This week our cocktail comes from reader Kelly Boynton. It’s the perfect drink to put on repeat for the rest of the summer (there are still 13 official days left!) and let the spicy-ness take us into the fall. And, of course, it has a backstory. Here’s Kelly:
At the beginning of the pandemic, I was, like most working moms with little-to-no childcare, very stressed and found myself drinking more than one glass of wine a night. (1). I needed to break the habit. I decided to do no wine for a month. Not no alcohol though. :)
My husband and I tried different margarita recipes, from skinny to spicy. No question that the spicy one was the standout. It became the drink I'd bring to meet up with a couple of mom friends, six feet apart, on the local park lawn or the drink I'd drop off in a mason jar for a mom friend struggling.
The spicy marg became a hit, not just in my house. Other moms were asking for the recipe by text and email. I think for everyone, it was a break from the random wine in your fridge and the groundhog day that was the pandemic, especially early on.
To infuse the tequila: Start with a good blanco tequila; Kelly prefers Casamigos. Cut a jalapeno or serrano pepper into quarters and drop them in the bottle. You’ll have to sip some to make room. Oh no. Let that spicy goodness infuse for at least a few hours. Make drinks! (2)
In the fall of 2002, I read William Langewiesche’s opus of what happened on 9/11. It was serialized in The Atlantic over three months, and each installment was more than 10,000 riveting words that told the story of what happened on “the pile” and afterward. He was the only reporter granted full access to the site beginning on September 11, 2001, and continuing for another nine months.
Langewiesche’s vivid portrait of the place and people was later turned into a book, and it is packed with details that can only be gotten through hours of meticulous noticing. He is one of our great reporter-storytellers.
His, to this day, is one of the only pieces of narrative journalism I’ve read on the subject. The day’s events always felt too raw for me to talk about with anyone who wasn’t also present. Not even The Bestie™ and I have really discussed what we saw and heard. But today, I feel moved to tell you my experience. It's raw and direct and I hope you'll forgive any mistakes.
The Bestie™ and I were walking to work together on that blue-sky day. It’s cliche now, but I remember noticing the perfection of the late-summer sky. Almost exactly like today. We heard the sirens first — a din that seemed to be coming from everywhere — and then saw the fire engines flying down Seventh Avenue.
We didn’t know what, or the scope of what, had happened yet. We learned that a plane flew into Tower 1 while crowded around a TV at the Equinox gym where we usually ate breakfast (yogurt parfait) and intermittently worked out. Like so many, we thought it was a terrible accident. Maybe a pilot had a heart attack?
But there was no heart attack. At 9:03 a.m., Flight 175 crashed into the second tower, and we each bolted to our respective offices to figure out what next.
I don’t entirely trust my memories from the rest of the day or even weeks. They come to me in snatches rather than a clear timeline. But the end result was we were at war, tanks were staging on my street in Manhattan, and every bus shelter became an altar to the missing. We all gave blood, hoping. We all looked for their faces, hoping.
I know I flew home to Colorado for a previously scheduled visit. I thought it would be a chance to recharge. Instead I was filled with rage listening to people talk about what had just happened. Like they’d walked through the streets and been covered in the confetti of ashes and paper scraps that rained down upon us. As if they had any fucking idea or any right to an opinion. As if it was their tragedy, too. Intellectually I understood that this impacted the entire nation; emotionally, it felt like a personal tragedy just for those of us in New York and D.C.
I went home and tried to get back to “normal,” but I didn’t know how. I just remember a city of zombies.
Within a few weeks, the entire media industry in New York began to crater. Layoffs were rampant, and I, like so many others, lost my job. I sat in my apartment on 14th Street trying to job hunt but also too paralyzed to even go out. I didn’t have a trust fund or wealthy parents to cushion the blow. I had a 16-year-old brother who lent me his savings so I could pay my rent.
I was depressed and angry all at the same time. I felt like I was successfully climbing the ladders from a trailer in Colorado to the top of New York media, and suddenly I was sent back down the chutes. At the time, I was the executive editor of a glossy city magazine and was interviewing for a position at Tina Brown’s Talk. My dreams were within my grasp. And then, poof. Gone.
I also berated myself for even thinking about my career in the face of such loss. Friends lost loved ones, ffs. And I felt such guilt that I couldn't mange life when I got to live. It felt insulting to even acknowledge my own hurt and anger, so I shoved everything down.
But the tragedy wasn’t just the loss of a job, but a loss of an identity and a loss of confidence and a loss, like the country, of innocence. I was 26 years old. I’ve never been the same.
It’s taken two decades for me to put language to what happened to me. I experienced trauma and survivor's guilt and have never fully grieved.
Grief and trauma are hard to share. But Langweishe’s articles, which have since been compiled into a book, have always stayed with me. Returning to his lyrical and exacting writing about the pile helped me to process. It’s beautiful when a piece of art, like Langweishe’s writing or Kerry James Marshall’s paintings, helps us make sense of our place in humanity.
I don’t have a great sweeping epic about what that perfect blue sky day devolved into. I don’t know what this all means yet. I just know that this year I felt compelled to finally share some memories.
Well, after all that … go bags seem like the right choice ;-) And after the year we've had (see: floods, fires), they are practical. This week the Times showed us how to get ready to get gone without veering into prepper territory.
In the advent of the zombie apocalypse, which I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time considering, my plan is to grab my go bag and get to my family in Montana. I need to be with people who have actual skills and ability to wield tools. Because, I suspect, the zombies are not going to heed my well-reasoned and punctuated missives to please eat brains and babies elsewhere.
Some milkweed butterflies are now killing and eating their own. Or is it eating and then killing? F*ck man, I give up.
What celebrity fathers and sons look like at the same age. Don’t miss Ice Cube and O’Shea Jackson Jr. at 23 or Clint and Scott Eastwood at 28.
Last week, Lovey and I drove past MLK High School and the lights of Friday night were on full display. The stands were filled and the crowds were cheering. Now we’re hoping to go to one of the games. The adrenaline and feeling of unified purpose and togetherness seems so essential right now.
I’ve never been a sports fan; in high school, I lettered in debate. But I’ve always loved a good sports story. The drama! The triumph!
When Lovey and I got home, we decided to rewatch an old favorite: Friday Night Lights. I love this TV show so much because, at its core, it isn’t about what happened on the field but about the people in the stands. It is about belonging and community. But I was a little nervous about how its 2006 vintage would hold up in the lights of 2021. (3)
It did not disappoint. Halfway through Season 1, it feels so of the moment in how it tackles both race and class issues. (Despite what the publicity image above might lead you to believe.) Coach Taylor is a little old school, but not so old school that he’s cringe-y. And I’d like to go and ask his wife, the absolutely perfect Connie Britton, for marital advice. She faces issues of motherhood and career and wife-ing with vulnerability and aplomb.
All that while also being fun and entertaining. As Riggins would say, Texas forever.
And on that note…
Sometimes, we just can’t hold our rage in; someone’s got to shut their pie hole. This week, it’s our editor and Texas correspondent, Caitlin Cruz, weighing in on the sh*t show (4) in the Lonestar state.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is putting some particularly vile stuff out there about abortion. This week he was asked why the state’s new six-week abortion ban doesn’t have exceptions for rape or incest victims. “It doesn’t require that at all because obviously it provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion,” Abbott said.
It’s completely possible to be unaware that you are pregnant within 42 days because basic reproductive biology has a bit of a time lag. Cycles vary in length and can be erratic, so you might not have even noticed, at six weeks, that you missed a period. And then you’re sh*t out of luck. Planned Parenthood says historically, only 10 to 15% of patients are less than six weeks pregnant when trying to obtain an abortion.
But I think the more vile part is what Abbot said next:
Well, thank you, governor. But that could be a challenge here, where 90% of rapes go unreported. Why? So many reasons. But let’s start with the honest belief that nothing’s going to be done anyway. A 2019 study found that charges resulted in just 29% of cases. 🤷♀️
Plus, our freedom-loving governor has only recently shown an interest in helping combat rape in the state. He’s served in the legislature since 2002 and been in charge since 2012. But it wasn’t until 2019 that Texas passed — and Abbott signed — legislation to help eliminate a massive backlog of rape kits. This is nothing to say of how the state currently makes sexual assault survivors more safe which is ???
What’s the penalty for being convicted of sexual assault in the great state of Texas? Between two and 20 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. You know, the same bounty that is now on the heads of anyone who aids or abets someone needing to terminate a pregnancy after six weeks.
Please, PLEASE, please, Gov. Abbott, shut your pie hole.
Hank says the sweet days of summer are still here so get out and enjoy them while you can. Preferably in the sparkling blue waters of Lake Michigan.
That's it for this week, folks. I know there were a lot of feels, so thanks for sticking with me.
See you next week for Cocktail Hour.
No kids, but same, girl, same.
Just tuck that bottle in the freezer. The booze won't ice but you'll have icy drinks whenever.
Our Texas correspondent Cailtin says it always holds up.
A note on swearing: Our general policy is when we're trying to be funny or ironic we use the asterisk. When I'm writing with passion or anger, I spell it out. This is not a scientific, nor is it an AP-style approved way of cursing.
The header photo is by Maskot/Getty Images