Cheap Beer And Chili
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, November 10, 2014
It’s getting much cooler – chili, in fact…
Earlier, I had purchased ingredients to make chili. Among them, cheap beer. For me, that would be Pabst Blue Ribbon.
There were a couple left over from making that delicious batch of comfort food, which was well worth the extra effort. So, not recollecting to have ever tried a PBR – at least not in many years – I opened one up.
First sip of a PBR in a ~very~ long time.
It was a 16oz “Tall Boy,” and so, not having a larger capacity glass, I poured, and drank it from a jar.
Naturally, your nose goes in the opening as you put it to your mouth for that first sip, and you breathe in some of the brew’s smell.
It was like I was 17 again, and down at the creek, enjoying a cold beer after school.
I’ll probably always remember the first case of beer I ever purchased. It was shortly after Coors had decided to sell East of the Mississippi.
My family lived in a “dry” city in a “dry” county, which meant that, aside from paying an outrageous price to a remote bootlegger atop the mountain, the nearest beer store was in a wet county, about a 45 minutes drive, one way.
My brother and I were forerunners of the modern “latchkey kids,” since at the time, our folks were attending graduate school.
I was in luck that day, having planned for the event several weeks ahead, since neither Dad nor Mom would be in until much later. So, I fired up the old white Pontiac station wagon, and proceeded toward the Interstate highway which would take me nearest my destination – W’s Package Store – and hoped Daddy wouldn’t check the odometer. He had a strange habit of doing that whenever he let me use that car, or any car.
As I drove down the highway, I was eager and confident, though not nervous as some of my peers were. I’ve never been a “fraidy cat” type. I guess that’s partly one reason why I volunteered for military service. At least I didn’t spend my senior summer year on a Vietnamese vacation, though I was certainly fully expecting to do so. War sucks. Cowardice sucks harder.
An AM radio was my solitary companion on the trek as I had firmly planted myself on the blue vinyl bench seats. It was most definitely not luxury material by any stretch of the imagination. Eight-way heated leather is really the only way to go.
Upon my arrival, I strode in with an air of confidence, and made no attempt to hide myself from the clerk, or the few others in the store. I’ve always been an adventurous type, and particularly enjoy a challenge, as most adventurers do. Perhaps that’s why I still keep a “Go Bag” to this day – though I should probably check the underwear in it. There’s a high likelihood it doesn’t fit any more.
I never intended on going down there to purchase just one lousy six-pack. That’d be nothing but a waste of time, effort, and energy. No, a case was definitely what was called for. And not just one brand and type, but four! After all, one must – or, at least should – have an expanded taste. So, Budweiser, St. Pauli Girl, Miller, and Coors it was. Budweiser because it was Budweiser, and touted as “The King of Beers,” and a competitor to Miller. It was supposed to be good – with emphasis on “supposed.” St. Pauli Girl because of the busty Bavarian biermaid on the label, and the fact that it was German. After all, who doesn’t like pretty women with lovely and magnificent breasts? Miller because… Hell, I don’t know why – I guess because it’s a working man’s beer. Everyone should know what a miller is. And Coors because of it’s Colorado origin, and therefore Western mystique.
So, having placed all four six-packs on the counter, I reached into my wallet for the cash, and only for a split-second did the thought I might be “carded” enter my mind. Fortunately, that thought perished just as quickly as it entered. Perhaps it vanished more quickly, since I didn’t entertain it. Thoughts are like that. They’re tyrannical. Give ’em an inch, and they’ll completely take over.
Fortunately, the kind clerk placed my purchase in a box made for such items, and I picked it up, and carted it outside to the station wagon. Whereupon I unrolled the back glass, lowered the tailgate, opened the hidden jumpseat under which rested the spare tire and jack, stashed the case on the floorboard, and covered it with a black poultry curtain material which was formerly a product made by the former company which employed my dad, and closed everything back up. Everything needed to appear tidy and in order, and it did.
As I slid into the driver’s seat, closed the door, then inserted the well-worn key into the ignition and fired up the 350 cu inch engine, instead of feeling proud, I felt rather nonchalant. There was no mystique, no mysterious feeling that overcame me. It was as if I’d purchased gasoline, eggs, milk, or a shirt. To this day, I don’t understand why we Americans are so closed-minded about so many things, beverage alcohol included. We should return to age 18 for beer purchases. The reasoning was, if a young man could be ordered to go off to fight, and possibly die for his country, the least he could do is enjoy a beer, and have the right to vote. Now that most states have 21 as the age of majority, I suppose the next thing they’ll attempt to do is raise the voting age. They’ve certainly made voting much more difficult in the years since I first started voting aged 18, and some think that would be the next “logical” thing to do. Nathan Hale was aged 18 when he graduated Yale, and aged 21 when hanged as a spy by the British in 1776. It was he, whom, according to reliable contemporary sources, was said to have uttered these now-famous words: “I am so satisfied with the cause in which I have engaged, that my only regret is that I have not more lives than one to offer in it’s service.”
But as I steered the car toward home, it wasn’t Nathan Hale that I was thinking of. It was getting the beer hidden, keeping it hidden, and cool. Somehow, the idea of stashing a case of beer under the house, or in the backyard storage hut, only to have it discovered by my parents wasn’t exactly appealing. So naturally, the creek was the first place that came to mind. After all, my dad told me of the times in his youth when his poverty-stricken family would store milk and select perishables in a specially prepared box in the creek. Dads probably never know – only until much later – how their kids interpret the things they tell them. And, perhaps that’s best.
The road by the creek ran behind our house, and was unpaved, so I drove slowly over the gravel to not stir up much dust. Fortunately also, there weren’t any houses nearby. That’s not the case now. Seems that doctors, lawyers, and others like to build near the woods and creek. I hope they don’t give their, or others’ kids grief about playing on the creek. Boys and girls of all ages should have the opportunity to explore and play in nature undisturbed by adult intervention. Discovery and freedom are still our friends… if we’ll let them be.
I parked the station wagon, unloaded my cargo, still covered with the black poultry curtain material, and carefully made my way down to the creek’s edge, where a well-worn trail led to a bluff, where also a large hardwood tree spanned the creek. And though it had fallen some time ago, it hadn’t deteriorated to the point where it was unsafe to use, and we crossed it regularly.
Under the bluff overhang was a sandy area which in places was high enough to stand under, and the sooty rock roof was testimony that over the years, others had been there. We regaled ourselves with fantastic tales how Indians and others may have lived or sought refuge there. And it was there in a shallow alcove in the creek along the bank where I stashed the case of beer, covered and tucked it under with the black poultry curtain material, set a few rocks atop it to ensure it didn’t mysteriously “float up,” and fixed larger limbs adjacent it to appear as natural as possible, and provide a visual tamper alert system. Gotta’ have system, don’t you know? Seems systems & solutions are the going things these days, and I had one then as a teen. It was also environmentally and ecologically friendly (aka “green”), simple, and efficient. Just don’t ask me what I did with the bottles and cans, because I have plausible deniability. That’s important too, because ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a spy. But I can’t talk about my time in the CIA. Besides, they’d deny it anyway. It’s a matter of National Security, don’t you know. But we do know Valerie Plame was outed. And that’s a dog-gone shame, because you know where that got us.
But, hiding a case of beer is a matter of personal security, not national. And I did it well.
And so, for several weeks thereafter, each day after school, as was my custom, I would take off down to the creek and enjoy a cold beer.
While I’ve never been an aficionado of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, tasting and smelling it as I did brought up those memories. Odd, isn’t it, how things like that can trigger a memory?