“…..We do crazy things when we’re wounded, everyone’s a bit insane….” Tom Waits 

I’ve been introspective, sometimes even pensive, of late. As I sit here, drinking some scotch that my friend Jack managed to cause me to win (don’t ask how, I’ll lie. Thank you sir)….

 ….and as I work on this willowleaf ficus…. 

 ….I can’t help but to think about Juan (who was the owner of the tree until he passed away and his wife gave it to me). Juan was a good friend, better than I was. Juan liked scotch and cigars (I don’t like cigars but I do like scotch). Juan liked espresso too (he was Cuban) but it’s just not the same sitting in the Florida heat, drinking espresso and working on bonsai. Unless you’re Colin Lewis I guess, which makes little sense, he might be an American now, but he is still a Brit. He should be having a “spot of tea” working on those wild Maine yamadori. 

Sorry, the scotch begins to speak. 

Speaking of which, I was taught how to drink scotch by a real live Scottish person (in my previous life as an electric mobility expert, I had mucho contact with British and Scottish tourists. I’ll tell you about it one day, it’s an enraging but sad story) 

Let me explain about scotch. 

So many macho Americans think you should only be drinking scotch neat. Which means the liquor is served at room temperature and not mixed with anything. Now, if you’re shooting it or trying to impress other macho drinkers (say, your boss or your grampa) go right ahead. You don’t like the taste anyway. You are just a show off. You’d rather have a Dud-lite beer I’m sure. Or one of those fruity drinks or maybe a margarita (sugar, not salt, because you’re trying to keep your blood pressure down). Hemingway drank margaritas, after all. 

Now, neat is not the same as straight up. You may think so, because it sounds the same, almost,  but it’s not. Straight up is with the liquor chilled; either in a freezer or shaken with ice then poured out into a glass. There are those who think that a chilled beverage numbs the taste buds. And it may. I actually like my beer, especially a darker beer, warmer than the 35f that’s recommended. 

Which brings us to “on the rocks”. There are some serious scotch drinkers who really think using ice is more evil than stealing a babies bottle. But having something to crunch on while you are contemplating the ills of the world and friendships lost, makes for an enhanced experience. At least I think so. And if you have enough ice or a big enough ice cube  (like those fancy ice balls they sell to hipsters) the drink won’t dilute very much. Especially if you sip quickly. 

Today, though, I am going for the real experience. As taught to me by my Scottish friend (remember him? He actually brought the scotch from Scotland for me. My customers liked me. I miss them the most.) I’m having my scotch with a splash of water. And that is it, just a splash. It cuts the alcohol just enough to really bring out the flavors of the malt and oak barrel and the smoky peat.  

I gave my wife a small taste. I told her to sip, with noise (because that gives the taste buds air to help the flavor bloom). Then hold the scotch in the front of your mouth, letting it just burn, then slowly moving it to the sides of your tounge and then swallowing slowly. Here’s her reaction.  

   That, my friends, is real. I’m mean. She complained that her hair wasn’t made up and her face wasn’t done. Or maybe vice versa, I’m not sure. Notice that she’s representing the Sho Fu Bonsai Society of Sarasota. Sorry dear. I’ll make you a midori sour in a minute my dear. Or three. I have a bottle….um, tree, to finish, first. 
However you drink it, scotch is a sipping drink. Some people sip faster than others though. If I’m drinking in company I’ll have a scotch and soda with a lime, on the rocks. It’s not too sweet but you have those ice cubes to crunch on. 

Here’s the tree, which I think you might be more interested in than scotch etiquette. 

   Needs a trim. Maybe some wire removed. I won’t be defoliating this time. Sorry to let you down. 
I’m just a little too tipsy at this point to find the last blogpost on this tree but there are at least three. I think. Things tend to get more exaggerated as the alcohols take control. And this post, although tangentially about a tree, and secondarily about scotch, is really about friendship. 

I’ve been dropping hints these last several blog posts about bonsai friends lost in these last few years, and I’ve been talking with many people about these ruined relationships. I think I’ve come to some realizations. Partly because of my health and the fragility of life but also because I’m growing as a person. And, as it’s said, the  reflected life is not worth living. And you know what, the anger doesn’t have the fire it used to, the sadness is more poignant, more likely to bring a tear to my eye than it did. 

I should name names but that’s really just a way of bullying. If they read this or not it doesn’t matter, I will apologize for me. To quote Tom Waits again “Sometimes I say things just to blow off steam”. So, sorry for being an asshole. It’s tough for me to resist being one because I’m so good at it. I hope that’s enough because that’s all I have. And I forgive. Not that it matters much either. 

Going back to the tree (and the scotch)

 I’m really done working on it (the tree, not the scotch) 

Here’s the side view.   It was last wired by Seth, whom you’ve met before.  
 He likes scotch. And he’s reading this now, jealous that he’s not getting a taste of this fine, 12 year aged, single malt I’m imbibing tonight.  

Rear view of the tree.  

I’ve made many friends through my bonsai years: Steve, Paul, Mike, Cullen, Jason, Nick, Evan, Allen, Dave, Erik, and many more. More than I can list. Thank you all for what you do for me, I am sure that I don’t and can’t repay you all you’ve done, and for putting up with me. I’m tough to like.  As well, thanks to my wife, who puts up with much more than anyone else. To paraphrase the Dropkick Murphys, she has to put up with pale, sweaty, hairy ass every day. This post, this tree, is for you all.  

 Raise your glasses and Let me steal Jack’s favorite toast (and again, thank you sir, without you there wouldn’t be a running theme in this post) 

“Here’s to ships,

There are good ships and there are wood ships,

And all the ships that sail the sea…

But the best ships 

Are friendships

and may they always be.”

6 thoughts

  1. Awesome post…….thanks…….. (I do prefer sipping bourbon)
    think I’ll send you a song…..I like to sing it (out of key) of course


  2. As always, a highly entertaining entry!
    I showed the images of your wife after sipping the Scotch to my wife who responded by saying, ” see? I told you it’s awful”

    Personally, I prefer a good bourbon when contemplating trees….but a good Scotch is hard to ignore as well.


  3. Adam. I am a virtual friend on this blog. That means we share a common passion for bonsai. Now we share two interesting subjects. Single malt is the way to go! I really appreciate the friendship that you’re advocating in this great post. Keep on producing such valuable articles. Good spirit! I am now enjoying with my wife a nice glass of Glenmorengie. Cheers!


  4. Very poignant post. If I remember correctly, Juan won a tree you styled for an event but I don’t recall if this was it. Nice to hear this one returned to you


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s