The scene is this: Six reasonably large, middle-age men are packed into a four-person booth at a local brewery. The empty pitcher of beer on the table between them contained, briefly, a rich, dark, honey-flavored stout before it was poured into their respective glasses. What beer remains is sipped at contentedly as the conversation bounces back and forth from topic to topic, much like the tennis ball being swatted back and forth by the tennis amazons on the flickering televisions bolted above the bar. This is not a regular scene, but perhaps it should be. Nor is it a result of their own contriving.
Tod’s wife Leslie had decided to host a “bag lady” evening, which necessitated not only her seducing our wives away from the rest off us for the evening, but also evicting Tod from his own house. With Tod homeless for a few hours, and the rest of us left to the rather terrifying prospect of our own devices for sustenance, it was, ipso facto, inevitable that we would find ourselves retiring to the local pub for dinner and pints.
As we straggled in, it emerged that nearly all of us had ridden our bicycles or walked. It was a small thing, but spake volumes about our collective identity.
Speaking of identity, in surveying the members of our booth and the other patrons of the bar I found myself reflecting once again on the ethnic homogeneity that characterizes this part of Oregon. It is a land of White People, some might even go so far as to claim a certain amount of redneck-edness hereabouts. There are more than a few pickup trucks, some of which do indeed have gun racks in them. Having lived in San Francisco, I perceive this as a bad thing by and large. For lots of reasons, not the least of which is that it’s damn near impossible to find a good burrito in this town. But seriously, diversity is a good thing… we need more of it.
Maybe it is this yearning for something different that leads me to the realization that we six white guys are diverse in our own way. I am the sole dot-commer of the bunch, the rest being a biologist, a nurse, a carpenter, an architect, and a physical therapist. The fact that I am the only one who sits at a desk all day will give me pause later, but not this night; instead of the geek-talk that would be mandatory at such a gathering in San Francisco, we enjoy a more provincial conversation – a pleasant swirl of friends catching up on eachother’s lives, talk of small town politics, and a discussion of who will be skiing where over the coming week. And, of course, the usual sprinkling of homophobic/homoerotic punchlines thrown into the mix – inevitable with any group of straight guys, I suppose.
It is a cool (cold even) winter night, and after dinner we retire to a local pub that has an outdoor firepit. Some in our crew are long time residents of the area, and the town is small enough that friends are soon found among the crowd of strangers gathered around the evening blaze. Cigars emerge for some, small aromatic glasses of scotch for others, while the rest of us sip contentedly at the brew in our pint glasses, hands shifting in and out of pockets in a subconscious battle against our ever colder universe.
Eventually the universe wins out, of course. In spite of the warming spirits, we find ourselves sobered just a little too much by the chill night, and the time comes to head home. We bid eachother farewell with lightly buzzed hugs and backslapping, unhitch our respective two-wheeled mounts, and head into the night. My ride home takes me along the river, and I struggle to pick out my way among the shadows laid out by a half moon shining through ice crystals high in the atmosphere. Soon enough though darkness gives way to the lights of home.
[The picture is, alas, taken from this random URL on the net. We didn’t have a camera with us this night. 🙂 ]