Beer, apparently, comes in flavors now.
It shouldn’t be possible, even. It’s downright criminal. Beer is essential, beer is pure. It’s truth itself, really, truth in the shape of a foamy pint–you go mucking with that and it’s a crime against truth. Besides, beer already comes in just the right flavor: beer flavor. No one asked for mint and cardamom. Somehow, when everyone was distracted or out drinking, some asshole swooped in and figured to sell beer to people who had no business drinking it. So now beer’s in worse shape than bagels even, splayed in no uncertain pornography across all the flavors of the rainbow, bent and contorted around blueberries and chocolates and Lord knows what else. Beer–God knows it’s only poor wheat water–has been contaminated with the sick wax of five cent candies, sticky with raspberry and banana, and what’s more it’s been profaned with Fightin’ Bitch extra hops and Hair of the Dog’s Balls extract. Decency? Gone, been gone since as long as I can remember. Can’t sell decency. Not like guilt, no, that’s a hot commodity, that’s twenty-five fifty for a box of chocolates and ten bucks for a pint of ice cream. Chocolate malt stout, can you believe what they’re buying now? The drink belongs in a juice box not a bottle, and still they line up around the block to buy a pint, skinny lads with gangster rap in their heads and cooked spaghetti in their arms, shuffling up to the bar and asking for a drink in barely but a whisper. Baby farts–they’re better off asking for milk these boys, suckling at a half-pint of barley wine like it was mommy’s breast.
You know, the worst part is there’s nothing, literally not a goddamned thing I can do about it. What, should I complain or something? To who, exactly? To you? You’re no better off than I am. Fact of the matter is we’re all helpless to do anything about it. As long as someone will buy it someone will come along and sell it, nevermind what’s good for them. It’s like a drug, or worse than a drug, really. At least you know where you stand with a line of cocaine. Cocaine doesn’t come in fucking blueberry flavor. But Christ, now I’ve said it. Just watch, before the year’s out every discotheque from here to Java will be full of teenagers snorting baby’s first coke in bubblegum and cherry flavor.
Now I can see it in your face, what, you’re wondering when I’m going to shut up. What am I even complaining about? Nothing really, I suppose. It’s just the bitter rambling of an old man who doesn’t understand the world he’s living in, same as any old man really.
But maybe still you’re curious, what is he going to do about it, this old man, just what is he going to do? Because you’re right, nothing’s stopping me from getting up and walking to the other side of the bar, going behind the counter even. I could take a stand. Maybe the next kid who comes in here I tell him to beat it, or when he asks for whatever abomination he thinks he should be drinking maybe I give him something he ought to be drinking instead. Or I could destroy all that trash beer–why not, I’m an old man after all–I could get back there and line up all the peach schnapps and vanilla lagers and smash them to pieces, six at a time with the mean end of a crowbar.
But I realize something, and maybe it’s a small comfort to an old man like myself, dancing about my own tombstone as I am. The truth is nothing ever dies, not in this world. Once something leaves its stain there’s nothing you can do to get it out. There’s me breaking every bottle of flavored swill in this bar, sure, but there’s nothing I can do to stop it from coming back. It came once, after all, what’s to stop it from coming again? Even after a hundred years, when flavored beer has been dead and gone for ages and no one can even remember it, it could still come back. Time is like a forest fire, you know. The kindling will still be waiting, still hungry for that sick spark that will leap up at a moment’s notice and start the whole thing burning again. It happened once, it can happen again.
You and I, we’re sitting here talking, but why do we even bother doing that? You think we’re making something here, in this so-called conversation, sharing ideas or building friendship or whatever you want to call it? You and I, there’s nothing special about us. Cherry flavored beer, that was bound to happen eventually, and you and me, sitting here, drinking it, that was bound to happen as well. Everything can’t happen at once, that’s the only rub, so you and I, we see things as possible or not possible and we think and fuss about what will and won’t happen. But you see it, don’t you? Everything can happen. Everything will happen. We’re sitting in some crazy kind of bar, some bar that’s been around since the beginning of time with dinosaur bones under the pinball machine and Caesar’s own piss drying on the bathroom floor. You sit in a bar long enough and you see everything, right? Well this just a bar, I tell you, an ancient, endless bar, not just this room here but the trees out there and the stars over beyond, and we’re just sitting around drinking and painting and throwing atomic bombs at each other and waiting. Why? Because that’s all we can do. You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here, they say, but this is our home, and I know I said beer was pure and primal and whatever nonsense I was gushing about before but now you can see that it isn’t. There ain’t nothing pure about it because if it can come in honey-ginger flavor then something of that flavor is in the beer already, in its essence.
What are we, if this beautiful glass of good honest hops before me is tainted with what it could be, with what it might become? I am, you are, we are all men. The man you think you’re talking to is just a coincidence, the way a soul happens to look in a certain light, just before the sun sets. You look away for a second and I’m already gone.
Beer, apparently, comes in flavors now.