Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Adult Beverages

One full month has passed since I whiled away a week beneath the clear sunny skies of southern California. Until this trip, I had never been farther west than Granite Falls, Minnesota. You may well imagine that visiting California would allow me to see and experience things that I had never had the pleasure of enjoying before.

And you would be right. Streets lined with palm trees, parking lots with pumping oil rigs, an offshore drilling site disguised as a man-made island -- it was like another world. I enjoyed being there. However -- the most interesting thing that I did on vacation, nay, the most fun that I had that entire week, was something that was at the same time both strange and familiar.

I drank beer.

This is not exactly what one would call a major life change. I drank plenty of beer (and other things) when I was a young man in my early twenties; my friends and I went out for drinks at least once a week after we had attained the legal age for drinking alcohol. We enjoyed going out so much that I never got into the habit of keeping beer or liquor at home. This was a good thing, as it meant that I was in no danger of getting sloshed every night, and possibly every day.

I never went into a bar with the intention of picking up women. Bars were places where I socialized with people I already knew, and that was that. This may well explain how I managed to hook up with a girl who had never touched alcohol in her life. In fact, she still hasn't. She even abstains from the wine while taking communion at church. That has had an impact on me, needless to say.

Like many men before me, when I got married, I basically stopped seeing my friends. Our common bond seemed to be that we really had no life outside of our respective jobs. So we hung around together. And drank. But, by the time we were in our mid-20s, we each began cultivating relationships with women, and drifted apart. Without my drinking buddies, there was little reason for me to drink.

More than ten years of marriage to a teetotaler has cut the frequency of my drinking back from once or twice a week to less than monthly. If I want to go out with one of my friends, I have to make an appointment at least two weeks in advance. (This happens about once every 2-3 years.) If we visit a relative at Christmas or Easter, and there's beer or wine, I will have a drink. If my wife and I have a chance to go out without the kids (VERY rare), I might have a drink. Most of the time, though, my beverage choices are limited to fruit juice, soda pop, and water.

(Milk, by the way, is not a beverage. It is something for cereal to float in, and for cookies to get dunked in. Coffee is bubonic plague in liquid form. Tea and cocoa are okay, but I'm not really into hot beverages.)

In August 2005 I traveled to the great state of Minnesota with the intention of visiting Keegan's Irish Pub on a Thursday night and meeting the nation's greatest bloggers, along with Learned Foot. I also wanted to have my semi-annual taste of alcohol, which I did...but not for the first time that week. Being a cheapskate, I stayed at a cousin's house instead of taking the family to a hotel. It was perfect timing. Cousin was leaving on a vacation of his own our second day there. He told us two things: We could have the house all to ourselves; and we could help ourselves to anything in the refrigerator. All that hippie chow in there didn't interest me, but one thing did: Summit Grand. His offer did not exclude beer, so I was enjoying malt & hops for breakfast. Wonderful! Vacation is the perfect time to indulge. When we went back home, I was alcohol free once more.

This year, in Long Beach, we slept in a guest house on a property that normally houses six people. Three of those people drink beer. There is beer in the guest house all of the time, and hard liquor in the main house. I didn't go for the stronger stuff, but when one of our hosts told me that I could help myself to the beer, I couldn't be stopped. Beer helps you get to sleep. It keeps you from getting bored when you've got nothing else to do late at night. When it's cold, it refreshes like nothing else.

My last day in California, I did a little grocery shopping. The first thing that I saw when I stepped into the supermarket was stacks of cases of beer. It was like an epiphany, something along the lines of: "Pennsylvania sucks! Move somewhere else! You can't get beer in the grocery store back there!" Or maybe it was just: "Dude, you need to get beer at home."

Whatever it was, I complimented a later trip to my local grocery store with a visit to a beer distributor. I'm starting out small by getting Coors Light. It's cheap, and it's not bad as light beers go. It's nice to have at home. Pretty soon, I'm going to advance to some serious beer. Wheat beer. Hefe Weizenbier. And I may swear off beer for good after that.

American beer, anyway.

No comments: