I had some clients in for the Ohio State-Indiana game this year and wanted to get some different kinds of beer for the tailgate. One of the beers we served was Oranjeboom, a Dutch beer that came in 16-ounce cans.
I tried it, and thought it was pretty good — smooth, not bitter, a perfectly fine beer to guzzle outdoors while noshing on tailgate food like beef brisket and chili. A few weeks later, I saw that our local beverage store carried it. It had a reasonable price tag, so I bought a six-pack to drink while the boys and I smoked cigars over the Thanksgiving holiday. The beer held up well against the cigar, too.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I did a search for Oranjeboom and found that the Beer Advocate website rates Oranjeboom as a “C.” The raters look at things like the head, “lacing,” “retention,” “body,” and “finish,” and they concluded, no doubt with a sniff of condescension, that Oranjeboom just didn’t measure up. Silly me! I thought I was just drinking beer, and not performing a taste test for the Queen of England.
I recognize that some beers are better than others, and that some people — like my friend Marcel — are very serious about their beers and work hard at brewing their own concoctions. That’s fine. It’s absurd, however, to rate a canned brew that is meant to be quaffed in short order as if it is a bottle of Chateau Margaux. It makes the raters look like pathetic beer snobs who really need to get a life.
You known you’ve really made it as a significant poet when some of your verse makes it onto a greeting card.
The reason for this is simple: there is no better testament to your powers as a wordsmith than knowing that other people, after careful consideration, have concluded that your thoughtful expressions best capture the sentiment they want to convey.
Some people celebrate the extra hour of sleep we gain when we “fall back” every autumn. Other people dread that day, because the simple act of turning back the clocks ushers in a season of seemingly constant darkness.
It’s dark when we get up in the morning, dark when we drive to work, and dark when we sit at our desks and turn to our work. It’s dark when we we leave at night, dark as we drive home, and dark when we walk into our front doors. When you couple the shroud of darkness with the unrelentingly overcast, wet, and cold weather that characterizes a Midwestern winter, you have concocted a powerfully grim brew that many people find difficult to handle. There’s a reason why seasonal affective disorder has been defined by health care professionals.
I think there are two keys to successfully handling the darkness season. First, maximize your exposure to daylight. Get out of the building and into the open air for lunch and on weekend days, and if the skies are clear turn your face sunward. Even the shriveled intensity of the winter sun is better than no sun at all.
Second, during the dark hours at home, always have a project to work on. It might be reading a collection by a favorite author, or baking Christmas cookies, or updating your iPod. One winter Kish and I decided to watch The Sopranos from beginning to end, and it was a very enjoyable exercise that helped to make the days go faster. The projects will help to occupy the idle hours and leave you with a feeling of accomplishment — and perhaps even an appreciation for the darkness season and the opportunities it offers.