Stand Back. Boom!

My golf game resembles a fire in a munitions factory, tee shots like howitzers veering off toward churches and day-care centers. It’s ungodly dangerous the way I play. For the most part, I’ve given up on golf, just as I’ve given up on female deities and the Chicago Bears.

I mean, I see the smiling faces of my nieces at the family tourney back in Chicago. They are the faces of summer itself. I envy their joy, the game’s camaraderie, the sun on your neck, the smell of nitrogen in the tee boxes.

Other than that, you can have golf. I’ll trade you golf and opera. I’ll keep billiards and tobogganing.

Obviously, I am not so good at things that require long periods of thought.

Speaking of summer, we had a Midsummer Night’s Scream the other night in Glendale. Did you hear us? Sorry.

It was another gathering of the Gin & Tonic Society of Greater Los Angeles, a group that has grown to  nearly 400 members worldwide. Folks drove all the way from Temecula … San Diego…Sherman Oaks. Why? Beats me.

To be honest, I feel a bit marginalized with the kids now grown, out of rhythm with the suburb I live in, which exists only for schools, soccer, PTA, scouts. In some ways, I really dig this whiff of freedom. In other ways, I feel adrift.

Enter the Gin & Tonic Society – sort of a Jonathan Club for empty-nesters.

Saturday’s party was a casual affair, yet twinkly, one of those summer tone poems that takes place just after sundown, when the trees – black against the sky – seem to hold all your dirty secrets.

“You were a young lieutenant, and I was a fragrant phantom, wasn’t I?” Zelda once wrote to F. Scott.  “And it was a radiant night, a night of soft conspiracy, and the trees agreed that it was all going to be for the best.”

A nice evening indeed. But for the best? You decide.

Imagine a sailboat zisting across the bay. That’s me pouring gin & tonics for 70 very thirsty guests. There was sort of a “splash zone.” One dude might have drowned.

“Who needs a drink?!” I yell while twisting open another bottle.

As I work, I tell cautionary tales about fragrant phantoms and the perils of alcohol.

“So a man and woman spend a long evening with a fine Irish gin,” I say.

“At the end of the night, they’re entangled on the woman’s couch.”

“I love you,” the woman purrs.

“Is that you talking?” the man asks. “Or is that the gin?”

She says: “That’s me talking to the gin.”

My point — and it’s a serious one: Gin can steal any sense of decorum. Which is probably what I like most about it, being a repressed suburban dad who just quit golf.

The star of the night is my friend Lynnmaria, who re-creates those dazzling purple drinks again, the ones that look like some sort of Japanese spa (Empress gin, lemonade, flower).

And we hold our usual blind taste test, with three unnamed gins for guests to rate. The winner: An African gin (Bayab), which finished first against two fine California gins (Gothic and Gray Whale).

I like upsets like that. FYI, I grew up rooting for a baseball team – the Chicago Cubs – that was never once favored in a single game.

In any case, the guests seemed to have a super time, particularly when our host, John, brought out his Champagne saber and uncorked a bottle with one Ruthian swing. Pop goes the cork. Oooooo go the fans. It was like a home run derby.

The crowd? The usual eclectic L.A. mix: cinematographers and standups, limo drivers and grifters. L.A., huh?

In the corner, an animator gripes that Disney makes nothing but musicals anymore, shunning the deeper storytelling of movies such as “Up” or “Toy Story.”

Also in attendance, the world’s leading expert on grunion, the fish that hurl themselves on the beach each year in an effort to perpetuate themselves. Sense a theme here?

As it happens, it is Ernie Hemingway’s birthday, and we are soon toasting him with French 75’s, a drink that pops you in the head like a French field gun. Or one of my curvaceous tee shots.

The recipe: Gin. Champagne. Simple syrup. Lemon juice. Shake with ice. Stand back. Boom!

Look, this isn’t exactly Europe. It’s Glendale, in rack focus on a warm summer night — in some ways far more fetching than some hot pile of rocks on the Mar Ligure.

“A total disaster,” I tell our hostess Eileen the next day. “I mean, people wouldn’t leave!”

“Should we do it again?” she asks.


For info on the Gin & Tonic Society, or to purchase commemorative glasses, please go to

6 thoughts on “Stand Back. Boom!

  1. I don’t golf or drink gin. But thanks to your way with vivid prose, I enjoyed this post immensely. Glad you all had a great Boom time.

  2. So sad I missed this gathering!

    BTW, there’s now a bar for Chicagoans in West L.A.: Tiny’s Hi-Dive. During football season, you can go there to lament with other (ex) Bear fans.

  3. “Saturday’s party was a casual affair, yet twinkly, one of those summer tone poems that takes place just after sundown…..” -perf.

  4. Pulitzer prize winning poet Stanley Kunitz is quoted sa saying, “it is out of the dailiness of life that one is driven into the deepest recesses of the self.’ How perfect a description is that of our Don Of Domestica? I observe that “The G@T Society Of L.A.” now has “Greater” attached to its nom de plume. Today’s narrative turn reveals how that is so, with Lights! Camera! Action! and the soar of conversational debris strewn across consciousness and lighting up the dark sky of a swoon-of-a-Summer evening; all for the love of fine writing and its writer, who can turn garden lights into stars and moonlight into the foam pouring forth from a beheaded champaign bottle. Mazeltov!!
    No wonder these denizens of the night, afloat on such a starry sea, did not want to disembark……

    By the way, Kunitz’ pulitzer prize winning book of poetry (alors!) was rejected by a rumored eight publishing houses, and at least three editors refused to even look at it, before one brave soul took a chance and put it to print. Even then, it took decades for him (and his work) to become known. He ended up being Poet Laureate Of The U.S. at age 95(!!). He died at age 100. How little we know of the beauty of the self, and the sky of the mind that attends its horizons.. here we are, most of the Northern hemisphere writhing in the flaming hands of record heat, looking forward to the cooling magic of a Southern California Summer evening. In the light of its luscious darkness, make something happen.

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