my counselor tells me that having traditions is important; not necessarily the “traditional” ones like christmas and cotillions, but any celebration that you can count on year over year. borne from white elephants and gifts excavated from dingy closets, my tradition evolved into what is now affectionately know today as the “booze exchange”. while the friends may have changed, the rules always stay the same: show up, eat brunch, and bring a wrapped gift of alcoholic content. this year’s venue: the stunningly scenic westward on northlake. both beautiful on the inside and out, this “water-themed” restaurant features a boat dock, fire pit for rent, bar dioramas (!), and the adjoining little gull grocery store/oyster bar– all elements perfect for creating new traditions.
cocktail thursdays don’t usually make their way into dive bars, but with a claim of “most extreme dive in the multiverse” and a minature-themed surprise birthday party in tow, rules are tossed and exceptions are made. with vintage minatures display case in hand, i entered the grizzled wizard one faithful thursday, where i was greeted by a welcome committee of retro arcade machines (galaxian anyone?) and a more than impressive mural of none other than a massive grizzled wizard. as i approached the bar, i braced myself for fernet obscurity, but was pleasantly surprised by the bartender’s nod. i should have known better, since the bar’s proprietors are none other than two industry blokes who know what’s up. after receiving my drink, i further examined the bar selection, and noticed the house-infused vodkas labeled with d.i.y-style masking tape: lemonhead, gummy worm, swedish fish, “skittel” (a witty play on absolut). as the night progressed, curiosity finally got the better of me…and a round of flavoured shots was on it’s way. a rainbow row of shot glasses soon appeared (sadly, sans unicorn), and i enlisted two gays and a straight guy to help me out. how were they? let’s just say they’re 100% true to their name, but i’ll stick with the fernet.
rewind to april 2006: on the sunset of an ailing relationship, i booked two tickets to see the moisture festival burlesque show; neither of the tickets were for my ex. every year since then, it’s become somewhat of a tradition to make the pilgrimage to this annual spectacle of tease, titillation, and topless-ness. 2010 was no exception, and i rounded up a specialist crew of burlesque-viewing aficionados to make the voyage with me. first stop: food and drinks at cantinetta. located just hopscotch lengths away from the wallingford hideout of agent peachy lefevre, this neighborhood pasteria dishes out handmade noodles and other tuscan delights in the ex-storefront of a 1920’s dentist’s office. i’m a sucker for clams in white wine (or anything braised in booze for that matter), so i ordered the tagliatelle, and it reigned supreme on all fronts of my culinary critique. i must also confess that i’d been on a fernet hiatus for a couple of weeks (after an episode involving my own topless night drunk on a friend’s bathroom floor), but since the bar didn’t carry pimm’s, it was time to get back in the fernet saddle. giddy up, because this wasn’t the last time i was going to see fernet that night.