I was at Belmont Station last weekend to get a bottle of Caldera OGS (thanks to Bill for the tip!) and I asked one of the people there if there was something to try that may be a hidden gem. Not easy to suggest hidden gems in Portland but I figure if I don’t ask then my horizons may always be shallow.
Barley Brown’s ales, I was told. Try that. I asked for a bottle and was told it was only on tap (I forget sometimes that Belmont has taps) and I resisted trying the beer, as I hadn’t had lunch and needed food before the sampling of ales.
I wish, just a little bit, that I had paused to have the ale. If I had paused, then I would have been a little later getting home, where I found out via the internet that someone critical to my well-being and general survival as a young teenager had died, late ’10, perhaps early this year. Details were fuzzy and honestly I did not have the heart to pursue them.
I’m drinking the Chaos now, a CDA brew that has a viscous mouthfeel and just a hint of the roasty quality of a stout but is predominantly hoppy in the nose and pine-bitter in the finish. It’s remarkably solid and one of the few examples of the style that I’d suggest to people.
Twenty years had passed since I spoke with Christy, I still feel that the Universe is just a little darker now. Maybe only by a bulb, only for a bit but I can feel it so there you go. I mostly hope that the separation between us was the result of time and life, not because I was a foolish young person but…the thought that I may have been an idiot probably played into things too.
As a teenager I was difficult to like. A lot of circumstances piled up to encourage a hostility in me that made me unpleasant. Perhaps this is the curse of teenagers everywhere; they are hard to like. Reckless and defiant and gleeful at little more than their own pleasures…but maybe that’s just me, not everyone else.
Christy liked me; she liked quite a few teenagers who needed someone to like them in Spokane, people who were different and weird, who were isolated, frequently socially maladjusted and were odd enough to gravitate toward libraries. It just so happened that this librarian stepped in and made a haven for some: the few, the proud, the literate geeks.
She wasn’t the only one, of course; there was a group of librarians that she led who created a group for kids and we looked out for each other, made social strides together in a society that didn’t really want to teach us about how to behave. So we behaved weirdly. It didn’t always work out of course but Christy kept a smiling eye over things, laughed with us not at us, was smart enough to let us feel dangerous when we wanted to be, to shelter us when we needed it.
Christy let me hang out in her office when I was a lad. She should’ve kicked me out at some point, told me I didn’t belong in the working part of the library, a space that is not just locked, these days, but requires key cards and passcodes to get into.
I still remember walking up that extra flight of stairs in the library to the admin floor, feeling every time like I was getting away with something. No doubt I was, even if it was something small.
Instead she listened to my tiny trials and laughed and advised and I could not have asked for a better human to nudge me through some of my most awkward teenage crap.
She was a wonderful person and she was my friend at a time when friends were hard for me to come by, at an age when friends are frequently hard to keep.
So I would have liked the Universe to have lasted a little longer with her in it. Now she is gone and I can only hope that the joy she brought people in life follows her to wherever she may go.
I did not come to the Belmont Station to ask someone what they were drinking. I came to remember an old friend and raise a glass in toast to her. Sometimes we go to pubs to honor people who we care for.
I don’t think I can repay the graciousness she showed to me but I can walk in her footsteps, just a little, and hope that I am showing a bit of what she gave to me toward others who are weird or unwanted or unhappy or need it.
So here’s to old friends but mostly here’s you to, Christy; you helped nurture what was best me and open the horizons of readers in a tiny town that desperately needed it. You are missed and may the universe guard you on your journey to whatever is next.