Well I really lived up to that ‘Drunk Pynchon’ moniker on this one. Cachaça, it turns out, goes down easy and goes down fast and then may or may not come right back up again. A few days later now, I think I’ve just established enough distance between myself and the event to write about it. That’s contrary to my modus operandi here so far, but I’ve been hungover in bed unwilling to even think the word ‘cachaça’ okay.
My Pynchonian cachaça hails, along with its beer chasers, from the topical territory of Inherent Vice. Towards the end of Chapter Ten, Doc finds himself alone “down on Sunset … in front of the Sun-Fax Market” and ambles towards saxophone music coming from a Brazillian bar called “O Cangaciero,” (which Google tells me is Portuguese for ‘the bandit’) and ducks inside on a hunch. And who’s suprised, it’s Coy Harlingen taking the tenor sax solo on stage inside. When the undead saxophonist gets offstage, Doc buys Coy and himself “cachaça with beer chasers,” (p.160). No word yet on whether they make it into the movie.
Cachaça’s a Brazillian spirit distilled from fermented sugarcane juice. It comes aged and unaged, and typically, I think, if you’re drinking it straight you’d be drinking the aged version. But none of that was to be found round these parts, so I had a clear unaged vodka-ish (Sagatiba) one to chase down with these beers (Mountain Goat Summer Ale). I was expecting a rummier taste, but it really was a lot like vodka. But I was, as you may have gathered, not exercising the subtlest tasting practices. It went down, as I said, a bit too easily–especially with a beer chasing. As for the beer itself, not a bad word should be said about Mountain Goat. Wonderful stuff. Dangerous pairing though. Dangerous indeed.
Cachaça, or at least a close cousin, appears in Gravity’s Rainbow too. In Episode Eight of “In the Zone,” some Argentinian anarchists whose place in the book I cannot honestly remember at all are hanging out aboard a hijacked German submarine talking shit.
The crew that hijacked this U-boat are here out of all kinds of Argentine manias. El Nato goes around talking in 19th-century gaucho slang–cigarettes are “pitos,” butts are “puchos,” it isn’t caña he drinks but “la tacaura,” and when he’s drunk he’s “mamao.” Sometimes Felipe has to translate for him.
I don’t know how hot your 19th-century gaucho slang is, but mine’s gotten kinda rusty lately. In his Gravity’s Rainbow Companion, Stephen Weisenburger helpfully informs us that caña is “a drink high in alcohol content and distilled from the juices of various fruits.” But given that caña can mean cane in both Spanish and Portuguese, I’m thinking El Nato’s drink probably derives more specifically from the juices of sugarcane. Meaning, more or less, cachaça. And man, the stuff sure does get you mamao.
Oh plus back on Inherent Vice, let’s all just watch that glorious trailer one more time together.
I can’t wait.