1935 Lucky Bag - 1934 Army Navy Game - Army Loses, 3-0
If you're under 30 and hauling ass around blogs, scrolling through pictures at mach three while bouncing your knee wildly and chewing on your thumb nail -- I ask you -- No, damn it. I'm begging you. Slow down, focus and read this from my guest TRAWETS NILTGEOV author of, A La Broche. These are words but they create an image and most of them are not that long. For those of you over 40, I promise not only images but sounds and smells as well. It's about drinking, football and dying -- like a man. So pull your jeans up off your ass, turn your ball cap around straight and see if your attention span can last longer than my wire fox terrier on an extra shot Americano.
You see, what I do, what I’ve always done, is set a sugar cube in a glass and then introduce bitters. Set the thin orange slices in like this. Yes,you see, and the cherry, a maraschino, at its middle and wait until the sugar takes on this burnt brown stain. Then water it and muddle it until you’ve got this mixture you see and then well, yes, so ever slowly dribble whiskey down the glass. Then stir and stir and stir.
Time for ice. And it should be cubes, not crushed. But not too many though, you see. And it must be a good quality ice not like the goddamn garbage that comes out the old Kenmore, but a chiseled sort of ice, a densely frozen and crusty sort of ice, you see, and stir and stir and stir. Add lemon peel and a swizzle for swizzling yes, and then - ah yes - down the hatch. To your good health.
Hugh’s voice is still swarthy and deep and splattered with blueblood. But his health is not good. He’s a dying, wheezing, miserable mess, much like the Canyon Creek Trail home that keeps him. Air smells long dead of paper and liquor and traces of afternoon tea, bergamot, and hams boiled and suppered and lunched and snacked over for days endless and pain ridden. To the living room after one, two, maybe three more drinks. Modest color set fixed to Army Navy game. Flash of gold helmets and men uniformed and squeaky with pedigree misbehaving in ways tolerated two hours plus no excuses.
Papers, magazines, envelopes, must be six years of mail there stacked on the hearth. Christmas tree in right corner glistens with tinsel and balls silver and gold and crimson. I watch Navy score through a reflection sharp and unreal seen bottomless in big silver ball. The tree boughs sag with ornament. Grandmother walks through the room unkempt, eerie. Alzheimer’s has taken and turned her out a ghost. Hugh rattles the ice in his glass. He sighs. He turns the color set off. I watch him in the ball’s reflection and when he asks if I’ll read aloud from Kidnapped, where we last left off, his voice is broken and without breath.
We never finish Kidnapped. He lasts nearly a year. Few days before the Army Navy game, his sons carry a jug of cream sherry to his room and toast earnestly with Styrofoam cups. He dies hours later and is in the ground before kickoff. Dad returns from the Canyon Creek Trail home with briefcase and a silence that sits a strange fence-line stoic and existential. Dad’s brother loads dining room table with artifacts. Opera records and art books, gewgaws and bric-a-brac. A tired and weathered collection of random paperbacks: Fleming, Conrad, James, Stevenson, Twain. Bottles of gin and scotch and bourbon. An unopened half-gallon of Maker’s Mark. Dozen dusty bottles of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, grapes gone black with richness of age.
Dad opens shop with briefcase, clears out space amongst booze and books, pops the briefcase’s lock, invites storm of paper into the house to last weeks, months. Financial records, health records, records of records. Will unfurls as stretch of buck brush thorn ridden and wound in blackberry bramble a mile as far as the crow flies. Calculators click. The two brothers talk and whisper. Folks visit. Folks cover up death with food, don’t they? Kitchen buckles with casserole, chafing dishes of fried chicken and roast beef, platters of cold cuts and cheese and pickled veg, pastries and éclairs and Danishes sleazy with custards and glossy candied fruits and dustings of sugar.
House had never been so heavy. Folks whisper and tip-toe and console and serve food and drinks. Folks I’ve never seen before. Folks from up north, you know, cousins and uncles and aunts so-and-so, he’s… she’s… well, you remember, right? You, well, you were young. You’ve grown up. Lookit you and your sister… BOOM. Cannon fire. Cadets celebrate six more. Christamighty, dad’s rolling over right now. Folks nod. Folks whisper. Navy down fourteen in the first. Camera pans. Middies spill out into stands. Topcoats, dress whites, breath rolls from mouths agape, faces ruddy and fixed tightly in subzero temp. Hear them in the kitchen. Away from the other folks and close at the sink and talking while the transistor plays Christmas music quietly.
It’s the sugar that starts the drink off, and, well, what dad always did was hit it with the bitters and bring the fruit to it before he muddled. Sometimes he poured a little of the maraschino syrup in there and muddled—it gave it this festive blush he said—and then the bourbon. Here, open that, okay, great, and then he poured it down the side of the glass like this, slow, and then the stirring—like one of those goddamn old fashioned egg beaters, banging the spoon around the glass.
He was real particular about his ice too; there was something he said, a phrase, something like densely frozen he’d call it, and he never finished off the drink with club soda like most bartenders now do. Here, cut me a little lemon peel, okay, great, and then he added the peel and, you see, look at this, it’s a very colorful cocktail, orange and red and brown and it smells, well, it smells Christmassy, like fruit cake almost and it tastes, well, ah. To your good health.