My bartender tearfully related a story to me when she reported to work this afternoon. Apparently, a customer (who's a friend of mine) had an issue with one of the promotional items we'd gotten from the wholesaler of a new brand of vodka. The item, one of those rubber mats which sits on the "gutter" between the bar proper and the edge of the bar on the bartender side, displayed the words "Hammer & Sickle Vodka" and also displayed the sign of the evil empire itself. In a color I'll call "Communist Red."

Now, Dominic, my friend, is the kind of conservative Republican who flaunts it. The poor man doesn't realize that when he espouses his reactionary views he becomes a caricature of all the things that're wrong with the GOP today. Dominic is what happens when you take a relatively ignorant person and stuff him full of ultra-conservative propaganda until he likes it. Kinda like the folks who say that the geese raised for foie gras enjoy having feed shoved down their throats with wooden dowels by little old French women.

I read lots of ultra-conservative propaganda, too. But I also read lots of liberal propaganda, as well. And to be honest with you, I still can't make head nor tails of it all but for one thing. Politics is a crummy business and I'd hazard a guess that it ain't gonna get any better in my lifetime.

Dominic's actions of the preceding evening were a "Whoops" as defined by Harvey Fierstein, in the film Torch Song Trilogy:

Whoops? Ed, did you say "whoops"? No, Ed. "Whoops" is when you fall down an elevator shaft. "Whoops" is when you skinny-dip in a school of piranha. "Whoops" is when you accidentally douche with Drano! No, Ed. This was no "whoops." This was an AAAAAAAAAAAAAHA-HA-HA-HA!

Dominic not only stole the offending bar mat, but when asked by my bartender to return it screamed at her that it's Communist propaganda and accused her of being a Communist. My bartender screamed at him that she loves America and all it stands for and is not and has never been a member of the Communist party. Then she burst into tears.

No, I did not make up the preceding paragraph. Yes, re-read it. This happened in 2007. By the way, my bartender is Malaysian, not Chinese (like most of my employees). She really has never had anything to do with the Communist party.

By now I'm pretty sure that you're wondering why Dominic is my friend. Well, I'm a very open-minded guy and have a deep respect for those whose opinions differ from my own. He's also a very nice man who shares my love of good food, wine, music, and a little mayhem every now and then. But there's this problem. Dominic's brand of Republicanism, mixed with his complete and utter hatred for all things politically correct, has caused jaws to drop even at fund raisers for conservative Republican candidates. I've been there, I've seen it. Suffice it to say that I never, ever take him anywhere where there's the possibility he'll engage any liberal friends of mine in conversation.

Today I reminded Dominic that years ago, one of our favorite presidents had bravely demanded that the horrible oppressor of millions of people "tear down this wall." Meaning the Berlin Wall.

"Dominic," I said, "was that not a metaphor for the eventual downfall of Russian Communism as we know it?!"

"Well, yes."

"So, Dominic, can you see past the old meaning of the hammer and sickle and view this marketing campaign, for the vodka, as a tongue-in-cheek kinda play on the authenticity of the product?"

"Er, no. No, I don't think it's a joke. And I don't like it..."

"Dominic, I suggest that you get hip to how they market spirits these days. Furthermore, I suggest you look in the foyer of the restaurant, wherein hangs an American Flag that's about 7 feet tall and a lot wider than that. Do you remember when I placed it in the window of the foyer?"

"Oh, yes, now, that was one of the best things you've ever done... but..."

I cut him off, "Now listen to me. I did not create the promotional device you so hotly despise. It's size and meaning pale in comparison to the statement my flag makes, not just on my behalf but on behalf of most if not all of my employees; that the United States is great and good. In fact, I'm willing to offend, by displaying that flag, those potential customers whose beliefs about politics would lead them to burn that very flag because they're fed up with Republicans like you and Republicans like me and would rather live like Socialists, or perhaps even Communists."

The funniest thing about the whole deal is that Hammer and Sickle vodka is distributed in my area by a company owned by another friend of mine, who we'll call Jerry. Jerry is a capitalist, yes, but a very, very liberal, Democrat capitalist. His company is a fine organization to work for. In fact, I often argue with him that his marvelous treatment of his employees and his enormous gifts to local charities are modeled after one of Lincoln's Republican ideals; that the businesses in a region should take care of their own, including their workers and also their neighbors, who perhaps cannot take care of themselves.

A mutual friend of Jerry and I, whom we'll call Marty, is a man who, after years in state Democrat politics, has retired and espouses Socialist politics.

I sent Marty and Jerry an email today telling them that they'd caused a right-wing commie-hating Republican to nearly pop a gasket over the new Vodka that they're both working hard on peddling to an ever-widening market. I'm certain that both will want to at the very least lay eyes on Dominic from afar. Marty may even want to engage him in conversation. But Marty has a sign in his office that says "I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed man!" So maybe he won't speak with Dominic.

Given that there're a few hundred million of us in the U.S., there're bound to be more people like Dominic the Dinosaur out there. You know it. That's why I considered submitting this anecdote to the scary story competition. But naaah, I ain't gonna do it.

Hammer and Sickle vodka is absolutely delightful, by the way. It's filtered six times; beats that French Communist vodka 'cause it doesn't have a "sweet" or "warm" taste. It's martini vodka. The package is a sight to behold; it looks more like an enormous perfume bottle than a vodka bottle. For more information, go to Sorry, Hammer and Sickle is currently available in only four states on the East Coast of the U.S.

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