I think one obvious symptom of my ADHD, OCD, or some other abbreviated overdiagnosed “issue” is that for as long as I can remember I get stuck on words. My mind stumbled through the day and I keep tripping over the same word. Like a scrape at the roof of your mouth that gets all of your tongue’s affection until somehow you miraculously forget about it and it heals.

Today’s word: Torrefied.

Torrefied is a word I come across reading about beer a lot. Mostly it’s an old way of describing something that has been dried and roasted after puffing. There isn’t a whole lot of information on the word: nothing on the OED, nothing on webster’s, just a entry in wikipida that directs to Puffed Grain.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about beer. Liz is watching some garbage about the royals, so I thought this might be a good time for a post.

For some time I had been thinking that I should have a ‘house beer’ that I can focus on and ‘perfect’ and I may have just come up with one: A session brew. Yeah, doesn’t really narrow it down. But it will most likely be a lot like the French number I made a couple of months ago. Mostly because it’s my lady’s favorite and the fact that it’s great for just relaxing and having a sip. Of course, I think eventually I’ll have a new beers that I can tweet and keep “on tap” but for now I think one that I can adjust temps on, change and tweak and ‘perfect’ while making a list of other beers. Speaking of that list, I’ve been looking through (and reading again) my homebrew books and came up with a few I’d like to get to when we get moved east:

  • Traditional bitter
  • Barley Wine
  • Cherry Stout
  • Cucumber (lemon?) wheat beer

So yeah, only four thus far – but not a bad start.

I’ve cracked into the black gingered beer and it’s pretty nice. A touch more ginger than I had wanted, but the beer is still very green and may mellow out with time – first dark beer I’d done and I really enjoy it. The Nottingham yeast really lets the malt speak and takes a back seat to allow the ginger to step in. The hops are muted, but not invisible. It’s like a gingered beer poured over a dark beer – quite nice. If I were to make again, I’d have make it a bit stronger weighted, 8% or so – only because the ~6% its at is fine but the beer lends itself to be drank slow and savor it.

I miss brewing already – so I look forward to those long weekend days spending brewing away after we move.

    I’m not so sure of much anymore. My inability to deal with stress is making me lose interest in dealing with much of anything. The pressure comes lapping back up to me like a slow rising tide. There are times in my day that my breath becomes so shallow that I breathe deep, a light rush makes my head swim. I spend most of the day tonguing the back of my teeth – hiding my nervous ticks – pushing and feeling for possible pocks of tooth decay, brushing the sharp edges of my teeth, feeling for changes, evenness of my lower row. It runs up and down and across, a rabbit leading a dog in a sprint, numbing the tip of my word-former.

    Get a grip.

    I know what you are thinking: what do I have to be stressed about? I’m not sure of it myself either.

    There are those moments in my spotted busy day which allow me some reflective time. In those interludes where my white-noise-for-music comes crashing back into my brain and I think about one thing either current or historic. I trump though the black dark muck of my brain and try and shake it off. There is little for someone with my recessed bleak outlook to do but hang there for a while listening to the tones, crescendo, and two-second silences. I don’t really know when it all get ‘rinsed’ off my weighted mind, but somewhere between almost getting tagged by a jalopy driven by what I can only describe as a female with too much time and bleach on her hands enough to care about their children  and me getting my next project done – it all seems to simmer away. Sometimes it’s too much and I feel like Ren in Pirates of Dark Water and I just need to get the fuck out.

    And maybe that is what I’m looking for Maine to do for me. To get out and shelve things and to focus on others. A good bye to the midwest.

    Don’t worry, it’s not going away – I’ve just got to get some work crap done. I’ve got three beers ‘cooking’ right now; one just bottled today, another ready for drinking, and a last one still bubbling with massive krausen that just won’t quit. Updates soon to come, I haven’t even allowed enough time to fill out my beer sheets – I’ve just been taking notes on the paper recipes.

    First, a bit of background on my 5th grade teacher. In the early fall there was me and a couple other ‘under-performing’ students that got pulled from being allowed to lunch in order to be forced to do the previous night’s homework. One of my cohorts started to yell and complain about how he legally couldn’t be held from lunch and started to cry – needless to say he was fat. Misses Smith came trotting over and bent down in the 5th grader’s face and began to unravel. The child said he was going to sue and began to bawl. The only thing me and the other failure could do was sit and watch in horror. I refused to go back to class and hid out in my house for three days. The school thought I was ditching class. With the principal, my mom, and the school’s guidence councilor it finally came out that I was afraid of the woman.

    Cut to spring time where things seemed to have smoothed out, Misses Smith got the class together into a show of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Keep in mind this is a public school and the meaning and storyline washed over me and I didn’t understand a single lick of what was going on. All I cared about was my crush on Darcy Taylor and her love for apple juice. Darcy was the narrator for the show, singing all the major parts and carrying the class in talent. The ‘bad boy’ of the class got the part of Joseph, a shock to everyone including him. I played the part of one of the half dozen brothers, but I was given a minor roll in placing Joseph in prison. Which was a nice feeling because I thought I should be playing second to Darcy. My “brother” in crime was a girl who lived up the street from me. Jacob was played by another Jacob who was a real dick head the entire time I knew him. Everyone else had parts moving furniture or minor parts playing a mule or another brother.

    The play was clunky and awkward just as you’d expect a play put on by ten year olds. Though somehow Misses Smith had a coat either made or borrowed that seemed to fit the boy working it. A lavish thing with swirls of colors and patterns nearly unrecognizable – like something out of a really loud cross-dresser’s closet. It had puffy edges as if a unicorn’s mane got tangled and released itself after gnawing it off and it’s rainbow blood poured down it’s coat which was then cut into a shall for a small child. Joseph wore the coat with ease.

    The tape of all of this still lives somewhere at my mom’s and is mentioned in those times when family drinks enough to remember the embarrassing parts of your life. It’s good that it’s nearly lost.

    Guest post from Scott M. known for his mad skills with the English language and calling primaries on gates. This is his first post.

    It’s funny how human nature reveals itself. Some things you learn through experience. This event is definitely one of them. Here I was, face to face with a Guido. He’s in my face yelling “Do you wanna start something?”. I glanced at the dingy pool-hall sign before answering. Our faces were inches from each other. I could see his horrible spray-on tan and smelled the alcohol on his breath.

    I took a second to slow down and ponder “Why am I in this situation? What brought us to this point?”

    It’s funny really. We all neglect our families the majority of the year so that a person can cram the most awkward and irritating times with family into two or three days over the holidays. It doesn’t take long before you’re sick of it all. It’s artificial; it’s silly. Not to say that you’re going to turn into Fall-out boy and compose screamo music about it — but nevertheless, it sucks.

    So what do you do?

    You go out. You get away, even if it’s for a few hours. And that’s exactly what the Guido and I did. Not together of course, it just sort of ended up that way.

    Let me set the scene. I’m shooting pool with my roommate and a friend at a bar. The bar is pretty chill. I can’t ever recall a bone of contention or any animosity displayed by folks in the establishment. The bar consists of darts, foosball, a jukebox, pool tables, and of course, the booze. There’s a group of guys that walk into the bar. The four of them make a beeline toward the cheapest activity, the foosball tables. The four of them go at it, are extremely loud, and a tad obnoxious. Okay, whatever. It’s a free country.

    A few minutes later, I’m lining up my shot. It’s a bit difficult, as I’m a inebriated. I feel a tap on my left shoulder. A guy extends his hand, wanting me to shake it. A quick glance at him tells me I don’t know him, so I decline a handshake. Around where I live, the first thing a solicitor or a bum does is the “get cozy with your mark” act. You’ll have people hanging out and telling you sob stories about how they lost their farm from 7 years ago in a hurricane. If you lived here 7 years ago, you’d know that said hurricane didn’t do much (or any) damage to farms in the area. The first thing that person does is attempt to shake your hand. It’s a sort of method to see how nice a person is. If they don’t shake your hand, they dont bother to on with the story — they know you’r enot going to fork over cash.

    Little did I know that the gentleman connected to the extended hand was Teddy. I didn’t find this out until later of course, but Teddy took offense to this act. Basically he thought I punched him in the dick. You see, Teddy is an outgoing person. He rolls deep with three buddies. The crew made the transition from foosball to a pool table. Out of the five available tables, Teddy and his buds picked the ones next to us. No problem, again — a free country.

    That’s when the shit starts. Teddy isn’t incredibly good at pool. He takes a while with his shots. He’s emphatic. Because of this fact, he takes forever to shoot.  When he does, he usually misses, so you’re stuck waiting to shoot on your table because the other table takes so damned long.  Once they do finally shoot, it goes haywire and is laughable.  It’s as if you were watching golf and every meticulously planned shot goes in a sand bunker.  You can tell he digs this game, so I can’t make fun of him too much. An odd thing is that they bet money on shots.  At one point Teddy and the Guido (one of his posse) discuss at length a particular shot on the 8 ball. My shot put me standing between our two tables. It was the Guido’s shot, so I stood off to the side waiting for him to take his turn.  If I had gone first, I would have been in the way.  First come, first shoot sort of thing. The discussion about the shot was going on for quite a bit, all while Guido was leaned over his cue — poised to shoot. At one point he reared his right arm back, as if to go. Unfortunately, I had no such luck. At the last moment before the cue made contact with the cue ball, he aborted the shot. He sauntered over to Teddy’s hand, and shook it. Repeat this process five or six times. Each time, just long enough so that I couldn’t work my shot in. It was starting to be annoying. A party foul if I’ve ever seen one.

    That in itself isn’t too annoying. What was annoying is that after the Guido shoots his shot, more party fouls seem to emerge from their crew. Teddy steps up to his table. He leans over to make a shot, but not before shooting me a glance. After successfully making eye contact with me, he leans over to the Guido. “He weird.” I look up. “That boy weird.” I set my cue down and asked Teddy what was up. It was pretty clear that he’s referring to the dreaded handshake incident. After listening further, I realized he was indeed talking about me. I informed him that I have a problem with people talking shit about me behind my back. Teddy declined to pursue the avenue further. He stopped talking to Guido about “that weird guy”, but also seemed a bit put off. Okay, we’re moving into “big jerkoff” territory here.

    Teddy and his buds go out to smoke. Here we have a smoking ban in bars, so people have to go outside to light up. It’s kind of cool actually, bars don’t smell like shit anymore. I was hoping that would be the last I see of Teddy. We go about our game and fun times were had.

    After a time things settle down. I could tell that other people were also a bit ruffled by these guys. There was a sense of hostility in the air; it’s hard to describe. A guy at the bar shuffles to the jukebox to pick a song. I see he puts money in, and is picking his songs. Guido appears out of thin air over his shoulder. I’m watching intently, but can’t quite make out the words. The guy at the box seems annoyed. Guido is gesticulating. They part ways, Guido returning to the outside.

    We finish our last game. It was pretty horrible, if I recall. We settle up at the bar and I let the bartender know that “those guys” were hassling everyone. The guy at the jukebox pipes up, saying that the Guido threatened to call “his people” if the guy at the jukebox didn’t use HIS money to pay for whatever the Guido wanted to hear. It was laughable. The bartender looks pissed. Apparently they had been there quite a while that night and were carrying on stupid stuff like that. Hassling people, threatening, looking for something that isn’t there. On our way out we head to our cars. My roommate and I had one car together, and our friend’s car was parked at the end of the lot.

    The bartender approaches the crew, now smoking while sitting outside on the patio furniture, that “they’re done.” They look kind of surprised, and comply with her orders to get out of there. We overhear this exchange as we’re heading to our car. The friend is still at the end of the lot, smoking a cigarette by his car. Teddy’s car is at the end of the lot too. What do you do when you’re thrown out of a bar on Christmas eve? Teddy’s idea was to introduce himself (as Teddy) and shake the friend’s hand.

    That’s when I realized the miracle that is Christmas. You see, Christmas drives us to do stuff. Part of it’s family, but the other part is that it just plain sucks.

    So I did what people do on Christmas Eve. I snapped. This guy has been a pain in the ass all night to everyone in his surroundings and thinks he’s still cool. I let him know that he should stop bothering people and go home. It probably wasn’t very nice. I don’t recall exactly what I said. Guido runs (more like a waddle really, it was an odd movement) straight up to my face and starts yelling. By the way, he was kind of short — it was a funny situation.

    We’re full circle now. I figured out what brought us up to this point. We’re all out because we’re avoiding something or someone on Christmas Eve. Some people just go out to relax. These losers can find nothing else to do but make trouble. We all have our reasons.

    I wanted nothing else on earth more than to slug this pathetic steaming pile of spray-on tanning cream (it might have been spray paint) in his noggin.

    But I didn’t, I walked away. Merry Christmas everyone.

    Alright so I haven’t touched that fiction piece but I’ll eventually come.

    This past weekend was Christmas, and on Friday my family got together as is tradition thanks to how we used to visit my father every year on christmas day. We used to have our atomic family christmas on x-mas eve morning, then head to my grandmothers, then ship out to where-ever-my-father-happened-to-live-now for the day-of and do whatever until a couple of days after New Years.

    I’ve made quick mention about my father’s gifts before and was worried about getting anything this year. We pulled up to my brother’s place and walked in dropped our gifts and then was told to keep my shoes on. He handed me two red wrapped presents and said to open them later and to do what I want with them. I said thanks and walked them to the car. My family’s christmas went off without a hitch including a bit of grouchiness and Lego building. We said our goodbyes and drove the snow covered roads to Liz’s dad’s house north along the fox river.

    We chatted and Liz said she wanted to “see her presents.” I couldn’t help but scoff and ask if she was serious, of course she was. I pulled out a long block of red wrapped something into the front seat with me while she drove. The wrapping pulled back in an arc and in the slow movement of yellow mercury lamps showed some thing I should have expected. At the max speed of 25mph Liz grabbed a look and didn’t stop herself from letting a laugh out. She wanted me to open the other one. Awkward happiness spread to dread over opening the second package and what it truly meant about the relationship my father and I have. A second, this time square package held something with glass.

    I thought quickly that maybe it would some revelation present where it would contain photos of my dad and I when I was younger and it would melt all the hard feelings. I could see us standing on the side of a hill smiling at the camera or me looking wayward with my siblings. The package was tore quickly from edge to edge and inside was another piece of junk that had no connection to me what so ever.

    Here are the two things my father got Liz and I for christmas:


    That is Ike helping me photograph for evidence.

    Writing this, and thinking now of the things I got him when I was a kid. I guess it goes both ways. I got him ‘end-cap’ garbage like a motorize tie rack or a basket ball hoop for his garbage can. He collected those things and stuffed them in the back of his closet – nice enough to not tell us it was trash. We always gave each other inpersonal gifts that said we knew nothing about each other.

    In a ways the gifts we give others shows just how much we really know each other – and for us, it’s nothing.

    Ah the depths of loneliness. I think if there were a subtitle to my high school life it would be “and other ways of never getting any attention from the opposite sex.”

    I had friends in high school, some of them girls. Surprisingly I had a few girl friends – surprising to those who knew me during the time and myself, even now. Though there was always this embarrassing ritual known though out high schools in the land: Crush days. I might be embellishing a bit but I am pretty sure they were held every three months or so: Valentine’s day, Sweetest day, random reason to hate being single day #35.

    This is how the agony would start: a week before set date, the cheeriest of all the girls would be rounded up and put at a table at the entrances of the school, there was no way around them. Sure, the first time I thought – hey that is neat – but after the first time no one sent me can of crush. The harsh reality of my ugliness came to fruition. There is no way to escape a table of yelping girls crying out to be recognized in the hustling hallways of an overcrowded high school. Their pampered voices tore at my heartstrings, knowing that not one of those valentines or cans of orange over sugared pop would land on my desk in biology or US history. No escape and it would sit resting in your brain all day pulling and cutting away your self image.

    This isn’t the worst part, not by far. The worst is when the same team of giddy volunteers come stumbling into class, pulling everyone out of their stupor, and my peers would tighten their backs awaiting their presents. There would always be so many cans and cards they had to be toted around on an old crying cart, wailing its way through the lanes of desks. Passing out cans and passing those who aren’t wanted – like me. Four long years of being passed over. Oh, don’t feel bad for me.

    Something that those who don’t know me well may not know: I’m a real creep. Sure I can carry my own in social situations and all that business now.  Oh, but how I’ve learned, I used to be a terrible creep. I used to think it was funny, or even flirtatious to stare blankly at the girl I was infatuated with. Yeah, that was me. I was the guy that would try for the friend angle and wonder why the girls never noticed me. Am I surprised that I didn’t get any cans of orange crush? No, but the emotional staining was painted thickly on my heart at the time; I was crushed.