Ok, I won’t make a variation in The Last Word today, but I’m still on that bitter liqueur kick. I guess it is a good thing, I have acquired this taste, since we have had many bitter pills to swallow recently. I’ve been at work since 5 this morning, I need a shower, I was also the lunch lady and bathroom monitor for our in office one room schoolhouse and I have to drive an hour and a half roundtrip to pick up ramen takeout for dinner because that’s how we get our t-shirt at the end of Otaku Ramen’s Kaiju Summer; so what do you say we cut the prologue short today? Cool. Then I ask you to please join me once again as we stand and make, the Fernet Sour.

First things first, I am beginning to think that just about any sour makes a good drink. I swear I am about ready to try making Jaegermeister and Tequila Sours. I am truly shocked at how this simple recipe changes the base spirit so dramatically. Not that Fernet Branca needs to be changed. It is still not my favorite, but I am learning to understand the appeal and get the occasional craving. The short strokes, Fernet Branca is a style of Amaro and one of the most popular Italian Bitter Liqueurs. It’s made with 27 herbs and other botanicals and like all of these herbal bitters, it’s recipe is known only to the president of the company or the master distiller or a pair of Carthusian Monks or a monkey that used to work with an organ grinder along the Via Romana. I will leave it to you to match the bitters recipe to the maker, or you can make up your own story, that is fun too. Anyway, it is good and bitter and has a great depth of flavor. I hear that in Argentina they drink it all day with Coca-Cola, yes, even the grandmothers.

Let’s make the drink. Grab your tins and pop in 1/2 an ounce of Fernet-Branca, 3/4 of an ounce of rye whiskey, I went with 100-proof James E. Pepper 1776; 3/4 of an ounce of orgeat and 3/4 of an ounce of fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Add ice and shake to the beat of “Bad For You” by The Steeldrivers, my second favorite of their songs. Double strain in to a Nick & Nora and garnish with a lemon peel on a pick, maybe add a sweet little lemon heart to the glass, whatever feels right to you.

It is damned good, reminiscent of my beloved Trinidad Sour. The bitter Fernet balancing the often over-powering sweetness of the orgeat. It is so good, ice cold out of the shaker and the flavor evolves if you sip slowly, but why would you even bother savoring something so tasty. That’s a trick question, by the way.

We made it through day one at Liam’s one-room schoolhouse. I was a bit worried, till the teacher signed on and I got to listen to Liam explain to her how to turn her camera on and how to make sure you aren’t muted when joining. The kid is going to be fine. After the teacher signed back out, he and a friend who is also doing distanced learning were screen sharing Minecraft and he was messaging kids in other classes through the software. I am a little more worried about the teachers, they have a hard row to hoe. They are doing their best to handle an impossible task with very little concrete support from the county or state. The governor talked about a lot of things last week, that they may truly be planning to do, but they sure didn’t have them in place when these schools actually opened today, without proper sanitation supplies or even one of those 80,000 teacher support boxes he was bragging about. Please understand this, the schools and teachers are doing their best, it is not their fault that the counties and states have not stepped up and delivered the things promised. They need your support, more than ever before. If you can donate supplies, please do. Make sure the administration and your kid’s teachers know you are there to help and then actually deliver on that help.

I’m not much of a teacher, but I do have an assignment for you. As your kids go back for face to face education, get involved. Now, this is not going to be too tough, but I want you to talk to your kids and make sure they know that the schools are doing the best they can, but then I want you to ask them some questions. Ask them how far apart their desks are. Ask them if their temperature was checked in homeroom. Ask if they were kept in distanced class groups or if they were bunched up in the gym this morning. Ask them how far apart they have to be in line in the halls, and ask if that is actually happening. Ask if there is enough hand sanitizer to go around. Ask if all of the staff are wearing their masks. Ask if the teachers or staff are coming in between classes to sanitize desks and shared books. Ask if bathroom breaks are staggered. You get the picture. Ask about the things your school system has specifically said they were going to do. See if those things are happening or if the tools are even in place. We know that filters were replaced, but ask your kids if the HVAC was working in their classroom today. If you live in my county, ask your kids if the school nurse was there today, this is important because that nurse is tasked with response to temperature checks and for running the in school quarantine program. Spoiler alert: in several schools they were not, because we don’t have enough nurses in the system for each school to have their own. Talk to your kids about their experience this week, because this is important.

The kids need to know they have your support and that you care. It is a scary time for them, even the ones who are excited to go back. You also need to ask, so you are informed, so you know what is going on. Not what the county and the state plan, but what is actually happening in your child’s school. When you find out that things may not be as safe or as organized as you were told during those big school board zoom meetings, don’t call the school to complain. They are doing their best. Call your congressman, call your school board member, send an email, call it out. One of the best ways you can support your kids teachers and their school is by holding the folks who promised support responsible for the promises unkept. They may not listen today, they may make excuses about budget and tax base and their hands being tied, but you have a great chance to remind them in the next election. Till then, ask questions, take notes and remember the answers. Remember them promising safeguards that they knew they were not going to spend the budget on, remember how they made sure you felt like the kids were safe, remember if they failed to deliver these tools to the schools. It doesn’t matter whether they have an R or a D next to their name, remember that they made these choices, fully aware of their own limitations, remember when they told you what you wanted to hear. 

We all care about our kids and we want what is best for them, but we need to care about each others kids too. We need to care about their teachers, the administrators, the lunch staff, the janitors, the SRO’s. We are all in this together and these people need to know that we understand that they are doing all that they can with the resources allowed to them. Many folks faced today because they had no other viable choice and we need to remember that the next time we do have a choice about how our schools are run. We need to remember who stood up for the schools, the teachers and the kids when we go into that voting booth. Until then stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.