“No News” exhumed…
Classic Manhattan cocktail recipe below, after “No News.”
We have vaudeville star Nat M. Wills (1873-1917) to thank for the original “No News” story, one of my favorite tall tales that has since migrated to Downeast Maine as a popular “Bert and I” sketch. Wills wrote it in 1908, recorded it for Victor, and performed it widely on stage for several years. Marshall Dodge and Bob Bryan picked it up more than 50 years later and added a few touches of their own on “Bert and I Stem Inflation.”
If you know the story, stop here or scroll down to the Manhattan. Otherwise, here’s a slightly expanded version:
While I was away for two weeks visiting my sister’s family in Ohio, I had my hired hand Morton Tweed look after the farm and the animals and generally keep an eye on things. Mort was a fine worker, and generally responsible. He was also a fella of few words, which suited me fine.
As prearranged, he met me at the train station, right there on the platform to help with my luggage.
“Tell me, Mort. While I’ve been gone, is there any news?”
“No, Vernon. There’s no news.”
“Well, it’s been two weeks, there must be some news. No matter how trivial.”
Well, Mort rubbed his chin as if to think, then said, “Well, not much to speak of, but I had to replace your lawn mower blade.”
“Well, that’s no matter. What happened to it?”
“Broke when I hit a stone, out behind the old privy.”
“Well, those things do happen.”
“Took a bit of doing, fixing that blade. But it’s good as new.”
“I’m glad, Mort. Thank you.”
“Well, I shoulda known better, since I just put that stone there just a week ago.”
“Why would you put a stone out there?”
“Well, it only seemed right to have a headstone for your dog. Once I buried him, I –“
“Mort, you’re telling me my dog died?!”
“Yes he did. Darn shame.”
“How on earth did he die? He was fine when I left!”
“They tell me he gorged himself on the burnt horse flesh.”
“Burnt horseflesh?! How’d my dog eat burnt horse flesh?”
“He got into the barn after it burned down, found the burnt horses –“
“You’re telling me there’s no news and now my barn burned down and killed my horses and my dog too?”
“I s’pose that is news, after all.”
“Tell me: how did the barn burn down?”
“Firemen figured it was bits of flaming curtain blowing from the house. Awful windy, that day.”
“My house? That burned down, too?!”
“Yes it did. They say the curtains caught fire from the candles.”
“Candles?! You know we don’t allow candles in our house!”
“Well, folks figured it’s not a proper to have a coffin in the house without candles.”
“Coffin?!! Mort, what happened? Who died?”
“Well, it was your mother-in-law. Very sad.”
“My mother-in-law, that’s terrible!! How on earth did that happen?”
“They think it was from shock. Hard to say.”
“Shock?! From what?“
“Well, Vernon, they say when she learned your wife up and ran off with the preacher the shock was too much to bear and she just keeled over and died, but other than that, as I said before, there’s no news.”
The Bert and I Company of Camden is sponsoring a storytelling fest/competition at the Lobster Festival next week, Friday, Aug. 1, starting at about 1:30 in the North Entertainment Tent. Several of Maine’s best storytellers and humorists will be there, vying for some fabulous prize that’s yet to be determined. Definitely worth a visit.
I’ll take Manhattan…
Like the photo, timing for a Manhattan is everything. A cool autumn evening. A chilly, fog-drenched harborside restaurant for lunch (if you’re inclined). Being patient with the bartender. Lingering with the cocktail to appreciate it in layers. Savoring either silence or a peaceful conversation as much as the flavors in the glass.
Enough rhapsodizing. It’s summer and more like Dark and Stormy weather, but some take Manhattans when it’s too darn hot, so here it is:
- 2 oz. blended or rye whiskey*
- 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
- dash Angostura bitters
- cherry garnish
(*The whiskey part is up to you – some like a robust bourbon like Maker’s Mark, but this drink was invented to use a whiskey with a bit of roughness to it. I like Canadian Club for this.)
Pour the liquids into a cocktail shaker with ice, shake for a few seconds, then pour neat into a cocktail glass, and add cherry garnish. Note that, if you want to fill the glass close to the brim, use 3 oz. whiskey and 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth, then take your time enjoying it!
There you have it.