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.