The Vampire Chuck

Wesly and I are on the mailing list of a small-press publisher called Cemetery Dance that specializes in horror fiction. They also have a long-standing relationship with Stephen King, and often produce extremely nice editions of some of his novels — special hardcovers, slipcases, larger folios, illustrations that aren’t in the mass-published editions, etc.

One of the artists who regularly paints illustrations for the special edition King books (among others) is Glenn Chadbourne, who’s wonderful and well-known in the genre. Every now and again he offers special commissions to fans via the mailing list. For instance, a couple of years ago he offered to have people send photos of their house, either by itself or with you in it, and he’d turn it into a haunted/spooky house. We saw some of the results posted on the site; they were very cool. Last September his offer was to paint you as your favorite Stephen King character, or any character you like, in any scene from any of his books. The asking price was quite reasonable too.

Hmm, this sounded intriguing. Who would I be? I didn’t picture myself as anyone on the level of Roland of Gilead from the Dark Tower novels. Maybe one of the geeky kids from It? After a minute or two, a character and image burst forth in my mind.

Danny Glick, from ‘Salem’s Lot. Remember him? He was a minor but very memorable character, a young friend of Mark Petrie, one of the novel’s protagonists. Mark is a 12-year-old horror fan (not unlike myself at that age; I had the same glow-in-the-dark Dracula and Frankenstein plastic models as he did) who in the course of the story loses his friend Danny, who died of “pernicious anemia” not long after a mysterious figure buys and reinhabits the long-abandoned “haunted house” in town. Then, a few days later … Danny shows up. At night. Outside his bedroom window. His second-story bedroom window. Floating. And scratching to be let in.

To this day it’s one of the scariest scenes I’ve ever read in a horror novel. Even though the TV adaptation was deeply flawed and overall quite mediocre, the scene featuring Danny trying to get into Mark’s room is the most effective in the entire film. It’s an amazing scene. And I wanted in.

I sent some pictures of myself as a kid to Glenn, along with the relevant chapter of the novel, and below is what he sent me back, 7 months later. (The initial offer was to have them ready by Christmas, but unless it was absolutely necessary as a gift he asked for extra time to do the paintings properly. It was a gift to myself, so of course I said for him to take as much time as he needed.)

This might be a bit beyond fair use, since it’s more than a paragraph, but here’s the relevant scene:

Something had awakened him.

He lay still in the ticking dark, looking at the ceiling.

A noise. Some noise. But the house was silent.

There it was again. Scratching.

Mark Petrie turned over in his bed and looked through the window and Danny Glick was staring in at him through the glass, his skin grave-pale, his eyes reddish and feral. Some dark substance was smeared about his lips and chin, and when he saw Mark looking at him, he smiled and showed teeth grown hideously long and sharp.

“Let me in,” the voice, whispered, and Mark was not sure if the words had crossed dark air or were only in his mind.

He became aware that he was frightened–his body had known before his mind. He had never been so frightened, not even when he got tired swimming back from the float at Popham Beach and thought he was going to drown. His mind, still that of a child in a thousand ways, made an accurate judgment of his position in seconds. He was in peril of more than his life.

“Let me in, Mark. I want to play with you.”

There was nothing for that hideous entity outside the window to hold on to; his room was on the second floor and there was no ledge. Yet somehow it hung suspended in space … or perhaps it was clinging to the outside shingles like some dark insect.

“Mark … I finally came, Mark. Please …”

Of course. You have to invite them inside. He knew that from his monster magazines, the ones his mother was afraid might damage or warp him in some way.

He got out of bed and almost fell down. It was only then that he realized fright was too mild a word for this. Even terror did not express what he felt. The pallid face outside the window tried to smile, but it had lain in darkness too long to remember precisely how. What Mark saw was a twitching grimace–a bloody mask of tragedy.

Yet if you looked in the eyes, it wasn’t so bad. If you looked in the eyes, you weren’t so afraid anymore and you saw that all you had to do was open the window and say, “C’mon in, Danny,” and then you wouldn’t be afraid at all because you’d be one with Danny and all of them and at one with him. You’d be–

No! That’s how they get you!

He dragged his eyes away, and it took all of his will power to do it.

“Mark, let me in! I command it! He commands it!”

Mark began to walk toward the window again. There was no help for it. There was no possible way to deny that voice. As he drew closer to the glass, the evil little boy’s face on the other side began to twitch and grimace with eagerness. Fingernails, black with earth, scratched across the windowpane.

Think of something. Quick! Quick!

“The rain,” he whispered hoarsely. “The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain. In vain he thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts.”

Danny Glick hissed at him.

“Mark! Open the window!”

“Betty Bitter bought some butter–”

“The window, Mark, he commands it!”

“–but, says Betty, this butter’s bitter.”

He was weakening.

OK, you can look now … *scratch*scratch*scratch*

Whomp year!

by Glenn Chadbourne. Click to embiggen.

Freaked. Me. Out.

He completely nailed what I looked like at 12, from the reference pictures and from one in particular (although he properly put me in a funeral suit, and not the plaid jacket my mom had had me in in the photo). My sisters freaked out too. (“Don’t show that to either of my kids!”) It was pretty much perfect, and is going to creep me out every time I look at it … as it should! Thanks a million Glenn, you did a brilliant job. One thing though — I will show it to my niece and nephew … once they’re old enough to read ‘Salem’s Lot.

Be honest

I’m still in a bit of a dry spell / writer’s block / lazy bastard / whatever period (I’m working on something now, I swear!), but in the meantime, before I get back to cocktails, food, music, New Orleans and whatever else, here’s something to chew on. I don’t know who these folks are or where their demonstration was, but it’s breathtaking and chilling and … well, see for yourself.

Click to embiggen



RIP, RMS Titanic

The RMS Titanic sank exactly 100 years ago this moment, 0518 GMT, April 15, 1912 (9:18pm Pacific Time, April 14). One thousand, five hundred eighteen were lost.

The last Morse code transmission from the Titanic’s radio room, sent by Jack Phillips, cut off abruptly when the ship lost power.




Ordinary Man

One of my favorite Christy Moore songs (written by Peter Hames), which seems particularly timely these days, I’m sad to say.

I’m an ordinary man, nothin’ special, nothin’ grand,
I’ve had to work for everything I own.
Well I never asked for a lot, I was happy with what I got,
Enough to keep my family and my home.
Now they say that times are hard, and they’ve handed me my cards,
They say there’s not the work to go around.
When the whistle blows the gates will finally close,
Tonight they’re going to shut this factory down,
Then they’ll tear it down.

I never missed a day nor went on strike for better pay,
For 20 years I served them best I could.
With a handshake and a cheque it seems so easy to forget
Loyalty through the bad times and the good.
The owner says he’s sad to see that things have got so bad,
But the Captains of Industry won’t let him lose,
He drives a brand new car, and smokes a fat cigar,
And still he takes his family on a cruise.
He’ll never lose.

Now it seems to me to be such a cruel irony,
He’s richer now ever he was before.
Now my cheque is spent and I can’t afford the rent,
There’s one law for the rich, one for the poor.
Every day I’ve tried to salvage some of my pride
To find some work so’s I might pay my way.
But everywhere I go, the answer is always no,
There’s no work for anyone here today.
No work today.

And so condemned I stand, just an ordinary man,
Like thousands beside me in the queue.
I watch my darlin’ wife tryin’ to make the best of life,
God knows what the kids are goin’ to do.
Now that we are faced with this human waste,
A generation cast aside.
For as long as I live, I never will forgive;
You’ve stripped me of my dignity & pride.
You’ve stripped me bare.


New York City, Clover Club & the New York Sour

New York, just like I pictured it! Skyscrapers, and … everything.

Last December Wesly and I finally, FINALLY went to New York, as we had been wanting and threatening to do for years. I wish I had collected a dollar for every time a friend of ours said, “WHAT?! YOU guys have never been to New York?!” It might have paid for the hotel bill. Well, some of it more likely.

How did we like New York? Well, let me put it this way — we’ve already picked out where we’d like to live. That’d be Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, which is a gorgeous neighborhood, full of places to go and things to do, plus it’s walking distance to one of the best bars I’ve ever been to. (Of course, if money were no object I certainly wouldn’t mind living in the East Village either.) Our first craft cocktail bar experience in New York, in fact, high on my want list — Clover Club, owned by bartender extraordinaire and New York cocktail maven Julie Reiner. An auspicious beginning to our New York drinking, I should think.

We met up with friends who lived in the neighborhood and settled in — neighborhoody, very friendly, less than a dozen seats at the front bar but comfy booths and plenty of tables. I was somewhat agog at the menu, which was voluminous and made me want to try pretty much everything. I ordered something off the menu but then one of our drinking companions ordered something I wasn’t familiar with; “I get this every single time I come here,” he said.

I was a little embarrassed that I did not remember this drink; it was pointed out that the drink appears in the excellent, indispensible tome Imbibe!. (Clearly I need to re-read the book and make some highlights.) It does not appear as a separate, stand-alone recipe but as part of a general entry on sours under the heading “Brandy, Gin, Santa Cruz or Whiskey Sour,” where the general sour of the mid-1800s — “spirits, sugar, water, lemon, ice” — receives a “notable innovation” of a float of red wine,

“to give it what one Chicago bartender called ‘the claret “snap”‘ (in the language of the saloon, red wine was always called ‘claret,’ no matter how distant its origins from the sunlit banks of the Gironde).”

That generic British term for red Bordeaux ended up being used to describe just about any dry red wine, and just about any dry red wine you have on hand will do as long as it’s got some nice fruit to it. I might not use something big and tannic like a Cabernet Sauvignon, but surely a Cabernet blend, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec, or I might even go off the wall sometime and try a jammy Zinfandel.

One sip revealed this to be a stupendous drink, with the wine creating myriad secondary flavors in the sour; I even thought I tasted a hint of absinthe although there was none in the drink, but was perhaps due to hints of licorice among the flavor components of the wine. So simple yet so complex; I’m a big fan of wine in cocktails and haven’t had nearly enough of them.

Do try this drink as soon as you can. I think you’ll fall in love with it as much as I did. Upon my return to Los Angeles and to Bar | Kitchen, one of our favorite haunts, I had the pleasure of being served more of these by former New York bartender Joseph Swifka, who of course made perfect ones, and with one sip brought me right back to Brooklyn.

New York Sour


2 ounces rye whiskey
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 ounce rich (2:1) simple syrup (or to taste; use more if your syrup is 1:1)
1 dash orange Curaçao
1/2 ounce dry red wine

Combine the whiskey, lemon juice, Curaçao and syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a sour glass, then carefully float the wine on top by pouring over the back of a spoon — you want a distinct layer floating on top of the drink, so be careful not to mix the layers. Sip and enjoy.

This was, of course, not the only drink we had at Clover Club — I really wanted to explore that menu, and explore I did. There were a few other concoctions imbibed that afternoon/evening:

Daisy de Santiago

Daisy de Santiago

The Daisy de Santiago, as collected by Charles H. Baker Jr. and tweaked to perfection by Clover Club — aged rum, lime juice, yellow Chartreuse, dash simple syrup.

Volstead Cocktail

Volstead Cocktail

The pre-Prohibition era Volstead Cocktails — rye, Swedish punsch, orange juice, grenadine, absinthe.

Clover Club

Clover Club

The eponymous Clover Club cocktail, because how could I not? Gin, dry vermouth, lemon, raspberry syrup, egg white.

Mr. Brown

Mr. Brown

I had a bit of Wesly’s Mr. Brown, which seemed an Old Fashionedy version of a Revolver Cocktail — Bourbon, coffee liqueur, vanilla syrup, orange and Angostura bitters, and not nearly as sweet as it sounds. He also had one called Zombies in Stereo — Apple brandy, Calvados, Pommeau, Bonal, yellow Chartreuse, lemon, maple syrup (holy hell).

And because it was on the menu, which it almost never is, I finished with a magnificent Widow’s Kiss

The Widow's Kiss

The Widow's Kiss

Dried rose petals did indeed fall from between the pages.

Only I lied, I didn’t finish with that. At that point, I was … well, happy. And as is my wont when I’m happy in a bar, I decided to buy shots for the bartenders and server (and Wesly and me, of course).

Later on Wesly said, “Amazingly enough, you were mostly okay when we left the bar.” We did indeed finally leave the bar, heading back to the subway and to Manhattan, where we were meeting other friends for dinner at a Midtown gastropub. I don’t recall which beer I ordered, but I do recall that it was about 7.8% ABV, that it came in an absurdly large vessel, and then I recall …


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