“I’ll Drink to That!” – Meet the Sunset Crew

Maggie Miller: Hi. I’m Maggie Miller.

Mick Miller: And this is Mick Miller.

Maggie: You’re listening to Aldersgate OnAir.

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Mike Peacock: Welcome back, friends, to Aldersgate OnAir. Thanks for joining us again today, as I have something cool and fun to share with you for this awesome episode. Today, OnAir, we’re going to talk to two members of a group that has come to be known, at least informally, as the Sunset Crew, a loosely knit group of Aldersgate resident cocktailers who host informal get-togethers, usually at sunset and usually over, well, cocktails.

It sounds like an absolute blast. I’m actually kind of jealous I’m not there to toss a few back with you, but who knows. Maybe someday we’ll make that happen.

Anyway, according to Wikipedia, the first definition of cocktail known to be an alcoholic beverage appeared on May 13th, 1806, in The Balance and Columbian Repository, which was a newspaper based out of Hudson, New York. In this edition of the paper, editor Harry Croswell answered the question, what is a cocktail? His answer, cocktail is a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters. It is vulgarly called bitter sling and it’s supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion.

Well, I don’t know about you, but that sounds a little on the shady side to me. There are, of course, multiple versions of that story, as well as multiple versions of the origin of the word “cocktail” itself. Now, I’m not going to go down those rabbit holes today, but feel free to do some research on your own and you might just get an awesome laugh out of it. I know I did.

Either way, cocktails have long been a fast way to make new friends and that’s exactly what the Sunset Crew set out to do. You know what? It’s exactly what they continue to do.

Today, we’re going to talk about just one of the ways that people at Aldersgate can make friends, enjoy a delicious beverage or two, and learn what these casual partiers love about their home here at Aldersgate. Kick back, pour yourself a delicious libation, and welcome to Aldersgate OnAir, Mick and Maggie Miller.

Hi, Mick. Hi, Maggie. Welcome to Aldersgate OnAir. Thanks for joining me today.

Mick: Thank you.

Maggie: Thanks for having us.

Mike: Yeah, it’s absolutely a pleasure to have you guys today. I’d like to talk a little bit about you two before we move on to really what the show is about. If you wouldn’t mind, Maggie, why don’t you tell us a little bit about y’all, where you came from, where you were living before you moved to Aldersgate, and what made you make the decision to move to Aldersgate?

Maggie: We actually moved here from Pineville. We downsized about ten years ago because this was our mission to find a place, a retirement community. We did a lot of searching and decided that we wanted to come here because of the new expansion. More people our age would be coming here to live and everything that they offered, along with the healthcare. Healthcare was a big issue.

Mike: In the sense that you have healthcare now that’s better than what you had in the past?

Maggie: Well, I didn’t need any healthcare in the past, but who knows what the future holds for us.

Mike: [Laughter] Yeah, absolutely. Mick, anything you want to add to that?

Mick: Well, originally, we’re from Pennsylvania, so we actually relocated, because of my work, 20-some years ago to the Charlotte area. Pineville is just south of Charlotte, just to orientate people where we’re at.

Mike: Okay. Mick, now that you all are here, how do you like it? What keeps you there? What are your observations about life at Aldersgate?

Mick: Well, I think it sort of falls in exactly what we thought it was going to be like with the new expansion. Their marketing was trying to attract younger seniors, as ourselves, more active, and we’re finding out that it is rather active. We’re trying to promote anything we can for activities.

Mike: Yeah, you had mentioned that you were involved in some cool biking and things like that. What all do you do to stay active?

Mick: Well, one of the drawing features here is that 230 acres that they have, which gives an opportunity to do a lot of walking or doing an activity program or adding sidewalks everywhere for people to walk. We have the advantage that we’ve got some bikes and we just do bike rides around, especially during this area with the COVID. We can’t go off campus that often, so it really helps with the bike riding to have 230 acres to ride around on.

Mike: Yeah.

Mick: It does keep us a little healthier.

Mike: Yeah, absolutely. Maggie, what do you think about that? What are some of the activities that you like to do as well?

Maggie: Well, the exercise classes they offer here are absolutely great. I mean you don’t have to be a young senior. We have older seniors in the class doing what they can do just to stay active.

Mike: Okay. Awesome.

Maggie: Yeah, swimming, we both swim laps.

Mike: You both swim laps?

Maggie: Yes.

Mike: I can’t do that. [Laughter] That’s great. In addition to all of the cool activities, features, and things that Aldersgate kind of provides to you on your own, it has become apparent to me that there are some other cool things that happen that are kind of driven by members of the community directly. I’m specifically referring to what has been referred to as the Sunset Crew, but I am now learning may or may not be accurately named. Let’s talk a little bit about your cocktail hour and then we’ll talk about the origin of the name or the not name, kind of what it’s all about, and how it came to be. Mick, why don’t you give me a little bit of history? How did this cocktail hour come into existence?

Mick: Well, actually, I’ll back up to when they did the expansion and they built the new apartments. They put a nice common area up between the apartments, which has got a rose garden. It’s got several features. It’s got a water feature. It’s got a gas firepit, areas for people to gather, talk to each other, and socialize.

After we moved in, they finally got the firepit working, so we thought that was a good opportunity that we could go down there in the evening hour with the firepit. Light it up. It’s just gas. You just light it, sit around, and wait for people come by and socialize. It’s been going fairly well with it.

They have a fine dining menu one day a week and we normally come back from there, stop, and sit by the fireplace for a half hour or so and talk to other people. It’s a good point for people to come together and just socialize.

Mike: Yeah. How long exactly has that been going for now in its current format?

Mick: I would say since they got it working probably about close to a year now.

Mike: Oh, okay. Awesome.

Mick: Almost a full season or year through with the different seasons. Right now, it’s a little hot for the fireplace to be out there because it’s in the 90s.

Mike: Yeah, 90-degree weather plus humidity plus a firepit equals really freaking hot. [Laughter]

Mick: Right. Now, there’s a group of ladies that come over early, 5 o’clock or so, but they haven’t been coming over because of the hot weather. It’s used different times with different groups of people.

Mike: Okay, so it’s not necessarily just one group of people doing this. It’s kind of a free flow, come when you want. If people see you, then they just kind of join in and hang out?

Mick: Right. We try to stay away from having little cliquey groups. We like to be able to let everybody come that’s welcome.

You talked about cocktail hours. There’s no bar there or anything, so you have to bring a beverage of your choice, so not everybody are drinkers. Some show up with water.

Mike: Yeah.

Mick: It’s a mixed crowd.

Mike: Cool. Yeah, and so it’s only been going on for, you know, a year or so, so it’s relatively new. Maggie, you were kind of bringing up that point that you were surprised that it kind of hadn’t been going on too much before you got involved into doing this. Am I correct?

Maggie: Yes, that’s correct. It was one of the first things we said. This is a great place to sit and, look, oh, the sunset. We could watch the sunset from here. That’s just how it kind of got started that way.

The whole area of the gateway is supposed to be for everyone to use it, not just new people. That’s what we were trying to encourage, the other folks to join in.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah, that’s great. You definitely made it a point to say that this isn’t something that’s a club or there’s a secret society, a contract, a roster, blood oaths, or anything like that. Anybody can kind of come in and come and go as they please without worrying about whether or not they’re a part of a group, a clique, or anything like that.

Maggie: Yes, and sometimes they’ll call, “Is anybody going to the firepit?” Well, I don’t know. It’s hit and miss.

Mike: [Laughter]

Maggie: Show up when you want to.

Mike: How have things changed since COVID? I assume that there are a little bit more restrictions in place. Do you find that it’s altered the number of people going? Can you even go at this point? Have you switched to like a virtual kind of a social hour? How is it working right now?

Maggie: Well, as far as the fire pit, as long as the chairs are six feet apart and only ten people, that’s fine.

Mike: Oh!

Maggie: Other areas are restricted as far as your distance outside, but it’s working.

Mike: Okay. Mick, have you noticed that there’s been any kind of a difference in the crowds or the frequency of people attending?

Mick: Actually, I think it picked up on a daily basis because we were restricted to campus and not allowed to go places, so it was a good opportunity for people to get out of their apartment and socialize a little bit, and a place to do that. It picked up here during the early spring when we were not allowed to go anywhere, and it worked out good for that. It’s a little slow now because it’s so hot.

Mike: [Laughter] Sure. But it’s more or less an everyday thing, right? It’s not like Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

Mick: No.

Mike: It’s just kind of like whenever you want, you see people hanging out there, and they just join you there.

Mick: Yeah, we’ve done it where we just go down, turn the gas on, sit there, and watch the fire. Then somebody comes and sits with us. That’s how it builds up. We don’t really plan it and it’s not always the same. It’s always towards sunset, but it’s not really a given time.

Mike: Sure. I think that that’s probably where the origin of the name came from. [Laughter] As we found out, people didn’t even know that there was a name, but the Sunset Crew does kind of have a cool ring to it, just watching the fire by the sunset and having your drink of choice, whether or not it’s a nice alcoholic libation or a delicious glass of tap water. Whatever your choice is, it just seems like it’s really meant to be focusing on the social aspect of hanging out with cool people.

Mick: Correct.

Mike: Awesome. Well, myself being a chef and a mixologist, I personally am a big fan of a nice cocktail. Mick, what’s on the usual roster? Are there certain drinks that you see people drinking all the time? Do certain people always have the same stuff? How is this working?

Mick: You’re probably right about everybody. They bring their own and you can see that certain people have wine most of the time and some of them will have a beer. There are some that bring martinis, old-fashions, and different types of cocktails that are favored. It’s a mix. It depends on the couple that’s coming, what they’re doing.

Because of the COVID, we haven’t been sharing our bottles of wine. We just bring them down and keep them to ourselves.

Mike: [Laughter]

Mick: It’s a mix, though. Unfortunately, the bar doesn’t serve out there and it’s not open, so if you have to make cocktails, you have to sort of make it yourself and bring it.

Mike: Sure. Maggie, what are some of the drinks that you two like to enjoy out there at the firepit?

Maggie: Well, if I’m not drinking wine, I do like vodka tonics in the summertime.

Mike: Oh!

Maggie: Yeah.

Mike: Nice.

Maggie: Refreshing, yeah.

Mike: Yeah. How about you, Mick? What’s your drink of choice?

Mick: Scotch.

Mike: Oh! I’m a scotch guy. What do you drink?

Mick: My everyday scotch is JMB.

Mike: Okay.

Mick: I’ve gotten to where I like it and that’s my normal every day. There are other ones that I lean towards, but that one is my everyday one. I like Buchanan as one that people don’t really think much of and I drink a lot of that.

Mike: [Laughter] Nice. Yeah, I like a lot of the single malts, but sometimes I like the good blends, especially if I don’t want to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a bottle because that stuff can run up there pretty high these days. That’s for sure.

Have you all ever made yourselves a super crazy drink that you just decided this is just so off the wall? It’s like a bad drink, something didn’t work out well?

Mick: Well, we’ve got a story where we didn’t make it. Our nephew, I guess is what you want to call him. He wanted a Captain Morgan rum and coke.

Mike: Right.

Mick: The bartender made a mistake and gave him rum and root beer.

Mike: [Laughter]

Mick: He said, “It’s good!”

Mike: [Laughter]

Mick: We tried it and it is good, so there’s one that was like a mistake but they drink more rum and root beer than they do rum and coke now.

Mike: Yeah. [Laughter] That’s funny. Sometimes, accidents actually make really good drinks. I was curious if people that were making their cocktails, if you know, whether or not it’s for yourselves or for others, if people are hunting online for drink recipes or is this just something where people are sticking with what they know? Are people experimenting and bringing crazy stuff to the table?

Maggie: I think they’re just sticking to what they like. I don’t think they’re searching for anything online or anything different. They’re really just their favorite drinks.

Mike: Yeah.

Mick: When they go to the bar, they do wander off. We’ve got couples that like to try different martinis and they challenge the bartender about making a good martini.

Mike: [Laughter]

Mick: They do challenge the bartenders with them.

Mike: Yeah. I have been a bartender many times in my life and I can say wholeheartedly that I always enjoy the challenge of people coming up and saying, “Just whip me up something crazy. Just try not to knock me out.” That’s always fun. Sometimes people love them and sometimes people say, “Yeah, I don’t know about that.” But there’s something to be said for just a nice, simple glass of wine or a nice, neat scotch, or maybe a bourbon with an ice cube in it, something like that.

How long are the hangout sessions at the firepit? Is this something that goes on for hours at a time or is it a quick, I’m here for a half an hour and then I bounce?

Mick: I think probably the average is, say, 45 minutes to an hour, but we have been known to be there later, you know, the 10 o’clock wishing hour or whatever. But most of the time they’re about an hour long.

Mike: Oh, okay. Maggie, riddle me this, Batman. I think I’ve heard a rumor. Well, I know it’s not a rumor. I know it’s true. There is a fantastic thing at Aldersgate called Margarita Monday.

Maggie: Yes!

Mike: [Laughter] How does Margarita Monday play into your fantastic group? Is this something you guys take part in? Is this something that’s kind of part of the festivities on a regular basis now?

Maggie: Actually, Margarita Monday is when they come down the hall with little glasses and they pass it out to everybody.

Mike: Right.

Maggie: With that being said, we drink it then because it’s not enough to take it down to the firepit. [Laughter]

Mike: [Laughter] It’s instant gratification is what you’re saying.

Maggie: Yes, exactly. Just trying to keep us happy.

Mike: Yeah. I think it would be cool sometime. Hey, Brooks, if you’re listening, I’m just saying maybe a special delivery down to the firepit sometimes, if that’s a legal thing, it might be kind of cool.

Maggie: That would be.

Mick: If anybody can make it happen, Brooks can make it happen.

Mike: [Laughter] Oh, that’s amazing. Do you all sit around and tell stories or things like that? What do you guys talk about while you’re hanging out?

Maggie: We try to talk about maybe something we did during the day or a funny story. One guy comes and he knows a lot of jokes. He keeps us in stitches. We try to keep it away from complaining about anything. It’s supposed to be a happy social time, so it’s whatever anybody wants to talk about.

Mike: You’re staying away from the deep worldly side of things and trying to keep it light, entertaining, and more of a welcoming atmosphere, for sure.

Maggie: Exactly.

Mike: Yeah. When y’all go out, let’s just say that pre-COVID or even post-COVID, are there other spots in town, in the local areas, that you guys like to go and have drinks or have dinner at? What’s kind of your hotspots in the area?

Maggie: One place is right down the street and that’s Langebaan. Langebaan, it’s called. It’s very popular—

Mick: Asian.

Maggie: –Asian food and we don’t – I don’t know. I don’t have a favorite restaurant, I guess, other than that.

Mike: Yeah, well, you’ve got a pretty awesome facility right where you’re at. These guys put together a pretty epic show for you. How about you, Mick? Do you got other places besides Langevaan you like to go?

Mick: Well, where we used to live over on the southside of town, there were several restaurants that we would go to Trios and a couple of places that were just locally owned type restaurants.

Mike: Yeah.

Mick: They weren’t chains. We like more of the local owner type restaurants.

Mike: Yeah. What is it about those local places you like? Are there certain kinds of food that they have there or certain kinds of drinks they have there? Is it the atmosphere that kind of draws you in?

Mick: I would say the atmosphere and the food is really good. We obviously wouldn’t go there to eat if the food wasn’t good, but the atmosphere. Both of these places we’re talking about has a nice bar, lounge area. They serve great cocktails and they’re known for their nice atmosphere. Everybody enjoys themselves there.

Mike: Okay. Cool. At the end of the day, the cocktail hour is over. The stories are done. Do you look forward to doing this the next day or is it you’re like, “Ah, you know, I kind of want to wait a week or so”? How often are you guys going out there and hanging out at the firepit?

Maggie: I think it depends on the weather. When it’s real hot, like I said, we haven’t been. But, yeah, we look forward to it. We usually walk in the evening, so we come back around there and sit down and just wait and see if anybody shows up.

Mike: Yeah. What would you say to people out there who maybe are wanting to know what you’re all about but are kind of afraid to approach the groups of people? How would you reassure them that it’s cool for anybody to come and hang out?

Mick: Well, we’ve seen people walk by and we just wave them over and say, “Come on and sit down. Talk to us.” You know? Invite them in.

Mike: Yeah.

Mick: That’s the big part of it is just let everybody know it’s not a certain people and we’ve got that. We’ve gotten quite a few people that just come by and, the next thing you know, they’re sitting there for a half-hour and don’t realize it.

Mike: [Laughter]

Mick: Some are walking their dogs and their dogs are sitting there.

Mike: Oh, I love that. Yeah, it’s really cool when people can get rid of their inhibitions and just say, “This is something new. I want to check this out.” What would you say, Maggie?

Maggie: I would say about the same thing Mick did, and we are dog-friendly people, so we love it when they come by and bring their dogs.

Mike: Do you have a stash of dog treats hanging out there somewhere?

Maggie: No, we don’t because you don’t know what the owners want their dogs to have, so we don’t do that.

Mike: Fair enough. Don’t want to spoil somebody else’s dog and give them the wrong stuff, right?

Maggie: Yeah.

Mike: Awesome. Well, this has been absolutely fantastic talking with y’all. I’ve had a blast. I think I’ve learned a lot about what you do and so, to the Aldersgate administration, the crew, and the staff, what would you like to say to them before we let you get back on with your day?

Maggie: I’d like to say thank you for everything that they do for us. Before the COVID-19, during, and now, it’s just amazing. We’re very happy to be here. We feel safe.

Mike: Awesome. Mick, how about you?

Mick: I’d have to mirror what Maggie says. They’re great people. We noticed that when we came here and was looking. Everybody felt very comfortable to talk to. They all had smiles on their faces. As we got to know everybody, we picked the right place. These people are very enjoyable to work around and be around, so we thank them for everything they do every day.

Mike: Oh, that’s amazing. To all the other people out there in Aldersgate land who may or may not be thinking about joining you at the firepit, what do you want to say to them?

Mick: Come on down.

Mike: [Laughter] Come on down. Awesome. Maggie, Mick, thank you so much for joining us today. This has been an absolute blast talking to you. I hope that you get to go out tonight, have a nice cocktail, have a nice dinner, and enjoy some amazing company.

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Mick: All right, Mike. Appreciate it.

Maggie: You’re welcome. Thank you.

Mike: Well, I don’t know about you, but all this talk of cocktails and firepits has got me a little thirsty. I’m thinking I might go with Mick on this one and relax with a nice Hyland single malt. Either that or a delicious old-fashioned with some local rye. Of course, whatever your choice, please drink responsibly and stay safe.

I’d like to thank Maggie and Mick for being guests on the show today and I’d like to thank Brooks for unknowingly being volunteered for extra margarita duty. Sorry about that, Brooks.

I’d of course like to thank all of you out there for listening. It’s truly an honor for me to be able to bring you this show. Don’t forget, please submit your questions, comments, and ideas to [email protected] and we’ll make sure we continue to provide you the best content we possibly can.

If you want more information about the Sunset Crew, make sure to check with Maggie and Mick and you’ll be relaxing by the fire before you know it. Until next time, raise your glass, stay safe, and come see us again at Aldersgate OnAir.

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