There’s a lineup at the Beer Store on Rideau Street every Friday night after 9:00 pm that stretches out through the automatic door onto the sidewalk.
Not that I’m there that often, but one notices these things.
As I was standing in line waiting to purchase twelve bottles of Labatt 50 (an acquired taste; I acquired the taste from someone I consider to have remarkably good taste, so I make no apology), I heard someone repeating a familiar syllable.
“Pabst… Pabst…” A tall, unshaven young man (my lower back and grey hair cry out “boy”, but I do not listen) with dark hair, a dark jacket and dark but faded jeans was searching for the price of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
“You’re looking for Pabst?” I offered, “It’s over there.” I jerked my thumb to indicate the sign on the opposite wall that said DISCOUNT BRANDS. He started to walk over.
“But they do have it?” he asked. I nodded.
“They sure do.” I looked at his girlfriend and tried to guess their age. Twenty? Not more than twenty-three, surely. They didn’t look like the seasoned hipster couple that ought to be buying Pabst Blue Ribbon at closing time on a Friday night. They were too bright-eyed, too talkative. Too happy. Like a chipmunk and a squirrel frolicking on the forest floor.
I walked out onto cold, windy Rideau Street, up to King Edward and turned north. Some disheveled figure was trying to decide if some building’s steps were a good place to make a bed for the night. I passed by, adjusting my grip on the 12-pack that was keeping my hand warm. You can’t refrigerate beer so that it’s colder than an Ottawa night.
There’s not one of these cold Ottawa nights goes by that I don’t ask myself the same question: How did I get here?
How the hell did I get here, anyway?