354. Mad Elf

       I avoid product and political endorsements. I don’t like advertising for clothing brands either by wearing logoized clothes. I abhor bumper stickers too.  On the other hand, if something or someone really sucks, I will comment appropriately. See post #305. Narcissus Maximus Trumpus or #258. Kim Young Fool, or my rant against big chain strip malls for deeper details, #194 Empty Space? This post, however, is neither an endorsement nor a condemnation. Rather, it is a first hand experience with an alcoholic beverage brewed in Hershey, Pennsylvania by Troeg’s Brewing Company. As the label proclaims it’s 11% alcohol, which is roughly double the average for beer.

We met innocently enough one night in the lounge at The Orchards restaurant. We sat at one of those high boy tables– me, my wife, and youngest daughter. Jess was chatting with the manager about a singing gig, so we were just checking out the atmosphere. A nice young waiter told me what beers were on tap. He pushed Mad Elf, “We’re selling it at two dollars a pint, just trying to get rid of it. It didn’t go over too well at $8 a glass.” Okay, I don’t mind helping a guy drink discounted beer.

I tried to follow the waiter’s words but kept getting hung up on Mad Elf. I thought he was saying My Delf,  May Shelf, or Maid Elf. Finally he just brought me one. I tasted this intriguing brew unlike any beer I’d ever sampled. Supposedly it’s made with honey and cherries, but so are cough drops. At first blush all I could think of was lower octane Robitussin, but as I ate some snacks and sipped at this brew, I fell under its spell. Whew! I’m not much of a drinker, so about 2/3’s of the way through my Mad Elf I began to feel like I was way up in the air on my bar stool and magically in charge of the universe. How would I get down? Being a responsible driver and citizen, I handed the car keys to my lovely, doe eyed wife.     “Don’t let me order another one of these, honey cheeks.” I don’t think she needed any more motivation than those words and the slack lipped mouth from which they emanated.

I remembered one of my young male clients referring to someone as a “Two Beer Queer” and wondered if I qualified as a one beer queer, and many other very forgettable thoughts. And what does that even mean?  The Mad Elf was on the loose in my brain like a rat in a dark kitchen’s dishwasher, chewing up hoses and making a mess. I felt many urges bubbling up in my amygdala.

 My inner James Brown was wrestling my inner Barry White for control of the wheel of my brain’s car or my car’s brain. Or somsing like that.  Whew, it was warm in that lounge. I looked around at the other odd groups. A couple behind my lovely bride seemed to be celebrating a big event, maybe an anniversary as they schmoozed all over each other. “Hey, get a room!” I didn’t yell, but I thought I did. I knew that I was not schmoozing; I was merely the photographer of this candid world. My camera was the now empty 20 ounce glass that once held my Mad Elf. At the bar were three folks who seemed unusually intimate with each other– two guys and one girl in the middle. They merrily drank more than they ate and seemed to be very familiar with one another and this dark lounge. I didn’t want to speculate on anything. Who am I to judge? Merely an elf gone mad. Here I sat between two beautiful ladies myself. Oh, take the speck from thine own eye…
Our waiter came by. “Another?” In stereo my wife and I nearly yelled, “No”. I ordered a Bud Light as a chaser. Whew. It was high and warm in there. I recalled times in college when I felt this way on purpose, walking along the main street in Blacksburg, Virginia wrapped in toilet paper like the Mummy after getting separated from my friend who was hosting me and my buddy Sammy. Wild Turkey was in that scenario as I recall. Sam found our way back to the dorm apartment where we crashed.
Cherry brandy was a hit in high school, I think. The cherry flavor was sailing along liquid memory highways in my brain’s closet or my closet’s brain. It was winter then, I was sixteen, as the liquid fire plunged down my throat and into oblivion we sailed. Somewhere it was clear and bright and good. Truly, youth is wasted on the young.  Dang!
Thank God for that anemic Bud Light. It seemed to suck the alcohol out of my brain like naloxone does with heroin. Who knew? Cheap weak beer can rescue you from tough thug beer that’s kicking you around like a new inmate in the Big House.
Oh yeah, there was that party we crashed with Jack and Alan and some tough guy punched me out to impress his girlfriend. That was fun. I didn’t feel much pain despite his best efforts to knock me out. I was under the influence of something stronger than insecure teen age jealous anger. I asked him if he was finished when he stepped back to see if I’d retaliate. I was smarter than that, even drunk. It was his scene and his boys were all around. I rode in on my buddies’ coattails…and rode out.
In the background Zepellin cranked,
Walkin’ in the park just the other day, Baby,
What do you, what do you think I saw?
Crowds of people sittin’ on the grass with flowers in their hair said,
“Hey, Boy, do you wanna score?”
And you know how it is;
I really don’t know what time it was, woh, oh,
So I asked them if I could stay awhile.
I didn’t notice but it had got very dark and I was really,
Really out of my mind.
Just then a policeman stepped up to me and asked us said,
“Please, hey, would we care to all get in line,
Get in line.”
Well you know, They asked us to stay for tea and have some fun,
Oh, oh, he said that his friends would all drop by, ooh.
We left in one piece and chuckled at how stupid the bully was. These things happen when elves are loosed on the unsuspecting public. Cheers, my blog mates.

311. Scotch

Long, long ago, 42 years to be exact, I traveled through England and Scotland by train, taxi and bus, losing articles of clothing and my high school ring along the way. It’s not hard to lose things unless it’s a misbehaving two year old that you’d like to drop off at the mall, but then everyone jumps up and says, “Hey, you can’t leave that kid here.” Anyway, on the train ride north from London I recall a 15 year old jockey who looked 12 offered to buy me a pint of Guiness. Yes, he was legal age to do so. He drained his and I gargled and gagged on what tasted like a coal miner’s tobacco juice spit. The kid won by six furlongs, roughly 1,320 yards.

I rolled into Edinboro, Scotland a couple of days before New Year’s Eve of 1974, i.e. it was still 1973 and I was still 17. I toured the city and the castle up on a prominent hill and wandered up above the Firth of Forth past wild heather. It was a harsh beauty that far north, but softer than what I was told existed way up in true Scotland, where true Scotsmen wear kilts. The accents grew more primal along the latitudes also.  I bought a Sherlock Holmes deerstalker hat and matching scarf in Cooper Tartan (to fit in) and wore them with my old bomber jacket, bush jeans and blue suede sneakers. It was a memorable look that still makes fashionistas wretch. I think I stuck out like a butt blister Yank.

 As luck would have it, I met three Australian guys at the youth hostel. We got along immediately. Two of the guys were on their tour of Europe before returning home to university. The third was their old mate, Rob Campbell, whose family had moved to London several years back. Nice girthy guys with meat on their bones. It felt comfortable to have new mates. And so, as New Year’s Eve approached, we decided to celebrate our good fortunes with large quantities of scotch whiskey. Off we went on Princes Street acting like we knew something, like we were princes of a sort.

So many liquor stores to choose from and so little time. We walked into one that seemed affordable and asked for scotch. The proprietor smirked, “Which one, me Buccos, we’ve got over two hundred types. You want single malt or a blend?”

“Uh, (trying hard not to look as stupid as we were) how about the one with the pirate on the bottle?”

“Ummm hmmm. That’s rot gut but cheap, one pound twenty.”

“We’ll each have a bottle then. Cheap is what we’re looking for. And pirates.”

“Aye, matey. Here ye be.”

We walked along and took piratey swigs from our bottles, pretending it tasted good when it actually tasted like smoked ammonia from an old rubber hose. When we got back to the hostel, many of the guests were gathered in the expansive basement kitchen, including an old, very drunk, white bearded Scotsman in full kilt regalia.

 He was from the north of Scotland and nearly unintelligible with his brogue over a quart of scotch in his belly. He hiccupped, staggered and swore aggressively. He was down to maybe six active brain cells, which were jumping off of him like fleas on a drowning basset hound. We called him Scottie and he answered our probes.

Of course one of the Aussies asked if he wore anything under his kilt. The old man made a mean face and squinted at us, and then peed on the floor.  He slurred, “What do you think, mate?”

We howled with laughter and made sure to avoid Scottie, the mean drunk from Glasssszzzzzgoooowwww. He was going to be very sick in the new year, and stinky damp. Off we went to find rare adventures on Princes Street. And I ‘m sure we had some fun times, none of which I can recall. I remember vaguely meeting some girls and going to a club or pub or something…. I became separated from the group, although I might have simply fallen asleep while they moved on. In any event I was many furlongs behind my new friends and very lost in Scotland. (I remembered being in the same predicament once back home on a summer’s evening. I crawled into a dry storm drain and slept on a bed of dry grass and leaves, maybe a snake too. I believe I survived. ) So I decided to bunker down for the night in a dark doorway, which I did for a few hours. Eventually a foot patrol cop woke me up and directed me elsewhere, just like that line in the Who’s song, “Who are you?”

I woke up in a Soho doorway
A policeman knew my name
He said “You can go sleep at home tonight
If you can get up and walk away”

I staggered back to the underground
And the breeze blew back my hair
I remember throwin’ punches around
And preachin’ from my chair

Well, it wasn’t like that. I simply started looking for landmarks and trying to regain cognition. I turned the focus key but nothing happened in my brain. I staggered around Edinboro on New Year’s Day like it was a ship tossed at sea. “Oh it’s a pirate’s life for me.” Like most bad ideas that later turn into good stories, this one finally ended.  I rode the train back to London and stayed with Rob for the rest of the week. We had a romping good time doing things I still cannot publicize until my deathbed confession. I don’t believe I’ve had any scotch fur many long furlongs since then, Mates. No regrets.

 

 

 

 

265. Low octane blood sugar

Ever get that deflated state of mind and body when you haven’t eaten lunch and it’s 4 o’clock?  Your heart is thumping and your mind is jacked up about sumpthing or other and you wonder if you have a fever or a touch of mania. You feel Snoopid. Deep breathing and lots of water get drained off. You know better than to use caffeine.  Hooo baby! Bodily warning signals are going off all around, but you manage to postpone sitting down and eating. Finally you inhale a bowl of left over pasta with chicken and mushrooms without tasting a thing. A quart of water washes it down. Eyes closed as CNN anchors prattle on between commercials. “What these jihadists seem to want most is…” Mute. Darkness helps dissolve the inner staccato buzzing of flies playing soccer in a jar that is your brain. In an impossibly insective yet Hispanic falsetto, “Gooooooal!” My flies seem to be Guatemalan.

As late nutrition gets caught up with my blood sugar deficit, I wait. I recall pumping gas at the old Exxon station back in the early ’70s when leaded (yes, leaded) gas was 29 cents per gallon. Cars would hiss and clip clop into the station just off the D.C. beltway on mere fumes. “Ping-ping” went the sensor bell. “Filler up!” the customers would bark at us. Self serve was not common then. We’d get busy checking the fluids and washing the front and back windshields. Service was expected and sometimes demanded. Funny thing is that as gas prices increased, service disappeared. It became something only for the elite or was legislated to remain in New Jersey. Go figure:  the more a commodity costs, the less delivery service you get with it, unless you live in Jersey. So, the hangrier a person gets, the lower his/her expectations drop for service associated with meeting that need… thus no gas attendants and no wait staff in general. Remember when folks actually made careers out of selling clothing? Now it’s mostly point and shoot, self service unless you are at a high end haberdashery.

Let me consider this paradox. If true, then I should expect service at the most expensive restaurants to decline and eventually disappear. Thankfully that has not happened. Can you imagine make-your-own lobster bars and steak houses? And would you tip yourself for excellent self service? “My man, the calamari was superb!” “I know, Sir, for I am you.”

 Oh, that’s a cafeteria or a buffet. Doink!

So we are back to food and brain activity. I don’t really know much about either, just that the absence of the first leads to the absence of the second.

I did not plan it this way, but I was involved in an afternoon court case recently as a witness. Naturally I was anxious since attorneys tend to ask innocent sounding introductory questions that lead to bloody machete slaughter of little lambs a little later. In my case the thing to be slaughtered was my credibility for the presiding judge, no jury. As the afternoon wore on and my breakfast wore out, I began to sing to myself, “I’m all about the judge, ’bout the judge, no jury. I’m all about the judge, ’bout the judge, no jury…” I tried not to sway and smile like Stevie Wonder in the witness box. But let’s be honest: Stevie can testify.

 I wish I could have seen the thought bubbles above the other folks’ heads.

“Did I let the dog out at lunch?”

“This medication really constipates me.”

“Boom! That woman is a bitch!”

“Why did I run for judge? It’s more like sludge.”

“My spanx are cutting off my circulation and my bladder signals.”

“This guy seems to be singing that bass song to himself… ‘I’m all about the bass, ’bout the bass, no treble.'”

Well, there is really no reliable way to prove what others are thinking if they are thinking at all. The other attorney, for instance, introduced herself by saying, “I tend to ramble on, so if you don’t understand one of my questions, just ask me to repeat it.” Now that is thin competition, if you ask me. She was the equivalent of the other brand that loses to Bounty Tough Towelettes every time. Not the quicker picker upper, i.e., useless.

Uh, I mean, she’d be an okay vice president, I suppose, as long as the president is very healthy and well guarded. Just think Joe Biden in a skirt.

So, a hangry mind cycles on the questions being asked and evaluates each one over and over, as if chewing on words were as fulfilling as chewing on venison jerky. Not so, my bloggoiters. If you don’t feed your brain in a timely manner, it goes spanky on you, and I’m not sure that’s a word, but if it is, then it means something negative and shady.

The hearing ended in real time but continued in my sugar depleted brain. I recalled again and again what the smart attorney asked. I evaluated my performance over and over. I needed to get out of the cycle. I was obsessing like an OCD client worried about a shark attack in Nebraska. Unlikely. It was just my unquelled mind. I needed some fuel and time to process it.

Fortunately for the me and the world I found leftover pasta with chicken and mushrooms in the fridge. Bingo. Direct hit on Hangry’s Hanger without a hangover. I can see how tempting it might be for lawyers to drink their lunches and dinners. That rocket fuel of alcohol goes right to the brain without much delay. And the good times roll as surely as Mustang Sally without a subpoena. But no, I don’t go there, friends. Alcohol works like Ambien for me. I’ve been called a Two Beer Queer because I get sleepy after two good beers. And I am not ashamed of this label. In fact, I embrace my low tolerance for all forms of alcohol and LGBT causes. That is to say, I embrace the LGBT community and have a high tolerance for, no, I uh, have a strong endorsement for them. I just need a nap. However, if nominated for vice president, I will serve.