Category Archives: Drink

Charlie Parker: The Hollywood Sessions

Parker

This summer, you should be advised that every moment you will have in the sun will be better if accompanied by The Hollwood Sessions. The two go together like coffee and cigarettes. I’ve done my best to heed this advise, and I feel like an infinitely better person for it. In that spirit, I thought I’d share a tragically heroic story from these recordings… however exaggerated and blurred through time it may be.

Two weeks following his 1946 Cocoa Sessions in New York, Bird and Dizzy Gillespie made a fateful visit to California to record for Dial – the trip would ultimately last two years. At the time Bird was drinking heavily and overindulging his addiction to heroin, and the time spent in California only escalated his problems.

The tapes documenting the stint are all incredible, but most notable is the “Lover Man” session. Apparently on this night, Bird hadn’t scored before entering the studio, and was suffering from withdrawals; so painful that he had to be physically held up to the microphone stand. Charles Mingus considered the “Lover Man” from this session to be one the most poignant pieces of music ever recorded.

Legend has it that later that night, after drinking in his hotel room, Bird set his bed ablaze with a cigarette and stumbled into the lobby clad only in his socks. He was arrested and committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital, the location that inspired the classic “Relaxin’ at Camarillo,” where he remained for six months.

Moral: I think in an eloquent way, these sessions document the raw and emotional effects of substance abuse on creative inertia, for better or worse.

Here’s the recording of “Lover Man,” in which Bird misses his intro and scuffles through the rest. Roy Porter, on drums for the session, recalls: “Bird was real ill, but when you listen to ‘Lover Man’… nothin’ but soul.”

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Fashion Horizons – 1941

Part 1: “It’s a fairyland of tumbling castles, far above where the raindrops fall.”

Part 2: “Horizons in the air, like fashion horizons, are reached only to reappear again and again.”

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Visions of Kodiak: 1943-1945

My grandfather was stationed in Kodiak, Alaska for the latter years of WWII, and judging from these photos I dug out of storage, it looks like it was a grand old time. “That’s where I learned to ski, fish, and drink whiskey,” he recalls. Where do I sign up?!

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Summer, Fitzgerald, and the Days of Dapper Inebriation

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Drinking, if done well and stylishly, can lead to literary inspiration – or at least not impede it too much. Take that great chronicler of wealth and high society F. Scott Fitzgerald, for instance; some of his best work was clearly done under the influence. Just look at the soaking-wet Tender Is the Night (1934). Of course the intemperate author, left entirely to his own devices, might have been less poetical in his consumption of alcohol and thereby rendered a less perfect work of art. But his great friends, patrons and mentors Gerald and Sara Murphy, upon whom Tender Is the Night is based, showed him how to do the thing properly.

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The beautiful, rich, and clever Murphys, iconic figures of the Jazz Age in France, held court at their villa on the French Riviera in Antibes (Villa America, as it was dubbed) where they would hold legendary dinner parties. Gerald tried to limit his guests’ consumption of the hard stuff in order to prevent the gatherings from devolving into total inebriation, though Fitzgerald usually managed to down more than his fair share. This often led to breakages, shouting matches and even suicide attempts.

The Fitzgeralds of course, were legendary boozers. When they later lived in shabby gentility in Great Neck, Long Island, they would drive back and forth to Manhattan for death-denying binges in a second-hand Rolls-Royce. Their houseboy would frequently find them passed out on the lawn in the morning, the car more or less in the driveway.

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Murphy immortalized drink-making as a stylish ritual in his 1927 painting “Cocktail,” now in the Whitney in New York. Asked what he was mixing in his silver shaker, Gerald would always reply, “Oh, just the juice of a few flowers.” (The line was later borrowed by the Murphys’ friend, The Philadelphia Story author Phillip Barry, for his movie Holiday in which it was said by Cary Grant). What Gerald was actually concocting was something he called a Bailey; “invented by me,” Gerald wrote to Alexander Woollcott, “as were a great many other good things.” Indeed.

Gerald Murphy’s “Bailey”:

3/5ths gin
1/5th grapefruit juice
1/5th lime juice
Sprigs of mint

Personal instructions:

The mint should be put in the shaker first. It should be torn up by hand as it steeps better. The gin should be added then and allowed to stand a minute or two. Then add the grapefruit juice and then the lime juice. Stir vigorously with ice and do not allow to dilute too much, but serve very cold, with a sprig of mint in each glass.

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bustelo

Bustelo Cool Cafe con Leche Case (24) – $35.20

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whiskey

“Uncle Sam Says: The Label must tell the truth, so always read carefully the label.”

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