-sided conversations, intense absorption in a special interest, and clumsy movements"

If these are the traits that form the foundation of what we believe to be autism, I believe my son Sharky might be the anti-autist. He stands upside down on the opposite pole of the earth from this.

But he is non-traditional. He doesn't fit in with the tinker toy constructs of our world. And for people like that, we've got a long list of labels. People who don't fit into convenient and accepted boxes can still get accepted into the culture if they accept a label of the exceptions to the rules. We've got a book with thousands and thousands of these labels. They call it the DSM IV.

So Sharky, my baby, let's you and me play a fun game. Just for now, let's play a game. Let's turn out the lights, and drape a sheet over our heads, and play a game of make believe. Let's make believe there's something called autism, and let's make believe it's a mental disorder. And let's make believe you have it! There are a whole lot of people out there who love you so much and want to help you, and some of them aren't allowed to unless we pretend you have this make believe thing.

And it's OK for us to pretend, because it's all just a game. And it isn't our lie, it's theirs. And you and I, all we're doing is finding a way to live with their lie together. And one day, we won't have to play this game anymore. Sound OK to you?

And also, while we're hiding here under this sheet in the dark, you can flap your hands all you want to.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Le Mixeur Sharky Nine Stories: Boston, NYC, PDX




April is officially Shark Month. Well, maybe not officially. I'm not sure how anything becomes official. But April is Shark Month nonetheless, with not one, not two, but three Le Mixeur Sharky Nine Stories happening around the country. And for once in this blog's god forsaken life, I'm going to get right to the important information folks need to know. Here is your breakdown of each event and how to go to there.

BOSTON

Date: Tuesday April 10, 2012
Time: 6pm-9pm
Where: The Hawthorne, 500A Commonwealth Ave, in The Stone Room
Cost: $20/person, purchase at the door

Nine of Boston's most gifted bartenders have created their own interpretations of JD Salinger's Nine Stories. Your $20 admission grants you tastings of any or all of these nine cocktails, made by their creators. The leadership of MAC will be in attendance to share the incredible work they do.

In addition to the tastings, Hawthorne manager Jackson Cannon has graciously placed a selection of Le Mixeur Sharky drinks on the bar menu for the evening. Purchase one of the drinks from the bar and the proceeds also will go to MAC.

"Since its inception in 2002, (MAC) has become a vital force within the autism community in Massachusetts, providing training, legal assistance, advocacy, and services to thousands of parents and professionals to ensure that children with autism overcome lowered expectations and receive equal educational opportunities."



NEW YORK CITY

Date: Sunday April 15, 2012
Time: 5pm-2am
Where: Dutch Kills, 27-24 Jackson Ave, Long Island City
Cost: per drink, about what you'd figure to spend on a cocktail in NYC

Richie Boccato, a closet Seattle lover, will be offering a selection of the drinks from the original Le Mixeur Sharky event held in Seattle this past March. These drinks were created by nine of Seattle's best bartenders, each based on an assigned tale from Nine Stories. Proceeds from these drinks will go to the NYCA Charter School, a specialized school for children with autism providing individualized education.

"The school promotes the achievement of high educational standards and the full intellectual, social, physical, and emotional potential of each of its students. It extends its educational programming beyond the school’s walls through training, consultation, and support for students’ families. The school also offers ongoing professional development opportunities to its staff, as well as to other educators in New York City and the surrounding area."



PORTLAND

Date: Sunday, April 22nd
Time: 6pm-10pm
Where: Teardrop Lounge, 1015 NW Everett St.
Cost: $60/person (RSVP required!)
RSVP: daniel@teardroplounge.com

Your $60 admission gets you open bar for the duration of the event, plus food generously provided by Jennifer & Ken Norris (Riffle NW), Scott Dolich (Park Kitchen), Alex Yoder (Olympic Provisions), & Bridgeport Brewing. Daniel has recruited nine star bartenders from Portland to create yet another round of boozy interpretations of Salinger's stories. These bartenders will be taking overlapping shifts behind the bar. Representatives of NWAF will be in attendance to talk about their work, so try to stay a little sober. I know there's nine cocktails being served, but...

Note: This event is rapidly approaching capacity, fullness, sold out status, impenetrablity, surrounded by force field, etc. RSVP soon.
"The original goal of NWAF was to provide education, resources and information to parents, family, friends, caregivers and professionals treating children on the autism spectrum on a donation only basis. Shortly after its inception, NWAF expanded its goals to include facilitating early diagnosis and effective treatment for individuals with ASD."



SOME IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT ALL THESE EVENTS

  • The people organizing these events have done this for no charge out of the goodness of their hearts. And the spaces in which these events will take place have been provided to us for free.
  • The bartenders making your drinks at these events, and the people serving drinks and cleaning tables and taking out garbage and washing dishes have volunteered their time, effort, and skills. Please show your appreciation for them.
  • The expenses of these events have been greatly reduced thanks to many generous donations of product from our sponsors. Please make a note of who they are and think pleasant thoughts of them. Their donations will increase the amount of money we raise for children with autism by literally thousands of dollars.
  • These events are amazing and fun to plan and create. You should totally do one wherever you live. I will help you as much as I can. Email me at t (dot) mixeur (at) gmail (dot) com, or post a comment to this blog if you'd like to host your own version of Le Mixeur Sharky.

THE BOSTON MENU

Since Boston is coming up so soon, let's give a little sneak peek. Your bartender lineup for the evening will be (in order of appearance) :

Sabrina Kershaw of The Citizen
Tyler Wang of No. 9 Park
John Mayer of Local 149
Ted Kilpatrick of No. 9 Park
Rob Kraemer of Chez Henri
Scott Holiday of Rendezvous
Sean Frederick of The Citizen
Ted Gallagher of Craigie On Main
John Gertsen of Drink

The bartenders will be presenting drinks in the order the stories appear in the book. So you'll begin the night with the overwhelming angst of Seymour Glass in bananafish, but by the end achieve spiritual enlightenment thanks to Teddy (note: my name's Ted, there's two bartenders at this event named Ted, the final drink and story is Teddy, and there's a movie coming out called Ted that Sharky is already campaigning to be allowed to see despite its R rating. Month of the Shark. Year of the Ted.)

Here's the menu for tomorrow night...


This version of the menu is designed to be cut up into bookmarks. If you would like to make your own bookmarks as a souvenir of the event, send me your contact info via email or a comment on this blog (which I will not publish) and I'll send you a high resolution version to print and snip.

Well, I guess that's about it. No go part like a rock star and make a difference in the life of a child. Isn't it nice when you can do both at the same time?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Le Mixeur Sharky Menu - Kevin Langmack: Just Before The War With The Eskimos


"Look at 'em," he said. "Goddam fools."

"Who?" said Ginnie.

"I don't know. Anybody."

"Your finger'll start bleeding more if you hold it down that way," Ginnie said.

He heard her. He put his left foot up on the window seat and rested his injured hand on the horizontal thigh. He continued to look down at the street. "They're all goin' over to the goddam draft board," he said. "We're gonna fight the Eskimos next. Know that?"

"The who?" said Ginnie.

"The Eskimos.... Open your ears, for Chrissake."

"Why the Eskimos?"

"I don't know why. How the hell should I know why? This time all the old guys're gonna go. Guys around sixty. Nobody can go unless they're around sixty," he said. "Just give 'em shorter hours is all. ... Big deal."




Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories is Sunday, March 11, 5-10pm, at Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe, 419 Fairview Ave N, Seattle. Tickets are $25 (includes 3 cocktails) and should be pre-purchased here: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/229073

KEVIN LANGMACK

Goddammit Kevin's worked at a lot of places in Seattle, for Chrissakes. He's been goin' all over the goddamn place working. Goin' to go work for the Eskimos next. Know that?

Let's see, where has he worked? (Remember, research = fascism, fragmented memory = utopia). I remember Spur, and Sun Liquor, and Vessel, and Knee High Stocking Company, and I foresee future Vessel, in 2016 when Vessel reopens. There were others. I know there were. But who cares? Where you worked doesn't define you as a person or a professional. It's your actions, your personality, and most importantly your je ne sais quoi.

Kevin's got good actions and personality, but more than anything, homes gots je ne sais quoi out the ying yang. That's right, Kevin's a Taoist I Do Now Know What.

(editor's note: it is possible, just possible, that the author of this blog is punch drunk from the demands of event preparation and is babbling at this point, but this editor could be misguided).

It is a great privilege to have Kevin involved in this project and event. He has quietly been one of Seattle's best bartenders for many years, and one of the Seattle bar scene's most affable and unassuming presences. It's genuinely good to to at long last work with him. It makes me feel all je ne sais quoi and shit.

OK, get on with the drink already...

JUST BEFORE THE WAR WITH THE ESKIMOS
AKA, MILK & COOKIES FOR GINNIE & FRANKLIN

1 ½ ounce Sun Liquor Distillery's Hedge Trimmer gin
1 ounce heavy cream
½ ounce Vanilla Syrup*

shake and strain into a milk glass
serve with an assortment of cookies

*Vanilla Syrup: Combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water and 1oz vanilla extract, or steep vanilla beans in a 1:1 simple syrup to taste.

Note #1: Kevin was also working on a highly experimental and daring concoction that was unfortunately not perfected due to certain oversights in nuclear physics. But it shall be perfected some day. No more information is available regarding this invention due to patents pending and such.

Note #2: Ginnie & Franklin are the two main characters of the story. They both could really benefit from the childlike comfort of cookies and milk, and they both could really benefit from the adultlike comfort of gin.

HEY, HOW COME GINNIE & FRANKLIN BOTH COULD REALLY BENEFIT FROM THE CHILDLIKE COMFORT OF COOKIES AND MILK AND THE ADULTLIKE COMFORT OF GIN?

If you're asking me about the story, then I'll tell you. Ginnie is a young teen from New York City, who is tennis partners with Selena. She considers Selena "the biggest drip" at their school, yet plays tennis with her because Selena provides the balls, yet resents Selena's unwillingness to help with cab fare home after tennis. When she addresses this with Selena one day on the way home, it leads to snit fits and Ginnie going home with Selena to collect what she's owed.

Ginnie's left alone while Selena goes to trouble her poor ailing mother for money. During her time in the living room, she ends up having two separate meaningful interactions that affect her thoughts on the Selena situation and perhaps beyond.

The first, and central, interaction is with Selena's brother Franklin. He is odd, an outcast, agitated and sometimes distracted, yet kind and strangely endearing. He would seem to be the type of person Ginnie would dismiss, and at first she attempts to. But she can't for some reason. She learns of his rheumatic fever as a child, which lead to heart problems, which lead to him being unable to serve in WWII and instead working in an airplane factory in Ohio during the war, and of his unrequited love for Ginnie's older sister, now married to a Naval officer. And as they talk, once can sense Ginnie's unquestioning allegiance to the status quo of the adult world and its values melting away, and discovering her own inner qualities, such as compassion and individualism.

More happens. But I'm already telling too much. Nine Stories is for sale at Inner Chapters Bookstore and Cafe, and we'll also be giving away a couple of copies as raffle prizes. That way you can read it for yourself. Just try to forget everything you just heard from me. It's all a bunch of crap.

But also remember what Kevin told you: gin and vanilla cream, with cookies. All for Ginnie & Franklin.



Le Mixeur Sharky Menu - Philip Thompson: De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period



"The bare truth is as follows: If you do not learn a few more of the rudiments of the profession, you will only be a very, very interesting artist the rest of your life instead of a great one. This is terrible, in my opinion. Do you realize how grave the situation is?"





Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories is Sunday, March 11, 5-10pm, at Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe, 419 Fairview Ave N, Seattle. Tickets are $25 (includes 3 cocktails) and should be pre-purchased here: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/229073

PHILIP THOMPSON

Here's a little lineage that explains Philip Thompson's place in the grand ole scheme of bartending things:

1) Philip's first name is the same as the middle name of fellow Le Mixeur Sharky contributor Ben Perri. They even spell it the same way, with one l. In case you have extremely short capacity for thought, the name we're talking about is, "Philip."

2) Philip's last name is the same last name as my Barbados brother David, who went with me to my first ever Tales Of The Cocktail , David was a friend of Chesterfield Brown of Mount Gay Rum, who once famously said, "MOUNT! GAY! RUM! WITH COCONUT! WATER!"

Actually he said it about 20 times, at a seminar at Tales that David Thompson and I were at.

3) Philip used to work with fellow Le Mixeur Sharky contributor Nathan Weber, AKA The Laughing Man, at Tavern Law. On more than one occasion while working together, these two mans were seen laughing.

4) Philip now is lead bartender at The Coterie Room, owned by chef duo Brian McCracken and Dana Tough, who also own Tavern Law, and Spur, which is less than a block away from Coterie Room. Fellow Le Mixeur Sharky contributor Marley Tomic-Beard, AKA Uncle Wiggily InConnecticut, used to work at Spur. But neither Philip nor Marley actually has an Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut.

5) Nathan Weber, Dana Tough, Brian McCracken, and Marley Tomic-Beard have never had a blue period. I asked Philip if he has had a blue period. He wouldn't say. That to me sounds like the response of a man who has.

All I'm trying to say is that Philip Thompson is one of the great bartenders in our fair city. He makes wonderful drinks and is an impeccably cordial host. He has excelled in some of Seattle's all too rare establishments where world-class food and world-class drink peacefully co-exist and actually enhance one another. And he has now invented a drink interpretation of De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period. What could possibly be next?

Well, how about the damn recipe?

DE DAUMIER-SMITH'S BLUE PERIOD
AKA "Le Chat de Schrödinger"

1 ½ ounce of (whiskey or gin or vodka it is not known until it is made)
½ ounce blue curacao
½ ounce lime juice
dash of angostura bitters
dash of orange bitters

shake over ice and strain into a...

HEY WHY DID PHIL MAKE HIS DRINK ABOUT THIS STORY SO WEIRD?

"I went upstairs to my room and lay down on my bed. Some minutes, or hours later, I made, in French, the following brief entry in my diary: 'I am giving Sister Irma her freedom to follow her own destiny. Everybody is a nun.' (Tout le monde est une nonne.)"

De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period is a story of a precocious 19 year old, recently returned to New York after nine years in Paris, who fibs his way into a job in Quebec providing correspondence art instruction to students of the art school of M. Yoshoto. Unimpressed and mostly depressed by the submitted works of most of his students, he finds himself smitten with the simplistic work of Sister Irma, commissioned to study art by Father Zimmerman at Les Amis Des Vieux Maitres. He especially adores her watercolor depiction of Christ being carried to the sepulchre in Joseph of Arimathea's garden.

So inspired is he by her work, he immediately writes her a letter even more long-winded than this blog about what she must do to refine her painting and achieve genius status. When she doesn't respond and instead Father Zimmerman writes to say he has reconsidered his decision to allow Sister Irma to pursue her art at Les Amis Des Vieux Maitres, De Daumier-Smith (not his real name) writes another long-winded letter even more desperate to corral Sister Irma's artistic spirit.

He then takes to the streets and observes a young woman in the display window of a shop, working hard to re-dress a wooden dummy with a truss. In the course of his observation and interaction with the female stranger, she reacts strongly to his appearance, and he experiences an epiphany. We are not sure what exactly this epiphany is, but when he returns home, in his own mind and diary he permits Sister Irma her freedom.

Mr. Philip Thompson interprets Smith's actions, and his statement "Tout le monde est une nonne" to mean everyone can make their own choices. And to quote Phil, "De Daumier-Smith came to this conclusion by witnessing an event in which the act of watching affected the outcome."

And so with the drink Le Chat de Schrödinger, inspired by De Daumier-Smith's blue period, everyone can make their own choices. You choose your base, mix with Blue Curacao for your blue, and add in lime and the bitters because, as is always important, it will make it taste good.

Freedom! It tastes good!

What does Le Chat de Schrödinger mean? I don't know. I think it sounds like it means a cat named by a guy named Schrödinger. What's the deeper meaning? I intentionally didn't ask. Now you all have to come to Le Mixeur Sharky and ask Phil himself. He'll make a choice as to how to answer. And each answer will be true.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Le Mixeur Sharky Menu - Marley Tomic-Beard: Uncle Wiggily In Connecticut


Mary Jane pushed her chin farther forward over the edge of her forearm.

"El. . ." she said.

"Why won't you tell me how he was killed? I swear I won't tell anybody. Honestly. Please."

"No."

"Please. Honestly. I won't tell anybody."

Eloise finished her drink and replaced the empty glass upright on her chest. "You'd tell Akim Tamiroff," she said.

"No, I wouldn't! I mean I wouldn't tell any--"

"Oh," said Eloise, "his regiment was resting someplace. It was between battles or something, this friend of his said that wrote me. Walt and some other boy were putting this little Japanese stove in a package. Some colonel wanted to send it home. Or they were taking it out of the package to rewrap it--I don't know exactly. Anyway, it was all full of gasoline and junk and it exploded in their faces. The other boy just lost an eye." Eloise began to cry. She put her hand around the empty glass on her chest to steady it.

Mary Jane slid off the couch and, on her knees, took three steps over to Eloise and began to stroke her forehead. "Don't cry, El. Don't cry."

"Who's crying?" Eloise said.



Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories is Sunday, March 11, 5-10pm, at Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe, 419 Fairview Ave N, Seattle. Tickets are $25 (includes 3 cocktails) and should be pre-purchased here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/229073


MARLEY TOMIC-BEARD

As I mentioned in the previous post on Ben Perri, sometimes Seattle gets lucky and a some of the most superest bartenders around move here to Seattle and make really super drinks and act like really super people in public places called bars. And Marley is one of these super types. Since moving to Seattle, most of us first got to know her while she was bartending at Spur. Then she started sneaking down the alleyway to Bathtub Gin and making drinks there too. Then she disappeared from Belltown all together and helped open the bar at Golden Beetle in Ballard! Oh that mischievous Marley! (It was right at that time we all started calling her "Crazy Marley." We stopped calling her that a few moments later because, well, it was pretty silly.)

After proving her point at Golden Beetle, she moved on to create a brand damn spanking new bar program at the brand damn spanking new restaurant and bar The Sexton (at least is was brand damn spanking new at the time. After a few months the city comes out to the restaurant and removes the brand damn spanking seal. Then you're just "new"). There you will find the bar front and center and Marley making delicious drinks, and you will also find a menu of southern-influenced food items that are delicious. And the best part, all you have to is ask for them, and someone brings it right to where you're sitting and you can eat it! Woohoo!

Marley came to us from Boston, where she was inspired to pursue a craft cocktail lifestyle byMisty Kalkofen, these days of Brick & Mortar in Cambridge. Misty is organizing a Le Mixeur Sharky event in Boston in April. Marley is contributing to the Le Mixeur Sharky event in Seattle. See how everything is coming full circle? Perhaps it's more like two straight lines going back and forth between Boston and Seattle. But if you push the ends of those lines towards each other, they might bow into two arches, at which point the ends can be welded together to form a circle. Our operatives are working on this as we speak. Bow those lines, m'boys! Bow those lines m'ladies! Raise High The Roofbeam, Carpenters!

All I'm really trying to say is, I'm glad Marley's here now.

UNCLE WIGGILY IN CONNECTICUT

1 ½ ounce Dewar's blended scotch
¾ ounce Riesling Simple Syrup*
¾ ounce Campari
¼ ounce lemon juice
2 dashes Laphroaig

Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass
Strain into Collins glass, top with soda and ice

*1 part water to 3 parts sweet, aromatic Riesling, heated to boil and then mixed with a 1:1 ratio of sugar. For example: 8 ounces water, 24 ounces Riesling, mixed with 32 ounces sugar (by volume).

Marley took seriously the task of making a drink that relates to its story. Also, her story has some elements that make for guides to the drink. For instance, the two principal characters in the story are described as drinking highballs throughout the afternoon they spend together. Towards the end of the story one picks up a near-empty bottle of scotch, revealing that they've been drinking scotch highballs.

They also chain smoke throughout the story (as do pretty much all adults in Salinger stories) so Marley adds the dashes of Laphroaig (which worked much better than the original idea to build the drink in a Collins glass over ice and a wet cigarette butt).

So essentially what Marley has done (and I will paraphrase her own description), is to create a scotch highball with nostalgia, love lost or gone up in smoke (the real reason for the smoky Laphroaig). The Riesling syrup represents the sugar-coated sophistication, or plastic/candy facade, of the life of comfort that Eloise, the main character leads. The Campari represents the bitterness of her life, caused by the loss of her true love.

SO IS THIS STORY ABOUT ANYTHING BESIDES DRINKING AND SMOKING?

Yes and no. It is about two women getting together one snowy afternoon in Connecticut. They were college roommates their freshmen year, and neither one of them would finish school. Both fell into romances instead. Mary Jane ended up a career woman. Eloise ended up marrying a successful man she doesn't love after her true love, Walt, died in the war. Eloise is spirited, sharp, and funny. But she's miserable. She doesn't even seem to like her husband, and her daughter is a source of annoyance and embarrassment for her, despite the fact that she is a sweet child. Eloise complains about the maid, the pillows, the furniture, and anything else that comes up.

As the afternoon turns to evening and Eloise keeps serving up scotch highballs, convincing Mary Jane to cancel her work appointments and stay with her, the women get more inebriated, the topics of conversation become deeper and more emotional, and eventually it is revealed to us with heartbreaking clarity how Eloise, once a sweet, naive, and fragile girl in love has become lonely, isolated, and bitter woman buried in her Connecticut palace.

This is my favorite story in the collection, and I don't want to reveal anymore about it here or give any hint as to the meaning of the title. One day, please make yourself an Uncle Wiggily In Connecticut (or go to the Sexton and see if Marley's got some Riesling syrup she can use to make you one), get out a copy of Nine Stories, sip, read, and don't worry. Everything's going to be OK. It really is. You were a nice girl, weren't you?

Le Mixeur Sharky Menu - Ben Perri: For Esmé - With Love And Squalor


Esmé was standing with crossed ankles again. "You're quite sure you won't forget to write that story for me?" she asked. "It doesn't have to be exclusively for me. It can--"

I said there was absolutely no chance that I'd forget. I told her that I'd never written a story for anybody, but that it seemed like exactly the right time to get down to it.

She nodded. "Make it extremely squalid and moving," she suggested. "Are you at all acquainted with squalor?"

I said not exactly but that I was getting better acquainted with it, in one form or another, all the time, and that I'd do my best to come up to her specifications. We shook hands.

"Isn't it a pity that we didn't meet under less extenuating circumstances?"

I said it was, I said it certainly was.

"Goodbye," Esmé said. "I hope you return from the war with all your faculties intact."

I thanked her, and said a few other words, and then watched her leave the tearoom. She left it slowly, reflectively, testing the ends of her hair for dryness.




Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories is Sunday, March 11, 5-10pm, at Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe, 419 Fairview Ave N, Seattle. Tickets are $25 (includes 3 cocktails) and should be pre-purchased here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/229073

BEN PERRI

"He is perhaps the most graceful, affable, and considerate bartender that I have ever witnessed in action."

This is what Richie Boccato, the brains behind Dutch Kills, PKNY, Tribeca, Weather Up, and who knows what else in NYC, wrote to me about Ben Perri. I asked Richie if I could quote him in writing about Ben for this event. He didn't respond. I'll take that as a yes.

(editor's note: Richie will be hosting a Le Mixeur Sharky event at PKNY and Dutch Kills on April 15, more on that to come once the Seattle massacre is done after this weekend).

Pardon me for belittling the craft of writing, but I'm going to quote myself on Facebook here...

"Tonight, at Zig Zag, I asked Autumn to ask Ben for the dirtiest, nastiest, strongest thing he could conjure up... He gave me his phone number."

True story.

So Ben is a bartender at the Zig Zag Café. When Murray left Zig Zag, there were those who did a lot of hand-wringing. But there were certain visionaries such as me and Ben and Murray and others who knew it would be a blessing. Ben and the mighty Erik Hakkinen were more than ready to assume front stage and carry on what we'd all loved about Zig Zag. And some of the groupies subsided. And we all lived happily ever after. And so did Murray.

Ben routinely tests my will to not play favorites. The only thing preventing me from saying that Ben is my favorite bartender in Seattle is all my other favorite bartenders in Seattle. Let's just say there's none better. How can we conclude who the best of anything is? As Steven Wright said, a conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.

And as Sharky once said, when asked who was his favorite, Batman or Spiderman, "Batman and Spiderman." Or as Sharky once told me, "my favorite color is green, blue, red, yellow, and purple."

Picking favorites is for the weak. Ben Perri is for the strong, strong at heart, strong of spirit, and strong of base spirit. I'm not going to prattle on any longer about the man. Just go to Zig Zag and enjoy what he does for yourself. He is truly a marvel. And even better, a genuinely good human being.

For Esmé - With Love And Squalor is my mother's favorite story in Nine Stories. I trusted Ben with the creation of a drink in its honor and naturally he did not disappoint.

FOR ESME - WITH LOVE AND SQUALOR

1 ounce Evan Williams bourbon
½ ounce STRONG Earl Grey Tea syrup*
¼ ounce Cocchi Americano
¼ ounce Bonal
dash of Cinnamon
stir and strain into flute
fill with champagne
garnish with lemon twist

*Earl Grey syrup is 2 parts very strong brewed Earl Grey tea, mixed with 1 part rich simple syrup. Rich simple syrup is 2 parts suga' dissolved into 1 part wata'. Wata' is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A wata' molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. F'shizzle.

HEY ARE YOU GOING TO TELL US ABOUT THE STORY?

Yes!

But not much. It's late and I'm a little drunk.

For Esmé - With Love And Squalor is a story about a little girl whose sincerity saves a grown man's sanity in the face of the horrors of war. The man meets her while stationed in rural England, undergoing specialized training before being sent off on some sort of madcap mission in WWII. They have tea, along with her younger brother Charles, and share conversation of an illuminating sort. She shares with him that her father died in the war, and while she puts on a brave face he notes the oversized men's wristwatch on her wrist. He shares with her that he writes stories, and she makes him promise to one day write one for her. She herself promises to write him a letter.

The story jumps forward to the officer post-war, still stationed in Germany. He is falling apart. He is now referred to in the story as "X." He shakes uncontrollably, avoids sunlight, smokes constantly, rarely eats, never leaves his room, torments friends who attempt to speak to him, and cannot sleep.

"When he let go of his head, X began to stare at the surface of the writing table, which was a catchall for at least two dozen unopened letters and at least five or six unopened packages, all addressed to him. He reached behind the debris and picked out a book that stood against the wall. It was a book by Goebbels, entitled "Die Zeit Ohne Beispiel." It belonged to the thirty-eight-year-old, unmarried daughter of the family that, up to a few weeks earlier, had been living in the house. She had been a low official in the Nazi Party, but high enough, by Army Regulations standards, to fall into an automatic-arrest category. X himself had arrested her. Now, for the third time since he had returned from the hospital that day, he opened the woman's book and read the brief inscription on the flyleaf. Written in ink, in German, in a small, hopelessly sincere handwriting, were the words "Dear God, life is hell." Nothing led up to or away from it. Alone on the page, and in the sickly stillness of the room, the words appeared to have the stature of an uncontestable, even classic indictment. X stared at the page for several minutes, trying, against heavy odds, not to be taken in. Then, with far more zeal than he had done anything in weeks, he picked up a pencil stub and wrote down under the inscription, in English, "Fathers and teachers, I ponder `What is hell?' I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love." He started to write Dostoevsky's name under the inscription, but saw--with fright that ran through his whole body--that what he had written was almost entirely illegible. He shut the book."

X eventually delves into that catchall for at least two dozen unopened letters and finds one is from Esmé, sent many many months earlier. He reads it. I have so far avoided giving away endings, but I'm going to do it here, because the story at hand is so beautiful. So stop reading now if you want to read the story in its entirety, which I highly recommend, and so does my mother. You need to read the whole story to get the beauty anyway. So you might as well go away now.

No. Seriously. Fuck off.

Go buy a copy of the book.

Impatient? Here's a link to the full text:



OK and now here's the part I wanted to share.

"DEAR SERGEANT X,

I hope you will forgive me for having taken 38 days to begin our correspondence but, I have been extremely busy as my aunt has undergone streptococcus of the throat and nearly perished and I have been justifiably saddled with one responsibility after another. However I have thought of you frequently and of the extremely pleasant afternoon we spent in each other's company on April 30, 1944 between 3:45 and 4:15 P.M. in case it slipped your mind.

We are all tremendously excited and overawed about D Day and only hope that it will bring about the swift termination of the war and a method of existence that is ridiculous to say the least. Charles and I are both quite concerned about you; we hope you were not among those who made the first initial assault upon the Cotentin Peninsula. Were you? Please reply as speedily as possible. My warmest regards to your wife.

Sincerely yours,

Esmé

P.S. I am taking the liberty of enclosing my wristwatch which you may keep in your possession for the duration of the conflict. I did not observe whether you were wearing one during our brief association, but this one is extremely water-proof and shockproof as well as having many other virtues among which one can tell at what velocity one is walking if one wishes. I am quite certain that you will use it to greater advantage in these difficult days than I ever can and that you will accept it as a lucky talisman.

Charles, whom I am teaching to read and write and whom I am finding an extremely intelligent novice, wishes to add a few words. Please write as soon as you have the time and inclination.

HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO LOVE AND KISSES CHALES.

It was a long time before X could set the note aside, let alone lift Esme's father's wristwatch out of the box. When he did finally lift it out, he saw that its crystal had been broken in transit. He wondered if the watch was otherwise undamaged, but he hadn't the courage to wind it and find out. He just sat with it in his hand for another long period. Then, suddenly, almost ecstatically, he felt sleepy.

You take a really sleepy man, Esme, and he always stands a chance of again becoming a man with all his fac-with all his f-a-c-u-1-t-i-e-s intact."





And in case you haven't figured it out yet, this story, For Esmé - With Love And Squalor, is the story X promised he would write for Esmé. Duh.

And nighty night.



Monday, March 5, 2012

Le Mixeur Sharky Menu - Nathan Weber: The Laughing Man



"Actually, I was not the only legitimate living descendant of the Laughing Man. There were twenty-five Comanches in the Club, or twenty-five legitimate living descendants of the Laughing Man--all of us circulating ominously, and incognito, throughout the city, sizing up elevator operators as potential archenemies, whispering side-of-the-mouth but fluent orders into the ears of cocker spaniels, drawing beads, with index fingers, on the foreheads of arithmetic teachers. And always waiting, waiting for a decent chance to strike terror and admiration in the nearest mediocre heart."




Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories is Sunday, March 11, 5-10pm, at Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe, 419 Fairview Ave N, Seattle. Tickets are $25 (includes 3 cocktails) and should be pre-purchased here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/229073

NATHAN WEBER

Sometimes we here in Seattle get lucky and some really super bartender from another city moves here. And sometimes we get even luckier because that really super bartender gets really even more superer once he or she (for she, stay tuned for soon post on Tomic-Beard, Marley) lives here and tends bar in Seattle.

Of course, it's not luck. Seattle really is just that really super to lure in really super bartenders like Nathan Weber and then use its really superiorness to make him even more really superer.

Are you still reading? If so, let me tell you a little about Nathan. He worked bars in San Francisco. Then he moved to Seattle. When I met him he was working at Tavern Law, where he'd eventually assume bar managerial duties. He probably worked other places in Seattle too, but in keeping with my vow not to ever research anything I write about (research = fascism, as you know), I don't know anything about that, nor would I admit it if I did.

I can remember times when I couldn't get a damn seat at the damn bar at Tavern damn Law because it's so damn popular, but Nathan would manage to make it out to my table to chat about my drink and other things. He always seemed to stand right behind my head where I'd need to basically hold my head upside down in order to make eye contact, and nodding in agreement became an act of gymnastic contortion. I speculate watching me do this made Nathan laugh, and thus, he gets to create a drink for The Laughing Man.

Nathan's now at Canon and Rob Roy. He laughs a lot at both places. Occasionally, a patron says something like, "Hey dickhead, stop laughing and make some drinks!" Nathan just laughs, then mutters under his breath, "Fuck you asshole. I'll laugh all I want. I'm in love, with life, my job, and my fiancee." Then he makes the asshole something awesome. Something like The Laughing Man, also known as Eagle's Blood.

THE LAUGHING MAN, AKA EAGLE'S BLOOD

Here's the version for making at home...

1 ounce Averna
½ ounce Ramazzotti
½ once lime juice
¼ ounce muscovado syrup*
dash angostura bitters
freshly grated nutmeg

Combine all ingredients with ice in a shaker.
Shake and strain into a chimney or Collins glass.
Add ice and top with sparkling wine.

*Muscovado Syrup is made by combining muscovado sugar and water at a 2 to 1 ratio. Demerara sugar may be substituted.

For Le Mixeur Sharky, Nathan "The Laughing Man" Weber is going to carbonate these beverages and bottle them. Like in sealed bottles where carbonation finds no exit. Order one and we'll pop it open for ya.

SO WHAT DO YOU WANNA TELL US ABOUT THIS STORY ANYWAY?

The Laughing Man is an incredibly intricate story within a story, so summarizing it in a brief space is a hopeless endeavor. A group of boys called the Comanches revere their male adult leader "The Chief." They engage in many after-school activities but mainly sports, mainly baseball. It is a boys' club. The Chief tells them fantastic and elaborate tales of The Laughing Man, a mythical character from China who was horrifically disfigured in childhood by kidnappers, exiled and rejected by humanity, only to become the world's most cunning thief and criminal mastermind and a hero to many.

When The Chief falls for a woman named Mary Hudson, the boys struggle to accept her presence into their boy world, then struggle to interpret and understand their own childlike affection and perhaps love for her. When the romance ends badly, The Chief ends the love affair for all the boys before they have a chance to understand their own feelings. All is made worse by the adults' insistence on ignoring the childrens' questions, on shielding them out of everything that's going on, leaving them to guess and make sense of tiny little fragments.

The Chief's broken heart leads him to end the Laughing Man tale heatbreakingly, breaking the hearts of the Comanche children. He was an adult hero to the boys. But he was too weak to acknowledge the fullness of a child's humanity, and too weak to overcome his own romantic frustration in order to nurture the wild and beautiful spirits of the children who counted on him.

"Offhand, I can remember seeing just three girls in my life who struck me as having unclassifiably great beauty at first sight. One was a thin girl in a black bathing suit who was having a lot of trouble putting up an orange umbrella at Jones Beach, circa 1936. The second was a girl aboard a Caribbean cruise ship in 1939, who threw her cigarette lighter at a porpoise. And the third was the Chief's girl, Mary Hudson."


"She was a yellow bird and I was a red and blue and green fish. The birds explained to me that only I could save her because we were both humans, except we were also fish and birds. Every day when we were hungry we went to the store, and there was a bear who was the bodyguard. But we were too sneaky for him, and we would sneak past and buy a Hershey bar and a Skittles. And The Special DE Light Force (pandas who had armor on them and didn't like birds or fish) were trying to get her, but she wasn't captured because I had a watch and I turned into Hellboy and saved her. When they were destroyed we were going to another city. There were fish and birds who were going to help us, but there was a shark who didn't want us riding on him, and the fish and the birds were all over him. And then the shark didn't care and decided everyone could ride on him.” -Sharky




Le Mixeur Sharky Menu. Sidonie Rodman: Pretty Mouth And Green My Eyes

"I start thinking about--Christ, it's embarrassing--I start thinking about this goddam poem I sent her when we first started goin' around together. `Rose my color is, and white, Pretty mouth and green my eyes.' Christ, it's embarrassing--it used to remind me of her. She doesn't have green eyes--she has eyes like goddam sea shells, for Chrissake--but it reminded me anyway ... I don't know. What's the use of talking? I'm losing my mind. Hang up on me, why don't you? I mean it."

The gray-haired man cleared his throat and said, "I have no intention of hanging up on you, Arthur."




Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories is Sunday, March 11, 5-10pm, at Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe, 419 Fairview Ave N, Seattle. Tickets are $25 (includes 3 cocktails) and should be pre-purchased here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/229073

SIDONIE RODMAN

Sidonie Rodman is the only Sidonie I've ever met, but there are others out there. If you look the name up, you'll find all sorts of gifted artist-type ladies, such as Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, noted French author of Gigi and many other works, Sidonie Villere, accomplished painter and sculptor, Spanish rock group Sidonie, and Portland-based fine artist Sidonie Caron.

I'm a little jealous. Look up the name Ted and you'll probably just find serial killers, alcoholic dead senators, and washed up sitcom stars.

Sidonie belongs in that group of gifted artist-type ladies. There is definitely an artistry to her drinks, which in my experience lean towards the simple, elegant, and refined. She has an impeccable knack for taking familiar ingredients and formulas and twisting them slightly yet definitively, creating something new that feels, looks, and tastes like a timeless classic.

That's the arts and crafts portion of the bartending profession, as for the hospitality portion, Sidonie's a notably warm, engaging person with a vibrant personality both behind and away from the bar. She is brimming with passion for what she does, and can get really worked up when talking about it. It's inspiring to witness.

So naturally, being a twisted degenerate, I assigned Sidonie the story in the book that dwells on people who seem to be victims of their own passions. Adultery, heartache, betrayal abounds. But perhaps it's more the dispassion with which these characters have pursued their passions that has lead them astray. Sidonie would never do that.

When I first met Sidonie she was working at Mistral Kitchen. From there she moved on to The Four Seasons. I tried to go visit her there but there was no way security was letting a reprobate like me into a swank joint like that. She then had a stint at Golden Beetle, bounced around a bit, and now finds herself splitting time between Belltown's Rabbit Hole and The Sexton in Ballard.

Sidonie created just the sort of drink I imagined she would: a spiritous, brown, simple drink that makes sense as soon as its recipe is read, and does exactly what it should once it's in your hand. I don't normally geek out too much about the drinks themselves (which is another way of saying I don't have much of value to say about them), but I will say that this drink discovers some sort of very special relationship between Peychaud's bitters and grapefruit peel.

PRETTY MOUTH AND GREEN MY EYES

2 ounces rye (originally created with Rittenhouse 100 but works with Bulleit as well)
¾ ounce Cynar
¼ ounce maraschino liqueur
3 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass over ice.
Strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with grapefruit twist.

SO WHAT'S THIS STORY ALL ABOUT ANYWAY?

Originally published in the New Yorker in 1951, Pretty Mouth And Green My Eyes is the only story in the collection that involves only adults. In a related note, it is possibly the most unrelentingly grim and dark story in the collection. In Salinger's writing, the adults are mostly hurt, twisted, and spiritually lost. It's only the children that convey any ray of humanity to the scenario.

The story is basically a phone conversation. A gray-haired man and a woman are in bed together late at night at the home of the man. The phone rings, he answers it, and it is a younger colleague from his work. They were both at a work party earlier in the night, along with the younger man's wife. Now he's home and he doesn't know where his wife is. It's the last straw he says, she's done this too many times before.

As the conversation continues it becomes harder to deny that the younger man's wife is the woman in bed with the gray-haired man. As this unsettling notion becomes evident, the dialogue between the two men - with the silent observations and subtle movements of the woman - becomes a striking and depressing deconstruction of the politics of masculinity, the calculated and measured way in which we communicate, and the common failure to find genuine compassion and empathy for the people in our lives.

Who else could use a drink? Sidonie has created one that captures that sense of longing and desire that has lead these three people astray, but that twists it into something beautiful and optimistic. No, I'm not kidding. And she's confirmed to be joining us on March 11, and she's bringing her bar tools. Rose my color is, and white, Pretty mouth and green my eyes. Soon, you'll know in your heart what this means.




Saturday, March 3, 2012

Le Mixeur Sharky Menu - Bryn Lumsden: A Perfect Day For Bananafish

"That's a fine looking bathing suit you have on. If there's one thing I like, it's a blue bathing suit."

Sybil stared at him, then looked down at her protruding stomach. "This is a yellow," she said. "This is a yellow."

"It is? Come a little closer."

Sybil took a step forward.

"You're absolutely right. What a fool I am."



Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories is Sunday, March 11, 5-10pm, at Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe, 419 Fairview Ave N, Seattle. Tickets are $25 (includes 3 cocktails) and should be pre-purchased here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/229073


BRYN LUMSDEN

Bryn Lumsden, bar manager at Rob Roy in Seattle, was the first person to sign up for Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories. In fact, the original idea was to simply have a soiree at Rob Roy some rainy Sunday afternoon with drinks created by Bryn, Anu Apte, and myself. Then myself started getting funny ideas coupled with delusions of grandeur. Next thing you know myself was throwing a Le Mixeur Sharky with nine stories and referring to myself in the myself person.

Bryn's been bartending in Seattle for about 10 years or so. He is the lone member of the Rob Roy crew to have worked there prior to Anu's purchase of the bar in 2009. So you might call Bryn the world'spreeminent curator of Rob Roy culture. You can find him there on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights. You'll most commonly find me there on Tuesdays, when Bryn's curating Rob Roy culture via his brainchild, Analog Tuesdays. Bryn mixes up fine cocktails while an assistant curator plays good old fashioned phonograph records and the occasional reel-to-reel tape. Patrons are invited to bring in their own records and tapes to be played, though it seems like hardly anyone does anymore. We need to change that.

I think it's safe to say that over the past two years, no bartender in the world has made me as many drinks as Bryn has. This not an accident, but personal choice. Bryn always makes me something that's perfect for what I'm craving. Plus he always gets the recliner in just the right position for my ailing back.

Oh, and there are a lot of bartenders out there who act like they're rock stars, and who think they're rock stars, there's even some that party like rock stars. But Bryn really is a rock star. Aside from his ongoing solo career, he once was in a really famous band from Seattle. I'd say the name but we're all tired of hearing about it. Especially Bryn.

Aside from Bryn's fondness for the story, he took on Bananafish (not literally) because of an ongoing interest in creating a drink with banana in it. Here is what he came up with:

A PERFECT DAY FOR BANANAFISH
(home version)

1 1/2 ounce Zaya 12 year rum
1 ounce heavy cream
1/2 ounce cream sherry (Hartley & Gibson will suffice)
1/4 to 1/2 ounce rich demerara syrup (to taste)
ripe banana

In a tin, muddle six thinly sliced pieces of banana with the demerara syrup.
Add the rest of the ingredients and shake with ice.
Double strain into a snifter.
Add crushed ice and a straw.

Rich demerara syrup is 2 parts demerara sugar dissolved in 1 part water.

For Le Mixeur Sharky, we're going with Bryn's alternate instructions for mass production. For this method, combine 6 ounces Zaya, 4 ounces heavy cream, 2 ounces cream sherry, 1-2 ounces demerara syrup, and a whole banana into a blender with ice. Blend! Pour into double old-fashioned glasses. That's right: banana rum milk shakes. Straw 'em up!

SO WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THIS STORY ANYWAY?

Perfect Day For Bananafish was originally published in The New Yorker Magazine in January of 1948. It was anthologized first in “55 Short Stories from The New Yorker, 1940-1950." Vladimir Nabokov famously graded all 55 of the stories. He gave an A+ to only two two stories in the entire anthology. One was A Perfect Day For Bananafish by JD Salinger, the other was Collette by... Vladimir Nabokov.

The story tells us about a young woman named Muriel in a beachfront resort hotel room, talking on the phone with her mother, mostly about Seymour Glass, Muriel's significant other. We learn from their conversation that Seymour's behavior has been erratic for some time. He is unstable since returning from the war. He's openly contemptuous of the world view their wealthy family ascribes to, has no patience for the petty facade of their culture. Muriel defends Seymour and plays down his troubling behavior. Her mother is far less forgiving.

The scene changes to the beach itself, where Seymour is wrapped tightly in a robe sitting on a chair near the water. A young girl named Sybil, who knows Seymour already, approaches him and they chat. He compliments her on her blue bathing suit and she points out to him that it is yellow. He then assists her in going out into the water on her raft, and tells her to look for Bananafish. It is, after all, a perfect day for Bananafish...

"They lead a very tragic life," he said. "You know what they do, Sybil?"

She shook her head.

"Well, they swim into a hole where there's a lot of bananas. They're very ordinary-looking fish when they swim in. But once they get in, they behave like pigs. Why, I've known some bananafish to swim into a banana hole and eat as many as seventy-eight bananas." He edged the float and its passenger a foot closer to the horizon. "Naturally, after that they're so fat they can't get out of the hole again. Can't fit through the door."

"Not too far out," Sybil said. "What happens to them?"

"What happens to who?"

"The bananafish."

"Oh, you mean after they eat so many bananas they can't get out of the banana hole?"

"Yes," said Sybil.

"Well, I hate to tell you, Sybil. They die."

"Why?" asked Sybil.

"Well, they get banana fever. It's a terrible disease."


Why does Seymour think Sybil's yellow bathing suit is blue? For some insight, look to the Salinger novella entitled "Raise High The Roofbeam, Carpenters," in which Buddy Glass tells a story about his brother, Seymour Glass. He says that when Seymour was a child and their little sister Franny (later the title character in Salinger's novella "Franny") was 10 months old, Seymour read her a Taoist story to calm her when she became fussy.

The story was about a royal man named Duke Mu, who was accompanied by an enlightened man named Po Lo. Duke Mu asks Po Lo to send him a man who could pick him out a superior horse. Po Lo picks a man to do this, and the man selects a horse. When the Duke asks the man about the color and sex of the horse, the man tells him it is a brown mare. But when the horse arrives, it is a black stallion. The Duke is upset that the man is no ignorant that he doesn't even know how to measure the color and sex of a horse. But Po Lo is very happy, and says that the man is able to see the "spiritual mechanism" of the horse. "In making sure of the essential, he forgets the homely details; intent on the inward qualities, he loses sight of the external."

Blue is frequently used in Salinger's writing as a symbol of innocence. In Bananafish, Seymour Glass is wearing a blue bathing suit. When he looks at Sybil, he forgets the homely details; intent on the inward qualities, he loses sight of the external.


A RED MONKEY WITH A BLUE HEART

from Be Brave: A Wife's Journey Through Caregiving, by Florrie Munat (Sharky's grandmother), a not-yet-released memoir.

This portion of the story begins with a description of one Christmas day years ago, when the elevator to my mother's 2nd story apartment was broken, and so we had to assist my ailing father in getting out of his wheelchair and up the stairs. Sharky, then three, provided some unexpected assistance...


I pushed Chuck’s wheelchair into the stairwell, and Ted and I assumed our positions on either side of him. Sharky scampered around the three of us and up the stairs to the first landing where he turned and peered down at us. On the count of three, Ted and I hoisted Chuck out of his seat, and he gamely began to mount the stairs. As Ted and I gripped his arms tightly, our concentration was intense – one slip of the foot could result in a disastrous fall for all three of us. As I pulled on Chuck’s arm and shoved my thigh into his butt in an attempt to propel his body up to the next step, I wondered about the wisdom of our decision.

Then we heard a small voice coming from the landing. “You can do it! You can do it! C’mon, Papa, you can do it!” Glancing up, I saw Sharky’s animated face and his arms raised over his head, fists balled like a cheerleader. Then he lowered his arms, and with palms out, he cautioned, “Slow down, slow down. Take it easy.” With his arms over his head again, he resumed the “You can do it!” chant.

By the time we reached the first landing, Ted and I were hard-pressed to remain upright – not only because of Chuck’s weight that we were balancing between us – but also because we were giddy and giggling over Sharky’s words. The little guy scooted up the second set of stairs and resumed his exhortations to Papa from the top landing. When at last Chuck had ascended the last step, he did indeed fall into the awaiting plastic chair, weary with effort. Sharky, jumping with glee, patted Chuck’s arm and then to our complete amazement, he put his arms around Chuck’s shoulders and hugged him. Kissing Chuck’s reddened cheek, Sharky said, “Good job, buddy. You did it! Good job, Papa!”

I like to think that was a turning point in Sharky’s life. Certainly it was a moment of greater connection with another human being than I had seen in our grandson in many months. There would be, and there continue to be, hurdles in his development. But with the attention of a cadre of devoted teachers and therapists, not to mention his parents, Sharky is now, at age nine, one of the happiest, most well-adjusted and sensitive children in his third-grade classroom. He hugs us, calls us by name, does chores and homework, sleeps well, makes jokes, chats with strangers, loves superheroes and YouTube, and is amazingly empathetic. We could not have imagined such a scenario a few years ago.

Three and half years after his Christmas Climb, Chuck entered Hospice about ten days before my birthday. Ted asked then six-year-old Sharky what he thought I would like for a present. Without hesitation Sharky replied, “A red monkey with a blue heart.” Father and son drove to a local toy store where, amazingly, they found a stuffed monkey of that description. At least it was a mostly red monkey with a blue tail, a blue-striped leg, blue hands, and a cream-colored face with a kind smile. I told a friend, “They found me a red monkey! Isn’t that amazing? It doesn’t have a blue heart, but that’s okay.” And my friend, who has been a special education teacher for many years, replied, “How do you know? The heart is on the inside. Sharky knows the monkey’s heart is blue.”

Of course he knew the monkey’s heart was blue because he knew mine was. Sharky told me the monkey’s name is George Abberson. George Abberson now lives among the red pillows on my bed.


Sharky George & Violet Rose

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories. Numéro Un D'image



Well, what do you know. A Le Mixeur Post with almost no words. Just an image. One of many to come. They say a picture's worth a thousand words. The actual number of words a picture is worth actually varies depending on the country and the current exchange rates, and given the troubled US economy these days, you'd have to think that...

Shhhhh. No more words. Images only please. Everything is getting very hush.

(editor's note: more words to come soon.)