Friday, May 29, 2009

The Vodka Monologues (Or "The Great Stoli/Smirnoff Caper")

Stoli or Smirnoff? That was the major question at hand tonight, as I sat around a table at Ben's Next Door for a friend's birthday. (Side note: The restaurant is owned by Rock Harper, winner of Hell's Kitchen, & is next door to DC's iconic Ben's Chili Bowl).

Birthday Boy Jake brought along an eclectic group of celebrators. My coworker & his childhood friend; his college pal, from here on known as Vodka Girl, or VG, clad in a shredded beater & a white blazer; his roommate, unironically sporting a sparkly silver bowler; & a 40-something guy who may or may not have been the roommate's boyfriend.

I was pretty busy watching the final quarter of the Cavs/Magic game, but I tuned back in to the table's conversation when I noticed that VG was yelling about something - namely, about vodka. She'd ordered two raspberry Stolis & soda but was fairly insistent that she'd instead been served raspberry Smirnoff & soda, which she apparently felt to be a near-criminal offense. In a rather high-pitched voice, VG went on quite the vodka-comparing tirade, insisting that Smirnoff is bottom of the barrel & that it's absolutely distinguishable from Stoli. All attempts to convince her otherwise or to inject any doubt into her argument were promptly trampled.

She flagged down our waitress & asked whether the drinks were, indeed Stoli; our waitress responded that they were. When VG told her they tasted like Smirnoff, the server laughed & said she'd look into it, taking drinks with her. The table agreed that her willingness to investigate insinuated that she knew the cocktails did not contain the Stoli she initially claimed they did.

When she returned a few minutes later, she was carrying two drinks. Setting them in front of VG, she said, "These are raspberry Stoli." Contented, VG began drinking, exclaiming, "The difference is so clear. These taste so much better," re-launching into her apparently-unfinished vodka-comparison tirade.

Now, VG assumed the waitress' statement meant that these were two new drinks containing raspberry Stoli. It was, however, abundantly clear to at least four of the other five of us that they were the exact same drinks as before - the waitress just returned them & confirmed their contents. How did we know this? Well, for starters, as Sparkly Bowler Guy pointed out, the limes in each drinks were pre-squeezed, which isn't something bartenders do - but it IS something you do before you sip your own drink, as VG did before dipping into her initial cocktails, the ones accused of being Smirnoff.

So as she went shrilly on & on & on & ON about the many differences between pedestal-worthy Stoli & not-worthy-of-being-used-for-rubbing-alcohol Smirnoff, her arguments became less & less salient, especially knowing that she was drinking the exact same drinks as before & seeing the results she clearly wanted to see - & basically making things up. It was akin to that old college party trick where you secretly serve nonalcoholic party punch to a sorority sister & watch as she gets sloppy "drunk" & hits on everyone in the room.

Umm... Placebo effect, anyone???

Triumph Over My Gag Reflex

Most who know me in person are acquainted with my most prominent (& messiest) nervous habit - vomiting prior to public speaking engagements. This became particularly problematic last year, when I took on a job that required me to teach high schoolers on a semi-regular weekend basis. I chucked at least once per weekend. The one weekend I didn't, I instead got legitimately ill & vommed into the bushes outside the Jefferson Memorial. Awesome, I know.

Tonight, I was asked to give the d'var Torah at erev Shavuot services hosted by Tikkun Leil Shabbat, a local, lay-led havurah, which I realize makes zero sense to many of my readers. Basically, it's a traveling hippie synagogue for Jewish 20- and 30-somethings living in DC. They meet in different locations around the city, & the services are pretty free-flowing - music, chanting, drums, other stray instruments. The d'var Torah (that's Jew-speak for "sermon," for all you Gentiles) always focuses on some sort of social justice issue.

So, a quick plug: Tonight's d'var was about a health care reform event happening here in DC next month. The Interfaith Service of Witness & Prayer is expected to be the largest faith-inspired mobilization around health care reform in the country. It's sponsored by more than 30 national faith organizations & denominations - Jewish, Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, the works. We'll be gathering on Wednesday, June 24th from 4-7 p.m. on Freedom Plaza to show our support for health care reform. If you're in the city, I encourage you to join us!

Anyway, the point is this:
I DID NOT VOMIT TONIGHT! In fact, the affirming hippies I spoke to even snapped & murmured "Yasher koach" ("congrats," loosely) when I finished. And while I then proceeded to shake like a leaf upon returning to my seat, I was mostly too busy being distracted by my pride in my stomach's ability to refrain from emptying itself to notice or to care about my full-body tremors.

So who wants to book me for a speaking gig? YAHOO!

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