Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Monday, May 08, 2017
By SJ Otto
There are a lot of historians who wonder what it was like to live in the old west. That was a time of near anarchy. There were many people who didn’t feel bound by the rules of law. Cowboys could come in to town and enjoy sex with a prostitute, gamble their money away and get as drunk as they wanted on liquor and beer, in the local saloon. Sometimes gun fights rang out.
A lot of that freedom was the focus of some of the old cowboy bars. People gambled and drank in them. They were often close or connected to the houses of prostitution. We get a glimpse of those bars on such old TV shows as Gunsmoke. But in the 1970s there were also bars where there seemed to be very little law and order. People went to these bars and did what they wanted.
That brings me to a bar called Ramona’s. The bar was located in Perry, Kansas. It’s gone now, but in its heyday it was a wild bar, in the late 1970s. The bar was owned and run by a big time drug dealer called Robbie Shaw. He was in the bar, many of the times I came in. He had some nice looking female bar tenders who were always pleasant to do business with.
The floor was straight unpainted wood. The walls were unpainted wooden panels that gave the place that air of simplicity. On the wall opposite the door was a mural that took up the entire wall. It was a painting of a train being robbed by bandits on horseback. It was painted to look like the 1800s. One of the bandits was painted to look like the owner, with a cowboy hat and red bandana. Robby was a tall well-built man, with long dark hair. On most days he wore plaid shirts and blue jeans. He looked a little like Charlie Manson, only not as creepy looking.
The bar was a medium sized. It was a beer bar, which meant it was only licensed to sell beer of 3.2 percent or less of alcohol. At the time 18 year olds could drink that beer in Kansas legally and that is the only thing they could drink. That type of license was cheaper than a regular club license. Also for most of the 1900s Kansas did not have liquor by the drink. People had to join a club, if they wanted to drink liquor in a club. On one particular day some friends and I went to Ramona’s at about 1pm in the afternoon. I sat down at the bar and ordered a draw. Ann, the bar tender at the time, came over and handed me a gin and tonic.
“It’s Robbie’s birthday,” she said.
I just drank the drink and didn’t question it. Ann was one of my favorite bar tenders. She was a little over five feet tall, stocky but not fat, blond and she always wore overalls. I found out, one year, why she always wore the overalls. We both met up at a skinny dipping lake and it turns out she had boobs that went down to her waste. I figured out that she had a hard time finding clothes that fit her.
But, as with all the women there, she was laid back, friendly and dressed casual as everyone else did. She always remembered me by name. All the waitresses were like that.
The town of Perry was a small quiet town of less than 1,000 people tucked away in Eastern Kansas. Ramona’s was located on the town square. It had a small brick front face and class doors. A sign with the name of the bar was over the door with the drawing of a woman. There was little outside the bar to give away what was inside. Inside it was filled with grungy looking hippy types and bickers. All the men, and most of the women, had long hair, wore blue jeans and the dress was always casual. A lot of men wore beards. A few people wore leather or denim vests. At least half of the patrons were carrying concealed pistols. That was before it was legal to conceal and carry a gun. Most of the patrons had pot on them, as well as other drugs. If there is one thing that was really different about the old west bars and this one, it was that 70s gunslingers often smoked pot and took other drugs as well. At that time, cocaine was the main trendy drug people used besides pot. It was not unusual to see people snort cocaine on a table over by the back of the bar. Smoking pot nearby the bar was expected. Shaw oversaw his own pot fields, which is where he got the money to open the bar.
One night some young guy Robbie didn’t know, walked up to him and started talking to him. Robbie didn’t like strangers, so he took out a small 22 pistol and started shooting it into the air. The man immediately ran out the door.
Robbie was like a gangers and he was loud and outspoken. He once said loudly, “I don’t know why anyone would oppose nuclear power. The Russians have it and no one protests it over there. Maybe they are on to something.”
He was clearly a right-winger. One night I was talking about left-wing ideas and he pointed to a swastika tattoo and said: “You see this? What do you think it means?”
“Right-wing,” I answered.
My grungy street friends and I often walked through the doors of that place. There were plenty of tables to sit at and order a pitcher of beer. They didn’t have many craft beers back then so it was Budweiser. There was a pool table back along the back wall for those who wanted to play and the actual serving bar was on the north side of the bar. There was a big empty room attached to the north side of the bar. It had only chairs and tables so people could meet for a private affair or a meeting. I once attended a meeting for one of the Big Eat parties that local hippies had been putting on for the last ten years.
The Juke box had the usual mix of some country music and some common rock tunes.
It was not unusual for bickers and others to fight out in front of the bar. Sometimes there were gun fights. I used to get really drunk at this place and I’m sure I’m not the only one who did.
Maybe there was a danger to getting drunk around other people getting drunk who carried guns. No one ever knew what was going to happen at this place. It was a fun place to come to. Between the danger and the drugs and alcohol, it was like being at a carnival. There were not prostitutes, but it wasn’t that hard to pick up a woman for a night of fun, at least on the nights when many women were there.
The old west was like a carnival when the cattle drives came to them for the end of their trips. That is how Ramona’s was. It was a little like the old west, but also like a free-for-all for hippies.
After a few years they shut Ramona’s down. There were too many gun fights out in the street and it scared a lot of towns people. The city council refused to renew its license. The fun came to an end. But I won’t forget my many days and nights at Ramona’s.
More stories like this can be found in Memoirs of a Drugged-Up, Sex-Crazed Yippie.
Tuesday, May 02, 2017
Want something interesting and challenging to read this summer? How about a I Am Pol Pot. Here is an historical interpretation of what the former dictator of
Kampuchea might have been like if he had written
his own auto biography. Written as a series of journals and news
articles, this book will let the reader see Pol Pot’s Cambodia from inside.
From Amazon; this book is a steal at $19.16.
But for those who need something a little cheaper try buying it as an i-books, for $8.99.
Monday, May 01, 2017
By SJ Otto
One of the newest restaurants around today, here in Wichita, KS, is Sweet Allie B's. The place has sandwiches and wraps, but also has some dinners such as lasagna. I’ve tried several of their dinners, including lasagna and quiche and they are pretty good for the price. It hand an almost home made taste and texture.The atmosphere there is cozy and the main dining room is small. They also have a brunch menu, a full bar and a brewery located there. Limestone Beer Co. is located there also. I have tried their porter and it is very good. I definitely can recommend both the restaurant and the brewery.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
From Yahoo News:
A curvy woman who hasn’t worn a two-piece bathing suit in more than two decades is showing off her bikini body in some gorgeous beachside photos.
In the images, Sarah Sapora, 38, a Los Angeles-based blogger, wears a turquoise Cacique plus-size bikini by Lane Bryant while she dances and laughs in Malibu with a male model friend.
“The last time I wore a low-rise bikini I was 13 years old at ‘fat camp,'” Sapora wrote in the sponsored post titled, Show up. Play Big. Wear the Bikini; Lessons from a Plus Size Wellness Blogger About Being Free in Your Fat Body. “It wasn’t even mine; I borrowed it from a counselor and wore it just long enough to lay on a towel by the tennis court during rest period for 45 minutes that single summer day. Someone snapped a photo of it. I remember seeing it once, but that’s it. It’s taken me 25 years to feel that free in my body again.”
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
This is a subject close to my heart because I've always loved mezcal. It is one of those drinks with magic myths attached to it. But even without the myths, Mezcal is a tasty drink. I always buy a bottle during summer. -SJ Otto
Contributed by Kelly Magyarics
There’s much to learn about mezcal—so much that even certified master mezcalier Josh Phillips admits he’s not even remotely close to knowing everything. One notion he likes to squash as quickly as possible, though, is the misconception that mezcal is tequila’s smoky cousin. “We don’t carry many overtly smoky mezcals,” he says. “Instead, we try to emphasize everything else that is going on in the category.” Smoke, it turns out, is not its most interesting characteristic by a long shot.
“Mezcal is a product that is thousands of years old and made across an entire country. Every year, we learn new things, and that is what makes it exciting,” he says. To that end, the partner and general manager of Espita Mezcaleria in Washington, D.C., replicates for his staff his master mezcalier training. While the official program, overseen by the Mexican government, teaches denomination of origin, Phillips doesn’t believe that paints the whole picture. His proprietary version certifies “Espita mezcaliers” in three levels. To date, five staff members have completed the entire program, while several others have finished the first or second level.
Level one of the program focuses on the D.O. and legal definition of mezcal. (The short version is that it’s an agave distillate from regions in nine states in Mexico made from an approved list of agaves grown in those states, bottled between 35 and 55 percent ABV in an approved pH range and produced in a number of different approved styles.) It also covers how other regional styles differ from it and ends with a written test. “Most of our pre-shift meetings touch on topics this test covers, and we also have a written primer that all staff members get upon hire so they can begin studying from day one.”
The second level focuses on mezcal’s applications in the culinary and cocktail world. During a blind tasting of varietally typical ones, staff must identify five varietals or styles. “We’re not interested in identifying a brand as those change constantly, but if someone can’t identify a Tepextate versus a Mexicano versus a Tobala, they won’t move on in the program,” says Phillips.
For more click here.
Pix from Serious Eats: Drinks.
Sunday, April 16, 2017
From The Idiot Factor:
Easter is the highest holy day in the Christian Calendar. It's been a few decades since I left the Catholic Church. I now consider myself an Epicurean. So I'm not even a Christian. One thing I do like is the Catholic Church's present day Pope Francis. He was a wonderful change from Pope Paul VI, and Pope John Paul II. Those Pope had replaced Pope John XXIII, who was one of Catholicism more progressive popes. It was terrible to see such reactionary popes come, one after the other, to drive the church back to the middle ages.
I was raised a Catholic and went to a Catholic Schoolfrom Kindergarten through 5th grade. I also spent a year at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School. So I understood the church and its teachings well. My Catholic teachers tried to tell us the Church was no longer a political establishment as it had been in the Middle Ages. As I found out, that was not really true. From the Nazi pope, Benedict XVI, to anti-communist activists, such as Pope John Paul II, and direct meddling in election contests over the abortion issue, the church has been up to its eyeballs in politics.
It's not that Pope Francis in not political, but he has some of that left-leaning criticism of capitalism and the political politics of greed. While Pope John Paul II tried to destroy liberation theology, Pope Francis seems to almost be a part of that. If it weren't for liberation theology I probably would have left the Catholic Church a lot sooner.
I like this quote by Pope Francis:
“It has been said many times and my response has always been that, if anything, it is the communists who think like Christians. Christ spoke of a society where the poor, the weak and the marginalized have the right to decide. Not demagogues, not Barabbas, but the people, the poor, whether they have faith in a transcendent God or not. It is they who must help to achieve equality and freedom”.
I don't plan to return to Catholicism. I'm doing OK with Epicurus. But I'm glad some good has finally come out of the Catholic Church. For too long that church has been a refuge for the powerful and greedy. Now they are giving back to the common people. That's what is needed in politics and religion —a sense that we should serve the common people and help the poor. Not worship the rich and powerful.
Saturday, April 08, 2017
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
I like these kinds of stories because it shows that animals that we perceive as evil or not really. These king cobras and other similar cobras are feared in India. Here at home most people seem to fear or hate snakes. This shows us how much we have in common with other species of animals, even those we fear. –SJ Otto
From The Huffington Post:
Here’s something you don’t see every day. Video captured a massive king cobra appearing to drink out of a man’s water bottle amid extreme droughts across southern India. The extremely venomous reptile ― described by Caters News as 12-feet long ― is seen turning to the higher ups, who cautiously pour the water while holding its tail and a hook near its head, presumably in case it turns on them. The people in the video are wildlife rescue workers, according to Caters. The video was reportedly shot from a village in Kaiga township. A similar video uploaded to YouTube in 2014 shows a man sharing a drink with another cobra but in an unknown location.
For more click here.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Mary McDonough Harren has died yesterday. In KS, she was about the first person I met here in Wichita when I became politically active. I will miss her a lot and I know a lot of my friends will miss her. She was a major political peace activist and a firm anti-imperialist. I will be posting a full biography and obit later this week. -SJ Otto
From Billboard News:
, the singer, songwriter and guitar great who practically defined rock music with his impeccably twangy hits “Maybellene,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Memphis,” “My Ding-a-Ling” and “Sweet Little Sixteen,” has died. He was 90.
The singer/songwriter, whose classic “Johnny B. Goode” was chosen by Carl Sagan to be included on the golden record of launched with Voyager in 1977, died Saturday afternoon, . The cause of death was not revealed.
During his 60-plus years in show business, Berry in 1986 became one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He entered The Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame in ’85 and that year also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Chuck Berry - Johnny B. Goode
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
It’s been more than a decade since bartender turned bar owner Lucinda Sterling got her start in the industry. She scored her first drinks-serving gig at the late Sasha Petraske’s storied Milk & Honey back in 2005. Having landed the job on a whim after driving cross-country from Colorado to New York with no real plan, she dove headfirst into the hospitality business, rising from cocktail server to bartender at Petraske’s West Village charmer Little Branch.
Lucinda Sterling and Middle Branch’s High Bridge cocktail, made with Landy VS cognac, Mellow Corn whiskey, simple syrup, lemon juice and Angostura bitters (image: Paul Wagtouicz / Matt Taylor Gross)