Saturday, March 5, 2011

Home Brewing.

We remodeled the Master Bedroom, whatever that means. Just the term “master bedroom” implies that there is one bedroom to rule them all, imposing its constant authority on any lesser rooms, and so doing with high intellect. And then the concept of “remodeling,” as if the prototype of the original living space never lived up to expectations, and the version we lived with all this time was ever only a concept, and thus will be replaced with another concept, another idea. A new model. Where’s the living? Where’s the mastery? Change. 

So I have a beer and forget about it all. Beer. That inimitable of devices, the thing that washes over all prefab constructs and breaks them down, makes all of life more habitable. And through beer, I get a remodel on demand. 

I’ve been making my own beer, of late. It’s an old college passion of mine, revived in my mid-age. What other great thing dumbs down the intellect, bears out its reputation and yet lasts through the ages, and with so few ingredients? The mouth of a perfectly happy man is filled with beer, goes an old Egyptian proverb. And what old education cannot be recounted without being gilded by some beer-related anecdote? Live. Learn. Live some more. 

I’ve purchased a few new tools, all for the purpose of making beer, and Mrs. Ditchman accepts it with a tolerant disposition, knowing full well that this is (at least in part) my mid-life crisis. And this, sized up against a wind-in-her-hair twentysomething coed fresh off the boat from summer camp, hopping into the passenger seat of an over-priced set of shiny new axles -a few home-brewed beers is an acceptable trade. I‘m cheerful about it all, too. And everyone needs a cheerful Dad.

So I turned 41, and began my 42nd year. The birthday plan unraveled simply around a simple, beer-ish theme: finish work early on Friday and head over to tour the local microbrewery with the best friends, and then taste a bit in the beer gardens. And the next day invite over the good neighbors and actually make a batch -a hefeweizen, if you must know- and then have it transferred to the fermentation vessel and blessed by the local yokels, after which we would retire to the patio for a few more beers, straight from the beverage cart. 

And what locals! Strangers, picked by the fates to move to this suburban cul-de-sac and bear my children’s street friends. This cul-de-sac where we would gather our offspring in each other’s yards for some seriously scheduled frolicking, and then more beer drinking, while the weather is good. 

Moms connect and discuss the remodel. They offer old kids’ clothes, and wry, maternal insight. Meanwhile, the children look for tadpoles in the unkept pond, pre-spring, in the twilight. And the Dads? Well, they make fun of each other over that home brew, and there is no greater compliment. It’s the suburbs. Happy birthday. 

Later, there was cake. Everyone sang ‘happy birthday’ and I sat there and tried to take it like a man, which was awkward. You’re 41. You’re a man. But they’re singing the birthday song, the song they sing to the kids, in these same yards all through the year. Can you take it? Because if you can’t, the beer may not help. The sports car/coed-escape may be your only chance. Go for it. 

But ‘Happy Birthday’ will never sound the same again.