Murphy Row: Go Ahead, Have a Beer, You’re on Vacation

As a way to get the writers of DWWP to write more, we have assigned some writing prompts and themes. This post continues our latest theme, “Vacation”.

Fiddles, bodhran, and sounds of Irish music  echoed in the background, the way live music does in a pub when you are trying to have a conversation. My dad leaned over the bar to order a round of drinks to celebrate the first night of our family vacation. We didn’t go on vacation very often but when we did, we did it big, like eight people going to Ireland big. The eight of us clinked the rims of our pints and settled into a jovial conversation.

Vacation brings out something special in all parents and since we were 3,700 miles away from home, in Ireland, where it is completely normal for a teenager to have a beer with his family, my parents decided they were going to let me drink with everyone. The first beer I was ever going to drink was a Guinness in a pub in Ireland. No warm light beer out of a cousin’s trunk, my first beer was the pinnacle of beer drink experiences.

It’s not that I had never tasted alcohol before, I tried a sip of an adults drink here or there growing up. This Guinness was going to be the first beer I drank from start to finish.

Most novice drinkers don’t have a taste for beer, especially something with this much flavor as a Guinness. But as I drank that centuries-old nectar and laughed with my family enjoying the glory that is vacation, I though to myself, I like this drink.

Halfway through, my first Guinness, the immense self-doubt the accompanies being an anxious teenager hijacked my thought process. I felt a stirring need to figure out  exactly what I liked about this drink, otherwise, I ran the risk of becoming the sitcom caricature of a little brother who pretends to like the taste of beer in a fruitless attempt to fit in with the adults. This image seemed desperately childish and much like a grandpa on a skateboard, I would not be caught dead acting stereotypically for my age.

What actual flavor, texture or mouth feel did I enjoy about this drink? I needed to prepare an answer.

I described the sensation to myself looking for the right words to pin down my enjoyment. I liked that it wasn’t  carbonated the way soda was, but it wasn’t quite creamy like milk. I instantly realized that my first comparison was the textbook definition of a childish explanation of beer. Luckily, the thought never made it to my mouth.

I tried to describe the taste. I was surprised how much different it tasted than the few sips of Generic Lite I had sampled. I found out later, this is not an uncommon reaction to Guinness, even for some American adults. The taste was rich and reminded me of coffee and chocolate, but at the same time it was nothing like a cup of coffee or glass of chocolate milk. It was a stout, but at the time the best description I had for it was “sort of like a thin shake.” Thankfully that thought did not make it my mouth either.

By the time I was almost finished with my first beer, I had to admit one of the aspects I liked most about this drink, was how it made me feel. I don’t mean feeling drunk. Not to sound like a bro but at the time I was pretty jacked so I wasn’t getting buzzed off of one beer. I loved the feeling of sharing a drink with people I loved. I loved how sharing this drink united us in single moment, circled around a joyous conversation. Sharing a beer with people you enjoy brings a deep and simple peace for  brief moment that disappears at the bottom of your glass.  There is beauty in the simplicity of sharing a drink, a unified community for the duration of a pint.

As a teenager at the time, the only words I had to describe this experience were, “This is nice.”

So when my dad turned to me and acknowledged I had finished my first Guinness, and asked me “So Murph, what do you think?”

I replied with an elegantly simple response.

“I think I like it.”

With out missing a beat, knowing most people need to acquire a taste for beer, my father replied, “Well that’s probably not good.”

Everybody laughed, and another round was on its way.

Since that first beer, I have consumed my fair share of alcoholic beverages, but it was this first experience that turned me into a drinker. However, it had nothing to do with alcohol. I learned that what I really loved about drinking was that brief moment when a circle of loved ones pushes out the horrors of daily existence, and for the duration of a drink, or two or three, can truly enjoy each other’s company. I fell in love with taking a moment out of life to dive to the bottom of a glass and the bottom of a conversation to see what peace or insight could be found along the way.

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