Tag Archives: Drinking Made Easy

DME: The Maine Event

( @drinkingmadeasy, #Maine )

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DME: Fathers Day and Hendrick’s Gin

( @drinkingmadeeasy, #HendricksGin )

Drinking Made Easy posted an article I wrote about Hendricks Gin and making G&Ts for my dad. Give it a read!

Celebrate Father’s Day with Hendrick’s Gin

Update: It looks like DME’s website upgrade broke the links, so here is the whole article.

With Father’s Day approaching and the weather heating up, I have been thinking about gin. When I was a kid, my old man used to ask me to make him gin and tonics when he got home from work or after he mowed the lawn. I started adding little dashes of cranberry juice for color which earned me a compliment or two. This encouragement led to a long running tradition of playing bartender at parties, which stands to this day.

I don’t always drink mixed cocktails, but if I do, it is almost always a gin and tonic. Tonic water and gin do nothing for me independently, but by their powers combined, they form pure boozy magic. It is the perfect combination of bitter and sweet flavors. A few weeks ago, I was talking to a well versed friend (the same guy that recommended Zing Zang in my Bloody Mary article) about my love of G&Ts; he recommend Hendrick’s Gin. After telling me about it, he brought a bottle over and it blew my mind.

Hendrick’s gin was established in 1999. The whole origin of the company and its 150-year-old still can be found on their website. The story confirms what my mouth has already told me – this gin is really smooth. It was so good that I felt bad mixing it with tonic water. I loathe martinis, but a spritz of vermouth and slice of cucumber radically changed my position on the drink and gin (independent of tonic water) in general. When I finally did overcome my hesitation about mixing it, I was blown away by the difference in quality and flavor. Simply put, this puts my father’s nasty ass bottle of Beefeater to shame.

If you are looking for a nice gift for your father, you can’t go wrong with Hendricks gin. It’s delicious and the bottle is unique (it looks olde-timey and medicinal), hell, you can even get it with an attractive carrying case. I purchased a bottle for my father because I can’t mock his Beefeater without providing a superior replacement (plus I get bragging rights for finding something better). As we all celebrate our dads this Sunday, just focus on the fact that if they didn’t have a favorite drink, we might not be walking around today.

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DME: King Family Vineyards

( #KingVineyard, @drinkingmadeeasy )

Drinking Made Easy was kind enough to publish my story about a visit to a Virginia Vineyard, check it out:

Drinking Made Easy: A Visit to King Family Vineyards

Update: It looks like DME’s new website broke the links to the articles, here is the whole story:

The term wine country might invoke visions of the French country side or the sunny hills of Napa Vally… now allow your mind to think about Virginia. Not following? I recently took a trip to Charlottesville, VA to visit family. Knowing that I write for this blog, they suggested a trip to King Family Vineyards to sample the local wines and have a nice day in the sun, how could I resist?

Like most of you, Virginia is not my first thought when it comes to vino. But why not? My home state of New Jersey is making excellent progress in wine production and quality (another article for another day – I promise), why should Virginia be ignored? When I pulled into the vineyard, it looked like a massive outdoor picnic was taking place: families had blankets laid down with baskets of cheese, crackers, and (of course) bottles of wine. Children were playing ring toss and throwing around bean bags. Several dogs were lazily dozing under a large tree enjoying the sun.

A lovely picture, but what about the wine? It was very good. I introduced myself to a young lady presenting a sampling and she gladly allowed me to join the group. She handed me a glass of their Roseland 2010 and I was on my way. I don’t typically drink white wine (preferring red), but the Roseland had a pleasant sweetness that was not overbearing. Making my way through their entire series of whites, I was impressed with the variation and flavor. Another stand out was the 2010 Crose which was light and tangy.

I feel like I need to state that I am not a wine expert by any stretch of the imagination. I enjoy wine and I even make it yearly with my family, but I do not have the most refined palate: if I like it, I like it. I was ready for the red wine by the time the hostess opened the first bottle. The standout of the red sampling was King’s 2009 Meritage. It featured hints of sweetness with an undercurrent of spice. Around this time my father-in-law walked over with cheese and crackers and informed us that he had found a table. I attempted to make contact with a vineyard representative for an interview, but they were really busy that day (I called ahead, but they warned me it would be tough). Instead of stressing about it, I walked over to my father-in-law’s table and he greeted me with an open bottle ready to be poured. He filled my glass and I sat down thinking I couldn’t find a nicer way to spend an afternoon.

King Family Vineyard is located in Crozet, Virginia and is about a 20 minute drive from downtown Charottesville. If you happen to find yourself in the area, I recommend you take a drive to the vineyard and enjoy a nice glass of Virginia wine.

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DME: Bloody Marys

( @DrinkingMadeEasy, #BloodyMary )

Drinking Made Easy FINALLY posted my article about bloody marys! I am pretty proud of this post because I inserted a little more of my personality than my previous efforts. Please give it a read:

Drinking Made Easy: Bloody Marys

Update: DME’s likes are broken, here is the whole story…

Bloody Mary recipes are like assholes…everybody has one (except for a kid I knew in 4th grade, but that is a whole other story). The tomato and vodka based drink is universally recognized, yet encourages massive variation. Last month I read a short story about the American Chemical Society (ACS) publishing guidelines on making the perfect bloody mary. I was going to do a simple article and call it a day. When I started mentioning the idea to friends and family, everyone chimed in. Suddenly I was caught in a deluge of suggestions and my head started spinning.

Where did the bloody mary even come from? The drink seems to have an unlikely origin: actor George Jessel is credited with inventing an early form of the cocktail in the 1920s. He basically mixed equal parts tomato juice and vodka. Jessel befriended a French bartender named Fernand Petoit who added salt, pepper, spices, and Worcestershire sauce. The drink caught on and people started putting their own spin on it. The origin of the name is cloudy to say the least, but could also have roots in Hollywood (named after actress Mary Pickford). Eventually the New York School of Bartending published the “definitive” recipe as:

1 oz. to 1½ oz. (30-45 ml) vodka in a highball glass filled with ice.
Fill glass with tomato juice
1 dash celery salt
1 dash ground black pepper
1 dash Tabasco sauce
2-4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp. horseradish (pure, never creamed)
Dash of lemon or lime juice
Garnish with celery stalk.

While the ACS doesn’t refute any of the ingredients, from a scientific standpoint they suggest using fresh ingredients stating that the concoction deteriorates quickly. They suggest using cheaper vodka since the other ingredients will mask the alcohol’s flavor. Finally, the ACS recommends spending money on superior tomato juice since it makes up the bulk of the flavor in the drink.

I decided to test out the recommendations and invited a few respected drinking buddies over to sample. One of my guests threw a curveball by bring a pre-made bloody mary mix (sans vodka) called Zing Zang. Of course there is a backstory to this mix: it is not available in the East Coast and he had to have his brother-in-law ship him a case from Chicago. I pushed my pitcher of homemade bloody mary aside and made myself a drink using the Zing Zang. It was good and not for those with weak hearts. The mix is spicy and features huge chunks of salt and pepper floating around. It tasted fresh and was very good.

I then shifted over to my own mix. All the ingredients were highlighted: the spice of the Tabasco, the sweetness of the Worcestershire, and the sinus clearing of the horseradish. Basically, the homemade drink was really good too, and it probably helped that I knew what was in it. The question remains, which one was better?

There isn’t a right answer and there never will be.

If you grew up tossing sea salt and jumbo shrimp in your Bloody Mary, who am I to judge? If you prefer a salad in your glass over excessive amounts of vodka, that is your prerogative. If you want a drink so spicy that it melts the glass, you do what you got to do. The important thing to remember is the bloody mary allows for drinking to be socially acceptable on Sunday mornings which I am sure everyone can get behind. The next time someone hands you this delicious cocktail, don’t think about how you would have made it or what is missing. Just appreciate the fact that if an old Hollywood drunk had not shared the recipe with a French bartender, you would probably be drinking fruit punch.

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DME: Upscale Beer Pong

( #BeerPong, @drinkingmadeeasy )

Image Credit: Joseph Mollo

Drinking Made Easy posted my article about a $750 beer pong table.
Check it out: Upscale Beer Poing

Update: The DME link is down, so here is the full story…

Beer-pong gets a bad wrap. Often associated culturally-devoid fraternity “bros”, many of my peers scoff when I suggest playing a round. Playing beer pong doesn’t have to be relegated to shamed exile in a dank basement, especially if you have one of these. A talented young man named Joseph Mollo created an extraordinary beer pong table that is not only classy, but offers new innovations to the game.

Drinking Made Easy had a chance to speak with the Mollo about his creation. The 21-year-old has a family background in woodworking that gave him access to tools and materials. He put those skills to good use with this recent creation: “I was inspired to build a table that would not only be an exceptional playing surface, but hold its own as a furniture piece when not in use. Its a conversation piece that draws attention for anyone whether or not they have had any beer pong experience.“

The table is comprised of quality wood and incorporates attractive lights into the design. Joe says it takes him 7-10 days to create a table from start to finish. This quality work comes with a hefty price tag – $750.00 (USD) plus shipping. Joe says “the cost is based on quality materials, time, and craft.”

Thanks to Mollo’s unique design, the table creates new game-play elements. Joe says “the table’s design introduces a new shot to beer pong called the skeet shot shown in the video I provided. The ball is thrown into the curve and launches off the opposing side into the cup for 2 cups. Swatting is encouraged (for all the traditionalists looking for a new).”

While the table may be expensive, the craft and creativity of the creator cannot be denied. It is a beautiful piece of furniture that any social drinker would be proud to feature in their home. Creators like Joe are will beer pong out of the frat houses and basements and into the parlors and game rooms of the masses. If anyone else has a customized table, let us know in the comments section, we would love to hear about your designs.


DME: Interview with Flying Fish Owner Gene Muller

( @jerseyfreshale, @drinkingmadeeasy, #beer)

Drinking Made Easy published my interview with Flying Fish’s Gene Muller. Gene is a really nice guy and I appreciate the time he spent with me talking about his company, product, and industry at large.

Check out the interview:
DME: Joey Interviews Flying Fish Owner Gene Muller

Update: DME’s links are broken, so here is the full story…

Interview with Flying Fish Owner and Brewer Gene Muller

After watching Beer Wars a few months ago, I wondered how some of my local breweries were doing and how they got started. Thanks to Drinking Made Easy’s reputation, I reached out to Flying Fish head brewer and owner, Gene Muller and he graciously agreed to an interview. During our conversation we talk about Flying Fish’s history, how they survived the first few years, and the current market.

Gene, what made you decided to start a brewery?

I was a reluctant entrepreneur. I was home brewing and just got the idea to go to brewing school. I wanted to open a brew pub and wrote a business plan. That morphed idea morphed into the actual brewery.

I went to brewery school, in 1994 I did a short class and went for a longer degree class in 1995. After that, I decided to start a brew pub but had never ran a business or a restaurant and had never brewed. Financing was difficult, so we morphed the idea into a production brewery but we were still struggling.

The Internet was just starting to happen, so I got the idea to build a website. I had some friends that were artists help me out with some of the art stuff and we got a site put together. There was no beer, we only sold t-shirts, pint glasses, etc. I was able to learn HTML and keep it going.

Basically it was the worlds first virtual microbrewery. I sent out press releases and sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. Like I said the Internet was just happening; we got a lot of media coverage for that. That drew the attention of a bank and some investors. That happened in August 1995 – in April 1996 we got the final financing and started brewing in August 1996.

How hard was it in 1995 going up against the big 3?

When we first started brewing in August of ‘96, it was when the whole craft beer bubble blew up. There were little brew pubs from Colorado sending bottled beer to New Jersey and we came out into the market just in time for it to crash. Everyone thought craft beer was just a fad and there was too much out there, so it wasn’t against the big 3, it was just trying to get into the market.

In South Jersey, if bars had Sam Adams or Guinness, that was considered good beer. Nobody was asking for craft beers. People that were into better beer went to Philadelphia where there was a better selection. It took two years just for us to get traction and slowly build. For instance, its only been the last couple of years at the Jersey shore that we have built a following.

Shore bars only have 120 days to make money, and they know how much Coors and Yuengling they can sell, so they didn’t want to take a chance on something new. Eight years ago there weren’t any beer bars in South Jersey and now they are all over the place.

There are thousands of small breweries, but the big 3 still take up most of the market share – what is it like to run the brewery in today’s climate?

It is exciting that people are looking for more craft beer, but its a fickle audience. There are so many beers coming in from other parts of the country, you get some places that always want something different. It will be interesting to see if that is the new normal. It is an exciting time, especially in New Jersey because we were on the trailing edge of this industry.

What’s weird in New Jersey is that you have all the imports coming into North Jersey or Philly, and there has always been such a good selection, it initially kind of hindered local beers. I feel like now it has turned around, but it was difficult at first to get someone to try something they never heard of.

What is it like running a brewery in New Jersey? Is it hard knowing you can’t sell your beer in big stores like Walmart in your own state and in Philadelphia?

Every state has its own weirdness, so it’s just a matter of figuring out the regulations for each one. Brewers go to New Jersey hoping to get legislation to reduce some of those. It is a highly regulated industry, and stuff has just been cobbled together since prohibition. If we are at a beer festival in New Jersey, I can’t stand behind a table and pour somebody a beer and talk about how it pairs with food. Hopefully we can get some of those regulations more consistent.

Is it better for a smaller brewery to be sold at the bigger stores or the smaller ones that know your product better?

The states we are in (PA, DE, NJ, MD) are more controlled by smaller stores and smaller chains, while in other states – everything is bought out of the super market or drug store.

With the little liquor stores, you can deal with the individual. If it got to be like other states where you can get beer at convenience stores, it really will shut out a lot of the smaller brewers. The smaller brewers are better served by small businesses.

I am a local customer, but Drinking Made Easy has a world wide audience. What is your current market reach? Can international customers purchase Flying Fish beer?

Right now most of what we make, we sell within 100 miles of our brewery. We also just made a partnership with Total Wine, so they are distributing in California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Virgina, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. It is about 65 stores, and it is a way to test the market in other states.

We are also trying to purchase another building to triple our size. Right now we are at full capacity, if not more, so we can’t really expand where we are distributing.

Your “Exit” series of beers are great. Where did you come up with the concept and the naming ideas?

We came up with a bunch of concepts and one was the Exit series. Everywhere you go, as soon as you say you are from New Jersey, everybody asks what exit you are from. At industry events, everyone we encountered had a New Jersey connection.

It is tough being a brewery in New Jersey. You hear about a beer brewed in New Jersey and it is not always going to be the same image as a beer brewed in Colorado or Oregon. So its a little tougher. We wanted to have fun with it and let people know there was a lot of good stuff in the state. It is still a work in progress; we don’t have the whole thing mapped out. The series evolves as we decide which ones to do next.

Running a brewery can’t be all sunshine and roses, what are the biggest headaches?

We are a highly regulated industry so there is a lot of record keeping and paper work for the feds. Two years ago they came into audit us for beer taxes; they were really nice people but here for five weeks. Running the brewery is like any other small business: you are doing manufacturing, marketing, personnel stuff. A lot of people think “all I want to do is make good beer”, but you have to be able to sell it.

There is a lot of good beer out there but nobody knows about it because its not getting out. We are dealing with every kind of regulator: waste water, FDA, etc. Most of the rules were made for big companies so you have to figure out how to deal with it and be in compliance.

Issues aside – what is the best part about running your own brewery?

At the end of the day when I finish my paperwork, I can have a beer and say I’m still working. Quality Control. It is a collaborative industry, I was down in DC doing legislative stuff, and pretty much everyone is open with each other and share information, they are friendly. I can pick up the phone and call almost anybody with a question I have or ask their thoughts on something we’re doing. Since we pretty much all came to this industry from somewhere else, its not our grandfathers owned breweries and we all grew up feuding. We are all kind of in it together.

What is your future focus?

Hopefully by this time next year we will be in a new home and have new beers coming out. If the legislation changes then all the brewers can have some more flexibility, which would be great for marketing New Jersey beer.

As mentioned in the article, Flying Fish has been running its website since 1995 (flyingfish.com). Besides basic information about the company, the site provides a wealth of knowledge about brewing and writing business cases. I highly recommend it to any beer enthusiast.

I want to thank Gene Muller for giving up his time to talk with me and the Drinking Made Easy audience, keeping those Exit beers coming!

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Drinking Made Easy: Social Drinking Apps

( @drinkingmadeeasy, @beerby )

My reign of terror over at Drinking Made Easy continues. This time I discuss social drinking apps for your smart phones and hint at my disdain for hipsters!

Read More: Drink Socially…Alone?

Update: DME’s links are dead, here is the full article…

A few years ago, I met my friends at the local pub for a beer or two almost every night. That was then. Between work, kids, and household projects (those damn shelves won’t hang themselves), I don’t see my friends as much as I used to. Just because my friends are not around, I haven’t stopped drinking. In fact, since I have been left to fend for myself, I have found some excellent beers by chance.

My less adventurous friends and colleagues often ask me what beer I am stocking my fridge with. The first few times made for an enjoyable conversation, but after a while this small talk became tedious and repetitive; enter social media! Leveraging Generation Y’s inability to look up from their smart phones to hold a conversation, everyone can now share what beer they are enjoying at any given moment via a few difference social apps.

Social drinking apps like Beerby (http://www.beerby.com) and Untappd (http://untappd.com/) allow you to tell your friends what beverage is in your hand (the hand that doesn’t have the phone in it) as you are enjoying it. Beerby integrates with an existing Foursquare account allowing drinkers to log and comment on the beverages they are enjoying. The program has over 30,000 beers in its database and growing. Untappd seems to be the newcomer in social drinking apps, but it offers a nice interface and community. Beerby seems more focused on you and what you are drinking, while Untappd has more of a social focus (what your friends are drinking).

At the moment, I prefer Beerby over Untappd. I had some issues getting Untappd’s location based services to work properly (could have been my phone), which gives me the impression that Beerby is a little more polished. Another smart feature from Beerby is that system allows a user to simply rate the beer in addition to making comments. Both apps feature rewards/badges for tracking certain kinds and different numbers of beers, which is great because it encourages consumers to try out new beers.

Untappd and Beerby have an excellent feature that allows you to determine what bars near you stock/serve your favorite brews. I assumed this would be great news for all the emerging micro-breweries, but Beerby’s top beers are:
1. Yuengling Traditional Lager
2. Pabst Blue Ribbon
3. Miller Lite
4. Coors Light
5. Bud Light
This leads me to the drawbacks of social media: who gives a damn if you are drinking a Miller Lite or PBR? They are perfectly fine beverages, but they are nothing to tell the world about. Broadcasting that you are drinking Bud Light is the social media equivalent of tweeting that you are going to the bathroom. I want to know about all the other beers that I never heard of. I want to know who is drinking Rogue’s Chocolate Stout or who serves Duvel in my neighborhood. Isn’t that what social media is all about… letting people know about something that was criminally overlooked?

Any Drinking Made Easy readers up for the challenge of knocking the big three (Miller/Bud/Coors) out of Beerby’s top 5? Feel free to comment below on your favorite beers, and any other social drinking applications you are using.

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Drinking Made Easy: Campari

( #DrinkingMadeEasy, #Campari )

My first article for Drinking Made Easy is up live! Please go to the site and check it out.

Drinking Made Easy: Getting Bitter(s) with Campari

Funny note: My first commenter already owned me for suggesting that Campari is still made from bugs. I think I am going to like writing for this blog.

Update: DME’s links are down, here is the full story…

Like most people of Italian decent, my first experience with Campari was at a relative’s house. “Here… drink this” as a red concoction was shoved into my hand. Was I about to drink a guido version of a Shirley Temple? No. The back of my tongue immediately started the detecting the presence of bitterness and it soon become the dominating sensation.

After I finished half of the drink, my relative informed me I just drank “bug juice.” Spitting out the sip in progress, I yelp a panicked “seriously?”. I just received a nod. I thought I was detecting B.S., so I decided to do some investigation about this beverage to get the real scoop.

Campari is a bitters that hails from Italy. It was “officially” created in the late 1800s and the recipe, like Coca-Cola, remains a secret. There is one aspect of the formula that is confirmed: the deep red color was achieve using carmine dye composed of crushed cochineal insects. Notice that I used the term “was” in my previous sentence… it is a bit unclear if the carmine dye is still used or if it was replaced with an artificial substitute (I am willing to bet that it has not).

Regardless of its chemical makeup, Campari is an acquired taste. I decided to spend the weekend trying to come up with simple cocktail with a Campari base, it was not an easy task. Traditional mixers like cranberry and orange juice enhance the bitterness but do not compliment it (and the juice was too sweet). I tried a few sodas, both clear and brown, with minor success (standard cola is not as bad as you would think). I also tried pairing it with vodka, which was passable but not the winner I was hoping for. I was out of my league and decided to search the Internet for suggestions… which lead me to the Americano.

The Americano combines Campari with Vermouth and club soda. I thought it was an odd name for an Italian beverage, so I did some digging: The drink was originally called “Milano-Torino”, but it became popular with American tourists visiting Italy during prohibition. The crafty Italian bartenders decided to change the name to lure in said tourists and the name stuck. Another interesting fact about the Americano – iIt was the first drink ordered by James Bond in Casino Royale. Iif it is good enough for 007, it is good enough for me!

Having become acclimated to the bitter flavor of Campari all weekend, the Vermouth added the mellow clean element that I was searching for. With the right combination of flavors, the bitterness of the Campari mingles well and becomes an enhancing characteristic in the drink. Served cold, the drink is refreshing and makes for an excellent summertime cocktail. Bugs or not, this is a drink I could get behind.

The Americano:
1 oz Campari
1 oz sweet vermouth
club soda
lemon twist or orange slice for garnish

1. Fill an old fashioned glass with ice cubes
2. Add the Campari and Vermouth together
3. Top off with club soda and garnish with citrus fruit

It is recommended that you drink a Campari cocktail before you enjoy a meal to help open up the taste-buds.

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Announcement: New Writing Assignment

( #gigs, #drinkingmadeeasy )

Image Credit: Mel B.

I am pleased to announce that I will be writing for the Zane Lamprey “Drinking Made Easy” blog starting next month. One of my friends (BT!) heard about open positions at DME and knew my gig with Phillyist was coming to an end—so I made contact.

I will still be writing for this blog, and from what I am told, I can integrate my articles for DME pretty easily here. I am very excited by the news and I hope you all enjoy Drinking Made Easy now and in the coming months (with my stink all over it).

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Zane Patrick’s Day 2009

NOTE: I consolidated all of the mobile posts from Saturday into this article. Much easier for you and for me.

A few weeks ago Paul mentioned that there was a Three Sheets event in New York City and we could meet Zane Lamprey, so we called Nate and bought some tickets. The event was great, Zane was very cool and made himself available for the fans. The drinks were not all that hard to come by as we had a system and a group of willing people to make drink runs.

Nate and I got to the Knitting Factory around 1:30. The doors opened at 2 PM and the line was already very long. Within minutes it was MUCH longer wrapping around the block. Paul stayed behind at the hotel waiting to meet up with a new friend named Liz. They met us in line around 1:55 PM and jumped in line with us (The NYC crowd was very cool about that and encouraged it).

We got in and it was like a mad house. We quickly decided to go down two flights of stairs to the lowest bar. This was the base for the rest of the event. We immediately made friends (what’s up Tony!!!!) and drank some car bombs. We got to know Liz a little bit and she is a cool person that I certainly hope to see more of her at our social events. Everyone was very friendly and cool.

The day wore on, I kept drinking, I stole a few pizzas for my new friends, drank some more, used the pizza box to hide the effects of drinking too much and then put on a little performance at the front entrance as Nate and I left.


We went back to the hotel, took a shower and rested for a little while. Paul got back with Liz and we made plans for the night. We went to NYC’s South Side and met up at a huge Uno Grill. I thought I saw Flava Flav, but quickly dismissed it because what the hell would Flav being at a Uno…more on that later. Tina and Glenn showed up and we headed to a few bars. At this point the day caught up with me and I had my fill of drink and food. I didn’t want to be a downer for anyone so I just told the crew I was going to cut out. Nate wanted to go too. So we walked a few blocks to get a cab and who do we run into… FLAVA FLAV!

He bummed a few cigarettes off of Nate and then cut out (he had a very small baby girl with him, so I didn’t want to be that asshole tourist asking to take pictures). Nate and I eventually got a limo to take us back to the hotel for 15 bucks and we settled down for the night. Paul showed up an hour later and we were done.

This morning I got up early and worked out at the hotel gym to get the rest of the booze out of my system. My wife was in town visiting friends so she met us at the hotel so we could all go home together. All in all a very good weekend.

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