The Blue Pitcher sat on the dining room table through innumerable meals at ‘The Ardmore House.’ This was a communal household I lived in, starting in 1978 and continuing for a number of years thereafter.
The Blue Pitcher was a staple on the dining room table. We often joked about what it would say if it could talk.
There were eight of us in that house — a core group of 3 (Joanne, Julian, and Bob) and others who came and went. Though not part of the core, I felt at home there. In some ways, I think of it as the first home where I had a real sense of belonging. I was happy and, honestly, a little amazed, to be there.
When I set out to write about the pitcher, I planned to share about the conversations and conviviality it witnessed. It was a free-form household that was much influenced by the core of philosophy graduate students there. Bob and Julian were perpetually working on their dissertations, although Julian spent more time cooking and reading the newspaper. And Bob was often out all night, cruising the gay bars in Philly.
The conversations were wordy, meandering, and endless, stretching late into most nights, in a smoky haze. And though not one myself, I definitely basked in the refracted brilliance of living with pipe-smoking philosophy graduate students. It was kind of a dream come true. AND it was the late 1970’s, when people could still afford to be philosophy graduate students!
So, this was what I intended to write about — still, I guess, basking in that version of the past. It’s not untrue, but as I’ve sat with the Blue Pitcher, I’ve learned that she has tales to tell that aren’t as light and convivial as I’d had in mind. The pitcher wants to talk about beer. And after some struggle, I’ve decided to go with the flow, and see what she has to say.
I lived in the Ardmore House through a chunk of my twenties. It was there that I had my first real job, and there that I started to find my footing after my mother’s sudden death. There I also drank more beer than is wise or helpful. And the Blue Pitcher was present and, as I’ve recently discovered, observed it all.
Beer-drinking was something I learned from my mother. She did it a lot. And I remember well the moment that I realized that if I drank beer at the same time that she was, it made her drinking much more tolerable. A dangerous insight, to be sure, and one that led to more wasted time than I like to think about.
A bit like Brett Kavanaugh in this moment, I’d prefer to go no further with this particular line of questioning, but the Blue Pitcher was there, and insists that I continue. So, the Ardmore House had a ‘beer fridge’ that was restocked by Bob on an ‘as needed’ basis. You put $.25 into a jar for a 12 oz. Bottle of Rolling Rock or $.35 for a 16 oz. Bottle of Genesee Cream Ale. That fridge was like magic to me, and I was up and down the stairs a lot, change in hand.
I’d grab a beer, light a cigarette, think deep thoughts, and write at my desk. There’d be more beer and more cigarettes, and then someone would stop by to chat. Brilliant insights would be shared, and the night would wend toward morning. Then my alarm would go off. I’d get up and drag myself to work — happily within a walkable distance — and drag myself through my morning. You’re resilient in your twenties, and by evening I’d be ready to start the cycle again.
I’d seen enough of beer-drinking in my life to know what it looks like from the outside. But I wasn’t looking from the outside. I was inside, and having fun. Had I been honest with myself, I’d have been worried. And worry did bubble up from time to time. But I hastily shoved it to the back of my mind. Or I resolved to live more healthily. And I’d do that for awhile, feel better, and then go back to having ‘fun.’ But the Blue Pitcher was observing it all. She tells me that the conversations weren’t as fascinating as I thought they were. And many precious moments were lost in a beery blur.
In fact, she says that she was worried. So, the observations of the Blue Pitcher, far from being fun, have filled me with shame. I hadn’t considered how others saw me, back in those days. I thought I was having brilliant insights and embarking on an interesting life. I didn’t think about family patterns, and I surely wasn’t thinking about the future when I put my change into the beer jar and carried my bottles back up the stairs to my room. Remember, it was the seventies — we had the luxury of not having to think about the future — or at least I did.
Interesting, how writing works. The Blue Pitcher, rather than cooperating with my intent, insisted on using her voice, and opened a door.
That’s the thing about
Flow, trust it and you don’t know
Where it will take you.