Sunday, September 24, 2006


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Free Beer!

Sandy talks about not really wanting to go to a shindig tonight, but is kind of obligated to. And her husband told her to look on the bright side, "free beer!"

Well, I just can't hear the words "free beer" without thinking back to the only time in my life that I ever ran away from free beer. And I mean literally ran away.

It was back in the eighties, and I was working in a lettershop over in the industrial district of Little Rock. This was pre-kids days, but my first wife was really jealous. I couldn't go anywhere without her giving me the third degree. I swear she had a stopwatch so she could time exactly how long it took me to do what I told her I was doing and then she would calculate if there was any time left over for dalliances. Bless her heart, she has another man to fuss over now.

I had a young fellow that worked for me named Chip. God rest his soul, Chip's dead now. But at this time, Chip's wife was pregnant. Chip asked me, since I had a pick-up truck, if I would take him to pick up a baby bed he had bought out of the paper after work. (This is precisely the type of reason that I don't own a pick-up truck anymore) So yeah, hell yeah, let's go get your bed, boy!

Well, we're driving along after work, on our way to pick up the bed, and Chip suggests that maybe we could stop in at the Whitewater Tavern and have a quick beer. I checked my watch, did some calculations, and determined that I could probably squeeze one beer in if I drove a little faster the rest of the trip. Having made the obligatory calls to the wife, the clock had already started.

So we duck in from the blazing Arkansas summer sun into the cool darkness of the Whitewater Tavern ("come on down, it's at seventh and thayer...") and order a couple of beers. Chip's buying so he brings two bottles of his brand, Busch, over to the table.

About halfway through the beer, a guy in a Miller jacket sidles over to the table and asks, "Ever try Miller Lite?" Well, I may be crazy, but I ain't stupid, so I said, "Nooooo, what's that?"

"Well, I'll get you one," he says as he runs up to the bar and grabs a couple of bottles of Miller Lite, plopping one in front of each of us. This dude is some kind of rep for the Miller company and he's buying everyone in the place beer. Chip and I grinned at each other unable to believe our luck.

We were nearly finished and I was telling Chip that we really needed to go, when the Miller guy comes back over to see how we liked his beer. I told him that we didn't really care for light beer, but thanks anyway. Immediately, without a word, he spun on his heel and ran to the bar and grabbed us two regular Miller Highlife bottles.

I told Chip that this was pretty cool, but we're just going to have to chug these down and get on out. He nodded agreement and turned his bottle up.

Dude comes back. "How's the Miller?"

Chip tells him that while we appreciate his generosity, we really gotta go. Dude says no way, you've got time for another beer and goes and gets us two more. Shit, I ain't smiling no more. Chip and I look at each other and start chugging beer. I'm beginning to feel a bit bloated.

"Surely one more," grins dude as Chip grimly shakes his head and says, "No man, we don't like Miller beer. Sorry." Inwardly I smile thinking that will be the end of that.

"No problem," dude says as he whips over to the bar and grabs us each a bottle of Busch.

I know you're asking, "why didn't you just leave the beer on the table and go?" Well, my momma instilled in me that "eat everything on your plate" kind of don't waste nothing mentality. And to this day it really hurts my Scotch soul to leave anything un-consumed. Maybe that's why I'm getting so fat.

"What the hell are we going to do?" I asked Chip in a low breath.

"Get your beer and follow me," he said.

We took our beers into the bathroom, turned them up and drank them down, tossed the empties in the trash and Chip peeked out of the doorway.

"Come on, let's go!" he said as we bee-lined from the bathroom, out the door and into the scorching summer sun. We laughed like school boys as I gunned it down the freeway. "Hell, that's the only time I ever ran away from free beer in my life!" chip bellowed.

"Me too, my man, me too," I said.