I’m going, no matter what

Am I getting sick, dammit? Is this portentous throb in my brain the on-ramp to a massive cold? Is that familiar scratch in my throat a tease to a burning ribbit? Do those worrisome pangs in my limbs augur aches across my entire body?

Am I pissed about all this?

Yes, I am!

For one, I hate being sick — and that, reader, is the winner of the most unoriginal statement in the history of the world. 

Two, I have a date. With Philadelphia to be exact. This week. A three-day assignation with some fine art, that’s what it is. And excellent food. And an unapologetic dive bar named Dirty Frank’s. That is correct: Dirty Frank’s

Philly is only two hours away. And there happens to be two art shows worth some time there: “Matisse in the 1930s” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (the place with the mountainous steps that Sylvester Stallone scales in “Rocky” — and why did I feel I had to mention that?), and “Modigliani Up Close” at the peerless Barnes Foundation, one of my very favorite venues for aesthetic astonishments.

And food. I will indulge in delicious vittles (and drink) at Village Whiskey (burgers, the eponymous hooch, and oodles of class) and The Dandelion, a “sophisticated homage to the British pub.” Last time I was there, I ate right next to a crackling fireplace.

We can’t overlook Dirty Frank’s, that famous cash-only, no-nonsense skank bar just around the corner from my hotel. It’s a neat, neon-splashed, Bud-in-the-bottle joint, replete with a hard-rocking jukebox, darts, pinball and miles of tats. Vice magazine calls it “a gleaming oasis of weird in a town beset by 21st-century slickening that’s always made people its primary business, no matter who those people are.” Word-for-word, my cold seems to fade at that description.

But is it actually fading? My head still thumps, my throat slightly sizzles. It’s time for three more Advils. I got a flu shot in September, so it can’t be the flu, can it? And I’ve had Covid and I don’t have any respiratory symptoms. And yet …

Take it easy, I tell myself. As I gulp down the pills, I toast good riddance to any sick and hello to Matisse, Modigliani — and Frank. Now, as further deterrence, I plop down for a nap. And I dream of Philadelphia.

A few years ago at Dirty Frank’s. The pooch and his pilsner.

Hard rock, hard booze: Metallica sells the sauce

Celebrity booze brands, from Jay-Z’s cognac to George Clooney’s tequila, are an unseemly fad — how much money and branding do these flush hobbyists need

Yet the new Metallica Blackened Whiskey has me rapt, not only because I’ve been a band fan for years, but because the snarling spirit trumpets its own acrobatic gimmickry, something that recalls how members of KISS mixed their own blood into the ink of the 1970s KISS comic books for an extra drizzle of puerile publicity.

This is far less theatrically cynical. But still comical. Metallica’s zesty drink — notes of honey, oak, caramel, the usual — has been given the band’s trademarked “Black Noise Sonic Enhancement” while in the finishing whiskey barrels.

It’s as dorky as it sounds: songs from Metallica’s landmark 1991 Black Album — “Enter Sandman,” “The Unforgiven,” etc. — are “played to the barrel causing the whiskey inside to move and interact with the wood. The whiskey is pummeled by sound, causing it to seep deeper into the barrel, where it picks up additional wood flavor characteristics.” 

I believe that (ooh, shake it, Sandman). I just don’t believe it makes a whit of difference. As it is, the sip is solid — toasty, tangy — especially when tippled to “Whiplash,” circa 1982. 

The market is lousy with famous booze dilettantes. Cameron Diaz moves her own wine. Bob Dylan hawks Heaven’s Door Whiskey. Wild Turkey Longbranch Bourbon reeks of Matthew McConaughey’s honeyed East Texas drawl. And coolest of all, Irish Celt-punk rockers The Pogues push Pogues Irish Whiskey.

Thrash royalty that they are, Metallica aren’t too dignified to gussy up their whiskey with frippery — don’t forget the dubious Black Noise Sonic Enhancement process. Lending it a luster of collectibility, the painted corked bottle comes in a Black Album-emblazoned box and includes a cocktail recipe booklet and a (totally useless) Metallica whiskey coin that’s worth minus 50 cents on the black market. (For the record, “Blackened” is the title of the first track on the group’s elephantine 1988 LP “… And Justice for All.”)

So how, really, is the stuff? At $45, it’s no hooch. I admit my face puckered into an asterisk on the first dram of Blackened, but that’s normal for me — I feel the burn. Notes of butterscotch and mint soon blossomed from the mix of bourbons and ryes selected by Master Distiller Dave Pickerell. 

I poured more, though not too much, lest Blackened become blackout. I bet the guys in Metallica, who were once dubbed Alcoholica for their prodigious swigging skills, would love that. They might even dedicate a song to me, perhaps one of my favorites off the Black Album: the aptly titled “Sad But True.”