#YourDailyGame. A woman with institutional authority over you such as a supervisor — or one with a psychological imprint on your psyche such as your older sister — might get bratty in a group setting. When that happens, look at the others with a Kevin Spacey deadpan expression and say: “And they ask me why I drink.”
Beer. Not all golden ages are in the past or in the future. We are now living in a golden age — of beer. My occasional indulgence is an imperial stout. More commonly, I order an east coast-style IPA to ride a buzz with my friends; Michigan’s Bell’s Two Hearted epitomizes that type of citrusy hops taste. If German-style Witbier is your thing, Maine-brewed Allagash White is the best. When slumming it, we Chesapeakians reach for Natty Boh. Old Bay seasoning on the rim if you dare.
Boycott. East Indians secure an area’s liquor store market by gaming anti-collusion laws. Bangladeshi-owned breakfast and sandwich franchises invoke an image of Ganges hands handling my food. Local roofers and electricians grab their morning coffees to banter with the gregarious manager, who mimics the working-class rapport in his sing-songy accent. The SBA greases the track for foreign ownership with incentive structures nominally envisioned for African-American urban core enterprises. South Asians ride that train with their chain immigration labor force. Up a few tiers in venue hierarchy, a faux-upscale national coffee shop chain does not welcome traditional families. We go elsewhere on all counts.
Fortune 500. Big corporations attract executive talent through the limitless opportunities and resources at a large company’s disposal, and they retain the best skilled overhead staff via the job security inherent in a bureaucratic corporate structure. However, those big companies struggle with retaining their most talented billable staff — actual consultants, project managers, designers, engineers — who are drawn to smaller companies in which they spend more time doing what they love with a greater degree of creative control, and less time spent filing TPS reports.
Infertility. A clique of thirty-something mothers meets weekly in a coffee shop or in one of their houses, indubitably
humble-bragging complaining about their husbands. One of the girls in the group just had her second baby and another has been unable to conceive in almost a decade of trying, starting at a young age and even losing a lab-assisted pregnancy. As I hear it, she had cut off contact with the circle upon that new baby’s arrival. One lives righteously and yet one is denied. Babies — her own and then her grandchildren — is all a good woman gets from life. I don’t know her well but I can imagine her pleading why??
Nostalgia. This very day will give you nostalgic feelings later because it is the tangible specifics associated with a strong emotion that fill a memory. There were moments in my thirties and even my teens when I wondered if this passing moment’s exquisite satisfaction will ever be equaled. My girlfriend looking fresh in that funny checkered blouse. The joking and smoking with the guys in the parking lot after work, nobody feeling like splitting to go home quite yet.
Poolside. I was poolside. Precisely, this was a late summer afternoon last year and it was an outdoor pool at a leafy community center, which I’ll euphemistically describe as a family-friendly environment. The two lifeguards weren’t even European work-study students; they were nice-looking young Americans. The sky was crystal clear and a song I hadn’t heard in ages evoked a high school memory, an autumn trip with my parents to northern New Jersey: the leaves were crimson, my new varsity jacket was stiff and smelled of new material and I was too preoccupied with my sophomore sports team stuff to notice anything.
Signals. After getting home from the pool, I looked up the video for that song. I never cared much for the artist but I hadn’t seen the video in decades. Times change and historic artifacts reveal a previously sealed message. You can find gold in unlikely places. The faces in the video were now emphatically transmitting an encoded dispatch to us across time. I looked at the video like a radar operator catching the faded, distant signal and amplifying its instructions over waves of noise and static, decoding the scrambled directions for the struggle over death in which we’ve found ourselves unwitting and then unwilling belligerents. Like a honeybee grasping at a spoon, crawling out of a glass in which it was drowning.
Teenagers. This was yesterday. I place my order and sit at a table near a solidly-built man in an orange Orioles shirt and a little boy with him. He gives me a glance. I get it, papa bear. Me too, man. Up-tempo music is playing from ceiling speakers, hard to hear it over the noise of the fryers. Rockabilly or alt-country? A teenage couple approaches the pick-up counter. The girl is slim with lovely legs in her dark jeans, a bright frisky grin. The boyfriend’s face upturned a bit to keep that rock-star hair out of his eyes. He’s wearing a black tank-top. Is that look coming back? He goes over to the drink machine, the girl stays at the counter to chat with an employee who hands her their to-go order. They know each other. Probably classmates. In contrast with the boyfriend’s brooding musician look, the boy who works at the restaurant is ruddy-complexioned with a crew cut under his grill hat. I dub him “baseball player” on account of his precociously masculine hands and confident bearing, which transform his work uniform into something you’d see on a diamond. They chat as the boyfriend is pouring drinks at the fountain.
I wonder if I’m witnessing a playing out of Game in the wild, with the girleen leaning on the counter, twisting her legs, rocking her hips, pivoting on her heel and laughing with the athlete, who fixes her with the familiar smile of a natural player. The rocker comes back with the sodas. Sulky mate-guarding next? But oh me of little faith. The rocker says something to the baseball player, the three of them laugh and then the couple walks out, she leaning on him, her arm around his waist and looking up at him as though the key to the puzzle is under the locks of hair over his face.
Waiting for my food, I started composing that scene in my mind and the unifying theme of this post becomes clear. Sometimes yes, dulce et decorum est indeed.
Shots of Wisdom, Part 2 spied on angels and devils from a cautious distance.