Thursday, July 19, 2018

Wednesday 10 June 1998 – Grand Cafe

Ten years ago, or so, I was at a crossroads in my life, which is like, no big deal—you come to a crossroads like, every block. Anyway, so I moved into this house in Kent, Ohio with five other people, some who were my friends, and some I didn't know too well. By the time I moved a year later, I considered everyone in the house my friend—but not the politician/business/California definition of friend—I actually really liked all these people.

Oh my, because I'm sitting here at the dark bar of the Singing Lobster Karaoke Lounge (Grand Cafe) or because of a Laphroaigian slip (phrase I just invented) I accidentally wrote, in my notebook, that I “licked all these people.” The text will no doubt be corrected by the time you read it. This reminds me of something I just saw on the internet—I actually use the internet at my job now, not much, but when you're researching something, looking for a phone number or product information, it's the first place you look. And in my spare time (I don't take breaks anymore) I sometimes do a little research for myself—when I was looking up a concept I had thought up to see if it was original, or based in any heinous current marketing or entertainment scheme. It's kind of complex—I put out a sporadic small 'zine of serial fiction called Mickey Rourke (more on that later)—and one of the continuing stories (the magazine is all serial fiction) is called The Endless Party, and one of the concepts I invented for The Endless Party was the concept of Pyramid Sex. I had and have no idea what that refers to, I just thought it would be a funny ongoing reference that the reader can grapple with (it just occurred to me that this sounds a little too much like that show, Seinfeld—(which, by the way, I watched like one episode of, but couldn't deal with the laugh-track, and that stupid bass wanking they have between each scene. It just said sit-com to me, and I just really hate the sit-com form—it's like the only bad memory of my childhood—TV sit-coms—so we'll have to be careful of that). Anyway, so I was looking on the internet to see if there was anything about Pyramid Sex—some heinous concept that I never suspected. I didn't find anything as such, but I did see one of the weirdest things in recent memory—an oral sex pyramid internet chain letter. Apparently, it works like this: there's a list of names and addresses and you put your name and address on the bottom of the list, and then you go to the top name on the list, or top five or something and drive to their house, and give them oral sex. It seems a little impractical to me, as these names are all over the U.S. and Canada—but, well, I don't know? Maybe it works, but... it doesn't sound like a real good idea to me. But who knows?

The dude here, the big guy, owner, whatever, just came in and replaced the lightbulb above the bar where I'm sitting. That's why it was so dark. I like sitting at the bar, which faces an incredible array of liquor. I like looking at the liquor—even though I can't take a drop—literally not a taste. This year, 1998 (though not this date) marks, I guess, five years since I quit drinking. Definitely the hardest five years of my life. I don't really keep track—like how many days since I quit or anything—like some people do. I don't think of it as an accomplishment or a record. If I start to drink again I figure it'll be about the same thing as putting a gun to my head or jumping off a bridge.

About a year and a half before I quit drinking, I found out that I had to quit eating wheat (and all of its insidious forms) which was eroding my small intestine faster than road salt eats a muffler. No guarantee from Midas. But instead of having to replace my intestine with a rubber hose, simple abstinence was enough to cure me. I had been so sick—I felt like like by simply changing my diet I was able to grab my hat and turn my back on death, waltz out the door, “see you!” For now, of course, nothing's simple. Wheat seems to have infiltrated all strongholds of the American diet. More on that later.

But my point here, is that here I am on what is starting out to be a very strange day, staring down a bottle of Laphroaig Scotch while Scotland and Brazil are tied 1-1 in the first game of World Cup soccer on one of the many TV screens in this place. The last glass of alcohol I ever drank, I believe it was on Nietzsche's birthday, was a glass of fine port, from Portugal. When I found out I could no longer eat wheat, I decided that I would start the next day, but that night I would taste my last wheat. I went to a place called The Sanctuary, and with religious appreciation, consumed a good pizza, a Guinness Stout, and a glass of Laphroaig Scotch. (Scotch, Bourbon, all whiskey, as well as gin and most vodka, all distilled from wheat grain, and thus off-limits.) Kind of a European smorgasbord. I guess I could have added more countries, but I was too happy to get drunk—I had been sick for three years—and now I had found out why. I probably had some Bourbon because it's my favorite, but I don't remember now—what I really remember is that glass of Laphroaig Scotch which tasted like nothing I've ever tasted. I won't even try to describe it, and I can't remember now anyway, but anyway, it was the first time I'd ever tried it, and the last, and that's for life. It's now entered the realm of mythology.

I'm sitting here at the bar facing the esteemed single malt Scotch shelf, and I'm admiring the bottle of Laphroaig, which is in the middle. It's green glass with a simple white label with black print. Nothing overly fancy or design-y, very traditional, simple, and excellent. If I was still drinking, and eating wheat, this would be my drink. It would. Ten years old—there are other Scotch's 12, 15 years old, but ten years old seems like long enough—it's a hell of a long time.

Which brings me back, at least I hope, to ten years ago, Kent, Ohio—what was my point? Oh yeah, crossroads, and all that, my high school class reunion at which I drank way too much. Now I'm facing my 20th high school class reunion this summer—without drinking. Scary. Anyway, when I was living in this improbable living situation house in Kent with five friends, we got heavily into making beer—something I had done since high school. We had several five gallon jugs, vats, going at any given time in the basement, and cases and cases aging and waiting to be consumed. We experimented with flavored beer, high alcohol beer, stout so thick it made Guinness look like Lite, garlic beer, chamomile beer, and just ordinary, good, robust, real beer that we were able to make—I'm not kidding—for about $3.00 a case. Beer making is a lot of work, but it's like cooking or canning—it's satisfying and fun. We felt we where on to something, making our own beer, and people all over the country were doing it to an increasing degree. But, not being of the entrepreneurial bent, we didn't look at it as a future business opportunity. Actually, at one point, when I opened one of my many small magazine stores that have failed over the years—places whose main function was to be an outlet for small magazines like you're reading now—I considered selling home brewing supplies to the local collage student population, especially those who are in that twilight age category between 18 and 21—I could sell the brewing supplies legally to these people and then let the miracle of fermentation do the rest. But the thought of going through with the marketing, advertising, and promotion to make my wares known, and the thought of my clientele possibly being beer-progressive fraternity brothers, nauseated me just enough to not have the energy to go ahead with this endeavor.

It's much later in the day. I haven't been at the Singing Lobster for quite some time, actually. I came to work to find one of those FAXs with a little advertising, human anecdotes, celebrity birthdays, and milestones on this date. It's Judy Garland's birthday! And this is the date Ben Franklin's kite was allegedly struck by lightning, being the popular discovery of electricity. Quite important to most of today's world. Also, a committee was appointed to write the Declaration of Independence, and the Girl Scouts were incorporated. I guess that means that's when they started selling cookies. Also, Bill and Dr. Bob formed Alcoholics Anonymous! A very big day. Also, Kennedy signed an equal pay for equal work bill. And the biggest milestone of all, Subway opened its sandwich business. In commemoration, the local Subway shops are introducing the Lobster Sub and Lobster Bisque—for a limited time only. They should have asked Blimpies how well their lobster sub went over.

The headline news has nothing about the Mexican military attacking alleged Zapatistas in the Chiapas region of Mexico. Around the world, I imagine, governments use the occasion of World Cup Soccer to try to execute heinous acts, figuring the public will be distracted. Of course, in this country, soccer hasn't quite taken hold yet. It's waiting for the next marketing genius to fuck it up. By the way, while I was watching, Brazil scored a goal, went up 2-1, and that game was all over.

Back ten years or so, I drove across the country, then, after we broke up our fine home in Kent, Ohio. Now the six former residents of that house reside in six different states—let's see, Ohio, Washington, Oregon, New York, Maine, and Austria. (I know that Austria is a country and not a state.) Anyway, I was pleased to see the rise of the brew pub on the West Coast—in Berkeley, San Francisco, Arcata, and Seattle. I knew the popularity of good beer would bring the prices up—but at least good beer was going to be appreciated. But—to get back to what I had started to say—I never expected to see what I see now, here in my home of Portland, Maine. There is an actual chain restaurant here—and a new one is just opening—called Barnacle 'enry's Real Dublin Beer Haus's (yes, that's plural). Now, if I'm not mistaken, with that handle they cover nautical (a must here in Portland), British, Irish, and German. Talk about covering the bases. They boast “Hand Crafted Beer” and pizza! They look just like a combination of Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips and Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre. And they're popular.

So back to what I could have just said in one sentence—and I'm sincerely sorry for the digressions—if you would have told me ten years ago that in ten years we'd see the perfect marriage of homebrew and fast food, I would have told you that you were out of your fucking mind. And I would have meant it.

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