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mark wood

by Mark Wood

The Story Behind the Story

"My friends and I, as individuals, have normal names, lead fairly normal lives with barely normal jobs and use almost normal transportation. But collectively, we are abnormal, enabling you, gentle readers, to live your lives vicariously through us."

That's been one of my all time favourite opening lines. I thought it would be appropriate to look back on a few of our greatest hits on this momentous occasion, marking an anniversary of sorts. Apparently, I've been (enjoying) On The Beer for nine years and counting my humble beginning as a Shed Correspondent, would make it ten years writing Smokin' Joe stories. (Thank-you very much.)

I've been getting paid 5 dozen beer per story over nine years and that adds up. Basically I've plowed through 180 dozen beer tracking Smokin' Joe, noting snippets of conversations, events and reporting back. Journalism, they call it. Brilliant marketing move on Bill Reddy's behalf, I'd say.

He's created a perpetual yarn machine, there's a lot of stories in a batch of brew. I was at his store picking up my usual Morgan's Smoked Brown Ale and he thought I was owed one, but no. "Why don't you take this one and give me a story." he offered. I thought about it for a moment and said, "Well Sir, there was this one time..."

He laughed and told me to go home and write it down like I usually do. It was the only time in all my years that I was paid in advance. That one gesture meant as much to me as if I was signed to a huge book deal. He's a great editor too, wouldn't dream of changing a word, even the ones I made up. Gems such as: alchemistress, firetruckish, waterbombish, eclectician, and jrinkin', to name a few.

We've had some memorable moments, bought and sold fires and toasted/roasted some great people. Like Dr. Mike, "armed with little more than a decent homebrew recipe and a Phd. in Pharmacology, he set out to seek his fame and fortune." I'll have you know he's doing quite well for himself.

Or this fiasco, "His name was/is Dane (abbreviation for dangerous) and he was/is a friend of mine, as much as one could be friends with a hurricane or a snowstorm or any other natural disaster." He endeared himself to the national media for being misidentified as deceased and showed up at his own funeral. I was working on that story in the shed one fryday nite and my wife came out to check on me. "Gimme a break," I implored, "my friend just died." She corrected me, "No he didn't."

"Then I'm havin' a fake-wake for him," I shot back, "a celebration."

Last night I went shed-hopping with a few brew and the usual crew. An extraordinary amount of foamage, clinkage and spillage ensued 'till the floor was slick as the deck of a schooner in heavy seas. We basked in our success and made plans. After ten years we finally know who we are and where we're going. Smokin' Joe is going to tell his side of the story, as will Jimmy Two Fires, and turn the tables on me. I never thought of it that way before, that wild pair of jokers got ten years worth of stories about me too. We're starting fresh and running a cohesive series, just as Charles Dickens did.

It's time for the story behind the story.

Mark is also a regular columnist with The Independent (.ca) newspaper.