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One of my favorite breweries, Summit, sponsored a fancy dinner at Bank Restaurant downtown last night. I’ve seen the notices about previous beer dinners. This time, the restaurant was along the linear mile and three quarters between my office and my home, and on a Friday. The announcement said that Summit founder Mark Stutrud would be there to host it. I eagerly anticipated adding to my collection of photos of me with the owners of my favorite breweries. What a perfect way to end the work week!

I made my reservation for one. When I arrived at the restaurant my worst suspicion was confirmed. I wouldn’t get to sit at a small, corner table by myself reveling in good beer and good food. No, I would have to join a large, round table with a bunch of people I didn’t know, which would undoubtedly involve talking to them. I sighed and accepted the first beer, Summit’s delicious India Pale Ale.

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At this point, participants were standing around on the fringes of the seating area and bar. I had ended up between two groups, people who were obviously associated with the brewery, and civilians. Thankfully, the first of the hors d’oeuvres came around, the smoked kielbasa, red beet horseradish, and onion jam, daintily served on a funny spoon, followed by an oyster shooter, and fancy popcorn.

At this time, I should probably disclaim my overuse of the word fancy in this report.

A Summit Maibock, as well as Mark Stutrud, also came around during the hors d’oeuvres, and I made what was probably a bit of a gaffe by asking for his thoughts on the Minnesota liquor law changes that Surly Brewing is advocating. I got an earful of a different perspective. What a way to make a first impression on a person whose beer you love! Well, I’ve never claimed to be good at small talk.

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Mark moved on, and I became aware that the brewery group was wondering about facts related to Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. I spend half my workday listening to world news, so I felt compelled to interject what I knew. I was only trying to be helpful. I ended up talking for a few minutes to Sue and Carrie.

The restaurant guy who was managing things indicated that it was time to have a seat for dinner. Sue didn’t hesitate to invite me to join their table which I gratefully did, and that was the action that ensured my having the best time I’ve in a while.

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The delicious food arrived (as usual, my photographic documentation was thwarted by very low lighting). First was a fantastic scallop with bacon and some fancy, dribbled sauces. Mine was gigantic compared to the others which didn’t displease me, because I love scallops! It was served with Summit’s flagship Extra Pale Ale. That is hands down one of my favorite ever beers. Then came a fancy fried chicken puck (referring only to the shape, not the quality) with, among other things, Pop Rocks as part of the garnish, and served with cornbread and Maibock. The “main” course was a Red Ale braised lamb shank with barley and gravy, served with—you guessed it—Red Ale. For dessert, it was an oatmeal baking powder “coffee cake” served with ice cream made with Summit Porter and served with the same.

I so thank Sue and Carrie for being nice to me. You all know I would have been just fine lurking on the fringes keeping to myself. But it ended up being such a blast. Everyone around the table (clockwise from my left: Shawn (J.J. Taylor Distributing), Patty, Rollie, Mark, Sue, Carey, Katie, Tom (COO), and Dan) managed to engage me in conversation at least once. I think Shawn the distributor was getting annoyed with me because all the beers I was saying I liked weren’t ones he distributes, except for New Belgium Ranger IPA, one of my current favorites. I completely had a brain freeze about remembering how much I love Deschutes Hop Henge.

Anyway, I eventually figured out that Sue is Mark’s wife. I got my photo with Mark, and what I love about it is that we look like we’ve been friends forever. Well, I have been friends with his EPA for a long time. Oh! And Sue apparently went to highschool with Tony Magee, owner of Lagunitas and former sponser of my Monday bowling team. They were all engaging, but I could kind of check out when I needed to.

I think I will definitely try to go to the next Summit dinner, whenever that is.

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Flashback (what a feeling)

February 7, 2011

I’ll give myself twenty minutes for this. It was sort of just something that came up as an aside this evening, but then I mentioned it out loud and it got requested that I dish on way-back boyfriends.

I was already thinking about P because I was talking about cribbage (see my previous post), which he and I used to play a lot. At the time, in 1984, I thought P was the love of my life. If we had been even five years older I think it would have had a good chance of working out, but we were just too young to handle what we had. I also have a number of music-related memories associated with him, not least of which is my love of Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark. I remember him saying once that all he wanted was to be Richard Butler from the Psychadelic Furs. Tonight I checked his business website (he’s a photographer) and found a new photo (he’s looking as good as ever). I also came across other photos that I had seen before of him and his band (which must just be part-time for fun). But this time when I looked up the band name, I found a video on You Tube. One of us has sort of achieved our life goal—the band was doing a cover of “Pretty in Pink.” P can still pull off those leather pants!

The other way-back boyfriend I ended up thinking about this evening was my first one waaaaaaay back in high school. I think I’ve mentioned before that it was not my own relationship with this fellow but my mother’s that had enormous influence on my subsequent dealings with men. My mother made it clear (in the immediate aftermath, anyway) that there was no one like B, and that scarred me for a long time because I never felt like anyone else would measure up. She remained friends with him, tried to get us back together by making me help him with Spanish, and sort of co-opted that circle of friends, even, years later, babysitting for him and his wife S who, in a bit of irony, was the childhood best friend of M, the girl who lived next door to my grandparents with whom I had become fast friends during our summer visits during my childhood. 

M and I weren’t able to retain the same level of intensity with our friendship after my parents and I actually moved from Ohio to that town in Wisconsin where she and my grandparents lived, and where I attended high school. I had known S since those childhood visiting days, and it was always kind of does-not-compute to me that B and S got together because I was never aware that they had known each other that well. But they are still together so obviously something was right.

Tonight’s pondering of B came up because S commented on a mutual other friend’s status during Super Bowl madness. B seems to have disappeared from online life but when he was still around I saw one small photo, and he looked like he was still in pretty good shape, too.

So there you have a little something extra. Fortunately, the only person who was actually acquainted with either of these two, and wouldn’t have minded being a way-back boyfriend in his own right, currently resides in Africa and can’t rat me out too badly. Or will you?

Time’s up.

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It’s not too much of a mystery what makes up a large part of why I live paycheck to paycheck. Every now and then I “like” to actually add it up and make a fuss that I’m going to pretend to be more thrifty—with the drinking, not the bowling. Bowling is what passes for my social life.

I bowl in two leagues per week and usually drink steadily during the evening (certainly by now you’ve gotten the impression that I like my beer). Most of the time I also eat supper at the bowling alley. 

Fall leagues go for thirty or so weeks, roughly coinciding with the school year. I myself also bowl for thirteen weeks in the summer. I’ll base these calculations on thirty weeks. You’ll get the idea. And I’ll still be horrified by the actual numbers, just like I am with my age when I think about the actual number.

$750 = $25 x 30 Monday league fee

$810 = $27 x 30 Thursday league fee

$405 – $540 = $13.50–$18.00 x 30 Monday Summit EPA

$373.50–$498 = $12.45–$16.60 x 30 Thursday Surly Furious

$210 = $7 x 30 Monday Buffalo Chicken Wrap

$150 = $5 x 30 Thursday mini pizza with two toppings (in my top three favorite pizzas in the Twin Cities metro)

Ugh. Are you good at math in your head? Did you add it up already?

 

$2698.50–$2958.00 for 30 weeks in two leagues.

 

And that doesn’t include tips or the drink or two or three at karaoke afterwards on Thursdays.

That’s a chunk of change. How are you “frivolous” with your money in these tough times?

Ode to universe

July 29, 2010

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It was bound to happen eventually. It was finally going to be the blog entry in which I pondered my place in the universe (doing so without God???s aid, since I don???t believe in that*). I have no idea what my purpose is as I don???t seem to be accomplishing much and don???t see my future to be very different. Nothing I could say would sound like much more than a pity party. If I really don???t like it that much, make a change. Or even find God. Whatever.

On my bike ride home from work, I had a could-have-been-death experience and the place-in-universe (PIU) question became more focused, at least for the seven minutes that followed which encompassed the rest of my ride home during which time there could have been two more incidents. It must have been my karma today. I started out this morning grumpy and spent most of the day trying to overcome. But I did, and by the time I set out for home, I was feeling pretty good about things.

Biking downtown is, of course, an adventure every time. Even though I have a designated, dedicated bike lane, motor vehicles just refuse to acknowledge it (and me) 95% of the time. Usually it???s just a car or, at worst, a pickup truck or SUV. Today it was an 18-wheeler.

The problem is that the bike lane is in the middle of the road, so vehicles wishing to turn left must do so by cutting across the bike lane. If I haven???t made eye contact in the outside mirror, I wait.

Such was the case today.

I was approaching the intersection, and about fifty feet from it, a truck-truck drew even with me, then pulled ahead at pace. He at least gets credit for signaling his intent. But I was unable to establish eye contact even though I could see his entire head in his rearview mirror. Then sure enough he blithely began his left turn.

I was nearly stopped and was patiently waiting until he finished his turn, thinking it was a short, delivery-type truck. Thank goodness I looked over my shoulder to discover that there was a semi-trailer being pulled directly toward my position. I put my foot down to wait, then realized that I???d better keep moving directly to the left or I???d be clipped and the driver would be none the wiser.

Finally when there was only three feet of trailer left to go did I finally make eye contact with the driver, who was probably actually looking to see if he thought he???d clear the city bus on the cross-street. Sheepish wave from him. Gosh, thanks. I was using stronger language at the time.

So my first question is to the truck driver: where did you think I went in the thirty feet from the time you overtook me to when you initiated your turn?

My second question is: in the big scheme of things???the UNIVERSAL scheme, not just the personal orbit of a few of you who claim to like me and enjoy my company???what lasting impact have I truly made on your life????truly????no, REALLY.

In the universal scheme of things, what difference would my not being here actually have on things going forward? I???m realistic about that.

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*No disrespect to those who believe in God. It???s just not for me.

Original verse by me.

Images from Shutterstock. Collage illustration by me.

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We could all use more smiles in our lives. From a young age, I remember my mom sometimes saying, ???Smile and the world smiles with you.?????

Smiles are infectious.

In my daily goings out and about I have belatedly semi-embraced a philosophy that a friend of mine was mature and unselfish enough to embrace twenty-five years ago. He said that he couldn???t in good conscience pass by his fellow human beings on the street without making eye contact and acknowledging their existence. I don???t remember if he included a smile with that.

In recent times, perhaps since I moved to my new, scarier neighborhood four-and-a-half years ago, I have been more willing to make that eye contact. Maybe it???s simply a component of self-preservation. I believe that the nefarious types will be less likely to cause trouble if you acknowledge them and indicate that they don???t necessarily intimidate you. And if you give them a half-smile to boot, maybe you take even more power back.

Also, as a white, native, American, I am quite in the minority in this neighborhood which is populated largely by immigrants from eastern Africa, mostly Somalia. They tend to get a bad rap from whites like me who may not consider that, as usual, it???s a few bad apples who spoil it for everyone. I want to be friendly. When I make eye contact, smile, and perhaps say ???good morning,??? most of my neighborhood cohabitants respond with a surprised smile, then reply with their own pleased greeting. I like to think I???m doing my small part to foster good will in the neighborhood.

That eye contact and smile follows me downtown when I go to work. There I find people who are by and large like me, but the reaction is the same???slightly stunned and then, in kind. I don???t know, it just feels a little good.

I???m not looking for a pat on the back and I???m pretty sure I don???t want you to start talking to me. But I know I like having my existence acknowledged and figure you might feel the same way.

Smile and the world smiles with you.