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2:30 A.M. MBTA Service: An idea whose time has come again.

June 27, 2017 1 comment

I propose restoring Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority(MBTA) late night service(LNS) until 2:30 A.M. on Friday, Saturday and the evenings before legal holidays.

  From March of 2014 until March of 2016 the MBTA offered LNS carrying 16,000 riders nightly for its first year before declining to 13,000 riders by February, 2016 (1)

  I propose doubling the late-night subway and grade level train fare to $4.20 from the $2.10 charged on stored value cards.  (Paying by the trip is $2.40)

  This would defray some of the cost of LNS and enable the return of this economically justifiable, convenient and safe means of travel.

  Casual phrases such as ‘world class city’ are often bandied about when Boston is spoken of.  Yet, the last outbound trains from Park St run at 12:54 A.M.

  The benefits of restoring LNS MBTA service would be numerous.

  Hospital and hotel workers work a variety of shifts.  As Boston proper has gentrified many of these working folks cannot afford to live within walking distance of their jobs.

  Furthermore even as taxis have been supplemented by Uber, Lyft and a variety of car services transportation expenses can be a significant part of a working person’s take-home income.

  Even at the UberPool-Boston rate of $6-8, (2), from Massachusetts General Hospital to Harvard and Comm. Ave(s) in Allston this prorates to about $660, $6 x 110 weekend trips=$660 annually for a late-night employee working weekends at $12/hr.  This amounts to about a week’s take-home pay.  Considering the large number of hospital and hotel staff working after 1 A.M. this has a considerable effect upon workers and employers.

Have mercy!

 LNS service would benefit already existing retail outlets.  24 hour super markets such as Star Market at 53 Huntington Ave. and the Star market at 33 Kilmaronock St. would gain a clientele for whom late night grocery shopping is a practical necessity and more economical than a convenience store.

  The LNS which ended in March of 2016 was not the first foray of the MBTA into extended hours.  From 2001 until 2005 the Night Owl service offered bus service until 2:30 A.M.  However, the scattered stops and slow speed worked against the service’s popularity and the Night Owl was attracting a mere 600 riders on Friday, Saturday and nights before legal holidays before being cancelled in 2005.

  The LNS initiated in March of 2014 and cancelled March 18, 2016 carried 16,000 riders by train nightly for its first year before declining to 13,000 riders nightly by February, 2016.

 The cancellation decision was made by a 4-0 unanimous decision of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board on January 25, 2016.  (1)

  Leaving aside the question(s) of whether applying and norming the subsidy cost(s) through the entire day(s) would be a valid statistical method, the MBTA nonetheless claims the net marginal cost of LNS is $14 million annually based on a fare of $2.10 per rider.

  My proposal is to increase the LNS fare to $4.20 and thus halve the net marginal cost.

  Assuming ridership remains the same, and I do know what they say about assume, the net marginal cost would sink to $7 million annually!

  What the MBTA has not acknowledged is that the increased business enabled by the LNS would create taxable income some of which could be earmarked towards reducing the MBTA’s chronic operating deficit.

  Boston is a challenging city to drive in even under optimal conditions.  Dark winter nights make this intrinsic challenge even more treacherous as snow and ice pile up.  This challenge is compounded exponentially when large numbers of folks exiting bars and clubs congregate on the sidewalks and streets.

  From 1993 to 1999 I worked at a variety of venues in the Theater District and witnessed departing guests hanging around the area until 3:30 A.M. while socializing, eating snacks and attempting to hail taxis.  The crowds milling about caused significant litter problems, interrupted traffic and ultimately endangered the safety of those hanging around.

  My current employer takes the provisions of MA Dram Shop Liability as established in 1983, (2), very seriously.

  However, even the best managed established establishments are not immune from “pre-gaming” and drug use by guests that leads to slow exits, littering and dangerous and endangered crowds after closing.

  During the lifespan of LNS from 2014 until its cancellation in 2016 my employer did not have this problem as the last Green Line from Kenmore Square departed outbound at 2;30 A.M. allowing sufficient time for the fifteen-minute walk from my employer to the Kenmore Square MBTA station. 

Management mentioned, on more than 1 occasion, that folks tended to leave in order to catch the last train.

  On February 17, 2017 I asked my Assistant Manager, A.M; about my proposal to restore LNS MBTA by charging a double fare.

S.G: So how has the discontinuation of late-night service affected us?

C.M: It has discouraged travel from our customers in Allston as they can’t afford a cab or even Uber or Lyft.  They would have to leave with folks that they don’t know and a lot of our people just won’t do that.

S.G: What do you think that comes to in dollars?

A.M: About 5-10%.  It’s not nothing over the course of a year.  When did it end anyway?

S.G: March 18th. of last year.

A.M: Close to a year, huh.  You know another thing is that there isn’t the parking around here that there was even a year ago and when the Sox start up again it’s like [the parking] at least $30 and that is tough for kids even though most of them don’t have cars.  We don’t really get the trusties, [students who are completely supported by their parents and have leased cars through the school year], our kids are just looking for a good time.

S.G: Do you think our crowd would pay for a double fare after 12:30 on Friday, Saturday and nights before legal holidays?

A.M:  That would be $4.20, right?

S.G: Yes.

A.M: I would [use the LNS service] if I were in school and lived in Allston.  You would keep the service running until a last departure from Kenmore at 2:30 like before?

S.G: Yes.

A.M: I think that it’s a good idea and would keep some drunks off the road.

  On Saturday, March 11, 2017 I decided to investigate my manager’s assertion regarding the slow departure of guests now that LNS was no longer available.  I left my security post with the permission of my supervisor at 1:45 A.M. as last call was being given.  I observed a dozen guests in front of the building which was surprising considering the 15 F weather.  After clearing the building at 2:30 A.M. I returned to the entrance of the building and found 30 folks smoking, eating pizza and looking for a hook-up.  Folks wandered into the active traffic flow attempting to flag the passenger filled cabs that veered to avoid hitting the remaining revelers.

  Smartphones were frantically employed as folks tried to reach Uber and Lyft but evidently the cold had prevailed over economic opportunity.

  At 2:45 A.M. I left work and there were still 6 guests eating pizza and smoking by the front of the building while discarding the crusts and butts on the sidewalk.

  This scene would not have occurred were the LNS still running.

  “Better safe than sorry,” is more than a cliche’, it is a sound operating principle which would be activated by the renewal of LNS even at double the fare.

  Additionally, lessened consumption of fossil fuel by drivers would have positive environmental effects.

  Enabling employment and entertainment, preserving public safety and environmental sustainability, MBTA LNS at a double fare is an idea whose time has come…again!

ALL ABOARD!

WORKS CITED

1) uberPOOL…Share the ride, split the cost.  Page 1, Web, 6 March, 2017

https://get.uber.com/p/uberpool-Boston

2) Dungca, Nicole.  “MBTA to end late-night service by mid-March.”  Boston Globe, 29 Feb, 2016.  Web. 3 March, 2017

https;//ww.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/02/…late-night-service-end-march…/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BARTENDING, REMIXOLOGY, DRINK, HOSPITALITY: Kentucky Colonel cocktail

July 13, 2016 1 comment

KENTUCKY COLONEL

Bourbon is Kentucky’s spirit and indeed the truest American spirit ie: hard liquor.

Bourbon is a barrel-aged distilled spirit made from fermented corn.  “Bourbon” derives its name from Bourbon County Kentucky, the eastern edge of French territory in the United States prior to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

Bourbon can come only from Kentucky.  Jack Daniels, as every bartender should know, comes from Lynchburg Tennessee, and is a sour mash whiskey.

What true bourbons such as Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark, have in common with Jack Daniels is that both are made utilizing the sour mash method.  In the sour mash method some of the cooked fermented corn, the “mash”, is used as a base for the next batch in order to pass along the yeast and flavor in a consistent fashion.  This process is analogous to the making of yogurt.

I began tending bar in 1982 and the bottles of Wild Turkey and Old Grand Dad stocked by my employer had perhaps 1 or 2 tipplers who drained them in an exceedingly slow fashion often mixed with Coke.  “Old man drink” is the phrase that comes to mind.  Bartenders then casually referred to Jack Daniels as a “bourbon.”  Few knew otherwise…and even fewer cared.

Bourbon’s public profile was limited to the annual TV gala of the Kentucky Derby where Southern gentlemen in straw boaters cavorted with Southern belles in oversized bonnets hoisting flutes of Mint Juleps.

During the ’90s bourbon advanced as Gen X, born from 1967-1975, aged out of dance clubs and into the lounges that proliferated towards the end of that decade.  During the ’90s back lit bottles of Evan Williams and Maker’s mark became familiar sights at Stephanie’s on Newbury and City Bar at the Lenox Hotel here in Boston.

Still bourbon did not have anywhere near the cachet’ of Irish whisky, let alone Scotch or cognac.  Appeal was limited to the United States.

2016 has bourbon increasing in sales AND quality AND international appeal as premium and small batch bourbons have joined Scotch and cognac in the contest for the taste buds and wallets of imbibers.

 In 2014 Japanese mega beverage corporation Suntory acquired Jim Beam for the astonishing price of 1.6 billion USDs!

In 1999 there were 455,000 cases of bourbon produced.  In 2015 there were 5 million cases produced with about 1/2 of that being exported.

Small batch and single-barrel offerings such as Woodford, Bulleit and Knob Creek, produced by Jim Beam, have earned slots on back bars and in the gullets of drinkers.

www.bourbonoftheday.com/bourbon-boom/

In that spirit I will introduce the Kentucky Colonel which was passed on to me by a brother bartender during last year’s Kentucky Derby.

KENTUCKY COLONEL

1 .5 oz. bourbon

1 1/2 lime

3 oz. ginger beer

  1. Fill a 10 oz, glass with ice.

  2. Pour 1.5 ounces bourbon.

  3. Press the juice of 1/2 of a ripe lime.  The lime should be verging on yellow as this indicates ripeness and optimal juiciness.  Roll the lime firmly on a hard surface to break down the juice-containing segments to achieve optimal yield.

  4. Top with ginger beer.

  5. “Box” the drink into an empty glass and return to the original glass to insure a fluid mix of the ingredients.

  6. Garnish with a lime wheel perched on the rim.

  7. Drink up!

The flavor profile of the Kentucky Colonel is one that engages the tongue with the burn of bourbon, the citrusy acidity of the lime and the almost sweet effervescence of ginger beer.

One could make this with Rose’s Lime juice imitating the fresh lime and root beer performing the ginger beer part but this would lessen the thirst quenching action of the KENTUCKY COLONEL and you’re better than that, aren’t you?

My encounter with this concoction inspired a fantasy of being a winner of a NASCAR race and I don’t even drive!

My current employer would price this at $8 as Jim Beam is $7 with a $1 added for the ginger beer.

Old school, try Googling ‘Kentucky Colonel’, and tres chic in our Digital Decade at one and the same time the KENTUCKY COLONEL is a winner!

 

 

 

BASEBALL: Red Sox vs. White Sox 8, Red Sox 6, Post-game wrap-up

June 23, 2016 1 comment

POST-GAME WRAP-UP TOP TEN

1) 75 degrees and 52% humidity is just about perfect.

 

2) Eduardo Rodriguez was one of the few bright spots in last year’s last place debacle and seemed to be on his game but Todd Frazier’s 6th. inning HR put the Chi Sox ahead.

 

3)  David Oritz was thrown out at home by Adam Eaton in the 2nd. inning on a short hit to center by Travis Shaw.  Eaton played the hit well coming in rapidly and throwing accurately to Chi Sox catcher Dioneer Navarro who easily tagged out Big Papi.  As we all know Papi is having an amazing season so far but:

a) He is 40.

b) He is at least 230 lbs.

c) The replay is not recommended for small children unaccompanied by adults.

 3rd. base coach Brian Butterfield made an inexplicable decision to play for 1 run in the 2nd. inning with the Bo Sox down only 1-0 at home.   

 

4)  1 bag of dry roasted peanuts from a vendor =$5.50. 2  Coca-Cola Zero(s) at $5.25 a whack.  I opted for the Coca-Cola Zero rather than Diet Coke for the slightly acidic aftertaste which cleanses the palate.

 

5) $499 for a 1st. base box seat so you can text and take selfies.  Am I the only one who thinks this is just wrong?  Please advise.

 

6)  Former Yankee and PED offender of 2014 Melky Cabrera now sports a beard sans mustache which gives him a vaguely Amish countenance.  Is there an Amish community in the Dominican Republic or is Melky merely attempting to conceal the Shaquille Onealesque double chin sprouting from his 5’10” 210 lb. physique?  You make the call.

 

7) Sandy Leon was picked off 3rd. in the bottom of the 4th where Brian Butterfield directs traffic.  Ortiz is sent, then erased, Leon is picked off…hmmm…

 

8) “Everybody Wang Chung Tonight” was among the cavalcade of music cranked out by the Fenway sound system as is protocol  for all sporting events.  Fortunately,  Josh Kantor’s organ stylings bring back fond boyhood memories of Jane Jacobs at Shea Stadium playing “3 Blind Mice” whenever an umpire’s call was disputed.  The lovely analog tones echo in the grandstand and encourage enough conversation so that folks actually look at the game and each other rather than peering into their phone with earbuds surgically attached. 

 

9)  Peter Gammons bobblehead doll?

 

10)  Koji Uehara served up home runs to Melky Cabrera and Matt Lawrie along with a screaming double hit by Dioneer Navarro before being mercifully relieved by Heath Hembree.  “Relief” is truly the correct word.  Koji is one of my favorites.  Tending bar for the 6th. game of the 2013 World Series while a packed room chanted “Koji, Koji,” is one of my all-time sports memories and you have to love a man who has chosen the 1999 techno mega-hit “Sandstorm” by Darude as his entrance music but…Uehara is 41 and his 88 mph. “fastball” just might not be what it once was.  Just saying…

 

 

 

 

 

2014 World Series, Royals in 7 BASEBALL, WORLD SERIES

October 20, 2014 Leave a comment

WORLD SERIES 2014

 The Kansas City Royals will win the 2014 World Series.

We have reached the time of year when leaves are falling, leather jackets appear and sugary stuff fills the shelves at CVS.

Sadly, unlike 2013 I am not readying myself for remunerative bar shifts as the Red Sox begin their triumphant path.

However my interest in MLB remains as high as ever and the climb of the Royals has captured my imagination much as the Pirates did in breaking their 21 season losing “slump” in 2013.

Indeed, I have a distinct affection for the men in powder blue as the epic Royals vs. Yankees wars of 1976-78 and 1980 are among my fonder sports memories.

Indeed in my first trip back to the ancestral home of Port Washington I saw the 1978 playoff game in which George Brett hit 3 solo HRs to lead the Royals to…defeat.

Having provided some back story, my prediction is the Royals in 7.  My reasoning:

1)  The Royals have won 8 games in a row.  This is a record since the loathsome wild card format; don’t start me, began in 1995.  There is a very strong correlation between late season dominance and World Series victory.  the Royals demolished the Orioles in 4 straight although it is worth mentioning that the O’s were without 1b Chris Davis who was suspended for amphetamine use.

2)  There is also a very strong relationship between power hitting and winning the World series.  Indeed, the defeats of the 1976-78 Royals by the Yankees is strong evidence as ancient as that legacy is.

In general Moneyball beats Whiteyball.  Batting averages typically decline 10-15% during post-season play so HRs make up a higher % of runs scored.

Neither AT&T, unless you’re Barry Bonds, or Kauffman, formerly Royal Stadium, is an especially good HR park even though the fences were pulled in in K.C. when the field was converted from turf to grass in 1995.

The Royals’ offense is based upon putting the ball in play, doubles and efficiently aggressive base running.  The 2014 Giants are a far cry from the 2003 Giants in their power potential and…

…do not figure to out slug the Royals because…

3)  The K.C. bullpen of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Gregg Holland has been well nigh untouchable as of late with all 3 hurlers having <2.00 ERAs.

(Interestingly enough the Royals do not carry a lefty to lefty dude let alone the 2 that most teams carry in this era of 12 man pitching staffs.  Greg Holland’s tactic of pitching from the extreme 1st base side of the rubber takes away the inside of the plate from lefties.)

It is a virtual certainty that Royals’ skipper Ned Yost will go to the pen as early as the 5th. inning if Jeremy Guthrie, Yordano Ventura or Danny Vargas struggles although James Shields will likely get a longer leash.

The Royals will enjoy the home field advantage in the 2-3-2 format of the World Series courtesy of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig’s whimsical decision to award the home field advantage to the league that won the All Star Game.

(Why not award the home field advantage to the team with the most regular season wins so as to restore the moral imperative of the regular season?  After all, baseball is a day to day sport).

The Royals will be able to utilize the DH in their home games with Billy “Country Breakfast” Butler getting the call.  Butler’s rotund physique failed to produce its usual 40 doubles and 15 HRs this year and he figures to be of minimal impact in this World series.  The Giants figure to use 4th. outfielder Gregor Blanco.  It is worth mentioning that neither the Royals or the Giants had a player with a .500 slugging percentage this year.  AL teams of recent vintage, the 2013 Red
Sox being a perfect example, have loaded up on lefty bats but the Royals have not done this.  I do not anticipate the Royals or the Giants deriving a significant advantage from DHs.

So…a hot Royals team with a deep bullpen that isn’t likely to be out slugged will win in 7.

So… more than you need to know.

Play Ball!

 

BARTENDER’S TIPS #1) Towels

September 15, 2014 Leave a comment

Towels are an important and often overlooked tool in the bartender’s toolbox.

Bars accumulate a variety of detritus,  Water, liquor, beer, wine, juice, soda and shredded beverage napkins coalesce to form a swamp that requires constant excavation.

Bar towels are the tool that enables you to clean and most importantly, earn.

(Upon arrival at work grab 4 towels.  (If towels are not provided for you buy cheap dish towels at at Dollar General or CVS.

You can thank me later).

Towel #1 should be moistened and placed close to your register.  Use this towel to wet your fingers so as to expedite removing cash from the till.  Do NOT lick your hand to accomplish this.  Money is filthy as anyone who has worked in retail can testify.  It is a risk to your health and the health of your guests to distribute saliva.

Additionally, some guests, and I am among them, will not tip a bartender for saliva soaked bills.

Just keep the towel wet and touch it lightly upon placing and/or removing cash from the box.

Towel #2 should be hooked around your belt in the rear as a “tail”.  This will enable you to keep your hands dry, clean and warm.  Ice and liquid can cause your hand to involuntarily contract.  When your hand opens it will tremor involuntarily, creating a perception of nervousness.

This perception can only cost you gratuity earnings.

The 3rd. towel should  be moistened with club soda and be within arm’s reach under the bar.  Use one of the “fluffy” towels for this function as this towel will be the one that is used to wipe down the bar.  Every guest should have their arrival greeted by a cleansing of their space regardless of whether it is needed or not.

The diligent performance of unneeded work is one of the most important aspects of tending bar.

Yes, club soda scours away sugar deposits.  When you are closing have all of the bar towels soaked with club soda so as to leave a sugar-free bar surface.

Finally, your 4th. towel should be a “flat” towel to be used for drying the bar of any spillage and removing any of the moisture left by cleaning the bar with towel #3.

Cheers!

 

 

 

Merry Christmas 2016: Santana ABRAXAS

December 23, 2013 2 comments

Steve Gallanter’s Blog: https://stevegallanter.wordpress.com

is a modest enterprise.  I usually sent out about 40 or so Facebook copies and another 20 email copies of my brain candy with the occasional response from a friend being more than welcome as were the pass alongs which on 2 occasions reconnected me with folks from the past.

(On one occasion I was connected with someone who felt it advisable to comment on my real and perceived personal and professional shortcomings).

In April 2014 I began tweeting and my number of views exploded to about 200 altogether.

Oh joy!

However my Christmas 2013 blog was passed along quite a bit; long enough to break into the Top 5 of my Google page.

More gratifying were several comments along the lines of “Thank you for this acknowledgement of a personal Christmas tradition, as I too have one.”

I responded to all of these comments gladly.  I was pleasantly taken aback at the number and intensity of these very private traditions and their importance to their adherents.

One gentleman took the time to send a message about his private tradition of chewing Trident spearmint gum after Christmas dinner as his now gone father had.

The last 3 years have brought thoughts of other Christmases to mind as my memory bank is thankfully  still accepting deposits.  Indeed, this blog has precipitated thoughts of Christmas past to the extent that an addition is appropriate.

In that spirit I am once again sending:

Merry Christmas: Santana ABRAXAS

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is a time when we, even those of us who do not share in the religious meaning of the holiday, each have our own meaning for this day.

Santana’s ABRAXAS LP signifies Christmas for me. 

I bought it for my Mom for Christmas 1970.  Mom, Peter and I had seen WOODSTOCK and Mom was mightily impressed with Mike Shrieve’s epic drum solo on “Soul Sacrifice”.  While Mom always tried a little too hard to like what I liked her enthusiasm was more than sincere.

I saved my .75 a week allowance, pestered my Dad for money and raked some leaves to conjure up the $3.49 to buy the LP at Port Chemists.

(I gave Dad innumerable promotional packs of aftershave and Borkum Riff pipe tobacco.  My brother Peter got Johnny Lightning 500 while I received several slot cars and Joe Paterno’s FOOTBALL MY WAY from Dad, a Penn. State grad.

It was my first “adult” gift-giving.

In 1970 I was 12.  It was to be my last boyhood Christmas.

Turkey, homemade cranberry sauce, (my Mom never served that jellied, canned stuff), and visits from neighborhood kids fulfilled every expectation.

Mom was surprised and delighted with ABRAXAS even with its “dirty”, actually racist, cover.  It played endlessly on the turntable of the Gallanter household’s Harman-Kardon Turntable, AM-FM Stereo with Recording Cassette Compact Stereo.

(Dad was quick to nudge me as a way of reminding me that he had purchased the stereo and had paid me to rake leaves.  On this Christmas I actually found this habit of his endearing).

Christmas 1970 was to be the last Christmas of our family as a unit although neither Mom, Dad, Peter or myself knew so at the time.

1971’s Christmas crystallized the cataclysmic changes, voluntary AND involuntary, familial AND cultural, well-intended AND malicious that would sweep through the lives of Mom, Dad, Peter and myself.

Christmas 1971 couldn’t have all of us in the same room for any length of time. I brought ABRAXAS to our North Shore Unitarian Universalist Congregation’s Jr. High room where I played ABRAXAS very loudly to the puzzlement of many.

By 1972 headphones were clamped over my head as the congas of  “Oye Como Va” reverberated.  Hostility was assumed to be my motivation, and not one completely inaccurate, but astral projection to 1970 was the guiding star.  It was still my Mom’s LP but she was caught up in her own affairs and didn’t notice it missing.  Dad lived in Forest Hills, Queens as the divorce was now final.

(I remember looking at a snapshot of Christmas 1962 in our home at 86 Henry St, Merrick, Long Island.  There is a tower of blocks in front of me wearing a devilish grin with my Mom kneeling beside me with a bemused expression.  I remember kicking the blocks over.  1962 is my earliest Christmas memory).

For several years I continued to play ABRAXAS at Christmas.  Most memorably in 1975 when my Mom returned home from a hospitalization and I wanted to comfort her.  ABRAXAS proved to be more curative than the turkey I attempted to cook with tomato soup flavored stuffing).

By 1973 I was not speaking to my Dad, an estrangement that lasted more than 3 years.  ABRAXAS’ “Oye Como Va” reminded me of the photo of Mom and Dad celebrating their 1st.anniversary with a grinning Tito Puente, the author of the original “Oye Como Va,” at the Palladium in Manhattan, where my paternal grandfather worked.

ABRAXAS signified Dad as well as Mom and the paternal grandparents who posed with me on their laps but who I have no memories of.

The summers of 1974,1975 and 1976 found me at  Rowe Unitarian Universalist Camp and Conference Center.  ABRAXAS was in the ‘Radio Rowe’ LP pile for the public address system that broadcast on a sporadic basis throughout the camp. Santana was very popular with my brother and sister campers although they would have been taken aback, to say the least, at the talisman it was to me.

Boston gained me as a resident in 1978.  I left ABRAXAS with Mom.  I played it upon my early Christmas sojourns to the ancestral home.

In 1981 a group of we Port Washingtonians had a Christmas celebration at the New York, New York discotheque in Manhattan.  Mom remarked that the percussion of much disco reminded her of ABRAXAS.  The next day I played the now battered LP.  Upon hitching back to Boston I purchased a used copy at Looney Tunes Used Records.

1982 brought the realization that college graduation was beyond my capability.  At home in Port Washington I put on ABRAXAS to please Mom before disappointing her.

By 1984 my Dad had passed.  Yes, “Oye Como Va” reminded me that once upon a time Dad and Mom were deeply in love and Peter and I were fortunate to be the offspring of their union.  I have no recollection of my grandparents on either side but ABRAXAS is a talisman of their lives causing mine.

10 years pass. ABRAXAS PLAYS annually on my Panasonic Plus Cassette-to-Cassette AM/FM boom box.

1995 found my brother Peter and I at odds to the extent that I spent Christmas in Boston brooding ambivalently although I did send presents to Peter, his wife Aida and Mom.

I consoled myself with ABRAXAS “Hope You’re Feeling Better”s theme of ambivalence powered by congas and Carlos Santana’s wah-wah guitar pyrotechnics.

Being well into my 30’s in 1995 I had made my own Christmas tradition of surprising someone that I liked with a gift that spoke to an affection that had not been fully expressed.  Being single, childless and employed in an industry that throws folks together and throws them away with equal speed I had learned that small blessings are sometimes the only blessings one can receive but that can be a good thing.

…I was sitting on the living room floor of 24 Haviland St, Apt. 28 at about 9 P.M. 2 days before Christmas wrapping up 2 gifts while ABRAXAS played through the open door of my bedroom.  My roommate was out of the country for the holidays so I felt little compunction about playing my music a tad louder than I might have otherwise.

I was wrapping 2 gifts for a former co-worker.  Patricia was a beautiful woman who had tended bar at the same venue as I.   Although it had been a brief and occasional job for her the chit-chat of the time when I was an afternoon employee at that venue had crossed over to more chit-chat when we briefly worked the same bar.

Patricia was in the midst of several transitions in her life and I was taken aback, although pleased, when she asked me to call her.

Over the course of more than a year these calls became more frequent and more intimate and I found myself listening as much as I spoke.  Certainly, I was flattered to be trusted but more than that I trusted her with the pure aspects of my heart that had become very distant.

Pure and impure thoughts mingled, as Patricia was a beauty.

I was thinking about how to finesse a meeting with Patricia so as to give her both of her gifts.  One was a sardonic look at the recent past while the other was a light unto what was to come.

The phone rang, landlines had only begun too cede their domain to pagers, and it was Patricia.

“…Steve, I am at the bar. I have a present for you.  Where do you live?”

“I have 2 presents for you. I live 25 yards away I’ll be there in 5 minutes,” I replied.  My heart did a full-gainer and my hands began to shake.  Steeling myself I managed to wind some Scotch tape around my gifts and jetted out the door to the bar.

Patricia was by the pay phone smiling.

I ordered drinks, we took a booth and we spoke briefly of the joy and relief of having finished Christmas shopping.

“What did you get me,” she asked with the slightly turned head that moved my eyes and heart.

I gave her the 1st. package and she ripped off the wrapping with an urgency that was enthralling.  Laughing out loud she proclaimed, “I don’t know what I would ever use this for!”

“I know, that’s why I got it for you!”

I slid the other gift over the booth’s table when the owner of the bar came by to shake my hand and wish me a Merry Christmas.

I thanked him and introduced Patricia who also wished him a Merry Christmas.

“You know him?”

“I’ve been coming here since 1979,” I offered while wondering what Patricia might think of my recreational habits.

Patricia unwrapped the second gift and plugged it into a socket. She smiled a closed mouthed gesture of gratitude while nodding slowly in a way that signaled that all was right in the world if for only this moment.

“C’mon open your present.”

I opened Patricia’s package to find a mustard colored turtleneck that would undoubtedly be a good fit underneath a leather jacket for Boston’s winters.

I blinked involuntarily and held her hands briefly.

“Hey, do you think that the Prudential Mall is still open?”

“If there is any night of the year when it would be open late tonight would be that night.”

“Let’s go, we can leave the stuff in my car.”

My mind was pondering whether this meeting was a gesture of sympathy for being estranged from my family, gratitude for being a shoulder to cry on or just because Patricia was a good kid…or something more.

We walked the 200 or so yards to the Prudential Mall and after determining that indeed the stores had closed at 9, walked back to the car and I removed my gift.

We hugged.

Patricia got into her car.

I returned to my apartment…

1997 found Mom in a nursing home for the final phase of her life.  I bought her a new Walkman with ABRAXAS poised to play.  She was delighted.

1999 found Mom receiving a Discman.  The first CD…?  Yes, she remembered.

2004 brought the end of Mom’s life.  On that Christmas I played ABRAXAS at 2 AM in the living room of 42 North Bayles Ave, Port Washington on my Discman in a private memorial to Mom.

ABAXAS signifies Christmas with its calling to heart folks who have passed, friends who are missed, places that are gone and the phases of the Christmases past, present and future.

ABRAXAS is a talisman as real as a rock, in LP, cassette and CD formats that holds in its notes the presents, love, tears and hopes of Christmas every time I so much as touch it.

I am listening to it right now.

Oye Como Va

Merry Christmas

REMIXOLOGY, DRINK, HOSPITALITY, BARTENDING: The Funkmaster Flex

The Funkmaster Flex martini is the foster child of the Dr. Funk cocktail.

DR. FUNK

2 1/2 Oz. Myer’s Jamican rum

1/4 oz. Pernod anise liquer

1/2 oz. lemon juice

1/4 oz. grenadine

1/4 oz. sugar

1 lime

Club soda

The Dr. Funk is made with crushed ice in a shaker.  The lime is cut in half, squeezed and the shells and sugar are added.  Shake well and pour all ingredients into a Tiki glass and top with club soda.

http://www.drinksmixer.com/drink7686.html

The Dr. Funk is an early 60’s Tiki bar favorite.  The Boston of the late 70s boasted the Kon-Tiki, named after the Thor Heyerdahl’s non-fiction book KON TIKI which chronicled the tale of floating from Fiji to America by raft, located in the Sheraton Boston slot now occupied by the SideBar.

Comm. Ave.’s Somerset building featured Aku-Aku’s “Polynesian” food and cocktails.  Both food and drink featured lots of sugar, copious amounts of Red Dye #2 and paper umbrellas.

The 80s brought the demise of these establishments leaving the Harvard Square and Fanueil Hall Hong Kongs’ to carry the flag of Dr. Funk.

As it does so often cocktail culture began strip mining the past in the 21st. Century as Lansdowne St.’s Tiki Bar and Kingston St’s, Peeping Duck brought a revival of faux Cantonese food and Tiki Bar drinks.

During my brief but educational tim at the Harvard Square Hong Kong we served the Dr. Funk, along with a variety of Tiki drinks.

The Funkmaster Flex was born of hip-hop.  At the dawn of the 21st. Century I was working once a week in a bar in one of Boston’s outer reaches.

(This tavern is no longer in existence)

A gentleman stepped to the bar and asked for a “hip-hop” drink.

Nice or nasty? “, I asked.

Nice AND nasty,” he replied.

Hmph.

When I was asked for a “nice” hip-hop drink the Henne Russian was my go-to.  2 parts Hennessy, 1 part Kahlua and a splash of milk.  On the rocks for clubs, which rarely permit glassware at hip-hop events much less stemware, and as a martini in more genteel environments.  The Henne Russian is a remixed version of the Brandy Alexander with the Hennessy lending the cache’ of hip-hop and Kahlua standing in for the brown Creme de Cacao of  the 1940’s classic.  (The Brandy Alexander’s classic version featured half-and-half which is too thick for modern mouths).

When “nasty” was requested my mix was the Beat Box, 2 parts Hennessy to 1 part Peppermint Schnapps.  The Beat box was a remix with a quickness of the classic Stinger again up-scaling from brandy to Hennessy and replacing white Creme de Menthe with Peppermint Schnapps.

A burn to the tip of the tongue with a long, sweet swallow to follow.

As detailed in my recipes for the Floratini and Metropolitan gender is a primary factor in cocktail preference.  Most men, with a few significant exceptions like burn.  Most women, with a few significance exceptions, like sweetness.  This determines the flavor profile of the drink.

Nice AND nasty!”

Hmph.

Bartending can accelerate the brain without resort to coffee or Red Bull  as your reputation and your employer’s reputation is hanging on every drop.

Funk is the root of hip-hop.  James Brown’s epochal “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” featured the baritone sax of Maceo Parker as the hook playing tag with the staccato guitar of Jimmy Nolen, ushering in an era.  Beginning with James’ throaty “Papa…” the chorus, verse, chorus, verse bridge structure reversed the constraints of pop and served notice that rhythm ruled.  The seminal funk of James Brown gestated into the Sugarhill Gang’s 1979 “Rapper’s Delight” and music would never be the same.

Nice AND nasty,” the guest repeated.

Hmph.

From the CD jukebox in the corner the Jay-Z/Jermaine Dupri hit “Money Ain’t a Thang” blared in all of its materialistic majesty.

“…bubble hard in my Double R…new whips…money ain’t a thang”, Jay-Z’s authoritative flow gave words to the cover art of HARD KNOCK LIFE PART II bringing car culture to the beat.

Nice AND nasty!”

My brain is in cocktail overdrive and all I can think about is cars!  (Disclosure: I don’t even have a driver’s license).  And then an idea made its way into one of unused sections of my cerebellum.  YO! MTV RAPS had begun featuring a segment featuring NY’s HOT 97 personality Funkmaster Flex displaying “tricked out whips”.  “Whips” are mentioned prominently in the Jay-Z/Jermaine Dupri jam “Money Ain’t a Thang” jam playing on the jukebox at that very instant.

So I took a chance that the gentleman knew who Funkmaster Flex was and declared:

“I’ll make you a Funkmaster Flex,” I said and began the mental process of remixology.

Cocktail knowledge is based on basing drinks on other drinks so I knew that Dr. Funk’s remix into Funkmaster Flex would stay in mind.

To make the drink “hip-hop” I substituted Hennessy for Myer’s rum.  The tavern I was working at did not carry Pernod which is just as well as the chartreuse coloration of Pernod French anise would detract from the Funkmaster Flex’s visual appeal.  I substituted Sambuca which is clear and offered the virtue of being hotter/nastier than Pernod.

As of late drinks have been served in ever larger glasses and seeing as how the tavern did not offer martini glasses, we were in the outer reach of Boston, I made the drink in an iced 16 oz. acrylic glass.  This necessitated using sour mix, O.J. and pineapple juice to create visual value and make it “nice“.  2 drops of grenadine gives the impression of added value and casts the cocktail in a lovely color that calls to mind Tropicana’s Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice.

“Here is your Funkmaster Flex!”

“Yo, this is nice AND nasty!”

Thus the Funkmaster Flex was born and it has been a player in my cocktail repertoire since back in the day.

FUNKMASTER FLEX

1.5 oz. Hennessy

3/4 oz. Sambuca

1 oz. sour mix

1 oz. O.J.

1 oz. Pineapple juice

2 dots grenadine

Fill a martini glass with ice water.

Fill a 24 oz. shaker with ice.

Pour all ingredients into the shaker and top shaker with mixing glass.

Shake until the frost line climbs to the top of the mixing glass.

dispose of ice water in martini glass.

Break shaker and mixing glass into martini glass.

Garnish with lemon flag.

REMIXOLOGY: REINVENTING CLASSIC COCKTAILS FOR MODERN MOUTHS

https://stevegallanter.wordpress.com

stevegallanter@yahoo.com

Oh yeah, feel free to rename this concoction. (“Nice and Nasty” would almost certainly fit the bill).  As always position the glass under the bar spots for maximum visual appeal.