Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Saturday, December 31, 2011

How Beer Saved the World

It seems only fitting that the last posting of the year be something celebratory.  I was assisted by a friend who sent me a very entertaining and educational copy of a program on Discovery that was titled “How Beer Saved the World”.  It is worth every minute of the forty-three necessary to watch all three segments.

I was sharing my experience with a group of friends who have run, walked or ambled with me for about twenty-five years.  Collectively we are called the Hash House Harriers and I posted an earlier blog about the group (ad one member who passed away, much too young) almost a year ago on 1-29-2011 called Fungus Amongus.  I was surprised when I mentioned the show that several had seen it.  One female Hasher said she was aware of one factoid from the show, namely that the Egyptians discovered beer, from a chemistry course she took in college.  Her instructor dropped that fact on students more for the reaction than for the education value.

But how and why beer was so important in Egyptian history is just a small part of the presentation.  If you watch you will learn that Pasteur was more interested in beer than milk, and why.  You’ll learn that were it not for beer much larger number of people would have dies in the Black Plague.  The show ends with a prediction that beer will be one of the first exports into space.

My particular interest in beer at this time stems from a recent birthday present, a kegerator.  Mine is not one of the $2500 ones I saw recently when viewing appliances for our kitchen renovation, but was a CostCo impulse purchase, which I felt would tell me whether I drank beer fast enough to justify having the appliance.

My Florida-based sister-in-law has a friend who keeps one on her deck and I have always found it nice to share a glass or two along with his hospitality.  He stocks it pretty much with Budweiser.  My tastes are more eclectic and I have enjoyed, in my first three purchases, testing a favorite, Sierra Nevada, a Hash member brew, Green Flash, and what I now am pouring, O’Shea’s IPA.  This latter is larger than the first two and has provided me with about a month’s consumption with probably a week or two left in the keg.  I’m unsure if I’ll repeat with it or more likely, try a new one.

I’m fortunate to be living in Southern California where I can leave my keg on my deck, as does my sister-in-law’s friend.  I put a tarp over it when we get the occasional rain and now store both the glasses and the pitcher inside.  I have an oven thermometer that helps me keep the temperature in a suggested range (34-47 degrees) and half a dozen 12-ounce glasses for family and friends.

The big test will be our annual charity Super Bowl Party where the chili screams out for good beer, even with our aging crowd.

While I am tempted to raise a glass of brew this evening, I’ll more likely succumb to tapping into a supply of bubbly as Mary and I bang pots and blow horns in the safety of our home.

For about forty years we have followed pretty much the same routine, go to a movie, then to dinner and then home for a fire, champagne and television.  This year it is Warhorse and a new, intimate restaurant called Bru, which just opened in Lake Forest.

My next post will share with you a book I recently finished about Hela cells, the woman they came from, and how they truly changed the world.  Another fact that had escaped me until recently.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

At Least You have the Memories

Recently I attended a memorial service for a dentist in the Long Beach area.  The notice of the service said that it would span twelve hours, from 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM.  I initially attributed this to some sort of religious custom, but when I arrived I realized it was because the man’s life had touched so many people that a more traditional setting and service would have failed to allow those wanting to pay their respects time and place to do so.

The receiving line for the widow stretched from the opening foyer of the Long Beach Yacht Club, up the stairs and into the opening section of the main gathering room.  I estimate there were close to 300 people in various attitudes of coming and going when I arrived at 11:45 on a Monday.  There was little diminishment when I left ninety minutes later.  I knew only half a dozen of those who were there when I was there, and even they were friends I made through my activities in several companies and community and social organizations.  The variety of age and background of the attendees spoke to this man’s eclectic life.

I couldn’t believe, as I listened to the slide presentation his friends and family had compiled, how close our lives paralleled: dentist, Soccer Coach, Sailor, wine aficionado, gourmet cook, and of retirement age, although neither of us chose to very effectively do that.  The slide show depicted events that carried us through about 50 years of togetherness between him and his wife , family and friends.

I was reminded of a recent show on NPR where Susan Stamberginterviewed Joan Didion whose book, BlueNights chronicled the lingering passing of her 39 year-old daughter Quintana Roo Dunne.  Although I had not read the book or its predecessor The Year of Magical Thinking, my wife had read both and discussed with her book group and me Blue Nights.  What tied the two books together and what made the interview memorable, was the fact that Ms. Stamberg shared the common theme of the books: the passing of a loved one. Ms. Stamberg lost her husband and, although his passing was not as unexpected nor as sudden as that of John Dunne, it did provide a framework for the closing interview question, “What do you say when people say to you ‘At least you have the memories’?”

“I have never really come up with an answer.” was her response and there was a long moment of silence when the listener could almost see the two minds reflecting on the bittersweet fact of memories we carry of a loved one.  Memories that remind us of what we shared, but also remind us that there will never again be the smell of him or her, or the joy of sharing a thought or impression, or the construction of a “new” memory.

It took me more than a year to cope with the death of my father, which happened when I was thirty-four and I still find my mother alive in my thoughts, although she passed away almost twenty years ago. Some memory would and does pop into my head.  I can taste the food, or smell the kitchen odors, or see a scene where what I am doing with my grandson or child was done to and with me by my father.

I find myself smiling…or crying…for no explainable reason.  And I find myself thinking, what am I building that will provide memories for those I love when I am gone?

I think I may read the books.

I promise a lighter mood on my nest blog as I plan to share a Discovery Channel presentation of How Beer Saved the World.  If you missed the show I can catch you up.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Trying to Save the Postal Service

Reading and hearing this week about the drastic steps the Postal Service is taking to save themselves from bankruptcy, I was reminded that for years my wife has been doing all she can to single-handedly save the Service.  For instance she sends birthday cards to about twenty relatives and friends a year and, in spite of my subscription to Blue Mountain, wouldn’t know how to do so electronically.

For my part, I have resisted paying any bills electronically, choosing instead to write checks and stick them in the mail, in spite of the fact that every month or so, one gets buried on my desk and I end up having to pay late fees.

Sending all these bills and cards and the occasional letter or thank you note means we go through a lot of stamps.  The process of choosing those stamps (and sending our request by mail) has become a ritual.

My stamp supply starts the process.  When she runs low she checks my supply to see if I am ready for a new batch.  If not, she raids my supply until I need to order.  Then she brings me the book with the most current issues.  I choose those I want and then she picks hers.  We have been doing this for years, much before the Forever stamps.

The other day I asked her why this stamp selection was a tiered process; why we didn’t hunker down together over a glass of wine and select our stamps.  Her response was that we didn’t have the same choice of stamps and she needs to know if there is overlap between my choices before she made her final decision.  That surprised me enough to ask for an example.

“You pick people. I, on the other hand, am inclined to events.”

I knew she had stamps for birthdays.  “Celebrate!” is the current choice.  And she has “Love”, now in one of its several morphed forms as a floral motif.  And she has a New England scene by Dennis Hopper that just came out.

I have the Pixel series.  Not out of respect for Steve Jobs so much as I think they’re cute and show that I am in touch with my warmer side.  If they don’t, then surely the “Sunday Funnies” collection does.  And I have some  “Legends of Hollywood”, currently featuring Gregory Peck and Katherine Hepburn, in case anyone missed the fact that am an Actor, soon to get a SAG card.  Looking through my stamp drawer I also find Kate Smith, Mark Twain, Ronald Reagan, and Mother Theresa.  Mary will probably raid those when her supply runs low.

About the only stamps I have that are not “people” are those for The Merchant Marine and Go Green.

I read an article not too long ago where the author was using how you loaded your toilet paper on the roll as an indication of personality.  I saw another where your favorite colors determined whether you were extroverted or introverted.  Whether you favor your right or left hand has many indications for your life pattern, including susceptibility to diabetes, according to the W SJ.

So, maybe there is meaning about our differences in what stamps we choose.

I just don’t know what it means.  Do any of you have a clue?

Joan Didion recently came out with a book about her daughter’s death.  That prompted me to think about survivors.  Next posting will take a look at that condition and I’ll cover a very interesting interview she gave.