Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Special Edition #4: Beer

Man, I drank a lot of beer. And I drank more cheap beer than good. I never even drank until I was eighteen--close to nineteen--even though it was perfectly legal in the late seventies for an eighteen year old to drink. And when there had been so much drinking, smoking available in those days. Sure, I had sips of my father's beer, but I didn't ever drink a whole can (I never went to high school parties; I hated high school for the most part), let alone get drunk. That is, till the summer a ways after my high school graduation.
But this isn't about getting drunk (or the seventies), it's about beer. It's about cheap beer.
Glorious beer.
In Iowa City--where I did my true initial beer drinking--we drank a lot of Old Style. Dog Style, we often called it. But eventually, Old Style went bigger-time and became more expensive. We--college students--then scurried about Dirty John's Market and the Quick Trip for off-brands like Rhinelander and Buckhorn. Ah, good bad beer.
In Des Moines we drank Hamms, PBR, Schaffer--drank Rolling Rock later on until they became an almost "Premium" beer-- and others I can't recall at this moment. Sure, there were the ubiquitous Miller Lites and Budweisers, but we sought out strange inexpensive brands: Grain Belt.
I Seattle, Brock, Matt and I would walk up to the Safeway on 1st Ave West and buy cases of Heidelberg beer (in bottles!) along with grits and bacon fatback and we were happy to do so (more or less). We drank Rainier.
In Grayton Beach, in Florida's panhandle, I recall I'd buy a six of Gobbel's Beer for like three dollars or less, take it home to my beach house and drink it all down. But in Grayton we also drank Heinekens, Negro Modelos and such. We were poor, but good beer was not unusual.
In Santa Fe was when I really quit drinking cheap beer almost exclusively. It was there I discovered Watneys and dark beers and other brews. In Seattle--despite the Heidelbergs--we drank great local brews and Hook ales and stouts and Anchor Steam and such: Seattle's a good beer city. The Northwest is a great beer region. In Los Angeles I think I drank Coronas, Tecates, as well as the usual American drivel.
And in Missoula we drank more Rainier than in Seattle, drank "Animal Beer" which was like Schiltz but I can't recall its name. But we also drank good European beers in Montana. And later, in Quebec, I was introduce to their local beers--Massawippi, Fin Du Monde, Modite and Belle Gueulle--as well as Belgium Chimay.
Ah, good beer. Gallons of beer. Bad beer.
Enough about beer.

Kindergarten: Sioux Falls 1962

I'm trying to remember if I finished kindergarten or not. In my mind, I didn't. We moved and I do recall specifically, when we would sit in a circle and tell each other anything new, that I always said we were moving to Washington State and the teacher got angry with me because I always said it (I thought maybe people had forgotten). I didn't like my teacher and she, it seems, didn't like me. I don't recall her name, but she was a rather stern old woman and she complained about me and there were some issues.
Let's see. I know my parents talked to her because I complained I was hungry and she didn't like me saying I was hungry during class. I remember that my older brothers told me I'd only have to count to, say, twenty or so and the first day she asked us to count to one hundred and she scolded me for not being able to do it. I recall that our desks had our names on them--a thick paper rectangle with our name written large upon it that was taped to a corner of our little wooden desks--and one time in the winter, I grabbed my folder or books and the name "plate" came up with them and as I walked home--with big snow banks along the sidewalks--I discovered my name plate and I tossed it into the snow. Sure, I should have just taken it home and brought it back the next day, but I was a kid. I thought I would be in big trouble from the troublesome teacher and so I ditched the evidence of my transgression. Sure enough, she asked where it was, blamed me and it just further added to the stress of kindergarten. man, I didn't like her. It probably led to--or reinforced--my hating school for many many years.
In kindergarten I liked puzzles, especially animal puzzles. But you had to do your work before you could play with the puzzles. Sometimes that "work" was arts and crafts. I know one day we built these little paper lanterns. I hated it. I hated the cutting and gluing and strategic placing of these bent paper strips to make a "lantern". I was no good at it and she--the dreaded teacher--wouldn't let me get to that elephant puzzle until I finished it right. (Bitch.) Ah, maybe I remember it wrong and it was just in me to dislike school (and dislike authority); then again, maybe it was her? I remember sitting in the circle each day and I'd check out the girls. yes, even at age four or five, there was a sexuality and understanding of girls and boys. I'd look at them and, in my mind, pick out which ones I'd marry or have affection for, based purely on physical features. That seems to be inherent among us--attraction based upon physicality--as many researchers into the subject have stated: physical attraction=desire for mating=reproduction. (Of course, we humans also circumvent that instinct with our intellect and, as we age, a deeper understanding of qualifiers, qualities of intelligence, sanity, understanding, temperament, money: personality behind the mask of physical features. Yet, in many ways, good looks still rule the world.
I know the class was in this old building with stairs. I recall those stairs--brown-gray terrazzo with no-slip sandpaper-like striped where the winter snow would melt in ugly dirty pools. I remember walking by myself to and from school--mainly in the winter, where--as said--the snow was piled up in bunches (huge to me, as I was just a kid). Idid not like leaving home to go there. Did not like the structure of class and the pointless activities of arts and crafts. Learning was okay, but I preferred elephant puzzles. Most of all, I didn't like the teacher.
But we moved and I went on to first grade in a new town, state, region. I still did not like school, resented it, until maybe my last two years of high school. Loved college and grad school. But I still harbor a pain and hatred for kindergarten--be it deserved or not, it's there.