American Wedding

If you’ve arrived here hoping to find some extended treatise on the American Pie sequel, well, sorry, friend. You’re out of luck. I’ve never even seen it. But stick around anyway.

I recently had the honor of standing up with my friend Derrick as he married another one of my very best friends, Amber. I’d watched those two grow together through many trials and tribulations into a power couple. They’re truly two of the best humans on this planet, so it was exciting to see them combine forces. And as their wedding date drew near…

The world seemed to go to shit.

Two well-publicized police killings, right after another. Were the killings racially motivated? It seemed entirely possible. Were they straight-up assassinations? Less likely, but that didn’t prevent people from drawing virtual battle lines on social media, on horrible cable talk shows, and even more repugnant blogs. And then, the most despicable (and yet, sadly, not completely unexpected) reaction occurred. Officers gunned down in cold blood during a peaceful protest in Dallas. Our nation seemed headed to the brink of disaster at breakneck speed.

And once again, idiots and fools raised their ignorant voices in an attempt to fan the flames of hate. The one that filled me with rage and despair was the since-deleted Tweet from former Congressman (A GODDAM CONGRESSMAN!) Joe Walsh (not the guy from the Eagles. The other one.)

Check it out:

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It was a punch in the gut, perfectly encapsulating the point of view shared by so many of my backwards-thinking white brothers and sisters. It was as if they all breathed a sigh of relief and said “Finally! Now we can be open and direct with our hate and violence! At last, war!”

Of course, some of my black brothers and sisters played right into their hands, Tweeting support for the gunmen and praising the murders of men that had done nothing wrong except wear a badge.

Things looked bleak, to put it mildly. Depression set in and seemed determined to hang around indefinitely.

Derrick and Amber to the rescue. Again.

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See, that Friday night, the 8th of July, members of both wedding parties and families and friends all gathered for the wedding rehearsal. That’s when hope showed up again. Hope in the form a stunningly beautiful, petite, blue-eyed, blonde bride and the imposing, handsome, tall, black man she’d fallen in love with. A man who had already demonstrated compassion, patience, and love with her two wonderful daughters…and incredible patience with the fiercely independent Amber. I mean, seeing them stand there together, Derrick towering over her, neither one of them concerned about anything other than being excited to begin the rest of their lives together…how could you not be inspired? But it got even better.

The kids.

Yeah. The kids. A colorful mix of punk-rock haircuts and shades of pink and green, of glasses and suspenders, and skin tones ranging from pale white to rich mocha. And they didn’t give a good goddam about looks or religion or skin or social expectations. They had no idea that they were avatars for the literal future of our country. They were kids. They wanted to play. They wanted to dance. They wanted to take their shoes off in the church. They were hungry and wanted pizza. Kids.

And the groomsmen! Black and white. Tall and short. Ukrainian and Liberian. The bridesmaids were just as impressive: servicewomen, teachers, writers…tattoos and smiles and confident female sexiness in all its sizes and shapes and colors and ages.

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“Where you from, Paul?” “My mom.”

So on Saturday, after the ceremony, after the pictures and the uncomfortable clothes and the waiting and the standing, came the reception. Dancing, drinking, hugging, laughing. Joy. Bliss. Hope. Everywhere. And it was good. And I felt so happy.

So thanks, D & A. You guys rock, and this huge clan of ours, these wonderful misfits…they restore my hope. Constantly. I’m so very proud to be part of that. Take a look..

I threw that video together, not just for Derrick and Amber or their guests and friends, and not just to try and inspire anyone who needs a pick-me-up. I did it for myself. I cobbled it together over the last few evenings so that in days to come, if and when I feel hopeless and sad, I can watch it and remember how great this world truly is. I can remind myself that hope is very real, and Real America is still the best place in the world.

 

Ray & The Warthog

This is why I never take things for granted.

This time last week, I’d thought my life was pretty rough. My main point of misery centered on the contents of my tobacco pouch. The supply had dwindled, and what remained was dry, crumbling, and tasteless. My papers weren’t much better, being pages ripped from an old Bible I’d found in Silver City. Guess that’s karma. When you’re reduced to smoking Bible pages, maybe it’s time to rethink your life choices.

But oh, how things change. I’m getting some much-needed perspective. Cowered in a dry creek bed watching that damned A-10 circle back around, my cigarette-rolling prospects are the furthest thing from my mind.

If only Motia were here.

“I’ll send help. I promise,” she’d yelled over her shoulder. “Besides, it’s Earth. What’s the worst that could happen?”

Oh, it’s Earth, all right. One of ‘em. But it’s not just the where, as I’ve discovered in our travels. No, it’s the when. And seeing as how there’s an A-10 Warthog trying to raze the mining town about half a mile away (and, by virtue of proximity, me) I’m guessing I’m not the only person here that’s outside their original timeline.

It’s the damnedest thing, though. Seeing that flying anachronism, I think of the old Native American legend of the Thunderbird. Suddenly, shit makes sense. The Winnebago thought of the thunderbird as an omen of military victory. If you had a vision of one of the loud, lightning-hurling raptors, you were destined to become a great warrior. As I listen to the “BRRRR-R-R-R-R” of that thirty-mil and the throaty roar of the turbines as the thing flies low enough to send up a rooster-tail of dust and debris, I can imagine that the only way your run-of-the-mill War Chief in the 1800’s aboriginal population could even conceive of something like this would be through some sort of induced state.

And yet, here it is. No way this is a coincidence.

Footsteps, coming fast, crunching the dirt and rocks. I spin, the Navy revolver in my hand…and immediately aim it to the ground.

“Fuckin’ what is up, man!?”

Ray. It’s goddam Ray, here. Now. This is who Motia sent to help. And as he throws himself to the ground next to me, he reaches over my prone body to smother me in a huge hug.

“Good to see you, man! Sounds like there’s a lot going on. This looks interesting, no doubt. Dude, check this shit out…”

He pulls back, away from me, into a sitting position. I notice his garb for the first time. Ray’s pale blonde hair, the color if the inside of a banana peel, is back in a ponytail. His face and arms tanned so deeply that it’s hard to make out the detail in his tattoo sleeves. He wears what I can only call a pirate shirt…not the puffy, frilly, Captain Hook kind, but the roughspun beige linen sort with an open neck and billowy sleeves (which he’s rolled and pushed up over his elbows.)

“I shit you not, I’m first mate on a fuckin’ sloop of war! Check it!”

He turns his right arm over to show me a large swath of puckered, pink skin which runs from just over his wrist to about an inch below the crook of his arm.

“Cannonball burn. Know this: cannonballs are fuckin’ hot, son. This one nearly took my fuckin’ arm, and wiped this one dude out right at the knee, no joke. Dude stood there for like a microsecond, and then ‘fump!’ Over he goes. Unreal, dude. Oh, and—“

“RAY!” I shouted, louder than I intended.

“Right. Gotcha. Thunderbolt. Please explain.”

Thunderbolt. Or more accurately, Thunderbolt II. Damn, I’d forgotten. That was the official designation of the A-10. At least, in our timeline. In our universe. Ray seemed to read my thoughts, as he sometimes did.

“This is some real Dark Tower shit, my friend. Fuckin’ score.”

“That’s one way to put it. But the fact remains, that flying hunk of death is sort of in our way.”

Ray stares, and his hand absently tugs and strokes the tuft of corn silk on his chin.

Here’s the thing about Ray: he is fucking brilliant. Some people forget that. They lose sight of the fact that the guy could build an entire computer server and IT network from scratch, or that he’d spent two years in a Shaolin monastery or that his so-called “Superposition Drive Theory” was being seriously discussed (in an alternate timeline, anyway) as a viable means of interstellar, faster-than-light travel…an expression that he abhorred, because “You’re not traveling anywhere. You’re already there, you just aren’t aware of it!”

The other thing about Ray is that he’s totally nuts.

Well, that’s not completely accurate, either. He’s just…an unstable molecule. He’s chaos incarnate. When you scrap with him, the scary part isn’t his muscles or his training or anything, but the completely unpredictable, wild nature of his aggression. He and I scrapped once doing a thing on some damn world chasing down some quarry of Motia’s or whatever. It was a frustrating trip, and the trail had gone cold. We spent the night, all of us, drinking a whole crap-ton of this godawful booze punch we’d come across, and things got ugly. Everyone was cussing and punching, just pissed at everything out of general frustration and exhaustion. It bloomed into a full-on brawl, every creature for itself. Ray had thrown a good left cross at my head, one that I narrowly avoided. I countered by kicking him in the sternum. He grabbed my ankle and then did the unexpected. He could’ve twisted my leg, could’ve thrown me, could have done a lot of things, but what he did was to slam his forehead into the meat of my thigh. Hard. Yes, the fucker head-butted my leg. And that sounds crazy, and maybe even ineffective, but shit…imagine someone throwing a bowling ball, hard, and having it impact about three inches above your knee. My entire limb went numb. In all honesty, I couldn’t even stand on it when I came-to the next morning. The black, bone-deep bruise lasted weeks. It was horrible. Of course, when Ray saw it, he just laughed. Laughed and laughed. He cried tears of mirth and squeaked out “Oh, dude! Oh, shit! That’s why my neck hurts so bad! I tried to snap your leg with my skull, dude!”

Then a few days later, he’d saved my ass when we were ambushed by some Skinnies. That’s just Ray.

So he looks across the stretch of sand and rock and dust, through the waves of heat distortion rippling and blurring the horizon. And he concludes “That is definitely a jet airplane.”

Yes, it sure as fuck is.

“So, here’s the thing about jet airplanes. They need fuel. Lots of it, I’d imagine. So, this fucker is either hooked up with an alternate power source, which seems unlikely, the way it sounds and smells. Can you smell it? That oily, diesel-and alcohol smell? It’s on the wind. I think it’s him. It’s Mr. Buzzy. Or he’s got a refinery or some stash of fuel nearby. Not sure the range on these guys, but it’s gotta be finite.”

I stare at Ray for a second, then back to the grey-green terror swooping low again, strafing whatever it’s trying to kill in the town.

“Ammo, too…” I murmur. “Can’t have inexhaustible rounds, right? And it’s surely shooting projectiles. Those aren’t beam weapons.”

“Correct. So, ol’ boy there has a stash somewhere, hoss. I say we got find it and maybe end up getting us a flying machine. Dude, can you imagine? Ima take it back to my crew, back in the Caribbean.” Ray begins to cackle. “They will literally shit themselves, no doubt. CAW! CAW! DEATH CROW! CLEAR THE FUCKIN’ DECK!”

One thing at a time. It’s going to be dusk soon. And this strange quarry is going to fly off in one direction or another, I’m guessing. And we’ll track it somehow. And we’ll take it out somehow. And then I’ll double back to the mining camp and continue my quest. Maybe finally link up with Motia again. Jesus. Motia, the Indians, and now Ray. If we can just keep this crew together, we might just have a shot. We might just get things sorted.

And then, just maybe…maybe I can go home.

 

 

 

 

Pirate Trouble

You guys are in for a treat. For this entry, I’m handing off the blog to a very special guest author who happens to be my 10-year-old son, Simon. His writing is exemplary. It’s…real. It’s natural. It’s conversational. Did I mention he’s ten? Yeah, I know I’m a beaming, proud father, but don’t take my word for it: Simon received an A+ for this story. AN A+!! I limped across the finish line with a “C” in my collegiate creative writing class, so maybe it’s a bigger deal to me than it should be. No matter. That’s my kid. He’s got talent.

Without further ado, please enjoy “Pirate Trouble” by Simon Watson

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Original cover art by Simon Watson (marker on construction paper)

Boom! Splash! A cannonball shot at the ship I was being held captive on. Thankfully, it missed. This is that story.

I wake up sweating in my bed. I hear footsteps.I look at my clock. It is one in the morning. I look at the top bunk.

Kara, my sister, is there in a deep, deep slumber. I walk out to see what made the steps. I step into the living room only to see two bodies laying there. I look closer to see who they are.

Mom and dad. Both with deep cuts on their foreheads.

I ran back to my room and shook Kara so hard she almost fell out of her bed. She woke up both yawning and stretching.

“Hey!” She yelled. I answered with “Shhhh! Mom and dad are…”

“Mom and dad are what?”

“Dead.”

She looked at me with a “I think you’re lying” look.

“Come with me,” I said.

We stepped into the living room, and she gasped. She burst out crying. Tears running down her cheeks like rivers. She put her face into my chest and started sobbing even more.

All of a sudden, a voice came from the front door.

“I’ve got you now! The name’s Blackbeard and you kiddies are comin’ with me!”

Fear was frozen on Kara’s face. Suddenly he grabbed both of us by the arm.

“Ow!” I said. Blackbeard had a strong grip. “Let go!” I said, then kicked him right in the stomach. He stumbled back. And just when I thought things were going good, he tightened his grip on me, let Kara go, swung his fist, and knocked me out.

He must have done the same thing to Kara (I woke up to her yelling and screaming for help.)I had a burlap sack over my head. My hands tied behind my back with rope. Through the tiny holes in the sack I could see Kara. She was tied up the same way I was.Burlap sack on the head, hands tied behind the back with rope.

I looked out the holes again. The sun was out. Had I really been out for that long? Then someone came over an ripped the sack off my head. The sun burned my eyes. I closed them and put them into my legs. Then the same person untied my hands. I put my hands over my eyes. I could finally squint. After about a minute I could open my eyes fully.

I looked up and saw Kara. She was already standing up.

She walked over to me and gave me a big big BIG BIG hug.

“Lets. Jump.” She said under her breath.

“What?!” I said in a medium voice. “Okay, fine.”

“Ready? On three. One. Two. Three. GO!”

We ran and ran but then…we were lifted into the air.

“What the..?” We looked back.

Of course it was Blackbeard, holding us up by the backs of our shirts.

All of a sudden, someone yelled “NAVAL SHIP! RAM THEM!”

The ship jerked to the right. I fell to the ground. The naval ship must have seen us, because they started firing.

Boom! Splash! A cannonball shot at the ship I was held captive on. Thankfully, it missed. A couple of inches lower and my head would have been ripped off.

The next two missed, and the next one hit. And that’s when I said “JUMP!”

We ran and jumped off the side. We decided to get out of the way of the cross-fire so we didn’t get hit. We swam to the front of the naval ship and they dropped down a ladder. We climbed up and the ship sailed away from the pirates.

They dropped us off at an orphanage. A month alter we were surprised when someone came and got us. We now had parents They had a dog and a cat. It’s going out well.

Here Simon’s teacher makes the following note: “I’d end the story here”. Like he’s some sort of stinkin’ editor. THIS IS MY BOY’S ART! HOW DARE YOU! HOW…sorry. Maybe the teacher is right. Nevertheless, here’s the epilogue…

And then I joined the army. My arm was blown off by a grenade. Luckily, I knew someone. A surgical doctor. Dr. Kara. She fixed me up, and later I got married and had two children. One boy and one girl. Josh and Lilly. From there on I had a good life.

A Solution For Marvel

First, Spider-Man. Soon, the Fantastic Four. And eventually, the X-Men. One by one, the various Sony and 20th Century Foxes of the world are coming to the conclusion that “if you can’t beat ‘em, at least enter into a shared-revenue licensing deal with ‘em.” The rival studios are all slowly realizing that not only can they just not do these stories as well as Marvel, but the epic nature of the films is damned expensive to produce. The upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse flick is make-or-break. And realistically, even if it DOES make money, is it worth it to the studio? Or is the smart move to just go halfsies with the big boys and reap all of the profit with zero risk?

 

But when that day comes, Marvel has a bit of a problem on its hands: how to explain all of these mutants suddenly appearing in the same universe that has slowly expanded from one guy in a suit of mechanized armor into, well…Age of Ultron?

 

Fear not, Marvel. I’ve got you covered. Here’s the scene that makes the transition, and I don’t even want any money. I just want a screenwriting credit. Deal? Good.

 

 

INT: AN UPSCALE RESTAURANT IN MANHATTAN

 

TONY STARK is already seated as his friend DR. BRUCE BANNER slides into the seat opposite him. The contrast is painfully obvious. TONY is dressed in a $3000 sharkskin suit. BANNER wears what looks like an un-pressed corduroy blazer over a white cotton shirt, no tie.

BANNER: Impressive. Really, I can never get a table anywhere in this town.

TONY: (Checking the wine list, distracted) Hmm? Oh. Yeah, no problem.

BANNER: So, what is the problem?

TONY: Did I say there was a problem?

BANNER: I don’t hear from you in like ten weeks and all of a sudden you’re flying me here to New York. That’s…forgive me for sounding paranoid, but I know you.

TONY: Can’t I simply have a friend over for dinner?

BANNER: (Picking up a menu) You fly all your friends halfway across the world for steaks?

TONY: It’s Wagyu. And I don’t have a lot of friends.

BANNER: Excellent point.

 

A BEAT as the two regard each other, neither speaking.

 

TONY: God, you know me so well. Okay, I wanted to get your take on something.

BANNER: There it is.

TONY: You got me. So, here’s the thing—

BANNER: Wait, so, is this work stuff? We’re not at your place. I’m guessing that’s by design. Where’s the rest of the team? Is this SHIELD?

TONY: It’s not like that. I just, I need someone smart to run this by.

BANNER: What about Richards? Didn’t they move into the Baxter Building? That’s right up the street.

TONY: Okay, first, Reed creeps me out a little bit. He’s…arrogant.

BANNER: Oh, he’s arrogant?

TONY: Plus, all that stretchy stuff. I can’t help but hear “Rubber Band Man” in my head every time he opens his mouth. But no, he’s not a geneticist, and—

BANNER: Neither am I. But you know that.

TONY: Would you just shut up for a second? Please. This has been…it’s been driving me nuts.

BANNER: Okay. Sorry. Not sure what I can offer, but I’m here now, so go ahead. Lay it on me.

TONY: Thank you. Seriously, because—okay. Anything strike you as odd about the spider kid?

BANNER: You mean Spider-Man?

TONY: Man? Really? He won’t even shave for another three years. That’s what he’s calling himself?

BANNER: That’s what the press is calling him.

TONY: We’ve gotta get ahead of that, nip it in the bud. But what do you know about him?

BANNER: I hear he’s smart. And, ability-wise, I understand he’s strong. Sticks to walls? Shoots webs?

TONY: He’s incredibly smart. He made those shooters, did you know that? Came up with his own formula. I’m going to hire him, he’ll be an asset to Stark Industries. But yeah, the crawling stuff. Strength, too. He’s not as strong as Thor, or…you know, Jolly Green Giant…but he’s way past normal human parameters.

BANNER: And so far he’s using these abilities for good. So…what’s the issue?

TONY: The issue is “how?” “Why?” Where did this all come from? Supposedly he got bitten by a magic spider or something.

BANNER: Magic spider?

TONY: I don’t know, like radioactive or genetically enhanced. But see, that’s what got me thinking.

BANNER: Go on.

TONY: What if he already had these…abilities. What if he were sort of waiting to manifest. And then, bam! Something happens. Maybe a spider bite. And sure, let’s say it’s radioactive or bears some sort of unknown toxin. Suppose his body’s way of responding to the threat is to mimic the attacker?

BANNER: So you’re saying we could’ve had the Sensational Snake-Man? Rat-Boy?

TONY: Yeah! Maybe! In other words, the bite just released what was already there. Inside. Waiting.

BANNER: I could see that. So…

TONY: So, why? What’s so special about this kid? What caused his body to do that? Everyone else that runs in our little circle, there’s a perfectly rational explanation. I built a suit. You altered your body’s chemistry with questionable gamma radiation exposure.

BANNER: I’d say it was more than questionable. So, take this to its logical conclusion: a couple of assassins, an AI that we created, a eugenics experiment gone right, and an extraterrestrial superman…sure, okay. But the twins were, what…some HYDRA experiment?

TONY: Ah, now we’re getting there. What if they weren’t? I mean, what if HYDRA twisted them a bit, poked ‘em, prodded them. The Avengers started an arms race. Now the bad guys need bigger guns. Granted. But what if the same thing happened to those two? The same thing that this Parker kid experienced when he got bitten or stabbed or whatever really happened?

BANNER: You’re saying that they were…predisposed? That all they needed was a trigger, some sort of trauma? To release their abilities?

TONY Exactly. I heard about a girl in Chicago who just started walking through things, walls, the ceiling, like a ghost. Roughly the same age as Spider-Boy.

BANNER: Spider-Man.

TONY: Whatever. So take it further…what if there are more? What if we’re seeing something unprecedented? What if we’re witnessing the dawn of a new species?

BANNER: Whoa, hang on…like evolution? That happens over millions of years, and—

TONY: Climate change. Climate change happens. Historically, geologically, we know that it goes in waves. Millions of years of change, from swamps to ice age and back.

BANNER: Okay..?

TONY: Human behavior has accelerated it. Pushed the clock forward.

BANNER: And you think we’re doing the same thing with evolution. Huh.

TONY: Think about all the above-ground nuclear testing we’ve done, as a species, since World War Two. All the genetically-modified crops. Growth hormones in the food. Pesticides. All of that has to have a cumulative effect, right? What if this is it?

BANNER: Mutations. You’re saying that humanity has started a chain-reaction of mutations, altering our very DNA. That’s a lot to take in.

TONY: But it’s possible.

BANNER: Well, it’s certainly not impossible.

TONY: Bruce, maybe that’s why we’re here. To help, I don’t know, usher in a new age. Or, you know…keep things from getting crazy.

BANNER: Crazier than dropping cities out of the sky? Or alien invasions?

TONY: You know what I mean.

BANNER: Huh. It’s noble to want to keep a lid on the bad stuff, Tony, but we’re all just tired. And it hasn’t exactly worked the way we wanted it to every time. I figured you’d be tired, too. Done with the police bit.

TONY: Look, I don’t want any more fighting. But I’m also tired of getting caught with my pants down.

 

ANOTHER BEAT as the pair look at their hands and fidget wordlessly.

 

BANNER: Mutations.

TONY: Mutants.

 

FADE OUT.

 

 

BONUS AFTER-CREDITS SCENE!!

 

 

FADE IN on TONY STARK sitting in a darkened office. It isn’t his; it’s an old, opulent-looking office straight out of Cambridge (actually, Oxford.)

 

We HEAR a door open, and light slashes across TONY as he raises a hand to shield his eyes. Suddenly the LIGHTS come on. From OFF-SCREEN we HEAR…

 

PROFESSOR X: What the devil are you doing? How did you get in here?

TONY: (standing) Sorry, didn’t mean to freak you out. Apologies. I just didn’t want a lot of attention.

PROFESSOR X wheels his chair into frame.

PROFESSOR X: Tony Stark! I recognize you! To what do I owe the pleasure?

TONY: I have a proposition for you.

PROFESSOR X: Yes. Yes, I imagine you do.

 

FADE OUT.

 

 

 

 

Why Bernie

Well, this is something new. I usually write funny nonsense or sci-fi short stories or a combination of both. I may discuss comic books, movies, or music, but I’ve shied away form one area of discussion: politics. Gods, I can hear you rolling your eyes at the very mention of the word. Politics. Ugh. So I’ll forgive you if you check out right now and browse elsewhere on the vast prairie of the interwebs. I completely understand. But if you have the gumption, or simply want a bit of insight into my personal beliefs, then read on.

A friend of mine asked me recently to explain to him my support of Bernie Sanders for President of the United States of America. He went so far as to throw down the gauntlet of “Convince me.” Wow. There’s a big difference between explaining your position and trying to compel the other party to change theirs. I’m not sure I’m up to that challenge. I don’t know if I’m eloquent enough. Maybe my words aren’t that great. But what I hope, what I believe, rather, is that by reading this, and reading all of it, maybe you’ll at least come to accept that my beliefs, my hopes, are not so crazy as perhaps you imagined.

 

Why do I support Bernie? Because I believe America is already pretty great…but I think it can be better. I think that we have to improve not only the lives of citizens (like me, for example. Like my brother. Like everyone, gay, straight, man, woman, Christian, atheist, Muslim, artist, worker, soldier, teacher…everyone.)

I support Bernie because Big Money has always run the show, realistically. But until the Reagan years (and yes, Bill Clinton played a part with the deregulation of the media companies and the NAFTA agreement), those entities were at least held in check. Now the corporations act with impunity. They beg for tax cuts, then move their factory overseas anyway. They bitch about raising the minimum wage, yet accept billions in bailouts (from OUR taxes) and reward their CEO’s with insane bonuses and salaries.

I support Bernie because he believes that if you have the money to send soldiers to war, then by God, you have the money to care for them when they return. Not just with medical care and such, but with mental health care. There’s an epidemic of our fighting men and women committing suicide or sleeping on the streets, and Big Money (and the Republican party that acts as Big Money’s political arm) not only don’t care, they hinder efforts to spend tax money on solving the problem. Yes, I know that some of those bills probably have pork or other attachments that make lawmakers balk, but it’s happened over and over and over.

I support Bernie because he tells it like it is. He speaks his mind. But unlike Trump, he does it 1) because he actually believes it, not because he figures it’s what the crowd wants to hear and 2) with dignity and grace, not scraping down to cater to ignorant, racist, homophobic, misogynistic pricks.

I support Bernie because he wants to use our taxes the way they were meant to be used. Not increasing taxes on you or me (or anyone not ‘rich’) but by allocating those taxes to where they need to go. Instead of a couple of billion for jets that are obsolete before they even enter the theater or another bailout and tax breaks to a multinational corporation , he’d use them to rebuild the bridges, dams, and highways that are not only out-of-date, but dangerously close to total collapse. And yes, he’d use that money for education. Speaking of which…

It’s not “free shit for everyone.” The state colleges would offer free tuition…but only to students that were accepted. You’d need to pass the same entrance exam, maintain the same GPA, do the same work as anyone else who had received a grant or scholarship. Don’t do all that? Buh-bye. Seeya. Collect your things and go. And the private schools would still be private. If you could afford them, hey, God bless. Go for it. Spend mommy and daddy’s inheritance on that sort of education. Good for you! But for the rest of us? It’s a chance to finally narrow the gap between ourselves and Japan or Germany. To have the best-educated workforce in the world. And on a personal note, it’s a scientific fact that the college-educated folks may not be smarter than the kids that stay in their hometown and get a job at the factory…but they are more tolerant. Respectful of other cultures. Less racist or homophobic. Why? Because they will have been exposed to all those things, different accents and skin tones, different dress and eating habits…in other words, the WORLD. And the more you know about the world, the less you fear it. And the less hate you harbor as a result. So, more college students = more cultural harmony.

And finally, let’s talk about healthcare. I’m not a huge fan of Obamacare. I think it’s a half-measure. I think it was a way to kiss the ass of the insurance companies (once again, Big Money calls the shots.) But I also have a friend who has insurance provided by her company, and she’s considering going back to part-time to work on other projects. I was concerned about her lack of insurance coverage. She told me “I’ll just go back to the ACA. It was better than what I have now, anyway.” Of course, that could be more an indictment of the standard of care offered by employers nowadays, or it could be that the ACA just really works out to be a great deal for a single mother of two (as is her case.) Either way, she wouldn’t have even had the option before Obamacare. But let’s take it further…

Say they raise my taxes to pay for Bernie’s universal healthcare. The good shit, the “show up at the emergency room, get your broken bone set, go home. No deductible, not co-pay…it’s just done” variety. The sort of thing they have in, you know…every other civilized country in the world. Every. One. Say I end up paying an additional 2.2% in taxes. Maybe my work pays me a bit less to pay for my proposed payroll tax. The fact remains: The typical family of four making $50,000 a year would pay less than $46 a month under Bernie’s plan for three months of paid family and medical leave and universal health care. (That’s from TIME magazine, January 28, 2016.) In other words, I’m coming out ahead. Also, The typical American family of four covered by an employer-sponsored health care plan paid $24,671 last year on health care costs alone, according to the non-partisan Milliman Medical Index. So, as it stands right now, they’re taking money out of my paycheck to pay for coverage…and I’m STILL paying a shitload in health costs. Maybe it’s not a big deal to people without kids. Maybe it’s not a big deal to rich people who can afford it. But to my family and me, that’s huge.

And the other thing to consider: say I end up actually losing money. Maybe I’m short about $3000 a year, all things being equal. That’s too bad. Perhaps I’ll have to skip playing hockey and forget about taking a vacation. But if it means that every single parent, every kid, every human being in the country has access to medical care when they need it, then, dude…that’s not even a question. Hell, take it. I’ll even chip in a bit more. That makes every taxpayer a big damn hero. That’s what society is supposed to be. That’s why we live in communities, why we have police, why we elect a mayor, a governor, a president, why there’s a highway system, air traffic controllers, and a standing army: because it’s us. Not me. We’re all in this together.

So, in conclusion, I’ll answer your question. Why Bernie? Because I want to live in a better world. I want my kids to have a better opportunity. I want the people to reclaim some of the power from the corporations. I want freedom and equality for every human being in the United States of America. Right now, Bernie Sanders offers the best possible hope of beginning the process that moves us towards those things. It won’t be easy. It won’t all happen right away, especially as Big Money pushes back hard and exerts its force on politics. But it can happen. And it must happen if we are to survive as a nation, rather than a bunch of individuals fighting one another for the scraps thrown our way by Big Money.

 

 

Shallow Grave

I was choking in my sleep, suddenly, and it scared me upright out of my slumber. It was terrifying, the feeling of dust or sand caking the back of my mouth. I coughed and retched, bile following phlegm up and out before I even knew what was happening.

And what the fuck actually was happening? My mind fumbled the last fleeting images in its cache. I remember shovels of dirt being thrown on me, a tarp of some sort being pulled back…later? Faces around me…Motia’s voice “Deader’n a doornail. Go ahead. Give him a kick.” Sharp pain, which felt all too recent…I felt the ribs on my left side: bruised and tender, the sensation wrapping around my back towards my spine. What the hell was going on?

“You need to shake off the dust! HA! Really is dust all over! And no shower for days, I think!” The instantly recognizable voice of Pappu, the Walker Between. That was what they called him here.

Here. Yes. I remembered. We were back in our Prime, but still a few long, hard galaxies away from actual home. Still, it felt nice being somewhere familiar, somewhere where the laws of physics acted like they had when I was a kid. My mind threw a bunch of images at me at once, and the way they stuck didn’t make me very happy at all.

I remembered Pappu grabbing my head in both hands, forcing me to stare right into his eyes as he held his own face inches from my own. “No! You look at ol’ Pap! No thinking yet! Here it comes and be strongly!” A flash of light accompanied by pain. A shallow grave. Drifting in and out of consciousness. The gasp of children witnessing something shocking or awe-inspiring. A name. A face. Bool. We had come here for Bool.

“Well, good morning, sleepy-head.” I turned to see Motia striding my way and nearly bobbled the canteen she tossed at me.

“Did you…did you zap me?” I asked as I unscrewed the cap. It’s amazing the things you never really appreciate until they’re scarce. I’d never realized that water had a smell until my travels with Motia. Sure. The sea has a scent, and so does stagnant, murky swampland, but just regular, clean, clear water smells so damned good when you’ve been without it. I guzzled, almost choking again, but pushed past it to quench the arid landscape of my dirty throat.

“Easy there, turbo,” she muttered as she lit a cigarette.

“What the hell? Tobacco?” I shot at her between gulps.

“Can’t get a vape in this word for nothin’. Besides, I think mine’s dead.”

“Fair enough. So, did you zap me, or what? I’m a bit foggy, what with apparently being shoved in a shallow grave by you and this scrawny brown fucker.” I nodded Pappu’s way. He smiled and waved back.

“Of course I did. It was your idea, dipshit.”

I paused. The canteen was almost empty anyway. I stared at her, waiting for clarification.

“You had to be dead. Bool has to believe you’re dead. So we made you dead. Mostly. Let the neighborhood kids come look at your corpse. They thought it was pretty rad, seeing a dead guy up close and all.”

“I make several good trade for to see you! Better than movies to kids!” Pappu nodded proudly.

A notion struck me just then.

“Did you let them kick me?” I glared at Motia, who glanced around at anything but my gaze. “Pappu?”

His smile melted like Paula Deen’s breakfast. Guilt replaced it.

“Not for free, no!”

“Got a good price, did ya?”

He nodded.

“Well, hey, that’s something at least, huh?”

Pappu laughed and clapped his bony hands together like he’d just seen Robin Williams in a sold-out 1980’s concert (and who knows, maybe he just had). Motia walked closer and offered me a drag of her smoke. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d had a cigarette, but knew it was a generous offer; no telling what she’d done or paid for a cigarette out here in the middle of whatever galactic cluster we were in. I took a modest drag. I sighed. Motia tried to assuage my self-pity.

“Every one of those little rugrats will tell everyone they know that they saw you dead, covered in a tarp, eyes rolled back in your skull. When asked, they’ll talk of how they kicked you…hard…”

“Oh, for a certainty.”

“…and how you didn’t move. Didn’t flinch. You’re a corpse, pal. And you can be gods damned sure our pal has heard the news.”

“You’re sure Bool’s here?”

“Yep. Our Navajo tracked him here, otherwise we’d have bypassed this system.”

“Shit.”

“Yep.”

“Well, let’s go get ‘im.”

Motia smiled wickedly, inhaled one last puff of tobacco, regarding the smoldering butt with a wistfulness she rarely displayed. I recognized it for what it was: homesickness. No way of knowing how many years had passed back home, or even if we still had a home to go to. Tobacco, clean water, safety…all in short supply these last few months.

She tossed the remnants to the dirt and ground it out with her boot heel. Motia removed her revolver from the flythsteeg holster, flipped the cylinder open, saw that it was fully loaded (she’d known it was, of course, but checked it periodically anyhow) snapped it back closed, and re-holstered her piece.

“After you!” She grinned.

Pappu was at my side, arriving there in his creepily silent way. He handed me my canvas pack, which I shouldered. It felt lighter than it had in a long time. Most of our provisions were gone. The pack hung rather slack, but I could feel the weight of our prize, the treasure we’d picked up on our last adventure, pulling the battered tan fabric down. It was a reassuring mass, telling me that maybe, just maybe, this whole damned thing was almost over.

I looked around, getting my bearings. I remembered which way this planet rotated in relation to its blue giant (it boggled my mind how huge that thing was, knowing how far away we really were from it, and yet how much of the sky it still took up) and headed what we’d call “east” back home. I stopped after a few steps, turned and called out to our Indian companion.

“Papuulu! You coming or what?”

He had crouched down near what had recently been my shallow grave, but stood when I hollered.

“I found the neatest bug!” He squealed.

“Outstanding. We’re heading this way, buddy.”

The tall, ancient figure shuffled hurriedly after us, nearly losing one of his garish plastic flip-flops in the process.

Motia snorted.

I tried unsuccessfully not to smile.

Motia’s most recent appearance in this blog was last June. You can read it here.

 

Video Breakdown – ‘Til Tuesday, (Believed You Were) Lucky

Before I get into this crazy-ass video for what really is a great song, let me lament that there aren’t more Aimee Manns in the world. There was a time, not long ago, when female singer-songwriters covered the earth in thick herds visible form space. Shawn Colvin, Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant and scores of others…there was Lilith Fair, there were the Indigo Girls on commercial radio…it was glorious. Now we have Taylor Swift. And Gods love her, she’s fine, but…she ain’t no Aimee Mann. Taylor’s simply not as talented. She’s not as deep. And no, she’s nowhere near as enthralling and sexy. Sigh. It’s true: I have harbored a crush on Aimee since the Voices Carry video, through her cameo on Rush’s Time Stand Still, continuing with I Should’ve Known and shit, even up to ’til now.

But let’s be honest, in this video…she’s a little wacky. But then, the whole thing is wacky. This track was co-written by Jules Shear, and fun trivia fact: he’s the “Jules” in ‘J’ for Jules, another brilliant song from this under-achieving album. Both ...Jules and our featured song for this Video Breakdown used to be part of a mixtape my old roommate Marcus would play in the room we shared in college. He’d packed it with soothing melodies to facilitate soundly sleeping, even if sometimes each of us would actually be quietly shagging our female companions in our respective twin beds. Hey, man…college.

So, let’s begin by watching the actual video, shall we? Open it in another tab if possible, because you may want to flip back and forth. Ready?  In the words of Fred Schneider,here it ’tis…

Away we go.

00:00 – Oh! Lindsey Buckingham?

00:09 – Surprise! It’s Debbie Harry! Or…wait…

00:16 – Is that a picture from The Haunted Mansion? A saw? A bow? A bow-saw? (Also, Aimee? Aimee! We’re over here!)

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Camera one, Aimee. Camera one. Camera ONE.

00:33 – And this was your father’s lightsaber…

00:49 – I think they could only afford greenscreen for the top third of this shot.

1:04 – Magic 8-Ball getting’ mighty preachy.

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The new ones just say “Reply hazy. Fuck you.”

1:08 – Robo-hand has sweet knuckle tats like Robert Mitchum or Jake Blues.

1:10 – ILLUMINATI CONFIRMED!

1:13 – “Crap, guys. I couldn’t find a clover or horseshoe graphic. Let’s just spell out ‘lucky’ if it’s all the same to you.”

1:20 – “Aimee, show ’em the thing!”

1:23 – Birds: We’re free! Free from 8-ball enslavement!

1:30 – Black hole sun.

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Are those…birds? Or did someone drop a bunch of Playtex gloves?

1:34 – Aimee? Hey! Over HERE!

1:40 – Wherein Aimee steps in a hole or something, and domino doors, because…um…

1:49 – WHAT’S IN THE BOX?!

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Memories. Memories were in the box, asshole. And what looks like a spider.

2:00 – Took me a minute to realize that the shadows were from the objects still falling, ostensibly, from the previously-mentioned box. Nice touch. I guess whoever was in charge of continuity earned their paycheck on this shoot.

2:08 – What is that shit? Ash?

2:10 – Oh! Bubbles! We’re underwater with goldfish. That is lucky! (But goldfish can’t read.)

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|AT LEAST IT’S NOT MONOPOLY! HAHA!| (Translated from goldfish.)

 

2:13 – “Say, I wonder what my fate holds?”

2:14 – “FUCK! That can’t be good! Aw, man…”

2:18 – So we’re doing this again? This ‘Twilight Zone’ crap?

2:23 – Zoom in on young Peyton Manning.

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He’s just patiently waiting for his chance to yell “OMAHA!”

2:30 – The Australian ‘Watership Down.’

2:40 – Finally! Dr. Who!

2:43 – Finally! The Doors!

2:45 – Aimee, open your eyes all creepy-like.

2:46 – Nice touch with that ‘Spock’ thing you’re doin’ there.

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Actually, it looks more like a Dr. Evil move…

2:48 – The ‘Infinity Ticker-Tape” thing never really took off.

2:52 – Kids, that is a nice transition. Seriously, good match-dissolve.

2:59 – “ARE YE READY, KIDS?” (Because life. Life. In a pineapple. It’s de bubbles. Under the sea.)

3:03 – Those have to be snooker balls or something. Stupid English people gotta make everything fancy.

3:07 – “Lucky” is a great white-trash baby name, FYI.

3:12 – Time-lapse rose to symbolize…patience? I guess?

3:16 – Aimee puts her band on a pedestal. (No, fuck YOU!) Except…she’s up there, too…and Peyton does’t have his damn drums! WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR DRUMS, PEYTON?!

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CAMERA ONE! GODDAMMIT, AIMEE!

3:22 – It is ALWAYS camera one! ALWAYS!

3:31 – ILLUMINATI!

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Laugh all you want, and then tell me what other reason there could possibly be for this. Huh, smart guy?

 

AAAAAAAAND SCENE.

So, to recap: Aimee Mann is a very talented singer/songwriter, but has no idea which camera to look into. The drummer for ‘Til Tuesday would grow up to shill pizza for Papa John’s. And in the 80’s you absolutely HAD to have a video. For every song you released. Sometimes your director had just depleted his last ounce of creativity trying to get Whitesnake to go in a more creative direction and, failing to do so, had gone on a three-day coke and alcohol bender before showing up on the set screaming “EIGHTBALL! WE’RE DOING THE EIGHTBALL SHOT!” (Double-meaning totally implied.)

Thanks for reading, and check out “Everything’s Different Now” by ‘Til Tuesday if you ever get a chance. Good stuff.

 

 

The Captain, the Rookie, and the Mystic

 

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The Three Musketeers. The Holy Trinity. Geddy, Neil, and Alex.

It’s been a wonderfully exciting week or so. A direct message from Dewar’s on Twitter. Strange clues and exotic tomes containing single-malt whiskies. And in the dizzying array of items and splendid, gorgeous packaging and presentation, I ALMOST FORGOT TO REVIEW THE DAMNED THINGS! I mean, I tasted them…but I kept putting off really publishing my findings. Today, I rectify that oversight.

But not before I show off some of the stuff that came along with the three single-malt offerings. If you read my initial Whisky Mystery blog, you learned about the entertaining riddles and such that accompanied The Aultmore. Well, not to be outdone, the Royal Brackla packaging featured an actual wooden box with hinged lid. Inside were two hefty, etched glasses, along with a little tin of honey, some raisins, almonds, and apricots. It was an alcoholic pick-a-nick basket, eh Boo-Boo?

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Everything a growing boy needs!

And the Deveron featured some great nautical design, and…oh yeah…a friggin WATCH! Plus, the bottle of scotch itself was magnificent.

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I totally wanted the “D” in this particular case.

More on that in the actual reviews, which start right now.

 

 

The Deveron (Mystic, Wise, Spiritual Advisor and Best Friend of the Captain)

The earthiest nose of the lot. Not overwhelmingly so, but it’s there. Like wet leaves. Faint spices. A hint of the seaside in there, too, although that could be my imagination, what with the overwhelming nautical theme of the gift box and the incredibly beautiful frosted sea-glass bottle. (Seriously, somewhere right now some rum distiller is kicking themselves for not stealing all of the Deveron’s look prior to the mass-release of this fine single-malt.)

 

Warm vanilla. A dark fruit, like plums or dates. Not a lot of peat, but it’s lurking in the background for an opportunity, hanging out with the yummy malts and tobacco bite, waiting to spring out at the finish. Delightful and mysterious, this dram. It feels a bit heavier on the tongue than the other two. Sweet, but not cloyingly so. Good stuff. A great alternative to the regular old bottles you have in the cabinet. Pour some for a friend and ask them to guess what it is.

4 stars

 

 

 

Aultmore (The Brash Young Ensign)

Looks light, and smells the same. DON’T BE FOOLED! The nose is almost totally unassuming. It almost didn’t seem like scotch, until I concentrated. There was alcohol here (oh, was there ever! More on that later) and a fruitiness, like maybe pears. If chardonnay were a whisky, it would smell like this.

 

I didn’t see the first punch coming until it was too late. Let this be a warning to you: there is a substantial alcohol bite to this little guy. And frankly, I found it a bit overwhelming at first. I checked the bottle and saw that I was sampling a nice 92 Proof beverage. Well, now. But the good news is that just like the very high-alcohol Sailor Jerry rum, there were flavors to be had. The Aultmore is just a little too eager, a headstrong rookie. Be patient with it and you’ll find the good. There’s a lovely apple/citrus sort of tang to it. A bit of sherry and a tiny little taste of oak. It also feels very light on the tongue. In other words, you would almost expect this whisky to be a lightweight “starter” whisky. It isn’t. And once I poured it over some ice, it settled down and was delightful. I tried the 12-year-old variety and thought it was okay. I think that a bit more aging would help tremendously, so I can’t wait to try the older varieties and see if I’m right. One final note: if you’re a fan of peat in your single-malt, look elsewhere. That’s not bad or good, as peat, like malts or spices, can be very divisive. (I once opened a bottle of Laphroaig in front of my wife and she turned her nose up immediately, saying that it “smelled like band-aids.”) The Aultmore, by contrast, is virtually smoke-and-peat free. So maybe it is a good starter whisky after all…

3 stars, although I’ll go up to 3.5 on the rocks

 

 

Royal Brackla (The Steady Captain With a Zeal For Adventure)

Okay, let’s get this juvenile bit out of the way. It’s hard for me not to make fun of things. The name of this bottle was no exception, with my mind racing between Blackula and Scott Bakula. No matter, as the drink was the best of the three which I had the pleasure to taste. We’ll start with the nose: It smelled of scotch. And I mean that in the very best way possible. It was fragrant and wonderful and familiar. Some apricots, some flowers from a meadow, and a dash of black pepper. Yes. This was the one.

 

Oh, so buttery on my tongue. There’s that pepper again. And something else, some dates or raisins. A bit “darker” taste than the Aultmore, and even though they were both 12-year-olds, the Brackla just tasted more finished. More mature. A man’s drink. A hint of pipe tobacco on the finish balanced by mellow honey. A steady hand on the tiller. Oak and rich leather. Yes. My go-to single-malt whisky has long been Glenlivet 12. This one may supplant that bottle, as it claims some of the things I love about Glenlivet, but with a bit more complexity. Looks like Royal Brackla might be a tiny bit more expensive, but with rumors of Glenlivet running out of the 12-year-old vintage, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them end up at about the same price before long. Either way, I won’t mind spending a few extra bucks for this bottle. It’s the goods.

4.5 stars

 

In conclusion, I’d say that it’s all great news for whisky fans. These three single-malts will seem oddly familiar to Dewar’s White Label drinkers, but much more complex and interesting. Three great single-malts that will serve as a wonderful opportunity to transition from blends, but strong enough to stand on their own amongst the established pantheon of great whiskies. Of the three, The Royal Brackla is the clear winner. It’s the James T. Kirk of this lot, with the Deveron as Mr. Spock (or Guinan, actually…or Troi) and The Aultmore a cheerful Ensign Chekov. I’ve had the pleasure of rotating the three bottles and it’s been a grand week to say the least. Seek ’em out. Enjoy them. Savor them.

Sláinte!

The Whisky Mystery

I arrived home on a snowy, blustery Northern Indiana evening to discover a parcel on my front porch. I love a mystery, and absolutely adore a puzzle. Knowing what was probably inside the large box, I whisked it inside, threw some crap off my dining room table, cut open the cardboard, and dug out what appeared to be a huge, fairly weighty tome. The thing was 14” by 14” and about 4.5” thick. Woof! And emblazoned upon the ‘cover’ was the seal of ‘The Aultmore Distilling Co.’ I took that to be a really good sign.

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Like a Guggenheim Bible…dedicated to BOOZE!

Upon closer inspection, of course, it was obvious that this object was not a real book. I opened the apparently magnetic flap on the cover and saw the mysterious (downright spooky) interior artwork and cover page. And behind that…the real good stuff.

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See, usually I prefer to pee myself AFTER I drink, thank you very much.

There was a neat little mini-book, really not much more than a pamphlet. The cover was sharp, and the paper thick, with that sort of rough, pulpy feel. Good stock. ‘The Mystery of the Buckie Road’ was the title, printed in gold leaf.

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That door either leads to whisky or grandpa’s old killin’ cellar.

Along with that was a fun-looking little cylinder with numbers etched into revolving tumblers. It was sturdy, made out of some sort of brass alloy. I’d read enough Dan Brown to recognize it as a cryptex.

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Or the oldest bike lock ever discovered.

I also found what at first glance seemed like a simple laser pointer. And it was, in part. There were two little buttons. The first activated a standard red laser. Okay. The second one…a single click produced a clear LED mini-flashlight beam. But when I pressed that one a second time, it switched to a dimmer blue glow. Curioser and curioser. I had a hunch why, but that would have to wait, because by now I figured I knew for sure what the real goodies were going to look like. And I wasn’t wrong.

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My cats were substantially less excited about the ghastly blue setting.

Behind the faux-wooden door flap, I discovered a bottle of 12-Year-Old single-malt scotch the color of honey and wheat: The Aultmore. NOW we were getting somewhere. And behind the booklet, a wee snifter-shaped glass (technically, a Glencairn Glass). How convenient!

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Hello, gorgeous…

Full disclosure time. Those that know me well enough are aware that I love a good Scotch Whisky. I get bottles of the stuff for Christmas, and it’s always fun to try a new label. Usually, I prefer the single-malts, but they can be a crapshoot, quite frankly. I know I’m pissing off some scotch purists, but there it is. With bottles as expensive as they tend to be, most folks don’t have the luxury of trying everything on the shelf. That being the case, we all have our favorites. And I have no problem admitting that I’ve always fancied a glass of Dewar’s White Label over some of the fancy, higher-end single-malts.

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Pictured: a ‘glass’ of Dewar’s.

“WAIT!” you cry. “DEWAR’S IS A BLEND!” It certainly is, and a wonderful one. There are other bottles in the same price range, and I’ve tried many…The Famous Grouse and Grant’s standing out alongside dark-horse favorites like Old Smuggler (seriously, not too shabby. You almost forget it can be had from a plastic bottle.) But Dewar’s is on my go-to list every time.

Sorry. Getting distracted thinking about all this booze. I’ll get back to that in the next blog entry. I’ll simply say that I was expecting a sample from the Dewar’s folks…but nothing quite as elaborate as this.

So, this mystery tome. It seemed obvious what my next steps were. The booklet held the key to the cryptex…and the cryptex itself held some additional mystery. It was really fairly exciting, a lot more adventurous than I’d anticipated for a simple whisky tasting.

I read the booklet in its entirety. Didn’t take long. It’s a tale about a mysterious old fisherman/smuggler/bootlegger leading the unnamed protagonist to discover the secrets of the distillery and whatnot. Nicely written, but not really groundbreaking.

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A story I’ll read to my grandchildren one day.

I returned to the front page, and shone my laser-pointer at the page, nearly tearing a hole in space-time. Crap. Forgot. Wrong button. Crimson light blazed through the dining room, boring cleanly through a cat (one down, one to go!) and nearly blinding me as it shone off the white paper. I clicked the other button until the faint blue light bled forth onto the page. And there I saw it.

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‘Saw what? Just looks like a regular ol’ page to me…’

Like some Scooby-Doo cartoon, or even better, some deleted scene from a Harry Potter film, faint, glowing numbers materialized. It was awesome. I figured I’d find something like that, but it was so cool to have my suspicions confirmed.

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‘So what am I looking for, some sort–OH! Oh, that’s pretty bad-ass!’

I swept carefully through the booklet, making sure not to miss any clues. I finished with the necessary digits (all numbers, no letters or symbols.) Nervously, I picked up the heavier-than-expected cryptex, spinning the tumblers into place until I felt (rather than heard) a ‘click’. Carefully I pulled the end cap, extracting a central cylinder which…was actually a USB stick!!

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Crap. Should’ve said ‘SPOILER ALERT!’

Haha! Of course! The whole thing was basically an electronic press kit. I found a video that ran a nice two-and-a-half minutes, descriptions of the varieties of whisky available, the different ages and such, and some information on the distillery and its history. It was all so wonderful.

So, quickly, I’ll tell you this. Dewar’s, knowing of my love for their blended scotch, reached out to me on Twitter. They informed me that they were about to launch a few varieties of single-malt scotch. The neat part? These featured single-malts are essentially the whiskies that get blended to make Dewar’s White Label. And now, for the first time, the greater public would be able to enjoy them one at a time. I was asked if I’d be interested in trying some. “Abso-freakin’-LUTELY” was my paraphrased response.

But the fun manner in which this was all presented, the mystery, the charm, the enigma…that’s good stuff. It’s great marketing, quite frankly, and excellent showmanship. Not sure who handles their promotions and advertising, but they’re a top-notch firm, make no mistake. And reaching out to select Twitter followers? Brilliant use of social media. Much more effective than some stupid YouTube video or “repost this for a chance to win” Facebook contest.

Ah, and as for the scotch itself?

 

To be continued…