Somehow, summer means simplicity. The days are long and empty, the food is fresh, and entertainment is easy. I think of drawn out summer dusks spent making homemade ice cream and catching fireflies, or spending the entire day reading a book on the porch swing, coming inside only to feast on a dinner of local tomatoes, cucumbers, corn on the cob and peaches.
Nice memories, those. They’re real, of course, and were I to return to the mountains of Virginia, I’d probably be able to recreate them. But here, in the big city, local produce is scarce and the escalating cost of living requires that most days involve some sort of actual, lucrative work. Days spent on the swing with peach ice cream (or even a Chocolate and Vanilla Swirl Puddin’ Pop) are few and far between.
But summer still means simplicity, and I’ve recently discovered new, grown-up summer activities: beer and baseball. Really, what could be more elemental or more American?
Beer and baseball are two things that I have long resisted, insisting the both of them to be boring and crass, slow and disgusting. Wine and football were much to be preferred – for the sophistication and the action, respectively. But summer simplicity requires a paring down, and beer and baseball are about as simple as you can get.
So I’m becoming a baseball fan and a beer drinker. These are long-term projects, you understand, not to be undertaken with haste or excess. Care and consideration will be employed, as I’m fairly certain that baseball and beer have the capacity to provide me with many years of summer satisfaction.
There’s really no danger of becoming a crazed, irrational Braves fan, as they’ve lost something like 19 out of the last 23 games. But despite their horrendous season, the Braves have introduced me to a love of the game. I’ve been to Turner Field several times in the last two weeks with some real baseball fans, and I’ve learned things. I’ve learned what it means to tag up, how the pitching rotation works, and what all the abbreviations on the stat board mean. It’s amazing how understanding can lead to so much enjoyment. (Of course, players like hometown hero Jeff Francoeur and second baseman Marcus Giles don’t hurt, either.)
And, while beer is touted by the college crowd as an inexpensive and readily available aid to Friday night frat party drunkenness, I’m not in it for the cheap thrill. It’s just that I’ve held out long enough, and at this point my moralistic condescension is beginning to grate on even my own nerves. Plus, finding my staple Cider Jack on tap (or, for that matter, in a bottle) is a daunting task, even in Atlanta. I consulted several sources, solicited recommendations, and began my foray into the world of hops with a good, solid Bass Ale. I found, to my surprise, that I actually enjoyed it – the bottle, the foam, and even the taste were pleasing. I’m branching out, now. The Brick Store Pub in Decatur touts its long list of foreign ales, and I had a lovely chocolate-y beer there. Atlanta breweries are apparently pretty reputable, and Sweetwater’s Sweet Georgia Brown is indeed sweet as well as local. It feels nice, to be able to find so much enjoyment in such a simple thing.
But here’s the best part of my newfound summer simplicities: beer and baseball go together! Summer is all about simplicity. I think of firefly catching and vegetable eating, and now, a new image comes to mind: sitting high in the nosebleeds of the baseball stadium with bare legs sticking to the plastic seat, watching a few guys throw a ball around and sipping an ice-cold beer.
Joy, I suppose, is found in the simple things - like the beauty of beer and baseball.