When I arrived in The Congo, at 11:30 at night, this bottle was in the fridge. And I knew I was home.
Man, I love beer.
One of my favorite things about being a globe trotting, high rolling, occasional pants wearing son of a bitch is being able to check out the local beers in all the countries whose borders I have darkened.
The thing that stood out for me most upon arriving in the DRC, the big difference between Asian and Africa (or at least The Congo's corner of Africa) was how much better the beer was. I don't know if it is because they normally brew with rice in Asia, or whether African beers use darker ingredients, or what. I will say, though, that I haven't tasted a beer with as much thunder as Tembo since I left the states. Taiwan wins in the name department, though, hands down, as evidenced by the greatest name for beer of all time:
Poetry. And foam.
Beer, to me, is like a delicious, frosty mnemonic device. I can remember the first beer I had the night I arrived in Myanmar- my first time out of the USA, about to start a new teaching job, having left behind all my friends and family, at 9pm I walked out of my hotel and down the rotted, shattered street to a "beer station". I couldn't understand the language, everyone was staring at me, and I was equal parts tired, excited, and terrified. But once I was firmly ensconced on the cheap plastic stool that I would soon learn was a universal object in Asia, I managed, through much pointing and money waving, to order a glass of their beer (Tiger Beer, which is actually from Singapore, but Myanmar had their own brewery). Halfway through I felt better. That could have been the formaldehyde they add to beers in Asia, but I won't question the result.
I remember my first beer in Vietnam. Thailand. Cambodia. Athens. Mallorca. Santa Fe.
I remember the last beers I've had with good friends- that last night rocking it in Santa Fe, the all night farewell KTV rager in Yangon, PJs in Taichung.
Last Thanksgiving, after my eye surgeries, I was sitting alone in my house. Blind, incidentally, and pretty bored. Crying bloody tears, which looked bad ass but cut down my social life for a while. A knock at my door and two minutes of fumbling and tripping later, I was holding a bottle of Taiwan Stout in my hand, courtesy of the guard from downstairs. He even opened it for me and told me not to spill it in my eyes.
So what's my point? I dunno- maybe that I drink too much beer. These days, though, it's more than beer. For me, that simple drink is laden with memories and meaning. I can't drink a Heineken without recalling the first time I saw Fight Club. A Sam Adams reminds me of leaving the hospital after The first Deathmatch and having Dagny scrape coagulated blood out of my hair. Fat Tire summer beers make me think of Santa Fe, sitting with Carl rocking the bonfire, while dodging the nails which always shot out of the stolen pallets (yoinked from the cable building- the same location where we filmed the infamous Channel 70 Movie- cheap plug!) as they heated up. And Coronas, of course, take me back to the days of the Gene Hackman feud, and the rage. That sweet, sweet rage.
Some people keep photo albums, or have old letters. For me it's beer and music (which will be another column). So drinking beer is like drinking my past. It has its own history, like a long Island Ice Tea without the spray on tan and spiky hair.
So to all my friends and family, past and present, I'll have a beer tonight and think of you. Come by and share one! I have a great beer drinking porch now- it's deliciously white trash.