This is to a king who does not swing….and kind of tastes like fizzy water syrup….as the question has come up, “Why do I often post photographs of me holding a Budweiser to advertise that there is a new blog post?” Well, hopefully the next few hundred words will be entertaining and shed some light as to why I don’t put the “king of beers” down and it has nothing to do with it’s beechwood aging.
Some point in 2002 I started spending a lot of time in Brooklyn, Williamsburg actually, a few years before Williamsburg exploded into the abominable wretched hipster Mecca it is now. I was there making music and the rehearsal space was between two bodegas that my friends and I affectionately named after their owners: China Guy and Italian Guy also known as Anthony Fruit and Deli. Years later it was from China Guy that I purchased the seminal Dog Fish Head Raison d’être for the first time, but that’s a long story for another day ‘cause it was 3:30 am on a Wednesday (or Tuesday Night depending on how you look at it) and I was with my friend and fellow lover of all things liquid and wonderful Michael Doctor. I tended to go to Italian Guy also known as Anthony Fruit and Deli, more often, not because I’m Italian, because it was more entertaining. Italian guy also know as Anthony Fruit and Deli was magnificent in his clever ways to insult, berate, belittle, offend, criticize, scold, and ultimately dissuade the encroaching horde of trustaferian kids that were besieging his neighborhood. Ignoring their limitless credit cards and ferocious appetite for his $8 an ounce Moroccan ketchups, he went out of his was to embarrass them for their overly priced tight and blatantly non-fitting designer clothes that were made to look like they came from the closet of a dead relative, he knew full well they would return the next night only to buy more cigarettes, those Moroccan condiments and beer, of which he actually only sold Budweiser.
Italian Guy also known as Anthony Fruit and Deli was on occasion very generous to me, by laying otherworldly cheese or finely cut prosciutto on me when no one was looking. And unknown to my friends, Italian Guy also known as Anthony Fruit and Deli would invite me to join him in his back office to share a cigar, drink espresso and whatever was poured out of an old grimly Cinzano bottle and talk shit. In the back of my mind that red wine like libation could have been anything and while drinking it I could see, almost to the point of taste, his sweaty hairy feet pressing grapes or plums or cherries or whatever red fruit was used to make this hooch in his upstairs bathtub. An image that took some serious focus to look past in order to gulp down this chunky red fire water and get out of there as quickly as possible with a six pack of tall boy Budweiser cans. It wasn’t every time I went in to Italian Guy also known as Anthony Fruit and Deli that I’d be summoned to the back office, to gaze at pictures of his family from the old country, get a buzz on, burn a cigar, and listen to him talk shit about the change in the neighborhood, invariably making me late for whatever rehearsal or session I was supposed to be playing, but it was enough times for me to want to store the memory. The music however was an even better memory not because I was polluted from consuming my body weight of those white and red “King of beers” cans bought from either China Guy or Italian Guy also known as Anthony Fruit and Deli nightly, those cans of Bud were just an accompaniment to a time in my young life where things were still new enough to be exciting and we were all very, very happy to be alive. Being acutely aware that these experiences wouldn’t last, I savored each moment and stored them in my mind as clearly as I could. Now whenever I catch a whiff of that pungent stale stench of an open can of Budweiser I immediately think of my friends who I miss, the time we shared, and our common dream of the music we made together, not to mention the shit-talk of Italian Guy also known as Anthony Fruit and Deli.
The Budweiser line doesn’t end there. Around the same time I was also tending bar at small cafe where a defrocked Catholic priest who we the staff still called Father King, would come in and guzzle Budweiser bottles from 4:45 to 7 pm. Maybe he sought refuge in this quiet relaxed place where the music was good and there were people to laugh at his jokes. Whatever the reason was didn’t really matter as he was there to reliably drink six or more happy hour priced long necks of the “King of Beers” and not eat. I would of course offer him any other beer we had, but already half in the bag before waltzing and shuffling his large frame in, he would respond in his not-so-thick-anymore Irish accent, “Pearson, my son, all that other shit is like having a sex in a canoe…..it’s fucking near water!” And he’d rattle a laugh that more often than not would turn into a fit of choking and coughing. I enjoyed Father King’s visits immensely, he was witty, insightful, well educated, very well traveled, and deeply invested in the lives of the people around him, despite the bottle. While not sure if he’s still living, still fighting the devils in him, I’ll occasionally crack a Bud in deference to Father King. Although I tend to pour a drop or two in the dirt just in case he didn’t make it all the way.
A year or so later, in another town, I took a job at an Irish bar and I loath “Irish” bars. All that fake blarney mack-gill-a-cutty malarkey, with the kiss me I’m Irish pins and creepy leprechaun only urinals. The deep fried cheese sticks and bland burned potato skins and chesty waitresses in low, low cut shirts who flirt for extra tips or kicks with drunk frat boys and toupee wearing stock brokers who reeked from fear of going home to their wives, it was that type of place. But it was a job and I would have hated it entirely had it not been for a malcontent drunk named Mickey. On most Saturday morning as I unlocked the doors to start my shift, waiting for me (or anyone) wanting to come in, would be Mickey. Before I could put on my armband or that stupid plaid tie, Mickey would already be on Budweiser number two. He loved the Yankees, despised George Bush, screamed about Con Edison his former employer from whom his pension was cut and cashed at my register. He was belligerent, rude and got off on accosting the 9-11 firemen who’d gather for lunch to repeat their tired stories about being on the bucket brigade at ground zero. He was in all forms the most miserable man I have ever known yet something about him was endearing, maybe because in a certain light he reminded me of my Grandmother, not the drunkenness, but his pasty white coloring and his cackling breathless laugh. Or perhaps it was his seething 70 year-old liberal rants, boundlessly blaming Fox News, the Mets, Alex Rodriguez, Martha Stewart, Dick Cheney, or Guinness as to why he was so unhappy. He was well educated, Catholic, somewhat respected, but ultimately he was lonely and pathetically drunk, the latter I helped him stay. So, on those rare nights that I drink that garbage sorry excuse for a beer, it’s not for the lousy taste, it’s to my cherished memories of Italian Guy also known as Anthony Fruit and Deli, it’s to what we thought was ground-breaking music that was going to propel our destiny, it’s to my friend Father King, and lastly to that miserable bastard of a drunk Mickey. That, and of course, if it’s free…..