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On Books and Beer

I was sitting there having a beer, doing what I do. I had a book. Actually, I had three books. The only problem is that none of them were the book I was actually supposed to be reading.

Weeks earlier, I had bought six books in preparation for a trip to Arizona for Spring Training. Since then I worked my way through five books — all of which were interesting, compelling, and worth the read. Then I got to the sixth book.

We were in Santa Cruz for a few days of ocean, sunsets, and relaxation. The Queen Midget and I. I had that sixth book and I was gonna get it done.  Imagine Me Gone.  I was trying, but I was struggling. Then on Friday, we did the thing. The one she likes to do. We walked through downtown Santa Cruz, where there are lots of shops. Antiques and clothing stores.  And shoe stores.  Oh my!

We walked through one and afterwards my wife asked me about something she saw in the store. I mentioned that it may look like I’m looking at things in those stores, but, no, I’m actually not. It’s pretty much close to torture for me, this thing.

But at one point we walked by a book store. “You wanna go in?” she asked.  “Sure,” I replied. I knew what would happen. 20 minutes later, I walked out with three books, after finding about 8,763 books I would have liked to buy. When I was ready to check out and found my wife, I showed her books.  “I see,” she said.  “What? You know what happens if I’m gonna go in a book store,” I replied.

Even though I had bought Imagine Me Gone with us on this little side trip to downtown Santa Cruz, I left it in the car because I decided to try to do the walking/shopping thing with her instead of what I normally do. Which is this. “Oh look, a bar. I’ll go have a beer while you walk around.” She’s patient with me and says “okay.”

I had my three books, but we had plenty more walking to do. I went with her. I avoided the bars and restaurants and walked the streets and went into the stores. Until I could no more.

“I’m gonna go over to 99 Bottles now and have a beer.” We were going to meet my nephew there for dinner in a little bit. I thought I could have a beer and then hold a table in case the place got crowded. “Okay,” she replied.

I settled in at the bar. 99 Bottles pretty much describes the place’s approach to beer. It has at least 99 different options in the carbonated alcoholic beverage category.  Probably about 20-30 on tap and the rest in bottles. I ordered something and looked at my bag of three books. I pulled one out and started reading. The Revenant, which Leonardo DiCaprio recently starred in a movie adaptation of.

I read the first chapter. It’s short. And then set the book to the side. I talked a little bit with a guy sitting to my left. And then another guy pulled out the stool to my right. He pulled out a tattered piece of paper with all sorts of numbers and many of them checked off. “Let’s see,” he said to the bartender, “I think I’ll start with 47.”

The paper represented 99 Bottles ultimate challenge — to drink every one of the beers they have to offer. Check the number off each time and achieve fame on the walls of the bar. There are some people who have completed that little challenge more than 50 times. One or two have done it 70 or 80 times. Think about that. Do the math.

Judging from his paper, the guy to my right was about two thirds of the way through it.

We’re sitting there. Me, with The Revenant in front of me. Guy to my left who talked about history and how much he loved it and said something I thought meant he was a history teacher, prompting me to think that I should talk to my un-motivated older son who likes history to see if maybe he had thought about being a history teacher.  But later guy on the left revealed that it was his dad who was a history teacher. Guy on the left was, in fact, a long distance truck driver.

And guy to my right, with his beer-drinking challenge, who suddenly asked me, “How’s the book?”

To which I replied with a chuckle, “I don’t know yet, I just started it. Only finished the first chapter, but I’ll let you know once I read more.” Wink, wink. I then told him what the book was about — a true story about a man in the early 1800s who was attacked by a bear and left for dead by the trappers he had been with and who then crawled out of the wilderness to revenge their treachery. And as I finished this summary, I said, “And the first chapter ends with him beginning to crawl.”

I knew what I had to do when we got back to our room after dinner with the nephew. Go back to Imagine Me Gone. I was committed to the book, having got about halfway through. I read a bit more that night, but it was hopeless.

This is all a long way to explain why I never got to the 6th book in my Spring Training series. The next day, I moved on to The Revenant, because it seemed to promise something far more interesting and compelling. That promise was fulfilled. It’s a stunning story of survival and revenge. I highly recommend it. I won’t say more about it. Just go read the book.

Now, I have to decide whether to go back to Imagine Me Gone.

Truth is, I read another book in the in between. Differently Normal by Tammy Robinson. It’s a short, quick, easy read. She’s a self-published author I discovered through the WordPress blogosphere and my own self-publishing efforts. I love her stories and Differently Normal is no exception. She writes modern day fairy tales of two people finding companionship and love when they weren’t looking for it and weren’t expecting it. And frequently, rather than living happily ever after, Tammy is willing to give the reader an unhappy, bitterly sad ending and I give her great credit for that.

But now … it’s time to decide whether to go back to that other book. Or give up.

I’ll let you know what I decide.

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I’ve Been Snookered

I’ve written before about how much I love my beer.  It’s been years, however, since I’ve willingly drunk from the mass-producers.  With all of the craft brewing and microbreweries around, there’s no reason to drink the swill from Budweiser, Coors, et al.

Sadly, some of the craft brewers have been bought by the big guys over the years.  That’s not to say the craft brewers work will suffer, but, you know, you’ve got to wonder.  Unfortunately, even if Budweiser or Coors owns a craft brewer, it’s not easy to find that out from the label.  They hide their involvement, which increases the concern, you know what I mean.

So, I’m in the grocery store a few hours ago.  I see a six-pack of something new that I’ve never seen before.  It’s a lager from Resignation Brewery.  On the label, they have a rebellious slogan — Resign from the Routine.  I looked around on the label some more to make sure I wasn’t buying a beer marketed as a craft beer but manufactured by one of the mass producers.  I didn’t see anything.  But still I wondered.  Other than the rebellious slogan, the packaging screamed Budweiser or Coors.  There’s something about craft brewers and their label and packaging design that can jump out at a person.  Their designs are trendy, snarky, artistic.  The mass producers?  Eh, not so much.

So, I bought a six pack of the aforementioned Gold Lager.  Took it home.  Fridged it for a couple of hours.  I just opened one and poured it into my frosted glass.  And looked a closer look at the label.  It’s brewed by Red Hook Brewery — which was one of the original craft brewers to make it big.  And which was bought by Anheuser-Busch a number of years ago.  The Anheuser-Busch that makes Budweiser and all its progeny.  Sigh.

The beer tastes like a slightly better version of Budweiser.  Craft beer it aint.  Sigh.

In other news, I wrote this post while taking a break from writing.  Working on Northville Five and Dime, Part Two.  Wish me luck.

Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Headed

Yeah, it’s that time.  To walk along a well-traveled path.  Or, at least, one I’ve written about before.  It’s time to open it up a bit and tell you about where I’ve been, what’s going on now, and where I hope to be in the future.

I’m pretty certain that I’ve spent the last couple of years wallowing further and further into a pool of mud.  Or maybe quicksand.  There are a lot of causes for the wallowing and the muck, but there is one cause I’m going to cover here because it’s a shame something I enjoy so much has led me to where I am now.

I love beer and beer has become my enemy.

For years I had a two beer a night habit.  Yes, occasionally on weekends, I imbibed a little bit more, but for the most part.  Two beers.  A night.  Even when I spent five years brewing my own beer and always had dozens of bottles of beer in the cabinet.  Two beers.  A night.  Even then, I had a craving for the amber liquid.  I can remember twenty years ago, driving home from work and eagerly waiting the feel and taste of a cold beer sliding down my throat.  It has been my constant companion for almost thirty year.

Somewhere along the way, a few years ago, that two beer a night habit started to grow.  It began first on weekends when I cooked.  Drinking beer became a part of cooking and since I typically make things that take several hours to prepare, well, it’s pretty hard to stretch two beers out over several hours of cooking and then eating the meal.  So, on weekends, two beers a night turned into four or five, six or seven.  Typically on both Saturday and Sunday.  And when I started doing that, even during the week, sometimes two beers a night became three or four.

Why?  Well, besides the fact that I love beer, in truth, it became a crutch.  It became a salve for the wounds that came my way — whether it was stress from work, unhappiness at home, anger at the difficulties of parenting, dissatisfaction with this, annoyance at that — beer became the thing that allowed me to put up a wall when I got home.  I drank, never to the point of incapacitation — although I’m sure you might wonder about those weekends when I was cooking.

And, here’s the key thing.  For years, I never felt the impact the next day.  And I never drove drunk.  I never drank during the day — it was entirely an evening habit.  And, so, there was no reason to stop.  It was all good.  I was running and healthy and it was under control.  It wasn’t affecting me at work.  Wasn’t affecting me at home.  It was all good.

Until it wasn’t.  In the last year or two I’ve lost the ability to metabolize alcohol the way I did for decades.  I could no longer claim that I didn’t feel it the next day.  I really, really started to feel it.  I know that there are other causes of this, but for far too long I have woke up in the morning feeling absolutely horrible and I have spent a lot of days listless, un-motivated, wanting nothing more than the comfort of a nap or two.

For the last few months, I’ve tried to kick the habit this way.  By Sunday night I’m disgusted with myself and say I’m done drinking beer.  I then get it done for the next two or three evenings with no beer.  But I start to feel better, and right around Wednesday or Thursday I can’t resist the craving and I have a beer or two and by the weekend, I’m back to four or five and on Sunday I’m disgusted with myself.

Last weekend, my youngest son was at the county fair with his steer.

bullseye

His name is Bullseye.  The steer.  Not my son.  (By the way, along with some neighbors, we bought Bullseye — in a couple of weeks, about 100 lbs. of meat will be stocked in our freezer.)

Anyway, because my son was at the fair, the rest of the family was there for most of the weekend.  I just wasn’t interested in going.  I had better things to do.  Like the two naps I took on Saturday and the three I took on Sunday.  Yes, are you beginning to see the problem?  I spent the weekend wallowing.  Again, it’s not just the beer.  There are other things at play.  But, I do know this.  I had to do something about two things.

Last Saturday was the last day I had a beer.  The last day I had a Pepsi.  For seven days now, I’ve been caffeine and soft drink free.  More importantly, it’s seven days without a beer.  I’ve passed a few tests during the week.  The cravings late in the afternoon as the end of the work day approaches and I imagine that cold beer sliding down my throat.  That there are three beers in the fridge right next to the bottles of lemonade I am drinking now.  That I almost stopped and got a pizza to take home for dinner on Thursday — what usually means having a couple of beers while waiting for the pizza.

Tonight will be a huge test.  We’re going out with friends to celebrate the Queen Midget’s birthday.  There will be beer and wine there, consumed by our friends.  We’re having pizza and they have Peroni on tap.  And I will not have any.  I cannot.

I know there are a lot of people who would say that I just need to take it day by day.  To wake up each morning and commit to this for that day.  I cannot do that.  Instead, I have to make the commitment that this is permanent.  Day by day means that there is nothing wrong with having a beer today, because it is only one day and I can always get back on the right side tomorrow.  Problem is that once I have one, it is hard to stop.  And the reality is that it now only takes one or two beers for me to feel like crap the next day.  So, I can’t imagine this as a day to day struggle.  Instead, it is that I have chosen a completely different path for the rest of my life.  One without beer.  One without alcohol.  One in which …

I feel better and will accomplish more.  And that’s why I’m writing this.

I have felt better the last weekend than I have in a long time.  Months and years have gone by since I have felt as good as I have over the past week.  More energy.  More motivation.  More desire to do things and get things done.

A couple of weeks ago, a fellow blogger and writer suggested we co-write something.  He sent me his contribution a couple of weeks ago.  I worked on it over the last week including last night and early this morning — two times of the day when I have been completely incapable of writing for far too long.  And I wanted to.  I was eager to put the words together and finish the thing to see how it would all end up.  I got a few small tasks done around the house today as well — things that have needed to be done for so long and I just look at them and say “nah. not interested.”  I’m newly motivated to get back to Northville Five & Dime — to conduct one big, final edit of the thing and then seriously consider whether there are two more novellas for the characters.  The writing door has opened a crack and I don’t want to slam it shut again because of what’s at the bottom of a bottle of beer.

This week has been a change for me.  I have turned a page and started a new chapter.  Things are definitely not perfect.  There are still those other components to my life that will continue to cause me to ride the roller coaster of life.  But, I’m pretty sure I’ve solved one of the problems.  Now, I just need to pass the test tonight and look forward to what I can get done tomorrow.

Thanks for reading and thanks to those friends and acquaintances who have conquered addiction and shown by their quiet example that it can be done.

Beer, War, Politics and Andrew Sullivan

I have no doubt that the best way to do this is separate blog posts on each, but I don’t go that way.  This is about Andrew Sullivan and why his blog is simply the best thing out there.

I wonder if I should start with lighthearted first or end with it.  And as I ponder that question, I viewed the video embedded in one of the links I’m going to share and can only lead with this.  Watch the video, read the text, picture that this is a former Republican Secretary of the Navy, who served in Vietnam and whose son served in Iraq.  I believe it is one of the most powerful refutations to Romney’s characterization of the 47% there is.

And, then there’s the second link, which also has a video.  Before you get to it, however, I need to say something.  I believe one of the biggest reasons for the massive divide in our country is that we have gone several generations without a shared sacrifice.  There has been no Great Depression, no Great War, no coming together for the common good.  9/11 and the subsequent wars provided an opportunity, but what we got instead were tax cuts, debt that pushed the can down the road, and wars fought behind the scenes.  The Great Recession provided another opportunity, but instead what we got was a massive divide brought about by well, I’ll leave that alone for the moment.

Let me go back to the idea of sacrifice.  The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been fought without sacrifice except by those who have served and their families.  I cannot even begin to imagine the fright, the loss, and the difficulty these individuals face.  A former co-worker has a brother who is serving in Afghanistan.  Even though I’ve never met him, every time I read a story about something happening in Afghanistan, I worried that it was my co-worker’s brother.

Most of us have avoided that fear and these wars have been fought without our sacrifice.  I believe that is a mistake.

For a brief few moments, watch this video and see the impact it can have.  Heartwarming and, to me at least, gut-wrenching at the same time.

So, that leaves us with lighthearted, doesn’t it.  And this is why I love Andrew Sullivan’s blog.  On the same day that I can find a post that rips Romney to shreds without even saying his name, and watch a video that brings tears to my eye, I also get this chart, which provides me with comfort that I live in the right place.  I am damn happy to live in the country where it takes the least amount of labor to buy a beer!

 

 

 

It’s time for a story!!!

Once upon a time in a land far, far away from here (Trust me, kiddies, it was far away and it has absolutely no basis in reality.  This is what we call a fairy tale.), there was a man who liked beer.  Well, to be honest, he didn’t just like beer, he loved beer in all of its many forms.  Pilsners.  Lagers.  Ales.  Stouts.

Well, that would be a lie.  He didn’t like wheat beers and he didn’t like Belgian style beers.  The latter reminding him of his own beer that had turned bad.  Yes, you see, he loved beer soooo much that he made his own for a few years.  That Belgian stuff — yuck.  It’s an off-taste.  Who knew that when his beer went bad, it was actually something people wanted to taste?

But, we digress from the story.  You see, one day this man who loved beer visited Capitol Garage to meet a friend for an after-work beer.  They had Trumer Pils on draft.  Being a fan of the Pilsner, he ordered one and received it in a tall, skinny glass.  In other words, a pilsner glass.  Pilsner in a pilsner!!  Perfection!

This man who loved beer returned to Capitol Garage a few times and always ordered Trumer Pils, hoping for the same experience.  Sadly (yes, kiddies, here’s where you weep) the pilsner glass never made a reappearance.  Instead, his beer was served in a boring, pedestrian pint glass.

He lamented and swore, but drank his beer nonetheless.  For it was good.

Months later, while journeying across the land with his family in tow, he stopped at Saul’s Deli in Berkeley.  Now, children, understand something.  Berkeley is a particularly scary place.  If you don’t believe in diversity.  Or, in other words, you’re a Republican.  Berkeley is not a land for the white, rich and close-minded.  It is, instead, a place where the Halal restaurant is next to a Jewish deli, which is next to a taqueria, which is next to vegan restaurant, which is next to McDonald’s.

Saul’s had Trumer Pils on tap.  Not only that, but the man who loved beer learned that Trumer Pils is brewed in Berkeley.  Who woulda thought?

More importantly, Saul’s not only had Trumer Pils on tap … but they served it in … a pilsner glass!!!  Pilsner in a pilsner! Perfection.

The man who loved beer ordered two.  The server who brought the second did not remove the first glass.  They sat there.  Twins.  Tall, skinny glasses.  Perfect for the holding of beer.  Some would say that beer is the nectar of the gods.  The man who loved beer doesn’t go quite that far.  But, hell, it’s cold, it’s carbonated.  It’s … well, he loved beer.

Dinner wound to a close.  Those two glasses sat on his table.  The man who loved beer turned to his wife.  “I want one of those.”

“Take one,” she said.

“I just can’t do that,” he replied.  For, you see, the man who loved beer, also tried to live his life according to the rules of society.  You just don’t get to take a glass from a restaurant because you like it.

The next time the waitress passed by, the man who loved beer told her, “I want one of these.”

“I won’t look,” she said.  “The woman over there, in white, she’s the boss.”  Suggesting that the man who loved beer should keep his eye on her as he absconded with a glass.

Ay the man thought.  What to do?  Live honestly?  Or not?

A few moments later, “the boss” walked by.

“Excuse me,” the man who loved beer said to her.  “I’d like one of these.”

“Well,” she hesitated.

“I’ll give you $5 for it.”

“Deal.”

The problem is … there were two pilsner glasses on the table.  Only one?  Didn’t the man who loved beer need a pair?

He sat and stewed.  Did he live honestly?  Or not?  The family went to the counter to order pastries.  The waitress wondered by.

“I spoke with the boss, she agreed I could have one for $5.  Here’s $5.  I’m taking both.”

“Gotcha.”

The man who loved beer hoped the waitress kept the $5.

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