Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's Day, witbier, and mules

Apologies for the radio silence; my laptop's been out of commission for two weeks (still is) and I can rarely be arsed to schlep over to the library when something blog-worthy pops into my head. That said, came across an amusing passage in BLGF today that I realized I could turn into a belated Father's Day post.

Here (Serb, Orthodox) Constantine is recounting the difficulty of establishing friendly relations with his (German, Lutheran) mother-in-law:
"And from her side the efforts to be friends with me are often not very good, though in time she came to like me. It is so with the white beer. Do you know white beer? It is the last of all that is fade in the world, and it is adored by the petite bourgeoisie in Germany. They go to the beer-gardens in the woods and by the lakes and with their little eyes they look at the beauties of their Germany, and they drink white beer, which is the most silly thing you can drink, for it does not taste of anything and cannot make you drunk. It is just like the life of the petit bourgeois in liquid form, but it is gross in its nothingness, so that some of them who have shame do not like it, and order raspberry syrup to add to it. But there are those who are not ashamed of being fade and they would not spoil it with a flavour, and they order 'ein Weisses mit ohne...' Mit ohne, mit ohne, could you have anything that is better for the soul of the petite bourgeoisie that is asked what it wants and says, 'I want it with without.' That is to be lost, to be damned beyond all recovery, and yet there they are very happy, they sit in their beer-gardens and ask for mit ohne. It is altogether delicious, it is one of those discords in the universe that remind us how beautifully God works when He works to be nasty. 
Once I said this in front of the mother-in-law, and do you know ever after she gives me to drink this horrible white beer. And my wife has tried to tell her she should not do so, and my mother-in-law says, 'You are foolish, I have heard him say he likes very much mit ohne,' and my wife she says, 'No, you have it wrong, it is the expression mit ohne he likes,' and my mother-in-law says, 'How can you say such nonsense, why should he be pleased when people say they will have white beer without raspberry syrup?' And to that there is nothing to be said, so I must drink white beer, though I am a Serb and therefore not a petit bourgeois, but a lord and a peasant."
(In case you couldn't figure it out, "white beer" is wheat beer, so if you're one of those ridiculous hefewiezen/ Belgian white types, Constantine's bitching about you.)

This called to mind the day I came back from Russia. Driving back to the Island from JFK, my father asked me how it came to be that I found a mule to ride in the middle of St Petersburg. Now I drank quite a bit in the motherland, but not so much that I'd ride a mule, tell my father about it, and forget the entire episode. Suddenly I remembered that sometime during my final week, when I was having a very rough go of things for a variety of reasons, I'd made my Facebook status, "Got to get behind the mule in the morning and plow." This is, of course, a lyric from one of my favorite Tom Waits songs, aptly titled "Get behind the mule", which is basically about sucking it up and putting your emotional shit on the back burner because there's work to be done. My father, of course, had simply assumed that I'd gone mule riding.

Big Jack Earl was 8'1
He stood in the road and he cried
He couldn't make her love him
Couldn't make her stay
But tell the good Lord that he tried

Got to get behind the Mule
In the morning and plow

(It's also a song about trying to cover up a murder and associated business, but that does not concern the present narrative.)

Point is, my father thought I was literally plowing a field instead of being vaguely emo. He is the best. May we all strive to think so well of our loved ones!

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