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On The Beer

mark wood

by Mark Wood

Madhouse

There was a time, long ago when I didn’t know how to make homebrew but once the first batch was started, my life took a dramatic turn. I was sharing a rented madhouse with three other lunatics and though we lived there for a couple of years most of my recollection of it is lost and the memories I do have are hazy at best.Our purpose in life at the time seemed to be to push the boundaries of convention and entertainment. The rumors that I slept in a tent in my bedroom are unequivocally true. This was later upgraded to a rubber raft on a water bed which afforded me the inevitable recurring dream of being adrift at sea. I also kept an antique motorcycle in my room under a protective layer of laundry which only ever emerged from the pile for the odd jaunt to the kitchen.

The madhouse was, without any stretch of imagination, “do-what-you-wantsville”.

Migratory animals, by comparison, possess far more civility and self-preservation than we did back in those days, only because they lack the imagination to take full advantage of their circumstances. Once the first case of homebrew was opened we really hit our stride. A fair crowd used to gather on fryday nites, our madhouse being the starting point before heading out, but once the homebrew hit, everyone stayed. In order to maintain our supply we formed a brewery and made our friends shareholders. This elevated our capacity to roughly sixty dozen homebrew comprised of two flavors: dark and light ale which went by the trade names of Thunder and Lightning. Fryday nites became the stuff of legends. The madhouse was particularly roomy and lent itself to the occasional, indoor bicycle ride. This quickly turned into a series of organized, mid-winter, indoor bicycle races. The furniture was rearranged to facilitate speed and a set of bleachers were commissioned by positioning a pair of rum barrels on both sides of a small couch with a larger couch placed on top. The kitchen chairs and the dining room set were also pushed aside to serve as guard rails. There must have been a “no contact, no passing” rule on the third turn approaching the dining room otherwise we would have crashed through a large window and ended up out in the snow bank in front of the house.

A typical race would be preceded by a lot of homebrew and perhaps a few taunts until the crowd was chanting for blood, much the same as a roman colosseum. It was a marvelous spectacle, a pack of bicycles ripping around indoors with a hundred-pound Husky trying to pass us all. The kitchen was a tight corner but the dining room and living room afforded a great burst of speed before heading down the back stretch in the hall leading back into the kitchen. Surprisingly, no one was ever seriously injured. I vaguely remember being checked into the double-decker couch once or twice but returned the compliment each time. The winner usually took a victory lap before the crowd congregated in pit area/kitchen for another round of Thunder and Lightning. Soon the taunts and trash-talk gave way to the chanting mob and we were back in the fast lane again. Such was the rock star life of an indoor bicycle racer.

The only other recollection I have is that we all moved out and married fabulous, young women. It seems we’ve finally achieved the lofty, migratory animal status. Resplendent with civility and self-preservation.

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