Thursday, December 31, 2009

No. 99

Beer: Bad Penny Brown Ale
Date: December 30th, 2009
Place: Applebees, Durham, NC

This blog couldn't finish. Not without Todd.

His swine flu subsided ha! and he made the drive down and in the last forty-five minutes of our Christmas vacation Todd saved it. Me. The blog. The year. This whole damn project.

I met Todd several years back in church. He was sitting by himself. I was sitting by myself. It sounds like, the way I'm writing this, as if we were about to date. But no. He was alone because his fiance was up in Michigan getting ready to be wed. And Todd was on his way up a couple of weeks later.

He was wearing some shoes I also owned. So I thought he seemed like he could be an okay guy.

I invited Todd out for a beer. Which I probably do too often. Asking guys out for beer.

Nine times out of ten, the beers I've had with complete strangers have leveled the field and opened up the conversation have led to something bigger. Beer does that. Vikings knew it. Drunks know it. I do.

From that beer came several more. Over the next year that I was still in Durham, we spent a lot of time with Todd and his wife, Rebecca. Each time there were beers. Every time there were.

Not too many. Not too few.

We went camping once and I think there were just Margaritas. There should have been ale.

I miss Todd. His wife. The times they and Marianna and I spent together.

But those days are over. Like this year. This project.

I can look back and see the good times. I will forget the bad. Time does that. Selective blogging does that. Remembers the good. Blocks out the bad.

There wasn't much of anything to block out with Todd. He's a great guy. Now he's a dad. Loves it. He wouldn't go back and trade this new life, this new responsibility and parenting, for those olden days, where we'd grab some nachos and beers and kill hours. And I don't blame him.

Anyone who would trade life and all it means for a pint of beer is an idiot.

No. 98

Beer: Fat Tire Amber Ale
Date: December 28th, 2009
Place: Shiki Sushi, Durham, NC

Swine flue evidently doesn't care about my plans.

Me, being a planner, had it all set up. I'd have beer number 98 with Todd who was going to drive down from Cincinnati and we were going to drink a beer and then go to the UNC basketball game and then I was going to have number 99 as a reflectional.

Dude, I'm not going to be able to make it. I think I have H1N1. Yeah, um, okay. So... I'll see you at like 7:30? No, for real. I left Cincy an hour ago, and got all the shakes and thought This ain't going to happen. So I came back. I'm sorry dude.

Don't you die on me.

Etc. Click.

I wasn't going to let swine flu have the last word. Just like the CDC didn't let it have a pandemic, and farmers didn't let it kill their harvest but burned the pigs alive gross.

I flipped the script. Ordered a beer with dinner.

The alcohol should kill off the virus.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

No. 97

Beer: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Date: December 27th, 2009
Place: The Stuarts, Raleigh, NC

Holidays that begin with C.

Christmas morning. 10:03am. I open a package from my older brother. He's mailed me a gift basket from Florida to North Carolina, but the company that packed it is from New Hampshire and it might've made sense for me to just drive up to the White Mountains and picked it up.

Contents: Three beers (Sierra Nevada, Leinenkugel, Samuel Adams), a bag a pistachios, a bag of trail mix, a bag of nuts, packing paper, a note (Congrats on only drinking 100 beers this year! Have a few on me!!! -Breshen) all contained within a bucket; the bucket could have easily held four more beers had they put less confetti inside.

The beers are somewhat cold due to the package being left out in the garage. I could open one up right here. Right on the floor in front of the fireplace and beside my stocking. Or drink all three. But I can't drink all three. I don't have three left in me for the year.

I have to be diplomatic about the situation. I've not planned any beers with the family. Or, any more. And I haven't planned any with Ann and John. Which is shallow. Weak. Poor planning. Lack of leadership.

Sticky things that begin with T.

But I can't not have one. I can't just a) leave them or b) ship them in my luggage back up to the commonwealth. Some terrorist foiled my plot to take the beers back. He ruined it for us all. And the beer lobby hasn't been strong enough to overturn the 3oz. limit. Or, in the past three years, perhaps, they've lost vision.

So I put my other plans on hold. Planned beers exit. Unplanned enter. This is Christmas and Christmas is about family and my family sent me beers and my family is playing Scattergories Bodies of water that begin with R, J, E and I'm going to drink a beer and answer questions and figure out later what to do with the two that are left in the refrigerator.

Thanks for the beer, Breshen. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

No. 96

Beer: Budweiser
Date: December 25th, 2009
Place: The Griffins, Fayetteville, NC

I've been meaning to have a beer with Dan for a couple of years now.

Dan is family. Or, in the typical convoluted family connection description paradigm, he is my wife's aunt's husband, or my father-in-law's brother-in-law, or my wife's cousin's dad. Or, in the proper business sense, Dan is our financial planner.

After the Madoff debacle, the family member as money shepherd is somewhat of a creepy thing. You ship crates of money their way, trust they put it where it would benefit you most. Talk to them monthly and view statements and ask advice and hope that the whole of it isn't built of cards but of more - as if our monetary system is backed by something real and something other than simple trust.

As well as our money going through that man's hands, he seems like a good guy.

At every holiday we are in Raleigh, I can't help but feel like he's gotten the short end of the stick. He's accepted a heck of a lot of responsibility for the family and has taken it with no bitterness. He drives his inlaws and wife and kids up to Raleigh, two and a half hours round trip, for all the holidays and all the Sunday afternoon meals and whatever else transpires between family, between houses. And as it's the case, it's never been a good time to sit and have a beer. Dan is a man on a schedule and a mission and an interstate.

But I've been promising that I owe him a beer for months now. So as we pulled into their house, I unloaded a sixer of Budweiser, straightened my tie, and celebrated the holiday.

After the dinner was eaten and the presents were opened and before the dessert sweetened the deal, I was able to crack open a brew with Dan. And we were able to chat for a few minutes about nothing in particular.

And about as quickly as it had started, it was over. Because for a man on a mission and a man on a schedule and a man like Dan, who saddles up responsibility of families and monies, there isn't much time to slow down and have a beer.

For there are still desserts to be out out and dishes to be cleaned and families to be hugged and weekends to be squeezed before enduring another week of an economy that had soured years ago.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

No. 95

Beer: Harpoon Winter Warmer
Date: December 20th, 2009
Place: The House, Somerville, MA

In a number of ways, my life is like a movie. Except for the paycheck. Or the notoriety. Or the stalkers in the bushes.

Apart from those three things, and maybe a couple hundred more, my life and that of the top names in Hollywood are virtually indistinguishable. Oh, and maybe the square footage of my apartment.

But this weekend, when Christmas travelers were snowed in, airports turned into waitports, roads out of the Midwest and New England clogged up and snarled, and the holidays were starting to become less bright for some souls, the scenario I've only watched on the big screen made a debut in my neighborhood.

One of those souls was down the street. Trying to make it home to Maryland out of Boston but the snow was bad in Boston and far worse eight hours down the seaboard. Bryan was stuck and burning vacation days and family days and holy days and there wasn't anything I could do to get him to DC any sooner.

So we rented Christmas Vacation. Had Bryan over. And Pete down. And made dinner. And had seasonal beers. And got into the spirit of the Christmas season while we were all at least 500 miles from where we hoped to end up in the next few days.

The snow didn't melt much over the next few days.

But the warmth of friends and family sure made it seem like it did.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

No. 94

Beer: Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout
Date: December 12th, 2009
Place: The White Horse Tavern, Newport, RI

One beer.

On December 12.

In the oldest tavern in America.

Built in 1673.

Monday, December 14, 2009

No. 93

Beer: Newcastle
Date: December 11th, 2009
Place: The Thirtsy Scholar, Cambridge, MA

I'm not good at waiting.

Unless I don't know that I'm waiting.

I was able to wait for my wife. Because I didn't know she was coming along. I can wait for Christmas. I can wait for thirty.

But when I'm sitting, waiting on someone to show up, that's when I fidget. When I pull out my phone and pretend that I've gotten an important message. When I shallowly yawn. When I keep looking at a door to see who is there. And then look away when the person there makes eye contact to see if I'm their blind date or business meeting or the like.

So we are waiting, Marianna and I, on a bitterly cold Friday night, in a neighborhood pub, trying to decide whether or not to go ahead and order a beer, trying to buy a few minutes from the waitress who wants to get drinks on our table and amounts on her tab that we might add 20% at the night's end.

And we are meeting neighbors. Neighbors who I don't know (50%) or have met twice (the remaining 50%). The remaining 50% I met in Mississippi. Jacob. The older brother of Lee, who I spent a lot of time with in years past, and a little time with within the last month. I knew Lee's brother was at Harvard, after getting his masters at Yale, after getting his something at Ole Miss.

I'd say he's on the up.

And now I've got my beer. A hearty Newcastle. And a Marianna, sitting right across. And we've got a couple of hovering SoCo reps who are trying to get us to take shots. (Spoiler alert: I do.)

The last time I saw Jacob, he was about a buck twenty five despite clocking in at over 6'2". I think he had a scarf over a t shirt. I can't quite remember. Just that he looked like the kind of guy who should be tucked away in a library in New Haven or Cambridge, with a pipe, thicker scarf and a thesis.

Now, years later, as Jacob and his wife come into the pub, I finally see the 50% who I've not met yet, but emailed frequently to set up our evening, and Jacob, who's now built more like a linebacker, but who could still pull off a professor.

It's a quick pint. Jacob is on a schedule; three papers that must all be longer than books I read, due within the next forty eight hours. Katherine is on his schedule too. We only have a pint, but I find we've got four years before he finishes up. Four more years of pints and professions - twelve hundred miles and nine years removed from where we first met.

I patiently wait for the next pint.

At that point, I suspect it won't be numbered.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

No. 92

Beer: Ruination IPA
Date: December 5th, 2009
Place: Craft Piano Gild, Boston, MA

It started out as a gross rain, but as the SEC championship game progressed, the rain made up its mind to become something better, something bigger, something that would make kids jump up and down and make adults act like kids and cars slide in a good way, not in a rain way, and that would allow the plows to start singing their scraping songs and the salt move from piles into lanes, and would make Christmas seem closer (and more real) and make lights, even the dimmest lights, feel warmer and cheerier, make the rabbit lined hats move from irony into utility, make sherling lined boots move from basements onto feet, make carols move from our bellies onto the tips of our tongues, no two alike, swirling, enveloping us in four months of bitter cold while none of us are bitter yet, but holly, jolly, red cheeked and chattering teeth welcoming the white.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

No. 91

Beer: BBC Steel Rail Pale Ale
Date: November 29th, 2009
Place: 21st Amendment, Boston, MA

I remember the day Michael moved to Athens.

Possibly not the day, but the occasion. I was in elementary school, and we got a couple of new kids in school. Ben and his brother Michael. Michael was (still is) older and Ben was my grade and they had moved from Nashville and were quite tan (mother is Ecuadorian) and Ben wore nothing except Nike apparel and for whatever reason I can remember that Ben had some really neat soft foam pencil grips on every one of his NFL branded pencils.

The only thing I really knew about Michael is that he had a Digable Planets cassette tap that had scantily clad ladies on the cover and to a young boy that made Michael a bit intimidating and a lot grown up. I'd seen it at his house once when I was visiting Ben and trying to convince him to give me one of his soft foam pencil grips. Which he did.

It's funny to think of growing up. And how there are age strata that one dare not cross. A few were able to pull it off. And those individuals mainly had questionable character. As such, I never really had many interactions with Michael.

A year or so ago, I realized that Michael was a damn fine photographer now living out in Seattle. I sent him an email. Hooked him up with a friend of mine who moved to Seattle. Read his blog. Looked at his work. Became awed.

Michael was in Boston for sixteen hours last week for an editorial photo shoot. Which is how we came to be sitting in a bar, next to the State House, drinking a pint and talking not about our shared past but what our present and futures look like.

Mike escaped from our small town and is doing quite big things. His future looks, to me, to be about as well lit as his work that he is becoming so well-known for.

Monday, November 30, 2009

No. 90

Beer: Dos XX
Date: November 25th, 2009
Place: Mom's House, Huntsville, AL

This year I had to do it and to be intentional about spending time with family.

Now that I live a couple thousand miles away, and only make it south once a year, if that, and I’m getting on up there, as is my family, I realized that it was due time, past time, to give to the family and to show that they are important and to act like someone who loves his family and gives time to them and makes it a point, a point, a point, to be there.

This choice, I reckon, was prompted by scares. My grandfather was a few centimeters from death months ago. I needed to see him. My brother was struggling with some issues and was in the hospital. I needed to see him. My sister is making what I believe are some poor choices. I needed to see her (even if she didn’t care to see me, or the rest of us, and didn’t show up). My brother has been on special ops (perhaps) but even if not gets shipped all over the planet on no minutes notice and then has to cancel plans and gets shot at and is in danger all the time and is around at times and not around at times and he happened to be home. And my mom, my dad, aren’t getting any younger. As I spent my high school and middle school and possibly even my elementary school years running I haven’t given them the time that I should. They won’t be around forever.

Maybe these choices was also prompted by guilt. For lost time that I won’t make up. Don’t have time to make up. Don’t have location to make up. Don’t know if I have the self-control and selflessness to make up.

But small steps are victories.

And this trip South was spent avoiding friends and sitting idly in my mother’s house, with no television or internet, and my dad’s farmhouse, with no heat (nor plumbing, nor television, nor internet), and grandparent’s houses, with no distractions, burning time, breaking down walls.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

No. 88 & 89

Beer: No. 88, Sam Adams Boston Lager, No. 89, Sam Adams Boston Lager
Date: November 22nd, 2009
Place: The Whitts, Athens, AL

My family no longer lives in the town I was raised.

But, as bad as I feel, my hometown was never about family to me.

It was about friends. To whom’s houses I’d escape to not feel poor. Or ill kempt. Or irrelevant.

I feel like I was raised more by my friends and their parents; which to a large part I was, as I was always with them if I was not at work. I think my family would have liked to’ve spent more time together, but I was running.

When I get to Athens, I call friends. Find a house and some beer. Burn hours with the guys who are now bigger, now with less hair, now with more tax credits, now with less time to spend together, and now, just as then, still responsible for my upbringing.

No. 87

Beer: Rogue Dead Guy Ale
Date: November 21st, 2009
Place: Two Stick, Oxford, MS

Forward, Rebels, march to fame,
Hit that line and win this game
We know that you'll fight it through,
For your colors red and blue.
Rah, rah, rah!
Rebels you are the Southland's pride,
Take that ball and hit your stride,
Don't stop till the victory's won
for your Ole Miss.
Fight, fight for your Ole Miss!

Louisiana State University - 23
The University of Mississippi - 25

No. 86

Beer: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Date: November 20th, 2009
Place: The Morrison's, Oxford, MS

It took me eighty-seven beers, but finally a few were drained in the capital letter ‘S’ South.

Jim and I watched the Ole Miss/Kansas State basketball game at his house on the north side of town. Jim isn’t just a huge Ole Miss fan, but was senior class president at Ole Miss, the most recognized name on campus (Jim Morrison), the youngest and biggest gun working in the Lyceum in a senior role, an Ivy League grad school guy. Probably will run the University one day. Next year, he’s in charge of all game day operations. That’s like saying you are the mayor and police chief and head surgeon of Mississippi’s second largest city 8 times a year.

I remember meeting Jim. We were in a business class and he was sitting in the back and had a cast on his arm. He might have gotten it from when he walked on the track team. Or when he walked on the basketball team. But I thought he looked like he needed friends. I think it’s like when you see a puppy with a cast on. You realize that the puppy needs no attention from you, cause the dog is awesome and everyone already knows who he is. And what he’s about. So I ask Jim what happened, and he told me, and now I forget, but it was enough to get the conversation started, and I think Jim probably actually felt sorry for me, a junior in college who had only recently figured out who he was, and had no friends, and was just looking for a way to find people to connect with.

We would go ride mountain bikes on the hills near campus a few times a week. And through that we became friends.

Jim graduated the next year; moved to NYC to get a degree at Columbia. Got married and then he and his wife moved to Chicago for a few years. Then Ole Miss came calling and he and Mitzi packed it up and built a house and have a child and another on the way.

Jim was on the committee to get the Presidential Debate to come to Oxford. And he succeeded. Much like everything else he tries.

I look up to Jim and watch how he lives his life and how he gives time to everyone and how even when he’s partially broken he’s helping others heal.

And if I ever lack motivation or drive or inspiration, I just look South, and he’s nearby.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

No. 84 (cont'd) & No. 85

Beer: No. 84, Krusovice Imperial Lager, No. 85, Rebel
Date: November 17th, 2009
Place: Gulu Gulu, Salem, MA

I find myself on the train, in a knee length black wool coat. In this way, I'm not much different from the other men on the 6:45 train to Newburyport.

The man beside me could have been me fifteen years before. Or sixty pounds earlier. Or less bald. He in his floor length black wool coat You like it? Thanks. No, mine's actually cotton. and wedding band and house in the suburbs with a wife and a dog and a commuter rail schedule committed to memory.

But this man isn't like me. He doesn't have a score to settle. Or he might. There might be a bookie waiting for him at the Monserrat stop. Smoking a cigarette. Waiting to give this man two options: a) pay up b) the dog gets it. The bookie would have started out well intentioned and he'd, too, wonder how he got into this situation when he'd studied business for two years but then life caught up and he had to make a living somehow and now the train is at the station and the me man gets up, queues in the aisle, disappears down the stairs.

I don't meet a bookie at the Salem stop. I descend from the train, tail between my wool No, they are really cotton lapels, and look for Glenn who is there to pick me up and collect on the wager I confidently made and soundly lost.

Clearing my debt, salvaging my name before my debtor, warms the cool air of the Czech beer bar, as we catch up on days past and talk of times ahead and even though I lost the bet, spending an evening with new friends over brews in Salem Town makes me realize how I really am the victor.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

No. 84

Beer: TBD
Date: TBD
Place: TBD

The wheels have already been set in motion for 84.

Hopefully, it isn't motion before the snap - dead ball foul - five yards, replay first down.

I'm playing Glenn in Fantasy Football this weekend. He is projected to win by a fair margin. I'm second in the standings and Glenn is in 3rd.

The loser must drive to the winner's town (Glenn lives up the shore in Salem) on Tuesday night and buy the winner a beer.

Simple as.

I'm pulling for the Massacres.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

No. 83

Beer: Squall IPA
Date: November 10th, 2009
Place: Our kitchen, Somerville, MA

My life, this day, by the numbers, on the last birthday of my twenties.

29. Years, to the date, I've been alive.
28. Best year of my life. (Each one keeps getting better.)
27. Age when I was wed.
26. Age I finally made it above the Mason Dixon line.
25. Oz. of Squall IPA.
24. When I lost my best friend.
23. Age I moved to Atlanta.
22. Number of roommates I've had in my adult life.
21. Amendment that allows this blog to flourish.
20. When I finally understood God. Or at least realized I wasn't him.
19. Toughest / loneliest year of my life.
18. Age I had my first beer.
17. Age when I shook the President's hand, in the Oval Office.
16. Brews I need to finish within a month and a half.
15. Number of years I've got until I hit my midlife crisis. If, indeed, I hit one.
14. When I got my first job.
13. Years driving without a speeding ticket. (Just jinxed myself.)
12. Number of places I've paid rent.
11. Years I've been living on my own.
10. Age when my parents divorced.
9. Phish concerts I've seen.
8. Countries I've visited. (Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, Ireland, England, Italy, St. Lucia, New Zealand)
7. Games I've won so far in Fantasy Football in 09.
6. Pack. Which I've not bought in at least 314 days.
5. States in which I've held a drivers license. (Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Massachusetts)
4. Siblings.
3. Of us, at the house, having a birthday dinner.
2. Years I've been in Boston. +.5 margin of error.
1. Times I'm going to attempt sticking to 99 beers.

No. 81 & 82

Beer: No. 81, Heavy Seas Big DIPA, No. 82, Natty Boh
Date: November 7th, 2009
Place: The Baltimore Taphouse, Baltimore, MD

Ten years ago, I met two different people.

One I remember meeting reletively well. The other I'm not completely sure of. I introduced myself to one; the other my roommate introduced me to. Neither of the two knew each other, then, a decade ago. Now, they are married. Living in Baltimore. Sharing beers with old friends.

Lee and I met on a Tuesday night the first week of college. We both made it into the Chancellor's leadership Class - an exclusive enclave of incoming freshmen who showed an aptitude for leadership. Or just showed they were able to write an essay well. In hind site, I realize (in both mine and Lee's case) a leader is one who takes out a lot of loans for school, works more than plays, and moves on up the East Coast.

I recognized him again in the hall of our dorm. Or at least that's what my memory tells me. We might not have even lived in the same building. Ten years will cloud a lot of specific memories. At any rate, I somehow learned that he and his roommate played spades. My roommate and I played spades. For some time, Daniel and I went to their dorm, holed up, and prayed for the ace or the two of clubs.

I knew within a week that Lee was going to go places. After Ole Miss he went to Tulane for med school, and is now a resident at Johns Hopkins. Full discloser: one day, when Lee is quoted in every major medical journal and revered more than the rest of his peers, I'm going to name drop.

My memory of meeting Mary Chaney is a little less clear. I know that she and Daniel met someplace - maybe a sorority house, maybe the student union - maybe through mutual friends, maybe by happenstance. But she came into our dorm room, and thus into my life.

I never fully understood her and Daniel's relationship, as to whether is was romantic or friendly, casual or formal, but she is, to this day, my favorite person who he spent lots of time with and never married. She has a huge heart and a cuter than a cute giggle. I miss hearing it multiple times a week.

I don't know when she and Lee met. I just remember one day they were a couple and after a brief courtship, they were married.

In the four years since, we've seen them in New Orleans and visited them in Baltimore. I think they, like us, will move a few more times and then settle someplace.

I consider it my privilege to know friends like these who will take time away from their upward and onward trajectory to have a brew or two with an old friend, in a new town, far away from Dixie.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

No. 80

Beer: Asahi
Date: November 6th, 2009
Place: Chiu's Sushi, Baltimore, MD

Things in life I inherited, but don't remember when:

The Whitson nose.

A thick Southern accent, which has since been kept at bay - until whiskey is introduced.

Things in life I inherited, and do remember when:

1,200 dollars when my great grandmother passed away.

A desk that my grandfather allegedly pulled from an old flaming barn. Later I find out it wasn't a barn, wasn't flaming, and might not have been my grandfather who saved it not from the flames not of the barn.

A stepmother.

Things in life I inherited, due to marriage:

Two new sets of grandparents, two new parents, two new step parents, a sister, brother, small dog.

A pillow top mattress.

Social graces.

Marianna's friends.

Concerning the last item of the list, we spent the weekend in Baltimore with one of Marianna's longest friends, from Raleigh, and her husband, a pilot, whom I'd just met, soaking up the Indian summer still in the 70s having inexpensive relative to Boston meals in a blue-collar town who'd've known? where there are happy hour deals unknown to us in the Commonwealth thanks Puritans! and watching the hometown football team, who Kerry and Jason had inherited with their most recent move and taming of a row house, crumble into a mess of mediocrity.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

No. 79

Beer: Sam's Light
Date: October 30th, 2009
Place: Johnnie's on the Side, Boston, MA

Open Scene: Halloween Party.

Enters Max from Where the Wild Things Are.

Dancing commences.

Monday, November 2, 2009

No. 78

Beer: I'm going to have to get back to you on this one
Date: October 29th, 2009
Place: The Thirsty Scholar, Somerville, MA

Number 78 is either the heaviest or lightest beer I've had all year.

I met with a new acquaintance, Regina, and we had a pint and talked about Christianity. Regina is an atheist, or on further discussion, a motivated agnostic. But beyond that, she's a neighbor – a wonderfully pleasant Somervillian who had shown up to our community group (essentially a Bible study) because she's a person searching; looking for answers and looking to escape loneliness and searching for what this is all about. As we all are.

And after coming a week or two, she sent an email. Said she felt like maybe it wasn't the right place for her to find answers. That the stories she hears and the stories that she has are different, that maybe to learn more about Jesus it would be better to look elsewhere. I wanted to sit with her, talk with her, learn her story and tell her mine, get past the surface and get into the parts of our struggles that are real and that are scary and that are messy and that can use hope.

Because in the end, the Bible, the redeeming of man, is just a story. A story of a loving God who gave man a choice, because he is a gracious God, a loving God, a merciful God. But also a wrathful God. One whose heart broke when man turned his back. A God who wipes out those who oppose him. Like any great story there's that tension, that give and take, push and pull, those parts that we can figure out and those parts that give us no clarity (How could a good God let there be suffering?), the great To Be Continued: at the end.

And the part of the story that lives in the world. The story of Christians who bring heaven to earth by serving their fellow man and those who use the name of Christ to justify horrible acts in the name of God. It's real and it's messy and it's scary and it's big and huge and I can't understand it but I believe it.

The only complete grasp I have is mine – and a very slight understanding of God's – so I told my story. My choice. My decision to believe it. To buy into Jesus. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I got duped. And I don't want anyone to think Well, he lived a decent moral life if when it all ends I find out that Jesus was just merely a story, an allegory. I want them to pity me and I want to feel like I was an idiot. Because I really believed it, because I went hard out and I tried to live it. It's heavy.

Yet in the story of Jesus I feel complete and I feel whole and the loneliness has been lifted and it's my faith that sustains me and I sleep at night with no worries and with total clarity and purpose and meaning. It's light.

Thursday was just my story coming into contact with Regina's. Both ours will continue, whether they walk the same theological lines or not. Maybe we'll just be neighbors who agree to disagree on the purposes of our lives and the reason God created man and why He allows things to happen and why He doesn't give us what we always want, or even more frightening, when God gives us precisely what we have been asking for.

Or maybe one day we might be sharing other stories in heaven.

Which I hope for with all my heart.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

No. 77

Beer: Three Philosophers
Date: October 25th, 2009
Place: The shores of Wangunbaug Lake, Coventry, CT

We have six months of cold in New England and six months of less cold and as we head towards either end of that spectrum there are two other seasons that makes themselves known and both expose explosions of color – reds and whites in the spring, oranges and yellows in autumn – that show we are not yet where we are going but that’s exactly where we’re headed, and we’re all going that way together and it’s going to be.

So we embraced that truth, or half-truth, loaded up the wagon and drove to Connecticut to see John and Stephanie and their newest addition, Arabelle, who came much as the seasons – to fanfare, anxiety, and the promise that tomorrow is better than today even if today was perfect. We wanted to make the trip before the oranges were brown, the ground was white. And as New England is compact, we were in the countryside of central CT in an hour and a half.

We toasted the seasons, life, as the sun dropped behind us and the trees were ablaze on the opposing shore.