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.