Locke’s Whiskey

lockes-distilleryHappiness is finding an Irish whiskey distillery with your name on it.

Yes, friends, there is a Locke’s Distillery and I have been there.

These days the distillery is known as Kilbeggan, the name of the small town in County Meath where it is located, and there have been a few changes of ownership; it’s now part of the Beam/Suntory portfolio. But the original name is still up on the chimney and when you ask the hotel to get you a taxi they tell the driver to take you to Locke’s, so I am totally claiming it.

We’re probably not related by blood (the Lockes in my family are Welsh/English).

But we certainly are kindred spirits.

I visited Kilbeggan in September as part of a 10-day visit to Ireland. Because I am a big chicken (and unadventurous driver) I did not drive but took the train from Dublin to Tullamore for about 20 euros. I stayed in the Tullamore Court Hotel, which is large and modern so not so much with the olde country charm but it does have the virtues of being close to the train station (and walking distance from the Tullamore D.E.W. distillery), comfortable, clean and reasonable. I paid around $70 for a large double and taxied over to Kilbeggan, which cost 15-20 euros.

I did not get to go in this car, which would have been cool. kilbeggan-car

But I was driven in a very fine Mercedes Continue reading “Locke’s Whiskey”

It’s OK to like nouveau Beaujolais



Today is Nouveau Beaujolais day, aka the third Thursday in November, when wine producers in the French region release their newly fermented wines, an old harvesting tradition turned successful marketing gimmick.

Which tends to bring two reactions from the serious wine world:

1: A shudder.

2. Earnest blog posts on how you really shouldn’t be drinking this super-young, super-fruity wine but should be concentrating on the region’s conventionally aged (and admittedly fine) “cru” wines.

To which I can only say, Lighten up!

The reason people like nouveau Beaujolais is because it’s fun. And if there’s one area of the beverage world that could use a little more fun it’s wine. There was a time when producers would go all out with schemes to get to market first for the 12:01 a.m. release time. This started with races from Beaujolais to Paris and extended to other parts of the world. Things are a bit calmer now with wines shipped in advance, but there’s still a bit of a holiday feel about buying and cracking open a nouveau Beaujolais.

And of course yes, there are great cru wines from this region, some of my faves are from the Fleurie region,

This year’s celebrations included 50 winemakers driving around Paris in vintage Citroen’s stopping at landmarks like the Eiffel Tower. Nothing is quite as it was in Paris following the tragic attacks last weekend, but organizers decided to go ahead, incorporating memorials to the dead in their ceremony. Here’s a good story from Quartz about the way Beaujolais day looks in Paris this year.

The big producer is Georges Dubouef, which has sent a zingy, fruity product to market this year, priced at around $10.Classic purply red color with aromas of banana and cherry cola (when we say fruity, we’re not kidding) and a taste of tart cherries with a bit more banana on the end.

I won’t lie to you. While I like bananas and cherry cola as much as the next person, this is not a wine to be sipped solo. But, happily, it gets along with food just fine and in fact is a rather good pairing for Thanksgiving; the tartness cuts through some of the heavy sweetness of the traditional dishes and really helps that dry turkey breast go down.

DuBeouef sent cute little scarves out with its samples this year. So having a beret handy from Child One’s job at that Gallic institution, Paris Baguette, and having a willing model at hand in Mr. Ho I present this picture which I think perfectly sums up the festive spirit of nouveau Beaujolais.

Here is Mr. Ho’s tasting note, btw: Not bad. I quite like it. Did they send it to you for free?


IMG_1531 - Copy




The last time I saw Paris …


Liberté. Egalité. Fraternité.

It was July, it was hot, and I was slicked with sweat as I hustled up the escalator to the taxi rank at Charles de Gaulle airport.

“Taxi, Madame?” asked the guy with a clipboard managing the row of waiting cars.  “Oui,” I said in my execrable French.  “Je vais au Paris.”

“You will go with Mamma,” he said in English, at which the rest of the drivers took up the chant, “Mamma! Customer!”

Mamma turned out to be a statuesque African woman driving a black town car and wearing a knee-length gold lamé dress.

“Great outfit!” I blurted out as I scrambled into the back seat, following up with a halting translation, “Um, j’aime votre robe.”

I am not sure if Mamma really didn’t speak any English, most Parisian taxi drivers seem to, or if she just wanted to give my high school French a workout, but French we spoke on that 45 minute ride into the city. Pressed for time, I rose to new heights as I remembered the word for meeting, rendezvous, and even managed to communicate that we needed to stop by my hotel to drop off my luggage before going to my appointment with a guide at the Paris Sewer Museum.

She asked me what I was doing in Paris and I told her I was a journalist working on some travel stories. “You’re writing about the sewers?” she said, wrinkling her nose. “Yes. They’re very interesting, A triumph of — damn, what was the word for engineering? — of Paris work,” I finished lamely.

“Do you like being a journalist?” she asked.

“Yes, but I’m a freelancer and I don’t make much money,” I over shared. (The French for freelance, by the way is “free-lance.”)

“Culture is more important than money,” she replied firmly.

She told me she had been a radio reporter in her native Ivory Coast but now drove a taxi to support her family of six in Paris. From what I could gather she had come to Paris, like most immigrants, seeking a better life and for the most part had found it.  Still, she had regrets. “Driving a taxi brings in money, but I would rather be working in the world of ideas,” she said.

We got to the hotel and she turned off the meter without saying a word and waited, no charge, for me to leap out and deposit my bag at the front desk.

We drove in silence the short distance to the sewer museum where I got out and paid, thanking her profusely with words and tip.

As she pulled away from the curb, Mamma rolled down her window to call out a benediction.

“La culture, Madame! Toujours la culture,” she cried.

Despite the heat, my stay in Paris was magical. I saw the sights, rode the metro, ate all the food and walked the boulevards. I caught sight of myself in windows grinning the grin of the infatuated and I cared not one bit. “Here you are in Paris you sad, middle-aged has-been,” I exulted silently, “This is so freaking cool.”

I thought about the last time I saw Paris as I read about the attacks this week. I watched the video of soccer fans singing La Marseillaise as they evacuated the stadium, and I cried. I saw the hashtag #porteouverte pop up on Twitter as Parisians opened their homes to stranded strangers, and I cried. I read that taxi drivers had stayed on the streets, offering free rides home, and I thought of Mamma.

Darkness gathers, but I believe in the City of Light.

Toujours la culture.

Freelance Decoder

imagesPresented for your edification, a short decoder to smooth those freelancer-editor exchanges.




EDITOR SAYS: “Thanks for the pitch, but it isn’t quite right for us.”

FREELANCER HEARS: “They responded! I’m almost in! Next time will be the one!”

EDITOR MEANS: “This is sh*t. Please die immediately.”


EDITOR SAYS: “I’ll let you decide how to approach the story; you obviously know what you’re doing.”

FREELANCER HEARS: “I should decide how to approach the story. I know what I’m doing.”

EDITOR MEANS: “I have an exact, detailed vision of how this story should be written right down to which sources should be interviewed and what they should say. I plan to share this with you three weeks after you file, and I reject, the story.”


EDITOR SAYS: Send in an invoice and we’ll get accounting going on this.

FREELANCER HEARS: Money! Sweet, sweet, money. Costco Charmin super-pack, I am coming for you.

EDITOR MEANS: I have my spam filter set to delete all messages with the word “invoice” in the subject line and we have not had an accounting department since 1989. Please die immediately.


EDITOR SAYS: “I need 300 words on wines of the Rioja in three days.”

FREELANCER HEARS: “Ha, ha! Good one. Obviously, what’s really required here is 900 words in nine days. I mean, this is the Rioja, people, not the Central Valley.”

EDITOR MEANS: “I need 300 words on wines of the Rioja in three days.”


EDITOR SAYS: “Thanks, this is fine.”

FREELANCER HEARS: “Fine? I spend a week sweating over the land-use consequences of biofuels and it’s `fine’? I am sh*t and should just die immediately.”

EDITOR MEANS: “Thanks, this is fine.”


Day Out in Montmartre

Songs in the Key of Freelance

For that time when the editor kills the story (with no kill fee) after you’ve worked on it for a week and writes you a terse note about how you need to focus more.

For the end-of-the-quarter stock-taking where you once again resolve to buckle down and get serious about identifying new revenue streams.

When a website editor asks you to write for free because you’ll be getting “great exposure.”

When someone offers you a freebie you want but probably shouldn’t take.

When you’re sending your second follow-up invoice.

When you get that 50-cents-a-word assignment.

When you get that $2-a-word assignment.