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5 O’Clock Somewhere

Drinking the World Every Afternoon

The Appropriate Response to Triggered Snowflakes with Nuclear Codes

Aug.11.17

The Appropriate Response to Triggered Snowflakes with Nuclear Codes

by Phill Leon Guerrero

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Budweiser and tuba in Guam

It takes a lot for people on Guam to get collectively riled up. After all, the chill, can’t-be-bothered islander is a stereotype with good reason. But with the repeated threat of missile strikes against my tiny, Pacific home this week, people all over Guam were searching for a way to detox from the anxiety and stress.

My answer? The classic “kick back.” Take two to 20 friends, add alcohol, and feel the high blood pressure reduce with each round of laughter. The ritual isn’t lost on the group I manage to assemble late Friday afternoon. It’s been a long week. Tensions between Pyongyang and Washington—both led by triggered snowflakes with nuclear codes—have escalated over the past several days at a faster rate than ever before. After President Donald Trump’s now infamous “fire and fury” threat, North Korea said it was readying a plan—subject to review—to launch four missiles that would reach the waters off Guam.

Budweiser and Bud Light are the only beers I buy today. I intend to cut this American beer stash with a traditional coconut wine called tuba; an extra dramatic touch to the last-minute session.

The handful of guests that can make it arrive over the course of a half hour.

“So why are we drinking?” Morgan, a local musician asks.

I explain to her that I had basically been asked to get sloshed and rant about North Korea.

“Is it sad that I’m not taking this threat seriously at all?” she says. “The whole thing is fucking stupid to me.”

We shotgun a beer while we wait for the others to arrive. Our discussion drifts to the week’s media attention, which put Guam in a rare international spotlight.

Morgan’s friend, she tells me, sent her the front pages of Reddit when Guam was mentioned: brown tree snakes and a Catholic sex abuse scandal. She, like a lot of residents, are sensitive to how the media portrays the island.

A few more people arrive, and we begin to complain about Guam’s (justifiable) reputation as primarily a military fortress. That in 2017, the media still only counts military personnel and their families as American lives in jeopardy. About the U.S. senators who have pushed for war, because Guam is so far away from “home” territory.

That’s when we start cutting the beer with tuba. It’s a pre-World War II product I drink only when I feel particularly nationalistic.

It hits the spot. Slowly but surely the conversation shifts from whether the presence of the military makes us more or less of a target, towards local gossip and conspiracy theories about the sudden reappearance of a certain 90s local celebrity (who is now a military contractor) and whether it might be connected to this week’s war games. Geopolitics gives way to discussions about our endangered native language. The recounting of news is slowly phased out in favor of stories about our grandparents and our history.

Perhaps it’s a sign that Morgan has it right. The possibility of getting caught in a nuclear war isn’t that serious, for now. Otherwise, would we be able to joke like this?

The sun sets and our normal schedules kick in. Kids need to be checked. Gigs are fast approaching.

And just after the last person leaves, I allow myself to check Facebook. A live video of Governor Eddie Calvo speaking to reporters (local, national, and international) was the first thing on my timeline. He was announcing daily security briefs. He seemed to on board with the president’s “fire and fury” routine.

I turn, and see that the gallon of tuba still has about a quarter left, and chug it. Then I shotgun another beer, and start looking for the next kick back.

Photo by: 白士 李

Absinthe, Meet Tropical Slushie Cocktail

Oct.18.17

Absinthe, Meet Tropical Slushie Cocktail

by Anna Hiatt

Cocktails in St Augustine

Down the bar from us sat a 20-something couple. She’d ordered what looked like an adult shaved ice. Taking picture after picture, she said with a laugh, “I don’t want to drink it.”

What’d she order, I asked the bartender. A Cabana Boy. The bartender took a banana leaf and deftly looped it in a circle, placed it in the glass, and began to fill the lowball with shaved ice—just like the shaved ice we’d had at the beach the day before. It had been soaked with almost sickly sweet passionfruit and mango syrup. Sickly sweet, but delicious, just enough to cut through St. Augustine’s midday heat. She spritzed the shaved ice with absinthe from what looked like a perfume bottle and set the drink in front of me.

I sipped my Cabana Boy and wondered if I should have passed on the second cocktail. I asked the bartender about the incoming hurricane. “People love to panic,” she said calmly. Last hurricane, a second bartender told me, he’d taken shelter at the bar; nothing would bring down the Ice Plant, a former ice factory. The plant was chilled as though the building still stored blocks of ice. I shivered, hunched on my bar stool, did the tipsy calculus, and decided to drink faster. The longer I let it sit, the more the shaved ice would melt, the more I’d have to drink, the longer I’d have to stay in the cold. Let’s get out of here, I motioned, back into the warm night.

The next morning, the pressure had changed. Pea-soup air. Hurricane Irma was coming. We ducked into Catch 27 in downtown St. Augustine for blackened snapper sandwiches and blackened snapper tacos and beers.

We left the restaurant to do one more drive through the city. The storm was coming in from the south: it was still a Category 5 and hadn’t yet torn up St. Martin’s. St. Augustine had quieted after Labor Day weekend, and in the days before Irma. Windows were boarded up, or being boarded up; I wondered if the Ice Plant’s bartenders would take refuge in the old ice factory. We admired a boat moored in the Matanzas River that runs along downtown.

A few days later, after we’d flown out, Hurricane Irma moved in. From my apartment in New York, I watched video footage from St. Augustine and scanned Instagram for evidence of the storm, and what it had done to our little paradise. The streets along the water flooded, though the water quickly receded; the remaining boats in the Matanzas River rocked hard. I couldn’t see ours, and I wondered when, or if, it had been moved. Our oasis momentarily disturbed, but still filled with stubborn Floridians.

The Ice Plant
110 Riberia Street St. Augustine, FL 32084
Cabana Boy: $12

Photo: Mallory Brooks for VISIT FLORIDA

Remember, People: Do Not Get in the Car with the Self-Professed Bad Man

Oct.17.17

Remember, People: Do Not Get in the Car with the Self-Professed Bad Man

by Michael Standaert

Beer in Ngapali Beach

Last year, long before the current wave of terrible violence began, I was in Ngapali Beach, a white-sand, beach-resort town in Rakhine State, having drinks with Sara—a hotel manager—and a local artist.

Our conversation got around to the “troubles” a few years ago. After news spread that Rohingya Muslims had raped a Rakhine girl, a Buddhist, violence ensued. As a result, tens of thousands of Rohingya had been moved to camps to the north of Ngapali Beach, around Sittwe.

Sara told me that during that time, right in front of where we were now sitting on the beach—where boys had been playing soccer just an hour before—a large group of local men had emerged from the shadows into the light from the bar, machetes in hand. They’d heard that “two boats with Muslims” were out there on water, and said if they came ashore they were going to kill them.

Sara finished her white wine and the local artist left after downing his lassi, and I was alone with the last of several caipirinhas. The bar keep made them strong and rummy, squeezed in several small limes and added brown sugar, on the right side of sweet.

There was still a little light, so I walked south down the beach to a clump of restaurants and ordered a local beer. A European couple, the only other customers, left after tiring of a slightly drunk local who was talking to them, wanting to take them to a disco. Each time he said disco, he’d wiggle his hips and shake his arms. Being alone after they left, I attracted the man, who sat down close to me and ordered a beer.

His name was Momo, he said. “I’m a bad man. Bad man. But good father. I own that restaurant there,” he gestured across the road, now dark. “I provide for my family. Take care of my parents, my wife’s parents.” But he was still a bad man, he laughed, because he liked disco.

I didn’t feel like walking back to the hotel, so decided to check the place out. We passed my hotel and about a half-kilometer on, took a left down a dark road into jungle. I could see neon and Christmas lights strung around a large wooden building. I asked if this was a disco, as he called it before. “KTV,” he said.

I decided I didn’t like the vibe of the place. It stank of mildew. Sweat. I stayed close to the door, which was still slightly ajar. He was talking with the doormen, asking about “girls, I want girls.” I could tell they were wary of having a foreigner in here while Momo was trying to line up KTV girls. The doormen were shaking their heads. I grabbed Momo and said, let’s go, some other time. He tried to tell me there are other places, but I convinced him to drop me off at my hotel.

“I’m a bad man,” he said as I shook his hand. He drove off, steady, not a swerve.

The Three Things You Must Do in Veracruz

Oct.16.17

The Three Things You Must Do in Veracruz

by Martina Žoldoš

Lechero in Veracruz

They say there are three things one must experience when visiting the port of Veracruz: the aquarium, the biggest in Latin America; live street music and dancing; and lechero, the famous coffee, served in the 200-year-old Gran Cafe de la Parroquia.

It’s was a typical Saturday noon, hot and humid, and visiting the aquarium seemed the smartest thing to do. We got badly sunburned the day before, so the beach was out of the question. Besides, cooling off in an air-conditioned space and admiring sharks, barracudas, rays, yellowfin tuna meant killing two birds with one stone: my daughter had been daydreaming about sharks since we first mentioned the possibility of taking a short trip to Veracruz.

After visiting the aquarium it was time for a big dose of caffeine, so we headed to Gran Café de la Parroquia, the original one, in front of the main dock. In the last few years, the city has witnessed an invasion of modern replicas of this café that lack both history and soul. I superstitiously avoided them, although this meant I almost always had to line up for a free table in the old one.

Ordering and serving lechero is a special process. One waiter brings you a strong espresso in a glass (not a cup). Then, you have to knock a glass with a spoon to call another waiter, who fills your glass with a stream of milk as he holds the pot several feet it. The origins of this peculiar way of serving the milk are a mystery, but the origins of knocking the glass with a spoon are well-known.

Back in the late 19th century, a streetcar passed by Emparan and 5 de Mayo streets every morning at 6 a.m. As the streetcar approached the café, the driver rang the bell to announce his arrival. The owner would order one of the waiters to run out and deliver the coffee, without the driver ever having to stop. This routine went on for many years, until one morning the bell didn’t ring: the driver had passed away. When the word spread that he had died, patrons and waiters of La Gran Parroquia stood up and knocked their glasses and cups with spoons to commemorate the driver and his long coffee habit.

As I was sharing this story with my parents, who were visiting the café for the first time, a woman in a traditional, colorful dress with a wooden board in her hands and a man with a guitar stepped in. The tune of La Bamba and the woman’s tapping began to fill the room.

Aquarium, lechero, and live son jarocho, all in one day.

Let’s Drink to One Last Fascist-Free Weekend

Oct.13.17

Let’s Drink to One Last Fascist-Free Weekend

by Alexa van Sickle

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Sekt in Vienna

The new delicatessen on the corner seems to sell pasta, condiments, wine, and not much else. But they have a couple of metal tables set outside, and it’s an unseasonably warm day in Vienna, pushing 70 degrees Fahrenheit in mid-October. There are 72 hours left before Austria’s snap national election. It was called in the Spring, when the lumbering governing coalition of the center-left SPÖ and the center-right ÖVP—which has governed almost non-stop since the end of World War II—collapsed.

I settle at a table with a sekt—Austrian sparkling wine. Just across the street is a poster for the “new” ÖVP—currently leading the polls, rejuvenated by its new leader (and after Monday, perhaps Austria’s youngest-ever chancellor) Sebastian Kurz, the 31-year-old foreign minister. Kurz has been dubbed the “Wunderwuzzi”—a backhanded compliment that marries the terms “Wunderkind” and “toddler.”

These campaign posters, which are now all over the place, invite mild defacement. “Now. Or Never.” Kurz says on one. (Someone scrawled “Never” on Kurz’s forehead.)

The SPÖ’s campaign against Kurz was dirty, breaking a long-held taboo against negative campaigning here. Austria has not escaped our brave new world’s tide of political farce, and this scandal has it all: Facebook, George Soros-linked anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, shady political strategists, bribery. To recap: the SPÖ is accused of being responsible for a Facebook campaign smearing Sebastian Kurz—with pages claiming he was part of a “dubious” George Soros-funded political network and accusing him of having a secret plan to increase immigration from Islamic countries.

The news magazine Profil claimed that the sites were run by Tal Silberstein, an Israeli strategist whom the SPÖ chancellor, Christian Kern, had hired to mastermind his campaign. Silberstein, a negative campaign guru of sorts, was fired in August in connection with a money-laundering scandal in Israel, but Profil say his team continued to run the pages. In another twist, Peter Puller, who worked on the SPÖ campaign with Silberstein, claims the ÖVP once offered him 100,000 Euros to switch sides. The ÖVP denies this and is threatening to sue.

The new dirty campaign notwithstanding, the worst part of all this is that the SPÖ’s mess could well end up giving the far-right, proudly xenophobic Freedom Party (FPÖ) a larger piece of the electoral pie. The FPÖ and the SPÖ are jostling for second place with around 25 percent of the vote each. The most likely outcome of Monday’s poll is that that the FPÖ will enter a governing coalition with the ÖVP.

This is what happened 17 years ago. I remember the night when the “Blue-Black” coalition was announced: it was Feb. 19, 2000, five months after the election. A friend and I stumbled into the 150,000 people in Vienna protesting the FPÖ entering government. (We were teenagers. We had spent the evening getting my friend’s hair dyed purple and turquoise.)

Back then, the FPÖ’s rat-like but charismatic leader, Jörg Haider—who died in a car crash exactly nine years ago this week—had brought his party back from the political wilderness by campaigning on an anti-immigration ticket, despite Austria having the second-lowest immigration in the European Union. This time around, Austria has taken in one percent of its population in refugees—that’s more than Germany, proportionally—and Heinz-Christian Strache, the FPÖ’s leader (who was once arrested at a mock Hitler Youth march) has amped up the party’s xenophobic and nationalist flavor. A winning combination.

The SPÖ broke another long-held taboo this year—the 31-year, self-imposed ban on governing with the FPÖ—apparently because the party has cleaned up its act. In the months leading up to this week, it has not ruled out entering a coalition with the FPÖ.

The FPÖ has been increasing its vote share over the years, even in more liberal Vienna. This week, I saw people eagerly taking FPÖ pens and pamphlets from volunteers at my local U-bahn station. I scowled and shook my head to signal my disapproval of all this as I took cell phone snaps of a poster on which an airbrushed Strache stated “Islamization has to be stopped,” while on a bench mere feet away a young woman in a hijab scrolled through her phone.

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Outside the confines of right-wing Burschenschaften—the secretive fraternities to which many of the FPÖ’s top brass are linked—and beyond explicit anti-foreigner soundbites, far-right politicians have a few other gambits: celebrating the 333rd anniversary of defeating the Ottomans after the siege of Vienna, to show the importance of “defending Western civilization”; reviving the pan-German nationalism—the notion that Austria belongs to German territory and culture—that the party had dropped under Haider’s leadership; liberal use of the word Heimat—the term for both a homeland and cultural identity that, to some, still carries an unsavory soil-and-blood charge. And, of course, wearing blue cornflowers, which were once associated with the Nazis.

The party says it has moved past its past. (It was founded by a former SS officer.) Apparently that’s enough for lots of people to vote for them. But only last week, the party had to suspend a member who allegedly did a “Heil Hitler” salute at a meeting in Styria province. They also recently had to expel a high-ranking party operative in Tyrol, who had displayed Nazi paraphernalia in the back of his pharmacy. Austria’s Mauthausen Komitee, a research group named for the Nazi concentration camp east of Linz, published an information booklet this year detailing 60 cases of Nazi-related incidents involving FPÖ members. As the booklet’s title notes, that’s a whole lot of isolated cases.

Still, there are 72 hours left before these people might have a seat at the table. It’s Friday, it’s sunny, and the FPÖ is not in charge, for one more weekend at least. Let’s drink some sparkling wine to that.

Sometimes You Just Have to Get on a Flight to Frankfurt and Drink Japanese Fruit Drowned in French Brandy

Oct.12.17

Sometimes You Just Have to Get on a Flight to Frankfurt and Drink Japanese Fruit Drowned in French Brandy

by Deborah Wei

Mispelchen in Frankfurt

Because my siblings and I have always been very close, people are sometimes surprised when I tell them my sister now lives in Germany. We chat on a daily basis, so most days she feels no farther away than my brother does in Wisconsin. But there are limits to how much you can shrink the distance between you and your favorite people. Sometimes you just have to get on a flight to Frankfurt.

My brother, my husband, and I all flew in one week in August and crowded happily into my sister’s apartment. We tagged along with her to the grocery store and the neighborhood bakery that first morning, entertained by the mundane things that feel novel to travelers. I quietly marveled watching her bustle about in fluent German, a language that is hers but not ours.

That night, we went out to a neighborhood Apfelwein (apple wine) tavern. In a garden tucked between apartments, a small crowd ranging from boisterous 20-somethings to graying regulars lingered over Apfelwein and plates of handkäse, a local cheese. The atmosphere was convivial, everyone happy to be outdoors in the short central European summer.

We sat at one of the long tables and ordered a round of Apfelwein, served in a traditional blue-patterned jug called a bembel. Though we had been warned that apple wine was an acquired taste, I liked its vinegar sharpness. We talked German and American politics and laughed over stupid inside jokes.

We had drained our glasses and were about to call it a night when the server appeared with a bonus round—my sister’s boyfriend had ordered us a surprise. Snifters of apple brandy appeared on the table with an apricot-like fruit speared on toothpicks and soaking in the liquor. We raised our toothpicks with their wobbling fruits in a toast (“Prost!”) before taking a bite and a sip. The sweetness of the fruit and the warmth of the brandy was the perfect contrast to the sting of apple wine.

Internet sleuthing later informed me that this was mispelchen, a popular digestif in Apfelwein taverns. Calvados is served with the medlar fruit, sometimes translated as the adorable “little apple.” But medlars are not apples. And mispelchen is not even made with the true medlar native to Europe. No, Frankfurt’s mispelchen is actually the “Japanese medlar”—a loquat. The loquat somehow made its way from China to Spain to Germany, where it partnered up with a French spirit to make mispelchen. It pleased me to learn that this local favorite is in fact a heady dose of multiculturalism. Not unlike the American children of Taiwanese immigrants getting tipsy in Germany.

On our last night in Frankfurt, we went back to the same Apfelwein garden. Another round of mispelchen appeared after we emptied a bembel or two. This time, the mispelchen was not a nightcap. The lush burn of the fruit and brandy fueled us on to another bar, and then another, to stretch out the hours we had left together.

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