Thursday, March 13, 2008

To Sher Bidi With Love

Somewhere in my young adulthood lives a slice of time in which, having recently discovered the charms of alcoholic beverages, I could be found lifting a beer or ale to my lips with the consummate ease and polish of a professional.

This was often done in tandem with M., the friend I have mentioned previously who was catnip to the ladies. I suppose he was good looking in a John Cusack/Richard Gere sort of way, if you like that kind of thing. It seems to me there were a few years where all we did was drive around and go to parties, imagining ourselves living some lost chapter of On The Road. I think we did everything but yell “Go! Go! Go!” out the window as we cruised the endless asphalt ribbons that lay glittering under the street lamps of the American Night.

We went to Lowell with the OG in tow and visited Kerouac’s grave, in fact, and spent some time at the nearby bar that his brother-in-law still ran. I can remember him taking a photo album out from under the bar to show us some family pictures and it all felt a little eerie and lonely.

But that’s not the bar story I want to tell.

Right where our local road emptied out onto the main boulevard, there stood a world of wonder that called itself Ye Olde Ale House and its specialty was providing customers with freshly chilled glass mugs from which to sip their favorite tipple.

My friend and I would go once in a while and purchase Ballantine Pale Ale in these frosted mugs and, by god, they really did taste better that way.

Some sad news from Wikipedia, however:

“It is fairly obvious that the formula and brewing process have both changed quite considerably over the years (multiple times) and that the present day Ballantine bears only a very slight resemblance to the original brew. This is most notably evident in the lack of hop character that was present in the original (which was a direct result of the generous addition of house-distilled aromatic hop oils).”

I don’t suppose I can complain too much about this as I, too, have lost much of my original flavor over the years.

At any rate, I remember this one evening when we were both sitting around with one of my oldest friends in the neighborhood, a tall kid named Fred, when we got it into our heads to pay the old (or, rather, olde) Ale House a visit.

Now sometime shortly before this, I had made the acquaintance of those herbal Indian cigarettes known as sher bidis.

Colored dark green, the one end was almost flat as if it were a whistle, but it concluded in a small flare shape at the other. They looked as though someone had taken a leaf and wound it up very tightly until it resembled those long trumpets you saw in movies that always seemed to announce the arrival of someone important.

It must have been cold as I remember wearing my winter coat with the pockets that had developed so many holes that you could not reasonably expect to find anything you actually put in them ever again. I was always hard pressed to abandon any favorite piece of clothing, however, and that coat had a long and lusty run, even if it was completely impractical.

We drove over and wandered into the dimly lit confines of the Ale House, finding a vacant table and ordering some frosty mugs.

As the drinking commenced, it seemed to me that the perfect complement to this chilly beverage would be one of these sher bidis, a box of which was sitting precariously in one of my coat pockets.

I got one out and lit up the flared end, enjoying the somewhat forestal aroma of burning leaves that, basically, is what it was.

It certainly smelled more pleasant than a cigarette.

Perhaps, as it turned out, too much so.

Next: What's The New Mary Jane?


Post a Comment

<< Home