Tequila and Beer

Happy Pynchon in Public Day once again all. To celebrate, I’ve turned again to the well-nigh inexhaustible well that is Against the Day. I find often when I crack that spine afresh for one of these drinks, I’m plunged into a passage that a) I have all but zero memory of, and b) is of exemplary seductive Pynchonian beauty. I enjoyed my first reading of AtD immensely; it competes only with Mason & Dixon for the favourite book crown. But it is apparent that future readings will have plenty more to offer. On Mr Pynchon’s 84th birthday, we may be greedy in expecting any further publications. The depths that remain in just this one book are enough for me.

If my partial rereading is to be trusted, the tequila and beer appears while Frank Traverse and his pal Ewball Oust are doing time behind bars of uncertain legality in Guanajuato, Mexico. The possibly-nongovernmental lock-up is mysteriously comfortable, with “opportunities for recreation … ever unfolding … a cantina complete with music and fandango girls, a small nickelodeon theatre” and so on (p. 380). The turnkey (a “pleasant looking young woman” with a fondness for Frank’s gringo eyes) brings a better than average prison breakfast of chilled papaya and limes, freshly baked bolillos, orange/mango/strawberry juice, coffee, and more. It’s pretty luxe.

Frank and Ewball’s prisonmate Dwayne Provecho seems to have been availing himself of the provisions laid on too:

Dwayne smelled like tequila-and-beer caldereros y sus macheteros in unknown amounts, though Frank wasn’t sure how much had actually got inside of him—there was too much clarity around his eyes, which had grown incandescent. “Here on a mission,” was how he described it, “specifically to offer you some contract employment, it being widely believed, down here as back the other side, that you, sorry if I’m bein too direct, ‘re none other than that Kieselguhr Kid of Wild West legend.”

Against the Day, p. 382.

Whether or not Frank is the Kid becomes a matter of some contention. Either way they end up escaping this not-not-onerous captivity together through some tunnels, at which point Dwayne palms them off on some anarchists of his acquaintance.

The Spanish description of Dwayne’s tequila and beer drink (caldereros y sus macheteros) seems to translate as something like “coppersmiths and their porters.” Coppersmith seems to line up pretty closely with boilermaker, with the porter perhaps referring to the beer chaster portion thereof.

It being Pynchon in Public Day, I have sought my caldereros y sus macheteros in public–and not just any public, but one of my very favourite bits of public: Carwyn Cellars, boozy jewel of Thornbury in Melbourne’s north. Their bartender helpfully suggested a tequila worth drinking and a couple of beers he thought would pair nicely. The tequila was a Tierra Noble Anejo. Beer-wise, my learned friend and drinking buddy had a strawberry sour, I had a table saison. And holy hell it was a good pairing! If the caldereros were as pleasant as everything else sounded in that prison, Dwayne might have been getting into something like this. The tequila was soft and rich and smooth like no tequila I’ve ever tried, and the gentle acidity and floral notes in the beer complemented it beautifully. We followed this first glory up with a second tequila, or actually mezcal for round two, but it was somewhat rougher around the edges—more evocative of teenage nightclub shots than luxurious Guanajuatan prisons.

Happy Pynchon in Public Day, all! And an extra happy birthday to Thomas Pynchon, who should feel no need to write another word should he not desire but also more than welcome to publish any smallest titbit he may wish to.

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