happy hour

Songs, Stories, and Spirits: Stop and Smell the Rosé

Songs, Stories, and Spirits jams unwanted opinions on good music, good stories, and good booze down your ears, eyes, and throats on a drunkenly basis. We hope you enjoy. And if you don’t, there is a comment section below that we more than welcome you to ignore! Cheers!

By Stephanie Schaefer

Song: “Summertime,” by Ella Fitzgerald

Nothing complements the long, hot days of summer quite like smooth jazz. Originally composed by George Gershwin for the 1935 opera “Porgy and Bess,” “Summertime” was popularized by Ella Fitzgerald, and has also been recorded by the likes of Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Janis Joplin, and more. While pop music and today’s “songs of summer” tend to fade with the September chill, this classic tune is immortal.

Story: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Curtis Sittenfeld’s modern retelling of one of my favorite novels, Pride and Prejudice, is an entertaining beach read. The book, which deals with similar themes as the original, focuses on a 21st century Bennet family, headed by a stubborn patriarch and money-hungry matriarch who hope to marry their five unwed daughters off to rich suitors. Sittenfeld successfully takes the traditional tale and weaves in present-day fads (think CrossFit, Paleo diets, and reality television). The sarcastic humor and over-the-top characters make for a page-turner even if some aspects of the plot seemed far-fetched. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a light-hearted read this summer.

Spirit: Romance and Rosé

This summer, see the world through rosé-colored glasses. I don’t know exactly when the light and refreshing wine became so trendy, but it doesn’t show any signs of stopping (I mean, there’s currently a 14,000-person waiting list for rosé-infused gummy bears and you can now buy the popular drink in a can, so move out of the way overly-sugary Lime-A-Ritas). I prefer a pale-colored Provence rosé because it’s crisp, dry, and pairs great with summer meals like lobster rolls and grilled chicken. 'Tis the season to relax, and there’s no better way to do so than with a glass of wine and a good beach read. Plus, why choose between red and white wine when you can have pink?

Songs, Stories, and Spirits Archive

Even More Happy Hour

Songs, Stories, and Spirits: Dark and Weird

By Dave Pezza

I’ve managed to wrestle the rains of SSS away from Daniel this week, and I made it a collection of music, literature, and booze sourced from the smallest state in the union: Rhode Island. The state has always had a dark and weird streak that Providence’s artistic element has managed to tap with wonderful effect. Overshadowed by Rhode Island’s beautiful beaches, Providence’s insanely delicious restaurants, and a grand and lasting tradition of political corruption, has a tattooed underbelly that details some of the longest and darkest history that America has to offer.

Song: “Bilgewater” by Brown Bird

Providence’s own Brown Bird was a powerful husband and wife folk duo that took folk to its darkest depths. The couple’s 2011 album “Salt For Salt” is especially foreboding and poetic, and “Bilgewater” sets the album’s tone. The lyrics perfectly match the song’s brooding melody, and feature David Lamb, the duo’s main writer, languishing over life’s toughest realities and the inherent beauty in humanity. “If the sun was always shining and our load always light…we’d break under the weight of any pain that ever came in this life,” Lamb all but screams toward the song’s conclusion. The words are an anthem for a region that forces its people to flip their collars up to the stiff cold and heavy snow every winter, that still suffers from a staggering recession, and constantly battles to maintain relevancy and importance. Even though Brown Bird has disbanded (Lamb passed away in 2014 after a battling Leukemia) its music continues to embody the place of its birth. And, like this week’s pick in spirit, it instills hope and encouragement to a state and region that is fed up with surviving and obsesses with thriving.

Spirit: Thomas Tew Authentic Pot Still Rum by Newport Distilling Company

Hailing from Aquidneck Island, Thomas Tew Rum is Newport Distilling Company’s effort in re-branding America’s oldest style of rum. New England was once the primary producer of rum, formerly America’s most prosperous and widely-enjoyed liquor. A darker, heavier, and stronger spirit than the Caribbean rum most of us are used to, New England rum features molasses instead of sugar cane and is made in a small pot still, which creates a bolder taste that balances out the naturally sweet flavors of thick sugars it is made with. Once America’s agrarian opportunities fully developed and distillers began to make use of the vast fields of corn and barley for bourbon and American-styled whiskeys, New England rum was all but forgotten. The rum is making a comeback as of late, however, and Newport’s Thomas Tew, named after a local colonial pirate and privateer known for his love of rum and the city, is one of the newer attempts by local distillers to not only bring back a style of rum but also re-create the region's colonial sanguinity. Providence and Newport alike were once thriving communities of distillers, artists, renegades, bootleggers, and smugglers.

If you’re drinking it straight, expect strong aromas of banana and oak with a sharp taste that’s heavy on deep molasses sweetness with an oaky, whiskey-like finish. As a cocktail though, this rum really stands out, especially when mixed with Coke Zero. All the previous flavors combine to form a cold, creamy sensation that tastes shockingly close to a liquor-fortified Wendy’s Frosty. If you are a whiskey lover looking for a new summer alternative, New England rum should be your next adventure, and Newport’s own Thomas Tew should definitely be your first stop. 

Story: “The Temple” by H.P. Lovecraft

The king of the weird, Providence native H.P. Lovecraft has been an inspiration for many of our best, darkest, and weirdest sci-fi and supernatural writers, including the master himself, Stephen King. “The Temple” is one of Lovecraft’s earlier stories and is told through a scribbled message-in-a-bottle of a German U-boat captain. He and his crew survive the destruction of their vessel and find themselves drifting into a strange land with mysterious structures and symbols. Slowly, the captain and his crew descend into madness, losing their grip on reality. Lovecraft's character’s deteriorating sanity is riveting as it is terrifying. Like our song and booze this week, the eerie aura of the author's mystical land and mentally unstable characters in “The Temple” leads you down a dark and twisting wrought-iron staircase into the unknown darkness below.

Songs, Stories, and Spirits Archive

Even More Happy Hour

Songs, Stories, and Spirits: Melting Pot

Welcome to Songs, Stories, and Spirits. We’ll be jamming unwanted opinions on good music, good stories, and good booze down your ears, eyes, and throats on a weekly basis. We hope you enjoy. And if you don’t, there is a comment section below that we more than welcome you to ignore! Cheers!

Song: “When First Unto This Country” by Crooked Still

Daniel Ford: Fridays call for rollicking Americana. This rendition of “When First Unto This Country,” performed by Crooked Still, has been on repeat since my interview with author Taylor Brown. Who doesn’t like a tune about horse thieving, tortured love affairs, and early American angst? It’s a damn good thing we figured out our immigration policies because we’d have a lot more songs with lyrics like:

They beat me and they banged me
And they fed me on dry beans
'Til I wished to my own soul
I'd never been a thief

Most likely, any music crafted today based on our current political and cultural situation would feature Donald Trump screaming on a continuous loop. And, sadly, it would win a Grammy…

But don’t be glum! It’s Friday! If you’re like me, you’re going to enjoy this tune and then binge-listen to the rest of Crooked Still’s work. You won’t be disappointed!

Story: “My Grandmother Tells Me This Story” by Molly Antopol

Daniel: I have a soft spot for family yarns. I based an entire novel on my personal history, so I gravitate to those tales that have a messy family dynamic at their cores.

That’s one of the reasons why I’m such a big fan of Molly Antopol. Her short story collection The UnAmericans explored Cold War-era East European politics and Jewish American liberalism, while also featuring themes based on the author’s family history.

Also, in light of the turbulent 2016 Presidential campaign, it’s worth revisiting what Antopol told me during our interview earlier this year:

I was really interested in thinking about this notion of “Un-American-ness” for these characters—dissidents and academics, banned artists and writers—who risked their lives for their politics in their mother countries and are then forced to reinvent their identities in the United States, a country where they’re treated as anything but American.

Those issues are further discussed in Antopol’s harrowing, 2015 O. Henry Prize-winning short story.   

“My Grandmother Tells Me This Story”

Some say the story begins in Europe, and your mother would no doubt interrupt and say it begins in New York, but that’s just because she can’t imagine the world before she entered it. And yes, I know you think it begins specifically in Belarus, because that’s what your grandfather tells you. I’ve heard him describing those black sedans speeding down Pinsker Street. I’ve been married to the man almost sixty years and know how he is with you—he makes every word sound like a secret. But he wasn’t even there. He was with his youth group by then and even though I was there I don’t remember being scared. Even when they knocked on our door, I didn’t know what was happening. Even when they dragged us outside with our overstuffed suitcases spilling into the street, shouting through megaphones to walk in the road with the livestock, I still didn’t know. I was thirteen.

The story really starts in the sewers.

Read the rest of the story on Econtone Magazine.

Spirit: Long Island Iced Tea

Stephanie Schaefer: I don’t think I’ve had a sip of a Long Island Iced Tea since I was 21, and there’s probably a good reason for that. One could call it a “melting pot” of a liquor because it's made with nearly every alcohol under the sun including tequila, vodka, light rum, triple sec, and gin. I wish I could tell you a fun anecdote about drinking the concoction, but let’s face it; nights featuring Long Island Iced Teas don't exactly result in vivid memories. Also, let’s not forget the time Writer’s Bone contributor Matt DiVenere said Long Island Iced Teas best defined his writing style.

FULL SONGS, STORIES, AND SPIRITS ARCHIVE

Songs, Stories, and Spirits: Monsters

Welcome to Songs, Stories, and Spirits. We’ll be jamming unwanted opinions on good music, good stories, and good booze down your ears, eyes, and throats on a weekly basis. We hope you enjoy. And if you don’t, there is a comment section below that we more than welcome you to ignore! Cheers!

Song: “Monsters” by Electric President

Robert Masiello: Electric President fell off the radar rather abruptly in 2010, without much commotion. Their brief discography remains criminally underrated, despite an appearance on “The OC” soundtrack way back in the Paleozoic era. Sounding like a darker, dreamier version of The Postal Service, Electric President’s wistful brand of electronica found the perfect middle-ground between catchy and surreal. "Monsters," the opening track from their best album (2008's “Sleep Well”), weaves a haunting narrative that deftly balances darkness and light. Maybe it's a song about battling society's ills. Maybe it's about struggling with the monsters within ourselves. Perhaps it just describes a fever dream. Whatever the case, let Electric President's lush, spooky atmospherics wash over you this Friday the 13th.

Story: “Monsters” by Scott Cheshire

Photo credit: PB Elskamp

Photo credit: PB Elskamp

Daniel Ford: Author Scott Cheshire has mastered the art of dropping readers into an instantly recognizable world. His debut novel, High as the Horses’ Bridles, embeds you in places like Queens, N.Y., California, and even 19th century Kentucky so deeply it feels as if you’re smoking a cigarette on a street corner watching the plot unfold. If Cheshire only accomplished that, he’d be a fine writer, however, he does something else that makes him an intriguing scribe to follow. I heard him do a reading at Queens College at the beginning of the year and he said something that stayed with me. He mentioned that because of his upbringing (which you can read about in my interview with him), he came to the writing profession late and feels as if he’s missed out on the “normal” route an author might take. Cheshire said that he doesn’t have time to mess around with linear plots or paper-thin characters that might sell more books. He wants to grapple with “big questions” and use his talent to tell complex stories in the vein of Don DeLillo and Paul Auster. I didn’t know who the hell those guys were before becoming friends with Cheshire, but now that I’ve read them, I know they’re two tough fucking acts to live up to. However, a writer like Cheshire just might be up to the challenge.

While you wait for him to publish his next novel, read his haunting short story “Monsters,” recently published by Catapult. Then drop him a line and tell him to hurry the hell up with his second book!

“Monsters”

Peyton walked into the dark hotel room, closed the door behind her, and set her briefcase on the floor. Standing in the shadows, by the bed, was her father.

He sat down and said, “How’s your mother?”

She didn’t like the question, because if he really wanted to know, he’d go visit and see for himself.

She noted the topography of the room. A large television sitting on a wooden desk. A chair. A mirror. The bed was neatly made, and she expected nothing less. Her bed back home was the same. She was a lot more like him than she cared to admit.

Read the rest on Catapult.

Spirit: The Drunken Cookie Monster

Daniel: Enough darkness! It’s Friday! By some miracle of Google, this video came up while I was searching for monster-related cocktails. I wouldn’t suggest actually making it because you’ll be drunk and develop diabetes instantly. Cheers!

Songs, Stories, and Spirits: A Shot and A Beer

The Silks photo by C. Johnston

The Silks photo by C. Johnston

Welcome to Songs, Stories, and Spirits. We’ll be jamming unwanted opinions on good music, good stories, and good booze down your ears, eyes, and throats on a weekly basis. We hope you enjoy. And if you don’t, there is a comment section below that we more than welcome you to ignore! Cheers!

Song: “Try All You Want” by The Silks

Daniel: Earlier this year, Dave Pezza walked into Writer’s Bone HQ raving about this band called The Silks he saw perform at a dive bar in Providence, R.I. I’ve learned to trust Dave’s taste in music, so I listened to the first track I came across on YouTube. It’s remained my favorite for a variety of reasons. The video is shot in a casual setting and features a band member playing an inflatable pool float. Also, it’s immediately evident how much these guys love playing together and enjoy making music in general. Their gritty, All-American sound forces you to start tapping your foot right away and makes you long for that first shot of Jim Beam to scorch down your throat, burning away the lingering aftertaste of another week paying the corporate piper. “When I’m gone, I’m gone/Won’t be back this way” sums up how you should feel on a Friday afternoon (and Saturday morning once your hangover has lifted).

As Dave wrote in May, The Silks’ are a band eking out a musical existence one show and one record sale at a time. They should be filling stadiums, people! To help them out, buy the band’s debut album and spread the word. Look for an interview with The Silks in the near future as well!

Story: “Beautiful Trash” by Jordon Harper

Daniel: Author Jordan Harper’s short story collection Love and Other Wounds cracked a beer bottle over my head repeatedly. Each story featured characters living on the fringe of society throughout the United States. Rebels, fugitives, thugs, and degenerates darken every page and struggle to keep their heads above the shadows threatening to consume them. It was hard to narrow down a favorite, however, “Beautiful Trash” is a tale that would be right at home on Writer’s Bone. The tale depicts a chilling romance between two people whose job it is to clean up the bodies left behind by homicidal Hollywood big shots.

“They meet over the body of a beautiful dead boy. Green likes her right away. Her hands don’t shake. She doesn’t make bad jokes or cry or act cold. A lot of people wouldn’t handle their fear so well. After all, it is her first corpse.”     

I really don’t need to say any more, right? Fine, to borrow one of Sean’s favorite sayings, this story has no fat and a cinematic feel thanks to Harper’s day job as a screenwriter. If you’re ordering our drink of choice at happy hour, might have to make it a double if you’re Friday evening plans include Love and Other Wounds.

Spirit: Boilermaker

Photo courtesy of  Roadsidepictures

Photo courtesy of Roadsidepictures

Dave Pezza: The tried and true boilermaker is a perfect complement to this week’s song. Both are straightforward, badass, and perfect to kick off a good ole Friday night. Here is how you make it: Take your favorite whiskey and pour it into a shot glass, and then take you favorite beer and pour it into a pint glass. Shoot the shot and then drink the beer. Boom. Simple, no frills, and it gets you into the best kind of mood, an inebriated one. 

FULL SONGS, STORIES, AND SPIRITS ARCHIVE

Songs, Stories, and Spirits: The SteelDrivers, Joe Biden, and Moscow Mules

Welcome to Writer’s Bone newest bastard child: Songs, Stories, and Spirits. Daniel Ford and I decided we're only going to break out Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books on special occasions and retire it as one of our signature series. But don’t fret; we’ll still be jamming unwanted opinions on good music, good stories, and good booze down your ears, eyes, and throats on a weekly basis. We hope you enjoy. And if you don’t, there is a comment section below that we more than welcome you to ignore! Cheers!—Dave Pezza

Song

Dave: My slow descent into tolerance for country music has led me to a number of bands and artists I wouldn’t have touch with Jimmy Page’s 12-string guitar. One such artist is The SteelDrivers. To be honest, I don’t know much about them in a refreshing pre-21st century ignorance. What I do know is that the lead single off of their 2009 album, a track titled “If It Hadn’t Been For Love,” has invaded my head.

The track, and the band, might be a perfect compromise between blue grass and country, hitting all the best elements (stripped down banjo, violin, harmonizing male and female vocals) and none of the truly regrettable stigmas of each genre (that obnoxious country strum, overdone southern accents, and clichéd story premises). If you’re looking for a catchy track to belt out in the car or throw on the stereo while kicking around the house, you’ve got to give “If It Hadn’t Been For Love” a listen.

Story

Daniel: Politics can provide writers with a treasure trove of potential story ideas. But those plots typically involve scandal, corruption, and impropriety. Rarely does the opportunity arise for writers to observe a genuine human moment in the political arena. More often than not in our recent political discourse, those qualities are exemplified in Vice President Joe Biden. If you haven’t already, check out his interview with Stephen Colbert on the Sept. 10 edition of “The Late Show:”       

Biden has been a public servant longer than most of our staff has been alive, but, even though he isn’t official a presidential candidate, he just made himself relevant in a way that the other Presidential candidates can’t. Regardless of your political affiliation, you can’t argue that Biden is a genuine, honest, human public servant. Sure he says dopey things typically reserved for drunk uncles or Rotary Club presidents, but at his core, he is still one of us. How many of your stories start with, “My mother said, this,” or “My father said, that?” Haven’t you told yourself, “Get up, get moving,” during moments of tragedy and sorrow? Haven’t you transformed your suffering into meaningful action or prose?  

Storytellers—and I mean all storytellers, not just literary authors—tend to be at their best when exploring themes through characters that honestly and empathetically deal with the fictional world around them. We go into most stories searching for a bit of ourselves, along with a good plot and snappy dialogue. Biden’s story proves that you don’t have to mine the lowest, seediest aspects of the human experience in order to be entertaining and relatable.

Spirit

Dave: It’s Friday afternoon; you’ve almost made it through the week. Just a few more hours. If you’re anything like the Writer’s Bone staff, you’re using this time to decide what delicious alcoholic beverage you’re going to imbibe the minute you get home. Hopefully we can give you some more options to mull over as 5:00 p.m. slowly approaches.

Summer’s just about six feet under, but before you start buying your Shipyard Pumkpinhead and Jack-O Traveler beers in pint glasses rimmed with cinnamon and sugar…mmmmmm pumpkin beer…give one more refreshing summer cocktail a chance!

My girlfriend recently bought me some copper mugs, the mugs specifically used for the enjoyment of Moscow Mules. It was her subtle way of telling me that I should start making them for her. So like a 20-something adult in need of information, I Googled “how to make a Moscow mule,” and, as always, I was disappointed in my findings. I was able to gather the three main ingredients: vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice, all three of which were already in my home bar! After many, many tries, we finally arrived at a perfectly palatable summer drink. Perfect for lounging and perfect to quench your thirst. And if you find the sweet spot between vodka and ginger beer, you’ll have pounded two or three before you can slur “weshouldhaveeatenfirst.”  I found a six- or seven-count of Kettle One vodka to a 10-count of Gosling’s ginger beer with a splash of lime juice, served in the famous copper cup loaded with ice, really does the trick.

Try one quick before summer’s officially over!

FULL SONGS, STORIES, AND SPIRITS ARCHIVE