poor boy's revolution
Back in the way back, when I was 21, newly on my own after 3 years of dreary relationship hassle, and freshly embedded in Atlanta, I did not know how to drink. I mean, I knew how to swallow liquid, and due to being raised by musicians and live music fans I knew general bar behavior better than most of my age group, but the actual process of going in and buying my drink of preference was something of a mystery.
There's a magic line in this country between 21- and 21+. Before that, you pretty much imbibe in whatever your older buddies or girlfriend buy you. Cheap corporate beer, high priced micros, Evan Williams, plastic bottle vodka - it's all pretty much luck of the draw, ain't it? So, the first few times I went out with friends here in town for a legal drink, I felt sort of flummoxed. What did adults order?
Sometimes I followed a friend's lead. Sometimes I ordered a simple mixed drink I wasn't scared of - a rum and coke, maybe. Sometimes I just asked for a Bud or a Rolling Rock because they were the first beers I recognized sitting on the shelf. But I had no finesse, no taste of my own was really involved.
Not long after I packed my duffel bag and headed for the Big City, I fell in with a kid named Dean. Now, Dean had issues. Whole subscriptions. When I say the words "pathological liar," I mean, "claims to have stomach cancer, says she was Winnie's understudy on the Wonder Years, would say she got mugged to explain where all her (drug) money went". That aside, though, we palled around for the better part of two years and had some damn good times doing so, as long as I kept in mind that if she said the sky was blue I needed to grab an umbrella.
Dean taught me to drink in bars. She and I walked into a joint in East Atlanta one night. She put a 5 on the bar and said, "Two Pabst tall boys." Left a dollar tip and still got a dollar back in change. That first PBR changed my life. Cold, clean - beat the hell out of Bud and its cousins. The red, white, and blue can design appealed instantly to the classic graphics fan in me. Plus, you couldn't get the stuff in Tally - this was at the very beginning of the PBR hipster revival. Dirty punks, pomped rockabillies, and working class rednecks gulped it by the gallon in bars tucked away in Atlanta's dark corners. It tasted like self reinvention, like punk rock, like downtown.
By the end of the night, I was suddenly a brand loyal man. Sure, if a place doesn't carry Pabst I'll switch down to High Life or up to Red Stripe. I've gulped my share of Dixie and Lone Star. I've put away cases of Natty and quarts of Schlitz. But Pabst Blue Ribbon is my beer of choice. And now it's the largest remaining American-owned brewer. That's something we can be proud of, I'd say. Or at least something we can drink to.