“I was just thinking of the difference between gin and bourbon, and it didn't have anything to do with taste,” Jack said to me as we made our way down the sidewalk. “I was thinking more about headaches and the lack of headaches and the way that gin makes you smell sweaty but bourbon just makes you smell dirty. You know what I mean, Andrews, old boy?”
I confessed that I had never really gone out of my way to smell others and classify them according to their cocktail preferences, but that I had once tried to smell myself after a three-martini night. “I think I was sweaty smelling for other reasons,” I told him. I left out the details about the club and the Rick Astley-fueled aerobics on the dance floor. Some things are better left to the imagination, I figured.
“Well, bourbon always leaves me smelling dirty. Like I've been sitting on an old oil drum in rural Kentucky after having pulled the engine out of my neighbor's quarter-ton pickup. I can almost hear the coonhounds panting nearby. You know what I mean, Tom?”
“Sure Jack. Let's get some breakfast,” I suggested to my inquisitive friend who was actually looking quite wild-eyed as he described the pickup truck and coonhounds. “You feeling OK?”
“And gin just leaves me sweaty-smelling, like I've been worrying – it's that nervous sweat...not that exercise sweat. Like the sweat that you don't really think you need to shower off but you probably should. And then instead of showering you just shave and rub some more Brylcreem through your hair, thinking that it's gonna' cover the sweaty smell, but it never really does. Have you had that happen?”
“Sure, lots of times, Jack,” I told him, “I use bay rum and Brylcreem to cover sweatiness lots of times...it has nothing to do with gin, though.”
“I'm not saying it has to do with gin...it's just that too much gin makes me think of that smell,” Jack replied – he was probably making less sense than I was, but I figured that I had an excuse, as I was mad with hunger and thinking only of a plate of bacon and eggs.
“Come on, let's pop in here,” I said, motioning to a small diner tucked into one side of the street. “They have good coffee, I hear.”
We ducked inside and were met by a wall of heat and stink. “There was a chippy in Portsmouth...right under the roadway...made out of corrugated tin...it smelled just like this,” I reminisced aloud. The stink of old grease took the thoughts of coonhounds and oil drums and sweat and gin right out of my head. We sat down at the counter and I ordered up my eggs.
A filthy old sot of a drunk sitting nearby leaned over and exhaled as he looked into my eyes. “You pass the creamer?” he asked. His last drink was still thick on his breath, and his eyes were bloodshot. I passed him the creamer, along with a question of my own.
“You like Rick Astley?”