Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Seven Basic Plots: Why we tell stories by Christopher Booker

Michael - Thursday

Thanks to Everett Kaser for pointing out this book on a Facebook post. The title intrigued me, and I downloaded a copy and started reading. It’s a challenging book from various points of view. Booker’s thesis is that all stories—throughout time—fall into only seven rather well defined categories. He argues cogently and at length—the book runs to some 750 pages—that not only is there a reason for this apparent lack of imagination, but also any attempt to depart from one of these seven basic plot structures leads to an unsatisfactory ending for the reader. Further, he postulates why these plots are so essential, speculating on a type of psychological genetic coding that we need to develop our psyches, just as we have a physical genetic coding to develop our physical attributes.

I have to admit that I've only read about half the book so far. Frankly, it could do with some heavy editing. Many of the arguments are repeated in different chapters with a multitude of detailed examples given where one or two would do, and often the same aspects of the examples are discussed again in later chapters. I also felt that the arguments against the stories that don’t comfortably fit into the seven patterns were weak—for example, mysteries are dispensed with in an unusually brief chapter as mere mental puzzles with no depth, mainly because the protagonist is two dimensional, and merely watches the action from a distance and makes deductions. I don’t think I need to argue against that on Murder Is Everywhere! To be fair, it’s the Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie style of mysteries he rejects. He is positive about more psychological ‘mysteries’ like Oedipus Rex and Citizen Kane, which he fits into one of the big seven with no difficulty. Also, he is not blind to anything but ‘serious literature’. Box office hit movies and comic book superheroes make the cut. This doesn’t go down well in the literary establishment. The book was panned by Adam Mars-Jones, who also objected to Booker's seven-sizes-must-fit-all-if-they're-any-good approach and rejected the prescriptive application of these plot structures: "He sets up criteria for art, and ends up condemning Rigoletto, The Cherry Orchard, Wagner, Proust, Joyce, Kafka, and Lawrence - the list goes on - while praising Crocodile Dundee, ET and Terminator 2." 

I actually think that’s harsh and rather misses the point. I don’t think 'art' is as much the issue for Booker as the Jungian approach to the psychological importance and relevance of stories. The question of what we would call the quality of the writing, isn't really central. (Unless that’s in the next 250 pages!)

Certainly Booker is not averse to controversy. He has ‘alternative views’ on a variety of issues, including global warming, passive smoking, and the European Union.

So here are the plots:

Overcoming the Monster

In Overcoming the Monster, the hero needs to slay the monster which is attacking the community. For the hero’s development this needs to be done selflessly, often to rescue a beloved female character. The happy ending is when the hero kills the monster, gets the girl, and usually obtains high status in the community. Booker uses the examples of Beowulf taking on Grendel and the Hollywood blockbuster Jaws. The two stories are strikingly similar although more than a thousand years apart. Both involve a fearsome water monster that stealthily takes as prey members of the community (and eats them), both involve an underwater battle, both involve the eventual triumph of the hero against all odds. 
But, of course, the monster can be human, and may even be the dark side of the hero.

                                         Rags to Riches

In Rags to Riches, the plot is a poor boy or girl who use their own courage and character development to climb to being successful adults, usually marrying the prince or princess as the case may be. Aladdin is the obvious example and discussed in detail, but many, many, stories fall into this category. (At one point I thought Booker was going to discuss them all.)

            The Quest

The Quest is about the hero needing to undertake a journey or project to achieve a particular goal for the good of the community. The Odyssey and The Lord of the Rings are perfect examples. Watership Down and Raiders of the Lost Ark are others from different genres.

                                                                                Voyage and Return

Voyage and Return is rather like The Quest except that there may be no immediate goal for the voyage. The story may be more about the hero’s own struggle to find himself and return to his home. Booker discusses among others Robinson Crusoe and Peter Rabbit.5.  

Comedy is rather more complicated. It usually involves the confusion of a community—including the hero and heroine—and ends when the confusion has been resolved, the hero and heroine have developed, and all ends well. It doesn’t need to be funny, but usually is. Think A Midsummer Night’s Dream.      

Tragedy is when the hero or heroine is tempted and falls, and their dark side takes over. They struggle, but they have fallen too far. Eventually the path they have chosen leads to disaster and death. Dr. Faust and Anna Karenina are good examples.

This is basically Tragedy where the hero or heroine is able to redeem themselves or to be redeemed by an outside sympathetic person. Booker gives The Snow Queen, Fidelio, and The Secret Garden among his examples.

Booker’s thesis is that, in a sense, there is really only one plot and that is the development of the hero and heroine in different contexts until they ‘see whole’ or eventually do not (in Tragedy). Personally, I’m suspending judgment on it for the moment. Admittedly, it is striking how many stories ranging across time and cultures do fit into the seven molds quite neatly. On the other hand, the reasons for this seem more obscure. I’ll let you know in 250 pages time...


Murder Is Everywhere
Author Recognitions and Events


Murder in Saint Germain, Aimée Leduc’s next investigation, launched June 6.


Wednesday, June 28 at 18:00 Athens time
Book Presentation at 
Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum
Kalisperi 12, Acropolis

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Power of Silk

Sujata Massey

Roopa Pemmaraju and Lily Hargrave's design

A week ago, I walked down to the consignment shop near my house and picked up a fashion mystery.

The mystery came in the form of a long dress of purple-blue printed silk crepe lined in cotton. The stitching was minute and clearly done by hand. Examining the dress, I flashed back to my first long dress and blouse custom-stitched for me at a tailor’s in Hyderabad when I was ten years old.

But the pattern was unusual. The silk was printed with thick black brushstrokes that burst like a tree over my legs. The design was not pretty; it was strong and vibrated in a way that reminded me of something strangely familiar, but that I couldn't identify. The label read Lily Hargraves for Roopa Pemmaraju.

I’d never heard the names, but the funky silk dress fit perfectly and was an unbelievable $68. I snapped it up and was soon on the Internet searching its provenance. 

Within ten minutes I had some solid information that told me I'd made a very special buy. Roopa is an Indian-born designer who’d had her own fashion label, Haldi. She left India to move to Melbourne, Australia, with her husband for his IT job. Roopa became inspired with the idea of bringing Australian aboriginal art into fashion that would be a far cry from the cheap cotton T-shirts sold to tourists. However, her interest wasn't welcomed by gallery owners and artists. I mentioned T-shirts? Many indigenous artists have been exploited by Australians and others who copied their designs without paying them.  

Roopa Pemmaraju

But Roopa had a vision of a business model that was different. I'm going to call it the Indian artisan model. Throughout India, there's been a longstanding tradition of custom clothing making--and certain villages are known for a certain kind of block printing, or silk weaving, or cotton embroidery. 

A Gujarati textile with folk motif has great energy

These niche technique are prized, and the regional artisans are celebrated by contemporary designers who ask them to do finishing touches such as embroidery around a neckline or hem. Mahatma Gandhi, who advocated wearing handspun clothing as a way of resisting the British in the early 20th century, would be smiling today if he could see the "desi chic," "ethnic-cool and "modern handloom" fashions that are the rage.

The Fab India chain that sells clothes for all ages and sizes stitched from silks and cottons hand-loomed by people in rural communities. Also well-known are Anokhi and Cottons Jaipur, retail chains that specialize in fashion made from cotton woven, dyed and block-printed in Rajasthan. A high-end designer, Ritu Kumar, has spent the last quarter century collaborating with Kala Raksha, an organization in India supporting hereditary artists, and several other regional textile weavers and embroiderers. Last year in India, I was pleased to buy a Ritu Kumar kurti (woman’s tunic) with a meticulously hand embroidered placket typical of the Kutch region of Gujarat. But the coloration is subtle and works well with the modern printed silk fabric.

Fine hand embroidery on a Ritu Kumar kurti

Back to the Australian-Indian collaboration: How could an Indian woman new to Australia convince aboriginal artists to work with her?

Here's what Roopa did.   She pledged to give credit where it was due. She offered put the artist’s name on each of her garments. Remember the mystery of two women's names on my dress label? Here is Lily Hargraves, a “desert walker” in her nineties who’s one of Australia’s top aboriginal artists. Her paintings are exhibited around the world and sell for thousands of dollars.

Lily Hargraves

Lily's full name is Lily Nungarrayi Yirringali Jurrah Hargraves, although she's most often known in art circles by the short Anglo name. She was born in the Northwest Territory in 1930 and having had a number of very hard jobs throughout her life, began painting in the tradition of her ancestors about thirty years ago. Lily is recognized as a senior Law Woman, which means she is an officiant of Waipiri indigenous culture--and her story is fascinating. And here are some of her paintings from the online museums and galleries in Australia. Looking at her work made me realize that's a tree on the front of my dress.

Looking through Roopa’s designs since the 2012 collection that included my “Lily Blue Dress,” I've noticed that indigenous artist names are continuing to decorate the dress labels. Additionally, the design label is donating 20% of her profits to aboriginal groups. And the India connection also helps artists, because the silk is printed and embroidered in India at Roopa's artisan workshop in Bangalore. The subtleties of clothing construction are overseen in India by Roopa's co-artist, the acclaimed designer Sudhir Swain. The most recent collection—Resort 2018—was just shown in Australia a week ago and shows a riot of glorious abstract floral motifs merging with gauzy, gilded Indian silk. 

Roopa Pemmaraju 2018 collection

Roopa Pemmaraju 2018

Some might argue that fusing two cultures like this degrades the original. But fashion by its nature is an evolution.

Mahatma Gandhi told his followers a century ago what you choose to wear delivers power.  Just this spring in Europe and America, women have been attacked for wearing traditional Muslim clothing items like the hijab and abaya. Given this context, wearing the textiles of international designers and artisans feels like another way to show resistance. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

all over like a cheap suit tour

Cara here on Tuesday. I'm having a great time on this book tour and catching up with so many pals, especially our MIE gang or the usual suspects as some might say.
Here's a suspect, doesn't EvKa look guilty of something here in Portland?
Now we come to our Lisa Brackman in San Diego where she gave me a grilling. With us is Marc Ellsberg, who's from Vienna and has written a great thriller - and scary, too. Imagine the power grids go out in we took him out for a craft beer to chill in 'SD'style
 If that weren't enough hot coals, our own Tim Hallinan hit me with a page of questions at Chevalier's books in LA...fantastic store and Tim, fantastic comme toujours.
Along the way I got to hang out with the boss at Murder By the Book in Houston - Jack Reacher and his lovely human, McKenna

Here's the chocolate gateau at the Orange County launch party courtesy of Debbie at Mystery Ink
Chocolate, chocolate and more dense chocolate - as delicious as it looks.
But most of the time the glamorous touring life is fueled by gummy bears, a Léo Malet pulp novel and trusty laptop at the boarding gate and looks like this.

Tonight I'm catching up with Stan in Minneapolis!
Cara on Tuesday

The Power of Music

Annamaria on Monday

I am writing this in the hopes that it will spread the word about the power of music in one important sphere.

This is David and me in in South Africa in 2004, just as his sun was beginning to set.

He is now well into the fourteenth year of Alzheimer's disease that began when he was only 67.  He has been in residential care for just over three years now.  Visiting him is difficult in many ways.

One of the things that struck me early on, is how boring was the music in the otherwise lovely place where he lives.  His neurologist had told me ten years ago that music was the last thing to go.


Most of the videos and CDs the staff played for the residents was music that would have appealed to my grandmother: "Cruising Down the River," "She'll be Comin' Round the Mountain," "Goodnight Irene."  Really?  Is the best they can do?

One Sunday morning's observation: playing on the TV in the activities room was a video of a bunch well-groomed, preppy looking white people singing "On Moonlight Bay."  This song comes into the story of Idol of Mombasa, where my characters sing it.  Vera and Justin Tolliver loved it, because it was the latest thing.  IN 1912!!  Looking around at the people in the activities room, I saw two things.  Many of them were my age or a decade or so older, and they were not all white.  With that boring music playing in the background, many of them had fallen asleep.  Even the ones who were awake were fidgety.  Just as bored as I was with the selections.

The next song put me over the edge: "Nearer my God to Thee."  Were those words supposed to be comforting?  A warning?  It seemed cruel, under the circumstances.

What would happen if the residents heard the music that was the soundtrack of their lives.  Making such a suggestion to the management brought no positive response.  I took matters into my own hands.  The next week I went back with a disk burned on my home computer that I labelled "Happy Music."  Songs they would recognise.  Elvis.  Frank Sinatra.  Judy Collins.  Chuck Berry.  "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" from the original Broadway cast of "Oklahoma."

That morning the crowd in the activities room was just falling asleep after their 10:30 snack.  I asked permission of the activities coordinator to replace the Christian hymn video with my totally secular music.  When the changeover took place, the first song was Elvis singing "Can't Help Falling in Love with You."  Eyes opened.  Soon heads began to move to the music.  People were swaying in their wheelchairs.

Alan, who still had the erect carriage of the career soldier he had been, said, "I haven't heard this song in years.  I used to play this on the radio station on the base in Germany.  The Germans loved this  song."

When Judy Collins began to sing "Both Sides Now," Ann--who had always seemed cranky--smiled and sat up straight.  Half a minute into the song, she began to sing along in a clear, sweet voice.  She knew every word.  She smiled for the rest of the morning.

Everyone sang along or mouthed the words to "Oh What a Beautiful Morning."

Best of all, was what happened to Linda.  She is a very tiny woman, with shoulder length white hair.  I had never seen her do anything but sit immobile, half-reclined in her chair, with her head to one side and her eyes closed, seemingly nearly comatose.  Her walker sat before her, but I had never seen her move.  Now she was moving from side to side, and tapping her foot.  And then something that looked nothing less than miraculous.  Along came Bob Seger singing, "That Old Time Rock n' Roll."  She sat up, her whole body started to move.  She grasped her walker, rose have way out of her seat, and danced to the words, "That kinda music just soothes my soul..."


Fourteen home-made CD playlists later, 280 songs in total, and the music is still doing its magic.

A few weeks ago, David went into the hospital for treatment of an infection.  While there, he remained compliant, but I could tell he was uncomfortable.  I brought along my laptop and played one of his favorites,"Appalachian Spring," for him.  Though blind now and unable to speak, he looked toward the music.  His demeanour calmed.  His face took on an almost beatific expression.  Something wonderful to me.

I described the event to a friend who had asked about David.  She told me of a documentary called "Alive Inside," which I have since watched.  It recounts how other people have benefited from the palliative effect of listening to the right music.  The folks in the film have suffered great losses through dementia, Alzheimers, and other mental illnesses.  A volunteer at a nursing home found that playing the right music for them brought out their inner selves.  Featured in the film are doctors, social workers and the renowned Oliver Sacks.   The flick is available on Netflix, YouTube, and its own website.  Don't worry.  You can watch it.  It will not make you sad.  It is joyous, like my days watching people in David's care home come alive to the soundtracks deep in their memories.  Here's a clip from film.

If you need to get back in touch with someone still alive inside, but difficult to reach, I urge you to bring them the right music.  It will lift your spirits like nothing else.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fire! Why can't we learn from the past?

Zoë Sharp

Over the years I’ve learned a lot of self-defence, both for personal reasons, and as research for my main series protagonist, Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Fox. When we first meet Charlie, she’s teaching self-defence, mainly to women, and her whole mind-set is on how to best protect yourself in any circumstances.

One of those circumstances has to be in the event of fire.

In some ways, people take this more seriously than other kinds of danger. It’s a sad fact that, if you’re being attacked in the street, a shout of, “Fire!” has been shown to be more effective in drawing attention and possible assistance rather than one of, “Rape!”

But in other ways people are amazingly blasé about fire. I’ve known them refuse to leave their hotel beds when the fire alarm goes off during the night, convinced it’s a false alarm, a prank or a drill. In the King’s Cross fire on the London Underground in 1987, commuters on trains arriving at the station overruled transport police, demanding to leave the train despite the obvious dangers. Some were never seen alive again.

That fire moved incredibly fast. Less than 15 minutes after the first signs were noticed when a dropped match ignited fluff-impregnated grease under one of the Piccadilly line escalators, a gout of superheated flame and smoke, propelled up the sloping escalator by the trench effect, flashed over through the ticket hall with devastating results.

Afterwards, it was learned that up to 20 layers of old paint had been allowed to build up on the tunnels which housed the escalators, trapping the heat, while the wooden treads and metal sides of which helped feed and channel the flames. A computer simulation produced the same flashover as the incident and, when a model was built, the same effect was seen. As well as all the materials involved, the 30deg angle of the escalator tunnels, plus lack of training of staff, and, it was alleged, a certain complacency caused by the fact that there had never been a fatal fire on the Underground, all led to disaster.

Following the King’s Cross fire, better communications and training were provided for staff. Smoking was banned, and the old wooden escalators were gradually decommissioned and replaced with all metal units. Thirty-one people died and of the 100 hospitalised, 19 had serious injuries. It was never discovered whose carelessly discarded match had actually started the fire.

This was not the case with the fire at the Summerland holiday complex in Douglas, Isle of Man in 1973. Opened two years previously, Summerland was a climate-controlled building covering 3.5 acres on the seafront in Douglas. It was clad in Perspex sheeting called Oroglas.

In August of ’73, three boys broke into a kiosk adjacent to the building to have a crafty smoke. The kiosk caught fire and fell against the outside cladding of the Summerland building itself, which was constructed of bitumen-coated steel with asbestos felt on both sides. This quickly spread to the internal sound deadening, and to the acrylic roofing sheets, which melted, not only allowing more oxygen to enter, but also dropping burning debris onto people inside.

The Summerland project had been designed by two different sets of architects with no common plan, making a coherent fire-fighting strategy impossible. It took 20 minutes for the alarm to be raised, and then it was done by a taxi driver outside, and a ship off the Manx coast who radioed in to the coastguard. When the people inside realised the danger, they were hampered by locked exits, and stampede for the main entrance caused further casualties.

The eventual blame was laid at the door of the flammable materials used and failure to evacuate the 3000 people present, as well as locked fire doors, and inadequate ventilation. Between 50 and 53 people were killed, and 80 were seriously injured.

As a result, changes to building regulations were made, and the rebuilt smaller version of Summerland was fitted with an extensive sprinkler system.

There are common features between these two fires:
Highly flammable materials.
Lack of warning system or timely escape plan.
No sprinkler system.

And now we have Grenfell Tower in London, in which the death toll is currently at 30 and looks set to rise far higher. The external cladding on the refurbished tower was highly flammable, and residents complained in 2014 that egress had been compromised, with poor access for emergency services and even fire exits blocked. The installation of a sprinkler system was recommended, but not carried out. Previous power surges had caused electrical equipment to smoke and fail.

According to The Guardian, a blog post written last November claimed that only an incident leading to grave loss of life would persuade the management company to take the concerns of residents seriously.

Although it’s too early to say for sure, the exterior cladding certainly seems to have made the fire at Grenfell Tower more severe. It is of a type that has been banned in the US for use on taller buildings because of safety concerns. The fire in 2014 in an apartment block in Melbourne, Australia, went from the point of ignition on an eighth floor balcony and raced to the roof in eleven minutes, mainly because of the flammability of the exterior cladding.

How to evacuate tall buildings successfully in the event of fire is a difficult proposition, but surely encouraging them not to burn in the first place is the ultimate goal. It is desperately sad for the residents of Grenfell Tower and their families that the lessons of previous tragedies have been ignored, time and again. And now the race begins to find someone to blame rather than putting those energies into ensuring that conflagrations such as this one do not happen again.

Perhaps that is the biggest tragedy of all.

This week’s Word of the Week is flammable from the Latin flammare meaning ‘to catch fire’. This word is interchangeable with inflammable, which has the addition of the suffix in- meaning ‘to cause to’. Not to be confused with non-flammable, meaning something that will not catch fire.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Return to Tales of the Piano Bar

Montparnasse Piano Bar, Mykonos, Greece


Now that I’ve returned home to Mykonos, and am somewhat back into my routine, I’ve found folks asking, “Whatever happened to those Tales of the Piano Bar?” stories of real life experiences lifted from the lips of those who observed them first hand—and on more than one occasion had a finger or three involved the shenanigans.   Truth be told (rare as that is these days), I’m working on a book inspired by what I see as the magic (and mystery) of the place. But that’s a bit off in the future, so in response to those who asked for a more current dose of the Piano Bar, here is the first tale as it appeared here on January 22, 2011, titled "The Red Hot Mama."

During tourist season it seems at times that the entire world is on holiday on Mykonos.  Age, race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, or sexual preference makes no difference; that Aegean Greek island is popping for everyone.  But of all the nightspots catering to the myriad sorts contributing to Mykonos' 24/7 in season lifestyle, just one brings everyone together.  For thirty years, tourists, locals, yachters, Broadway and West End performers, have flocked to the Piano Bar, now located amid the narrow lanes of Little Venice as the Quartier Latin-style Montparnasse Piano Bar sitting at the edge of the sea across a bay from Mykonos’ signature windmills.

Little Venice at sunset

Steve Allen and Jane Meadows
It is the Aegean’s “La Cage au Folles,” sans dancers, for here it’s all about cabaret.  And if you think that guest from the audience who did a song or two seemed familiar, you may be right, for between sunset and two in the morning—when everyone’s off to continue the night in the island’s ‘til sunrise clubs and discos—the Piano Bar is a must stop for visiting musical theater folk.

Nikos and Jody, Proprietors
The Piano Bar is the creation of Nikos Hristodulakis and Jody Duncan, and they’re behind the bar every night, amassing more stories than O’Henry.  I’ve been trying for a while to persuade them to share some tales, hopefully the juicier ones.  They’ve agreed to test the waters, so here’s their first one, chased with a recipe for one of their most popular cocktails. 

Montparnasse Piano Bar Tale #1:  “The Red Hot Mama,” as told by a blond Jody leaning over the bar and ignoring the dark-haired Niko making faces behind him.

Mykonos' Grand Diva, Phyllis Pastore

The place was dead.  It emptied out right after Phyllis’ midnight set.  That happens sometimes.  No matter, it will fill up for her one o’clock gig.  Everybody loves her here.  Some say they come to Mykonos “just to see Phyllis.”  And she believes them.  She should, she’s the Grand Diva of the island when it comes to cabaret and loves to accessorize her songs with props­–none more famous than her bright-yellow foam rubber, McGuire sisters’-style wig and trumpet-shape, silver kazoo.  The kazoo is reserved for her nonpareil performance of “Dr. Jazz,” the Dixieland staple written by Joe “King” Oliver in 1926 and covered by such other notables as Jelly Roll Morton and Harry Connick, Jr.—but none with quite the style of our Phyllis.

So, there I am talking to one of the waiters, and thinking about what kind of mischief I could get into to kill time, when he asks if Phyllis is going to do Dr. Jazz in her next set.   That got me to thinking about Dixieland, which led to thoughts of New Orleans, and on to the subject of…Tabasco!

The scene of the crime
Phyllis was outside the front door talking to some fans, so I told the waiter to grab the kazoo from her basket of props in front of the piano.  With one eye on the door I soaked the mouthpiece in Tabasco and had it back in the basket before she was back inside the bar.  Now it was only a matter of time.  I couldn’t wait to see her face.

But as the set wore on no one shouted up a request for Dr. Jazz and Phyllis hadn’t even glanced at the kazoo.  This was not looking good.  How could I get her to sing?  I used the old standby.  Cash.  An anonymous written request accompanied by 500 drachmas to the piano player for Phyllis to perform Dr. Jazz guaranteed that kazoo would soon be heading toward her lips.

By now I couldn’t restrain myself and had shared my brilliant plan with several regulars sitting at the bar [“With me too,” says Niko waving from behind].  To be honest, most were horrified and thought it childish…but if the shoe fits… Besides, even the most critical were fascinated at how Phyllis would respond.  After all, she was Italian.  And not a word of warning went out from the crowd.

So, on went the wig, and out came the lyrics for Dr. Jazz, “Hello Central give me Dr. Jazz…” At the point where the lyrics took a break and the piano player took over, Phyllis did as she always did, told the audience that she wanted to be part of the band and picked up her kazoo.

I’m in stitches, almost convulsions.  Here it comes.  The eruption is about to blow, we’re all going to be dead for sure, but what a way to go….  You guessed it, absolutely nothing happened.  Tepotah.  Phyllis played her kazoo as she always did with not even a twitch of discomfort across her angelic face. 

"Curses, foiled again!"
When she’d finished, she calmly and deliberately put the wig and kazoo away, picked up the microphone and said to the packed house, “When I’m in Mykonos I stay with Jody and Niko.  Well, one of my roommates, no doubt the nasty blond one, must have thought it would be funny to pepper up my kazoo.”  She cleared her throat.  “Would someone please tell him that, yes, it did burn my lips, but there was no way I was going to give him the satisfaction of a reaction.  At least not now.  Please tell the convulsing gentleman behind the bar that, payback will be hell, and he’d best sleep with one eye open for the rest of his practical joking life!”

Good conquers evil

That took place more sleepless years back than I care to remember and I’ve matured since then [please take notice of Niko in the background rolling his eyes], so I wish to make a (Tabasco free) peace offering to our still dear friend and performing star.  For the first time anywhere Niko and I are revealing our “ultra-secret” recipe for Phyllis’ favorite cocktail, the Montparnasse Piano Bar Chocolate Martini.  Ours is clear—not one of those dark and creamy concoctions you find elsewhere—so it passes as a regular martini, but one taste and you’ll never go back to the others.

Montparnasse Piano Bar Tail #1, the Chocolate Martini:
Start with a chilled martini glass and roll the lip in powdered cocoa or chocolate.
Fill a martini pitcher or mixing glass halfway with ice.
Add 3 ounces of Vodka, along with 1 ounce of White Crème de Cacao (both clear spirits).
Stir well and strain into the rimmed martini glass.
Drop in a chocolate covered almond as a final treat at the end, but no fingers allowed, you must drink your way to the bottom. 

Thanks, fellas