Friday, July 16, 2010

Yo, Can We Get Another Pitcher of Cabernet Blush Over Here, or What?

If Gene Simmons were the CEO of a Wall Street bank, I’m pretty sure he’d have been tarred and feathered by now, if not eviscerated. He knows perfectly well that KISS’s music was purest bullshit, I think, but only gloats about how rich it’s made him, and how many gorgeous young women it’s inspired to fellate him. If we don’t count Mel Gibson — and I’m not sure we can, given his ties to Australia — I can’t imagine any reasonable person disputing that Simmons and Donald Trump are the two most obnoxious celebrities in modern American life. So it troubles me to find myself agreeing with him about something — beer. He finds it distasteful, and, after all these years, its appeal continues to elude me too.

I don’t think anyone drinks it because he finds the taste of it pleasurable. I believe, instead, that we drink it because we’ve been acculturated to drink it — to equate its consumption with masculinity.

When I came of age, drinking beer was approximately equivalent to having the words Hopelessly Unhip tattooed on your forehead. Beer was what your dad and his buzzcut pals from work drank after golf on Saturday, or while watching the ball game, and who with any claim to hipness was going to be caught watching a ball game? If you wanted to get a buzz, you smoked pot.

I first tried beer while briefly hanging out with The Kinks, who, being British men, regarded the drinking of a lot of what they knew as lager as a sacred duty. I didn’t much care for the taste. I didn’t care for the taste at all.

The first peers I ever saw drinking the stuff with unashamed enthusiasm were the members of Alice Cooper, with whom my own band shared a bill at the dawn of the 70s. I could hardly believe my eyes. At least two of them were on their way to becoming heavy duty alcoholics.

When my band went on an abortive tour of the Northwest three years later, I made a determined effort to ascertain why our guitarist was so fond of the stuff, and discovered that if you drank a lot more of it at one time than I’d thought to at that point, it made you feel really good for a short while. When I got back to Laurel Canyon, I bought myself a six-pack of Miller High Life from the Canyon Country Store, and horrified my girlfriend — whose dad had been alcoholic — by drinking it in front of her.

After she left me — because I was the asshole of the century back then, not because of the beer — I discovered that, as anesthetics went, it wasn’t nearly as potent as whiskey. I’ve never been able to resolve the question this realization raised. If you’re drinking for the buzz, rather than the taste, why not drink something that delivers a much bigger buzz without making you feel full of carbon dioxide?

At one point, I enjoyed washing down tortilla chips with Dos Equis while playing cards. While living in the UK, I tasted a couple of appealing Scandinavian lagers. I am convinced, though, that there isn’t a beer in the world that can compare in flavorfulness to a nice wine, the problem being that wine is what effete faggots, rather than Real Men, drink, and not just in our culture. In Italy, for instance — a country in which quite reasonable table wine is only slightly more expensive than the water in public fountains — you’ll see working class men guzzling nothing but Birra Peroni, for approximately the same reason that their American counterparts guzzle the beer-flavored soda pop that is Budweiser: through its sponsorship of the national football team, it’s made itself synonymous with masculinity.

It’s well known that Marlboro cigarettes were originally marketed as gender-neutral, and then rebranded as the favored smoke of the hypermasculine. I am considering declaring it my personal mission to make rosé what the male patrons of sports bars order to sip while watching the big game. Watch this space for my decision.

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