Astute readers will have noticed that I have been absent from my blog for a couple of weeks. For the first week, we had Alex Nixon writing about Portland, Oregon in his inimitable fashion. We’ll be seeing more from him later this fall, as my near quintessential semi-legitimacy seems to have rubbed off on him and some west coast festivals are allowing him to attend. Who would have thought that my college roommate would be allowed out in public without an armed guard?
For the last week or so, though, I have been dealing with some personal issues. One of my best friends passed away on Monday. It’s difficult to write about because it’s so recent. It’s a loss that I feel deeply and that I will continue to feel indefinitely.
Tim Mitchell was a mountain of a man. He hailed from South Porcupine, Ontario; a fact that we ragged on him mercilessly about down the pub. (Was it named that because of the indigenous wildlife? Was there a North Porcupine? How many banjos were owned per capita? Oh, no! Look out, Ned Beatty!)
I met him through Darren Siddorn because they are both supporters of Everton FC and Sid brought Tim into the fold at Bar Volo. I didn’t actually get to know him very well until about a year ago, when it turned out that Sid was going to have to move to Edmonton for work. In the weeks leading up to Sid’s departure we would talk about how things wouldn’t be the same after that happened, and we bonded over the idea that even if it wouldn’t be the same, it would still be good.
As we talked (and got through rather a number of pints), we discovered that we enjoyed a lot of the same things and that we had a lot of similarities. We had both been intelligent kids and had gotten bored pretty easily by schoolwork. We both grew up on British comedy and sci-fi. Somewhat embarrassingly, I can reveal that we both enjoyed Firefly so much that to this day we were both watching Castle even if only for Nathan Fillion’s affable badassery. We liked Doctor Who as well. He was a Tom Baker guy, while I preferred David Tennant. I think that Tom Baker looks like Graham Chapman in a wig.
The differences didn’t end there. He worked in some capacity in middle management for HP. Personally, I think that middle management probably exists somewhere between Sisyphus and Judas Iscariot in the Dantean vision of hell, but it seemed to do well for him.
The truth of the matter is that in terms of beer drinking we were pretty similar. It wasn’t about craft beer, really. It was mostly about the pub and the stories it creates. He would tell me stories of Hong Kong businessmen and drinking too much scotch in karaoke lounges. I would tell him stories about New Brunswick and how I once saw a regular at Ducky’s in Sackville barter for drinks with handfuls of hydroponic weed out of a huge Danish butter-cookie tin.
We would laugh, mostly. I would do impressions of things I’d seen on TV and he would stand there trying not to break up. He would interact with patrons at the bar that we didn’t know, sometimes giving them fake names if they looked like they were going to be trouble and coming up with an elaborate improvised backstory which would inevitably fall apart when someone who knew him came over and addressed him by his real name. I think he once managed an entire night as Steve.
There’s a bond that laughter creates. My brother Blake is able, periodically, to make me laugh to the point where I can’t breathe: Paroxysms of laughter and oxygen deprivation that may take minutes to elapse at which point the merciless bastard will wait for me to catch my breath before adding to the joke! Sometimes I can do that to him if I get peevish and reach John Cleese-level ranting angry.
It is worth noting that Tim was one of the only other people I have met who was able to produce this effect, and in that way he was like an older brother to me.
I would usually wait until he had taken a sip of his beer before launching in with a punchline, causing whatever he was drinking to explode out of his nose. I think that the record was three in one evening, which eventually twigged him to the fact that I was doing it on purpose. He stood there red-faced, laughing and shaking his fist in mock anger while the hops burned his sinuses.
He was one of my best friends, and he was a man that anyone would have been proud to know. He behaved with honor, fortitude and compassion. He treated everyone equally. In the words of Raymond Chandler, “If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.”
I have broken up streetfights with him. I have seen him offer assistance to people on the street in passing without a moment’s consideration. I have laughed with him and cried with him. On Friday, I saw a throng of people in Volo who had come out to mourn his passing. He touched everyone he met. He must have since there were people there on Friday I had never seen before.
This is, at least ostensibly, a beer blog, so I am going to review a beer. I shared it 8 days ago with my friend Tim at the end of the night, the last time I saw him. I had my half of it out of a snifter. He, flaunting convention, drank his out of the bottle. That’s South Porcupine for you.
Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout: It is black as midnight on a moonless night. It has notes of chocolate and coffee and a certain amount of booziness on the back of the palate after the swallow. It is excellent, but it will never be as good again.