Friday, October 26, 2007

The Great Divide

Some guys are Ford guys; others are Chevy guys.

Some trombone players are Conn guys; others are Bach guys. I'm a Conn guy, even though I play Edwards trombones nowadays. It's more about the ideal of the tone quality than about who made the trombone. Conn trombones (particularly the older ones from the 1950s and 1960s) have a lively, rich, interesting tone quality, while the word that applies to a Bach is stentorian -- they are big and bold.

In Ireland, there are Catholic guys, and there are Protestant guys -- which has been the basis for a lot of, er, disagreement. William F. Buckley, Jr. once asked an Irish acquaintance, "Aren't there any atheists in Ireland?" The reply was telling: "Of course, but you see, there are Catholic atheists and Protestant atheists."

Some guys go for Ginger; others for Mary Ann. Tall, seductive, red-headed, and unobtainable, vs. perky brunette girl next door. (Don't expect complete honesty on this one. Most guys are Ginger guys, but their wives might somehow acquire the impression they prefer Mary Ann.)

Dogs vs. cats. Boxers vs. briefs. Blondes vs. brunettes. PC vs. Mac. Lowes vs. Home Depot. Life is full of dichomoties, with partisans who line up on both sides. It is the rare independent individual who can always remain truly ecumenical.

But the most important of all divides is, indisputably, this:

Beefeater vs. Bombay Sapphire.

It's Friday night after work. You come home and want the pause that refreshes, and nothing does that like a good martini. Put some ice in a shaker. Add dry vermouth, shake it until your hands are cold, pour it out into the sink -- the vermouth that sticks to the ice is all the vermouth we need. Add two shots of gin, shake until your hands are too cold to keep going, pour into a chilled martini glass, add a lemon twist. Voila. Liquid paradise.

Have one. Have two. But this is very important: do not drive anywhere. Martinis are the original velvet sledgehammer.

One of my Omaha buddies, Jay, taught me how to make martinis. Jay is also a Conn guy, having been a symphony musician for twenty years. The key is the brand of gin, Jay emphasized. So what are the good gins? Beefeater and Bombay Sapphire. Jay served Beefeater.

Later, making them on my own, I decided to try Bombay Sapphire. After two of them, I called Jay and got his answering machine. I told his machine that it was my considered opinion that Bombay Sapphire made an inferior martini. A week or so later, Jay and I played a gig together. He told me, "I wish I had saved that message you sent; I could make a million dollars with it."

"Why?" I asked.

Putting on his best drunk impression, Jay replied, "Jay, thish is Lee. It ish my conshiderd oh pinion that Bomb Bay. Safff Ffire. Makesss an inff ffferior martt. Hiccup. Tini."

That was ten years and another life ago, but Beefeater is still the one.

Enjoy, but enjoy cautiously.

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