Home of the 15 dollar glass of scotch…

I apologize for the lack of updates recently, I’ve been very lazy, and moreover, it has been extremely hot. Dear god. I sweat just rolling over from my stomach to my back! (imagine me pretty much sprawled out on my floor tarepanda style, with 4 fans blowing straight at me). Wisconsin is pretty mean that way – up until last week, it still got so cold you occasionally needed a sweater to step outside. And then, within the span of three days, life in the cow fields becomes this sweaty soupy humid mess. Like Panama, only without the jungles.
As an aside, I wonder, do cows have a winter coat and summer coat of “fur”? (do you call it ‘fur’ when it’s a cow?).
As well all know, the best thing to do when it’s warm and hot is to eat and drink excessively. I was watching this one special on Komodo dragons on the Discovery Channel a while back, and the narrator was mentioning that they will totally gorge themselves, then pass out on a rock and not move for 2 days. So if it’s good enough for the gigantic freaky lizards, it’s good enough for me!
To this end, Samantha and I, and her boyfriend (sorry Marty) thought we might go out and be bourgeoisie for the evening, or at least, as James put it “feel so exclusively upper middle class”. At first we went out to eat at Wasabi, which would make this the fourth time I’ve eaten there this week, and I ordered tonkatsu for the fourth time this week. And they say variety is the spice of life! HAH! (*throws head back and laughs*).
I love tonkatsu. Those of you who have never tried it, I wholeheartedly recommend you go straightaway to your local Japanese restaurant (or tonkatsuyasan for those of you currently in Japan) and order a nice big heaping serving of deep fried pork cutlet. It is like a little slice of panko-coated porky heaven. My friends used to mock me because I would always order tonkatsu wherever we would go (and consistently remind me that Tonkatsu has one of the highest fat and calorie contents of any Japanese food – NOT TRUE!! Karage chicken is higher! HAH!!!) (*sheepishly notes that the only thing he likes as much as Tonkatsu is karage chicken・) But I will note with just a slightly hidden note of smugness in my voice that despite their protests, they always quieted down when the food came and invariably, at some point during the meal, a wandering pair of chopsticks that were definitely not my own would meander their way over towards my plate, and then *WOOSH*! a yummy slice or two of tonkatsu is magically spirited away from my plate. Hmmm・
Anyway, that was dinner. And we all know that in Panda world “dinner” can often be thought of as “foreplay for alcoholics” (is this clever, or am I just especially sleepy right now?). Because, you see, dinner inevitably leads to after dinner drinks and for this we elected to get our bourgeoisie groove on, and head over to the Kimia Lounge. As some readers may recall, my previous experience at the Kimia Lounge left something to be desired. But given the ritzyness of the whole place, I thought it would only be fair to given them another shake at my boozing dollar, so off we went.
Now the Kimia Lounge is a strange place if you’ve never been there before. First of all, its opening was plagued with controversy, as people protested it as a symbol of bourgeoisie oppression and class stratification (the argument being that the proposed dress code and much vaunted overpriced drinks were purposely designed to price out students and the poorer denizens of state street). However, the fact that the people protesting this were the same people who just the previous day had been pepper sprayed out of the Chancellor’s office where they had locked themselves (without showering!!!) for three days ostensibly to protest “sweatshop labor” sort of undercut their credence with the general populace (smelling like ass tends to do that・. Eventually, after all was said and done, the owner decided to do away with the uber restrictive dress code (it used to be that he wanted to play it like one of those “tie required” places). Okay, fair enough. But given that he still wanted to give an upscale image, should he really have placed it next to the ghetto McDonalds・?
Yes, you heard me correctly. The Kimia Lounge, much vaunted bastion of upper class stiff lipped elitism, is located next to a run down McDonalds on the square. *boggles*
Anyway, that’s all well and good I suppose, since maybe that’s the owner’s way of making nice with the student population. Because, after all, what goes better with a big mac than a martini? Anyway, Samantha, jams and I wander our way up in the lounge. At the door, we are politely stopped by a very bored looking doorman pimping what was obviously a very expensive suit. Except that he had quite a tummy, so he did that thing that potbellied used car salesmen do, he wore a dark button up polo shirt with his suit, and then left the suit jacket open, so his belly could hang out (mercifully covered by the stretchy polo fabric). The only problem is, my friends, that this is simply not fashionable. I mean, it’s no worries if you’re a bit thick around the midsection. Heaven knows panda could stand to lose a few pounds. And if you want to be comfortable in cotton polo stretchy goodness, then more power to you. HOWEVER! If you’re going to pimp an expensive suit, then by all means, have no shame in yourself and the body that god and Twinkies gave you, and button yourself into that suit. If it strains and stretches, then that be that – that’s what tailors are for. But don’t wear a suit that’s 4 sizes too small for you and your big Swiss cake roll tummy and then leave it open, as if we’re going to be fooled into thinking “oh, that suite would totally cover his stomach if he just buttoned it up!”
Sorry, random rant. Anyway, the doorman checks our Ids, and then I, having deep seated issues in dealing with figures in positions of authority in any sort of healthy fashion, decided to make annoyingly ingratiating conversation with him as he checking my ID, possibly to distract him from noticing my horrible purple-mullet-days-of-yore, forever captured for the next 8 years on my driver’s license. Since I notice he’s got a book on the chair next to him, I inquire “Oh, whatcha’ reading?”
And without blinking, he replies (as he hands me the book): “Bikini Planet”.
I take the book, and sure enough, it is in fact “Bikini Planet”. The cover catch phrase reads “Makes me think of bikinis. And planets.” Well then. I hand it back to him without a word, and we all go inside.
The inside of the Kimia Lounge is just as I remember – all swanky and dark, with tea lights providing softly wavering illumination from various shadowy crevices, with some floating down the little marble enclosed river in the middle of the room. Towards the front, the bar, with an energetic couple of musicians belting out some sort of neo-funky jazzy nightclub croonings in the corner. Lots of deep mahogany tables, elegant, understated. The almost stereotypical group of “regulars”, nicely dressed individuals, the women in dark colored dresses and the men invariably garbed in black button up shirts (with the collar button fastened), and dark slacks, a silver belt buckle the only splash of color interrupting the depressing swath of murkiness. I think most are trying to go for the “much maligned starving artist” look, but really sort of come off faux-emo. One of the guys is wearing a suit coat with the brown leather patches on it and is swirling a goblet of cognac around in his outstretched palm, gently warming it while sniffing its “bouquet”. He looks slightly dorky, though at the same time he did sort of have a cool “academic professor” type of atmosphere about him. In my mind I imagine he must probably have devoted his whole life to the study of the usage of some random particle of speech in the English language. In the back are secluded alcoves where people can gather round the solitary flickering lamp on the middle table and discuss in hushed tones whatever it is they came to discuss. And towards the other side in the rear are the beds (yes, beds) where lovers can come and intertwine their hands in a sickeningly sweet version of Lady and the Tramp and sip each others’ martinis while gazing deep into their partner’s eyes and whispering sweet nothings to each other while the rest of us in the front roll our eyes and cruelly mock that beautiful thing that is their love. (kids can be so vicious!)
Speaking of lovey-dovey couples…
Anyway, we roll inside, sit at our table and out of the darkness ghosts a quite-hot (and quite high-maintenance, no doubt) waitress, all elegantly decked out in the evening wear, passing out extensive menus with headings like “wine list”, “martinis”, “scotches” etc. My god there are a ton! Sam and I start out with martinis to begin with, my first a brilliant blue afair that actually tasted really good. James, being a man’s man, stuck with a Jack and coke (which made me feel all of a sudden very insecure in my manliness).
At some point, after several more drinks, we began to explore the menu in greater depth. Sam kept making off handed comments about caviar which made James and I nervous, as this place a) had real caviar (unlike this caviar) and b) it was really expensive. Like $250 expensive. Fortunately, through a concerted effort at employing that time honored male skill of being completely oblivious to ‘subtle hints’ that women drop, James and I managed to persevere and the little unborn babies of the Caspian sea sturgeon (and our wallets) were spared a horrible fate for another day. You see, there’s bourgeoisie, then there’s bourgeoisie・
Anyway, chilling out, grooving to the music, when all of a sudden out of nowhere, Sam inquires of me what a “subtle hint of peat smoke on the nose” means. I turn on and fix the blank stare of “huh?” on her.
“See! It says right here” she says, pointing at the Scotch menu “・ ‘an oak base with undercurrents of cinnamon, hardwood, and rich spices. Infused with the flavor and aroma of the highlands. (blah blah blah, I can’t remember the rest of the extensive 5 line description)・with a subtle hint of peat smoke on the nose”.
Scary. Panda trying to uncover mystery of “peat smoke on the nose”
I stare in amazement at the jumble of adjectives spilled out on the page in front of me. The scotch she’s pointing to has some three part hyphenated Scottish name, something like a “Michael Scott mcbinlaughey” or something. I scratch my head, trying to figure out how exactly one goes about “infusing the flavor of the highlands” into something. (perhaps with the “flavor injector” Mr. Ronco keeps trying to throw in as a special bonus with his Ronco Electronic Rotisserie!?) (I watch waaaaaay too many infomercials・. I have to admit, I am intrigued. After all, are all those flowery adjectives simply a waste? Or is there actually a drink out there that I will sip, causing me to turn to my companion and remark in an off-handed manner “You know, that really does have quite a subtle hint of peat smoke on the nose!”..!? Then I see the price・/FONT>
Now, I know that some of you out there, especially those of you from the coasts or currently in Japan won’t bat an eyelid at a $15 drink. And if I lived in such a place, I don稚 think I would have hesitated as much as I did. But you see, here, in Madison Wisconsin, surrounded on all sides by cow fields and with a population 25% comprised of destitute students, that is simply outlandish. I walk by cows and sheep on my way to work everyday, for the love of god・ In short my friends, this is not New York, and drinks should not cost that much.
Kind of anticlimactic, huh? for $15 I was kinda hoping it’d come with lasers.
So why did I buy it? Well, perhaps it was because of Sam’s incessant demands that I uncover the mystery of “peat smoke on the nose”. Perhaps it’s because the cute waitress saw I was looking at the scotch menu and start pur-purrring sweet nothings into my ear about how much a man like myself looked like he would appreciate “undercurrents of cinnamon and hardwood”. Perhaps its because I’ve never had scotch and I wanted to feel truly elite, engage in a bit of class snobbery vis-・vis those people eating off the dollar menu next door (I’M JOKING!). Perhaps, and probably most likely, because I wanted to be like Sean Connery. Because Sean Connery likes scotch, you see. Because he’s Scottish. Or so the thinking went.
So away spirits cute evening-dress waitress, while James and Sam begin too ooh and awe, Sam because she finally gets to uncover the secret of the “peat smoke on the nose” and James because he knows I’m about to get majorly f-d up. SWOOSH! In swoops the drink. The waitress sort of looks at it with a cocked eyebrow as she sets it down on the table and then says “If you don’t mind sir, the Kimia Lounge would greatly appreciate it if you would give us a review of this drink after you’re done”. Then away she goes, leaving the three of us crowded around the magical $15 glass.
Boy it sure doesn’t look like a $15 drink. Sam takes a hesitant sniff to try and detect aforementioned ‘peat smoke’. She wrinkles her nose and jerks away.
“Wow.” Is all she says. It does not sound like a good ‘wow’.
James has an evil grin on his face. I know this is going to suck, because I can see the alcohol haze begin to rise off the top of the glass. Thank god I ordered it on the rocks. In my mind, I formulate a strategy to wait until all the ice has melted and diluted the drink to finish it. But for now, I had an expectant crowd of two bastardly friends waiting to see me get sloppy as all get-up, so I bite the bullet and down a gulp like a man.
To be honest, the after taste (after I could feel my throat again) was actually not too bad. Sort of pleasant. I don’t know if I’d characterize it as being ‘infused with the highlands’, per say, but it was definitely・EM>distinct. The only problem is, actually drinking the stuff was sort of like drinking straight Listerine. Only with a much, much higher alcohol content. Then being hit in the head with a shovel.
My burgoise stiff upper lip hides the excrutiating pain in my mouth…
My god that drink was strong. We never did find out the exact proof, but I’m certain it must have been well over 100. It made my eyes water. My throat burn. My taste buds all shriveled up an died. As an aside, however, I’m certain that I killed every bacterium who ever dared to set pseudopod in my mouth. (little biology humor). I recall becoming extremely inebriated, and laughing at everything, including, for some inexplicable reason, Sam’s very beautifully done French manicure. I want a French manicure!!!
The taste grew on me. Towards the end, I actually came to almost enjoy the drink. I don’t think I’ll ever become a scotch drinker, especially not at $15 a glass, but if and when I become maniacally rich, I’m going to buy one of those antique globes that open up into a bar, and keep a bottle of scotch in there. For when I have to entertain my despotic mad scientist dictator friends, you see.
As an epilogue: I apologize to Steph (and Melissa!) for the drunken call, and for the inordinate amount of ~izzle slang that I dimly recall peppering our coversation with. You know. “off the hizzle fo’ shizzle. Don’t change the televizzle.. It’s the Snoop D – oh -Double gizzle・”. The Snoop Dogg show on MTV is just pure comedic genius. It’s just that when I’m inebriated, I forget that I am not, in fact, Snoop Dogg, and consequently sound stupid ending every other word in “~izzle”. So please forgive me.
Now listening to: “Paul Oakenfold – Global Underground: Live in New York (CD 2)” Truly one of Oakenfold’s greatest mixes・ *tear wells up in panda’s eye*
10:54 am

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