When I walked into Poco, a longtime wine bar on Pine Street that now has expanded offerings including liquor, there was only one customer inside. There were several tables with no one sitting at them. There were half a dozen empty chairs along the bar.
"I'm sorry, we're at capacity," the bartender, Andie Stavig, said as the door closed behind me. Even though there were many open seats, Poco is a small place, and COVID-19 makes small indoor spaces hazardous. There is also outdoor seating, but those tables were full.
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"But you can do to-go," Stavig added. The bartender was making a drink for someone else and holding a bottle of Uncle Nearest whiskey. Right as I noticed its beautiful label, I also noticed that it was an ingredient in one of the cocktails on the menu, the Black Power Peach Sour ($14), which also contains peach liquor, lemon juice, and honey.
Stavig said Uncle Nearest is named after the first African-American master distiller in the United States. His full name was Nathaniel "Nearest" Green, he had been enslaved earlier in his life, and he taught a young Jack Daniel the craft of distilling.
Obviously, I had to try it.
"Should I wait outside?" I said, under my mask, after ordering.
"Uh, if you want," Stavig said, politely.
I sat on the edge of a water feature in the courtyard next to Poco, expecting the cocktail, when it was ready, to come out in one of those to-go cups they give you at the Paramount or the 5th Avenue.
A few minutes later, Stavig emerged from the bar holding what appeared to be an IV bag with a glowing orange substance inside. It looked amazing, like nothing I'd seen before. "It's a Capri Sun for adults," Stavig said, smiling under a mask. "My boss calls it Booze Pouch Adventure Time."
I asked if I could snap a pic of Stavig holding it, signed the credit card slip, and walked to Cal Anderson Park. It was about 7:30 pm on a Thursday. (Poco is not open on Mondays, but they open again tomorrow at 4:15 pm.)
At the park, groups of people were sitting in small clusters on the fake grass, and I found a spot with no one else around, carefully stabbed the straw through the circle in the IV bag (I always mess that part up with actual Capri Suns, but Poco's bag worked), and wondered if I was going to get in trouble as I took my first sip.
When Cal Anderson Park first opened in 2005, I got in trouble for drinking in the park. Some of the details are fuzzy 15 years later, but certain things I will never forget. I was on a date. It was after dark. The lights around the sports field had just been turned off. We wanted to look at the stars. We decided to take our six-pack of PBR tallboys out into the middle of the field of fake grass and drink our beers while looking at the sky.
I thought—because of the cover of night—we were not even going to be seen, much less get in trouble. But the sound of us opening our first PBR tallboys must have been loud enough to hear across the park, because within moments of cracking open our beers, we had industrial-grade flashlights pointing at us, and two police officers were in pursuit.
They kept their beams on us and as they approached. I remember watching the lights they were pointing at us bounce off the cans of beer.
I don't remember what the cops said exactly, but they acted like this malfeasance was a crisis of some kind, a public catastrophe. I do remember thinking "Are you kidding me?" As Charles Mudede points out, it is an utter waste of time and taxpayer dollars to empower police officers to respond to people drinking a beer in public. Do they really have nothing better to do? I had recently been to Berlin, where people drink beers while riding the S-Bahn.
The SPD officers officiously confiscated our unopened tallboys—I don't know what they did with them, but I imagine they took them home and enjoyed them later—and made us throw away the ones we had already opened. When I asked if this was really necessary, one of them informed me that he was within legal bounds to ticket us for our infraction and ban us from the park. But this time, and only this time, he was going to let us off with a ban on entering the park for seven days, and no ticket. How nice of him.
At the time, I worked on one side of Cal Anderson and lived on the other. My walk to work was literally a walk in the park. But for seven days, I could not walk through the park on my way to work, or my way home from work, because I had had the nerve to open a beer in the middle of a pitch-black field at night on a date with a handsome fella.
If I were not a white guy, I can only imagine how much worse the interaction, and the penalty, would have been. Actually I probably can't imagine it.
Anyway, back to last week. As I sat there sipping the fruity goodness of the Black Power Peach Sour, the Capri Sun for adults, the Booze Pouch Adventure Time that tasted like peaches and happiness, I waited for the authorities to swarm in. Especially because now I was doing it in broad daylight.
But no one cared.
It helps that the Black Power Peach Sour comes in an IV bag, or whatever the technical term is for a clear plastic bag with two finger holes up top to make it easy to carry it down the street. It certainly doesn't look like a cocktail.
I lay on the fake grass, looking up at the sky, savoring my adult Capri Sun, trying and failing to take good video of the seagulls swooping overhead, and thought about my luck. My luck to be alive, my privilege not to be in a category of people the cops tend to pick on, my good fortune to be living in Seattle on a breezy summer night.
The only distraction was a tiny dog maybe 50 yards away, yapping away at me and/or my drink. It would not shut up. I wasn't looking at it, I wasn't provoking it, I wasn't even thinking about it. But that little dog was not pleased with my outdoor enjoyment of that absolutely delicious cocktail.
I drank this Black Power Peach Sour from Poco in Cal Anderson Park recently and the only cop to harass me about my outdoor drinking was this little dog pic.twitter.com/7xWTaFVQXX
— ChristopherFrizzelle (@TheFrizzelle) August 17, 2020
I think that dog is a cop.