Monday, July 4, 2011

The Horse Represents Strength Maybe, But The...? I Don't Know....

Happy 4th of July everyone. Hopefully you have the fridge stocked with cold beer and the rest of the house filled with semi-dangerous explosives. What a great holiday. It is one of the great beer drinking days of the year. Plus, think of all of the potential excitement (translation: Danger) you have right at your fingertips. First of all, you have your family around. Many of whom you don't like. So that's a reason to have a few beers. Then there is the heat. Better have a couple more beers to help out with that. Don't forget about the grill. Gotta have a spatula in one hand a beer in the other, right? Hey, it's 3:00 in the afternoon, and you've already had eight beers! No big deal. About six more hours until dark, and then it's time to start blowing stuff up. Better have a few more beers before that, just to keep things interesting. So what you have here is an amazing array of opportunities to accomplish a few things, like:
  1. Telling family members what you really think of them
  2. Burning yourself on a open flame
  3. Listening to your family members' opinions of you and your drinking (you're gonna need couple of beers for that one, because trust me, you are not going to like it...)
  4. Blowing up a part of your hand or house, and possibly needing a fire truck or ambulance to come over
All of this, and you have to go back to work tomorrow. It's pretty stressful, so you better open up another beer....

This all reminds me of a very memorable July 4th cook-out from when I was probably 13 or 14 years old. My aunt is married to a very intelligent and cultured guy, my uncle Dave. Well Dave has a brother who had always been "odd". I don't know what you would call your uncle by marriage's brother, but his name is Bill. My cousins called him Uncle Bill, since he was their dad's bother, but I just called him Bill. Plus I was older than my cousins, and I thought I was pretty down with the adults by that time. I didn't need all of the familial title bull crap. I was on a first name basis with these people.

So Bill was also very artistic. Literally, that is what he did, art. He worked in certain trades for money--wood working, painting, etc.--but was primarily an artist. And, as I would learn from conversations I was probably not supposed to hear, a raging alcoholic. However, this particular time of year he happened to have been sober for a while, and the 4th of July cook-out was at his house. Everyone was happy for Bill and his new-found sobriety, so this was a show of love and support for him. We had never previously held any kind of family function at his house. He had a cool little place on a lake with a big yard that went right down to the water. There were the usual picnic tables and grills and all of that. I would estimate, from very vivid memories, that there were about 30 people there. I have a big family, and at that time, everyone was pretty much living within 100 miles of each other.

Everything was going pretty normal. There was potato salad and hot dogs and cookies and flags and all of that stuff. Good old family fun. Kids running around with squirt guns. An idyllic summertime afternoon next to a glistening lake on a perfectly sunny Michigan day. That is, until Bill decided that he had something to say...to everyone...and he meant it. The peaceful afternoon was suddenly interrupted by a commotion amongst the adults near the house. Imperative words were being half-whispered. Confusion. Anger. Indignation. That's all I could figure out. Something was happening over there, and nobody was happy about it. Sure, most folks were still sitting around the picnic tables talking and having pie, but over by the house, trouble was brewing. Kids stopped playing. Pies stopped getting eaten. Everything got quiet once Bill emerged from the huddle of adults near the house. He had crazy eyes. He wobbled across the yard towards everyone, and it was obvious that he was piss drunk. Who knows what, but something caused him to choose today to fall off the wagon hard. Probably the pressure of having his whole family around, sensing their uneasiness about him, his sobriety teetering on the brink the whole time, their judgemental, sideways glances eroding his self-confidence. Just a hunch. Whatever it was, he came unglued in the biggest way.

What he had on his mind, however, still makes me stop and think from time to time. What was trying to say? What did ne want everyone to understand that was so inmportant, it just could nowait? He said just two words, but he said them over and over, to everyone, until he felt, I guess, that he got his point across. At the top of his lungs, to a small crowd of disappointed and bewildered family, he said, "Horse C~~k!". That's right, "horse", then the word archaically used to refer to a male chicken. He turned around so that everyone could hear him repeat it five or six times, "Horse C~~k! Horse C~~k! Horse C~~k!". He took time to slow it down and say it right into one old lady's face, "Hooorrrssse C~~~~k," which caused him to laugh hysterically. That, in turn, caused me and the rest of the youngsters to start laughing. But he wasn't done. Oh no. As the families started to gather up their people and belongings, Bill go up on the picnic table, despite the admonitions of his closest family members, who had gone from horror to damage control at this point. That's when he started the rapid fire from on top of the picnic table, "Horse c~~k, horse c~~k, horse c~~k", followed by a final, punctuational "HORSE C~~K!". There, he was through. As the yard thinned out and only a few disappointed aunts and uncles hung and shook their heads, he apparently had gotten his point across. To this day I am not sure what that point was, but whatever it was, he got it all out on that sunny 4th of July so many years ago.

I hope you enjoyed that special holiday reminiscence. It is a true story. I don't really know what Bill is doing now. He didn't come around much after that incident. I don't see my uncle, his brother, more than once a year either. When I ask, I always here the same thing, "He's doing really good." Nice to know.

Now that is officially July, I want to remind you about a few special event this month:
  1. The educational whiskey school at Deckard's is July 16th. The cost is $25.00 and you can sign up by clicking here. The event runs from 3:00 to 5:00, and you will get to taste 5 whiskies from 4 countries, plus have an expert tell you all about how they were made, etc. I will pair some beers with them so that you have something to sip on while you learn. Obviously you can sip on the whiskey too, but you're a beer drinker, and I know that.
  2. If you are interested in the Belgian beer and Georgia cheese pairing event or the Southern Tier beer dinner, you can click here. The beer dinner is Tuesday, July 12th in Duluth. In addition to a cask of 2XIPA (one of the best I have had recently), we will have the brew master and co-founder of the brewery there. The cheese event is Saturday the 9th at The Fred Bar from 3:00 to 5:00 pm, and only costs $30.00.
That is all I have for you for now. But before I go, I just want to remind everyone that Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The USA" is not a patriotic anthem. I know that you have heard pieces of it attached to all kinds of flag waving, inculding that women's soccer player singing it after she scored a goal. Ugh, did you hear that? Sure, Brandi Chastain whipped off her shirt one year after scoring a goal, and that's going to be pretty hard to beat. But, geez, this girl sings like a walrus getting beaten with an axe. No wonder she pusued athtletics. Certainly wasn't going to get by in life on her angelic singing voice. And please, next time, choose a song that isn't critical of U.S. domestic policy towards returning vetrans. That's what "Born In The USA" is about. Read the lyrics. Pick a song that exemplifies how awesome America is and sing that one. Try the theme from "Team America: World Police". That one can help people from other countries understand who we really are. And that is what is all about, right, understanding? I don't have a beef with Springsteen or anything, but why give the world another reason to think we're stupid?

You folks have a great 4th, and be careful out there.

From My September Trip-Sierra Brewhouse

From My September Trip-Sierra Brewhouse
This is the top floor of the brewhouse, with buckets of fresh hops about to go into the kettles.