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Archive for the ‘Brewer: Ballast Point’ Category

Ballast Point Victory at Sea

February 16th, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | 4 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Ballast Point, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: Porter

10% ABV bottled

New York’s Worst Bars:  Lucky Strike Lanes Lounge

The first in a potentially ongoing series…

Meatloaf.  I was immediately assaulted with the odd smell of it.  Not Meatloaf as in Virgin Record’s recording artist, birth name Marvin Lee Aday, but meatloaf as in the gross shit your mom used to make when she was too lazy to put together a proper dinner for you.

I’d been invited to a friend’s party at Lucky Strike bowling lanes and, when he dumbly neglected to make a reservation for the Saturday night, we encountered a three hour wait and were forced to hang tight in the alley’s lounge.

Lucky Strike is so far west in Manhattan you’re almost to New Jersey.  I took a cab to Tenth Avenue, told my cabbie “It’s cool, I can walk from here,” and still took another fifteen minutes or so to get to the entrance on 42nd Street and the West Side Highway.  There’s absolutely nothing going on that far west on the island, not even hookers or drug deals, especially on a frigid February night, so it was especially galling when the three Neanderthals guarding the faux-velvet roped door scrutinized me to make sure I fit within the bowling alley’s lengthy dress code.

It’s bad enough that the sport of plebes has tried to be promoted to swanky in New York, but what’s even more annoying is when a piece of shit bowling complex situated amongst street meat Halal cart storage facilities and the Chinese Consulate (seriously), dares tell you what to wear to patronize their establishment.  Shitty bars in shitty cities have dress codes, not decent bars in New York.  Bars in New York that have dress codes have dress codes for one of two reasons:  they are trying to be “classy” or they are implicitly racist.

As one of the world’s great underdressers, I know a thing or two about defying dress codes.  And when the dress code at a bar such as Lucky Strike explicitly lists such no-nos as do-rags, hooded sweatshirts, jeans with graffiti on them, and sneakers, let’s just say…they aren’t trying to prevent a rich hipster in his American Apparel hoodie and Chuck Taylors from getting in.  Luckily, as per usual, I was wearing my black sneakers, the “trick” dress shoe for the elderly and lazy people that prefer comfort over class, and I easily slipped in the door.

The actual bowling alley portion of Lucky Strike is bad enough, disco lighting and garish scoreboards, but the lounge takes the cake.  Lucky Strike lounge is an upscale bar for people that think Heineken and Amstel Light are upscale beers.  For people that pronounce classy with the shortest short vowel a sound you’ve ever heard.  The decor there is strip club chic, gauche overstuffed pleather booths, tiny ottomans strewn about inexplicably, wall decor best befitting Henry Hill’s house circa 1977, and a bar with barstools screwed to the ground and countless bottles of flavored vodkas and the kinds of crappy overpriced tequilas only morons purchase.

The staff was truthfully not awful, no better or worse than any Manhattan bar, your typical handsome/pretty muscular/fake-titted wannabe actors/models/dancers that can’t remember drink orders, take forever to get your check, and spend most of the time playing grab-ass with their sexy cohorts.

Of course there was a DJ, a DJ so guido-rific he made Pauly D appear subdued in comparison, spinning the kind of hits that people found ironically funny no more recently than 1998.  Just like a playing of “YMCA” can quickly detect the idiots on the dance floor at a wedding, a bar’s playing of “Baby Got Back,” “Rumpshaker,” shit, any novelty song about big asses, can quickly identify the likewise idiots.

The clientele was even worse.  Of course gin-u-wine New Yorkers, real New Yorkers that is, not Gin-U-Wine as in the long-forgotten Southern rapper who, come to think of it, had one of the better songs ever written about big asses–or was that Juvenile?–would never set foot in this place unless invited for a party.  And I’m not even going to besmirch my beloved B & T brethren by acting like they formed the customer base either.  No, this was straight up tourists, and not the cool kind either.  These were the kinds of tourists that think, “If what I typically do in [insert crappy hometown] is fun, then that same exact thing must be even better in the Big Apple!”

“Eating at Applebee’s in Des Moines rocks, but in Times Square…?”

“Seeing ‘Stomp!’ at the Springfield Amphitheatre is a blast, but in the East Village…?”

“Bowling at the Brunswick Lanes in Tulsa is da bomb, but on the ass corner of Manhattan…?”

BLISS!

Around midnight or so, still an hour away from our bowling lanes being freed up, a man dressed like a giant bowling emerged from the lounge’s back room and started cavorting with drunken and overdressed tourista, much to their delight and amusement.  Many hilariously posed pictures were taken by the kinds of people that still used disposable cameras.  I’d had enough, needed to cut my losses and forget about trying to bowl my best game ever, and headed home to my actual good beer.

My last thought before heading back out into the cold was:  “Where was that fucking meatloaf smell coming from?”  I never found out.

Back home in a flash, I’d overzealously popped the top on Victory at Sea like I was returning to an old lover who had actually been at sea.  My man Jesse the Hutt hooked me up with this beauty and I enjoyed it for all it’s worth.  An imperial porter infused with vanilla and coffee this tasted to me like a liquidized Tootsie Roll.  Which is odd, cause I never really like Tootsie Rolls as a youth, but I loved this fucking beer.

A

Ballast Point Sculpin

June 8th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 10 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Ballast Point, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: IPA

7% ABV from a bomber

Hungover

Note:  This review contains spoilers for “The Hangover,” though if you’ve seen the trailer even once I can’t imagine what there would be to spoil.

It probably went down something like this…the esteemed writing team behind such celluloid masterworks as “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” and “Four Christmases,” two blokes that look like this, had a few beers one evening–the most they’ve ever had!  Like seven bro!–and something absolutely batshit crazy happened like they got a pepperoni slice at 2 AM, or ran from a $7 cab fare, or heard the next day that they had made out with some uuuuuuuuuugly chick in the corner of the bar and tthey thought, “Ow, my head hurts this morning.  I’m never gonna drink again.”  But then they had a genius brainstorm and thought, “Hey, we’re just some pasty nerds, but what if some really cool guys got more drunk than ever before–in Vegas no less (Vegas, baby, Vegas!)–and they couldn’t even remember what happened the night before!”

I’ve been unable to get “The Hangover” off my mind since I saw it hungover just Sunday morning.  And I know I’m going to step on some toes here and be in the minority when I say what I’m about to say, considering my theater was laughing their collective asses off (I’ve dated some gals with a collective ass, zing!), rolling in the aisles, and they even applauded when it was over; my friends have called it everything from a rave of “best movie EVER!” to a pan of “sooooo funny”; it currently ranks at #168 in imdb’s top 250 movies of all fucking time; and even critics are lauding it at a rate of 77%, remarkable for a R-rated comedy–but I really had issues with this picture.

I’ve spent the last twenty-four hours trying to figure out exactly why I didn’t like “The Hangover.”  I’m not saying it’s terrible or anything.  It’s not one of those movies like “Vantage Point” or “P.S. I Love You” or the “_____ Movie” spoof franchise where you spend every second you’re watching the screen just wanting to gouge your eyes out and plug them into your ears.  Nor is it one of those ineptly executed pictures like “Jumper” or “Battlefield Earth” that are so bad even someone with no comedy chops could find things to goof on and by the midway point of the movie the entire theater has become a peanut gallery shouting out insults.

No, “The Hangover” is simply not funny. I didn’t LOL even once. (Which, I guess if it’s a comedy and it’s not funny then maybe that means it IS “terrible,” but I digress). If you’ve seen the trailer, you literally know everything about the movie. Good comedy should be shocking and surprising and yet there’s not a single shock or surprise in this entire movie. Compare that to the great “Up” which surprised me every few minutes with its wonderful ideas and hilarious scenes.

I think the concept of three dudes trying to piece together a crazy hungover night is a pretty good one. We’ve ALL been there.  But their lost night–and the movie doesn’t even have the balls to allow them to attain that lost night via actual legitimate means, ya know, hardcore drinking; the characters are accidentally roofied–is nothing but a lame, paint-by-numbers pastiche of non sequitur bullshit that uber-hack director Todd Phillips must have thought would play well in trailers*.  Ohmigod, badass Mike Tyson singing a lame Phil Collins song! A tiger in the bathroom! And a baby in the closet.  Hey, how’d a chicken get in the room?! (Actually, come to think of it, I’m not sure we ever learned that. We never learned why the room was completely trashed either for that matter.)

Seriously, what is funny about any of those things?  To step on even more toes, it’s the same brand of over-the-top, out-of-left-field, nonsensical “humor” that made Seth McFarlane rich enough to own his own jet (A taser in the face!  A nude effete Asian gangster!  A stolen cop car!).  And I’m not exactly Mr. PC Morality but mining a lost and neglected baby for comedy? Perhaps I wouldn’t be offended if that was actually a funny gag.  But of course it isn’t.  It’s just as trite as having a hooker with a heart of gold played by Heather Graham who of course shows an aging tit.  Look, if you read my blog you know I’m about as far from having a stiff upper lip as they come.  I thrive on puerile, sophomoric, scatological comedy as much as the next guy and even at age 30 a well-crafted dick or fart joke can still have me in hysterics.  (For instance, the “Bruno” trailer would be the funniest thing I saw on Sunday as the great Sacha Baron Cohen continues to amaze us with the new and clever ways he can incorporate dildos, masturbation, and bare ass into a storyline.)

Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms and even Bradley Cooper are winning and likable and I hope those three continue to headline movies, but there’s not much they can accomplish when they’re reading words written by such trite scripters and stuck in such a lame plot.  Casted with less-skilled and innately humorous actors and I think “The Hangover” would have been a straight bomb and the general population would have noticed all the flaws and the shear boringness of the movie.  Galifianakis’s character of Alan especially deserved to be in a better movie where his character–one of the most creepy/funny since Christopher Walken in “Annie Hall”–could have been iconic.  And Ed Helm’s skills are incredibly neutered, the only time he gets to shine when he out-of-nowhere sits down at the piano to sing a plot-discussing song, one of the few inspired parts in the flick, and a part I assume was either written or straight improvised by the musically gifted funnyman.

As I was watching the movie it wasn’t like it was cringe worthy or anything, nor was I begging for it to be over. And it’s not a deplorable “dumb” pratfalls comedy like Adam Sandler garbage or anything, it’s just flaccid and predictable and easily watchable.  Which, unfortunately, still will allow it to probably go down as the best mainstream Hollywood comedy of the year.  (Yeesh!  Think about that for a second.) I would have much rather just gone to You Tube and entered “Zach Galifianakis” and watched any of his criminally underrated stand-up bits for an hour and a half.  Hell, I would have rather watched Galifianakis, et al actually get wasted and then actually go do caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-razy things in Vegas.

And that brings me to why guess I most disliked “The Hangover”:  it’s insulting to drinkers.  Insulting to people like you and I that actually have had a lost night or two in our lives and had a crazy story to tell.  I could have called up any of my besotted friends on Sunday morning and I guarantee at least one of them would have told me a story about the decadence and depravity they got into on Saturday night that would have been ten times as funny as “The Hangover.”  I don’t see how any one that actually drinks, and actually parties, can think “The Hangover” anything more than an unfunny non-verisimilitudinous imagining of the circumstances.

But perhaps I’m wrong.  If you saw it, I’d love to hear why you loved it–cause I know you did–in specific scenes and moments and lines.  Truly curious.  Do share.

Sculpin

Another IPA sent to me from the left coast from Jesse the Hutt.  And it’s just like all those other “famous” California IPAs…fantastic.  It truly is India Pale Ale Elysian out there, perhaps I’ll have witness protection place me in San Diego next.  Smell is out of this world, an intense fragrance of grapefruitiness.  The taste is a mild letdown considering the smell, but it is still wonderful.  So fresh and piney.  Like drinking a goddamn Christmas tree.  Straight from the West Coast, no question, with additional tastes of grapefruit, apricots, mangoes, and sour citrus, minimal maltiness.  A nice stinging bitterness–just like the sculpin fish itself, says Ballast Point!–but incredibly drinkable.  Top-notch my friends, this deserve it’s top 20 BA ranking.

A

*If you’ve seen Todd Phillips in his wonderful documentary “Frat House” then you know he’s not exactly a cool guy either.

Ballast Point Big Eye IPA

December 5th, 2008 by Aaron Goldfarb | 7 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Ballast Point, Country: America, Grade: A-, Style: IPA

6% ABV bottled

A friend had to go to her gynecologist the other day.  A small girl, she’s struggled in having her new boyfriend penetrate her.  The gynecologist insisted that was physically impossible, and her problems were all mental.  She insisted they weren’t to which the doctor finally replied, exasperated, “Tell you what then.  Go down to Eighth Avenue, buy a dildo, and come back here and show me you can masturbate with it.”

(Have you digested that…?)

I also have been getting into a lot of awkward situations lately.  Especially this time of the year.  Seems that every other night for the last few weeks I’ve had a birthday party to attend.  Birthday parties always bring out the awkwardness, not that a drunkard like me gets fazed that often.  One such recent soiree amazingly came on the exact same date as my last girlfriend’s birthday.  Instead of sending that ex a birthday card, I should send her a thank you card, because since she dumped me, I’ve never met so many women in my life.  It was one of these women, Angie, who I had only been dating for a week or two, who had her birthday on that formerly meaningful day to me.  I was loathe to attend a birthday party for a girl I had just started dating, seeing all sorts of problems arising, but, with a little prodding from her, I eventually agreed to.  I would almost immediately regret that decision when I then recieved the evite and learned the party would be less than a block from where my same-birthday-ex lives, putting me the closest I had been to her apartment since getting 86ed from her life.

Things got even worse when a huge college football game I really wanted to see got rescheduled for the same evening.  Obviously, I began pre-gaming by myself quite early to eliminate my nerves and inhibitions, polishing off several Ballast Point Big Eye IPAs my sister had bought on a recent jaunt to San Diego.  I’d asked her to find me some stuff from the area’s more famous breweries (Russian River, Alesmith, etc) so I was a bit disappointed when she only brought back the Ballast Point.  Oh, I’d heard of the brewery, sure, I just thought it was a “lesser” one.  However, simply based on their IPA, I was clearly wrong.   An incredibly frothy head, it smelled like a classic piney and citrusy California IPA.  Nice hops made for smooth session drinking.  I look forward to trying more stuff from the place.

After three brews, I headed up Amsterdam Avenue wearing a disguise* lest I run into my ex.  Knowing my fortune, I figured she’d be hosting a birthday party in the very same bar.  Luckily, that would not be the case.  But things would go nearly as badly.

Immediately upon arriving at the watering hole, I learned I had gotten there late.  Seems I had misread the stupid evite.  Her brother, Timothy, a man who resides in the Upstate sticks and who I had yet to meet, quite rudely and tersely informed me of this.  He must have stalked me on Facebook because he recognized me the second I entered the place, as he stood watch near the door like some overly-freckled, America Eagle-clad, miniature version of a palace guard.  I never understand brothers that protect their sisters’ vaginas like the Hope Diamond.  It’s peculiar.  Queer.  Your sister’s a grown woman, she doesn’t need your 155 pounds of protection and your lame insight in order to make romantic and sexual decisions.   She’s not Joanie Cunningham and you ain’t Richie, though, come to think of it, Tim did sort of look like him.

This little nerd immediately starts giving me the third degree about my “intentions” for his sister, a topic of conversation I’ve wasted far too many hours of my life having.  I could have quoted Lloyd Dobler when he was once asked a similar question (”What I really want to do with my life–what I want to do for a living–is I want to be with your [sister].”), I could have said something real nasty (”Fuck her while you watch since you seem to care so goddamn much.”) but instead I simply kowtowed to the mid-thirties apparent virgin and predicted a bright and innocent future with his kin (”Hey Tim, can’t wait to hear what you say at our wedding, heh heh.”)  Tim’s lucky I didn’t tell him what my intentions were for him as my mind was spinning with schemes.

Tim escorted me to a back private room where the party was already in full swing.  Angie was predisposed with some people so we were only able to have a second of loving eye contact, a friendly can’t-wait-to-shake-this-boring-dialogue-so-I-can-kiss-you grin from her.  Waiting for Angie’s conversation to end, I went to mingle and schmooze up some of her friends, none of which I had met before, nor even knew much of anything about.  However, the reverse was clearly not the case.  I was the star attraction, Angie’s mysterious new man, who she had already told them “so much” about.  They swarmed me like hungry pigs in a sty, I the farmer entering with a slop bucket.

I quickly found out that literally all of her chums were workmates.  That typically sends a signal to me.  It’s fine to have coworker cohorts, but when a person only has work friends they usually don’t have any real friends.  It’s one thing to make and cultivate a friendship in the real world, it’s another to have pals that you head straight from work to the bar together to get loaded and bitch about Barry your asshole boss.  All these friends were quite terrible, a real horror show of women.  Each being seemingly decent looking until you found that one single defect that overshadowed everything good.  There was the one with the highly visible gum line, the one that seemed to have fifty-five teeth in her mouth, the one with a prominent birth control mustache, and the one that wouldn’t shut the fuck up about her “recent” engagement (four months ago). 

The latter mentioned buddy, clearly with either some prompting from Angie or more likely some nosiness of her own, had friended me a week earlier on Facebook.  I thought that was sweet until my news feed began to fill up every single day with her every-five-minutes’ status updates, all about her upcoming nuptials: “Shirley is shopping for wedding gowns!,” “Shirley is meeting the flower guy,” “Shirley is deciding between band and DJ,” “Shirley is admiring the engagement ring her latently homosexual fiance bought her,” etc.  Aaron is…already hating you and wishing he could delete you as a friend without you finding out.

Finally, Angie was free and came over to me with a big hug and a sloppy, wine-soaked smooch.  She was well lit up already.  In our few dates together I’d never seen her so drunk.  In fact, for our first date we had closed a lower Hell’s Kitchen dive bar down drinking pitchers of beer with countless Jameson shots yet she had remained unflappable, something I perversely found quite fetching.  But this time she was quite flapped, drunk and moody.  She quickly noticed that I was empty-handed.  As in, I hadn’t brought a present.  Hey, I didn’t know it was one of those parties, what are we, fucking eight years old?  We’re in a bar, not a rollerskating rink or bowling alley.  And, any how, I kinda have a rule about not getting birthday presents for girls whose middle names I still don’t know.  Then again, I’m also arrogant enough to usually think my best gift to any one is my presence, and not my presents.  Having said all that, though, seemingly every other one of the two dozen invitees had brought a gift, rendering the “new boyfriend” the “big asshole.”  As Tim tsked tsked me with his beady eyes, Angie began yelling at inconsiderate me, the row only ending when she needed to go piss.

I headed to the bar to finally score a drink and there I learned two things, one horrible, one amazing.  Which would you like to hear first?  OK, let’s go with the horrible.  The fucking bar’s satellite is down and I can’t watch the football game I had so hoped to keep an askance eye on.  The football game which I now wanted to fully focus my attention on what with a girlfriend that is wasted, her friends that are lame and make me viscerally vomitous, and her brother who seems to have unrequited love for his sis.  As I mentioned though, there was some good, that being that her West Coast parents had the acumen to set up a $1000 bar tab for everyone to imbibe from.  The bar tab came with no stipulations so, while everyone else drank Bud Lights, garbage vodka drinks, and Lame-tinis, I like an asshole began ordering the best bourbon in the house, the small-batch Booker’s which comes in at a scorching 127 proof, all the while remaining incredibly flavorful and quite complex.  “Neat!,” I thought and “Neat” I said to the barkeep when he asked how I wanted it.

Returning from the bathroom, Angie had calmed down, heck, seemingly having forgotten about our fight just a few minutes earlier.  Things began going decently, we’re goofing around, getting loaded, hey!, this was the girl I’d had so much fun with over the last couple of weeks.  I guess there might not be a chink in her armor.  Unfortunately, that lasted for all of fifteen minutes before Trevor arrived and made a beeline for her.

Trevor, her college boyfriend, her “best” friend.  Right.  Let me tell you something, women, though the smarter ones of you know it already, former boyfriends that you dumped yet which still hang out with you like a pathetic puppy dog are rarely friends with you.  They are just losers with no other female options, with no integrity, confidence, or self-esteem that continue to have the hopes that one day you’ll fall back into bed with them, back into a relationship with them.  Today’s the day!

Angie leaves us to make another lap around the room and I’m forced to speak with the dullard Trevor.  The kind of guy who is so predictable, so two dimensional, so amazingly a living-and-breathing archetype, that one need only know him for a minute to know everything about him, to fill in all the blanks.  A neo-hippie from Brooklyn who spends every second he’s in Manhattan telling you how much it sucks compared to Brooklyn.  I let him do the blabbering because I like to let idiots blather so I will always have content to write about. 

Here’s a few things one quickly learns about Trevor.  He’s the kind of guy that wears an Obama pin every single day even though the election has been over for weeks, still so proud that he voted for him.  Oh, sure, he would never remain a fan of a band that suddenly became even marginally locally famous, but he’s really proud, thinks he really unique, sui generis, that he was one of seventy million to vote for Barack.  I ask him if he wants to get a drink with me.  Naw, not drinking now, he’s decided he should remain sober for the month, detox a bit for his cosmic health.  Then let’s have some mozzarella sticks laid out at that table in the corner.  Nope, he doesn’t eat “processed” foods either, which makes me now realize why he is such a lithe little pixie of a boy.  And with his intentionally scrubby vintage clothing he looked like a lank Tom Joad who had decided to go east, young man, instead of west.

In fact, Trevor doesn’t like much of anything.  Oh, but he’ll sure tell you everything he dislikes:  the nebulous idea of “corporations” (even though the dilettante of a musician is forced to work low-low-level for a Wall Street one), the nebulous idea of competition, sports, American studio movies, people with money, free market economics, and television (doesn’t even own one he proudly proclaims, though he must be a Marshall McCluhan fan cause later he talks about watching “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” on his Macbook.)  When it comes down to it, Trevor is the kind of guy that adds absolutely nothing to a conversation, unable to generate anything interesting of his own, only able to snarkily, and poorly, critique things created by other people.  He’s like a blogger that is only able to reblog stuff from others with perhaps only a single boring caption added.

If he was a movie character, critics would deride him as being too wooden and predictable, saying that real life humans have much more depth than this.  Sadly, that is simply not the case.  In fact, I find Trevor to be such a detestable fucking loser–the kind of guy that thinks listing your sexuality status on Facebook as “swinger” as being the height of American comedy–that it makes me question if Angie is a loser for having once dated him (and still being good friends with him no less!) and whether I am a loser, quod erat demonstrandum, for now dating and liking her.  To make myself feel better, and not cause I completely believe it, I note to myself that college for the 28-year-old Angie was almost a decade ago and why judge her on her past actions, past boyfriends, I certainly wouldn’t want to be judged on my actions, my past relations.

That was dumb thinking, though, and I should have analyzed the situation more rigoriously.  As the party heated up and Angie started ignoring me in favor of her friends and Trevor, I do what I usually do when I’m bored at a party, wedding, or whatever, I headed to the bar.  I start gabbing with the bartender and find him to be a very cool guy.  We talk about the fucked up situation I am currently in.  He agrees with me that, yeah, it was dumb to come to the party and, yeah, both Angie and Trevor were dumb for feigning friendship and I should just leave them both to their own devices, that I’m better than that. 

Finally, he poured me a triple of Booker’s into a plastic cup and said, “Leave.”

“Leave?”

“Yeah, I’ve seen this story a million times before.  You’re just wasting your time here.  Take this bourbon, forget about that girl, and go to a bar that actually has satellite TV working.  And when you get there, could you please text me the fucking football score?”

He was a wise sage and I had to agree with him.

As I discreetly left the bar, I noticed Angie and Trevor in the corner now close-talking.  They would probably be kissing soon.  Pathetic.  Those losers deserved each other.

As I walked back down on Central Park West, sipping my bourbon, headed to a nearby bar I knew had good television screens, I deleted Angie’s name from my phone.

Just a few minutes before I began writing this, I was as per usual dicking around on Facebook.  Angie had finally gotten around to posting an album from that weeks-ago party.  Unsurprisingly, I was not tagged in any of the photos.  After looking through them, I revisited Angie’s profile.  She was now listed as being in a relationship with Trevor.  I spit my Starbucks Christmas Blend** across the room as I cackled heartily.  Crisis averted.

A-

*Sidelocks, curly black beard, tallit, and a wide-brimmed black hat.

**I am decidely not a Starbucks fan and I rarely get my coffee there, but I must say that their Christmas Blend is quite good if you’re like me and like bold punishing coffee that tickles once down your gullet immediately tickles your spine.