Introduction 1975

"She bit her in the stomach!  Right in the stomach!"

Teresa didn't know then that it would not be the last time. 

Leading up to that moment, she was simply delighted to have made a friend. Katie was Teresa's first real friend; and by default, Angela, Katie's little sister, was her second friend, though little more than an afterthought.

As a kid, an only child, anyone with a pulse was eligible to be Teresa's friend.  These two, however, needed allies.

"What in the hell is going on at that house?  She even broke the skin!"

Teresa's grandmother had all but lost it and began putting on her shoes, preparing to march down the street, two houses over to the Harlow residence and give those snotty neighbors a piece of her mind. 

"What is wrong with those parents? Biting! In the stomach?"

"Mother, don't."  Examining the miniature punctures in her daughter's stomach, Brenda wiped away the few specks of blood.  It wasn't the worst thing in the world for Teresa to learn how to get along with people–and how to recover from a setback. 

Besides, Angela was in fact not yet three years old.

And the Harlows? Well, they were from an alternate universe.

That summer, they hosted elaborate parties, inviting exotic people who brought fanciful bottles, cooking foods that had all the colors and playing Latin music loudly in an attempt to drown out the laughter and voices that went on well in to the night.

Mark Harlow had been everywhere: Paris, Tokyo, Chicago.  They had a standard poodle and Siamese cats.  Their home was the fanciest on the modest block, though very few in the neighborhood had actually seen the inside.  The next year, the family was heading to Rome, tickets already booked.

Then as fall approached, and with it a new school year, Ramona Harlow called Brenda about clothes-shopping. Do you really buy Teresa's clothes at garage sales? Does your mother make all of your clothes? Can people tell which clothes you've bought at K-Mart?

"We're broke, you know..."

Crime and Punishment

Secretary of State, John Kerry's case for a US-led strike as a punitive measure against Syria’s gassing of its own people is one of the most compelling speeches I've heard.  It is very difficult for me to maintain my own personal preference to remain cautious; to want to wait for some sort of consensus, of real proof and a sense support from the rest of the world, our allies--someone who can help justify another military operation that will surely have global consequences for us, and especially for our soldiers. 

One sentence, one off-the-cuff phrase made by President Obama in a press conference with respect to some imaginary “red line" does not signal a change in Foreign Policy. 

It should not.

It is absurd for the US to talk about stopping Assad without talking about "after Assad."  What happens to Syria if and when Assad is removed, if there is a regime change?  Are we worried about our relevance if we don’t act?  Are we attempting to save face in the wake of a (now seemingly) thoughtless comment?  Will Iran feel emboldened if we don’t stop Assad?  

The answer, of course, is “No.”  Iran is moving forward with their nuclear program anyway.  And for the hawks among us, chomping at the bit to bomb the shit out of Iran instead, it will only increase nuclear paranoia here in the US.

We can only further alienate any possible allies in the region by acting now—after upwards of 14 times the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, this latest time just has the raw, painful footage to go with it.  And truth be told, we seem to be largely reacting to this chemical attack as if it were fundamentally worse than a traditional bombing.  Shocking footage, in and of itself, is not a defining reason to go to war. 

 Was it in WWII?

And besides, the US itself has already used chemical weapons.  In Vietnam.  Agent Orange.  Napalm.  If it is somehow morally better that the US did not use chemical weapons on its own citizens (which, is also true)--instead on the Vietnamese--that's a terribly hypocritical, and richly ironic, argument.

So then what is the strategic objective of a military strike?  A regime change?  Apparently not—according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, there is "no military solution available."   Some sort of humanitarian message?  That would seem to be an illogical, if not impossible, motive.  The chemical attack in Syria is obscene and criminal, but the United Nations in its 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (which Syria did not sign) says simply "don't do it" but outlines exactly zero consequences for those that actually do.  

What is the recourse?  Are we just making things up as we go along?  Starting wars to punish those with whom we disagree?

If we think that Assad's regime won't simply move civilians (schools, hospitals, etc.) to the potential military target sites, we are, at best, stupid.  The US did sign that 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, agreeing that as policymakers we would "weigh just cause against the question of whether there is a reasonable prospect of success at reducing civilian bloodshed...and to select the best type of intervention to meet the goals, which generally means a much longer commitment of blood and treasure than punitive air strikes."

And if, just if, the US manages to fuck this punitive air strike up, we will manage to give even more power to extremists who will surely cross that red line again, and again, and again...

 

The Typhoon, atop the soon-to-be best-seller, Nicole Hardy's memoir Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin.

The Typhoon, atop the soon-to-be best-seller, Nicole Hardy's memoir Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin.

Once again the American people, the government, the nation stands at the beginning of a potential military action. Action that will, once again, be in a country whose culture the average American does not readily understand.

Syria is a complicated country with tensions as old as the peoples who have inhabited the area for thousands of years. The country itself is a collection of artificial borders created by European colonial powers in an attempt to contain and control. Civil war now tears the lives of the disparate citizens to shreds, displacing them and often much worse.

As human beings, though, we inevitably find that we have more things in common than we suspect. I like to think that somewhere in isolated places or in the midst of the cities, normal life reasserts itself, continues to go on. People need to find routine, people need to come together, in short, they need to eat...and drink! 

Syrians often begin their evenings, when allowed, by lingering over a series of small dishes collectively called mezza. The food could be any number of things from hummus, cheeses, olives, sardines, grilled aubergines, artichokes or other regional foods. While eating and discussing, the drink they enjoy is the national liquor called Arak.

Arak  means "sweat" or "juice" in arabic and is a clear, unsweetened, anise-flavored distilled drink. It is not drunk straight, it is mixed with equal proportion of water, and ice. In that order: water is added before ice because if ice is added directly, the drink look will appear messed. The dilution of this drink in water turns it into an opaque milky white color. This kind of liquor is not unique to Syria. It is enjoyed throughout the Levant, the part of the Middle East that’s dominated by Syria, Lebanon and Israel, and it is related to the Greek Liqueur Ouzo, the Turkish liqueur Raki and the French, Pastis, among others.

It is this spirit that has inspired this edition's offering. Though not taken in the traditional manner, you'll surely find it a pleasing companion to your culinary beginning. 

The Typhoon (a variation of the classic drink, the French 75) :

1.5 oz of gin

 .5 oz of Arak

1 oz of lemon juice

1/4-1/2 oz simple syrup

Champagne

Mix the gin, Arak, simple, and lemon in a shaker until chilled and fill the glass with champagne. Garnish with a twist of lemon.  

*note - Having no Arak on hand, I have used Ricard Pastis de Marseille

Cheers! 

 

Morality-Reality

Let's be clear.  I am white.  As white as they come: of Swedish and other garden-variety Northern European descent.  I offer the most limited of perspectives--growing up, and still living in liberal paradise (Washington State): the exact opposite of Sanford, Florida.  I have no personal experience, other than watching The Wire, with which to anecdotally provide new insight or clarity.

But we can likely agree, at least in theory, that the color of a person's skin should not trump the content of their character, nor should it preclude them from Equal Protection, especially under the law.  That is to say, a person with some shade of brown skin does not inherently pose a threat; nor is that person more suspect than a person with white-ish skin.  That's the morality of race.  We like to think of ourselves as above such petty inferences.

And yet, the Zimmerman acquittal came as no surprise to most of us: the law provided George Zimmerman the right to kill Trayvon Martin.  It makes no difference whether you think white-ish Zimmerman was morally justified in stalking, confronting and then shooting to death an unarmed, hoodie-wearing, teenage black boy.  The state of Florida failed to eliminate the possibility that Zimmerman could have reason to fear for his life, and then respond in self-defense.  Reasonable Doubt: the single most important legal aspect of the trial.

But isn't the bottom line that George Zimmerman should have just stayed in his car like the 911 operator told him to do?  A little self-restraint would have changed this story entirely.

What is flawed with his character, and our society, is very different than what happened in the courtroom.  Because the courtroom is clearly not the place to find justice.  It is a place to find the law.  It is a mere distraction.  The circus of history proves my point.  We have a long list of codified attempts to make sure that black people remain disenfranchised and under-privileged: fugitive slave laws, poll taxes, literacy tests, registration practices, the many varieties of Jim Crow laws, and now gerrymandering, voter ID laws.  And, of course, Stand Your Ground.

 There is an enormous disconnect between morality and reality. 

What, then, is wrong?  Not our laws.  Our laws are working just fine. 

 

Restraining Order #2

In any decent discussion, I believe in a sense of context. I have never been to Sanford, Florida as I’m willing to bet that most of you have not. While the incident involving Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman is not wholly unique, the law in question not Florida’s alone, and the systemic injustice in evidence not isolated to that case, it did take place there. Let’s begin, then, with a bit of history.

The city of Sanford was named for and founded by one “General” Henry S. Sanford. In 1870, with dreams of a citrus empire, Sanford purchased the 12,548 acres in East-Central Florida that would become the town. In 1871, several groups of Swedish indentured servants were brought in to provide all of the back-breaking labor of clearing the forest and wetland for settlement and agricultural use. By the next year, the town was begun and a 100 acre orange grove had been planted. For a time, this area was the largest exporter of oranges in the world. 

This would all end after the winters of 1894 and 1895, collectively known as the Great Freeze. 

The orange industry had been devastated and the farmers forced to diversify their crop to include vegetables. So many chose celery that, until 1974, the nickname for Sanford, in fact, became Celery City.

So I give you a drink to sip while you consider these heady issues and their origins. I could hardly ignore the importance of oranges to Florida and Sanford in particular, but I didn’t want to follow too obvious a line of thought. Celery too became a prominent “flavor” for the town, so there was another possibility 

This is adapted from the original cocktail credited to Philadelphia bartender Colin Shearn of the bar Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. His version is tequila-based and was given a name delightfully appropriate to our discussion, “The Restraining Order.” I substituted Aqavit as a nod to those Swedes who put in all that hard work to get us started. I thought they deserved some recognition. 

And so it became: 

The Restraining Order #2

1.5oz of Aqavit
.75oz of Aperol
3-4 dashes of Celery Bitters
1 Large swath of orange peel

  • Stir all ingredients (except the orange peel) in a mixing class with ice until cold.
  • Strain into a rocks glass over 1 large ice cube.
  • Squeeze the orange peel over the drink, rub the rim of the glass with the peel and drop it in to the glass.

Skål!