Ask Me No Questions, I’ll Tell You I’m Out of a Job

Occasionally, as a writer and an educator, I get asked to speak about my books, do a reading, or hold a class.

Typically, I get asked questions during the end of those speaking sessions from the audience to whom I’m directing said speech.

Seldom are those questions worth sharing.

Except for the ones that make water squirt out your nose.

Below, a sampling, for your enjoyment, and as a reminder to me to always be prepared. I kid you not, I’ve been asked them all.

What sport would be the funniest to add a mandatory amount of alcohol to?

  • I’d say it’s a tie between toe wrestling and shin kicking.

What’s the weirdest smell you have ever smelled?

  • The inside of a teenaged-boy’s bedroom.

How many chickens would it take to kill an elephant?

  • The person who asked me this was definitely already three sheets to the wind.

What types of penises are typically found in Chinese three-penis liquor?

  • Unsurprisingly, I did not know the answer to this, also unsurprising, I will never research the answer.

How long can snakes survive in bottles of wine?

  • According to certain tabloids, snakes can survive the marinating in alcohol for about a year. According to anyone who knows anything about animals, it is believed that many tabloid writers are marinating in alcohol themselves when writing their drivel.

Are there real unicorn tears in Unicorn Tears Gin Liqueur?

  • Well, of course there are.

If whisky could no longer be called whisky—what would it be called?

  • It doesn’t really matter, but it would still be called “frequently.”

What would be the absolute worst name you could give a whisky?

  • Weapon of Mass Deception.

Do you think hobbits or elves would make better distillery workers?

  • Actually, yeast cells are the hardest distillery workers around, as long as they are kept warm and fed and not overcome by alcohol poisoning—which sadly happens to every single one of them.

If you could make one thing whisky-flavored, what would it be?

  • Kale. Maybe more people would find it palatable.

Do these stairs go up?

  • Today only.

What time is the midnight buffet?

  • *facepalm

If you could work anywhere, where would it be? (asked right in front of my employer)

  • “Ha ha ha, such a silly question. Where else could be better? So happy.”

Would you rather have no nose or no tongue?

  • This one resulted in simply giving security a nod and then the person was searched for a weapon.

If Cognac and whisky were having a punch-up, who do you think would win?

  • What biker bar did you just come from?

When does Oktoberfest start?

  • Seriously??

Does the U.S. Government still poison alcohol?

  • Thankfully, none of the manufacturers of alcohol that I personally am acquainted with have received any demands from the government to taint our products since the end of Prohibition, but hey, these are interesting times, right?

How many bottles of whisky are exported from Scotland every second?

  • 42

Is it true that Kentucky has more barrels of bourbon than people?

  •  yes

What about Scotland?

  • 4 casks for every citizen

Why did the NATO phonetic alphabet change the “W” position from William to Whiskey?

  • A handful of letters represented by names were booted from the original string, but maybe it was their PR department hoping to beef up their “cool” factor.

How many calories does a pour of whisky contain?

  • 65 – Fewer than a banana.

I really like educating people on whisky—or stairs, or how our current calendar system works. It’s all part of a profession that allows me to pass on countless bits of information that fall under the realm of science, engineering, and occasionally, alchemy.

But whether it’s a question of biology or bullpucky, there’s a curious mind behind it. And I will always do my best (okay, almost always) to satiate that inquisitiveness. And to leave you with a quote from Roald Dahl: A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up

Why You Should Always Bring Two Trucks to a Demolition

“I’m going to get rid of that hot tub,” I said to no one in particular about 500 times in the last two years.

Okay, that’s not true. I’ve said it to everyone who has ever walked past the antiquated, broken down, monstrous piece of rotomolded plastic that surely had people wondering if I was going to invite them to a bubbling bacterium filled night from the 70s.

Nope. Not gonna happen.

Never happened ever.

I hate hot tubs. Hate them.

They make my skin crawl both figuratively and literally. I am just not a jacuzzi natured nut. I’m not much of a pool person either. More of a “if you’re hot, go stand under the garden hose” kind of a girl. I don’t even own a bathtub, so why was there a giant tank of promised tranquil times in my front yard taking up valuable real estate where other valuable, contributing items like tomato plants, a patch of grass, or a host of plastic pink flamingo might live?

I’ll tell you why. Because no one wants to haul that junk away.

So, I looked at doing it myself. But there’s the tiny component that includes “disassembling” involved. My thought was this is doable, for if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life thus far, it’s that the solution to any problem is viable even if you only have access to three things:

  1. Duct tape
  2. WD40
  3. YouTube

It was a great idea for about 30 seconds. At the 31st second mark of the first video I watched on how easy it is to dismantle your old hot tub I’d changed my mind. Easy is not a word I would pick. I would instead pick words like onerous, laborious, and ignorantly ambitious.

They required power tools with gas tanks, multiple blades, and signed waivers in order to purchase. As I was far more fond of my fingers than farcical waterfowl, I picked up the phone and furthered my search for anyone willing to haul this sucker away.

After countless calls to every variety of company with the name “junk” in it, I finally settled on one who’s name I can’t recall but could aptly be named “Umm … Sure, if I Can Shove it in My Truck.” It wasn’t necessarily their enthusiasm that won me over, rather that basement price of stating they could do the work for 60% less than everyone else.

I am a penny-pinching son of a gun, and the thought of holding onto a few more pennies made me suddenly envision buying my new flock of plastic feathered friends at someplace fancy like the Garden Decor´ section at Walmart, rather than straight off the clearance shelves at the Dollar General. 

But then Willie and the gang showed up with a pickup truck that would definitely always be chosen last when team captains were divvying up the choices for all the pickup truck games. Tiny red flag.

Willie put his son to work—Willie Jr—and then left to answer the phone. I heard the sound of angry steel come to life, ripping through fabric and plastic and wood and thought that could have been me. And then a minute later I heard the sound of Willie Jr cry out and thought that would have been me.

“Snake!” I heard lil Willie cry.

I came out onto the porch and looked at Willie Jr. pointing out to Willie Senior the head of a black snake who was obviously just as surprised as the two of them and shared the same expression.

“Don’t kill him. That’s Hortense. He’s just a garden snake,” I said.

“Hortense? Is he a biter?” Willie Jr. asked.

“Only if you’re a rat,” I answered.

“Well, you have the face of a rat, Willie, so I’d watch out if I were you,” his sister said.

The sound of Willie Jr’s angry steel sprang to life again in answer.

That could have been me, I thought.

I brought out a pitchfork and handed it to Junior. “You ever had spaghetti? You just need to twirl that feller up onto here and then walk Hortense out to the woods where he can be safe.”

Junior was not thrilled. But he did it. And then the angry steel returned with a chorus that began to sound like it was running out of steam.

From the porch where I sat studying a library book, I heard snippets of phrases like Did you bring the extra battery? And Well, we’re gonna have to plug her in. Also, What do you mean it’s not working? Did you hit water? And finally some sort of thunk. Like a head falling to the table.

Junior and I finally found another suitable and working outlet for the angry blade brigade and the work resumed. Until …

“Snake!”

I came out onto the deck again. “That’s Hildegard. She’s probably wondering where Hortense is.”

And she’s probably wondering what the hell is happening to her house, I thought looking around with despair. Plastic, insulation, fiberglass, foam, and wood were scattered everywhere. Good lord, it looked like my attic went on a binge and vomited onto the lawn.

“How’s it goin?” I asked, noting it had been over three hours of work thus far. Three hours for five people against one hot tub. The YouTube video has one guy, one crowbar, and fifteen minutes, seven of them spent explaining to the camera what he was doing.

“Nearly done,” I heard Willie Senior offer up. Behind him, Junior was wrestling with Hildegard who was determined to stay in her home come hell or high water … or high-powered chain saws. Maybe she had babies to protect.

Poor Junior. That could have been me.

An hour later, as the sun was setting, I brought out a tray of glasses and a bottle of bourbon. “Good work, lads and lasses,” I said, seeing nothing but a concrete slab where the hot tub used to be.

“The truck is full up. Can’t fit anymore into it,” Willie Senior said, pointing toward it.

I saw half the hot tub, or what used to be the hot tub, shoved into the back and spilling out the sides. The other half was in several large piles on the lawn and driveway.

“We’ll come back for the rest tomorrow,” he said.

“And the check for payment of services?” I asked, suddenly realizing that question now took the place of whatever last sentence was in first place for Stupidest thing I’ve ever asked. My sluggish brain now foresaw being stuck with a driveway full of junk while I chased down a handyman who’d never return my calls.

Willie Sr. smiled and winked. “We’ll come back for it tomorrow.” He hitched a thumb again toward his truck. “Can’t fit anymore into it.”

Well, there you have it, I thought to myself, a man who owns a garbage company is a valuable treasure of honesty himself.

Maybe instead of the flock of flamingos, I’ll erect a statue of Willie.

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

Booze, Britain, & Maybe Someone’s Bride

If you’re asked any questions you can’t answer, just send those folks to me.

I looked at my boss. The one who brought me to the London Whisky Show with just barely enough information to sound like I was dangerously competent but not snarkily egotistical.

You mean like, “How many proof liters are you pulling off the still between noon and 6pm on every third Saturday of the month?”

Or how about, “Exactly what percentage of liquor are you extracting from that rare twenty-five year old rum cask you’re resting your bourbon in for two years?”

Or even this one. How bout this one? “Will you marry me?” *hic* Can I lob that one over to you as well?

He gave me a look from beneath his brow. Umm … no. You can deal with the drunken fan boy bits on your own.

Fab. Back to work.

And work it was, as setting up a booth in Old Billingsgate—one of London’s myriad iconic buildings, notably a venue that used to house the world’s largest fish market—was not just as easy as plunking down a few bottles of booze and then flipping a shingle to say ‘open for business’ as thirsty customers strolled by.

Instead, it was setting up the most eye-catching, magnetically plumaged display of all your finest award winning wares right beside hundreds of other eye-catching, magnetically plumaged displays of award winning wares.

And for most of us, all on the size of a postage stamp.

The festival brought distillers and whisky lovers from all over the world together to experience some of the most coveted, laurel wreathed drams begging to be savored. Participants wandered (and eventually stumbled) about from booth to booth over the two festival days with supremely developed palates and highly developed expectations.

Now there may only officially be listed just over 100 carefully selected global distillers, but each one of them had some version of, You think that was good … (pulls bottle from beneath hidden shelf) … wrap your tongue around this one!

Altogether, a patron had somewhere between 600-800 drams of whisky to filter through in 48 hours.

As did their liver.

Of course, there was recommended show etiquette.

Spit, don’t swallow.

Drink lots of water—hell, bring your own IV pole if it’s not too unwieldy.

And if you are officially documented by the patrolling Security Stewards to have asked more than three exhibitors for their hand in marriage, the last one has the right to hold you responsible for their children’s college fund.

Gamble as you may.

One of the most challenging aspects of the festival was to reel in the participants, convince them that Reservoir’s whiskies stood head and shoulder above most others because we were not a carbon copy of the vast menu list available.

Our ingredients are of the utmost importance.

We pride ourselves on those ingredients being local.

Our process is different, our distillate is unique, our people are unprecedented, and for Pete’s sake, every day we festoon our bosses’ office doors with balloons and thank you notes because we just frickin’ love working here!

PLEASE JUST COME TASTE OUR WHISKIES!

In truth, we may not have sounded quite so desperate, but you get my point. You have to stand out. And not in a gimmicky way. You have to present them with something that’s memorable, that’s meaningful, that matters.

You have to make them want to take you home in a bag.

Okay, that did not come out right, but again you get my point.

It was an opportunity to meet people who love whisky and who make whisky from every corner of the Earth. To share what we’ve made, to learn from others, and to come home filled to the brim with the vim and vigor of pursuing our future.

We also come home smelling a little bit of fish, but that’s beside the point.

We travel the world with our wares. Sometimes we come to you. Sometimes you come to us. Most importantly, we come together, our spirits aligned.

Now, agreeing whether you want to make monthly payments to the university or just one lump sum is where we might diverge, but we can always work that out over a dram or two.

~Shelley

My favorite customer …

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

 

 

 

 

Please … Let Me Explain

I glanced across the line of shelves filled with eye-catching boxes and broad-shouldered bottles, occasionally pulling one from the line-up to scrutinize with envious enthusiasm.

“I can’t confidently say that I’m an expert at this time, as it’s only been six months, but I figure another year and a half and most customers who walk through that shop door will find me to be a connoisseur of the craft—a malt maven, if you will.”

I glanced up at the twenty-four-year old soon-to-be scotch scholar and gave him an encouraging smile.

“I hadn’t envisioned finding myself in this position years ago when in school in Finland—working as Mr. Worrall’s apprentice—but”—he ran his hands through his buzz-cropped, fair-colored hair—“it seems the puzzle pieces just fell into place.”

“I see,” I murmured, pivoting from one tight space in the tiny London whisky shop to move past the long and lanky Finn toward another shelf filled with other amber liquids I’d yet to see or taste.

I picked up a bright canary colored box. “Huh,” I breathed out, twisting the carton in my hand to view all sides. A whisky made in New Zealand. I’d traveled to the country maybe a decade ago and had been disappointed to discover that the only distillation I came across was the furtive kind—with kerosene cans and rubber tubing. Nothing I could find on the shelves of duty free at the airport to take home. The box in my hand provided scant details.

“Where is this?” I twisted to glance up at The Lad McFinnland.

His eyebrows rose, and then quick understanding flooded his face. “Ah yes, New Zealand is a small chain of islands—two mainly—off the south eastern coast of Australia. Known for its mountains and glaciers generally.”

I stood silent. Then I looked around for something that would cost less than one hundred pounds to throw at his head, as this was a rare malt whisky shop that carried nothing one wouldn’t have to consider auctioning off a kidney in order to buy.

I sighed and rolled my eyes at the American distiller sitting in the corner, wrapping up business with the shop owner. We had developed a few signals during this trip to subtly communicate.

I was tagging along on his travels across the UK, helping him navigate his unpretentious and ballsy bourbon around a country filled with its exclusive, gentry-filled single malt scotch drinkers.

He’s a Virginian, whose teeth were cut on grits and grand plantations. I’m currently a Virginian—by way of a million little detours—who’s spent twenty-five years soaking up the Scottish, the Irish, and everything English.

“Your whisky tastes of marmite and ribena,” one distributer had said.

I’d leaned over to translate. “Yeast paste and black currents.”

“I’m getting a touch of candy floss.”

“That would be cotton candy,” I whispered.

“This one tastes of a water closet’s urinal cake.”

I looked at the distiller. His furrowed eyebrows halted my words. “Yeah, I got that one.”

I’m also here, immersing myself in a side of the whisky world I’m usually not swimming in—all for the sake of research. My newest novel in progress—a book about a suffering distillery on the verge of falling apart—has me seeking more than just the drinking of a dram. The more I know about the inside industry, the better the believability factor.

So, once again I’ve entered the world of spirits where the main players erroneously assume I have as much understanding and interest about the subject as I do about prostate cancer.

“We’re talking about brown spirits, darling,” one Englishman pointed out to me at a tasting event. “An utterly foul habit to the gentler sex.”

“Mansplaining is something we find even fouler,” I looked up innocently.

“Surely not,” he put a hand on my shoulder. “Perhaps we should get you a white wine?”

“A single malt, please.”

“That’s the spirit,” he said with another wry, all-knowing pat. “I’ll order you my favorite lest you find it distasteful. Then I’ll drink it myself.”

This industry has been slow to change. Like the pivoting of a large ship, the whisky world protects its stability. Women can make things tipsy—both literally and figuratively. And parts of the world I travel to are reticent to allow the hand of time to tick as quickly as it wishes to. But there is a growing number of “that gentler sex” that persevere, and for that I’m wholly grateful. As I believe it’s an alcoholic arena that many find too intimidating to enter, and we need a few to boldly clear the path in front of us.

I crave standing in the intersection of the two things I love most: writing and whisky. My aim for the last two decades has been to make it into an explosive crossroads, adding food and nature, folklore and peat smoke. To me, this is the best definition of scotch—purely Scotland in liquid form. It finds me weak in the knees and often at a loss for language.

Despite the heavy hand of doubt I’m usually greeted with on this male-dominated turf, I’d be remiss if I neglected to point out the bright moments where I’m caught by surprise and filled with delight.

“So,” a tall, Welsh actor beside me starts, “have you been dragged here by a companion you’re unfortunately in debt to, or are you as besotted with this juice as much as the rest of the poor SOBs at this whisky tasting?”

I turned and glanced up. I wanted to hug him. “Definitely not dragged. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

“Ah,” he nodded grimly. “Then I feel doubly sorry for you, as I’m sure like us, you’re continually searching for and finding the next Holy Grail, only to discover after a taste from that chalice, that it’s usually just a few too many precious pennies out of our budgets.”

I laughed and took a sip of the pricey elixir in my hand. Finally, a true compatriot.

He continued. “So what have you been dying to try that seems a little out of reach?”

I thought back to yesterday, in the rare malt shop. “Oh,” I breathed out dreamily. “A new single malt from New Zealand.”

His eyes lit with interest. “Really? Where’s that?”

I couldn’t help myself, and I snorted with laughter as the words tumbled out. “Ah yes, New Zealand is a small chain of islands—two mainly—off the south eastern coast of Australia. Known for its mountains and glaciers generally.”

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twas the Night Santa Ditched Us

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas with Earl

by Shelley Sackier (and a little help from Mr. Moore)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and throughout our old post
Not a creature was stirring, ‘cept our dead plumber ghost.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
To hide the big crack in the masonry there.

191215stocking

The children were splayed on the couch, all serene,
While visions of Family Guy flickered on screen.

191215family
And me in my apron, the dog at my feet,
Made bourbon soaked bonbons, a Christmas Eve treat.

191215bourbons

When out on the lawn there arose such a noise,
I sprang up to shout at some loud redneck boys.
Away to the window, full of anger I flew,
And stared down the barrel of my 22.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
proved Earl and his snowplow were now a “no show.”
When what should I see like a cast of buffoons,
But our Earl on a sled pulled by seven old coons.

With a burly old driver, so mean for no reason,
I saw in a flash Earl’s new job for the season.

More rapid than eagles his complaints rumbled out,
While he pointed an old grizzled finger to shout.

191215finger

“Now Bubba! Now, Merle! Now, Otis and Wyatt!
On, Buford! On, Farley! And Vernon be quiet!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now git goin’! Git goin’! Dammit y’all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
My thoughts flew about asking, “Santa Claus, why?”
So up to the front door the hound dogs they slogged,
With the sled full of moonshine and old Earl in a fog.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the stoop,
The grunting and griping of the grumpy old poop.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Through the front door the old codger came round.

He was dressed all in flannel and coon hunting gear,
And his clothes still held bits from skinning some deer.
A bundle of bottles he had flung on his back,
And he glanced all around for a lawman attack.

191215earl

His eyes were all wrinkled, his face worn and weathered,
His hands were quite scared and his skin rough and leathered.

His crooked lips snarled, never smiled like a winner,
And the beard of his chin showed canned hash for his dinner.

Some spit on my polished old floor he did spew,
Revealing that Earl had a mouthful of chew.
He had a broad face that was washed clean of dirt,
But a nose that he wiped on the sleeve of his shirt.

He was chubby and plump, a curmudgeonly churl,
Who never said, “Hi”– his lips wouldn’t curl.
A grunt from his girth and a scratch on his bum
Made me ask why it was Santa gave us the thumb.

He spoke not a word, but grumbled with work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And shuffling past me, he dragged down the hall
The rest of the moonshine toward his next port of call.

He slumped in his sled, to his team gave a holler,
And away the dogs pulled, straining hard at the collar.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“I’m raising my fee for each plow, now good-night!”

Haggis Jingle Bells

~HAPPY HOLIDAYS~

~Shelley

 

For the time being, our blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.