Friday, July 31, 2009

No. 57

Beer: Old Speckled Hen
Date: July 31st, 2009

Place: The house, Somerville, MA

The sky has just opened up. Not unlike that day it swallowed my best friend.

The first time I went to Lee's, it was Christmastime. We both had managed dates with seniors in high school, while we were only freshman, but freshmen who'd been to our first rock concert the month prior - it was Primus and we were legends and rode to Nashville and knew that all of lives were going to change, the most obvious change was that we now had license to date seniors and talk about all the shows we'd been to (1) and all that we planned on going to soon (2).

We talked for twenty minutes about it and I was still unable to establish where he lived. Somewhere in Indian Trace on a road down the street from someone with a lot of Christmas lights. Finally, Beverly got on the phone and gave me the street address and we were there within the hour.

An hour later, we realized an important life lesson: one cannot go to an R rated movie with seniors when they themselves are fifteen, no matter how uncool it actually is. So while our dates watched Seven Monkeys we watched Grumpier Old Men, which is what I thought we'd become.

We lived together in Mississippi and in Georgia. I was with him at three in the morning when we found out that Princess Diana died. I've personally taken him to the hospital no fewer than 3 times. I've fought with him and gone on roadtrips to Charleston and to Mentone and to San Francisco and Nashville. I got a tattoo with him. I've watched him blow off tests and seen him with a goatee that looked like he should have been in Pantera. I watched him get grounded. I saw him fall in love a number of times and the last time was it, the time, he committed and was going hard out and it was going to be something.

I can't tell all the stories of Lee and how much I loved him and how I miss him or how I weep, openly, when I stop my life for just a minute and remember that I had a friend, who was closer than anyone I've ever been to, who encouraged me and cheered me on and was there and was there and was there until he just wasn't.

He's never met my wife. That's what really breaks my heart.

The fact that the one person who I am closest to in my life will never know the other person who I was closest to.

I was at her house when I got the call.

They were driving home from his bachelor weekend, a weekend I would have been at had I not just started a job a month before, and the sky opened up. It opened up and Lee was asleep in the back seat and he was dreaming of his wedding and then he was gone.

That was four years ago.

And it is pouring here and I am crying and drinking a beer (an Old Speckled Hen, one of Lee's favorite in the last three months we lived together) and remembering and had I not ever known Lee I would not have gotten the call I feared most and Marianna would not have taken me to the airport to bury my best friend and a bit of me, too, and then I wouldn't have been so alone and she would not have been there for me and then it would all be different.

Lee was my best friend.

And he saw to it that when he left, I'd have another one.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

No. 55 & 56

Beer: No. 55, De Ranke Noir De Dottignies; No. 56, Victory Prima Pilsner
Date: July 22nd, 2009

Place: The Brick Store, Decatur, GA

There was a time where people didn't use the internet.

It wasn't useful. It was there, sure, but there like benches are there along the side of a freeway. It serves a purpose but that purpose isn't fully realized until there is something else there. An ice cream stand, or another person with which to chat.

No children, we didn't use the internet in the year two thousand for much other than stealing intellectual property, searching for unclothed people, email.

If you wanted something, you had to search it out in other ways. Like message boards. The real kind. The kind with felt and thumbtacks and $7 an hour summer job listings and expired happenings that were only partially attended and those who came gave the event mixed reviews, but reviews that you'd have to seek out elsewhere, like at a party, because there wasn't user generated content or consumer reviews based on a five star system, and you'd have to be at that party, in order to have friends, and even more importantly to show you had friends because in the year two thousand there wasn't a Facebook and nobody knew who you knew or how many you knew and they only knew about you if you were there, in person.

There was a time before online identity.

I found an ad for a bicycle, and I drove to Tony's house to see the bicycle, for there was no viewing it online (there was even a time before digital cameras), and I had to actually listen to him give me directions, for Google Maps didn't exist, and then when I saw it and decided I wanted it and I had to give him money, cash, because PayPal wasn't very useful, and we ended up seeing each other around and we became friends (not virtually, but actually) and I don't know why we've kept in such good touch as we have but I guess because we kept in touch when it wasn't so easy and now we have the internet and ways to connect and I see his status daily when he is sitting in traffic and he sees mine when I'm at Fenway and we can be connected all the time and having a beer after four years of not seeing each other isn't quite so strange, anymore.

I had that bike for a couple of years. Once I was ready to move on, I sold it.

Through a paper flyer.

No. 54

Beer: Sweetwater 420
Date: July 21st, 2009

Place: La Fonda, West Midtown, Atlanta, GA

Ben is single-handedly responsible for 456 lost man-hours of productivity over the past four years.

You see, Ben is a man of opinions. Opinions like This album is amazing, you’ve got to hear it or I can’t believe that thing happened in that semipopular sporting event or Your choice for President sucked for multiple reasons, among them (reason a, b, c, etc).

And the thing is, Ben is one of those guys whose opinions you want to hear. Mainly because it’s either right (music, articles, Onion videos), neutral (GT football), or wrong (all politics, climate change policy) – and in the instances of me thinking it’s wrong we get a great argument going (one in which he is well informed and I crash-and-burn on despite reading some article that said something about the subject at hand, yet I can’t pull it to my frontal lobe in time [or ever again in most instances]), when I’m neutral I just ignore his emails/IM and when it’s right we get shared pop culture references to sprinkle into conversations that now happen quite infrequently as I don’t use IM at work, which I think is much akin to the colonists not using horses or growing corn or even coming over from England – which is a lie and a violation of their entire connected & alive being.

The shame is that I didn’t spend much time with him in Atlanta until my last six months or so, and Ben's a quiet guy if he doesn’t know you, so for the year we didn’t know each other that much I thought he was probably going to have me offed by some group of Tech assassins, and then I left, and now we see each other once a year or so, and the emails are less frequent as he’s a dad and got a super great house to take care of and all I want to do is argue with him but mainly I just want to hear his opinion and hear what I need to listen to, see what I need to read, and think about what I need to learn.

Hardly another could sport a red beard, wear a seersucker suit and talk about hip-hop with 100% accuracy and 0% irony.

No. 53

Beer: Sweetwater 420
Date: July 20th, 2009

Place: Fellini's, Atlanta, GA

Both Matt and Andy spent time where I did out in the Sangre de Chritso mountains in Colorado. Matt did the same year as I; Andy, a year before.

Both are UGA fellows. Both now live in Atlanta. Both are avid beer drinkers, college football appreciators, red pant wearers.

Matt and I were counselors one term of camp together. One of our campers said he thought Matt was the same age as his dad are you? to which I couldn't stop laughing, internally, of course, for we were working at a Christian camp and that would have not been nice, to laugh, and I wasn't laughing at the fact that Matt looked as old as this kid's dad, in particular, but in the fact that when I was a kid I thought everyone looked older and I probably had the same threshold for ages that this kid did, and some people really just grow into their look, like Ronald Regan, who looked old until he was, and then looked boyish again.

Matt was my one friend who I knew in Atlanta when I moved there, and we got together frequently for dinners and I think I probably owe him several as he was working and picked up the check more than once.

We don't talk as much as I'd like, and we see each other less frequently than that, but the four years didn't seem that long as we shared a pitcher.

Andy, on the other hand, I talk to all the time. Part of it is the fact that he is my accountant and the other part is that he and I are much alike.

Whereas Matt and I worked together at this camp, Andy was kicked out the year before. Maybe for drinking. Maybe for cussing. Maybe just because he is a thinker and doesn't accept crap and lives the considered Christian life and if there was one guy who won't just sit around and listen to idle theology or hypocrisy or who thinks Jesus is bigger than religion but who also doesn't cram it down anyone's throat, as someone dying of starvation or AIDS (not that Andy comes into contact with those people daily, but you know) doesn't care about Jesus, as much as they care about food or medical attention, and that's what Jesus calls us to anyways, to care for the widow and orphan, the oppressed.

I was told about Andy at camp (You hear about those guys who got kicked out last year?) and met him the next year as he came to Ole Miss to work in campus ministry and he was the voice I needed as a new Christian who was looking to make sense of it all but still had a bad taste from those who I knew where Christian who lived lives that I can't image were too much like Jesus'.

Andy left the ministry-as-a-paycheck and went back into accounting-as-a-paycheck the month after I left Atlanta, and we hadn't spent any time together in four years, either, but since we talk so frequently it didn't seem like it had been long at all, and I was lucky to be able to sleep on his couch in his loft right above a strip club.

No. 52

Beer: Sweetwater 420
Date: July 19th, 2009

Place: La Fonda, Atlanta, GA

“Micah. I was playing golf with your father-in-law. He was really good.”

I met Greg in New Zealand. He was wearing a red Patagonia R2, and I thought if there was ever a lad I should introduce myself to, it should probably be the one who had on the right gear.

Greg was in college at Denison in Ohio, and was abroad with the Butler program. Myself and two other guys were the pariah: Ole Miss had a direct exchange and we didn’t know anyone except ourselves. Butler, on the other hand, had their x hundred students come down a week early and get to know one another. They were a well-oiled machine - connected, complete with shared experiences before the real experience even began.

I don’t know when or how, in particular, but we became fast friends after that introduction in Maori. It might have been in the pub after class. Or at Wiatiata. It was certainly before the epic 2500km two week drive around the south island that got us taken advantage of (Stewart Island), sick (Hamilton), stranded (someplace), soaked (Franz Josef Glacier).

Greg is one of two peers who I really admire above others.

  • Greg had never sailed before he walked onto a pier in NZ and told the crew he was there to help. He won no fewer than half a dozen elite sailing titles and was asked for by name as The American. After one sure race, a rum runner, Greg celebrated the victory drinking too much rum for the trophy, woke up under an interstate overpass, and still managed to meet me to climb at the gym by 10am.
  • Greg was a religion major. Out of the blue, he aces the Series 7, becomes a financial expert, and within two years is a vp of a very important someplace that does something very important with someone’s money. I bet you $5 it’s a non-profit. I’d expect nothing less from him.
  • One morning at 8am I get a call from Greg. He is smitten with a young lady from North Carolina, which drove him to get in his car at 1am with his roommate, Scott and a stranger, Vince (no lie, complete stranger), and drive to her graduation the next morning at Wake Forest. He was looking for someplace to sleep a few hours before he showed up unannounced.
Turns out this young lady is my father-in-law’s best friend’s daughter.

Sometimes, when you've been halfway around the world to realize how big it is, you're also shown how small it is.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Greg and I one day are neighbors in North Carolina. Raising our kids and telling them stories of the days when their dads were young and full of life and taking it by the horns every day and wrestling it to the ground.

No. 51

Beer: Negra Modelo
Date: July 19th, 2009

Place: Uncle Julio's, Atlanta, GA

I've lived with a lot of people.

In no particular (yet particular) order, there is/was Daniel, Taylor, Lee, Kris, Grace, Brandon, Ben, Danny, Jake, Jared, Whit, Matt, Ryan, Mitchell, Marianna.

But none of them have been so connected as Mitchell.


I met Mitchell my sophomore year of college, despite him being a graduate of UGA and living someplace between Atlanta and Wyoming. He, for a brief spell, was seeing one of my bosses at Ole Miss. While that might have only lasted about five or seven minutes, it was four years later that I ran into him while having dinner with a few guys I worked with at Patagonia. He walked in, sat down, let me know that we had met, walked me through the above story, we remet, this time far from him dating my boss, who was married, and had some stick-t0-yer-ribs ribs, and sometime after that we became roommates - he the chillest roommate a guy could ask for, when guy is building miniature models of cities on roommate's table in the kitchen, thereby preventing roommate from eating his egg-in-a-hole, for a school assignment that lasts for 50% of the tenancy of guy and roommate.

For everyone involved, I'm glad he and my boss didn't work out. If they did a) Mitchell and I would not have been roomies b) Mitchell would not be in Atlanta, surprising his girlfriend who became his fiance on Friday night c) lists usually come in at least threes, and I didn't have a good third reason.

Mitchell drove one night from Philadelphia to stay with us. We had a big time.

While I certainly am glad I'm done with roommates, I'm glad that came after I got to live with this guy for nine months.

No. 50

Beer: Miller High Life
Date: July 19th, 2009

Place: The Whitt's, Athens, AL

I could have gone all philosophical with this one but I didn't want to think about my halfway beer.

I just wanted to have one with Daniel and it be like old times which is was since it was 3am, we were looking for anything we could to eat, sitting on the floor in his kitchen just talking a bunch of nonsense about a bunch of nonsense and remembering ten years ago when we'd just moved away for the first time.

I've got almost fifty more to go.

No. 49

Beer: Uncertain. Keg beer of some sort.
Date: July 18th, 2009

Place: Laucourt, East Limestone, AL

I reckon I got out at the right time.

I was class president for three years of high school. The last year, I flipped the script, went for student body president and won it by what I'd like to think what was a landslide but was probably an apathetic let's give it to him, he's prolly gonna win anyways.

You see, all I had to do as student body president was negotiate for us to get an exclusive contract from Coke vs. Pepsi, letting Coke win, and then I got to get a LED billboard that we could broadcast messages on alongside the highway: the temperature is so and so many degrees, dance on Friday, buckle up, woot, honk if you're happy, school's out for summer, who reads these things?, a cynic knows the cost of everything but the value of nothing, etc. etc. etc.

Nobody cared about that. Nobody remembers I was anything and nobody can judge my work. Because I was an eighteen year old who still couldn't buy cigarettes.

But if I were class president, well then, I'd have responsibilty come calling every ten years from now until eternity. And the judgement would be there every step of the way. Not that I was judging. I was quite thankful that I didn't have to do a thing save give someone twenty dollars.

However, if someone were to be judging, here are the facts:

Our reunion was in an Old Church of Christ fellowship hall, five miles from our town, in the county, someplace none of us had ever been, with drop ceilings, a too-loud DJ, a road name that took me a few minutes to place where it was, cheap beer, little wine, little to no ambience - what ambience was there was marked by the Ten Commandments on the wall and a baptism pool behind the too-loud DJ, which was over just as soon as the beer ran out, as ten years later there is still a good bit of anxiety, bitterness, jealousy, accents, judgement and a not good amount of alcohol.

The judgement (not judgement) will undoubtibly flare up again in 2019.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

No. 46 & 47 & 48

Beer: No. 46 & 47, Heineken, No. 48, Miller High Life
Date: July 18th, 2009

Place: Cale and Casey's, Athens, AL

It's always strange to come home and to see that beer is sold.

The law changed while I was at college.

Limestone county was dry and had been for thousands of years, or maybe just since Prohibition, which was no doubt the brainchild of some knitting circle of Southern Baptist ladies (no offense to Southern Baptists, plenty of offense to knitting club founding members), and from growing up I remember when mom would make a beer run she would have to drive 8 miles to the next county over and bring back her brew.

Not that I was really concerned with it. I didn't drink until I'd gone away to college - which doesn't make me a saint but just makes me three years less a delinquent.

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to grow up in a place where there are bars, and people stay out past 9pm, and if your parents are missing well, maybe go check the pub.

I don't know if it would have changed much of anything, really. I think I'd still be trying to both run from and embrace my birthplace and having the option of mulling it over a pint matters to me now, wouldn't have then. And would have gotten Johnny Barowner in the slammer.

I was having it on the porch of Cale and Casey's townhouse. One of exactly sixteen such towhnhouses in Athens. In Athens, you are either wealthy enough to afford a house or poor enough to live in an apartment and the middle ground is composed of those being foreclosed upon (mom's house ten years ago) and those owning townhouses (all sixteen couples).

Daniel and Jennifer were there. Daniel is my best friend. He was my best man. If not for Daniel, I think I would not ever had seen a CD player, would never have been to Nashville, would never have moved away. I'm inspired by him and he's the only person that I don't think has just thrown in the towel who lives in Athens. He and Jennifer had done their three year stint in NYC and had a kid and needed something, somewhere, that could afford them a quality upbringing for Stella.

Matt and Ashley were too, and are in the transition of moving from Memphis to Atlanta. Matt is the only guy who I know who never studied, but did well enough of the time to impress the teachers and pass the tests - never in the middle of the class, never quite at the top. He's got his MBA and Law degree and I think is driven appear successful as much as I am. He puts on airs at times, but that swagger has served him well. I wasn't very close to him as we were in school, but as the years have moved on in age and we've gained weight and lost weight (and by weight I could also mean: hair, mortgages, friends) I begun to really appreciate who he is and the wife he chose for himself.

Cole. We were fast friends and were inseparable in middle school. We dressed alike, both tried to rebel by wearing shirts of rock bands (Green Day, Pearl Jam), dated girls who were best friends so we could always be together. I always loved going to his house and his house had Tommy Hilfiger accessories and bowls of potpourri and was three stories and was equally a place we praised and cursed, we got in trouble (pot, beer), we grew. Then one day we just stopped. I don't really know why or how. Someplace around 9th grade the whole deal changed. At this point we see each other once a year or once every eighteen months. I still feel like he's a stranger - albeit one who looks familiar, but whom I can't place in the present. I miss him often.

There was a smattering of others around; Cale and his girlfriend, Britt and his wife, Casey asleep getting ready for a 6am clock in at the factory (bank).

Admittedly I'm totally critical of those who stay here or who move back because I simply have no idea of what family ties are, can't imagine never leaving, don't want to raise a family here. What success I've had in life I don't I attribute to Athens except in a very perverse way: by growing in me such a strong desire to leave that I've made what I have of myself.

But each time, as I dissolve into the cotton fields and we all accept our roles and the same inside jokes from fifteen years ago play out in real time and in the past I think that I can't escape this, this that I am, and for two or three days I accept that.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

No. 45

Beer: Berkshires Brewing Company Hefeweizen
Date: July 11th, 2009

Place: Mohawk Trail State Park,
Charlemont, MA

Some things you can’t plan for.

You can’t plan for the rain if the weatherman told you not to worry about it and then you find yourself in a deluge with no rain gear AT ALL in jeans barely having had the time to put the rain fly on the tent and laughing to yourself as you are standing under an umbrella trying in vain to keep the campfire going under an umbrella thinking of the time you were a guide in college and you totally would have been prepared but for this trip you just brought suede shoes. And jeans. And beer.

You make the most of your situation. You take one of the tents that collapsed because the heavens opened and poured out the goods, and you toss it over the popped gate of a 97 Ford Explorer. You crack open a cold one that you happened to get in town before the dry wasn’t. You notice the overtones of bananas. The undertones of beer.

You talk with friends who are about to leave town.

Friends of a friend who you sent a Facebook message to, not expecting much, meeting them one morning for a brunch. One of those weird “We’re meeting a friend of a friend and the most we can talk about is that friend who you all realize that you didn’t know for too long” brunches. Where you try to not let the silence sit along too long, or it gets stale, and the brunch is over and you don’t argue over the check –split it right down the middle, thanks – and you leave and you decide whether you liked those people and if you’d ever hang out again.

You do. And you find yourself seeing them at church, and you go skiing with them, and you invite them over for pizza or Christmas, and before long two years have passed and they’ve got their masters from MIT and they’re moving on and you are happy for them and a little sad for yourself, that your friends are moving, but you are thankful for the times that you spent together and you are suddenly glad that you have been forced to sit in twenty eight square feet that smells like campfire, rain, banana beer.

And you wait for a break in the storm. Planning your dash to the tents.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

No. 44

Beer: 21st Amendment IPA
Date: July 10th, 2009

Place: Bukowski's, Somerville, MA

After a June in which we received more rain than clouds, more clouds than sun, more sun than nothing.

A June in which I understood that seasonal depression was a thing (or at least could be a thing, a very real kind of thing) - when summer lasts at best three full months and one had just slipped away, grey, under the watch of a calendar that might as well have been eleven months (which would have thrown off the Aztecs) a somber mood overtakes the Commonwealth and the businesses are less than busy and the first snowfall is getting closer by the day.

After that - Friday was sunny. Friday was warm. Friday was summer.

I was able to share it with a few guys who’d just moved in from New York City and my wife. Who were all equally as willing to shed the grey for July.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

No. 43

Beer: Geary's London Porter

Date: July 4th, 2009

Place: The backyard, Somerville, MA

I was embracing the thought of my country and living in the land of the free and thinking about how we, WE, are the ones who built this country (I really mean them, THEM, those Massachusettians, those Puritans, those ruffians), and it was sunny for the first time in a month.

Coincidentally, it was also the first beer I've had in over three weeks. Which might lead one to believe that I'm only in the business of consuming beers when the weather is favorable. Correction, fine sir. If that were the case, with our bitterly cold winter and plentiful rained late spring, then I'd have only had about five or so beers.

I wanted to stick it to the Brits and the rain by sitting in the yard and drinking a London porter from an American brewer - it was like an American revolution, 233 years after the fact, three miles from the heart of the discontent.