Despite his opening lecture on Promise Keeping, Angelas father was the easiest to converse with. A grey-haired, handsome old man, it was obvious he commanded the fortress. He reminded me of the pictures you see of Arthur Guinness, presiding over his family, a beautiful, stout-colored people that have spread to the four corners of the earth. The simple fact that he didnt discard me as one more light-bodied, fizzy, keg beer earned him my eternal gratitude.
Angela turned away from the mirror like Neferititi. (I learned about Nefertiti from Angelas brother by the way, and in exchange taught him about the birth of beer, another African contribution to the civilized world.)
"So how did I do?" I asked, unable to hold it in.
"Do you mean the sex we just had, or dinner with my family?" she replied, reading my mind like the great African queen that she was.
"I know the sex was good, I meant the family."
"Oh?" she replied. "And how did you know the sex was good? Did you ask me?"
"Okay, it wasnt," I replied. "Lets try again. How did I do at dinner?" She smiled, but kept her distance, something that bothers me about her.
"You reminded me of those white folk that go to an Indian dance ceremony at their local state fair, and stare, mesmerized, at the people they conquered." This knocked me back and Angela let it hang for a moment, then laughed. "Just thought Id give you a little of your own medicine."
"Ill tell you how I felt," I said. She looked at me, curious, so I continued. "I felt like a bottle of Bud Light sitting among a table of the best microbrews."
Angela laughed. "Dont you think of anything but beer?"
"I like wine. I just dont have time to drink it. But you didnt let me finish telling you how I felt. There I was, the one example of the dominant style, surrounded by quality beer and feeling very inferior."
"Yeah, right, inferior," she replied, "I dont think so. You were quite a nice microbrew yourself."
"Thanks," I replied, receiving the encouragement Id been seeking.
" She had slipped back into her self admiring trance, brushing a wisp of fake hair here and there, making herself look even more enticing.
"Do you want to hear about the dream I had last night?" I asked.
"Mmm," she replied again, still entranced by her own beauty.
"I was downtown, near midnight, and met three three young Black males." She smiled, signalling that she was still listening, and I continued. "They were carrying 40s, and said they wanted to talk. They said I shouldnt be with you, that I was white. I tried to explain how times had changed, but they didnt want to hear it.
"The 40s they were carrying turned into guns and they began squirting malt liquor all over me. I was surrounded, but I decided to leave anyway. Suddenly one of them began speaking French, then took out some cuffs and attached one to my ankle and the other to a streetlight post. Trapped, I began to think how unfair this was, that they had picked on me because I was white. That I had done nothing but try to be their friends. Then the dream faded."
Angela turned to me. "So what does it mean?"
"I thought it was a role reversal, this must be how Blacks are treated. Black and white. Power and powerlessness, just reversed."
"Oh cut the shit," Angela said, obviously annoyed.
"Actually, it wasnt my dream," I replied. "It was my assistant brewers. Hes a liberal. But it illustrates a point. Fear is what drives people, and thats the problem. People wake up from a dream like that and theyre afraid, less inclined to find out more about something different."
"And the beer analogy?" she asked, knowing more about me that Id care to admit.
"Same with a new beer style," I said. "You got people that are afraid to try something new, afraid to open their minds past what theyve been drinking their whole life. My assistant brewer is like that. He had one bad episode with a lambic and he wont try another. Like most people, he retreated back into his safe shell and now hes making bold statements that categorize a great beer style rather than questioning their own fear and seeking to overcome it. It takes a measure of sophistication and openmindedness to start sampling outside your race. I dont like dark beers, you know how many times Ive heard that?"
"Thank you professor, for Beer Ethnicity 101."
"You like it?" I asked, watching her reflected smile. "The argument for diversity. Its as good in beer as it is in life."
I was congratulating myself on this exploration of new terrain when the doorbell rang and before I could even get my pants on Sheila burst in. Needless to say, she was as unwanted as a brewpub owners decision to put Miller Lite on tap and right then I recognized one of the biggest drawbacks to my the appreciation of diversity. It cant always be sampled so openly; this town had become too small for me. My thesis on race and diversity wasnt totally free of flaws, and for now itll have to wait. Ive got more urgent explaining to do.