It's the end of the weekend, the super-long shitty weekend of all weekends. I find myself at the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium (705 Main). My very own personal safe haven, my home away from home, if you will. Cheers has nothing on the Saucer. Everyone does know my name, and they are glad I came. Naturally, I come here for the people and the insane variety of beers, both on tap and bottled, that this place slangs.
It's chilly outside, I haven't gotten my way the whole weekend, and all I want is some fermented yeast to help me let go of this one. I search the place for a woeful soul such as myself to exchange a "bad day" story or two with. Not that many people here, mostly regulars and a few out-of-towners. There's no one I really know, so I just saddle up to a quiet man I've seen here before. I see him every time I come here, actually. Maybe when they close, they just dust him off and throw a tarp over the guy so as to not dent or scratch him up while the cleaning crew works around his stool.
As I place my order for a brew, I notice him staring and look over to flash an "I notice you staring" smile. I get no response, just a blank face. Hmmm, riiiight. I don't know if he gets an awkward feeling (or if he's even conscious), but I sure do -- it's like when you say your good-byes to someone and then keep running into them. I ask his name to get rid of the awkwardness.
J. Michael Fellers. This name is very familiar to me. I tell him I must know a Michael Fellers, and he responds by pointing to the walls. He has his name on, like, 14 plates on the wall.
Now, at the Saucer, for every 200 beers you drink, you are awarded a saucer in the ring of honor, and you can do only three a day. J. Michael means business. All of his saucers have a space-related message on them: This man has his own theme here! I realize that I'm in the company of a legend. I try to do the math and figure out how many beers he's had altogether, but math sucks and I just ask him.
"Two thousand eight hundred," he replies in a coy manner.
I like that he's smug. It shows well, I don't know what it shows, but I like it. I ask his motivation, and I'm told it's simply a hobby. An expensive hobby, since the average cost to complete a saucer is $1,500.
Fellers has been at this since 2000. He's put up a saucer in as little as two and a half months. Now you'd think this man would be out of shape or rotten on the inside, but he looks like a healthy, fit man from the Alps, kinda like the Ricola horn-blower -- towering at six-four and well proportioned. I had to know his secret. Turns out he walks to the Saucer every day from his downtown home, a fact he shares with pride. Now, I've seen him here plenty of nights when he's had one (or six) too many, and it's a good thing, for liability purposes anyway, that he does walk. And ladies, just in case you're wondering, this 46-year-old stud is available.
Another friend comes into view, Keelan Hamilton. Keelan has a few saucers up himself. He's at three right now, and plans to stop at 1,000 beers. I ask him if he's intimidated by Fellers's numbers.
"I have no desire to drink that much. If I did, it would only be because I'd been coming here for 20 years."
I totally understand Keelan's need for a solid, even number: He must have a case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. I've diagnosed myself with this disease, too, because I have to face all of my cash in one direction, and when I chew gum, each side of my mouth has to have the same amount of chews as the other (yes, I know it's twisted). Anyhoo, Keelan is only 33 and comes to the Saucer for the same reason I do, the Pleasantville-type warm feeling among peers. He makes the drive all the way from Clear Lake a couple of times a week to put in his beer credits and mingle. Word on the street is he's soon to be spoken for. I know what you're thinking: Aw, shucks, right?
To make our little party complete, Crazy Carl joins us. He looks like something that goes bump in the night. I ask him to join the conversation, and he asks if he has to. "Yes, Crazy Carl. Yes, you do." Now, his mama didn't name him Crazy Carl; his daytime alias is Carl A. Lavallais. But after Carl A. Lavallais has about five in him, he's transformed into Crazy Carl. Crazy Carl is working on getting into the ring of honor, and he's halfway there. I ask him why he wants to get a saucer on the wall.
"To be like everyone else in the ring of honor. I come here every damn day, seven days a week, I get my damn mail here " Thank you, Crazy Carl, thank you
I asked Fellers and Keelan if they were single so I could get a better picture of the life of a man with so much ambition. When I ask Carl, he assumes I'm hitting on him (mind you, I'm 21 and he's 47). He gets a little boost of man juice from this and offers to buy me a beer. I accept.
While all this is going on, I spot a handsome twentysomething male at the other end of the bar hooking up with a totally mediocre babe instead of me. This always seems to happen, but what can I say? I got my boys who can see troubles are all the same. We wanna be where everybody knows our name.
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