A few years ago, my roommate, D, introduced me to a drinking game unique to Iowa City. One sits at Brother's near the door on a Tuesday ($1 High Life night) with a beer and drinks every time one 1.) sees someone wearing sunglasses, a woman's underwear, or backwards cap; 2.) hears someone say "Bro," 3.) smells someone's cologne or perfume from ten feet away, or 4.) witnesses any behavior that would be inappropriate at the Mill just around the corner.
D explained as we walked through the Ped Mall, "High Life is the only beer that tastes better in a can than it does in a bottle."
"Does that make it good?" I asked.
"Oh, Sam, hell no."
Within a half hour, we were drunk. "It's a very effective game," D explained looking somewhat unsteady on his stool. "If you're not careful, you're on the floor in an hour, but at least you're only ten dollars down."
"The Champagne of Beer..." I said, reading the label.
"Yeah," D exclaimed. "Someone deserves a medal for that tagline The champagne of beers. Yes sir, that was a genius advertising move. What will we say about it? Why, it's the champagne of beers, sir. It will make us rich. Every person in the world will feel a little better about drinking this stuff with a slogan like that."
That was my first introduction to High Life and I have since tried to avoid it. A friend once described it, unfavorably, as "crispy." It always reminds me of being uncomfortably surrounded by bros and sorority girls with only five dollars in my pocket and few alternatives.
Then I came to New Orleans where PBR, the favored cheap beer in Iowa City, seems to have long ago lost that battle to High Life. The first time I went into the Marigny, IB bought a round of High Life and Brother's came rushing back to me in a torrent. "High Life? Seriously?" I said.
"Yeah," IB replied. "It's my favorite cheap beer."
I looked around the room. I was surrounded by people wearing flannel shirts and skinny jeans, sporting bad mustaches and Buddy Holy glasses, clearing not wearing cologne, and drinking High Life and there was not a PBR to be seen. Truly, I was in a strange land.
"Not PBR?" I asked, feebly.
"Nah. I prefer High Life."
"But, that's what bro's drink," I protested.
IB shrugged and gestured around the room. "Drink it ironically and reclaim it for hipsterdom."
Since then, High Life has become my fallback drink at bars. It's reasonable. When you're on an AmeriCorps stipend, you must be mindful of your tab. But I still do not feel comfortable with this decision since High Life seems to follow me everywhere.
High Life is haunting me. Every time I go out to the bars, someone hands me a High Life. The other day, Janis picked me up at my house to drive us downtown for a show. As I buckled up she shoved High Life at me. "Here," she said, "you need this."
It's fizzing up my gut and brains. My fingers twitch and I think that I've forgotten the meaning of champagne.
On New Years, I was standing outside of Cafe Envie in the Quarter, waiting for people to finish using the the toilets and grab espressos so we could move on to the Marigny. I am always mindful in the Quarter. Not necessarily keeping an eye out for pickpockets or dangerous situations so much as potential oddities. There's a fine line between strange and lethal there.
Anyway, I looked up the street and two desperately underclad kids were walking toward us. A couple, I imagined. They seemed to be arguing and the guy appeared to be chasing after his girlfriend, who was marching with purpose, arms wrapped around her tanktop, skinny torso.
"We can't get there from here. We have to turn back and go down Esplanade," the guy was saying.
"I know where I'm going," the girl said, "We're meeting up with Galen on Bourbon."
"When did that happen?" the guy asked, exasperated.
The girl walked past me. As the guy walked by he reached out, grabbed my left hand and placed in it a full high life. "Here," he said, fixing me with a kind, but intense look. "Drink this."
Then he quickly pursued his girlfriend down the street, continuing the argument where he'd left off. I stared at the bottle. His command reminded me a bit of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. DRINK ME. I was holding a reference. This was the key to an adventure, so I hoped.
"Well, you have to," Janis, who had seen the gifting, encouraged.
"You're right," I said, holding up the High Life, champagne of beers, and toasting 2012 the Crescent City way, the AmeriCorps way. "Thank you, New Orleans."