How to Make the Most Manly “Wisconsin Winter Toddy” Ever to Sit Just to the Right of Your Computer Mouse

Cold weather’s starting to roll in, and that means it’s almost Wisconsin Winter Toddy season.

What’s a Wisconsin Winter Toddy, you might ask?  It’s a drink that doesn’t even bother with putting hair on your chest, because if you’ve lived in Wisconsin this long you can already rent yourself out as a bearskin rug in your spare time.  This Darwinian drink gets the jump on winter and goes ahead and starts putting hair on your unborn children’s chests instead.

A Wisconsin Winter Toddy needs the following ingredients:

  • Brandy.  Not whisky, or whiskey, or bourbon, or rum, or anything else.  Raw fuckin’ brandy.  Wisconsin’s love for a drink most people associate with effete Frenchmen seems strange until you realize that we have fantastic grape-growing soil but miserable grape sunlight, resulting in abundant crops of grapes too sugary to make a wine that you don’t distill and age the shit out of.  Hence, Brandy Old Fashioneds, Brandy Manhattans, and Brandy Fuckin’ Toddies, served all over the state at road houses so dingy and ancient their blue collar atmosphere has faded to a dirty off-white with hints of old indigo and prominent grease stains.
  • Honey.  Pure honey from bees that fed on sweet Wisconsin meadowflowers, gathered with your own two hands while they swarmed and stung ineffectually at your chest hair and plaid wool jacket.  Ideally it should be so crystallized and frozen with age and cold that you have to dig it out with a spoon, but pour it in a spoon even if it’s not.  The spoon is important later.
  • Water, boiled on the stovetop in a kettle or saucepan.  If you’ve got a fireplace or a wood-burning stove to set a kettle on so much the better.  Don’t even think about microwaving it.
  • Lemon juice.  It lasts for months on ice, so press it fresh in the summer and have a good store laid in for winter.  Or just buy it at the store, whatever; we have to cut a corner in here somewhere.

To make your toddy, put the water on the stove and forget about it until it’s boiling and has been that way for a while.

Stick the spoon down into the honey and dig around until it’s mounded up with delicious crystallized goodness.  Select a mug based on how drunk you want to get and stick the dripping spoon right into it.  It should lean picturesquely against the side of the mug like the long-handled spoon in an old drugstore malt tin and stay there.

Pour brandy directly over the spoon until you’re between a third of the way and halfway up the mug.  Don’t be a show-off and pour almost all the way to the top; your drink won’t get enough boiling water to heat up if you do it that way.  Just find a bigger mug.  Don’t stir yet.

Add a splash of lemon juice.  It should be a healthy splash.  You’ve got a spoonful of honey in there, remember.  You should hear the bottle go “glug” once or twice.  Still don’t stir.

Fill the glass the rest of the way with more-than-boiling-hot water.  Now you can stir.  At this point one of three things happens:

  • 1.  You fill too full and stir too hard.  The liquid in the center of the mug sinks and the liquid around the edges rises until it pours over, spreading a hot mixture that evaporates and dries into a nigh-indelible film almost immediately all over your countertop.  Swear.
  • 2. You pour the boiling water directly onto the handle of the spoon without noticing and grab a brazen hold of metal that’s been flash-heated to 212F.  Scream.
  • 3.  You do neither of these things.  Drink your delicious toddy.  Feel like a beast.

Now.  Who’s ready to give up on whatever lesser drink they’ve been cradling through the previous long winters of writing (or whatever) and switch to the Badger Country special?  Because we all need something to keep our fingers warm by the computer, that’s for sure.  Feel free to share your recipes in the comments, if you like!

Just, y’know, don’t expect me to actually switch.

It’s Okay — Yours Is Plenty Big

I like watching numbers go up.  Always have.  I’m a sucker for addictive little browser games, and my current mission in life is to go back through each level of Angry Birds and make sure I have a higher score than O Best Beloved or my other Google-linked friends.

I don't even LIKE Angry Birds much.

This naturally leads to a bit of a love-hate relationship with the ol’ blog stats page.  I can’t help wanting the numbers to go up rather than down, which isn’t the point of this ad-free, not-selling-anything, traffic-really-doesn’t-fucking-matter blog at all and can be kind of a dangerous habit.

Big spikes are the real problem.  And they’re the problem for a very silly reason:  WordPress just throws everything on a bar graph and sizes proportional to the biggest bar, so a sudden traffic spike changes the scale.  All of a sudden your week looks like this:

Those days on the right aren’t bad days.  The really really tiny bars that look like such a horrific downturn are still very large numbers.  They’re plenty big enough.  But in my head the graph looks like this:

(I tried to make that last little face-thingie weep tears of blood too.  It didn’t really come out at this scale.  But that’s how horrible we’re talking.)

It’s really very silly.  So some days my mantra, as I write the next post, runs something like “It’s okay — yours is plenty big.  It doesn’t look that different today.  Everyone liked it yesterday!  Just…get it out there for people to see it.”

And then I feel better, because dick jokes always make me feel better.

Blog traffic, graphs, statistics — your thoughts?  Your dick jokes?  Share away!

Writers and Their Terrible Social Habits

Writers are “take them anywhere but out” sorts of creatures, I swear they are.

I’ve never met one, for example, that wasn’t a dreadful gossip.  Myself included — our favorite houseguests are the ones who know all the good gossip on our other houseguests and friends, and doesn’t that just make you want to come on over for my next dinner party disaster?  And I’m always a sucker for other bloggers leaving tantalizing little hints about their personal scandals lives, which the best ones know and take full advantage of to keep us all reading.

You don’t, of course, get good gossip and/or novel fodder without keeping an ear out for dramatic conversations — another dreadful habit that seems universal among writers.  I won’t say they all actually listen at keyholes, per se, but if a keyhole happened to present itself in a manner which seemed to invite listening, say by virtue of being roundish and transmitting sound well — at that point all bets are off.

O Best Beloved claims there’s also a bad habit of correcting grammar, which I maintain isn’t nearly as irritating as her habit of abusing the subjunctive form but really is one of those things you want to nip in the bud before you do it to your boss.

Throw in the late nights, the intermittent hygiene, the various alcohol-and-DT-related twitches, and the tendency to think of words as revisable even in irrevocably spoken conversation and its a wonder anyone ever lets us lead the house.

…or is your writing life totally different from mine?  Discuss!

Laughing at the Wrong Thing

Sometimes I laugh at inappropriate things.

Not so much “the date went really well and she asked you up for coffee and she takes her shirt off and suddenly you start giggling” inappropriate, although boobs are pretty entertaining.  But everyone in my family gets into trouble at the theater sometimes, when we all crack up at what we thought was a laugh line and everyone except the actors (sometimes them, too, if it’s a small space and an amateur group) turns to look at us in horror.

“I know how to blow things up!” from Ragtime is particularly etched in my memory.  The Oriental Theater in Chicago seats a whole lot of people, and they all look at you funny if you make noise when they’re not.  It’s a funny line, damn it!

So okay.  Most of that can be chalked up to a dark sense of humor not necessarily shared by everyone in this day and age of yoga, dog parks, and stress reduction techniques so intense they’re stressful.  Empathic is in; morbid is out.

But every once in a while a writer really goes out of his or her way to make something totally inappropriate not just entertaining but intensely, absurdly, laugh-out-loud funny.

My earliest memory of this is the Hank the Cowdog books.

They’re for fairly young children, so the subject matter is not very complicated, but anyone who’s read a lot of children’s books should know that you don’t often get controversial subject matter that might, say, teach you the opposite of what your parents are trying earnestly to teach you every damn day.  A main character (admittedly a dog) starting a conversation with “What would you do if we peed on your tires?” was unusual enough for even my tiny, developing brain to notice.

Actually it was less “notice” and more “laugh so hard I peed myself.”  Maybe I’m just very suggestible.

Anyway, this all came to mind because I’m re-reading Infinite Jest (and occasionally building things out of it).  I am not, unlike my first time through, taking it with me to read at work (which we’re not really supposed to do, but when it’s slow what the heck), because I have vivid memories of hunching over the upstairs desk, cramming my fist in my mouth and hyperventilating, trying desperately not to laugh so loud that I’ll have to explain why the scene about the head-in-microwave-suicide is so hysterical.

I work with these people, you know?

So my question for the writers (and the readers too, I guess):  do you like it when people make you laugh at the wrong thing?  Do you try to make people do it?  How’s that working for you?

Things Our Bodies Don’t Actually Do (But We Write About Anyway)

Someone recently told me that reading romance novels made her sad that her eyes didn’t ever flash.

I’ve met someone with flashing eyes, as it happens; she had some kind of crazy eye surgery thing and now her pupils gleam and go mirrored if you look at her from the right angle.  It’s creepy.

But for the most part eyes don’t actually “flash.”  It’s a widely-understood gloss for “that expression where you narrow your eyes as the corners of your mouth turn up and your eyebrows raise, creating an illusion of movement that draws our hunter-evolved eyes to yours.”  Which is unwieldy in a steamy seduction scene, no question.

Pictured: actual flashing eyes.

This is reasonably common practice.  It’s essentially a prose-tightening shorthand that readers have all implicitly agreed to translate for us.  Hence “rippling sinews” (which you will only actually see ripple if someone is suffering from grievously deep wounds already), throbbing members (ladies — it’s not actually a GOOD thing if I can feel that “throbbing”), and so on.

But my favorite is still “flashing eyes.”  ‘Cause lasers.  What’s yours?

Jumex

So as I might have alluded to once or twice before on this blog, I have a little, tiny, eensey-weensey thing with alcohol.  A Thing, if we like.  Capitalized.  Nothing so big that we might call it a problem, more of a…surplus of enjoyment.  Yes.  I enjoy too richly.  That’s a good way to put it.

But it’s okay.  It’s taken care of.  The Thing will remain a Thing, rather than upgrading to a Problem.  You know why?  This shit.  Right here:

Jumex.  J-U-M-E-X.  Say it slow enough and you kind of sound like the hateful commentor on a MSNBC news story, but it’s fucking delicious.  Mix it up with a little lime and tonic water, throw some ice in there, and sit back and pretend you’re pickling your liver on fruity vodka drinks.  No vodka required!  Jumex has a kinda weird metallic aftertaste that’s pretty much like vodka anyway, at least after a few days cold turkey.

If I were running AA I would have a permanent charge account at every Mexican grocery store in town.  (The AA that supports people whose Things have become out-and-out Problems, that is; not American Apparel, as was briefly confused in the comments on another entirely inappropriate blog post.)  Take that stuff back to the halfway house, set up a little bar there — some wood paneling, some mirrors maybe — and let the Recovering play around with shakers and ice and Jumex.

I’ve even got people drunk on it, or drunk-er, even, serving juice-only cocktails to people who’ve had too many and don’t take well to being cut off at parties back in my wilder days.  Sort of the exact opposite of a roofie, although I suppose it’s in the same non-consenting territory in a weird sort of way.

The spell-check does not know the word “roofie,” interestingly enough.

Anyway.  You heard it here first.  Jumex, for the recovering alcoholic.  Or the budding one.  Or just people who like juice!

Geoffrey is in no way associated with Grupo Jumex, and in fact was a little frustrated that he could pull up like six Google Image results from other sites in the time it took their antiquated website to load.

The Dinner Party Disaster

I had always thought that the disastrous dinner party was a literary trope.  I’d never had one, you see, despite several years of entertaining on my own, with O Best Beloved, and, memorably, in a house shared with a dozen other people united by a love of foam sword fighting.

My canapes were, suffice it to say, wasted on them.

But everything has always run smoothly for me — until last Thursday.

Last Thursday the temperature soared from the beautiful 50 degrees it had been when I bought the ham to a sweltering 85 before I turned the oven on.  That should have been the sign to abort; we didn’t.  So maybe we deserved it when the cat hopped up onto the futon (where one of our dinner guests was going to sleep that night), meowed loudly to get everyone’s attention — aw, what a cute kitty! — and peed on the blanket.

She no longer lives with us. Or at all.

When the paralysis of shock wore off we sprang into action that can only be described as “inept.”  O Best Beloved grabbed the cat and shoved her (pointlessly) toward the under-appreciated litter box while I gathered an armful of cat piss up against my chest, saving the futon but dooming a good dress shirt.  And then we realized we were out of quarters.

If you’ve had your own laundry machine for a while you may not remember the boom-bust cycles of the piggy bank, but houseguests tend to empty it as you frantically wash everything in the apartment.  The idea of leaving a reserve dollar or two for emergencies had never even crossed our minds until we found ourselves turning to our guests, dripping with cat piss, to ask plaintively if they had any spare change.  Right in the middle of our own living room.

It was humiliating, it was brutal; it was followed by a busy fifteen minutes or so up to my elbows in soapy water and cat pee as I scrubbed the blanket by hand (we only scrounged enough quarters for a dryer cycle).  Things limped along from there only because one of our houseguests was already trapped into staying the night and the other was brand-new in town and desperate enough for friends to give even the cat-pee-blanket-quarter-scramble people as much benefit of the doubt as possible.

But on the bright side, I now know that authors aren’t making the dinner party disaster scene up.

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