A Bartendress Out Standing In Her Field

4/27/00

"I hear you're going to be leaving us," said the Old Professor, as I set his second daiquiri down before him.

"Only for a short while," I replied, wiping down the glossy teak bartop. Other than the august presence of "Duh Perfesser" (to give him his proper New Yawk pronunciation), the lounge of the Steely Dan Hall of Fame and Carribbean Timeshare (SDHOF/TS) was deserted. Presumably all the other current residents were off cavorting in the golden sunshine and bathwater-temp ocean, or frolicking in the more secluded areas of the palm groves.

Duh Perfesser, however, preferred indoor sports even in these tropical climes. He proceeded now to demonstrate his mastery of the sport of gallantry.

"Well, my dear," quoth this worthy, straightening his already-dapper bowtie and smoothing his white-linen lapels, "even a brief absence of a lady of your charms and skills can seem like a tragic eternity. How we shall manage without our faithful Self-Appointed Bartendress and Purveyor of Relaxicants I haven't a clue."

I snorted, and moved on to polishing glassware. "You know you could come with us if you wanted."

"What, and venture out into the savage wilds of the desert? I'm a little too old for such hijinks."

"Aw c'mon, the Gorge is admittedly way the hell out in East Pig's Knuckle, Washington, but it's not like it's totally devoid of culture. I mean, there's wineries. And grocery stores ... after a fashion. Not to mention our beautifully-appointed Recreational Vehicle, and about a gazillion crazed Danfans who will be there to hear the most civilized music on earth."

"Yaaas, and what a confirmed urbanite like our Maestro Fagen is doing heading out to perform in such a wasteland I have no idea. Maestro Becker, I don't know about him anymore, I suspect his years in Hawaii have foolishly persuaded him he is an outdoorsman. But I trusted someone in that outfit to have more sense than to hazard such wilds."

Duh Perfesser shuddered, the afternoon sun shimmering on his full head of perfectly-coiffed silvery hair, and daintily sucked down a good third of his daiquiri.

"Hey, your loss, buddy, you're going to be missing some fine fine music." I gave him one of my more wicked smiles. "Not to mention some terrific potables ... and other relaxicants."

"Please! If you're homesteading out in the middle of a cow-pasture, you're not imbibing 'potables.' You're swilling booze." He shuddered again. "Moonshine, most likely. Or were you perhaps contemplating emulating one of the crasser characters in The Masters' works, and resorting to Cuervo Gold?"

I snorted again. This was one of several running jokes between Duh Perfesser and me--I maintaining that Cuervo Gold is actually a crock, merely regular 'silver' Cuervo colored with caramel, whereas what one really wanted when seeking a good tequila was a well-seasoned anejo, or at least a reposada. To which the Old Perfesser would rejoin that 'a good tequila' was an oxymoron anyway, that one could get the effect of even the best tequila by simply hitting oneself in the head with a rubber mallet, and that Only a Fool would be drinking anything other than rum-based drinks in hot climates to start with.

"Now, now," I continued, "it's perfectly do-able to prepare and enjoy a sophisticated cocktail even under the most primitive circumstances."

Now it was his turn to snort. "You don't mean to tell me you're going to take along your entire bartending rig aboard this glorified hippie-bus you and your friends are chartering to the Gorge?"

"Of course not." I smiled sweetly back at him. "Obviously one needs to simplify. But one does that by simply narrowing the menu down to a select few specialties--and then turning those out with perfection. If you do that, with style and aplomb, your party's made and your fame's assured."

"Hmmm ... " he said, pondering the dregs of his daiquiri.

I began mixing him another. "Let me tell you a story from My Old School, which if you recall was a certain over-350-year-old Ivy-clad institution in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"Drinking was a popular hobby at that school, let me tell you--several of my friends were majoring in it. There were drinking events large and small, formal and informal--and the football games were the wildest of all. Never mind the invariably lousy game happening on the field; the real entertainment was in the stands, where the Class of '29 and the Class of '79 were knocking 'em back with equal abandon, matching each other drink for drink."

I paused to place the drink I'd just finished making in front of Duh Perfesser, and continued.

"Well, I had this one friend--let's call him Larry--who was a martini man. Mixed a most excellent dry one, Tanqueray and all. So one Saturday, a bunch of us decided to watch the Crimson (not to be confused with the Crimson Tide, by a long stretch!) lose another one, and Larry tells us not to bother bringing along any bottles, he'll do the honors.

"We get to our seats--strategically chosen to be directly behind the Marching Band, who could always be counted on for terrific humor and drunken inspiration as a game wore on--and Larry pulls from various pockets in his parka a thermos full of his perfectly-mixed martinis, a small jar of cocktail olives, and a package of glasses (plastic rocks glasses, unfortunately, but it's the thought that counts).

"We decide not to squander this nectar all at once, though. We wait for the first touchdown--scored by the other side. (We don't have to wait long.) As the opposing team lines up and kicks successfully for the extra point, we all stand on our bleacher, raise our glasses, bellow a hearty "Oh shit!" and down our drinks. We then sit down to applause and shouts of approval, to await our next opportunity.

"Again, we don't have to wait long. In fact, we have little wait that entire afternoon, as the visitors score some seven touchdowns to our one measely field goal. The second time we rise to our feet, the band is wise to us, turning to cheer us on and yell our toast with us. By the third, several of the adjoining sections are doing likewise. By the fifth or sixth ... well, my recollections grow a little hazy by then, but there was one helluva lot of people yelling "Oh shit!" with us by then.

"But I do remember the 'tinis stayed silvery pure and ice-cold to the last drop. Though perhaps the ambient temperature of 37 degrees Farenheit had something to do with that. Anyway, that was still the warmest college football game I ever remember watching ... at least part of. And the afternoon would not have had anywhere near the impact without Larry's perfect martinis."

"You mean to tell me you wouldn't have had half a stadium full of drunken Ivy Leaguers bellowing 'oh shit' if you'd have been drinking, say, Southern Comfort?"

Now it was my turn to shudder. "Comfort in the bleachers! Are you kidding? How cliche'! What do you take me for, a Boston Univeristy sorority girl or something?"

"There are many things I might take you for, my dear, but a sorority sister would not be one of them." He gave me a thoughtful look. "So, then ... what would be the signature drink you plan to serve at this rustic gathering?"

Aha! He was actually considering coming to the Gorge with us! I decided to string him along as long as I could. "Well," I said, "it has to be something tropical for sure, in order to combat the desert heat. Not too complicated, but with a nice twist so that it has some style. Something a little off-beat, like Our Boys. So, I was considering--"

Just when I could tell I had him really going, however, who should interrupt but my Hippy-Dippy Handyman, barreling in with a hand-truck full of supplies.

"Hey, boss-lady!" he bellowed. "Lookit what just arrived! This here Party-in-a-Pail Frozen Margarita Mix you were lookin' to try out for the wing-ding at the Gorge! Far out, man! Can I be your first guinea pig?"

The Old Perfesser guffawed. "Something with a nice twist, so that it has some style, eh?"

"Okay," I said, a little defensively, "that stuff was gonna be for the third round and after--but I'm definitely gonna be using the good stuff for the first couple rounds."

"With the Cuervo Gold, no doubt." He drained his third daiquiri, picked up his hat, and gave me a nod. "Many thanks for the entertaining story, and I will happily stay here awaiting your return from the wilderness of libations." He gave my handyman a nod too, and sauntered out.

"What's with him?" said my noble laborer, jerking his head in the direction of Duh Perfesser's retreat.

"Never you mind, Skunk darling," I told him. "Some people there's no pleasing. Now sit right down and I'll give you that first taste you were asking for. And--oh, by the way, were you able to get in that little shipment from your hometown?"

"Ah yes, the chiba." He giggled and rolled his eyes. "Finest kind, boss-lady. Your magic bus she be flyin' to the Gorge without wings even."