31 May 2016

On Abstinence, Ritual and Apathy


I felt I'd been drinking a bit too much in the previous weeks—more than what I usually drink, which might be already too much. I was thinking of taking a few days, perhaps a week, off the booze after Vysmolení (where, by the way, I had great time! Thanks everyone at Černoskotelecký Pivovár for letting me crash at the brewery, like every year—and this one in particular, for carrying me to bed). The Jurassic hangover I woke up with the next day made the decision very easy.

To be honest, I don't know what I was expecting of this attempt, but it wasn't hard; at all. Yes, there were times when I fancied a beer, especially while preparing dinner, but they were fleeting moments; as if I suddenly realised that something was missing from the alchemical ritual of transmuting produce and other ingredients into something greater than the sum of their parts, only to see that it's not that important; its absence wouldn't affect the outcome.

By the third day, I think, what I was feeling wasn't thirst or cravings or withdrawal; it was apathy. My interest in beer was no greater than that of any other topic I like reading about. Maybe it was a defence mechanism—you can't crave something you aren't interested in (it also helped that I had a pretty busy week that didn't leave time to hit the pubs. Though I did walk past a couple of old favourites, without feeling tempted to walk in). In any case, I wasn't counting the hours or days that I'd spent without a drop/until I would taste beer again.

I didn't complete the week, however. We had a trip to Ríp planned for last Saturday with the families of some of my daughter's classmates. It was a fine day, despite being around way too many children (anything more than one—my own—is way too many, actually).

After walking a couple of kilometres between fields from the Ctiněves train station, we climbed that legendary hill from the steepest side. I was the first to make the summit (that sounds grandiose; it's only a bit over 450m high). At the top, there's a wasted opportunity that passes for a watering hole; a place run by professional notgivingashitters who know that the people who make it all that way up will eat and drink whatever crap they are sold (to give them credit, though, the prices are at least reasonable). As approached it, I told myself Fuck it! I'd proven that I can go days without booze and suffer no consequences, and went to get a beer. It'd be a sin not to—some rituals must be observed to their fullest.

The beer they have is Bakalář (perhaps because they get it cheaper than others, or it's the only company willing to deliver there), served in plastic cups, of course. After patiently queueing, I got my velká 11° and found a place to sit under a tree and enjoy my reward.

It was crap. You can't see the taps from the window, but judging from the looks of the head, my pint was not served in one pour, and I'd wager that a no small part of it was the drips from previous pours, as the beer was likely foaming too much; all dispensed from taps that I doubt are cleaned as often as they should.

I finished it, I was really thirsty and needed to drink something more than mineral water, but I didn't feel like having a second one, I had an ice-cream instead. Yeah, that's how crap it was: after almost a week of not even sniffing a beer, and having walked several kilometres and climbed a hill in the middle of a warm, humid day, I didn't feel like having a second pint.

But the day didn't end there.

After a rather funny situation with the train back to Vraňany, where we had left our cars (the train that we were waiting Vraždov had broken down, but the machinist came to pick us up with a bus and took us to another station, where he would get another engine running so we could go to our destination), the day went on at the house of one of the families of the group. When the rain stopped, we made a fire in the garden to roast špekáčky, while the kids played. The host went to the local pub to fetch some beer with a couple of empty plastic bottles. I was offered some, which I gladly accepted; more out of politeness than crave—again, the ritual. It was Svijany Fanda this time, and was OK, but after finishing the small glass I'd been given, having another one didn't even cross my mind—apathy had once more taken over.

Since then (Saturday evening) and now (Monday late afternoon), I've only drunk one of the bottles UzenejŽitnýVideňák (a.k.a. Mad Max, the beer that Pivovarský Dům brewed on my recipe, or idea) that had been lingering in the fridge for 10 days, while watching a film last night; almost ritually.

What did I get from all this? I don't know, really. Not drinking for a few days is fine—and I'm sure my liver appreciated it—but not something to be proud of. Perhaps what I've realised is that, at least for me, beer is more than anything else, a part of a ritual: cooking, having dinner, a reward, an accessory in a social meeting. Come to think of it, that's nothing new.

Na Zdraví!

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