Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Beer and Me

I had my first drink at a fraternity party at Rutgers when I was a freshman. It was beer. The upperclassmen played a game. The object of the game was to get freshman drunk. I was the first loser. I got really sick. Friends helped me back to the dormitory. The next morning I phoned my father. Dad normally had lunch at the Rutgers Alumni Faculty Club. He took me there for lunch that day. We had a serious talk about alcohol.

A few weeks later I was in New York City with friends. Back then 18 year olds could drink legally in New York. My friends ordered beer. Remembering both what my father told me and also remembering that my father enjoyed a scotch, I surprised everyone by ordering scotch. I liked the taste. I discovered I enjoyed moderate drinking.

Years later in California I discovered wine. I found out I liked drinking wine with dinner, again moderately.

I kept up my usually moderate consumption of wine and scotch whiskey for years. I did upgrade my taste in whiskey to The Glen Livet when it became available. I also tried and liked other brands. One old girl friend said Langavulin was an aphrodisiac. Guess what we drank when we were alone?

Beer, however, remained off limits to me. That first experience really affected me. I tend toward moderation in most things most of the time. I was that way even in my 20s. One friend of mine -- a part of the flower child scene -- said to me with real respect "You're with us -- but only part way."

Then in 1987 I went to England for the World Science Fiction Convention in Brighton. It was my first trip to England -- but far from my last. My cousins Harry and Anita met me at Gatwick. They are not only relatives of mine, but also friends. On the way up to Nottingham, Harry stopped at a pub. In the pub he asked me if I would like to try one of their beers. Friendly person that I am, I said yes. Harry ordered best bitter all around. I really liked the taste of that beer.

Some months later I threw a party at my home in New Jersey. One woman I was friends with brought a six pack of Sam Adams beer. I was amused by the "Brewer, Patriot" label. When she left, she left behind a couple bottles of Sam Adams. Some days later I tried a bottle. I liked it as well. It was so much better than Budweiser it wasn't funny. I added a beer now and again to my alcohol consumption. I even bought a six pack now and then.

In 1989 I returned to England, this time for a simple trip to see more of the land of my ancestors. I told Harry my beer story at one point. He was very amused.

In the 1990s I worked at Goddard Space Flight Center. I got involved with the running group there. Because once I won a trophy for my performance in a 10K -- time of 45:20 -- I bragged about it in a letter I sent out with my Christmas card. In May of 1993 my cousins invited all the family to a 50th wedding anniversary celebration of their parents wedding. At that party my cousin Don -- a real athlete in high school -- turned to me at one point and said that he could not run a 10K that fast and that he had run 4 marathons. He said with real conviction that I had at least one marathon in me.

In 1996 I did run -- OK, slowly -- the Marine Corps Marathon. I had one strong memory besides finishing that marathon. Around mile 17 I saw a physically attractive woman wearing a T shirt proclaiming her to be a member of the White House Hash House Harriers -- The Drinking Club With a Running Problem. The only reason I did not crack up laughing was because it was only mile 17.

In June of 1998 I ran the Race for the Cure 5K. I wasn't even out of breath. While I was waiting for my friends to catch up, I saw a couple of people wearing Hash T shirts. I walked over and introduced myself and asked about the group. Mother Chalker told me the hash was into exercise and fun. He handed me a paper with contact information on it.

The next Friday, according to the phone announcement, there would be a full Moon run. The announcement said the start would be at My Brother's Place -- a bar/restaurant in DC. The announcement also said to look for the degenerates.

I showed up that Friday. I thought to myself if these people are degenerates, most Americans belong in intensive care. I had a good time. I started making friends. Oh -- I was very amused by the consumption of beer at the closing circle. I became a hasher -- and now a more regular, but almost always moderate, beer drinker. Hashing has definitely improved my life.

For over a decade now I have been involved in St, Mark's Episcopal Church. While the church tends to be more liberal, anyone is welcome to come. St. Mark's also has a tradition called Pub Lunch after the 11:15 service on Sunday. It is a friendly time. We even brew our own beer. Rick Weber, our brewmaster, is even the Bishop's Brewmaster. One of our sayings is "Come for the wine. Stay for the beer."

It has now reached the point where I might be a connoisseur of beer. I like, for instance, a good IPA. Recently I discovered at a Rutgers event the microbrewery Starr Hill's Northern Lights IPA. The physicist/astronomer in me was obviously drawn to the name. The educated beer drinker that I have become has me really liking this IPA better than others. It is a bit scary to now have a favorite even in a specialty brew.

That's all for now. Soon I must leave for a New Jersey State Society event at the Capitol.