He hands me a Mason jar from the freezer containing a clear liquid that appears to have the viscosity of motor oil.
"Here, take a sip of this."
"What the fuck is that?"
"Shine. Hooch. Mash. Comes from Franklin County."
I take a sip. Despite it having the quality of turpentine — a throat-burning, from-the-earth, dirty-Mason-jar quality — I sort of enjoy it. It's also 4 a.m., and I'm hanging out with my bartender buddy and backwoods hillbilly friend Dane Acton. We probably would've chugged cat urine at 4 a.m. if we thought it might prolong our buzz.
The reason I relay this story isn't to make fun of redneck pig fucker Acton, but to draw on my limited experience with Virginia moonshine in the wake of catching the new Prohibition-era, Virginia-bootlegger-against-the-establishment flick "Lawless," which coincidentally takes place in Franklin County.
The film, which was spectacular and testicle-snippingly gory, is based on Matt Bondurant's 2008 novel, "The Wettest County in the World." It's a true tale of Bondurant's boot-legging and seemingly indestructible grandfather and great-uncles.
I won't ruin any plot points for you — except for the testicle-snipping — but the film is dope, even with Shia LaBeouf headlining the poster.
(One notable mention: Guy Pearce plays Charlie Rakes, an effete, unreasonable Chicago special agent who's prone to extreme violence and looking to get a cut of the brother's bootlegging profits. The comparisons one could draw between Rakes and Virginia's present-day Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control are far too easy and fun.)
Moonshining isn't quite as romantic these days, as many states have gotten wise and realized that by legalizing a weakened version of the hooch and giving it an air of legitimacy, they could stop losing so much tax revenue.
Big Brother will never miss a chance to gouge the everyday man's ass.
Also, it should be mentioned that the pretentious cocktail weenies in Manhattan and other pretentious cocktail weenie strongholds have begun jumping on the train, producing artisanal 80-proof moonshine — attempting to pass it off to other rich hipsters as "the new thing."
"Hey, here's a thimbleful of real moonshine from the still we set up in an abandoned factory in Brooklyn. Now give me $19."
As Richmond singer, songwriter and philosopher Meade Skelton — who likens alcohol to the devil — likes to sing, "hipsters ruin everything." But I digress.
The pure stuff — the "lightning" — still is made illegally in many places, including Virginia. I'd give you more information on that, but Dane Acton — who likes to make "them weirdo literate middle-school graduates" like myself "squeal like a pig" — probably would kill me.
Ode to Autumn
"Most of the summer I spent in a stupor, sitting either in my office or in new restaurants, in my apartment watching videotapes or in the back of cabs …" — Bret Easton Ellis, "American Psycho"
The pit-stain-inducing summer of our discontent is almost over, and I couldn't be more relieved. I'm tired of walking around in a perpetual steam room, constantly wiping my brow while barely keeping my bartender's swamp ass in check with liberal doses of Gold Bond.
It isn't for me. This summer was a cigar-chomping robber baron during the Industrial Revolution and I was a dirty-faced, emaciated, gruel-begging child working 18-hour days for a nickel and some bread. Human beings weren't meant to be automatons in sweatshops, waking up every day to the same stifling heat striking you in the face like an errant railroad spike coming down Main Street during a derecho.
I'd sooner live out my days under the ashen clouds of a nuclear winter than ever have to see another July like this past one.
Fuck you, summer. You will not be missed.
"Then summer fades and passes and October comes. We'll smell smoke then, and feel an unexpected sharpness, a thrill of nervousness, swift elation, a sense of sadness and departure." — Thomas Wolfe
Have a question for Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback? Email email@example.com. Lauterback also serves as co-host of 103.7-FM's "River Mornings with Melissa and Jack," weekdays from 6-9 a.m. On Twitter @jackgoesforth.