[box]Here at The Wagon, we occassionally field some prose composed by our staff of fine, fine writers. Just like an evening out, we are never sure where the prose ends up going but we are sure glad we wound up there. Undoubtedly, you have your own tales from over the holiday (if St. Patty’s is still a “holiday”) and will likely have stories from future weekends. Think you have what it takes? Tell us a story.[/box]
Today is not St. Patricks day, but it seems like a good a time as any to venture out to a brewery for the first time in two months. Given the holiday, there is that off-hand conflict I get being an American with Irish blood who was reluctantly raised Catholic. Further conflict coming from someone who typically takes his consumption of alcohol very seriously and in some cases, professionally, to wander out to what has been dubbed one of many holidays for amateur drinkers (coupled with New Year’s Eve, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and possibly even Earth Day).
Even though we are on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, people don’t recognize me for my pale skin and red-hair and inherent lack of green wardrobe. Today I’m recognized for having what I am only left to assume is the “Colorado Injury” that has left me with an elevated leg, a quasi-mechanical brace, and a fistful of painkillers every day for the past six weeks. When I do go out, like I have today, strangers greet me with an eerily knowing grin and just say “Skiing?”
Before I answer they jump right to, “Yeah, I tore my ACL at a Crossfit competition.” And I tell them that is nice and I tore everything in my knee, but CrossFit is cute. So keep up with that. I tell them I did it in a rock climbing accident (“dude, gnarly!”) but I leave out details like how I only fell from about five feet at an indoor gym, and there was even a mattress I almost landed on. However, the ortho I’ve been working with tells me it’s the worst injury he’s ever seen – no small words coming from a man who routinely works with professional athletes (note, I am not a professional athlete). In future editions of the Merck Manual, the Colorado Injury stems largely from being a risk-taker/thrill-seeker/downright-idiot.
As the doctors and physical therapists slowly put my leg back together I’m on a diet of opiates and other such things that aren’t complimented well by alcohol. I think about how much time and energy has gone into making sure I can walk again. Think of the old men who have football injuries from fifty years ago – when the science wasn’t quite there and the joints aren’t completely the same as they were before impact. For them, drinking makes sense. For that moment I don’t have to think about the dull ache, the hours of stretching ahead of me, or what a damn idiot I was to begin with.
So, no, not skiing. But a battle scar without a war waged still yields you a free round.
We’ve posted up at Black Shirt Brewing. They only do red ales, but they aren’t the kind of people to go with the flow – so there is no Irish Red on tap. Which is fine because this is the closest place I can find to the pub-feeling even on this unholy day of drinking that isn’t heavily sponsored by Harp’s or Jameson. There is no Celtic music being played, not even U2 has made it into circulation (mercy for the small favors). Ryan and his girl have joined us. Like so many in Denver he has been drinking since at least noon and the boy can’t quite figure out the glass that has been placed in front of him. It’s the special glass they serve beers into, shaped to cup the whole face – to enhance the olfactory sensation of drinking one of their beers.
But if you’re already several beers in you will probably wind up with half the beer on the table in front of you. As asshole as it sounds, the Offero glass isn’t just to drink from, but to appreciate the beer out of. Appreciation is a lot to ask for when “celebrating” begins with a 9 AM beer. After that, the day is just survival. Wherever the lines of elitism are drawn, when it comes to damn fine craft beer – no one doesn’t belong here. Even the guy in the Affliction T-shirt and white baseball cap, fueled by green Coors Light and ten-dollar Jameson’s shots and an afternoon of watching girls make out in the parking lot of Fado’s – even he belongs here so long as he figures out which way to hold his glass.
It might be the simplest indoctrination of any church – a reminder that no one in this city will be lining the papal pews in the morning to celebrate St. Patrick for what he did for the Irish. What did he do for the Irish? It’s amazing how we celebrate someone who brought Christianity to Paegans. Then again, after enough red-ales I suppose anyone could claim they’ve witnessed the word of god.
Ryan and his girl and my girl and I talk about things we think we might know about Irish (though, in hindsight, most of them are Scottish, some English, some nothing at all) and it isn’t long before someone keeps farting out cornedbeef and hash. We spread our wealth and move on, Ryan and lady down a dark path to the other end of town, another party or bar lined with sticky specials, my own wife and I wind up at Our Mutual Friend – yet another place I’ve been absent from for two months, yet another place saved from the St. Patrick’s madness.
Hobbling in on my crutches I am eyed by the group at the big table – how brave this man be! In a bar at this hour! But this hour is safe. Those who have started their day hauling around a case of Coors have long since burned out face down in a gutter – the holiday over long before it actually begins. The table is athletes and physical therapists, again all celebrating being not-Irish since midday – another war story shared and a my information exchanged with the best physical therapist in all of Denver.
Swear man, the best, she’ll get you walking again.
I’m lucky to have the crutches. I’m lucky to have made it to a taproom (two, even). I’m lucky to know places to go where the crowds of the harsh and inconsiderate aren’t (save for cornedbeef expressions). Lucky that I live in a time where a knee-injury isn’t really the end of anything. Lucky to have been laid up for two months of learning how to work remotely, learning how to balance, how to re-learn to do things for myself. Lucky to just walk (crutch?) into physical therapists on random evenings.
Sure, walking may still be a fantasy for a few weeks. Riding bikes is still months away, I may never climb again. But I know I’m damn lucky.
So maybe that’s why we recognize this holiday in a secular fashion – not for the green or the Guiness, but for the sheer fact of how fucking lucky we all are.