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The Fabric of Life - Scotch Whisky and Association

Justin Wilson’s  friend asks “What kind of whiskey goes with this campfire?” and Justin says “What kind you got?”

I warned up everybody that I was gonna bring along some good whiskey and dollar cigars when we headed out on the West Texas Ramble and I was as good as my word.  Nothing suits me better than a tumbler of Blanton’s Single Barrel or some of that Weller Special Reserve and a good cigar.  I got started setting out of a evening when I was working with My Bro.  A little whiskey or a cold beer or two and a cigar was a good way to wind down the day.  Miss K was more than happy to sit out with me in Terlingua and watch the sun go down over the mountains.   While she didn’t have any good Cuban cigars in her pocket like My Bro; she also didn’t drink my whiskey either  — preferring tequila as a manner of general course. Gotta love that woman.

Laphroaig Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

They say life is too short to mess with cheap whiskey, rank cigars and ugly women.  I’ll drink to that.  It is certainly no secret that I love me some of  that Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey — whiskey spelled with an ‘e’.  Seldom mentioned is the fact that I like scotch whisky -no ‘e’- as well.  Specifically  10 year old Laphroaig Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky  and therein lies the telling of the tale for today.

Back in 2005, I tripped back to East Tennessee for an all class High School Reunion.  The sorry, lazy bastards that organized the event made it an all class reunion because it was easier than trying to track down each and every person in our graduating class.  Lord knows I am not a social animal but I did enjoy that little foray.   Thanks to the internet and social networking I had managed to re-connect with several old acquaintances and even some class mates that were unknown to me back in the day.  High School in the early 70’s was nothing like it is today but even though that was near stone age times ( according to my daughter) you still had a pretty tight circle of friends you hung out with.  To my chagrin now, my circle of friends then tended to be the ones more concerned with where you could buy beer underage than school work.  Ah well, water under the bridge and I doubt I would change anything if given the chance.  My dad once told me I would be lucky to see age 30; I think maybe I am gonna double that. We’ll see, huh?

Joel ca. 1981

One of the folks I was looking forward to meeting was my (now) friend Joel.  Joel was a year ahead of me and his sister was in my class.   I knew who Joel was but our paths never crossed during high school –read into that what you will.   On the surface,  we looked to be diametrically as opposite as you could possibly be.   He had not only finished college but had gone on to get a Ph.D.   He landed a professor’s gig at a midwestern university all the while staying married to the same woman.

Joel and I had acquainted ourselves during the  couple of years preceding the reunion and had become good friends.  Common ground was a love of good music.  Joel could play both guitar and banjo well enough to get by in public. I always wanted to do that but lacked the perseverance and basic musical ability to ever pull it off.  I found out he piped alt.country and Americana country  music into his lab where he used the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as a model to study mechanisms of gene activation and gene silencing.  My Dad was an academic and he did some genetic research so I know a tad about the subject via osmosis for the marginally literate but Joel might as well be writin’ chinese arithmetic to me.   I chuckle when I think of James McMurtry and Chris Knight playing to an audience of those drosophila critters and nerdy kids in white lab coats.

Recent Joel

At an after party, the sorry ass reunion organizers and Joel ended up in a hotel room together.   Organizer #2 was Crow Dog and he brought his guitar, Organizer #1 was me and I brought a malodorous cigar.  Joel showed up with his banjo and a bottle of Laphroaig.   3 friends, some music and some good scotch whisky.  Cliche as it may sound, life seldom gets better than it was that night.  I still think of Joel each time I unstopper a bottle of Laphroaig and pour the smoky peat-seaweed-sweet elixir into a tumbler.

So most of 10 years later, Joel and I are still in touch.  You will see his comments here fairly often.  I am honored that he takes time to read this blog.  If I venture off on a political bent, I can almost guarantee a comment from Joel since we tend to lock horns when it comes to politics.  I treasure friendships such as this and more so with each passing year.  More treasured than a big house or a fancy car; that.   One of these days I hope to invite Joel and his lovely and talented wife off down into that Big Bend Country.   He can bring his bicycle to ride  down here.  He likes to ride it in Colorado mountain bike treks so the Desert Mountains might suit him as well though I can’t even fathom why.   He can bring his banjo and join the other musicians on the Front Porch at Terlingua Ghost Town and they can play as the sun goes down over the Chisos.  I got a feeling both of us would enjoy that.

End Note: Play a Train Song by Robert Earl Keen from the brand new CD Ready for Confetti.  REK wrote ten of the songs on his new CD –this isn’t one of them.  Todd Snider wrote Play a Train Song. This one is for you Joel.   Take care my friend.

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2 comments to The Fabric of Life – Scotch Whisky and Association

  • Joel

    Well, this is way kinder than I deserve, Andy, but thanks. There’s always an Islay single malt (Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Bowmore) at my place if you find yourself in the St. Louis area.

    BTW, I played a gig in South St. Louis just last night with the Bates Street Folk and Blues Band. I usually bring a flask of single malt with me on these gigs. Last spring, I was paid $60 and a half pint of moonshine. I still prefer single malt.

    I am somewhat curious about Big Bend. My Uncle Bernie used to teach biology at Defiance College in Ohio, and would take kids to Big Bend every summer for a week of hiking and camping. There are a few family legends surrounding these adventures, mostly told to me by my brother Mike, who went on one of the trips as a groupy. I understand they didn’t bring tents because it never rained in the summer.

    I still recall the reunion fondly. Too bad the web site you put up years ago isn’t running anymore. There was a video clip of me and Crow croaking out a chorus of John Prine’s “Paradise.”

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  • AlleyCat67

    I got to agree with you…. not really a better way to close out the day than a good single barrel bourbon or single malt Scotch… I really like the Glenlivet 18 yr old single malt Scotch but at 80 bucks a bottle it’s a pricey proposition for sure… Blanton’s single barrel bourbon is easier to reach for me, price-wise. I also like Evan Williams’ Single Barrel Vintage, Maker’s Mark and Booker’s (this one is 50 bucks a bottle here so don’t get it very often).

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