As Fate Would Have It

san telmo street

As fate would have it, the stars collided and two pieces of heaven sort of fell in the lap of the beast. A book and a game. The book, “On Booze” by the Great F. Scott Fitzgerald, sent to me by an angel in California. The game, The 2014 World Cup.

History is being made, and while everyone has been distracted by the matches happening right next door in Brazil passionately glued to their televisions like phantoms, holding their breaths and chanting prayers like shamans, locked indoors until a long overdue “goooooooooooooooool” is shouted over the airwaves provoking the stampede of those same anxious phantoms to flood into the streets whilst banging pots and pans and flying down the alleyways in a rush to replenish their bottles of fernet and liters of coke until the next goal is made  I took it upon myself to seize the opportunity by reading. Yes reading, and consequently drinking, because the two pair together better than a push-up bra on a drag queen.  There is nothing more inspiring than a game-hungry ghost-town, combined with a luke-warm book by one of the classics and a few dozen chilled glasses with no one to stare at you as the bubbles make you hysterically hiccup like a lamb lost and found. We chose to educate ourselves a little more about life as we read, and drank, and drank,  and cheered Argentina on. The intense energy of The Cup and the twisted black words on the page called for a euphoric experience.

Herds of soccer fanatics joined in a rhythmic pulse, a harmonious crescendo. Soft at first and then  AR…GEN…TINA……….AR…GEN…TINA!!

Fitzgerald chimed in with words of encouragement, just as strong. clear in the beginning and then blurry after a few hours

More.good.booooooze…More.good.booooooze!!

On edge, wandering about the anxious city, we ditch the mad crowd and give way to a deserted back street in the heart of San Telmo. The path least taken. We took it, and happened upon an empty bar where we, by fate once again, discovered a little piece of heaven on earth. The land of Oz. Oatmeal Stouts and Honey Beers pouring out of the ceiling, muting the wildfire call-and-response happening outside, just a few feet away. We walked in to find no one there except the barman, the cook, and a wall full of imaginative, unemployed, mouthy beers. Luck or fate?  Giving them an ear and a dry tongue seemed like the best thing to do, or at least thats what Fitzgerald began to whisper in our pockets. So we select a lonely table for two by the door, employ those talkative beers, and begin our ascent to the land of milk and honey.

beer8

“On Booze” served as the ultimate teaching doctrine in these moments of ascension. You must find a copy and glue it to the backs of your eyelids, if a man is what you aim to be. Fitzgerald painted the picture Messi was at that very instant giving life to as he scored goal after goal after gooooooooooool the best soccer player in the world indeed. Two of the greats teaching us how to master ourselves, how to outwit our opponents and bring those sneaky yellow-bellied digbats to their knees.

We spent about half a day at “Rosa de los Vientos,” a full afternoon and good part of the evening, drinking at a slow and steady pace, chanting on with the chorus, reading on with the musky soul of Fitzgerald over us.

Finally, after a hearty win thanks to Messi, no voice thanks to Messi, and a new off-balanced walk thanks to the barman, we headed to the bus station to take a 7 hour journey to the next town.

We left that place good and liquored up like any respectable literary soccer fan would have.

Argentina made it to the semi finals, and we in turn make it to another day.

messi2

From “On Booze”

We don’t want visitors, we said:

        They come and sit for hours and hours,

They come when we have gone to bed;

        They are imprisoned here by showers;

They come when they are low and bored –

        Drink from the bottle of your heart.

…Long talker, lonely soul and quack -

Found us alone, swarmed to attack,

Thought silence was attention; rage

An echo of their own home`s war -

Glad we had ceased to “be upstage.”

- But the nice people came no more. 

Without Saying Much

Without saying much, we enter a Russian soiree. Well, it was more like a house party, and there were only two Russians to my knowledge. The first was the host, and the second the host´s body guard named V —-sk—r—d something or other; for our sake they´ll remain unnamed. So we´ll call it a soiree. We are the openers to no surprise. You and I, a couple of Canadians, another American, a friendly gal from Ecuador, an Englishman, and the two Russians. The night begins at a slow pace of about a liter and a half of beer per guest. We weren´t the only eager ones apparently, but our eagerness failed to fill the space enough to call it a gathering, much less a soiree. So we clump ourselves about the loft and make polite with everyone. Again, not saying much, I immediately make eye contact with the bigger Eastern European, who wears a nice enough smile and seems to hold a magical glasshalffull of vodka on ice in his hands. With my eyes, I inquire if he could lend his talents to us if things get messy, because I have a feeling that this night won´t be conquered without a push. And I´ve seen enough pictures to know how persuasive a Russian full of vodka and complicated words can be.

I´ve got my game face on, not knowing where the night will take us. And then that damn Canadian DJ makes his move. He seems to know how to encourage the unreasonably mixed Quilmes, red wine, and that which is not yet legal in Texas so we will make no mention of it, to move our feet. Those Canadians can be persuasive as well. And so we dominate the dance floor. Good news is, hardly anyone has arrived, so we are content with making an arse of ourselves alone, without judgment. Not the first time we´ve penetrated what was once a clean, useless wooden floor and turned it into hot lava from our liquored up movements we too often call dancing. That was our counter move, to show the Canadian our God given right to two-step however and whenever we damn well pleased, audience or no audience.

Just then, a flow of people enter the loft, and here begins the infectious foolery.

There is an oily mixture of people from all corners of the world, hiding in different corners of this huge space. A clan of Swedes wearing mostly black take over the balcony; a few more Northern Americans come and congregate about the makeshift bar like zombies at a high school reunion; loads of stone-faced Latin Americans integrate themselves into the clusters.

I immediately realize that with this carousel of small talk, and mixed idioms with broken English, that body language is key. As the flood of people continues to ascend from the narrow marble staircase into the Russian’s loft, a thickness fills the air, and all at once we all wear a face of intrigue and bewilderment. Why has the Russian invited us? And why on earth would he need a body guard? Eyes are roaming about and glasses are either full of cheap vodka, decent whiskey, or loads of cold beer. Someone whispers into their glass, “why wouldn´t he just bring Vodka from Russia?” Maybe they are saving it for a select few. I wonder. Another person asks the smaller Russian what he does for a living to be able to come to Argentina on a whim and throw a soiree full of strangers in this magnificent loft. “I´m in Internet Advertising,” he responds and gives no detail as to what the heck that means. Too many questions are being made. I keep my mouth shut, perhaps to avoid hearing a response that the concoction I recently swallowed wouldn´t be able to push down. Small talk buzzes around and around the room, making my head spin. Some offended, others annoyed, most too drunk to care. A fine rendition of the Russian roulette. And so as to not offend anyone, we pull the trigger. We dance. Too much talking and not enough dancing is how wars are made. And we didn´t come this far to start a war, at least not without a cold bottle of Wild Turkey 101, which has yet to be discovered down south. What a loss.

And so more time passes, vision blurs, messes are made and men are turned to mice. Not to give away too much – for the ending turned out to be a bit embarrassing –we sneak out the back door and make a zig-zagged path home before the sun rises so that our footprints and recent atrocities could fade away with the sunrise.

There were no casualties on this night. Talks of a second round are stirring. We can chance our luck and have at it again, or we can discover the next adventure to be conquered.

What do you say faithful squire?image (14)

On the hunt for better beer.

image (2) I´ve become rather comfortable here in Argentina. The locals have welcomed me into their homes and have shown me the many faces of this beautiful land. I can say with confidence that this has become my second home; nevertheless there are a few things that make me homesick. For example, the sadsad fact that my beastly romantic relationship with Tex Mex is now nonexistent; that there is no such thing as Kentucky Bourbon in bars, clubs, nor in the markets; the desperation I feel when I can´t find a place to have breakfast for dinner; the emptiness I experience when I realize micheladas and bloody mary bars have become a distant dream; the lack of karaoke joints and therefor no opportunity to scream 90s tunes to an encouraging tipsy audience;  and… well the list goes on. image (7)

It seems to me that beer is our only hope to wash away this sickness, this desperation, and to feel more at home. So begins the hunt for better beer. Not to say Quilmes and Brahma don´t do the trick. I can find these brands ev.er.y.where, and I´ve grown completely tired of them to be frank. They hydrate but they fail to quench. Even Stella Artois and Heineken have unfortunately become house hold and restaurant staples. I feel incomplete.  WHERE IS THE GOOD BEER? How can I make one beer turn into 7 or 10, and all of different delicious varieties?  Is there better beer in Argentina?

I found myself at the end of my rope, until I met a stranger who led me to the light.

image (8)

Along came a Stranger.

American:  Excuse me, do you know where I might find beer?

Stranger: aoimsdf

American: No, not that beer. Better beer. I say, do you know where I might find better beer?

Stranger:  jdfnksjdnfionv

American: Ok so turn right at this light and then keep straight?

Stranger: sdnfaifio

American: Fantastic. Thanks for the help.

Stranger: sjifoaijfsnkjas?

American: Sure, you can join us. That would be nice. We never turn down a drinking buddy. Do we? Especially one who knows how to get to the pot of gold.

They walk.

Stranger: gfmnsdm kvs

American: Oh, nothing really. By better beer I simply mean, beer. It’s just that we´ve been here for a few months now, and have run out of holes in the ground to burry your Quilmes and Brahma.

Stranger: sdknadciodifijasdoasicasio

American: Oh sure, sure! They are definitely good beers, for sure, without a doubt. I didn´t mean to offend your taste. However, we are looking for something that doesn´t taste like….water going down.

Stranger: asdhifaiochaiosdfioahioahsinkdhasiodhasdnaiosdnaoisdaklwehniahsdfoaisnaklsndaish…

American: Water was a bit exaggerated. You´re right. I´m sorry, I apologize. What I meant was, spiked water?

Stranger: ….

American: Better?

Stranger: ksjd

American: I tell you what, if you show me where this place is, you´re first one is on me.

Stranger: ngfid asj

They arrive.

American: Heaven above. It´s an artisanal beer bar! And they have their own brewery by the coast! We´ve struck GOLD.

2 hours later

image (12)American:  oooooooohhh nsdoij nasdfiasdfnio dsndnnfd ooooooooooooo sdkjnfosoooooo  sdfnnooinsdfnionklpe sdfouuuueuufuuud sdjknnueeee ufffff asdlkijo uffeee asdfljj uuuufff

Stranger: That, my strange friend, is how you drink a beer.

American: diodenfie

Stranger: Shall we go for another? Or do you prefer the spiked water?

They close the bar, and decide to become friends.

The night progressed as such… with several Barley Wines, to get rid of the water residue. photo 2

37 Degrees Celcius Below the Equator

imageA belly full of coldhotair and nothing more.
A mind crowded with empty lusts and dried out libations from the night before.
The winter winds from back home miss their opportunity to reach the lost ones below the equator.
They’ve just missed us.
And so we sweat in silence and misleading solitude in this summer nonsense, waiting for a piece of yesterday’s home to find its way here and settle on our parched coffee flavored tongues. The taste of freedom. I sort of remember the feeling from a middaydream in Pearland.

Now half a world away, there’s no electrical power in site, no running water to inspire us, no cool breeze to forget about the skeletons. This is South America in the summertime it seems and the people are turning. Some for the coast and others stubbornly root themselves in this cloud of intense heat.

An orgy of men mixed with women and men too hot to speak and too proud to shed their heavy layers of clothing pass by in sweltering silence.  And so we stare straight away, gnawing on our espresso stained parched tongues. Unvoiced, unheard and thirsty for a cold one.
image-1
Have you looked up lately?
We are perfectly enveloped by misplaced beautifully schizophrenic concrete constructed buildings. An unplanned mixture of architecture from an ancient age of kings, and the queens of the 80′s. Evita there. The Artist Formally Known as Prince there.
I search WebMD to make sure I haven’t turned completely sour. Turns out, there’s no telling until its too late.

Now its the hot darkness of a latin summer that tickles our minds, now full of locked up courage and important things to say,  but no ear to make it out.
Yet there’s a numbing comfort that unapologetically squeals in my head, just behind the place where no one can make it out except you now.

We find ourselves in a lost kingdom of ruins. Hot, hot even still. And it’s only January.

The best part of it all, of all the absurdity, is the journey towards the beer. Back to freedom.

And so I leave a trail of thick sweat stains planted in the concrete jungle of Buenos Aires to encourage the thirsty misplaced youths towards the great and powerful boOZe.

Towards our freedom.

image

If sleep is for the reasonable, then we’ve come a step closer to immortality.

mvscIf sleep is for the reasonable, then we’ve come a step closer to immortality. Because the fact remains that we haven´t slept much. No one here sleeps. It´s as if the idea comes from an ancient tale of unconquered kingdoms. These recent warm spring nights have taught us that if we stay dormant, lying on our backs for too long in a state of unconscious chatter, they end up treating us like aliens, still, after five months of wandering about, eyes open, throats parched, and charm on. Giving us passes and such. Taking it easy on us. Refilling everyone else´s glasses but passing up ours when the clock strikes somewhere between three and seven A.M. That´s disgraceful, and our mothers would not approve of anyone treating us as anything less than equal. Let´s make mom proud!

Time to put an extra notch at the end of our belt buckle to give us more room to indulge. To stomach the metamorphosis.

irishAnd right when we get comfortable, right when things feel normal and walking the streets with Argentine locals until the sky changes from pitch black to Six A.M. – showing its refreshed morning face to our now stale beer-filled smiling mugs becomes just another Thursday – a pair of Irish girls come to town. Challenge taken. We can do this.

I suppose they usually come in twos, but I decided to take them on in waves, one at a time, just to be sure. Luckily there was an English guy along for the ride to even things out, and mostly to help me out.

San Martin de los Andes, was the first target on the map and so we journeyed there. The foothills of the Andes Mountains. We discovered what happens when an Irish girl, an Englishman, and an American meet below the equator and hike the beginnings of the longest continental mountain range in the world. Debauchery.  Poor people of San Martin de los Andes. The town is now stained with song and beer and the likes of us. The best part, and to my surprise, after having a few years of practice because I knew this moment would come to, I championed through a chug challenge and defeated the Irish girl. I repeat. I was the champion of drinking beer, quickly and with heart against someone from Ireland.  We can now proudly wear this badge. I´d like to thank MVSC for those long nights of preparation. The moment came. We conquered it.  We won against the Irish! The Brit, however, held strong. We were one and one. This was not surprising.
snowman
The second target on the map was Trenque Lauquen. A beautiful province of Buenos Aires. But the Irish girls pulled a wildcard and appeared together this round. I lost. The old two against one trick. They stayed up drinking in the park until 10am for two nights straight, while I was heavy-headed with distorted vision, retiring home by 6am to…sleep.

Not to worry. We´ve still got a long journey ahead, and the fight against that obnoxious Sandman has proven ineffective. We must come out of hibernation and live in the fertile wild. We´ve got a bag of seeds to set free in the wind, and so we shall. Are naivete will sleep no more. No, on the contrary we will throw our seeds of naivete towards the famished, sew it, and reap what comes about in harvest the season that follows.
quilmesthat which we areFive months in Argentina, and counting… Its proving to be the encouragement we needed after all.

Guard your tongues

image-12There´s warm weather in the forecast and it´s no secret what happens when the seasons change. ‘Round these parts, the soul numbing cold face of winter is crawling back into her cave as the tempting seductive winds of spring are fast approaching. That´s right, the seasons are playing in reverse down in the Southlands of Argentina.  Crosswalks are now full of thirsty pale skin, rearing its sun deprived fangs, eager for a taste of the warm sun. Corner stores are packed with quick-tongued smooth talkers advertising shiny gadgets in their pockets for a cheap price. And of course, now commences the succulent flavors of El Night Life. The Night Life, that is, pulsating with vibrant debauchery, blossoming and pollinating the spirit of Spring time in October.  As a measure of caution, we will lock ourselves out of house and home, beyond the walls of confinement and thrust ourselves into the whimsical winds of folly and play – because you’ve been playing it safe far too long.

Before we dive into random acts of our valiant hot-headed street walking discoveries in Argentina, we should reflect on a few cozy winter tales worth mentioning. The charming family that has accommodated me as of late has not only welcomed me with open arms, but with an open bar as well. It was written in the stars.

[And certain humanitarian ideologies would have us think that we've earned this somehow. That sometime in our distant past, when we were saints, before we turned into barbarians, we fostered an extremely kind gesture to a stranger in need, and this is the universe handsomely rewarding us for our generosity, and for all of our great deeds of seasons past done for those in need].

There was a well stocked family bar in the house, with remedies and spirit collections that could make you see double for a fortnight. My stay here was no doubt medicinal – Hearts full of gusto and a quaint little bar full of resolution. We got on just fine this family and I. If we couldn’t understand each other, because of the language barrier, at least there’d be a few empty glasses patiently waiting to fill us up with a bit of stick-to-itiveness, to remind us that one should never, not ever, let the burden of an unknown complicated language interfere with the global language of beveraging. It reminded us who we were at our core. Try telling a funny story in Mandarin Chinese, for example. You´ll discover  your lack of wit – you’re not as funny outside of the English dynasty. However, a strong dose of humility chased by a clumsy swallow of Malbec masks the embarrassment and then embarrasses you all over again. They usually laugh nonetheless.  I say it was the joke.  Their faces say it´s my wine stained teeth. Perhaps we look like amateurs? Then again, maybe it´s the Fernet from last night, still holding strong?

image-6Every evening, without fail, the gentleman of the house would encourage me to join him for a glass of whiskey after the day’s end. I’d then indulge in a *chopp or two, usually of the *Brahma or *Quilmes variation, which the lady of the house insisted on, to accompany our lush dinner spread. And so began heaven in Punta Alta, Argentina. And if I am to be an honest man, I´m sure I owe this wonderfully high-spirited family a few hundred liters or so of booze. But the bar was in fact unbarred, a hidden gem within the walls of their home, and it had my name written upon the Whiskey marks. So we will honor our code of chivalry and pay it forward to the next familiar stranger who shares our enthusiasm of refreshments and mistranslations on unfamiliar territory.

I’ve learned that becoming tongue tied and pleasantly fatigued due to overeating and professional drinking are common symptoms of faraway living. Not to worry, I´ve got a tongue twister for you to loosen the lips and avoid confrontation. If you aren’t careful, you might end up saying something worlds away from what you mean to say. So, say this in your sleep to avoid being misunderstood. My private studies show that this tongue twister is most effective after a few chopps, with good reason:

I´m not a fig plucker,

nor a fig pluckers son,

but I´ll keep plucking figs,

´til the fig plucking done.

imageAnd for the more skilled:

Once upon a barren moor,
There dwelt a bear, also a boar,
The bear could not bear the boar,
The bear thought the bear a bore.
At last the bear could bear no more
That boar that bored him on the moor.
And so one morn he bored the boar
That boar will bore no more!

I now leave you with a true tale about two tongues on a plate. After a long day of working, I opened the refrigerator in search of a snack only to find two very untied cow tongues, awaiting their seasoned platter of herbs and spices for dinner time. This has happened on more than one occasion. Somewhere in Argentina, there lay a few dozen speechless cattle, plotting their tongue´s revenge. For now, the dinner table devours their lost language. And I try my best to fit in.

image-2Practice makes perfect. If you´re not careful, you may lose your tongue just the same. You don’t want to end up being the tasty topic of conversation at dinnertime.

Until next time.

image-10

Oh and do try to keep your tongue in your mouth.

References:

*A chopp is how the locals ask for a pint of beer here in Argentina. An interesting find from a Rio de Janerio traveler´s blog describes chopp as such:

Unpasteurized draft “beer” is not called cerveza, but is known as ”Chopp” (pronounced show-pee in Rio and Chope in Argentina).  Chopp is considered to be a separate product from beer. For example, if you ask for “cerveja” in Rio at a place that only has Chopp, you will simply be told that they don’t have any, as if they are not in any way substitute products. All the effort is well worth it though, because the draft product really is so much better than the bottled.

(For more on the history of Chopp and Brahma beer, check out this traveler´s blog http://ieatrio.com/2012/02/28/brahma-padrao-original-the-best-beer-in-the-americas/)

*Brahma is a Brazilian beer often enjoyed in Argentina. The Swiss founded Brahma in Rio in the late 1800s to try to re-create a European style beer in South America.  “Brahma” is said to be an homage to the Englishman Joseph Bramah, who invented the modern apparatus to serve draft beer. The varieties include:

Brahma Chopp (pale lager), Brahma Extra, Brahma Malzbier, Brahma Black, Brahma Fresh, Brahma Light, Brahma Ice (Sold only in Venezuela and Dominican Republic), Extra Light Brahma, Brahma Morena, Brahma Bock, Brahma Bier (Special FIFA World Cup 2006 edition released in Brazil), Brahma Porter, Brahma Stout, Brahva (pale lager as sold in Guatemala and other Central American countries), Brahva Beats, Brahma Malta (Non-Alcoholic carbonated drink sold in Venezuela), and Brahma choco ( chocolate that has full percent cocoa).

*Quilmes – Quilmes is in fact an industrial city of the Gran Buenos Aires cluster. image-5During the 1800´s, a German immigrant  came to Quilmes and brought along from his country the enthusiasm and passion for beer,. He founded Cervecería Argentina. Today´s active beer varieties include Quilmes Cristal (Lager), Quilmes Light (Light Lager), Quilmes Bock, Quilmes Stout, Quilmes Red Lager, Iguana (Light Lager), Imperial (Pilsner), Andes (Lager), Norte (Pilsner), Palermo (Lager) Liberty (Non Alcoholic).

Upcoming Mongoose Versus Cobra Reading Series Information

MVSC is pleased to announce upcoming dates for the Mongoose Versus Cobra Reading Series.  The MVSC Reading Series is curated and hosted by Shafer Hall and Kristin Kostick.  The series has featured many great poets and writers over the last year, including but not limited to Nick Flynn, Sampson Starkweather, and Martha Serpas.

The MVSC Reading Series will continue every second Monday of the coming months, and it will feature such distinguished readers as Michael Snediker, Olga Mexina, Danniel Schoonebeek, Sam Mansfield, Shane Lake, Peter Hyland, Bridget Lowe, Phong Nguyen, Michelle Oakes, and others.

The reading series meets at 8PM every second Monday of the month.

October 14th welcomes Michael Snediker, Olga  Mexina, and Danniel Schoonebeek.

Danniel Schoonebeek’s first book of poems, American Barricade, will be published in 2014 by YesYes Books. A chapbook, Family Album, is forthcoming from Poor Claudia this fall. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tin House, Boston Review, Fence, Guernica, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast, jubilat, BOMB, Verse Daily, Drunken Boat, and elsewhere. He writes a monthly column on poetry for The American Reader, hosts the Hatchet Job reading series in Brooklyn, and edits the PEN Poetry Series.

Michael D. Snediker is the author of The Apartment of Tragic Appliances (punctum books, 2013), and two chapbooks, Bourdon (White Rabbit Press) and Nervous Pastoral (dove|tail). He’s also the author of Queer Optimism: Lyric Personhood and Other Felicitous Persuasions (U.Minnesota, 2009, nominated for the Christian Gauss Award and the Alan Bray Book Prize) and Contingent Figure: Aesthetic Duress from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (under contract, U.Minnesota). His poems have appeared in journals including Black Warrior Review, Court Green, Crazyhorse, jubilat, and Maggy. He’s an Associate Professor of American Literature at the University of Houston.

Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, Olga Mexina was transported to New York City at the age of twelve.  She grew up in Brooklyn and received her BA from New York University. Olga spent a third of her life on airplanes between New York and Moscow. Currently she is a third-year MFA candidate in Poetry at the University of Houston, where she is a Teaching Fellow. Olga also teaches for WITS. Her work appeared in The Pedestal Magazine, Mad Hatter’s Review, Big Pulp and others.  Olga lives with her four-year-old daughter, Elsa.

Sam Mansfield (M.F.A., poetry) grew up in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He enjoys well-marinated tempeh, bike routes, and murder ballads. His work has appeared in Explosion-Proof magazine

Shane Lake was born and raised in Mattapoisett, MA. He left the Bay State for Pennsylvania, where he was a student in the creative writing program at Susquehanna University. In 2012 he received an MFA in poetry from Arizona State, and he is currently a doctoral student in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston.

Peter B. Hyland holds a BFA in drawing and painting from the University of North Texas, and an MFA in poetry from the University of Houston Creative Writing Program. He is a director of development at the Menil Collection.

Phong Nguyen is the author of MEMORY SICKNESS AND OTHER STORIES (Elixir Press 2011) and PAGES FROM THE TEXTBOOK OF ALTERNATE HISTORY (Queen’s Ferry Press 2014). He is Associate Professor of English at the University of Central Missouri, where he edits the journalPLEIADES and the Unsung Masters book series, for which he edited the volume NANCY HALE: THE LIFE AND WORK OF A LOST AMERICAN MASTER.

Bridget Lowe is the author of the book of poetry At the Autopsy of Vaslav Nijinsky (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in American Poetry ReviewPloughsharesBest American PoetryBoston ReviewThe New Republic, Beloit Poetry Journal, andDenver Quarterly, among other publications. She is a graduate of Syracuse University’s MFA program, and has received a “Discovery”/Boston Review prize, the 2011 Rona Jaffe Foundation Fellowship to The MacDowell Colony, and a scholarship to attend the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She lives in Kansas City.

Michelle Oakes is an MFA candidate at the University of Houston, and a poetry editor for Gulf Coast. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Laurel Review, Rhino,and Inscape.

The Mongoose Versus Cobra Reading Series is curated and hosted by Kristin Kostick and Shafer Hall.

Kristin Kostick is a poet and medical anthropologist. She is the former curator of a long-running reading series at Real Art Ways in Hartford, Connecticut, and her poems have appeared in Forklift, Ohio, Open Letters, and a number of other journals. 

Shafer Hall is the proprietor of Mongoose versus Cobra. For five years he curated the Frequency Reading Series in New York City, he is a senior editor for Painted Bride Quarterly and Lungfull! magazine. Never Cry Woof, his full-length collection of poetry, was published in 2005 by No Tell Books.  His poems have appeared in the Indiana Review, jubilat, and many other journals.

News from the Mongoose Den vol. xxxxiv

From Phoenix, Arizona all the way to Tacoma, October is falling across the country. Keep on Octobering with our Brat-Toberfest special featuring a 20oz pint of Oktoberfest and our locally-sourced bratwurst for $13. October won’t rock itself!

And the Mongoose’s personal Oktoberfest will come to a bit of a climax on Thursday, October 3rd, when Karbach Brewery will bring us double-dry hopped casks, pumpkin ales, and black IPAs. We will throw Russian folk-rockers Shotgun Funeral in the mix, and your socks will have no choice but to be knocked off.

Mark your calendars for October 14th, when the Mongoose Versus Cobra Reading Series will return for your listening pleasure.   Our featured writers this month are Danniel Schoonebeek, Michael D. Snediker, and Olga Mexina.

Let us consider Happy Hour, Charles. Note that from 4PM to 7PM each week day, you may purchase either of two selected imperial pints for $5.

$5 will also allow you to Build Your Own Mule, when you may decide to enjoy a Bourbon, Gin, or Vodka Mule based on your particular whim of the hour.

Look to our website for more info on parking, blog posts from Global Correspondent Maryella Shelton-Dyson, and our continuously-updated draught list. Also bear in mind Imperial Andy’s Historical Cocktail Tuesdays and our Sunday night live music in repertory. This Sunday features Sand Dollar Swing!

Yours in the Bond,

Charles

PICTURE THIS…

image-3A girl walks into an eagerly lit bar in a small gaucho town – that feels a lot like Brenham, Texas – and asks for 4 ounces or so of *Fernet Branca, neat, chilled. Just a few miles from the bar lay hundreds of talkative sheep, plump cattle, bodacious stallions, miles of fertile land, and loads of ripe crop, all ready for their sacrificial barbeque. The only difference here are the gauchos and housewives who have traded in their household whiskeys for a healthy supply of Fernet Branca, which is kept in plain view on the kitchen shelving, along with a lifetime supply of *yerba maté tucked away on the countertop.

The transition feels smooth, so far. Natural even. We can do this. Becoming one of *them can’t be that trying. Madonna did it. Sort of…

A few days have passed since she cleared customs with a mind chock-full of forbidden fruits, and a carry-on bag twisted into the dehydrated figure of her best squire, you, disguised and eagerly waiting to sip from the bottle. She feels at home in this bar in the middle of nowhere as Daft Punk’s latest hit serenades the handful of early drinkers, and even bobs her head in-time with confidence, humming in tune, and smiling indulgently. She politely declines the Coke the barman suggests to add to her selected poison of the night, and is quickly labeled monster.

…Because you see, no one here drinks Fernet Branca without Coca Cola unless you’re of the same cloth as a new found friend of ours, a modern clergy man of the Catholic church, who recently shared with me over coffee that the only time he drinks Fernet straight is when he needs a digestif after a few tender rare cattle unsettle his stomach. Or if you´re of the same blossoming fields as the 16 year old girls who grow up enjoying *Fernet Menta, with juice.

The girl, now some sort of grotesque being trying desperately to blend in says to the barman, “Don’t worry, we do this all the time where I come from. We like our spirits pure, clean, unadulterated with.” She says, proudly revealing the refinement and grit of her homeland while hinting toward familiarity with his people. As the drink is poured in silence, Daft Punk continues to drown out the barman’s confused stare. And the warmth from the Fernet helps disguise his insensitive humor as he whispers to his patrons and points. She begins to sound more and more like a lost cowboy in the farmlands of Mercedes, Argentina. The sounds that come out of her mouth ring foreign, strange, and the barman’s reply even more displaced. His eyes say, “Are you insane? You fascinating and strange sounding creature.”  His mouth moves in slow time and in broken English to say, “Fernet is not meant to be had this way.” She sensed a challenge. Leaving the stout bottle of ice cold Coke beside her glass, untouched. Left to turn from cold, to warm, to spiritless…never letting her head hang down in defeat.

He thought me, the girl, odd. But I call that a faulty translation. Mistranslations are for the weak, searching for the human in you. We won´t let them take us. Besides, we know how to drink, damn it.

However, in an effort to avoid being ostracized for declining a sugary soft drink diluting our libation and good vibes at the start of the night, we must remember to tone it down, at least for the first few impressions – to keep ‘em on their toes. As it goes, we don´t look like we belong here in the first place.

And so, I asked for a second. Neat, chilled. Same dirty glass. Because I knew that’s what you’d want. You’re a thirsty rascal, and a great influence.

photo 2With a bit of audacity and recklessness plastered on the ends of your grin, wading in a pool of the finest libation up to our chins… we had no doubt managed to spark a sense of inspiration and confusion all at once to the voyeurs of this little bar in the sticks of Mercedes. Job well done. However, let us not forget how the unlikely hero, Don Quixote injected inspiring, problematic prose into the history of restoring chivalry to the world. His spirited and lionhearted ideas were misunderstood because he clumsily moved about the land, concocting his plan of action shortly after passionately reading on the trials and frustrations of the world. He was an outcast. As are we, presently.  Thought of as disturbed, temperamental, hot-blooded and strange. As we are, at the moment. But we are not to be made fun of!

We will learn from the Don´s humiliations and shake off the possibility of being asked to return to our homeland, scarlet letter and jars full of untainted marbles in tow.  We will nod our heads and take turns making note of what makes them tick. Soon enough, we won´t need to silence that little voice that whispers so loudly to give in to our indulgences. We will be overindulgent and unreasonable with no one to call us weak, bird-brained, or passionless.

If this is as good as it gets, consider us one of the privileged.

*Fernet Branca is a bitter, aromatic spirit from Italy. Typically containing 45% alcohol by volume. Its smell has been described as ” black licorice-flavored Listerine.” Fernet Branca has a closely guarded secret recipe that has been passed down from father to son in the Branca family since its creation. While the exact ingredients and ratios are unknown, only some are revealed by the Fratelli Branca company.

*Fernet Menta (60 Proof / 30% ABV) is based on the same recipe as Fernet Branca including an assortment of 40 herbs, roots, and spices. While the exact recipe is a secret, Menta was inspired by a famous opera singer Maria Callas. The singer was known to drink Fernet Branca along with a touch of mint syrup before each performance.

*Fernet Yerba Mate is a species of the holly traditionally consumed in subtropical South America, particularly Argentina. The flavor of brewed mate resembles an infusion of vegetables, herbs, and grass, and is reminiscent of some varieties of green tea.  Mate was first consumed by the indigenous Guaraní and also spread in the Tupí people that lived in southern Brazil and Paraguay, and became widespread with the European colonization.

*Them refers to one of the most interesting, beautiful, exciting, and culturally rich peoples I´ve come to know. The people of Argentina.

News from the Mongoose Den vol. xxxviii

“Where is Richard Nixon, now that we need him? He was crooked in every way and his hands were covered with blood — but he was a rabid, high-rolling football fan with a sly taste for gin; and on some nights, he could be good company.”

- Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Neither Nixon nor Dr. Thompson are with us now, but we are gearing up for the Football Season even in their absence. Come watch the Games that Matter on our Secret Seventy-Inch Super-Screen while Shafer proposes outlandish Side-Bets on the Inevitable (and Total) Mike Shanahan Meltdown.

Tonight at 7 PM join us in our Safe Quarters for a special one-off edition of the Mongoose versus Cobra Reading Series when we welcome Nishta Mehra for a reading from and signing of her new book The Pomegranate King.

Follow the new Parking Tab at mongooseversuscobra.com illustrating our replacement for the lost parking of Cadillac for the much healthier ones behind the Christus Heathcare building and for other insider tips on Midtown parking.

August 29th we will be sampling some of the newest brews from Buffalo Bayou. Most of you know what this means. Prepare accordingly.

And upon a special Friday afternoon on August 30th from 4PM to 7PM, we will celebrate the latest issue of Arts + Culture magazine with cocktails and socialization.

Mark your calendars for Sunday September 8th at 6PM when No Label Brewery will rise from the West for a party soundtracked by Jason “That 70s Guy” Parker. I “Feel Like Makin’ Love” already.

And in the meantime, to quote our Favorite Football Fan:

“Al Davis will rule forever.”

Yours (and Dr. Thompson’s) in the Bond,

Charles