Moen is the Apple of Sinks

Our home came with a Moen sink. Nothing against Moen. I like their product, but I didn’t realize (and neither did Mrs. Wine) that their products come with a lifetime warranty and if anything goes bad, they’ll replace it for free.

That’s really cool.

Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that Moen was the Apple of kitchen sinks. And so two days of driving around to hardware stores resulted in empty promises (yes, that’ll work in your sink. spoiler alert: it didn’t). Finally, one clerk was nice enough to inform us that if we have a Moen sink, no one will have the parts we need. But that if we call Moen, they’ll mail it to us.

Doubling down in the realm of unfortunate news, Moen’s call center is not open on the weekend. So we’ll call Monday and in a few days should have the part we need for our sink.

In the mean time, we don’t have a working kitchen sink which, in a family of 7, is kind of a big deal.

It also means I can’t brew my dunkel yet.

Thought you should know.

Sounded like a Gary Burbank

I had plans for today. They were great plans. And the day was going to end with me brewing my Dunkel. I’ve had the ingredients for the Dunkel since last year as I had intended it for winter. But my life is busy. Too busy.

And also, it never goes according to my plans. So this morning I discovered our sink had exploded. Cue the homage to Gary Burbank explosions. It was a big one. Not sure what happened but no sink = no home brew. Cause, ya know, I need water.

Anyways, hopefully brew will possible Sunday evening. Like SpaceX I won’t let a little explosion deter me from the goal of brewing something that will give you an otherworldly experience.

Rumors of my death have been largely exaggerated

So said Mark Twain.

I was thinking of that quote when I read a surprising article this week, published in the Federalist (a publication which I greatly admire) about the death of the Mafia. The author, David Marcus, not only claims the Mafia, with all its magic and mythology, has finally passed away, but he celebrates it. I’m fine with celebrating the death of the mafia. It is involved in human trafficking through forced prostitution, it sells drugs, it has a murder-for-hire component and for much of its history (still possibly today) extorted money out of honest business owners trying to make a living.

None of that is honorable.

Perhaps, given what I just said, as well as my faith and work with the police, it may come as a surprise that I have a slight obsession with the Mafia. I’m currently reading a biography of Meyer Lansky which I highly recommend.  All that to say, I could not disagree more with David Marcus: indeed, I think the truth could not be more further from his own point.

David’s thesis is based upon the death of Carmine “The Snake” Persico, who died in prison. Carmine was allegedly guilty of some things which they used in The Godfather, therefore, he is an old school gangster and with his passing the nastiness of the Mafia is gone. He also references events like The Commission Case and the RICO law and all of those tried and found guilty under it, as proof that the Mafia is gone.

Here’s the problem: the same week the article was posted Francesco Cali was fatally shot outside of his Staten Island home. Francesco was the alleged head of the Gambino crime family. The author acknowledges this, as well as the existence of the Five Families:

The five families still exist, and we still know who their bosses are, but they learned the lesson of camera-hungry godfathers like John “the Dapper Don” Gotti and Nicademo “Little Nicky” Scarfo. They stay off TV and try to keep a low profile. Notwithstanding, that, or the broader desire for the mob to lay low, killings still happen. Just yesterday, reputed Gambino boss Frank Cali was murdered outside his Staten Island home.

So the five families still exist and there are still hits being carried out but because they keep a low profile the Mafia has died. Here’s the problem: with the exception of Gotti, none of the Mafia ever wanted a high profile. They were brought into the lime light by a senator (Kefauver) in the 1950’s who was trying to make a name for it. With the exception of Bugsy Siegel, there is no record that any of them wanted that attention. It was bad for business.

The Mafia is still around and very active.

Exhibit A) In wire taps of Domenico Violi (December, 2018) it was revealed that before he was appointed Underboss of the Buffalo Mafia, permission had to be sought from The Commission (i.e. The Five Families) to make sure his promotion was acceptable.

Exhibit B) Cece Luppino is the third hit in 2 years in Hamilton. But this wasn’t a drive-by Compton hit. This wasn’t two violent gangs taking vengeance. This was performed by a hitman, hired for the specific purpose of eliminating someone and sending a message.

Exhibit C) On March 10th 2019, Napoleon “Nappy” Andrade is shot to death outside of a half-way house. Was this guy in the mafia? It doesn’t appear to be the case. However, he had made the mistake of robbing an associate of the Gambino family. Now, I am NOT saying the Gambino family then retaliated by eliminating him. That’s for the police to decide.

Exhibit D) Four days later, Francesco Cali’s car is hit. Surveillance video shows it was hit on purpose. Cali comes out of the home to see what happened. He and the driver of the other car talk, shake hands. The driver hands Cali the license plate which fell off of his Cadillac. Cali turns around and the driver shoots him to death, then gets in his car and drives away.

Exhibit E) Just for fun, I’ll throw one in unrelated (probably?) to the above links. In the 1990’s, there were a string of break-ins in the Todt Hill neighborhood of Staten Island. Some of the people hit were mobsters. Among the things found in the home of the mobsters was cash and jewelry. A lot of it. In one home they found $250,000 in cash. An associate of the Genovese crime family reached out to the NYPD and asked for information they had on the thieves and offered to eliminate them. Per the detective in the story: “It turned into a kind of race,” Detective Al Guarneri said. ”Who was going to find these guys first? The cops or the bad guys?”

Anyways, the Mafia isn’t dead. But most of the people in the links I just provided are dead. And they aren’t the only ones. I’ve read too many articles on the Gambino hit to find the right one, but one officer who specialized in organized crime said this hit wasn’t sanctioned by the Five Families because they didn’t want the publicity: it is bad for business.

Which makes me wonder why David Marcus wrote the article. Please understand me, I am not insinuating he has ANY affiliation with the Mafia. I just don’t understand why you’d write an article saying the sky isn’t blue, when everyone can see the color hasn’t changed.

It’s good. It is really, really good.

Hey so I let my Double Hopped Cider sit way longer than I intended. But I figured what the heck, it isn’t as long as a voyage from England to India during the Golden Age of sail so meh, it should be fine. That’s what all those hops are for, yeah?

But then I bottled it and I sampled some and I was so disappointed I wanted to throw in the towel.

Then, through a cool group on Facebook called Zero Tolerance, I got hooked up with a neat guy in the city here who happened to have a bunch of GF beer for me. So we met up and I got about 15 beers from 3 different breweries. And I started to conduct research (aka drink). Let me tell you what: hugely disappointing! And also encouraging. Because I know I can make something better!

And then, maybe because I’d done too much research I cracked open my cider. And it was good. Really, really good. So good I couldn’t believe it. I’ve shared it with 3 different people so we’ll say what they say although one has already enjoyed it and informed me “it was amazing.” So who knows.

All that being said, there doesn’t seem to be any substitute for cascade hops and cider. I’ve now tried about 5 different varieties and none of them hold a candle to cascade + cider.


On Frost and Poetry

So I love poetry. I can’t say I always have. But I can say that since before high school I enjoyed poetry.

I wasn’t your normal child.

I played sports growing up. Was quite good actually. From a young age I played on a select soccer team that traveled all over the state and out of state and won a good number of tournaments. From six grade on I was also a referee. At 14 I started to play guitar. I had a friend give me lessons who actually went on to be a mildly successful musician. He’s released several albums and resides in Nashville. All that to say from what I just wrote you might think I was “cool.”

Let me assure you: I was not. I have always been someone that is hard to pigeonhole. Video games, board games, fantasy and science fiction are things I enjoyed growing up just as much I enjoyed the locker room camaraderie of sports.

One day I was snooping around my older sister’s room (yes, I was that kind of a little brother) and I discovered a book that had poems in it. Not sure why she had it but I sat down and I started to read it. The poem was “Memory” by Thomas Bailey Aldrich.

My mind lets go a thousand things
Like dates of wars and deaths of kings,
And yet recalls the very hour–
‘T was noon by yonder village tower,
And on the last blue noon in May–
The wind came briskly up this way,
Crisping the brook beside the road;
Then, pausing here, set down its load
Of pine-scents, and shook listlessly
Two petals from that wild-rose tree.

Perhaps it is because my mom used to call me “Forgetful Jones” when I was little but something about that opening line caught my attention. Ever sense, I’ve enjoyed poetry.

I like lots of poems and poets, but I should probably clarify: I rarely enjoy free form poetry. I think there is great talent displayed in someone communicating through the form of a sonnet. It is like a canvas: their is only so much space they can use to communicate their message. And over time, one of my favorite poets came to be Robert Frost. Perhaps that is cliche but he is a wonderful poet.

Maybe it is because of all the snow we’ve had lately but Stopping By A Wood on a Snowy Evening has been on my mind. And so this past Monday I woke up and had a poem in my head.

Digression: the creative process for me works in an odd way. When I wake up the idea is there, sometimes fully formed. I don’t mean I dream it because I often remember my dreams. Let’s say I watch too much Seinfeld. Then I’ll dream about Seinfeld. But as my alarm goes off and I wake up–my mind will suddenly be filled with an idea; a story; a poem. That’s what happened this past Monday, as my mind and body seemed to fuse back together and I became aware of the world once again I had the following poem fully formed in my mind. And when I say fully formed in less than 5 minutes I wrote this down and I haven’t changed it since.

Here is mine (left) and the master’s (right) so you can see how my poem is a homage to the master:

“Over sleeping on a super bowl Monday”
What day it is, I think I know

It’s Monday! Oh how I hate it so!

Oh why did I have that last beer

Instead of water? Oh my head, oh!
My wife must think it queer

The way I stand and stare at this mirror

Hoping soon my mind will awake

“Honey, the alarm? Please be a dear?”
I give the alarm clock a shake

To ask it if there is some mistake

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of soft sheets and downy flake.
Snow? My bed is lovely, dark and deep

And this headache promises to keep

Me in bed and still asleep

I’ll stay in bed and go back to sleep.

“Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”
Whose woods these are I think I know.   

His house is in the village though;   

He will not see me stopping here   

To watch his woods fill up with snow.   
My little horse must think it queer   

To stop without a farmhouse near   

Between the woods and frozen lake   

The darkest evening of the year.   
He gives his harness bells a shake   

To ask if there is some mistake.   

The only other sound’s the sweep   

Of easy wind and downy flake.   
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.

How Few Remain

Well…I see my last update was in February of 2015. I notice in that post I apologized for the absence but said “things have been crazy.”

As I sit here the sun is setting on 2018. Three years since my last post. A long time.

What happened? Well, in short, a lot.

A verse that has kind of come to surmise my life over the last few years is Genesis 47.9: “And Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘… Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life…'” A lot of time has passed since I last posted. And I don’t mean simply in terms of chronology. I’ve been revisiting this blog and I find it is very much like watching myself in an unfamiliar way. I don’t recognize the person who wrote these things. I don’t remember that life. Where did it go? Where did he disappear to?

So much of my life has changed. So much has happened. Much of it good. Some of it painful. Some of it bad. Some of it very bad and very painful. I learned a lot about grace. Experienced a tremendous amount of it. I hope to give half that much back to others one day. I was a very dogmatic person. I think now I’m certain but flexible. (I hope) more humble. Certainly more patient with others. Definitely less quick to judge. Hopefully, more loving?

Mrs. Wine and I had a couple of more children. Moved next door. I did some big time work in my vocation which I’d rather not discuss here. Gave up brewing. Missed it. Gave up writing. Missed it too. And that’s why I’m back.

I started brewing again with a simple cider. It was pretty good.

Then I made my Grapefruit IPA. Ran into some technical difficulties regarding the fact that I forgot to add priming sugar. So it is taking a loooong time to carb up.

Currently, I have a bourbon oaked cider that needs to be bottled. Actually, I went to bottle it tonight and discovered I was out of my sanitizing solution! Rookie mistake! I guess homebrew isn’t quite like riding a bike. Here is the recipe:

Bourbon Oaked Cider

  • 3 gallons of apple juice
  • 1lb of brown sugar
  • 1lb of honey
  • S-05 Yeast

I took a handful of French oak chips and soaked them in a cup of bourbon for about a week (Yes, I know that is longer than usual, life is still crazy but I’m trying). Either way, when I went to pour them in, it smelled amazing. Poured the bourbon into the cider through a sanitized strainer. Before bottling I’ll add one can of apple juice concentrate to back-sweeten and reintroduce the apple flavor. This one should be a winner.

In the next two days I’ll bottle this and make a dry hopped cider with chinook and centennial. Pretty excited about that. I think money will keep me making ciders more than beer. Though I have 3/4 of my ingredients for 1st Date Dunkel so hopefully by February I’ll be able to brew that up. Maybe my IPA will be carbonated by then.

So I’m not sure how to end this except to say to the readers out there, if any still remain, thanks for your patience. I’m back. The brewery is open again. And if no one has remained to see if I’d return that is okay: there is something in this writing process that I think my soul needs. And that’s good enough for me. But if you are out there, I’m currently drinking a wine spritzer. Pola voda i pola vino as I first learned it was called back in Serbia. Cheers!




The logical conclusion

Have you ever had one of the moments when things suddenly become very clear? I had one today. It wasn’t the most uplifting moment but it was helpful nonetheless.

My middle child has a calculator that is her “cellphone.” This morning she held it up like a camera and told me to say “cheeese” and “took” my picture. When she was finished I asked her if I could see what I looked like. So she turned the calculator around and I was the number zero.

Huh. I thought. How appropriate.