The Brewer's Tale

Chip hooked up the mini-kegs and put out the plastic cups. By his clothes I half expected him to sweep up when we were done. He did.

North Congress looks like DC at night--closed lunch shops and wifi spots, foot traffic with purpose, hippies. And a capitol.

A hef and a pils. I head for the water fountain on principle. Chip says this hef makes others taste like weaksauce Kool-Aid. (The orange kind without sugar.) So I have one cup. And a third cup. Beginning to suspect that Chip isn't the janitor.

We walk on the lawn of the seat of government. Sculptures tell a story of exploration, settlement, and fight for independence. "Can I ride the bull?" she asks. The sign says she can't. "What if I take out the sign?"

Two entrepreneurs on a panel about government and alcohol. Panels seldom uplift. No one holds a panel to tell you how great things are. I expect to be annoyed and regulate my demeanor with another cup. Chip takes his seat. Panelist Chip.

The white man told us it was safe to cross. I took her hand and her my heart when she smiled back and asked me to stop. "You look at me that way when you don't know what to say." Astute. Sometimes the words don't come.

Make that Dr. Panelist Chip of microbiology. Brewer and business owner, beer nerd and innovator. He spoke like it wasn't a panel--as if we were sharing individual exchanges over cold ones after work. Purpose. It wasn't about overcoming regulatory burden. Pride. It was a story of doing great work. What are obstacles to a man who can't fathom being stopped?

There are more flashing police lights here than anywhere else I can remember. A strong police presence that, given a different culture, I might find reassuring. Now: Anxiety. Did read the meter info correctly? Were we parked on an incline? Are the stickers up to date? ... She ducked into a shoe shop. (They still exist.) Genuine curiosity and concern about her sole. On our way to a panel but too early for fashionable lateness.

Dr. Beer spoke so fluidly and naturally and enthusiastically about his work that we forgot to stop him. Other panelists and what not. We did hear about burdens, illegal takings, lawmen using influence to crush businesses who don't make campaign contributions. Difficult to stomach. But palatable because of the beer--not in an apathetic sense or in the way that inebriation raises your tolerance of the ridiculous. But because of how rare this man was who made this brew, tapped these kegs, expressed himself so well. A man like I've read about in books.

A bench below a small skyscraper in a courtyard with a sculpture that looked like it had been rescued from a scrap yard. No wifi. So we talked. Of us and of Austin and us in Austin, of a time we can barely remember, of a time we haven't molded yet. And before we knew it, we were on time for the panel.

It's serious, but it's not what I think. I have to remember--always--that life is possible and pleasurable, that what diminishes life is to be given as little thought as is necessary to fight it. And not a neuron more.