What Ales Thee?

To a cancer-head, Philly is beer heaven on stilts.

By Steven Wells
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Dec. 6, 2006

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Jester quick one: A cancer dressed up in its Christmas finery.

Oh beer, how I've missed thee.

I was diagnosed with cancer back in May. Everyone bangs on about the puking and the baldness, but the two worst things about chemo are the loss of libido and the inability to drink beer. The merest sip of alcohol made me flush, shake and feel like shit. Sure, I missed sex, but I'd have chopped my cock off for a beer.

Before I got cancered, I was a fitness nut. I thirsted but didn't drink. But now--with the cancer gone and after six months of why-the-fuck-did-I-bother?--I'm making up for lost time.

Hello, beer. It's been years.

I'm not talking about the fizzy blond alcopop made by Coors, Miller and Bud. I'm talking about the palate-blasting, throat-stroking, libido-stoking mind-grease of the gods. Real beer.

I love beer. I love the cock 'n' bull fests beer ignites. Drink beer plus talk shite. It's the algebra of ecstasy.

But I also love--and I do mean love--drinking on my own. You see that eyebrowless cancer-looking motherfucker in the corner, half-cut on just two pints of real ale, laughing to himself as he reads--what is that? The freaking Bible? A friend of mine once sat in a London pub doing the book 'n' beer thing when a thug poked him in the forehead and spat, "This ain't a fuckin' library!" He should've chinned the cunt.

I'm in Nodding Head on Sansom Street, troughing spicy jambalaya, reading zombie comics and necking sweet pints of Ahtanum Double IPA. There's English soccer on the TV and English punk rock on the sound system and I'm as happy as a pig with three dicks.

But although I'll maintain to my dying day that no drug on the planet can compare with a pint of Tetley bitter hand-pumped in Bradford, England, by a 16-year-old Yorkshire bar lass with arms like grapefruit-stretched condoms, I haven't come to beat the dull British-is-best drum.

A chum of mine who immigrated to Philadelphia 20 years ago speaks of his fellow Brits clustered in crappy fake English pubs, drinking imported ale, eating imported steak and kidney pies, and watching week-old U.K. TV sports videos.

"How fucking sad is that?" he says, sipping Sam Adams in the Dark Horse pub, watching his beloved Manchester United play live, stuffing his face with seafood crepes filled with crab and shrimp in mornay sauce.

There's tons of silly small stuff for an Englishman to miss in Philadelphia. But wonderful pubs packed with riotously amusing hardcore drunkards off their tits on superb beer aren't among them. I might sometimes close my eyes and dream of the proverbial plush, cozy, smoky, noisy English snuggery full of oak beams, horse brasses, frayed red plush, gold paint and red-faced fat men shouting cheerful obscenities as they sup foaming pints of bitter ale so potent it'd blow the average American's head off.

But then I open those eyes in some yellow-stained ashtray of a hardcore no-fuss Philly dive bar where the geriatric waitresses twitch with nicotine withdrawal and men and women with backsides the size of small Third World countries perch on shiny maroon barstools and bark crap about sports and politics and, God help us, relationships, and it feels like ... home.

Or maybe I'm in Bridgewater's Pub arguing the relative merits of Belgian and Czech beers with super-knowledgeable, multinational bar staff while halfway through my second $5-a-pop bottle of Jever Pilsner. It's drier than the driest champagne. God's piss probably doesn't taste as good. And you ask if I'd rather be in any other city in the world. Are you kidding?

Philadelphia, I've barely started to drink ye.

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