The soft spring evenings have returned, and baseball season. With the Durham Bulls back in the park, where white-hot lights shine against the deep purple evening sky, I’ve made my one visit of the year.
I’m not big on sports—no Annie Savoy, me—but I love the atmosphere of a Bulls game. Between the innings, Wool E. Bull, the mascot, runs the bases against a little kid who always wins by a whisker; and two spectators in padded costumes collide with each other in a fake sumo match. Vendors walk through the stands holding racks of cotton candy or lemonade over their heads, calling to the crowd.
And, on this one visit of the season, my perfect evening brought back a vivid beer memory from, maybe, 15 years ago.
That was a very hot night, later in the season, when the humidity was choking and the cicadas’ songs cut through the air. I made the trip to the concession area for beer for my party, and found the one booth that dispensed something besides Budweiser. I bought three pints of Samuel Adams Boston Lager in squishy plastic cups and pushed them together into a triangle between my hands to carry them back to the seats.
A few steps away from the booth, I knew I was going to spill beer (I’d been a lousy waitress, and I’ve never improved), so I hunched over the cups and sucked—no, hoovered—the top inch off all three in one huge draft. And, in that second, if this had been a movie, the choir would have hit a perfect, ethereal chord: a vibrant, sustained “Ahhhh!”
I had just inhaled a veritable aerosol of Saaz hops and gorgeous malt, soft perfume and fresh-cut meadows. The flavor was an explosion. I stood, stunned, in the packed concourse, spot-lit (film pretensions lingering—“Ahhhh!”) in a moment of revelation: this was a beer I had been close to taking for granted, and now I had been spared. There I was, set apart from the mass of humanity who walked by, unaware of the glorious blessing of that instant.
The crazy light faded. I made my way without spills back to my colleagues, and delivered the beers without explaining the missing inch, or mentioning the near-religious experience I’d just had with Sam on the concourse.
Wool E. Bull was shooting t-shirts into the crowd.