A Cocktail Menu for Leverage from Eric Nelson
Communion Wine (one long sip) in a brasstone chalice
My first and only time in West Virginia was at the age of 16 on an Alternative Spring Break trip sponsored by my high school. We repaired homes under the guidance of a beloved priest Father Steve Ryan, a man who would wind up saving me from being raped by an upperclassman before he was transferred to teach at the Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange, New Jersey. “Poverty tourism” aside, the experience stayed with me as I saw sunsets in the hollers, watched a deer be decapitated by a truck, and broke bread with people who knew what hard work and struggle were at the Appalachian Catholic Worker farm, which, as Scott McClanahan pointed out to me years later, “sounds like a prison.” I learned more about Christian anarchism and Dorothy Day in a week there than I would at any other point in four years of theology classes, which for a young punk rocker gave me food for thought.
“Gulf Coast Deep Game”
Lone Star (pull-tab can circa 1964)
The pull-tab mechanism for beverage cans was first invented in 1956 in Canada before its reinvention in America by Ermal Cleon Fraze in Dayton, Ohio six years later. The first beer to use this in its packaging was Pittsburgh’s own Iron City in 1963. Bottling plants across the country followed suit, rendering church keys obsolete tools until children started choking on tabs that fell into the cans and better technology was developed.
“The Walt Whitman House”
0.7g Cannabis Indica served in a DutchMaster cigar
If you include cigarillos, there are 34 varieties of cigars produced by Dutch Master. Trenton-born comedian Ernie Kovacs was a spokesperson for the company. The story of his death in 1962 was that while driving home from Milton Berle’s baby shower, wet roads caused his station wagon to spin out of control, crashing into a utility pole. His wife survived, having taken a separate car home. Jack Lemmon identified the body at the LA County Morgue.
At the scene of the accident, a cigar lay inches from his hands. It was not a Dutch Master.
“Eat Your Family’s Food”
4oz of Codeine and Promethazine Hydrochloride Cough Syrup, 20 oz Sam’s Choice Mountain Lightning soda. Garnish with 5 Jolly Ranchers.
One pony keg (8 gallons) Keystone Ice (serves 30)
No beer slogan is a better metaphor for a story about family that hates each other to the point of violence than Keystone’s old tagline, “All Stones Must Be Thrown.” “Eat Your Family’s Food” was originally inspired by a line in a DMX song as well as the nonstop news stories of shots being licked at family celebrations. The title itself is a play on the phrase “eat his food” meaning to fuck someone up.
After personally witnessing grudges held for years over often trivial slights, it was easier to write and have the conflict between uncle and nephew be about two things that are on almost equal footing in late capitalist America: honor and money.
“He’s a Nice Old Man”
Brooklyn India Pale Ale on draft
Brooklyn Brewery was started in Park Slope, which is the same neighborhood where Debbie and Kenny live. The father of a woman I dated seven years ago ran a deli in the ‘70’s in what’s now known as South Slope, where he was robbed behind the counter at gunpoint several times. He later wound up at United Bank of Switzerland at their American headquarters for Private Wealth Management and I broke up with his daughter and wound up in New York.
While our parents and grandparents moved out of the Outer Boroughs with then-recent memories of rampant crime, years later we moved back in with the suburban sensibilities they developed in tow.
“A Drink Among Friends”
One 12oz wide-mouthed bottle of Mickey’s malt liquor, Old Crow on the side
The first time I drank Mickey’s was in the punk bar Strange Matter in Richmond, Virginia in the fall of 2009. I had a Friday afternoon to kill and was in a terrific mood because I had just ridden two Greyhounds, walked two miles, and took a public bus without any sort of smart phone, and had not gotten lost. Alone I sat, shooting the shit with the bored bartender while I remembered the quote from a Dead Prez song: “Member them Mickey’s?/tall can fit in your Dickies?/before they cameras up in the corner store?” When I left, I had the bottle caps in my pocket, hoping to solve the rebus puzzles underneath. I never did although I hoarded them for years.
“Some Real Nice Shoes”
Two parts Gatorade fruit punch, one part Gordon’s Gin, served in a used brown leather woman’s loafer.
Gatorade and vodka or gin was a high school favorite among friends whose parents had unlocked liquor cabinets because you could walk around openly drinking it and pretend people didn’t know what you were actually up to. Only liquor stores can sell packaged beer, wine or spirits in New Jersey by state law, which led to us often standing outside at night begging random strangers, usually either a young woman or an old man, to buy us twelve packs of Rolling Rock or 40’s of Olde English.
Your other options included:
Asking an older coworker who would tease you and then finally say no.
Asking your creepy drunk neighbor who would insist you drink at their house.
Driving across the Passaic River to buy at a liquor store that wouldn’t card, risking robbery on your way there and/or arrest on your way back from cops looking to bust people for buying drugs from the open air markets on Straight Street or in the Christopher Columbus projects.
8oz. Whiskey and 8oz. lemonade in a tumblr, no ice.
When the stomach gets ready to reject what you’ve put into it, your salivary glands go to work in double-time to coat your throat and mouth in preparation for the acidic bile that will likely come up with whatever else is in there. The feeling is akin to eating or drinking something tart and feeling a tingling above your jaw and is colloquially known as the “mouth sweats.” Suffice to say, I can no longer drink rail whiskey unmixed. Not that this has ever happened to me before at a performance of the Brooklyn rap duo “Faces of Weed.”
750ml bottle of Paul Masson sparkling white wine
Orson Welles made some questionable career decisions later in his life but only in the eyes of his peers. He had already made The Magnificent Ambersons and Citizen Kane so in hindsight it didn’t make a difference. The television commercials for Paul Masson “California champagne” (a misnomer by definition) are well-known and have been parodied for years, in which a visibly intoxicated Welles flubs lines in take after take.
But slightly lesser known are the audio recordings for a series of Findus brand frozen food television commercials produced by the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in 1970, three years before he completed F for Fake. Upon initial listening, it’s easy to write off Welles as being pompous and combative, however most writers will agree with him in saying “There’s no known way of saying an English sentence in which you begin a sentence with ‘in’ and emphasize it. Get me a jury and show me how you can say ‘in July’ and I’ll go down on you.”
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