HOPARAZZI LAGER—Battling the apocalypse, nutjob neighbors, and restricted access to your balls

Balls facebook discussion

Thus was my mother shamed into making a batch of whisky balls. Creeping on my Facebook page, she saw my tattle to Christine and decided there were worse things she could do with half a cup of Wisers.

DSCN2683Scary and I were both involved, satisfying related motivations of gluttony and hedonism. He accidentally got himself punched in the nose by the pastry blender—luckily not the motorized kind or he’d have had no nose left.

“Is that Irish cream?” Miss V asked as Mum poured the whisky.

“Close,” said Mum.

By the time she’s six, V will be able to distinguish vodka from gin from 30 paces, unless Child Services gets her first. “Can I smell?” she asked.

“Of course,” said Mum.

“Mmmmmm,” said my little kindergartner friend. “But they’re just for grown-ups, right?”


“That means I can have two peanut butter cookies instead then.”

No such negotiation had taken place, but who could argue with such lawyerly logic?

This is how we ended up making our whisky balls:

  • Two-thirds of an overbaked marble cake we’d forgotten about in the freezer, bashed into crumbs with a pastry blender
  • Some pecans, also bashed
  • Some milk chocolate chips, melted with a tablespoon of whisky and two tablespoons of corn syrup (the recipe called for three, but we were affected by The Omnivore’s Dilemma, so we used only two)
  • ½ cup icing sugar, more or less
  • ¼ cup cocoa plus some that fell on the counter
  • ½ cup whisky minus the tbsp cooked with the chocolate

From somewhere Mum produced a melon baller, used it, cursed it, and abandoned it, then hand-rolled a bunch of cute little balls.


It was immediately apparent we hadn’t used enough Wisers; fresh whisky balls should set your fur on fire their first day, and these were only slightly redolent. Then again, maybe the smell lacked intensity simply because we’d used a cleaner spirit than rum.


Nah…they needed more booze. But it would have been foolish to use more; we need that Wisers for drinking.

Meanwhile the neighborhood has gone apeshit with Christmas decorations. Light shows, sleighs, Santas, Grinches, Scrooges, Bumbles, Rudolphs—you name it and its inflatable likeness is swaying in one of our neighbors’ yards (and lying flaccid on the lawn in the morning, when the kids actually pass by).

Amid all this relatively secular mayhem is a house with a large manger scene out front—Mary and Joseph gazing downward at the infant Jesus, who looks freaking cold in his loincloth. Speaking of Child Services, such nudity may be comfortable in the Middle East, but Langley is at latitude 49.10348. Holy or not, that kid needs some swaddling clothes.

That aside, I felt bad when the family came home from school today and mentioned they’d seen a police officer visiting the owner of that house. We have no idea why, but my first guess would be that someone messed with the nativity display and the owner called the police. Which makes me sad, because obviously, if you’re going to put an overtly religious scene in your yard, it means something to you. And it’s really not cool for someone to vandalize it.

Crazy christmas lights

Not our neighbor’s house…but similar

Then again, my guess about the police visit could be totally off-base. Maybe the manger-scene dude called the police about the light show across the street from him, which features so much nutjob ornamentation that the owners must need to rent a storage locker during off-season. A giant Grinch, a family of snowpeople, a hundred candy canes, gingerbread men, all blazing with lights. We can only hope they turn it off before midnight so the neighbors can sleep without having flashbacks of sordid motel overnighters. I could picture a war breaking out between these two neighbors. Maybe Manger Dude asked North-Pole Dude to tone it down a little. Maybe North-Pole Dude ran across the road and put a flashing, sequined baby blanket on the Savior. Who knows? Maybe this has been going on for 20 years. One thing’s for sure—the new LBHQ is situated in interesting territory.

hoparazzi_bottlesScary and I can’t get at our balls right now, so we’re staring out the window psychoanalyzing the neighbors. Between us is a HOPARAZZI lager from Parallel 49, a curious choice on the part of my dad, especially with winter so close. (Scary says winter won’t come, ever.) My dad never buys IPA for its own sake. It might ride along in a sampler pack, but generally he doesn’t like a fierce hop shitkicking, and neither does my mum. Dad makes an exception when the hop factor is nuanced and citrusy, as it is in HOPARAZZI. Pale gold and sparkling with fizz, the Pacific West Coast hops’ berserker potential is mitigated by crystal malt, resulting in a well-behaved almost-IPA with an incredibly full mouthfeel and refreshing summery kick. Weighing in at 6% alcohol and 50 IBU, HOPARAZZI isn’t a misnomer; to enjoy it, you have to like hops, although you might not like all hops brewed by all breweries. HOPARAZZI doesn’t kick your ass with hops—it just taunts you a little. Sort of like hanging out with Scary all day when he’s too hungry to make a hostile move.

He is talking apocalypse, though, and with only 16 days remaining, his current theory is volcanism. Yes, my fellow inebriates, Scary figures we’re overdue for a cataclysmic eruption like the one that happened in India 65 million years ago, busting out a quarter-million cubic miles of lava and wiping us out the way he says it did the dinosaurs. The amount of chlorine-bearing compounds unleashed on the ozone layer will turn our little blue marble into a hothouse. We’ll need refreshments. Better stock up on HOPARAZZI.

What we DIDN’T expect to find in a Halloween treat bag

Three hundred and sixty-four days a year you tell your kids not to approach strangers. You tell them not to take candy from strangers. And then on October 31 you send them out in the dark with a bag to do both.

And sometimes you realize your protective instincts were spot-on. For instance…

  • If your house is as littered with candy wrappers as LBHQ is, you’re in for some late nights and rollercoaster moodswings.
  • If your neighbors were as gung-ho as ours about inspiring terror in their most wee visitors, you’re in for some nightmares—some cold nights on the floor beside the bed of a toddler jabbering about a corpse that sprang out at 2### Woodland Drive.
  • If you have as much trouble resisting Kit Kats and Aeros as my parents, you’ll be doing some extra time on the gym hamster wheel.
  • And, if you live in a Bible Belt similar to ours, you’ll be debriefing with the kids about “treats” like this in their Halloween bags:

“Whoa,” my dad said when he pulled this booklet out of V’s bag. “I thought we just had to worry about razor blades.”

The image does seem a little hard-core for a five-year-old—especially one who hasn’t grown up with the Christian story. If, back in the day, my parents’ neighbors had bestowed such a tract on them instead of a Milky Way bar, they would have been surprised by its not being candy, but not by the imagery; Dad went to a nondenominational church where congregants saw crosses all the time, while Mum went to Catholic mass where she saw not only crosses but the crucified Jesus with clockwork regularity.

Not so the kids at LBHQ. While their exposure to Christian doctrines hasn’t been expressly curtailed, the family nevertheless does not attend church, does not pray, does not say grace, does not promise eternal salvation after death, does not threaten eternal punishment, and does not spookily assert that Granny is watching them from the sky. (They don’t even let me tell them about Fluffy.)

Some highly unChristian treatment from Miss P

What the kids are getting might be called, if you had to label it (and occasionally Mum is asked by a fellow parent to do so) a secular humanist upbringing. The kids are discouraged from pillaging, stealing, killing, torturing, raping, etc., but without any deity commanding it. Meanwhile they’re encouraged to share, to be kind, to have empathy, etc. So far it’s working; there’s no sign of psychopathy or collusion with Satan, although their empathy is limited to fellow humans and Cuddles the cat.

No big deal, we thought. Live and let live. Lots of our neighbors worship, and that’s fine. Fine, also, if we don’t, right?

No way, José. Certain parents won’t do playdates with us. Others will, but they’re uncomfortable having kids at their table who don’t pray before eating their apple slices, so they make a point of educating P and V about Jesus Christ. The parents who trick-or-treated alongside us were upset by a pumpkin with Freddy Kreuger’s face carved into it (“That’s wrong, that’s Satan”). But finding a crucifixion picture in the Halloween candy was a first for us, people.

Even couched in kid-friendly syntax, vicarious redemption is a complicated doctrine. Coming from Christian homes, my parents grew up trying to wrap their heads around it, and finally couldn’t. They will discuss it avidly, and they’ll happily talk about any and all religious teachings with the kids—just as they’ll happily explore history and literature from all cultures. Some things they feel the kids are too young for—“Ulysses,” for example, “Breaking Bad,” David Lynch movies, and the bible. They wouldn’t read Leviticus to the kids any more than they’d take them to see “The Dark Knight Rises.” It’s too scary. There’s too much context. There’s too much to analyze, and at ages 5 and 7, P and V don’t yet have the full toolbox for it. As those cognitive skills come into place, they’ll have their pick of three bibles in the house. If they wish.

Doesn’t it strike you that religion vis-à-vis childraising is…personal? It seemed downright gauche of our neighbor to anonymously slip some propaganda in with the Milk Duds. Maybe just a little over the line…

We receive plenty of tracts from various Christian organizations through our mail slot, and unless they contain graphically violent pictures, they end up splayed openly across the coffee table with the bills and pizza flyers. It’s not that we would have hidden a religious pamphlet from the kids (although we probably wouldn’t show them a picture of a guy nailed to a cross)—it’s just weird that someone felt compelled to place that literature among the kids’ treats, rather than entrust it to the parents or—you’d think—let the parents just do whatever they’re doing, religious or not.

Said my dad not for the first time, This is an odd demographic.

Sure, this is a very religious area. So in a very non-religious area would we expect to find a Planned Parenthood brochure in the treat bag? How about a pamphlet on evolution or stem-cell research or same-sex marriage?

How many of V and P’s classmates’ parents would be outraged to find this in a Halloween bag?

Embarrassingly for Langley, probably plenty.

We were on a roll now, thinking of unsuitable Halloween items. Condoms! Lube! Diet pills! How about (I suggested hopefully) some airline-size alcohol bottles?

Why not? When you start depositing religious propaganda in a child’s Halloween bag, you’re taking a political shot across the bow. You’re making a Trojan horse of an innocent little trick-or-treater for your personal ideology. You’re hijacking something childlike for your own adult agenda. And that is uncool.

Look out, teachers, and drink if you need to

My Fellow Inebriates,

Miss P brought this home from school yesterday.


At least P, aka God of Math, is cooperating at school.

As for Miss V, her kindergarten teacher sent home a note explaining that if V told us she didn’t get any playtime, it was because she had absolutely refused to do her coloring.