In these unprecedented times, my usual role as a captain of industry has expanded. I also find myself the bus driver, lunch monitor, docent, principal and sometimes teacher in our one room schoolhouse in my office. Liam had been a virtual student since day one this year. This meant he was already totally accustomed to online learning when the rest of his school was forced to join him just three weeks later. I lost my bet on how long it would take for his school to shut down, I figured they’d make it two more weeks. Of course, the outbreak of Covid-19 only shut the doors of the school temporarily, allegedly. Either way, since everyone has spent the better part of this week trying to learn the technology and his role has mostly been to help others, he’s been on Easy Street. So won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Easy Street Fizz.
Part of our transition to online learning has been figuring out how to fill the time allotted to recess, breaks, etc. and creating an after school program to keep him occupied until time to leave the office. We have added a music block with piano practice, we are working on adding a language block so he can learn some Spanish, but our most successful class, so far, is Film History 101. It works like this, I assign a movie and we watch it together, well, he watches while I sort of pay attention, then we discuss it on our drive home, its themes, filming techniques, etc. Kind of like making these cocktails, one of the biggest challenges is deciding what films to add to the curriculum, finding stuff that will be fun while actually providing some education, even if it is only to add to his pop culture comprehension. My biggest criteria, is that every film he watches should be one of those “have to see” films. He is kind of like a half sized Captain America, when it comes to pop culture references. I make a wise crack, he doesn’t get the joke, then I realize it is my fault that he doesn’t know that “Goonies Never Die”, because I had not shown him the film yet. We have rectified that one and it has given us a kind of rough syllabus, in that every time he doesn’t get a reference, he gets a new film added to his list.
Today was a fun one, the original 1982 film version of “Annie”. Carol Burnett, Tim Curry, Bernadette Peters, Albert Finney, it is a treasure trove of amazing talent and while the film is far from perfect, it is a joy to watch. It is also a lot of fun to explain things to the kid afterwards. Who was FDR? What was the New Deal? Why was it important? Was it socialism? How did it affect lives in Tennessee then and does it continue to do so? Spoiler, the CCC, several parks and TVA are all involved. Then we researched where it was filmed, if Daddy Warbucks mansion was a real place or a set. It is a real mansion at New Jersey’s Monmouth College. We also discussed, at his urging, just how weird it was for a billionaire to send someone to an orphanage to get a child for him and how does that even work?It was more than a learning opportunity for me, though. It was a walk down memory lane. Annie was the first show I ever saw on Broadway, with the original Andrea McArdle. I have always loved the show, but oddly, have never been in it, maybe someday. The real memory though was a toddler Liam singing “Tomorrow“. It was the first song he ever learned and when he joined in today, it actually brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t sing along properly because my voice had some dust caught in it. It really doesn’t seem that long ago, but that child who could barely speak, belting out the lyrics, is only a memory now. A good memory, but also a reminder of what we have traded for the clever young man who loved the movie, but found some aspects troubling. So, in honor of what we had, what we lost and what we have gained let’s make this drink.
Easy Street is one of my favorite numbers in the show and I loved seeing it in the film again. I had forgotten that Tim Curry played Ms. Hannigan’s ne’er do well brother and Bernadette Peters his girlfriend, so seeing them team up with Carol Burnett for this classic was almost too much. That’s a huge amount of talent for one little song. I vaguely remembered an Easy Street cocktail from a long night in New Orleans, so I searched for the recipe, found it and then found that there was a fizz variation and decided that would be even more extra, like their performance.
Grab your tins and pop in 2-3 cucumber slices and 1 1/2 ounces gin, I opted for New Amsterdam Original. Muddle them well before adding 1 ounce of elderflower liqueur, St. Germain, naturally; 3/4 of an ounce of fresh-squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 an ounce of egg white or aquafaba. Add 2-3 drops of El Guapo Cucumber Lavender bitters, ice and shake, to the beat of “It’s a Hard Knock Life“. When your tins are good and cold, strain from one tin to the other and toss the ice and cucumber leavings. Pop them back together and go again, dry shake those tins till they shine like the top of the Chrysler building, or like 30 seconds, whichever comes first. Pour into something fancy and top with club soda. Garnish with a rolled cucumber sliver, some roadside wildflowers and serve.
This is lovely, very cucumbery, very refreshing. The cucumber is right up front, but it complements the gin and the elderflower is always nice. I may have overdone it on my dry shake, I made a lot of foam, but it settled nicely. It’s a good drink.
So that is how things are now, I am slipping education and bonding time into the schedule and we are both better for it. These are weird times, but hopefully, when things get back to some sort of normal, he will remember us taking class together fondly. Memories are all we have and all we leave when it is said and done. I know that thoughts of happier days often help me when I am down. Like Annie says, when I’m stuck with a day that’s gray and lonely, I just stick out my chin and grin and say, the sun will come out tomorrow. So go ahead and bet your bottom dollar there will be sun, because better days are coming. So hobo man, so dapper Dan, so long for a while. Remember, you’re never fully dressed without a smile. Keep smiling kids and stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.