Last night, I went out with my friend Jack. I like going out with Jack because I never know what will happen from one moment to the next and I never know where we’ll be at the end of the night. On more than a few occasions, it has been in police custody. The possibility of appearing in an episode of C.O.P.S. gives the evening a certain edge.
Jack came over my apartment and I realized I had no beer. There was a beer store a block away that had a decent variety, so we walked there to grab a couple of six packs.
We entered the store and saw a clerk behind the cash register.
“My Man Godfrey,” said Jack to the clerk. “Do you have any libations of the Dogfish Head variety?”
I’d put the clerk in his mid-forties and born outside the U.S. He responded that the store carried Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and 90 Minute IPA.
“I see,” said Jack, stroking his chin. “Well, they’re both damn good ales, my friend, but 90 Minute is a bit too long, and 60 Minute is a bit too short. Why don’t you get me a six pack of 69 Minute IPA.”
The clerk and I both shared a chuckle. It wasn’t the greatest joke in the world, but Jack’s delivery was tight. Jack, however, found nothing to laugh about. He stood with a deadpan and looked into the clerk’s face.
“What’s so funny?” Jack said. He looked around, first at me, and then at another customer who had walked in. “I love a good joke, but I fail to see the humor in my request for Dogfish Head 69 Minute IPA.” He grabbed the front of my shirt without looking at me. “Please, tell me what it is, for I hate to miss such comedy.”
The clerk’s smile faded. He told Jack that Dogfish doesn’t make a 69 Minute IPA.
“But I’ve drunk it.”
That killed me.
“But I’ve drunk it, Sir.”
From this point onward, he only referred to the clerk as “Sir”.
“How can you say that they don’t make it when it’s passed through my lips?” Jack said. “I’ve drunk it, Sir. Do you understand?”
The clerk insisted that Dogfish Head doesn’t make a 69 Minute IPA. This went on for about fifteen minutes until Jack stood to his full six foot-three inches of height, stretched out his lanky arm, and stuck his pencil-sharp index finger right in the clerk’s face. “Ah-Ha!” he shouted.
The clerk looked at me, and I at him, and then both of us at Jack. Well, that’s not true. He looked at Jack and I looked at the floor.
“My good man,” Jack said. “I am your customer. That is a most sacred bond. You are all I have in this moment when I need to score some relief from this endless circle jerk of bad vibes. I have come asking for the Jesus of beers. Jesus was crucified, which has nothing to do with this. Some boil hops for 60 minutes, others for 90 minutes, still others for 120 minutes, but there is only one that boils that bitter grass for 69 goddamn precious minutes, each minute like a trek along a mobius band, where you end up exactly where you started, but so much richer for the journey. I need you to help me, Sir. I need a little compassion. I need some motherless Dogfish Head 69 Minute IPA.”
This exchange places as one of the most absurd things I’ve ever witnessed. We stood there, three people talking in earnest about a beer that we all knew didn’t exist.
That is, until the clerk went to the back of the store and returned with a six pack of Dogfish Head 69 Minute IPA.
What happened? Did the beer actually exist? Was Jack right after all?
The clerk had gotten a six pack of Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and used a black marker to turn each 60 into a 69. He even added artwork of people doing the sixty-nine to add much needed authenticity.
The clerk presented it to Jack who inspected the artwork on the carrying case as well as on the bottles. He cradled one of the bottles like a newborn before popping off the top and taking a long pull from it. He very deliberately swallowed the ale, the way Jules drank Brett’s soda in Pulp Fiction. He stood before the clerk, reached into his own pocket, and handed the clerk a crisp one hundred dollar bill.
“Thank you,” Jack said.
We left the store and Jack dumped the beer in the first trash can we encountered.
“I hate IPAs,” he said.