I learned today that a couple old friends now read this blog. I feel a bit self-conscious about that, I suppose. Must mind my company manners now, not reveal the evil side I’ve hidden from them for 40-50 years…!
Aw, heck with it! They know by now, surely, that I can be petulant: Hunawhir, circa 1971, I had a hissy because Ralph insisted I taste a stinky cheese (don’t recall which variety). “If it smells like the bottom of a stable, it tastes like that, too!” He talked me into trying it, I gagged, made rude sounds and comments, no doubt offending the very nice host and hostess, and…! Yeah. Not nice! “The Ugly American”!
Or I can resist a good time: Strasbourg, same trip, and Ralph wanted to expose me to as many Alsatian wines as possible. I don’t know how many places we stopped by and Ralph said, “Just one more!” and I tried to drink just one more special wine. I finally “spilled” the contents of my stomach in the last wine bar in a trough urinal in front of several Frenchmen taking a leak. It was purple. I think I whined when I got back to the table, however I managed to find my feet to make it back!
Then there was the Stiefel incident at Zum Bitburger, the neighborhood Gasthof I wanted my friends Ralph and Deborah to try while visiting me in Kaiserslautern.
You’ve no doubt seen the boot-shaped glassware Germans have, der Stiefel (or boot) glass. Deborah and Tim, one of my roommates on Beethovenstrasse, had moderate amounts of Bitburger Pils, perhaps wine, while Ralph and I challenged ourselves to “der Stiefel”!
I’d drunk from one once, remembered the trick. (Hold it the wrong way, and you get a lap full of beer! Ha! Ha! I think I wanted to “surprise” Ralph, though I’m sure he was sophisticated enough to know the trick before me!) I called the waitress over and pointed at the Stiefel glasses lined up on the shelf, and indicated Ralph and I both wanted one.
The waitress gave us an odd look and a smile. The barkeep, who looked suspiciously like the guy on the Bitburger Pils bottle label, smiled, waved in acknowledgement of the order. I think he was laughing or, at least, enjoying the pour a bit more than you’d expect, even though he ordinarily was a happy, friendly fellow, someone I liked to talk with when I visited the Zum Bitburger Gasthof. Something was just a little “off” about the moment.
The “dienendes Mädchen” – “serving wench” as this was about to become a debauch, and debauches require serving wenches – came back to the table, and placed a Stiefel in front of Ralph, then me. We’d been drinking liter glasses of Bitburger Pils before the Stiefel arrived, so the fact that we had to look around the glasses to see each other on the opposite sides of the table foretold the long walk back to the apartment on Beethovenstrasse!
“These are bigger than the one I drank from,” I mentioned to Ralph, “I’m sure of it.” I think the one I drank from the earlier time had been a liter Stiefel. But THESE were huge! No, we hadn’t slumped in our chairs! They were so huge, we had to look around them to talk!
Ralph is notorious or famous for this line, usually a prelude to a fun time you wouldn’t try on your own, but that Ralph wisely decided you wanted to try: “Are you up!?”
I don’t know if he asked me the famous line or not, but, to the amusement of the local patrons, who watched as discretely as they could, and the barkeep, who just watched, with a huge smile on his face, we each tilted back the huge, huge boots, which had to be held with both hands!
The rule is you drink the whole thing back in one take. I don’t think we tried, so the German guests at the Zum Bitburger probably got bored with the crass Americans who didn’t observe Stiefel custom or provide adequate entertainment value for the mark, and went back to their own drinks. I don’t remember how big the glasses were in volume. Four liters, five liters? A lot, that I can vouch for!
Did we finish our drinks, Ralph and I? Were we up?! I suspect so. We were younger and more stupid then. Deborah and Tim helped us stagger back down Beethovenstrasse, where we climbed the three stories worth of stairs, and plopped into bed to sleep the sleep of the drunk and the dead.
Postlude: Bitburger’s motto is “Bitte ein Bit”. (“A Bit, please!”) It is a premium pilsner that has a remarkable characteristic reflecting that high quality: “Abends Bit, Morgens Fit!”, another motto of Bitburger pilsner, “Evenings [drink] Bit, [and in the] morning [you will be] fit.” Astonishingly, it is so! Ralph and I emptied a keg and had little more distress than a little fatigue and, erm, “gas”! (“Oh, Ralph!”) No headache, though! Love that Bit!