I bashed my apartment's buzzer in staccato blasts, releasing a sound as shrill as a school bell.
My fiancée leaned outside our third-floor window, her increasingly long blonde locks dangling like Rapunzel's once did. "Did you lose your keys?" she asked. I heard our dog, Sammy, yelping like an aardvark. The buzzer's precise pitch drives him into high-pitched hysterics.
"I can't reach my keys," I said, my knees wobbly from three beers too many. "They're blocked by pasta." "Pasta?" "Pasta. I have so much pasta. Please come down and let me in." She slid the window shut and slunk downstairs as excitedly as a condemned prisoner off to greet the firing squad. She unbolted the door. I passed her 10 pounds of gnocchi, 10 pounds of cavatelli with sausage and 5 pounds apiece of olives and wedges of salty Parmesan cheese. "And there's desserts, too!" I slurred, displaying ricotta cheesecake and a chocolate tart.
"Where did this come from?" she asked, incredulous. From her arched eyebrows, I knew she assumed I sourced the food via dubious means. After all, last week I brought her 36 containers of Greek yogurt lifted from this very newspaper's bike show. "I didn't steal it," I said, trying to look innocent despite my shirt's marinara stain. "Well, what happened?" "It's a long story," I said.
After months of writerly toil, my book on the global craft beer revolution, Brewed Awakening, will hit bookstores, Kindles, Nooks and iPads this fall. This is a freaking relief. Yet the book's arrival heralds glad-handing promotional work for which I'm ill-suited. I'm most comfortable in my apartment, pants-less, crafting crotchety proclamations and puns from the comfort of my new desk chair. (God bless extra lumbar support!) When I wear jeans and meet the world face to face, I lose a little verve. It's like some bastardized version of Samson's hair.
My first round of promotions brought me to the backyard of Brooklyn Italian standout Frankies 457. My publishing company was holding a dinner for its booksellers. These are the tireless men and women who canvass the globe, convincing shops such as Barnes & Noble and Urban Outfitters to stock my tome. An inspired sales force is as critical to a book's success as the content. Thus, my role in the eve's dog and pony show: lead a brew tasting for the attendees, convincing them that I put the fun in functional beer drunk.
No one makes antiperspirant strong enough for such a situation. Steeling my cowardly lion heart with a calming nip of Rittenhouse Rye, I selected three innovative craft beers. Like a preacher taking to the pulpit, I strode to a podium above the crowd and began preaching the good-beer gospel. I sang hosannas of the prickly, thirst-quenching Pretty Things Jack D'Or saison. I held forth on Lagunitas Hop Stoopid, a sweetly potent double IPA. "It smells a bit like a marijuana farm," I explained, inhaling the dank bouquet. Finally came Great Divide Yeti, a huge stout with notes of coffee and cocoa. "It's a monstrous beer," I explained, leaving no pun unturned.
The crowd drank in my words as quickly as they drank the beer. I drank faster. As I answered booksellers' questions ("A saison was originally brewed to slake Belgian farmhands' thirst," I explained), I took small, steady sips of beer from a glass that, thanks to the attentive waitresses, never went dry. Like Chinese water torture, the effects soon accumulated. By the time I sat down to dine on cavatelli with spicy Faicco's sausage, my head felt like a merry-go-round. The carbohydrates and carnivorous pleasures could not reverse damage done, and continually inflicted.
"Have another beer," my dining companions insisted. I could not refuse. As a beer expert, you're expected to consume too much. To do otherwise would be like Takeru Kobayashi coming to a Fourth of July BBQ and only eating one Nathan's hot dog. So I drank Hop Stoopid till I resembled the IPA's name. Luckily, the liquid onslaught was cut short by the clock: At 9:30 p.m., the booksellers boarded a bus bound for Manhattan. I gathered my woozy dignity and belongings and headed for the door.
"Josh, would you like to take the leftovers home?" the manager asked, pointing to the towers of boxed pasta, cheese and desserts. Three beers earlier, I would've begged off, not wanting to seem like a greedy, greedy gumdrop. But I'd had enough beer to activate my inner cheapskate. That was enough food to feed me for weeks, with sweets to appease my chocolate-mad fiancée.
"Don't mind if I do," I said, filling two shopping bags with food and not one drop of shame.