Is There Really A Difference Between Expensive Vodka And Cheap Vodka?

Walk in to just about any bar in America today and you’ll see a row of fancy vodka bottles all lined up. Some people swear by one brand or another, but there is a federal law that requires all vodkas to be pretty much the same, so the Planet Money team decided to test them.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Walk into just about any bar in America today, and you’ll see a row of fancy vodka bottles all lined up, shining like beacons. Some people swear by one brand or another, but there is a federal law that requires all vodkas to be pretty much the same. That got our Planet Money team thinking, is this the greatest marketing coups of all time? So they teamed up with Dan Pashman of the food podcast The Sporkful, to put fancy vodka to the test.

DAN PASHMAN, BYLINE: Let’s start with Title 27, Section 5.22 of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Code.

PASHMAN: I got it right here. It says that vodka must be distilled or treated until it is, quote, “without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color.” Of course it tastes like vodka, but it wouldn’t be vodka if it had distinctive character. Still, a lot of vodka makers insist their flavor’s superior. Grey Goose calls itself the world’s best-tasting vodka. It’s a big claim, which is no surprise if you know anything about the guy who invented it.

MATTHEW LATKIEWICZ: Sidney Frank – he is a classic American businessman and almost a cliche. He came from nothing, poor. He went to Brown. But he only went to Brown for one year because he couldn’t afford it.

PASHMAN: This is Matthew Latkiewicz. He’s a drinks writer and author of “You Suck At Drinking.” He says Sidney Frank was just determined to strike it rich. Frank married into a wealthy family, which got him into the liquor business. Now, back in the early ’90s, the fanciest vodka around was Absolut. But by today’s standards, it wasn’t that expensive. And that’s what Sidney Frank focused on – not the taste of Absolut but the price.

LATKIEWICZ: He essentially out of thin air goes, I want to make a vodka. So Absolut’s charging 15. I’ll charge 30. He didn’t even have a product at this point.

PASHMAN: But he already knew he was going to charge double. And to do that, he needed a product that screamed luxury.

LATKIEWICZ: It’s got to be the best. Everything that is the best comes from France. So he goes to France, and he looks around for distillers. He says, can you make vodka? He finds somebody that says, yes, of course I can make vodka.

PASHMAN: Frank sent his product to bartenders but not in cardboard boxes like vodka is usually shipped.

LATKIEWICZ: He would give them the bottle in these – a wooden box with straw inside and nicely packaged. It would be this large, clear bottle with the frosted glass that when you put it up on the back bar would catch whatever light was there, and it would kind of glow.

PASHMAN: The whole plan worked. Sidney Frank died a very rich man. He sold Grey Goose to Bacardi less than 10 years after he started it for more than $2 billion. At the Planet Money team, we thought that sounded so easy. Can we make our own premium vodka? We learned that a lot of companies actually buy a vodka concentrate in bulk from a handful of suppliers. Then they just add water. So we’ve got a hold of a sample, brought it here into the studio…

(SOUNDBITE OF LIQUID POURING)

PASHMAN: …Added some water…

PASHMAN: …And sent it to a lab along with a sample of Grey Goose and a sample of some of the cheapest stuff we could find. A few days later, we got a call from Neva Parker. She’s the vice president at White Labs in San Diego. She ran our vodkas through what they call a comprehensive spirits test.

Based on that information, Neva, which of these three vodkas would you suspect should be the cheapest, least-desirable vodka?

NEVA PARKER: If I had to choose based on this analysis alone, I would say number one.

PASHMAN: That was the Grey Goose. And the ultra luxury choice…

PARKER: Number three.

PASHMAN: Number three was the cheap stuff. Now, to be fair, Neva did say the differences in all three samples weren’t anything most people were going to taste. She compared the reports.

PARKER: I mean, look at these. They all look very similar as well.

PASHMAN: Very similar – we did talk to Grey Goose. Their global brand ambassador, Joe McCanta, took issue with our test.

JOE MCCANTA: Obviously our product was decanted into another bottle. And when that happens, it kind of compromises, you know, our understanding of any testing that’s done on the product afterwards.

PASHMAN: He also argued that the odorless, tasteless law is more about distinguishing true vodka from vodkas that have stuff like fruit and sugar added. Pure vodka is its own category.

MCCANTA: Every vodka within the category will have its own characteristics, which would be largely attributed to the raw materials used to make the spirit or even the process used while distilling the spirit. So yeah, that’s definitely our take on it. And that’s why – you know, that’s why we feel very proud of our process and our ingredients.

PASHMAN: So our one lab didn’t detect any taste-able differences even with our homemade vodka. And the law seems pretty clear to us. But Grey Goose insists there is a difference. They also invited us to come have a drink with them. We are willing to continue our research. For NPR News, I’m Dan Pashman, host of The Sporkful food podcast.

 

 

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Wildwood Daze – The Union Jacks – Dirty John – Part 1

“Okay, He’s freaking out like a retard. Put him in his bed and we’ll go.”

I had been to the restaurant where Brian our drummer worked part-time as a busboy. I don’t remember, but I had been there to meet up with him once for some reason. I do remember Brian telling me the bartender there liked my “friend with the big eyes.” (Me.) I don’t remember that person and quickly dismiss it in my mind.

One night Brain wants to bring us to the restaurant where he works for drinks. We get there and the band sits at the bar. Brian introduces us to the bartender, Frank. Or, as Brian calls him, Frank the Fag. Now I get it. Frank fancies me. It’s a compliment, but I’m straight.

We all order bottles of beer. Frank is being Frank but he’s nice as could be. We’re all just chilling at the bar and it’s nice to all go out and have a drink as a band. It’s like we’re somebody now. People recognize us when we’re out and I like it.

We’re sitting there for about an hour chatting about music, when Frank presents me with not one, but two large tumblers filled with a frothy pink liquid.

“What’s this?”

“It’s called a Dirty John.”

“Thank you, but I never drink hard liquor. I just don’t do it. I’m a beer guy only.”

“I’ll drink it!”

Jim is the youngest and newest member of the band. I think he wants to show that he’s a bad ass that can hang with the older guys.

“That’s really not necessary Jim.”

“No. I want to.”

Jim proceeds to chug the drinks.

We settle up and walk outside. Brian and Mark say they’ll bring the car around. I’m smoking a cig waiting with Jim. Brian doesn’t allow smoking in his car so we wait.

“I gotta take a piss.”

“You could have gone in the bar, Jim. Actually, I gotta go too. Beer goes right through me. There’s some tall hedges behind the restaurant. Let’s go back there.”

We walk back and are standing next to each other as if we’re just a couple of students pissing in the urinals in the Boys bathroom at Wildwood High. I suddenly hear this rustling noise and a thump. I glance to my right and Jim has vanished. I zip up my fly and go to the spot where he was.

There’s Jim, face down in the next yard. While pissing he literally just collapsed forward between the hedges. What the fuck was in that drink? Whatever it was, it hit him like a sledgehammer.

Brian and Mark pull up in his yellow ’77 Ford Mustang II.

“What the fuck’s up with Wolfie?” (Brian sometimes referred to Jim as ‘ Wolfie’ because the way he brushed his hair back, it resembled Lon Chaney’s monster.)

“Guys get over here!”

Brian and Mark scramble from the car and run over. We get Jim to his feet and he is just gone. Slurring and stumbling and we get him to the car. It takes all three of us.

“He went from buzzed to black out in a matter of seconds!”

Brian’s driving. Mark’s riding shotgun, and of course I’m in the back with drunk boy. He’s really out of it. Conscious, but super fucked up. More drunk than I’ve ever seen anyone ever in my life.

Brian’s driving him back to his house. “He better not fuckin’ puke in my car! I swear to god!”

We get to Jim’s house and I’m about to get him out and he pukes all over me. He doesn’t even know I’m there. Now I’m wearing the Dirty John meant for me.

Thankfully his parents weren’t home when we dragged our new guitarist back into his house.

We carry him through the door, in front of at least a half dozen siblings. They all look on in utter horror. I assure them their brother isn’t dead. He’s just sick and we’re taking care of him.

The kids know me from school. I’m the kid that comes and waits for Jim each morning and lets my glasses steam up while watching the Today show waiting for my friend so we can walk to school together.

 

It’s a mess. The little kids are clueless. We are simply a group of guys bringing their older brother home because he’s sick. Everything’s fine. Just like in any household in the 70’s. It didn’t happen.

We bang Jim up the stairs to his bedroom. When I say, bang I mean he was dead weight and me, Brian and Mark did the best to get him to his room.

This is all new ground for all of us. We’re new musicians, but we don’t know anything about but extreme behavior even if it’s accidental.

My best friend is so sick. I am wearing his puke. We try to run his head under the shower to revive him. He cries out like a molested child so we withdrawal.

“Okay, He’s freaking out like a retard. Put him in his bed and we’ll go.”

Brian was always so pragmatic.

“Turn him over on his stomach.” (I say) Put his face at the edge of the bed.”

“Why?”

“Umm… Bon Scott….” (See: Tales of Rock – Bon Scott) 

“He’ll be fine.”

” Dude. Hendrix died choking on his own puke.”

“He’ll be fine.”

We leave our lead guitarist in his bed and all go home. It’s bee a fucked up night.

My best friend got poisoned by a drink meant for me. What was Frank’s plan? Get me drunk beyond recognition and take advantage of me? That’s kind of evil.

But the worst part of it is… Was Brian in on it?

 

 

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Church – Annual Toy Drive for CHOP

Five years ago Church started a charity at Christmas to collect toys for children who are in the hospital at CHOP. (Children’s Hospital) (See: Church – Brand Ambassador)

Back then he was the Vice President of the Philadelphia chapter of the United States Bartender’s Guild. Liquor representatives and bartenders and people in the hospitality industry would all gather and donate toys for his event.

It would always take place at a local bar called Time. The first one I attended was in 2014. That was the year that Annabelle dumped me and kept coming back on a monthly basis to fool around with me. It was a confusing and unstable time for me. I remember sitting at the bar and pounding Cutty Sark Prohibition. (100 proof) I had gotten a few texts from Annabelle saying how she missed me and was thinking about me everyday and even had a dream about me.

I was at my breaking point with that idiot and I told her I’d call her when I got home. Later I did just that and told her we were done and I couldn’t have her drifting in an out of my life anymore. But that’s a story that already been told in this blog. (See: Annabelle – Nice to Meet You)

So spring forward to 2017 and I’m at the salon. Church pops in to tan and hang. It’s a Monday night and I assume we’re going to dinner like we usually do. Then he tells me that he can’t because it’s the Toys for Chop thing at Time tonight.

I don’t want to go. I don’t work in the industry, I don’t have a toy to give and I feel like I’d be looked upon as just a groupie looking to get free spirits. But he tells me there will be some attractive babes there and with a few twists I’m in.

He’s been out of the liquor industry for a couple of years now and I haven’t worked for the liquor publication in a few years so we’re both a bit out of touch. He no longer runs the event and has passed the mantle on to a rep at another liquor brand.

He wants to go to the event together, but I have other plans. I tell him to go on without me at 7:30 and when I close the salon, I’ll roll over there after 8pm. The reason I do this is because whenever I have to go somewhere with Church that has a timeline, he gets really rammy as the deadline approaches. This causes me stress and I don’t need any stress in my life anymore. (See: Ghost – Swedish Metal Fiasco) So I send him off and the minute he steps out of the salon I hit the send button on the computer and activate my food order. I am determined to have a nice meal before I go over to this event. When I say nice meal, I mean drinking armor. I know it’s going to be oceans of whiskey and I need to prepare for that.

My food comes and I eat half my sandwich and that should be enough. I close the salon and head over to Time.

When I arrive the woman running the event is outside and asks me if I’ll give her $5 to fend of some homeless guy selling flowers. I’m happy to see her but it seems strange. I give her the money and head in. She tells me she’ll buy me a drink. I don’t mind and just go inside.

I run into the usual suspects of the industry and am happy to see them. I get a glass of Buffalo Trace on the rocks and sit next to a guy I know from a local bar. I like him but I quickly realize he’s drunk as fuck.

Then I realize everyone there is pretty much hammered. It’s 8:30pm. How long have these people been drinking?

I end up sitting at the bar sipping delicious free whiskey chatting with a beautiful blonde who unfortunately is blackout drunk. I don’t know her but she tells me we’ve met several times. I’m surprised by this statement because she appears to not even remember who she is.

Toys for Tots is a national organization that collects toys for underprivileged children from poor families. This event was created for children in the hospital around the holidays. But these kids have families that have jobs and money. They are going to get plenty of toys and goodies for christmas, sick or not. They don’t need more crap from us. Where do the toys really go? Who regulates who gets what? What about the money? How does that get distributed?

I realize now that this is an empty charity. It’s just an excuse for a bunch of industry people to get together and get shit faced drunk around the holidays masked as a charity. It’s awful. Thank God I got something to eat before I came here tonight. There’s a plate of cold cuts on a table and that’s it. Other than Church who has given up drinking, I’m the only sober person here.

This is a horrible and wasteful event. I had an opportunity to go to see a Led Zeppelin cover band with Church last week. We saw them last year. I declined this year because once you’ve seen it, you’re done. It’s not Led Zeppelin and it’s just going to be a rerun of the same show from last year. I don’t want to do that again. Pay too much to drink shitty beer and watch some clowns cover Zep tunes while I watch them through some other jerk off’s phone? Fuck that.

I’ve had an action packed life and continue to rock out in my own way. It seems like every time I get roped into someone else’s nonsense I have a shitty time. I’m not going to do that anymore. So no more Zep cover bands, no more concerts for any other bands I don’t know, and no more industry parties. I’m over it.

My life is elegant in its simplicity. I like to work and stay busy. I like to write and watch Netflix when I’m home. I love to sip a glass of wine and smoke a cig. As long as I’ve got my health and daughter Lorelei is okay, I’m good.

There’s so many lost and lonely people out there. I hope they find themselves. But getting fucked up on a regular basis is just a dead-end. So like I said at the end of the blog I wrote about the band Ghost…. Never Again!  (See: Swedish Metal Fiasco)

 

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Stacy – Jekyll to Hyde

Get set up by Jewish best friend’s wife with amazing girl who after 4 martinis morphs in to Hyper Sexual Jekyll and Hyde child of the Waffen SS.

Get set up by my friend’s fiance with a new coworker. We were introduced at a party then decided to go out for some drinks, etc. Stacy’s educated, intelligent, fun, gorgeous, well dressed but “can’t find a good guy” according to all sources.

We head out to this great little place (now closed sadly). First 2 hours we are having an amazing time, we kiss, it’s electric. I like her and she really likes me. We decide to order another couple of drinks and some food. We’re having a good time together, and already set up another date. I decide that I want to see where this will go, so I’m not going to let this first date wind up in bed. I want to see her again. She’s great.

Then it starts… I can’t tell if it’s the booze or she’s just been well-behaved up until then. Our server doesn’t come back with our order quickly and Stacy hisses, “That bitch better hurry with my drink. Did she get lost or something?” She laughs, then quietly mutters, “fucking kike.” I’m not sure what she says at first (note: The friend that set us up, her husband, my friend, is Jewish). Then as our order comes the floodgates appear to open. And more and more gradually her mouth spews bile, racist and other, every few sentences directed randomly at people she sees nearby or comments in general. What the hell happened to the gorgeous intelligent girl I met here 3 hours ago? I’m not drunk, a bit tipsy but well in control. She’s intoxicated so I decide that I’ve had enough. It’s getting worse, so we have to go.

We chose a place close to where she lives so it would be in walking distance and I decide it’s not safe for her to walk alone and I’ll grab a cab afterward. The walk was brutal I’ve got a super horny Ms. Hyde on my arm. Trying to get her home ASAP so I can get the hell out. She’s loud as hell now. She’s practically yelling about the fact that she wants me to do XYZ to her when we get home and she’s gonna break my dick off and ruin me for other women.

She bellows at anyone looking at her strangely because they’re a/an (insert horrible phrase here). She gets closer to me and tells me how great I am and she wants to see me again tomorrow not the weekend when we originally planned (totally oblivious that I’m certain this will be our last date).

I get her to the door of her building after a brutally long walk (should have been 10 minutes, took almost an hour because she was a total mess). A scene ensues at her door when I won’t come in. I tell her my ride pulled up out front already. I’ve got to work early and we have had too much to drink for this.

“Don’t you like me? Don’t you want to fuck this?” (she flashes her amazing breasts at me and pulls up her dress. No panties. I get to see the full show). “You don’t know what you’re missing! You can’t get it up, can you? Are you fucking gay you fucking faggot? Don’t call me you piece of shit. I’m telling everyone you have a small dick you faggot.”

This takes less than 2 minutes. I say goodnight and I escape quickly down the stairs. She texts me saying “fck ou ashol ur regret thsi” or some other bad drunk typing.

I escape home. The next two days are interesting trying to explain to my friends what went wrong, while receiving texts and ducking calls that left voice mails all indicating: Had a great time. Sorry if I misbehaved a little on the way home. Wish you’d stayed over. Can we see each other sooner rather than later? Don’t you like me anymore? Etc…

So sad. (See – Jill – From Jill to Jezebel)

What if we’d gone out and didn’t drink any alcohol? Would the night have been better? Should I go out with her again as long as there’s no booze? I’d love to know what everybody thinks about this date.

 

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Church – Money Monday

Flushed with the excitement of all of the antique trains that my sister Janice and I sold in York, I knew I should get the cash portion of my sales into the bank. (See: Train Show in York, PA)

I walked up to Cavanagh’s Rittenhouse to take advantage of their Monday lunch special: 1/2 off all cheesesteaks. I was a little banged up from the night before from celebrating our winnings. Ann Marie my favorite bartender came over to chat. (See: Ann Marie – 2015 to Present – Rose Among The Thorns)

I order a beer, and the usual. Ann Marie is her usual charming self. But she has to get back to the bar. I open my laptop and write a bit until my lunch arrives. It’s perfect as always. I’m feeling happy about how well we did at the show in York, and just glowing at how much fun I had hanging with my sister.

Church shows up, and while we’re sitting there he tells me he’s waiting on a phone call about a new job. Within a few minutes his phone rings and he has to step out.

I order another beer. Probably not the best idea because it’s early. I never really ever have a drink until 5pm. But today I’m celebrating a win, so fuck it.

Church returns and tells me the company he was interviewing with just called him and offered him the job. I congratulate him on his success, and I pay the bill and head out. Church drives me to my bank and I deposit my loot.

I’m relieved that I’m no longer carrying around all that cash in my pocket! We park the car and run into the bartender and server from Sofitel, Liam and Laura. We’re chatting with them and they’re both off  from work, so they’ve been hanging out and drinking. We agree to all meet up later for a drink somewhere.

Church suggests we go to Gran Caffee L’Aquilla. I took my friend Emily there and she loved it! (See: Emily – 2016 to Present – Super Baby Sister) Church knows the bartender there and we’ll probably get the hookup. (Free and discounted drinks) But what Church doesn’t know is one of the owners comes to the salon to tan. He left something valuable in one of rooms and thought it was gone. I found it behind a chest of drawers and recently returned it to him. Although he speaks little English, I could see the look of delight on his face when I handed it to him.

We go to the bar and we’re chatting with Church’s buddy and I see The owner guy.  He comes over and smiles and shakes my hand. He starts talking to the bartender in Italian, and I can sort of pick up that he’s telling him the story of my search and rescue of his belonging.

He walks away and I ask the bartender what that was all about. He says that I’m getting a special hookup.

“A hookup just this time?”

“I think you will be getting special treatment for a while here.”

Sweet! So I order up some chardonnay and sip away chatting with he and Church. I’m getting pretty buzzed. The conversation is flowing and so is the wine. I tell Church I’m supposed to meet up with my friend Carly at 5:30. (See: Carly – 2012 to Present – The Mad Baker)

I’m getting texts from Liam and Laura (Bartender and Server at Liberte’ Bar at Hotel Sofitel) that they want to grab a drink with us. I’ve had one too many already, so I suggest the Gold Club. The seedy strip club downtown. (See: Johnny R. – 2010 – Present – Needle in the Groove) I’m not really into strip joints as you know, but I figured it would pull a good story for the blog with some decent crossover characters.

We get there and grab a table in the back. Liam rolls in and tells us Laura forgot her ID and they won’t let her in. Who the fuck leaves the house without their ID, especially if they’re going out drinking? But Laura has many issues, this being the least of them.

So Liam and Church are chatting about who knows what, not even taking part in the revelry happening onstage. They are literally facing each other as if they are not even in a strip joint. So I’m enjoying the show and my buzz. Fuck them.

There is some chick swinging on the pole and she’s looking pretty fit. “Living After Midnight” by Judas Priest comes on and I’m digging her more. I also notice she has a lovely pair of distended nipples on her small breasts. She’s good. The next song to come on is “Starbreaker” also by Judas Priest from the Sin After Sin album. Now I’m loving this woman. Those are her song choices. This lady speaks my language and likes metal.

When she’s finished her dance she glides over to me and sits next to me. She seems really sweet. Fair skinned, lean, with auburn hair. I decide to get something I haven’t gotten in years. A lap dance!

Church and Liam are still being a pair of buzz killigtons in the corner. Why the fuck did I bring them here?

Anyway, me and “Tigre” head into the champagne room. (There’s no champagne room at this dive. Just little private booths.) I sit in the chair and she pulls the curtain as she straddles my lap. I’m actually loving this. I never do this anymore!

She takes off her top and starts grinding on me. Normally in gentleman’s clubs you can’t touch the girls, but in this shithole, you can pretty much do what you want. Why do you think my buddy Johnny R. loves this place so much? Free blow jobs.

But alas, dear readers I am a gentleman and I genuinely feel for these drug addled single mothers. Tigre is swiveling on my crotch, I’m running my hands up and down her sleek thighs. She presses forward and her nipple touches my lips. I defy any man to resist a nipple placed near their mouth. (Google: ‘Rooting Reflex’)

It’s funny when I’m with Johnny R. I resist the vice probably because he’s doing enough of it for the both of us. But for some reason tonight, I want to partake. While my other two friends are sitting out in the main room playing circle jerk.

Tigre is offering me her soft pretzel bites and I’m enjoying them so much! There is nothing else going on between us sexually other than that nibbling.

But anything that’s super fun is always over too quickly so our little session wraps up and I we go out to the main room again and sit. Tigre’s very nice and seems pretty normal. She says she works Monday through Friday, noon to six.  She volunteers her number and puts it in my phone. I see what’s she’s doing. Building a return client base. If it’s ever a slow day, she can summon up a few of us to come in and see her and she’ll increase her daily revenue. Shrewd chick after all.

I’m done, and have to go meet Carly for happy hour. Church goes off with Liam. I think this is only happening because they’re supposed to be going to Laura’s apartment. Which all revolves around the story Liam told to us when we all went to Angel’s Envy event. (See: Church – Angel’s Envy) Apparently when Laura gets drunk she breaks out her huge melons. (I’m positive that’s the ONLY reason Church is going with Liam to her apartment.)

On a wing and a prayer, Church thinks he’s going to see those glorious puppies.

I do my usual happy hour thing with Carly at Square 1682. We catch up and I’m a little fuzzy on the details because I’d been sipping since 1pm.

Apparently Church’s phone’s dead. Seems like it’s always on the verge. I even recently bought him a cool battery thing that my friend Cheyanne turned me on to. (See: Cheyanne – 2016 to Present – Elegant Power) I can’t get a hold of him and I’m drunk and annoyed at this point. I finally reach him through Liam.

I meet him at his car on Chestnut and now it seems I’m drunk enough to believe that if I go to Laura’s apartment I’ll get to see her major league sized yabahos.

Laura lives in a nice little apartment at 12th and Walnut. She and Liam are sitting there watching Jeopardy. Church lies on Laura’s bed. (Which I don’t get, but I think it was a studio so there may not have been anywhere else to recline.)

Laura is crushing cocktails and pouring me as many as I want, and I’m crushing Jeopardy. Drunk or not, Phicklephilly knows his trivia.

Things get fuzzy afer that. I know nothing happened between anyone at the apartment. I just remember Church driving me home. As I climbed the steps inside my four story walk up, I suddenly really have to go to the bathroom. I’m banged up and struggling with the lock on the door to my apartment.

I’m really having a tough time and the brown beast is growling with fury in my bowels. The lock has been sticking lately in the humid weather. I crank the key and the lock suddenly pops. And so does my ass.

Yep. I shit my pants.

Money Monday, my ass!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly I publish everyday at  8am EST.

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Johnny R. – Saturday Afternoon

“How’d it go?”

“She blew me.”

Yea, this fucker’s back. He’s writing a blog now.

Check it out: insidemypsyche.blogspot.com

I walked up to Tir Na Nog, the Irish pub up on 16th Street between JFK and Arch streets. I’m really not a fan of that bar. It’s a total sausage fest. Lots of soccer and dudes. The beer is never cold enough and the place is noisy.

But, it’s right next to Suburban Station and Johnny can just cruise right in there when he gets off the train. Also I know the bartender on duty and she always gives me my first one for free!

Johnny arrives and gets his usual bud bottle. We both agree, after this drink we want to go somewhere else because this place is lame. I pay the bill and we’re off.

We end up going to a spot we used to frequent when we both worked at the Inquirer years ago. Happy Rooster is the name of the bar on 16th and Sansom. There are a couple of tables outside on the Sansom street side of the building. I used to love to sit there and drink wine with Johnny and smoke cigarettes. We would sit there and check out all of the lovely talent as they walked by. It was a good spot.

The exact table is available and we hop in it. I get my usual chardonnay with a side of ice and Johnny pounds ice cold bud bottles. I love sitting here with Johnny. Just sippin’, smokin’ and jokin’. It’s a good people watching spot that’s always shady and off the main path of busy 16th Street.

He starts telling me this story about this girl that works in the deli downstairs in the lobby of the building where he works. His firm does data capture. That’s the systems behind processing credit cards at any business. He works in the finance department. He became friendly with her when he’s down there getting a sandwich or whatever.

He suggested the company he works for take a look at their credit card statements and maybe they could get them a lower rate. They agree and apparently they got their business. She’s very grateful because her mother owns the store and he’s helping their family save money.

One day when he was in the back with her and checking the system, she hugged him, and then kissed him. It was a little more than a friendly thank you peck on the cheek. It was a full on kiss. Johnny tells me that she’s unhappy in her relationship.

“Her boyfriend shoots squirrels.”

Sounds like some redneck, hillbilly behavior. Johnny’s not going to pursue anything with her, and besides, it’s too close to work. What if something happens and then things don’t work out? Awkward!

We’re there for about 45 minutes and Johnny tells me he needs to eat. I know if he doesn’t eat, he’ll get really drunk. No one wants that.

“Just like a slice of pizza or a hot dog.”

“Well Underdogs on 17th Street, went under. Hot Diggity Dogs on South Street died. But there is a new place over at 11th and Walnut that’s supposed to be good.”

“Let’s hit it.”

So we walk down to Walnut Street and head east. It’s a lovely Saturday in the city, and everyone is out, eating, drinking or shopping.

When we arrive I see that this new place is in the spot where the seafood restaurant Joe Pesce was located. (Yea it was really called that.) Nice place that just didn’t make it. It’s a big space, they sure as hell better sell a bunch of hot dogs.

The place looks great. A good spot for everybody who likes hot dogs. But the best part of all is that it has a bar! We sit down and tell the bartender it’s our first time but we heard good things.  She hands us a couple of menus and we order a pair of beers. They have at least 40 different kinds of dogs on the menu, and many of the meats are exotic.  I kind of just want a chili dog and some chips. I forget what Johnny ordered, but when the food came out, this glorious wiener was placed before me.

 

Check it out:

http://www.destinationdogs.com/

I rarely post anything on my personal Instagram, and I don’t like when people post pictures of babies and food. But I just couldn’t resist, and you can see why. They were a little stingy with the chips (Which they make in-house and are delicious) but the dog was amazing! I never expected that. Huge dog that almost seems that it’s been pressed into that buttery bread. It was maybe the best hot dog I’ve ever eaten, just because it was so fancy and delicious!

The food’s good, the beer is flowing and when we go out side for a smoke break, Johnny says it feels like he’s getting a second wind and wants to go to the Gold Club. He borrows $80 from me to do stuff there. I ask him why he just doesn’t get a separate  (or secret) account for all of his little dalliances, and he says he will. (He’s been saying it for years)

So I give him the cash and off we go. I only go to this place with him. I really have little interest in gentleman’s clubs. I’ve talked about them before. I just don’t see the appeal. It’s just a bunch of hot crazy chicks half-naked trying to separate you from your money. Period. The places are usually populated by either young drunk guys that just want to see some naked girls, or bored married guys, and other losers. Maybe some of the guys are just lonely, and don’t have access to real women. I know Johnny goes because he just has a taste for vice. He just does. Driven by his desires.

We get to the Gold Club and he’s chatting with this fat stripper. He likes his girls curvy. This beautiful athletic black girl comes over to me. I’ve seen her before and her legs are spectacular.

She can see Johnny is busy with the other girl so she cruises right up to me and starts chatting. She tells me she can take me in the back room, and we can do whatever I desire. I know this chick is hooking here, and I tell her I’ll think about it after I go out for a smoke.

The thick girl is now on stage and I tell Johnny that the thing he needs, that black girl will do. He’s happy about that even though he says she’s not his type. Not the black part, he likes his babes curvy. He goes to talk to her and I tell him I’m going out for a smoke.

I go outside and burn one. While out there I run into a guy who knows me from somewhere. Maybe here? But I know so many people in this city, I don’t remember where I know him from. So we’re having a nice exchange. Maybe he’s a doorman here. That’s probably it.

I know Johnny won’t be long and I’m sure he’s already half in the bag. I text him that when he’s done doing whatever it is that he’s doing, that I’m outside. Within a few minutes he appears.  I say goodbye to my doorman friend and we walk down Chancellor towards 16th street. (This section of Chancellor really adds up to just a filthy, rat infested alley full of dumpsters)

“How’d it go?”

“She blew me.”

“Protection?”

“I never wear a rubber.”

“You’re crazy.”

“I’m Johnny Rivers!”

And off he goes in a taxi.

 

 

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