Canadian Ale

GRAVITY'S RAINBOWThe Kenosha Kid episode is something of an early milestone in Gravity’s Rainbow, I’d say. Sixtyish pages in, playful and bizzare, it might well mark the dividing fork at which a new Pynchon reader either hurls the book at the wall or really starts to settle in for a good time. Slothrop’s doped up on sodium amytal, dreaming variations on the phrase “you never did the Kenosha Kid.” They start brief, e.g.: “Superior (incredulously): You? Never! Did the Kenosha Kid think for one instant that you…?” and then suddenly Slothrop’s upstairs in Boston’s Roseland Ballroom watching his harmonica disappear down a toilet’s maw. If you’ve ever seen Trainspotting, you’ll be familiar with Danny Boyle’s ripoff of what happens next: he chases that Harmonica right down the toilet and finds a murky world submerged below:

The light down here is dark gray and rather faint. For some time he has been aware of shit, elaborately crusted along the sides of this ceramic (or by now, iron) tunnel he’s in; shit nothing can flush away, mixed with hard-water minerals into a deliberate brown barnacling of his route, patterns thick with meaning… icky and sticky, cryptic and glyptic…” 

Pynchon Canadian Ale…which whole episode eventually and unexpectedly circles all the way back to “you never did the Kenosha Kid.” Anyway, while he’s down in the gunge, Slothrop “finds he can identify certain traces of shit as belonging definitely to this or that Harvard fellow of his acquaintances.” Useful talent to have. One “Dumpster Villard” features prominently among these acquaintances. 

A-and here’s Dumpster Villard , he was constipated that night, wasn’t he–it’s black shit mean as resin that will someday clarify forever to dark amber. In its blunt, reluctant touches along the wall … he can, uncannily shit-sensitized now, read old agonies inside poor Dumpster, who’d tried suicide last semester: the differential equations that would not weave for him into any elegance, the mother with the low-slung hat and silk knees leaning across Slothrop’s table in Sidney’s Great Yellow Grille to finish for him his bottle of Canadian Ale, the Radcliffe girls who evaded him…

The list goes on. All the cumulative sufferings of Dumpster’s life (and being named thus must factor in there somewhere too) are recorded there for shit-sensitised Slothrop to read. Including that episode with the Canadian Ale! 

St Ambroise PynchonI realise none of this has made the loveliest introduction for a drink. But nevertheless, allow me to present my Canadian ale selection: the St. Ambroise Pale Ale. It’s from a brewery in Montreal. I’ve gotta say, I was pretty excited to have a chance to drink some crafty beer for this blog. But this one isn’t my favourite. It’s very bitter, but without all that much hop aroma. Much more like a British style Pale Ale than the American I was expecting (and hoping for). Actually tastes weirdly like Pilsner Urquell. So much so that I would have bet they’d used Saaz hops. But no, it’s Cascade, Williamette, Golding, and Hallertau. Who knows. It seems to be a pretty well-liked beer. Maybe it didn’t survive the trip across the world so well. If I were Slothrop, I might leave this one for Dumpster’s mother too. 

King Kong

King Kong? Pynchon helpfully explains that it’s “Crown Royal plus banana liqueur.” (Banana for the monkey, Crown for the King–a little poem in itself.) The internet helpfully elaborates that you can down your King Kong either as a shooter or over ice. Or both! Here we go:

DSC_8402

As a shot, the King Kong tastes primarily of cough medicine. Then again, I imagine that’s about the best you can hope for with a mixed alcohol shooter thing like this. It’s maybe not so bad. The cough medicine taste of cough medicine was always pretty enjoyable as a child after all. Reviews from my drinking companions were mixed. It certainly isn’t a difficult shot to down, being diluted somewhat by the 20%ish liqueur.

DSC_8407Over ice, King Kong’s much mellower. The smell is all but entirely banana–or more like those delicious lolly bananas everyone seems to hate. Tastewise, there’s a generic whiskey warmth and spice crawling out from under a thick syrupy banana glaze. Pretty much all the whiskey’s fire is cut, especially as the ice melts. It’s very sweet, but with enough body to stay very drinkable. An expected downside is that you really can’t taste the whiskey that much–it’s gotta be Crown Royal to make a King Kong, but it tastes like it could be anything.

These show up in Bleeding Edge, where Vyrva, Justin and Lucas down them “at the brightly lit bar of some tourist motel way over in the West Fifties.” The bar sounds like quite a place: “Huge screen TVs tuned to sports channels, fake trees, some of them twenty feet tall, long-haired blond waitresses, an old-school mahogany bar.” Very King Kongey–mixing the bright and syrupy with the dark, rich, and old-school.