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Birds, Key West, Whatnot

The Kings of America Photo Project

There are two ways to approach talk about a photo project: explain it or don't.

This is a circuitous explaination of The Kings of America Photo Project.

Our friends, the Rowans, one of central clans of Key West, have an annual, sprawling Thanksgiving potluck. Forty, fifty, sixty people show up throughout the day.

Usually the weather has just broken for the season and people pull out their autumnal finery. (Long pants! Sweaters!)

A few years back, son Jason Rowan, a man with a professorial knowledge of cocktails, started the tradition of taking over work shed and temporarily converting it into the Cocktail Shed. A series of complicated and subtle concoctions, handcrafted in small batches amongst the hammers and wood clamps, ensued.

The first drink produced was, I believe the Lord Ottenbottom. Prosecco based, with a sugar cube, the recipe can be found here, at Jason's Embury Cocktails blog. (Actually, just ditch whatever you planning to do with the rest of your day and read the entire blog. But only after you finish reading this entry.)

In years when Jason hasn't been here, others, including me, have stepped in to fill the drink-making void, usually directed via text from Jason wherever he is.

But Jason was here this year. Sitting at a bar the other night, he was talking about making Sbagliatos, a drink accidentally derived from the Negroni when a bartender poured Prosecco into a glass instead of gin.

The name "Sbagliato" actually means mistake.

From there we started talking about Elvis Costello's song "Brilliant Mistake" which contains a couplet that has resonated pretty steadily throughout my life: It was a fine idea at the time / Now it's brilliant mistake.

And we started talking about the whole album, King of America, which was a departure for Costello. He'd pretty much had punk tendencies up until then, but Kind of America was this lush, layered, largely acoustic album, full of shifting evocative, narratives, alternating between joy and despair with acres of ambiguity in between.

And it was decided the shed would have a King of America theme for the day. A playlist, an attitude, drinks with thematic names…

So the first drink – Jason's version of the Sbagliato – was called A Fine Idea, or A Fine Idea At The Time, or Brillant Mistake. I'm not sure if we ever settled it. And why limit yourself to one name?

With the Prosecco instead of gin, it was a good, less alcohol-intense drink for a long day of socializing and eating.

Later in the evening he produced something a little stronger with Mezcal and JimBeam and a few other things. I proposed the name The Lonely Hearts Club Clientele Don't Know What To Do With Their Hands, because it's one of my favorite lines from the song "Our Little Angel" on the album. But no one else was buying in on my version of the name. Jason is vacillating between the name "Good Squad" and "This Years Girl", though neither of those songs is on the album.

Anyhow, with the Drink Shed in Jason's hands, I was looking for a small side project. And I always liked the cover of King of America, in which Costello looks both regal and defiant.

So I decided to ask people to pose in a cheap paper crown, alá Costello. And I kind of like the way that everyone brought their own personal interpretations of how to be King of America.

End of explanation. Results below.