Every now and then your job requires you to make certain sacrifices, to consider the well-being of others over your own, to risk ridicule, alienation and, yes, even a crippling hangover, for the sake of something greater. And so it was when the good citizens from the Maritime Republic of Eastport called upon me to do my duty for the republic-to serve as a celebrity judge for the Annapolis Maritime Museum's First Annual Pusser's Grog-Off. . . . Is this a great job, or what?
Along with justifying the impish sort of merriment this renegade Annapolis neighborhood is known for, the event was to celebrate the museum's first year in the old McNasby's oyster house on Back Creek, and to raise some money for it. The place would be bushel-basket packed with highfalutin dignitaries, local luminaries and much of Eastport's rather rumbustious citizenry. I've had my fair share of aqua vitae "what sailor hasn't? But this was different. This was no mere tippling. My reputation as a boating magazine editor, sailor and rum dilettante were on the line.
I was so nervous I forgot my notebook; consequently, I spent much of the evening scribbling on a fistful of green cocktail napkins, which in retrospect was rather appropriate. Reading them now is a little like watching a log canoe's long, slow, inevitable capsize; early on I was writing in complete sentences and you can clearly make out letters from the English alphabet. The last napkin is crumpled, stained and virtually unintelligible-a lot like me by the time I completed the assignment.
There were six of us judges. Behind a table rolling with limes, mangoes, oranges, pineapples and lemons, the contestants smiled hopefully and plied us shamelessly with their devilish mixtures. There was Davis's Pub's "Googly Grog," (a close cousin, I believe, to the diabolical rum swizzle of Bermuda's Swizzle Inn); the Maritime Museum's "Marsha's AMM Orange Stormy"; the hot, creamy "Stark and Dormy"; Cliff Long's "Nelson's Blood"; the Boatyard Bar and Grill's "Pusser's Reef Juice"; and the Maritime Republic's "Eastportorican Smash," mixed by Lew Woodward, a self-proclaimed mad scientist and renewable energy consultant/contractor in his real job. He served it to judges in a plastic cup swaddled in a wet dollar bill. Brazen pandering? Unabashed bribery? Perhaps. But one sip of Woodward's concoction, and palm trees swayed in my brain. I was swimming through a Bermudian reef, communing with parrot fish. I was dancing on an Abacos beach under a full moon. I was in love. Mad scientist indeed.
It came as no surprise when Lew's brew won the contest and he was named the republic's Minister of Mixology. He said a few words, but largely thanks to his prodigious talent with a rum bottle and pulverized fruit, few people were listening, and those who were couldn't quite follow. Them Eastport Oyster Boys closed with a rousing cover of Gloria." At least I think that's what it was. The museum raised over $2,000, a record. The tables were a rum-splattered battlefield of eviscerated limes, and so was my head for much of the next day. But, having dedicated myself to duty, at least I could lift it off my pillow proudly.