Sometime in the 1970s, I was sitting next to my father watching TV. I'm terrible about associating events with my age, but let's say I was about seven for the purposes of this anecdote. Although Dad regularly had a can of Coors in his hand, for some reason on that occasion I asked to sample it. Beer had a bad reputation among my cohort--not as bad as coffee, but bad. It was one of those mystifyingly gross beverages adults drank. Yet I found it rather pleasant. Strange, but not anywhere near as bad as the coffee I'd sampled at the Presbyterian church basement.
Fast forward to 1984 and my sixteenth year. My friends and I had managed to acquire a six-pack of Budweiser, of which we drank three. A chaste one beer each. I was living in Salt Lake City and was the only non-Mormon in the group, so naturally it fell to me to stash the remainder. One day I came home from school and found my father there--an unprecedented event. I had a sense that all was not right, and when he dangled those three beers from their plastic rings, I saw why. He said, "Well, I always got caught, I don't know why you thought it would be any different." Ah, I thought, this is not the end of the world.
Indeed, the act of beer-drinking is something that has been handed down from father to son for centuries. My dad, who was born in 1930, never took to good beer. He's still a tin-can man, a partisan of whichever brand is on sale. I tried to convert him, but he never developed a taste for good beer. If he was in the mood for something stronger than Busch Lite, he went for Jim Beam. Still, beer is one of the many gifts he has offered me over the years, and I love him for it.
Gene Alworth is eighty today. Raise a glass with me and toast his good health.