I’m absolutely certain that at least one of my buddies loves that title (and not because he’s a urologist, plastic surgeon, or collector of John Wayne Bobbitt memorabilia). In fact, I’ll predict that he texted me his approval of it before even reading to the end of this sentence. It’s catchy, playfully annoying, and hard to pin down (no pun intended, really). Problem is, I’m not so sure how relevant it will actually be to the content of the this post. That’s primarily because I’m not entirely sure where this post is going to go or even how much craft beer content will wind its way in.
I do know this: I’m calling my next home brew Senile Implant and while the recipe isn’t close to the drawing board, it’ll amlost certainly be a big, high ABV imperial oatmeal stout. Something dark and contemplative that promotes thoughtful recollection brewed with the usual suspects of deeply roasted barley and oats, layered with earthy hops, and fermented with a classic American Ale yeast. The most important ingredients; however, won’t be in the brew kettle, primary, or secondary fermentor. They won’t fit in a carboy and wouldn’t do well in boiling wort or fermenting beer. Mirrors, prisms, and the catalytic haze of people, places, and days gone by have to be added long after the brewing process is complete, usually after the third or fourth pour.
Ironically, the inspiration for this post didn’t develop during a craft beer research session (though I did enjoy a spectacularly fresh Four Peaks Hop Knot IPA at the brewpub just a few hours earlier that day. More on that another time). It was early March of 2012 – March 2nd to be exact – and I was on my ninth trip to Scottsdale, my safe “tree” from life’s game of tag. I’d make a tenth visit just 6 weeks later. More than simply a beautiful place to visit, Scottsdale had become a virtual time machine. The sun had been down about an hour and I was just a few sips into a second Partida Reposado at the outside bar of Stone Rose at the Scottsdale Princess (recently re-branded the Plaza Bar) when I noticed two guys at the other side of the square bar involved in an animated and joyous conversation about their round at the TPC Stadium Course. One reached the 15th’s island green in two while the other fell miserably short. They looked to be about 30 and were obviously good friends – maybe best friends. They were me…20 years ago.
Their gestures and laughter reminded me of my first drinks there (it was called Cazadores back then) with my best friend almost exactly 20 years before to the day. We turned 30 one week apart and that trip was our pre-midlife crisis golf vacation. Seemed like a good idea. Travel to a gorgeous, warm, interesting place to play golf every day and have a few drinks every night. This was still several years before I even knew I was loosely on the path to becoming a craft beer geek so the evening golf recaps were accompanied with Tanqueray & Tonics as opposed to Stone Ruinations or Firestone Walker Wookey Jacks. The guys across the bar appeared to be drinking either vodka or gin & tonics and for all I knew they were Northeasterners on a golf trip – maybe their pre-midlife crisis vacation – just like my buddy and I were two decades before.
Then one of them made eye contact with me and to this day I have a frighteningly clear recollection of glancing away as if instinctively and reflexively pulling my hand from an open flame. Retreating from some undefined danger. Music and conversation at Stone Rose’s outside bar is never too loud and didn’t drown out the muted clink of ice against glass as I raised the tequila for another sip. At that moment I wondered what they saw in me from the other side of the bar. After all, they’re me so they had to notice the same parallels.
It didn’t take long for me to recognize that if they noticed me at all they surely didn’t see themselves in me. They didn’t see a reasonably fit, carefree 30 year old prosecutor that first visited Scottsdale and they certainly didn’t see the very, VERY fit 40 year old version that came extremely close to being on the cast of Survivor II – Australian Outback (yep, I still have the video to prove it). They didn’t see those versions because they only exist in that virtual time machine I mentioned earlier. The version sitting at the bar that night was overweight, balding (I’m OK with that), and drinking alone (I’m OK with that too, sometimes). If those guys had projected out 20 years into their futures and seen themselves in me, they’d have been the ones reflexively retreating from the open flame. They saw what I couldn’t, not with my mirror obscured by the blinding memories being thrown off by that prism.
Their girlfriends joined them as I finished that second tequila. Another few rounds of laughter and they all headed of to dinner and to their next 20 years. I stayed for one more. The time machine might have been temporarily tarnished but I still had plenty of great memories to drink with. Though ironically, they’d probably best be forgotten.
As I finished I noticed an older gentleman had taken up a spot at one of the corners. He was at least 15 years older than me, alone, and drinking a Coors Light from the bottle. I only hoped that wasn’t a glimpse of my future. If senility does overtake me, I pray my silver alert doesn’t include the silver bullet.
There. I forced this thing back to some modest, if forced, relevance to that catchy title.