“Now that’s a beer with a narrative.”
My ears caught those words and yanked on my consciousness like a couple of rottweilers towing a young dogwalker after a squirrel. I searched for the source and settled on the bartender, a dignified-looking dude with greying temples. His remark apparently referred to a couple in their late twenties playing grabass, closing their tab, and complaining loudly of surfer’s ear, an ailment which required them to tilt their heads to one side or another and violently shake. He was not remarking on my personal tableau: a guy in his mid-twenties, flying solo, nursing a beer like a hospice patient while reading a Trop column on an iPad. I smiled to myself, softly sung, “You’re so vain,” and returned to my text.
Again my ears strained against my corpus and I wearily told them, “Heel, heel dammit,” which they did, but only after the sonic squirrel—a bell alerting the Friday night patrons of the Islands Brewing Company in quaint, coastal Carpinteria, CA, that last call had arrived—stopped audibly vibrating. I picked up my pint and took a sip. My taste buds rejoiced at the touch of ale and insisted on another. I complied.
“Better buy one more, son, you’re looking low,” a nurturing voice next to me advised. I burped an amen and the bartender instinctively gravitated towards my stool. Looking at the wipe board advertising what was on tap, I settled for Paradise, an American pale ale weighing in at 5.2% alcohol by volume.
“Pretzels?” My new beer arrived with a bowl of knotted, baked, and salted dough for a sidekick. Before I could respond, or even react, the man next to me dropped his paw into my complimentary snack, snatched up a morsel and dunked it, doughnut style, in his adult beverage. “Dip ’em in your beer and thank me,” he offered sagely. I did as told and was pleased. The effect was the perfect in-mouth beer-to-pretzel ratio which has sent many a man to the bottom of a bag of Rold Golds.
“Dunk anything else in beer?” I asked.
“Fig Newtons,” was the improbable answer, followed by another: “Shortbread cookies.”
The night lurched onwards and somehow conversation landed on the ill-advised pursuit of trying to come up with a believable acronym to denote carob, that chocolate substitute which has given many a small child an unwelcome surprise in the stead of a sweet treat.
Chocolate Alternative Reasonably Offensive Bastardization?
When the time came I slept on the beach, under the insulation of a thick fog.
Peter Nichols is a poet, rock climber, and vagabond originally from Toledo, Ohio.