Last Wednesday I was suffering from a case of the mid-week mopes when an email from a local taste maker website popped up on my digital typewriter informing me of a party currently in progress only a short walk away from my writing office/apartment. I had been trying to think of a rhyme for dialogue for the past five hours and felt that a bit of air and a party would be good for my constitution. And as it had been a few months since I’d actually reviewed anything I felt that could probably get some free pens out of the trip. Or at the very least a promotional goat cheese slider.
After a brisk walk through a forgotten Silverlake neighborhood I found myself standing in line surrounded by overdressed couples making second date conversation while rummaging around for their IDs. I plucked a rose from the awning overlooking the queue and thought I heard a faint yelp, but it must have been the wind. To appear more festive I stuck the rose in my jacket before identifying myself as a local tastemaker and columnist to the doorman. I was whisked ahead of the flotsam and jetsam to an antechamber that seemed to consist mostly of information about Hendricks gin and late 19th century shaving techniques. This wasn’t a party at all; it was a sponsored event where columnists and civilians alike were plied with free booze in order to modify their shopping habits. Once again I had been played by big alcohol.
The event’s theme was “Emporium of the Obscure” which actually meant that the venue was strewn with cigar boxes, dead flowers, and winged rat skeletons – mostly stuff our parents kept in that one drawer in the kitchen. There was a vague 19th century nightmare theme, mostly a catch all for accoutrements worn by consumers in their late 20s/early 30s – bow ties, miniature top hats, accordions, etc. After walking through winding hallway lit by a single torch I was flanked by an odd man in a waistcoat directing me and the rest of the group that had assembled from various holes in the wall to study up on the production of Hendricks gin, there was to be a short test. Mostly it was simple stuff, what goes into gin production, how many stills are used, the usual rigmarole. After I passed by the skin of teeth I was allowed to enter the next stage of the event.
I walked through a hidden bookshelf that split in two to reveal a foggy green house that lead to a grand ballroom spilling over with anachronistic revelers twirling their mustaches and taking selfies amidst the chaos of the sponsored event. I believe that I spotted a little person wearing a death mask, but it’s to be sure of what was real and what was an illusion brought by my consumption of the clear fairy. I spent the first quarter of the event searching for a whiskey and soda, or a simple IPA to set the tempo for the evening, everything on the floor seemed to be gin based, being a Hendricks sponsored event this made sense but the servers had to be drinking somewhere, and I prefer to drink like the common man.
I approached a server carrying a tray of empty highball glasses and half eaten goose pizza pockets. Surely he would know where I could get something normal in the thick of the melee.
He cringed at my acknowledgement of his existence, drawing back into the a corner of the room that did not exist.
“I’m just trying to find a beer!”
I had to yell over the din of the Romanichal wedding band that had begun to dance through the crowd, the server continued to pull back until his only option was to unzip his muscles from his skin and run through the streets.
“Don’t worry, I’m a columnist!” I screeched over the gypsy violin. “I understand that this event is sponsored by Hendricks gin but I prefer to drink like the common man and would really just prefer a beer!”
The particularly spooked waiter handed me a pamphlet detailing the drinks available to the guests and as I leafed through the menu he slipped away like a million dollar idea just as you wake up.
The drinks were anticipatorily extravagant: gin, peacock feathers, and watermelon pulp. Gin, slightly warm honey, sea salt, and pickle juice with a lemon wedge. Gin served with squid ink from a horn made of yarn – you get used to seeing these things when you attend as many corporate sponsored events as I have. It was all a bit ho hum so I decided to try the gin with peacock feathers and before I could speak my order aloud the drink was in my hands. The drink was okay, but next time I would swap out the watermelon with a more seasonal fruit; maybe a crab apple or turnip.
After an hour or so of ogling the well placed content marketing I was cornered by four men riding penny-farthings, wearing rustic cummerbunds and extravagantly waxed mustaches, they prodded me with batons and vintage walking canes until I was nose to cloth with a large woman’s dress (large as in thirty feet high and fifteen feet wide, not as in overweight).
“Time to go I suppose,” I said to the mustachioed security guards and they stared blankly as they continued to prod at me with their batons and walking canes. I passed through the curtainous gown and walked head on into a group of columnists that I met at a secret tasting party for a specific brand of musketeer themed olives (you know the ones).
“Hullo gang is this the exit or are you all waiting for the elevator to the after party?”
“It’s not an exit, it’s where they keep all the attendees who aren’t responding appropriately to the branding. The only way out is to admit that Hendricks gin is the smoothest gin on the market or offer a month of native advertising on your personal blog.” The faces of my comrades were gaunt, expressionless. If it were any other group of people I would describe them as pale but seeing as how these were all writers I would assume that goes without saying.
After fifteen or twenty minutes in the belly of the whale, my prison of ruffles and tulle, I caved.
I cloistered myself in an antique photo booth and took the free drink offered by the disembodied hands that extended from the roof. The voice of an unseen interrogator boomed through the box, “How do you like your drink? It’s a Hendricks with shaved brussels sprouts and rubber cement bitters.”
“It’s fine. Gin is gin I suppose.”
“It’s fine? Maybe you’d like to rethink that supposition.”
That was when an electrified pain stick extended from the slot where you pick up your photos.
“What I meant was, gin is gin, but Hendricks is a step above the rest – the smoothest gin in the land.”
The pain stick retracted to its home in the guts of the photo booth and I was jettisoned onto the sidewalk, enveloped by a flurry of rose petals printed with William Grant & Sons preferred SEO branding verbiage and a PR persons contact email.