In Pittsburgh people like to give directions by referencing places that no longer exist. Thus: Butterjoint is where More's used to be.
More's (pronounced more-ayes), a fine old-time dining establishment, had an ancient bartender who knew his cocktails and the appropriate glasses in which to serve them. A giant piano sat stuffed into the corner with a faithful group gathered round belting out show tunes. It was dark and dank and fading, and we knew it was destined to close, but we loved More's and often hung out there, the youngest patrons at the bar by about 30 years.
Butterjoint, an off-shoot of Legume restaurant next door, replaced More's bar and has recently zoomed into its own with handcrafted cocktails and a small menu that hosts excellent pierogies. It's a bubbling beam of happiness on Craig Street in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh and a great place to hang out. I covet the tiny tables by the front window. Sheila Squillante and I grabbed one of those and tried on an old-timey Pickle Back for size. --Sherrie Flick
Pickle Back: Old Heaven Hill Bonded Bourbon, house sour pickle brine
By Sheila Squillante
I had no idea I loved bourbon until two years ago. Someone handed me a paper cup with an inch of Basil Hayden’s at a funeral after-party. “Two fingers, neat,” I would later learn is the term for this. I sipped it carefully, a little tentatively. I expected, I think, to hate it. But I did not hate it. No, I did not.
I touched it lightly with the tip of my tongue and let it spread, smoothly over every surface of my mouth. I swallowed and it was like ingesting autumn light. Not burning but warmly suffusive. Golden and everywhere. I was at a funeral and this was all body, all life. I loved it.
Learning this love, coming to embrace it as part of me, has felt like an unlikely blessing, much like finding real, dear friendships in my 40s. I never expected it but how sweet and welcome! What a comfort and balm.
So I do associate bourbon with new friends (like the one who asked me to be part of this series), but also, actually, with old ones.
My friend, the poet and sociologist, Sandra L. Faulkner, has been drinking Maker’s Mark for as long as I’ve known her. We met in a community poetry class more than ten years ago, and she struck me immediately as a powerful, feminist force—both her work and her person. Full of whimsy, but not to be trifled with, Sandra drank Maker’s then the way I drink it now: not neat, but with one, perfect, icy rock.
Sandra’s own love of bourbon was recently featured in Small Batch: An Anthology of Bourbon Poetry (Two of Cups Press), which includes her poem “Invitation to a Dead Grandmother.”
She is also a talented knitter, canner, and pickler of glorious produce, and I have no doubt that were she with Sherrie Flick and me at Butterjoint, she would also have ordered the shot with a (Delectable! Unexpected!) back of brine.
Next time my friend comes to town, I’m treating.
“Invitation to a Dead Grandmother”
By Sandra L. Faulkner
It’s happy hour, Dear Miriam,
I want you to come meet us
drink in our church-house
play hangman with the kid-
the game that seems like toddler talk
the missing prepositions-
who needs all of those words?
Notice your barren worries for me
squirm well after your death:
knitting needles wrapped with vests
cookie butter soft on the counter
child organized cabinets
with cans of trout and oysters lined like a bus
service by size from oven to altar.
I would pour you a fresh bourbon or scotch
cask strength and uncut like in the old days
splash in some pretend soda,
a toast to the child with your name,
the one you told me I needed.
It’s (always) cocktail hour here
at our house, the church of the petulant parrot:
I want _ Manhattan.
Ignore the impatient mommy-words that snake
down the drain at bath time,
the curtains sewn with crooked hem
because the (damn) tension is screwed
on your bequeathed machine,
notice the kid’s first word-
your post-children hobby-
under the kitchen table as he vomits
fur balls of anxiety with crusty food
after the ():
I don’t wanta bite the bears
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ they are too strong.
Sandra L. Faulkner is the author of two chapbooks, Hello Kitty Goes to College (dancing girl press), and Knit Four, Make One (forthcoming, Kattywompus Press). Her poetry memoir, K4, M1: Knit Four, Frog One, is forthcoming (2014) from Sense Publishers.
Sheila Squillante is a poet and essayist living in Pittsburgh. She’s associate director of the MFA programs at Chatham University, editor-in-chief of The Fourth River Literary Journal and associate editor at PANK.