Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Royal Loggers

"Everyone to the Palace!"

And so it was that the merry revelers sallied forth to yon Palace for much mirth and festivity.

No, you have not just stumbled on to some weird fairy tale blog. That's actually what happened a few nights ago after my friend successfully passed his 1st kyu test in aikido. On a technical scale, the test was darn-near perfect. Well, on all other scales, it was darn-near perfect, too. There was extra high praise for the paired weapons demos involving none other than yours truly.

Test participants and audience members all made their way to The Palace for some late-night drinks, appetizers, and general good times. If I ever join the military, I want to be in HIS platoon.

Now, The Palace is probably the third restaurant Zach and I have been to in Durango. We're often a.) too frugal to eat out, b.) too busy, or c.) too pragmatic to go anywhere other than one or another favorite suds-sippin or food-munchin' spot (like Steamworks or Home Slice). d) We make some rockin' food ourselves, and e) we know how to cook it without inducing nasty crease-crinklers afterwards.

The Palace was not as palatial as the name suggested. It looked more like a good-time saloon, with dark wood paneling, stained glass hanging lamp shades, and sturdy, basic chairs and tables. But the juxtaposition of name and setting did not prevent the ensuing hootenanny!

Along with a shared plate of gnocci (no-chi? no-ki? nyo-gki?), Zach and I asked to hear a rundown of the local beers on tap. The waitress responded: Ska. We're not trying to curry favor with only the one brewer, honest. The Palace simply didn't have any other local choices. Not that we're complaining. We are NOT complaining. Ska's beers are yummerlicious! Remaining your staunch artisan advocates (avid craftbeer "sipporters"), we both went for a pint of seasonal Mexican Logger.

Yes, you read that right. Logger instead of lager. It had to be the cleverest pun I had ever seen. That's saying something because I'm a devoted pun-master who had never once made that whimsical, linguistical flip. Liar. We came up with at least a dozen better puns that night we stayed up, punning all fifty state names.

We toasted (and roasted) the successful, new 1st kyu seated at the head of the table, and then we took our first slurps of the logger lager. My tongue's first thought was: bashful beer, but then as the liquid spread through my mouth, I got a big yummy dose of lager toasty nuttiness.

This beer reminded me that Mexican-style lagers really are the children of European-style pilsners. Tingly and zingy, with rich yeastiness. A whiff of nuttiness on the exhale. I have to agree with Jenny that the taste here is a bit timid up front. The rest of the Logger experience makes you quickly view that first encounter with friendly remembrance, though. This is a quality summer brew. Inferior beers require a lime to add some pizzazz, but this one? Not so much. It's become my crusade to teach local waitstaff and barkeeps to ditch the fruit.

In the end, Zach and I wound up giving the Mexican Logger a five-chain, top rating! Sure, we risk looking like a couple of kiss-axes, always praising Ska. But can we help it if those west slope brewers "saw" the right way to craft the perfect summer sipper? Caution: reader should wear protective eyewear. Such sharp wit may become dislodged and sent airborne!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Be More Pagan

For the first time in months -- and I mean "months" without any undue authorial exaggeration -- Zach and I had a Saturday. A weekend day kind of day. Sort of.

We had to get up early, which goes against the usual Saturday doctrine of sleeping in and shambling about in house slippers and pajamas til four or five in the afternoon. But, I have aikido practice every Saturday and one of my classmates is prepping for a 1st kyu test, which is one step below black belt -- shodan -- and a very very very Big Deal. Like anyone on the mat the day of the test, I'll be there and a part of the demonstration, getting pinned and thrown and rolled and flipped. I've also been asked to be a demonstration partner for paired weapons demonstrations, or katas. These take a ton of practice with the sword (bokkend) and the jo (long wooden staff) and in some ways, I need to be better than the tester so I don't embarrass him. But again, just being asked is another very very very Big Deal.

So that was my morning.

Zach morning involved a bike ride. Okay, a Herculean bike ride! Zach has been prepping and training to ride in the annual Iron Horse bike tour, which spans 50 miles from Durango to Silverton. On a bike. Over two mountains. Uphill. Up like 6,000 feet of hill, in fact! And yes, as you might have guessed, this too, is a very very very Big Deal. Prior to when training started back in October, Zach had hardly been on a bike since he was less than four feet tall. And while he has always battled an antagonistic sciatic nerve, he also survived a bad car wreck before we went to Ireland. His recovery inspired both of us to be as healthy as possible (without giving up the good stuff in life, like food and beer) so that we live as long as possible doing all the things we enjoy doing! And back in October, when we moved to Durango, it seemed perfectly logical to have Zach get in excellent shape by riding the Iron Horse with his dad -- whose age also spans over fifty, but who has successfully completed the Iron Horse three times, along with other death-defying bike races gruesomely named things like Triple By-Pass or Death Ride.

Okay, so we did our very very very Big Deal things in the morning. I came home from aikido and Zach slogged back from his bike ride. Now, what normally happens at this point on Saturdays is that we shower and sink behind our laptops where there is always work awaiting to be done. We look up some time after the sun has gone down and we resolve to eat some kind of dinner before going to bed, knowing full well that more work awaits us on Sundays.

But on this day, we did not do that.

Gleefully, and out of breath, Zach announced that he had successfully tackled the monster climb up to Coal Bank, the first of the two mountains on the trek. We were so ecstatic!

We saw the golden sun filling up our valley, like honey on gingerbread. We saw sugary blossoms and trembling baby aspen leaves. We saw wayward silk threads flung from traveling spiders. We saw spring and joy and mirth everywhere. And we did what people used to do after a season of  dark, cold toil: we celebrated! We ran to the store and bought a fresh batch of brew and then we hightailed it back to the porch. We did nothing but sit on our bums, sip our suds, soak up the sun. And it.was.excellent!

That's right, we turned pagan! We caroused. We celebrated the magic of spring, the magic of our relationship, and the wonderful life we are scraping together. It must be a life worth supporting, for all the work we put into supporting it.

But that's just it -- you can't just work for the life you want. You have to stop and take stock of what you've got, rather than always pining for something you don't yet have. And once you've taken stock, acknowledge, toast, jubilate, and laud everything around you. Friends, family, home...whatever you discover, be just a little more pagan and celebrate!