The Scrabble club commands a row of five tables in the dining room of the Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood; they're drinking beer and dropping squares. The farmers have wandered into the bar area from the parking lot, where they've been shilling tender-as-a-belly tomatoes and peaches as firm as fake tits. We're drinking a shandy with our darling and trying to figure out why the hell the lights are flickering.
It was hot as McDonald's coffee out there, as we bagged our goat cheese and tomatoes. We slogged from stand to stand like we were wading through French-fry grease, and worked up a man-size thirst. The sky was pink and gray, then just gray, then brown. It was weird.
A shandy's Brit-speak for a pint of half-beer, half-lemonade. Over there, if you get called a "shandy drinker," it means you're a little light in the loafers. Or stupid, because you're going to have to drink twice the liquid to get the same amount drunk. But who wants to get drunk on a Wednesday night? We just want something different, hence the shandy.
From our table, a window frames a tree like it's a still life, but one that's been animated by a crazy sorcerer. Its limbs wiggle like an overturned cockroach. Maybe the Bottleworks' exhaust fan is just outside the frame.
Poof, darkness. Power outage in Maplewood. What the fuh?
Then, a few seconds later, emergency spotlights kick on, casting just enough light for the Scrabblers to keep going. Which they do, as though the outage were nothing more than an unexpected sneeze from which they've recovered.
We finish our shandy. Blackouts are fun unless you own sneaker store or a restaurant; they offer a respite from pesky nags like the Internets, television and air conditioning, a break from the day-to-day. Welcome to the rest of the world, American pigs. Try living in Baghdad or Beirut.
We've been loving the beer blends lately, and the shandy is a simple one a beer cocktail of sorts: two ingredients that, mixed together, create a light, refreshing drink with half the calories of a regular pint. The classic shandy consists of equal parts medium-bodied lager in the Bottleworks' case, their Summer Klsch and lemonade. (In Germany, they call it a russ; in France, it's a panaché; in the Basque region of Spain, it's called leja "bleach.")
The Bottleworks is a good place to be during a blackout. Within ten minutes a server has placed a tea candle on our table, and all of a sudden we've got an instant memory. Tea lights in the blackout by the Scrabble dudes. The soda fountains are electric, so a second shandy is out of the question. The beer taps, however, work on pressure, so we have a straight klsch. "They're saying it'll only be another ten minutes before the power's back," says our server confidently.
At the next table, a man shakes his bag of Scrabble tiles and pulls out seven. His wife just called, wants him to grab some batteries pronto. "I told her I'd get a bunch," he tells his opponent, "but I think I can play one more game."