The Black Leather Jacket

brucewildturkey
brucewildturkey

It was a chilly night, March of 2001, New York City, corner of 1st Ave and 1st Street, across the street from the downtown F train, where I was headed after a terrible night out. Back then, the East Village still had some residual rock and roll grit before the final polish of gentrification, and there wasn’t another soul for blocks. Except a cold, hungry tabby cat. I greeted him, and he immediately trotted over, rubbing his face into my shins, then walking away a few steps, then back again, in little figure eights. He settled, purring on one of my feet, and let me rub him behind his ears.

A woman approached and asked me if I intended to rescue this cat. She lived around the corner and could lend a carrier for the night.

My life in Brooklyn was about to get complicated. I wasn’t even sure if I was staying there much longer. What was I supposed to do with a cat? I wasn’t even sure I liked cats that much.

“Yeah. I’ll take him,” I replied.

wine photo bomb
wine photo bomb

He was soon named Bruce Lee because of his general badassedness and predilection for pouncing out of nowhere, tapping ankles, then bounding back from whence he came. We soon moved to the country in New England, where he spent his days terrorizing woodland creatures and “editing” the decor. The house we lived in had textured wallpaper he liked to sink his claws into, climbing all the way to the high ceiling and hanging there before scrambling down. It was not uncommon to hear loud geschreis from upstairs after a surprise dismount.

After a couple of years, we returned to Brooklyn, where he adjusted to apartment living rather well. Bruce literally grew into his surroundings, gaining several pounds, but also generally expanding from head to tail in a sudden growth spurt. Brooklyn seemed to bring out his inner Garfield. He was a wonderful, affectionate, if not willful companion with a huge appetite for anything that wasn’t cat food, and liked to be the center of attention, especially if photographing a bottle of booze. Working from home, his little interruptions and intrusions were a huge part of my day.

bruce valinch
bruce valinch

Sadly, Bruce went to the Great Beyond a little over a week ago. That night I had to be anywhere else but in the home we shared together and all the reminders therein. So with some supportive friends, I went to my local bar, the JakeWalk.

Bartender Bryan Teoh is a talented musician and drink maker, who enjoys the challenge of spontaneously creating cocktails based on musical references. After medicating myself with some bourbon, I decided to request a cocktail in honor of Bruce, and I explained the East Village backstory.

His solution was something strong, handsome, overproof, edgy, eclectic, slightly badass, but also comforting. No drink could possibly personify that kitty and the scene of that cold, March night any better.

black leather jacket
black leather jacket

The Black Leather Jacket

Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass with cracked ice until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish.

Cheers to you, Bruce. I hope you get to shred as much rice paper, chase chipmunks and eat as much turkey, wild or otherwise, as your huge heart desires, wherever you are.