Tag Archives: beer

Another true story

Last week I got caught in the rain coming out of work. I didn’t want to get soaked, so I ducked into a bar and sat down to order a drink. It was still somewhat early in the afternoon, and I didn’t want to get drunk right away, but the rain didn’t let up, and I could only nurse my pint of beer for so long. I ordered another. By the third glass I couldn’t really make sense of my magazine anymore so I put it away and took a look around.

The bar was basically empty, save the half dozen or so people that were already well on their way before I stepped foot inside. Outside the sky was black and the streets were empty. I would have thought there’d be more of a crowd, especially considering the rain. I mean, that’s what drove me inside. But everyone else must have made a beeline to the subway. Maybe they all knew something I didn’t. Maybe the rain wasn’t ever going to let up.

I considered taking out my iPhone to do one of those weather checks, but the same inability to focus on my magazine made finding the right app similarly difficult. I put my phone away and thought about a next move. Should I go? The rain was coming down harder than ever. There was a little puddle of water accumulating by the entrance, seeping in through the crack under the front door. I figured, well, I’m already three, four drinks in. This night’s basically over already. I might as well ride it out here. No sense in getting unnecessarily soaked.

“I’ll take another beer,” I had to grab the bartender’s attention because, like I said, the place was all but empty, and he was busy watching the TV at the other end of the bar. “I don’t think this rain’s ever going to stop.”

Who said that? Was it the bartender? He had his back to me, filling up a clean glass. “Yeah it’s coming down pretty hard,” I responded, staring straight ahead.

“Rain like this, it makes you think about all sorts of dark stuff, about life, about the end of the world.”

It wasn’t the bartender. It was this old guy three stools down from me. I hadn’t even considered his presence until now. I had this feeling, I always get this feeling when I’m by myself and someone starts talking to me, someone I don’t know, it’s like a wall goes up, like come on man, leave me alone, I don’t feel like having an interaction right now.

But I’ve had this reaction for so long, so automatically, that a lot of the time I can recognize it as just that, a reaction. And so I get it, that wall, and I make a choice whether or not I want to get past it. I looked toward my magazine, as incomprehensible as it was ten minutes ago. My phone only had like twenty percent of its battery left.

Sure, why not, I’ll indulge this old timer in a little conversation.

“What do you mean?” I asked him, even though I knew exactly what he meant, “It’s got to rain some time. We need it, right?”

And he didn’t look at me, he didn’t look up from his drink, whatever it was he was drinking, a rocks glass, probably whiskey, he started in on this speech, I wondered if he was ever really talking to me in the first place, or maybe he was just talking to talk, to himself, to nobody.

“I know you can’t tell to look at me as I am now, but I used to be a productive member of society. A doctor. A physician.”

I didn’t know if I should reply or not. Really. What kind of doctor? Something like that. But he wasn’t looking up and I didn’t really feel like I had to say anything. He went on.

“One day a young man came into my office. He was complaining about his leg. Apparently he fell off his bike and worried that he might have broken something. He could still walk, not really a walk, but a hobble, he hopped into my office, he couldn’t put any weight on it. I said, all right, let’s get some x-rays and see if we can’t see what’s the matter. We sent him to radiography and twenty minutes or so later I had the results. I couldn’t make sense of them. I wondered, is the machine acting up? Did the technician make some sort of a mistake? Because nothing was where it should have been. Everything was wrong, off. And I looked closer, I looked at his leg, at his bad leg, and I tried comparing it to his good leg. The good leg, well, it looked like a leg, they both looked like legs, like my leg or your leg, but on the inside … I don’t know. The bad leg, something was definitely off.

“And even though I couldn’t figure out what was going on, I could make out right under his thigh what I though was an unusual looking growth. Was it some sort of cancer? Could this explain what was wrong on a more systematic level with his whole body? I had no idea, but I figured I might as well send him in for a biopsy.

“Well, you wouldn’t believe it, but that growth wasn’t a growth at all. It was a little capsule. The young man was just as alarmed as I was, but I didn’t want to scare him any further, so I sat up a little straighter and pretended to act like this was all within the realm of my expertise. I looked the capsule over in my hand and … and I don’t know exactly what I did to activate it, but the top opened up, like a little cigar case. Inside was a tiny scroll of paper, it was a hand-written note. It read:

If you are reading this note, you’ve realized by now that this young man is not a young man at all; rather, he is a highly sophisticated robot. I built him years ago to take care of my day-to-day work so that I might have more time to pursue my scientific experiments while at the same time saving a couple of hours each day for some necessary leisure activities. If this robot is in any way damaged, please look under the other leg for detailed schematics on how to fix him. Whatever you do, I urge you not to let him know that he’s a robot. I’m not sure if his positronic brain would be able to handle the shock.

“And that’s when I stopped. I had been reading that note out loud, and just as I got to the end, I could tell something was happening. It was like he was having a seizure. He twitched around for a little bit before collapsing. My nurse and I tried everything, but we couldn’t revive him. It was over. He was dead.”

The bartender wasn’t paying any attention and the old guy hadn’t looked up from his drink. I settled up, apparently I’d had six drinks, not four, and I wondered if there were any buy-backs I also didn’t know about. “Hey man, I’m sorry about that whole robot thing,” I said to the old guy as I got up to leave. I was out the door, the rain was just as heavy as it was an hour ago, one of those rains where, without an umbrella, I was soaked to the core within a minute.

St. Patrick’s Day: The Real Story

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everybody. It’s such a great holiday. Everything’s green. Just like Ireland. Just like St. Patrick. Legend has it that good old St. Pat had sort of a green tint to him, to his complexion. Those interested in hagiography know that Patrick had to board a ship to travel to Ireland. It was there that he developed a really bad case of seasickness. “Looking a little green around the gills, aren’t ye Patty?” the sailors used to tease and taunt him.

And it was true. From the minute St. Patrick boarded his first vessel, he couldn’t stop feeling the rocking, the back and forth, the never-ending motion of the boat crashing against the waves. When he wasn’t throwing up, he was in between throw-ups. It was pretty constant. He was originally supposed to be a slave on one of these ships, but after a while the captain realized that Patrick was all but useless on a boat.

They tried beating it out of him, they tried withholding food and water. But the Lord works in mysterious ways, and so Patrick kept puking and puking. Finally the crew conceded that he was probably a lost cause, and so they made him walk the plank.

Even when he was thrown overboard, alone, adrift in the sea, he couldn’t stop throwing up. But it was all for the best, because his wrenching and heaving served to propel him forward through the water, until he miraculously landed on the Emerald Isle.

Once on dry land, his nausea diminished somewhat, but he was never really able to get his sea legs to start acting like land legs again. For the rest of his life, wherever he went, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stop feeling those waves, the incessant rocking back and forth. He’d lay awake in his bed for hours, unable to stop the maddening sensation of being stuck on that boat, staring at the ceiling and trying to will his brain to adjust to his new surroundings.

But it was all for naught, and he had to contend to living a life slightly off balance. Interestingly, this is how the Irish people came up with one of their most famous dances, the jig. After Patrick did all of his miracles, expelled the frogs and the snakes, defeated the druid priests in miracle competitions, he became very famous. Everybody in Ireland knew of him and talked about his exploits. He was beloved enough that when people saw him walking all wobbly because of the whole permanent seasickness thing, they emulated him. They all started walking like they were stuck on a boat. And so generation after generation, this became a way to commemorate Patrick, it became embedded in the Irish culture, in the jig.

Unfortunately, to an outsider’s perspective, this whole walking around like you can’t get a hold of anything, it looks an awful lot like inebriation. And so the Irish developed an unwarranted reputation for being a group of heavy drinkers. Still, St. Patrick’s life was noble and honorable enough to overcome this slanderous legacy, kind of.

Today Irish and non-Irish around the world celebrate the life and deeds of St. Patrick, Ireland’s most famous non-Irish person. Some of his more unsophisticated followers use his feast day as an excuse to head to the city for the day, to get really drunk. They drink lots of beer and have to go to the bathroom really badly, but everybody else is doing the same exact thing. So they head down to the alley to see if they can’t get away with peeing outside, but the cops, they’re everywhere, they’re just counting on busting kids from the suburbs for public urination. And that’s a pretty hefty fine.

True devotees commemorate St. Patrick by, yes, by drinking, but they use green food coloring to make their beer look green. And it’s not just beer. You can get green bagels on St. Patrick’s Day. You can get a Shamrock Shake at McDonald’s. There’s lots of green stuff available, just like in Ireland.

So get out there and celebrate. Do a little jig. If you see a frog or a snake, kill it. And make sure that everything you eat and drink is green. Happy St. Patrick’s Day everybody!