New Project!

I decided that, as much as I love the name Cryptic Cocktails, the concept was kind of getting away from me. I am keeping the site up, (and may return to it in the future, who knows?), but I wanted to find something more authentic to where I am right now in life.

I still love ghost stories and magic, and I still create cocktails for a living (when I can, these days!), but I am far more focused on self-growth, health, and practical mysticism recently. Having “cocktail” in the title seemed dishonest, and I felt I had to put cocktail-related content on there to make it work. I chose a cheeky name based on the fact that I am, at heart, an obnoxious Boston sports fan who swills Dunkin iced coffee, but also someone who spends a lot of his time on esoteric subjects.

I hope you’ll get something from it, and follow me over to Mystic Masshole where I will dive into these topics (and more!), with a little humor and a grain of salt.

Cahuilla Hermeticism?

I finally started looking into local history after years of saying I was going to start writing about legends of the California desert for this blog (what can I say? has had it pretty well covered.). I thought it only fair that I start with the people whose ancestral land is now my home, rather than some silent movie-era Hollywood scandal, but material about the original inhabitants of the Coachella Valley is not easy to find. I settled on the seminal The Cahuilla Indians by Harry C. James as my starting point. It was published in 1960, with all of the problematic language one might expect from something from seventy years ago, but I was still moved by the book and its depiction of the legends, life, and suffering of these people whose ancestors still call this place home. Considering it was published and distributed by one of the local tribes, I figured it must have some amount of imprimatur from them, and will be using it as my source for discussing what might be one of the more interesting creation myths I have ever read.

The Cahuilla creation myth starts out with a void, as any good creation myth should, but a void carrying strange sounds, like the sounds of singing, and occasionally a rumbling that would drown out the singing. Two masses formed out of the void, male and female, and the colors red, white, blue, and brown. The colors aggregated into a great female and male form, and they tried to conceive, but the first two attempts ended unsuccessfully. The third attempt, pierced by a lightning bolt, succeeded in birthing the twin creators of the world, Tamaoit and Mukat.

The twins fought for awhile over who was the older of the two, and their contest resulted in the creation of the world, with Mukat, the black twin, always getting the edge on Tamaoit the white twin. The two created poles that combined to form the world, using snakes, rocks, and spiders from their chests to weave the Axis Mundi together, and pulling astral bodies from their chests- Mukat pulling the sun from himself to light their pipes. Their afterbirth formed a miasma containing all disease and woe that their creations would suffer. They created animal helpers (spiders and ants being pulled from them prior to ‘creation’ per se), Coyote from Tamaoit and the Horned Owl from Mukat, that assisted in creation.

Not seeing well in the darkness (where the sun went, not sure.. hey it’s myth), Mukat pulled the Moon Maiden, Man-El, from his chest, and she illuminated how misshapen were the creations of Tamaoit. After a scolding from his brother, Tamaoit sang a song and went beneath the Earth in a cataclysm, taking much of creation with him. Mukat managed to hold creation together, and finished making man. The sun decided to show back up, and burned man according to how far North or South he had chosen to live.

So much to unpack here from a Western perspective, twin symbolism, the colors that could correspond to fire, air, water, and earth, black and white poles, Axis Mundi, the void, but I will leave that for later. Just wanted to crack open a little local legend for now.. and maybe leave a little tobacco for Mukat and Tamaoit.

A Fast Farewell to Faneuil

I decided to try a prolonged fast, after about a month of doing some intermittent fasting, both for health benefits and spiritual ones. The first day was fine, aside from bike tires going flat mysteriously in the sweltering, muggy August air (Palm Springs muggy is the worst). The second day was on a good track, woke up feeling weird, but then fine. It wasn’t until late afternoon that anything actually precipitated.

It started simply enough, finding out that a long-time Boston “restaurant slash tourist trap” was closing, the latest place to blame the current crisis. For me it was a little sad, since I worked next door to the place for most of a decade, and counted many friends amongst the staff. The people who worked there stayed and generally like each other, so that’s something. Sure, locals would rag on it, especially the old-timers, but I myself used to put down a beer or three and a good share of Irish whiskey there on occasion. Usually their staff came to us though. We “tourist trap” folk stuck together, we got no respect from the bougie bartenders.

I started reminiscing, and all of the years I spent working in Faneuil Hall came back to me, all at once. The favorite underground hangout, literally, where we spent most of our time and money most days, eating dollar tacos and chimichangitas, that’s gone now. I miss the lock-ins that we would have before people got big mouths, hanging out with the bad kids doing bad things. I was bummed it closed too suddenly for me to say goodbye, I would have flown out for one more day of pint-glass margaritas with everyone if I had been able. Then it was the things that I could still do but wouldn’t mean the same, the chicken salad subs that we ate almost every day before a shift, usually in the sun because otherwise the bar wouldn’t be open. The grimy little locals bar that somehow hung on, around the corner, where we would sneak to for a shot on our breaks. The walks down Union Street, listening to all the guitar players playing all the overplayed songs, or turning the corner to hear better songs. Playing Buckhunter, or trivia, or darts. Talking to drunk tourists, occasionally kidnapping them to the next bar, always regretting it. Not wanting to go home just yet. The late-night halal place with the merguez subs, best eaten in the little park on top of the Big Dig, looking at the skyline at three AM with a couple of friends and a sneaky bottle of wine. Of course one can’t forget the karaoke, and the “chicken on a stick, one dollar!”, and the Scorpion Bowls. Sometimes we’d explore a bit, go on an adventure down State Street or to the North End, even to Kenmore and the Back Bay, but we generally stuck to our favorite places. Why go anywhere else? We had the best bartenders, and we were the best bartenders.

What’s the point of this nostalgia trip? Well at a certain point in my reminiscing, the fasting kicked in, and some kind of chakra burst open or something, and I had a spiritual realization. It shook me to my core, as all of these images flooded me. Images of most of a decade, of people, of memories, friends, strangers, living, passed on, moved on, still there, all the random faces of people I would see everyday but never knew. All of these years that I thought were wasted time, that I beat myself up over for so long, were meaningful. There was beauty in it, and I have spent so much time dwelling on the wasted money, the wasted time, the ways I hurt myself and others, that I never saw the meaning. The meaning was in the people, still to this day some of the best people I have met are the people I spent that part of my life around. The meaning is in the once foggy, now clear, memories. Even in the often embarrassing stories, certainly in the unbelievable ones.

I just wanted one more chicken salad sub, one more shift, one more shift beer, one more adventure party off into the night. That’s life, that’s why we keep coming back to this plane called existence. We rarely know what the last anything is, and it’s usually so mundane at the time that we don’t even know we’re going to miss it. I mean miss the whole time, the gestalt of it. One place goes, another, and many more will soon, I’d wager. The Faneuil Hall I knew has been gone for years, so that’s not new (I even had to double check the spelling), but I think I can finally process it all from a distance. Hey, it’s when I started blogging, if anyone remembers

So, to all the people I used to work with, party with, commiserate with, piss-off, make laugh, I hope you’re all doing well. I am sure I will see a handful of you again, as I have over the years, and that’s always a pleasure.

Farewell, that time of my life. Farewell, Zuma, Cheers, Durgin Park, and the rest..

Be careful doing prolonged fasts on a new moon, you never know when or how the Universe will crack your head open!

[Photo credit Jeff Keegan/Paul Donovan]

(Slightly) New Direction for the Blog

It’s high time to decide what I want to spend my time on and what I don’t. With the clarity of the last few months of idleness and insanity, I have decided that I want my online presence to be things that I control, on subjects I care about, and not just things for the dopamine rush of “likes”.

First of all, I am getting away from the cocktails and bartending stuff. While I am still a bartender, and I still think that cocktails are ‘history in a glass’ (to quote someone or other), I don’t plan on spending any more free time on such things other than my duties to work or my column for the local independent paper. I might repost my column here and there.

I went with the tagline “Mysticism, Gnosis, Magic, Hermeticism” because it sums up pretty well what I like to engage with, and it was inspired by the chapter on The High Priestess in Meditations on the Tarot that I am reading this week. Funny how things sync up like that sometimes. I am not limiting to just those things, but those things are a pretty wide umbrella.

I am keeping the the name for now, because I like the alliteration and the double alliteration with my first and last name, but I may rebrand at some point so as to not confuse anyone.

So, if you find this stuff interesting, stay tuned! If you want Margarita recipes, there are plenty of good places online for those. Godspeed.


Podcast Episode 3

2 Bored Bartenders

I sit down with Neil to talk about classic cocktails we researched for our YouTube show 2BoredBartenders, and tell off-color stories. Because sometimes that’s what we do around here. Links below

And You May Ask Yourself.. How Did I Get Here?

This is not my beautiful house..

So.. it’s Capricorn season, at least for a few days. Of course if you listen to any of the astrologers that I do, you’re well aware that this year is totally Capricorn-dominated and going to force you to shut up and start doing. This sounds very worrisome to my quad-Sag, mostly-fire self. At the same time, maybe it’s time to welcome this change. Let’s get back to grounding ourselves and ignoring our news feeds. Let’s put our feet on the ground, roll up our sleeves, and do something. I, right now, am Ten of Wands fully. Saturn in Sagittarius might as well be my querent card at this point. A coworker introduced me by all of my part-time projects the other night, which made me seem both ludicrous and amazing at the same time. Luckily, most things only require my attention once a week or month, but the downside is my writing this blog is suffering a bit. The book and the blog will be sisters this year, and I am recommitting myself to both as of today.

Back to Capricorn season, or Capricorn year, with a healthy sprinkling of Mars energy. I am no astrologer, but it feels right. It’s time to be the intrepid goat and climb with a bit of Mars fire up your ass. My current projects are all things that other people don’t think have material worth. Maybe they’re right. I am convinced that with drive and hard work we can all turn this year into something special. Drown-out the noise.

“And you may ask yourself.. how did I get here?”

How did I get here? How is all the magic finally kicking in? How am I finding all the people I need to find?

Astrologically this is not the time for me. Or probably anyone.

The sage is in bloom. The whitewater is running. As I hiked up a trail of switchbacks and falling stones, lichens, and feral cattle poop with three of my favorite people and a very tired little pup, I was able to reconnect a bit with the landscape. I talked to a sage bush like a hippy. I poured the silty water over my head like a baptism.

An astute friend pointed out that people often find seashells hiking there. That it was a vast, inland sea at one point. She reminded me that Capricorn is the ‘Sea-Goat’, and therefore we chose the perfect hike.

“You say the hill’s too steep to climb.. Climbing..”

As for practical magic advice, here is what I am doing.

Working my way through the Rune Soup sigil course. Yes, I ‘know’ sigils. I thank a lot of the fires I have burning to them. It’s always wise to rethink everything you know. I have found doing daily (instead of occasional) planetary prayer to be quite beneficial.

I recently ‘discovered’ Aidan Wachter’s “Six Ways”, and really like his stripped-down-Harley view of sorcery. Highly recommended, as is his appearance on the Glitch Bottle podcast.

Oh, and if any of you are interested in Chartreuse, I wrote this..

Eventually going to post about planetary herbal liqueurs, but until I do, realize that Saturn likes Fernet. That’s where we begin..

Podcast is a go!

After months, many many months, of staring at a microphone in my room I finally managed to summon up the courage to talk into it. Then I erased it and made a slightly less ‘lip-smacking meandering’ version.

I touch on Gnosticism and why, perhaps, we craft bartenders get so bothered by people who order trendy drinks.. or at least I do sometimes. I want this project to be about personal growth, whether or not I always live up to my own advice. So here it is, warts and all, and excited to do bigger and better as I go!