Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Americans Fight Back


A couple of months ago on this site, I posted an Open Letter to All Americans on the Subject of Beer and lovingly signed it from your friends, the British.  While it was completely tongue-in-cheek and chock full of untruths and assumptions, I was pleased that it elicited a few chuckles from my readers on both sides of the pond.

The best reaction of all was from a small group of American beer lovers, most notably my partner Steph and our friend Rita, who decided to fight back.

They organized a beer tasting event at my house.  I was to provide a sampling of the finest British beer (subject to availability on these shores) and friends were invited to bring along their favorite non-British beer, American preferred, but alternative nationalities accepted.

Game on!  On this final weekend of the London Olympics, let the tasting begin.

Representing Her Majesty’s people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as procured from the import section of the off-licence (as we Brits like to call our liquor stores) near my house, some of my favorites - see picture above.  Mostly ales, some organic, the assembled crowd agreed that these were frightfully jolly good brews, created in the northern climes of England: Sam Smiths, Boddingtons, Tetley’s, and Newcastle Brown.

Representing a few of the smaller breweries of the United States, here we have beers from Deschutes Brewery in Oregon, New Belgium Brewing in Colorado, and Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City, Missouri.  Mighty fine beers all, and evidence of the grand improvements made in American brewing over the last twenty years.  Not a bad one among the bunch.  Well done, Americans!

Rounding up the pack, a few friends brought beers from the Euro Zone (let’s all say Euro Zone while we still can, eh?) from Belgium and from Bavaria in Germany.  All three came from breweries that had their humble origins in the monasteries and abbeys of the dark ages.  Despite the fairly safe assumptions that the goodly monks and friars didn’t wash their hands and had relatively filthy habits, these beers went down smoothly and were enjoyed by all.

And then there was James. 

Somebody had to invite James.  James too, it is told, enjoyed a few laughs at my Open Letter. The great wag that he is, James decided to stop by his local convenience store and contribute the following to the beer tasting event: Miller, Coors, Budweiser.  Please note (as highlighted in my original post) the spelling of Lite and the on-the-can indicator of whether the beer is merely cold or super cold (whatever that is).  Not surprisingly, most of these beers went unopened during the event.

(Note, if anyone wants free “beer” and is willing to cart off these heinous 24 fl. oz. cans that are currently taking up valuable space in my refrigerator, let me know – first come, first served!)

James’ pi├Ęce de resistance was a delightful little number, whose very existence I was joyfully oblivious to, until it showed up in James’ shopping bag, accompanied by a gleeful cheesy American grin on his face.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, I kid you not, Bud Light & Clamato.  For those of you as blissfully uninitiated as I was, Clamato is tomato juice mixed with clam broth and unnamed spices.  Not quite believing what I was seeing, I later stopped by the Clamato website, whereupon I was duly informed that….

”using a top-secret process for mollusk reanimation, our engineers add a small amount of clam broth at just the right moment to give Clamato its unique taste.”

This is what happens, people, when an entire nation is left to its own devices without proper grown-up supervision.  A small minority spoils it for everyone.  They mix shellfish with fruit (or is a tomato a vegetable?) If that is not bad enough, they mix that concoction with beer.  And, it must be asked, what the hell is “mollusk reanimation”?

This is a picture of James drinking Bud Light & Clamato.  Natural consequences if ever there were any.  Needless to say, in our informal poll, this vile hybrid came in last place.

The winners were as follows:

Gold Medal:    Boddingtons
Silver Medal:   Sam Smith’s Organic Best Ale
Bronze Medal: Boulevard’s Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale

Proving conclusively that, while American beer should be commended for trying hard and for most improved, the remaining skeletons in the closet cannot be ignored - and British beer still comes out on top.

Author's note: Despite his faults, James is to be commended on two levels: firstly, for putting his mouth where his money is and drinking most of the whole can of Bud Light & Clamato; secondly, for his excellent taste in girlfriend - the lovely Bernadette brought us delicious peaches from her garden which made it all better.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Believe It Or Not!


One of the great joys of my career in education is having a few weeks off in the summer for vacations and other pursuits.  I love spending some of that time directing high school students in theater productions.  Each summer I find myself back at the theater program I founded ten years ago, working with a talented and motivated group of kids, putting on a play.  We have developed a tradition of creating fictional biographies of each other – cast and crew – for the program.

Our most recent play, this July, was No Crime Like The Present. These are some of my favorite bios – some were written by me, some by the kids.  Great creativity and silliness.

(I’ve removed names to protect the innocent.  You know who you are!)

Steve de Beer was originally born under a dark cloud in the mountains of Afghanistan, but at age 17, he dug a tunnel under the Indian and Pacific oceans to the United States with a plastic spoon. He surfaced at Broadway, breaking through the stage during a performance of Les Miserables, and thus his love of theater was born. He began touring New York City, discovering his love for theatre at every turn. Once atop the Empire State Building an oversized bird snatched him up and dropped him in Denver where he found his passion for fire breathing. 

EB was born in New Orleans, but was separated from her family during a rowdy Mardi Gras parade when a dancer tripped over her. The man who found her, Enrique “Big John” Sanchez, owned a Tex-Mex restaurant and raised her as a worker. He renamed her Emilia Tocino, after his favorite slaughtered pig on a childhood TV show. One day, a casting director came for a breakfast burrito and was astounded by EB’s raw talent for entertainment. He whisked her away to New Zealand, where she played a flatulent princess in a sci-fi film that never showed in theaters and was instantly catapulted to stardom. After years of movie roles and worldwide fame, EB sought normalcy while visiting her aunt in Denver. While she was hiding from paparazzi in Aunt Lucille’s cellar, EB found a flyer for Stanley’s Theater Camp. She bribed Steve to allow her to participate by offering him unlimited access to her professional makeup stylist, as his deepest desire has always been to be a clown.

JB first uncovered his love for the arts as a professional ballet dancer in northern British Columbia. Once he realized he was sick of tights, JB twirled his way all the way to Denver, where he was discovered, years later, living under a rock in Cheesman Park. It was his time coexisting with moss that made JB find his passion for the performing arts again, but this time, wearing tights while acting.  JB is the only male cast member in this show and appreciates all the backstage chatter about whether he should perform the whole show in just his boxers.  When asked about the lack of boys in the cast, JB was heard uttering, in a high-pitched voice, “Uh, OMG, that’s a lie!” and running out of the room.  He would like to point out that his feet are bigger than everyone’s, even Steve’s.

ZN is an Olympic bronze medal winning synchronized swimmer.  She thinks she looks particularly hot in a tight plastic swimcap and noseplugs.  After auditioning for and getting the part of the sealion in Cirque du Soleil’s aquatic extravaganza, “O”, ZN lived the high life in Vegas until she was way into her 30s.  There she developed an unfortunate addiction to playing nickel slot machines and, on her therapist’s insistence, was transferred to Theater Camp in Denver.  Bending to pressure from ZN’s agent, Steve regularly floods the ballroom so she can perform her best roles. ZN has won the acclaim of the critics, starring in several underwater roles at Theater Camp, including Ursula in The Little Mermaid, Bruce in Finding Nemo, and the pregnant reporter in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

JP was born in Tennessee to a very happily married couple – a rusty trailer and an antique guitar. She spent her youth raising cows, eventually learning to chase them with a bubble machine if they acted up. This fed JP’s naturally bubbly personality, and she soon sang and danced her way across the country as a famous bubbleologist. After years of blowing bubbles, she got tired. She stumbled upon Theater Camp and fell asleep in the costume rack in the library. She was discovered after she screamed because she saw a moth in the clothing.  Steve held her prisoner as a theater slave.  One late afternoon, he heard her muttering to herself, pretending to be the Sorting Hat. Steve was so entranced by her performance that he begged her to join a Theater Camp cast.

CS No one will ever forget CS’s stunning Theater Camp debut as an eight year old when she starred in the role of Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  She has been grateful to Steve for this casting decision ever since. It was nearly as good as the time she was cast as the lady who got locked up in a coffin or the fat guy with the mustache. As Sarah Palin’s 3rd daughter, CS did her first eleven Theater Camp plays in Alaska, right across the street from Russia. She rarely likes to indulge in politics, so she focuses more on her artistic life, most notably knitting. As a notorious communist, she always takes hair ties from the rich and gives them to the poor. She is Robin Hood in her spare time. CS’s most notable achievements are her numerous awards in interpretive dance, spelling, and Brazilian cooking.

OT was born on a miniature giraffe farm in the middle of Kansas. Her first sounds were those of a giraffe, as that was the only life she knew. After departing from her giraffe family, she backpacked across America to Nebraska. There she became a hippie where she learned the art of braiding armpit hair. From there she was adopted to a traveling circus, where she was the lead clown. After touring the world, the circus came to Denver, Colorado, where OT discovered Theater Camp. She left the circus and decided to pursue a life of theatre. OT currently resides in the little bookshelves of the library at Stanley. Look for a book and maybe you’ll see her.

CH never thought she would be in theater production.  She began her career at a pet store in Ogallala, Nebraska, counting dry food pellets for Chihuahuas but was soon fired for getting kibbles confused with bits.  After bussing tables on trains, training tables on planes, and planing tables on buses, CH tried her hand at performing acrobatics for Barnum and Bailey circus, doing rocket science for NASA, and acting as Mitt Romney’s face double.  She drives a different Honda each day of the week.

GH migrated from Bruges to Denver on Dumbo, the flying elephant. His ginger curls and obsession with Disney whisked him away under the sea to Ariel. When she washed up onto the beach, Ariel dumped GH for a brown haired beach boy. While heartbroken, he walked hundreds of miles until he reached the home of Steve de Beer. Steve, feeling sorry for GH, welcomed him into his home and employed him as a technical lackey. GH has been serving Steve as a live-in slave for seven years now and he could not be happier.

AW cannot believe she still has to hang out with her fourth grade teacher, Steve.  It sucks.  While living in Southern California, AW was a bodyguard and stand-in double for Lady Ga-Ga.  However AW became disillusioned with Ga-Ga’s conservative fashion sense and overall lack of creativity and she moved back to Colorado to pursue her dream of raising baby dragons and pitching alternative dance shows weekly to 9News.  After 9News turned her down for the 57th time, AW finally got her big break on Fox News, where she stars as Attila the Hun’s 4th wife in the show Designing Cupcakes with Rush Limbaugh.

WS was once the size of Stan Van the Weatherman’s marble and was plucked from a berry bush and planted in a box where he grew into a small boy.  With careful watering and force feeding of Miracle Grow, he is now a bigger boy.  He has been a translator for both William Penn and William ‘the  Refrigerator’ Perry.  WS’s hobbies include gilded picture framing, scrapbooking in pastel colors, and free running. Run free, WS, run free.

EH enjoys performing magic tricks, riding donkeys, and winning hotdog eating contests. On one of her longer donkey rides, the donkey veered out of control, panicked and sprinted all the way from EH’s home in coastal Uruguay to Denver, Colorado.  It was the fastest ass in South America. She took the donkey to a feed store in search of hay. There a family of dormice took pity on her and offered her a home in exchange for nightly magic shows. Her love of performing was born.  EH loves to manage props for the high school shows because she gets to play with wine bottles, cigars, and cigarettes.