My mother, on the other hand, retains a life-long fear of water. I can picture her wrapped in a life jacket, face frozen in a rictus of terror as we all raced across Lake Tahoe in a motorboat. Dad took us swimming all the time. I must have grown to resent the fact that the pool, which I was inclined to associate with fun, became a place of discipline and duty.
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My father had me count my laps and work towards some lofty-sounding goal … half mile, mile, long distances back and forth going nowhere. He taught me to swim the American crawl, a vigorous, patriotic stroke. He had developed a unique version of the breaststroke. Now I am as old as he was when he taught me to swim and I find myself swimming that same languid breaststroke, head always above water, slow and purposeful. I sunbathe and read and drink and people watch not the same as merely watching people. I like how it feels as the sun and warm breeze dry the beads of water from my skin, and it grows very warm, so I dip once again into the pool, order another drink, and feel the water and the sun and remember.
I vaguely remember—this must have been the late seventies—nuns trolling the neat pathways between our desks, doling out small handfuls of salted peanuts and little Dixie cups of orange juice. It was all very gulag like. Or those who died of anaphylactic shock were buried in shallow graves behind the school playground where I lived out my daily hell of dodge ball. But for whatever reason, we were given our daily ration, for a time at any rate. The program was short lived. The Dominican nuns eyed us suspiciously, making certain we choked down the rancid nuts and bolted our little cups of astronaut-grade orange beverage.
They monitored each aisle carefully, fastidious sentries, with their giant black rosaries like long strands of beetles, ready to come to life and devour us all. And they monitored the lunchrooms too, perhaps on the lookout for obscure forms of dietary heresy. But of course they never really noticed when anything truly horrible was happening. One day a student—not a bully and not particularly mean, but something of a joker—launched his chair out from the table as I walked past looking for a seat.
I went sprawling across the floor to great peels of laughter, my food scattered across the recently buffed floor. I remember that for weeks I had a large green bruise on my hip, the size and shape of a turkey drumstick, a tattooed reminder of that humiliating episode. He looked sick. My memories of school are mostly characterized by a distinctly dystopian feel.
Perhaps this is because I attended Catholic school, though I think all institutions are essentially dystopian, school, prison, corporate workplace—not much to choose between. My first distinct, detailed memory dates from It was summer, and we were moving into the house on Larchmont, where I grew up on the west side of Springfield, Illinois.
I ran up the stairs and down the hallway, straight to my new bedroom. It was to be my own bedroom—for several years, my sisters had to share a room, even though there were four bedrooms in the house.
My father had had plans to turn it into some sort of office, though he never did. I only remember it in the early days as a storage room for random junk. I was very excited about my own future room, and I remember racing up the stairs and down the hallway with my mother in pursuit. My parents had a strange habit of referring to various things by color. My bedroom was the orange room, named for that same dirty carpet. The walls of the room were beige, in keeping with the quasi-suburban feel of the west side in those days. Initially cars were referred to by color and make: the white Pontiac, the green Chevy.
Then there was a brief and confusing period during which no clear pattern was discernible. The Aspen wagon should have been the metallic copper Dodge. And the bronze metallic VW Rabbit was simply the Volkswagen, presumably to highlight the vaguely alien aspect of the only foreign car my father was ever convinced to buy though it was manufactured in the US, in Pennsylvania, I believe. Suddenly the scheme was simplified, reaching an apex of color-based organization. The blue car, the red car, and the purple car came in sequence, being a navy blue Ford Taurus station wagon, a cranberry metallic Chevrolet Corsica my grandmother had driven before she died, and a burgundy Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon, actually closer to the color of dried blood.
My sister had driven this last car while in law school and shortly after, but left it behind when she moved to California. I drove it while in college and my friend Herchel and I called it the government car or the FBI car, because it was a large American sedan. We drove around Lake Springfield in that car, drinking cheap beer. Later Herchel married and gave up beer for diet soda. He found Jesus. He died of brain cancer. If you are a figure of prominence, power, or popularity, you might have to wait until the moment is right, when the career has peaked in some way.
But if you are a nobody, any time is the right time. And I think everyone should try to write this down. How did I get here?
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This whole journey seems improbable and frankly pointless. Why am I who I am? I think the way I reflect on the common details of my remembered background is probably a better approximation of an answer to that question than the details, the facts themselves. It just seems like it would create another odious obligation. And one memory leads to another with no apparent pattern.
Lucky you. The Book of Gin by Richard Barnett may be as dry as the London Dry Gin it tracks throughout history and ultimately celebrates as our most civilized spirit. The story of gin starts with the alchemical discovery of distillation in the middle ages, combined with the use of botanically infused cordials for health purposes. These early proto-gins were largely monastic creations, but it was the early medical community that promoted the virtues of taking these cordials for a variety of health benefits.
Women now started distilling these cordials at home, but production soon grew to commercial proportions as tipplers discovered these proto-gins to be rather enjoyable to drink, not just as health tonics. During this same period, the precursor to modern gin was developed by Dutch doctors and apothecaries. Wild juniper was ubiquitous and did a good job of hiding the rough edges of grain spirits.
Soon the Dutch thirst for genever spread as sailors with the Dutch East India Company took their preferred spirit with them on their voyages. And so almost as soon as gin became common in every sense of the word , the rumblings of the moralists began. At this point the story of gin becomes sad.
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Medical thinking had shifted against gin, fire in the bosom now, rather than an enlivening tonic. But the moral opprobrium cast upon spirits crossed the ocean to the new world, where Americans in the latter part of the nineteenth century had already begun their foolish march toward prohibition. Before we come to the immense growth of cocktail consumption ironically brought about in the U.
First cinchona or quinine was introduced from South America to Europe by the Spaniards. A little more than a century later, Joseph Priestly created the first carbonated water. The stage was set for the gin and tonic. Lily Aldrin: So you made a life changing decision to not change your life at all.
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Drive Thru Attendant: [Marshall pulls up to the drive-through window] You're naked. Ted Mosby: [after Marshall asks Ted if he wants a ride home with him] Karen and I haven't seen each other since Thanksgiving and we're both really invested in making this long distance thing work. Marshall Eriksen: Well, call me if you change your mind; my odometer is going to hit K. Ted Mosby: [Later, in the Fiero] It was totally mutual. I mean, Karen brought it up first, but I Ted Mosby: It's a car game. Every time you see a dog, you gotta be the first one to say "Zitch-dog!