It’s funny how regrets stick with you. I have messed up so many times in so many places that I am surprised I can even remember half of them. I am pretty good at owning my mistakes and have no trouble admitting that I have come up short as a friend and as a decent human far too many times. I’m still working on me, being better a little at a time, stepping forward when I can, learning from my mistakes. I don’t figure this makes me special, most folks are trying to be better and the rest, well, they are at least trying to get better at not getting caught, so I guess that’s something. Groups, institutions and even countries are made up of people, so logic would say that those things are trying to get better too, but I am not sure of that. Sadly, as awesome as most individuals are groups of people tend to suck. I am not sure what that says about our collective journey into the future. So, with a nod toward those better angels we keep waiting on, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Imperial Bulldog.

This drink caught my attention as a tiki-esque cocktail with some unusual ingredients for that genre, then I saw the Underberg and I was sold. It was created by Jane Danger, who is totally not in the witness protection program and Austin Hennelly, who might be, for their menu at New York’s, Mother of Pearl which is, sadly, no longer open. At first glance it made me think of the Norwegian Paralysis, but then there were muddled raspberries and cachaça and bitter aperitifs, so I decided to investigate further.

I was all excited to pick out a new tiki glass to serve this one in, then I bothered to read the whole recipe and saw that the presentation calls for a tulip or a pilsner glass, so I grabbed one of those and muddled 5-6 raspberries in the bottom before adding some of that good pebble ice from Sonic. That done, grab your tins and get ready for open of those equal parts drinks. Go ahead and pop in 3/4 of an ounce each of aquavit, I chose Linie Aquavit; cachaca, I went with Pirassununga Cachaça 51; freshly squeezed lime juice, pineapple juice and simple syrup. Add some artisanal ice and shake to the beat of Sting’s “This War“. When well-chilled, strain into your awaiting glass and garnish with some pineapple fronds and raspberries on a pick before popping the top on a bottle of Underberg and inverting it in the glass.

That’s properly tasty. I debated on whether to use a straw or not, because tiki, but decided that this one is better as a sipper. That Underberg is slowly seeping into the drink and sipping you get the drink through its bitter herbal filter and that is awesome. It’s really kind of surprising how well these flavors all work together. Even the cachaca comes through giving this one a clean, vegetal finish that I loved. A damned fine, if a little intimidating drink.

When I first saw this recipe I immediately thought back to a bulldog figurine I nearly bought in London back 2004. It’s kind of hard to think of an Imperial Bulldog and not see it wrapped in the Union Jack. You know the one I am talking about since it showed up on M’s desk years later in Skyfall. They are ubiquitous and I thought it would make a cool souvenir of the trip, but I used my better judgment and have regretted that ever since. It was my first trip to London and I was blown away in every sense. I was visiting my best friend who had me over while he was in town touring with Sting who was doing a week at the Royal Albert Hall. They’d been on the road for a while and it had been far too long since we had been able to hang out, so it was a great trip. Obviously, he was working so I explored the city on my own quite bit when I wasn’t hanging out at the venue being starstruck. I also got to go to the concert with truly amazing seats right in the middle of the action watching one of my all time favorite performers up close every night. Sounds awesome, right? Well, it was.

I was living the faux rockstar life, hanging out backstage, sharing a suite at the band hotel, and generally being very well taken care of by everyone I had the pleasure to meet. I explored the city during the day, taking in the sites, visiting museums and galleries. At night, I’d get dressed up and go to the Hall, have dinner backstage, watch the show, sneak out to have a smoke and run to the WC before intermission and then chill backstage with the cool kids after the show, you know the usual. It was truly wonderful. I was super appreciative for everything and they took great care of me. They really went out of their way to make me feel like one of the family, even inviting me out to dinner with them one night after the show.

It was one of those magical nights out. Not only was I out with an incredibly cool group, but they introduced me to Indian food, Stella Artois beer and the intricacies of Brick Lane and Whitechapel. We ate far too much and laughed too long. We talked about home and life on the road and the current state of the world. It was a truly wonderful evening of open sharing with new friends. Everything seemed to be fine, even when a young filmmaker who was traveling with them ventured into politically charged waters. Things were going so well that I, against my better judgment, engaged with him on a couple of points. Nothing fiery, just a contrasting viewpoint, which led to an interesting discussion but no turmoil. I thought it was particularly nice that we were able to disagree politely and share some insight with each other. Very civilized of us.

Which is why, I chose the song “This War” for our drink tonight. I made two mistakes on that trip. First, I did not buy that British Bulldog. Second, I decided to engage in witty banter with a passionate young fellow when I knew better. You see, unbeknownst to me, my political comments over dinner had ruffled some feathers and cause some discussion later. Then someone noted that every night, like clockwork, I would leave the auditorium during “This War”. Obviously, the song is anti-war on the surface, considering the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan going on at the time, and it is politically charged, which made my absence notable.

Truth is, I like the song, always have, but it was in the setlist right before intermission and I knew that if I wanted to get to the toilets before there was a line and have time to grab a smoke before getting to hang out during halftime, that was my best shot. I wasn’t even thinking about the song, I could hear it downstairs and I would sing along, but that is not how it looked. A simple misunderstanding, but one that embarrassed my best friend when my “political protest” was mentioned to him much later. It embarrassed me, as well. I was their guest. I would never intentionally do anything to offend the wonderful people who invited me into their group and made me feel so welcome. Everyone was nothing but good to me and even if I had disagreed with the lyrics or sentiment, the laws of hospitality would have kept me from behaving so rudely. I just did not understand how it looked, in light of some of the things I had said. Of course I would not even know about this till years later, but it has always bothered me. I hate the idea that I may have offended unintentionally. I have no problem pissing people off on purpose, but I sure hate when I do it carelessly. I am truly sorry for what happened and I wish I had handled things better, been more aware of how my actions could be perceived. It’s in the rearview, but it is a lesson I have never forgotten.

I have always been told to avoid religion and politics, and I do that mostly. Sure, I love arguing with friends, sharing conflicting viewpoints and just enjoying the pure pleasure of a proper battle of words and ideas. As long as know one takes it personally and everyone involved is taking the time to think about what they are saying. Most importantly, the discussion has to come from a place of mutual respect and honesty. That doesn’t happen much, so folks mostly don’t know what I believe. I am fine with that and maybe that is the real message. Here’s the thing, nobody gives a damn about your political philosophy. Mine either. Folks either agree with you and will let you get away with anything that confirms their bias or they disagree and even the most solid evidence won’t move their beliefs. That’s it. Nobody is being changed by those copy and pasted posts, on either side. Well, that’s not quite true. The folks sharing other people’s thoughts, they are slowly evolving. With every post, they divide themselves a little more, move a little farther from the others, those countrymen and fellow humans they disagree with. Their enemies, the others. It’s all star bellied sneeches, all the way down and it is ridiculous.

Seventeen years ago, every night for a glorious week in London, I heard these words, usually from the toilets under the Royal Albert Hall. Words that ring out from the past, perhaps even more true today than when they were written:

There’s a war on our democracy
A war on our dissent
There’s a war inside religion
And what Jesus might have meant

There’s a war on education 
A war on information
A war between the sexes
And every nation

A war on our compassion 
A war on understanding
A war on love and life itself
It’s war that they’re demanding

Make it easy on yourself
And don’t do nothing

This War, Sting

Don’t do nothing. That’s good advice. For all the tempest in a teacup my careless actions caused it’s ironic, that this song has stuck with me all those years. There it is though, reminding me to get involved and be a part of the solution. That solution isn’t to reflect and share what other people think, it is to think for yourself. To do that everyday and when you use your voice, make it count. Your own words, your own thoughts, your own beliefs. It’s not always easy, honest to goodness, it can be hard to step up and take responsibility for yourself, but you’ve got to do it. The world has enough parrots. Apathy benefits the status quo and we can and must be better than that. Buy the bulldog, choose your words carefully and don’t do nothing. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.