Obama's trip to Canada seems to be paying off. A quick learner, all the American President needed was a day in "true north" to come to some very sophisticated conclusions.
To negotiate the complex moment in race relations initiated by the arrest of his friend Professor Henry Louis Gates of Harvard, Obama has borrowed a northern strategy and resorted to the century-old venue for race negotiations between French and English by asking the aggrieved parties over for beer and a hockey game.
At last Americans are learning how to sensible.
It's hot in Washington so Obama had to scrub the hockey game. Nonetheless, Sergeant Jim Crowley, Professor Gates and the prez will all meet at the picnic table on the rear lawn Thursday evening at 6:00pm. Today's 92 degrees feels more like 95 because of the D.C.'s humidity. Thursday may be just as steamy. Jackets and ties will come off fast as the president breaks open the beers and starts the conversation saving the question everyone wants to know the answer to until an opportune and convivial moment:
"Boys, how are we ever going to bring the nation we all love out of the era of In The Heat of the Night?"
(In this question, of course, Obama is once again following his 'Canadian beer strategy' by using a Norman Jewison film as an example. To my mind, this makes up for missing hockey game.)
So they will begin with easy talk about Sidney Poitier, and Rod Steiger. Gradually the conversation will move around to Rodney King and O.J. Whoa! I'd love to be a fly on the picnic table and to hear them talk about O.J. Meanwhile, what every black and white American (and Canadian) man wants to know is this: what kind of beer are they drinking?
No shit. This is important stuff. Micro brewers throughout Boston have been on the line to the White House all week advising the President to go local. Jack Nicas has a good piece about this in the Boston Globe here.
But these are men with strong personalities who already have personal favorites.
Crowley likes Blue Moon, a relatively new, unfiltered beer made by Molson's (now sometimes also known as MolsonCoors) of white wheat and oats but also spiced with orange and coriander. You get a frothy head and sediment at the bottom of the glass so its not for the squeamish or inexperienced. At 171 calories per pint it's a full-bodied treat for someone who had a light dinner and/or someone who likes to work out regularly.
Henry Louis Gates, on the other hand, likes Red Stripe, a tasty Jamaican lager that goes well with reggae, beef patties and jerked chicken. But if this is too obvious, too ethnically chauvinistic for the occasion, Gates also like Becks, a crisp, satisfying drink that's sort of the V8 of commercial beers. When chilled it achieves a very nice snap. It weighs in at a sensible 61 calories, and after all, Professor Gates is a small, older man who walks with a cane and leads the sedentary life of an academic. Gotta watch those calories.
The president himself has been known to drink Bud Lite at sporting events. But then, Bud is often the only thing available at sporting events. (Incidentally why is this? God knows there are some decent beers in the United States that might go very well with any kind of ball game. Why can't you get Rolling Rock or Anchor Steam or some local Micro-brewed classic on tap in a sports stadium? Harumph!).
Anyway, maybe on this delicate occasion, Obama should go for something special, something that emphasizes the common ground that these men share as residents (or former residents) of the great Democratic state of Massachusetts.
Behind the scenes right now, Rahm Emmanuel is mulling over this very question. Various colored post-its with the names of Boston beers written on them are stuck to the outside of the monitor in his perpetually empty office because he knows that if you get the drinks right, the rest will follow.
Well, Rahm, it is a poser, but here's my suggestion. What's Boston to any of these men? Nearer to Harvard Yard, there's a local brewery and restaurant cunningly called The Cambridge Brewery. Everyone goes there including cops and eggheads.
The brewery regularly serves up four beers:
· Charles River Porter
· Tall Tale Pale Ale
· Regatta Golden
· Cambridge Amber.
It's gonna be a hot evening in DC so we can rule out the porter right away.
I'd go with Tall Tale Pale Ale myself, since the meeting will take place in Washington, and after all, nobody knows whether it was Professor Gates or Sgt Crowley who got too angry in the first place. (Could it be both of them? Could this really be like the story of In the Heat of the Night?? Two strong-willed opinionated achievers, one black, one white, both eager to get the better of his opponent, are smashed together in a confusing struggle until they reluctantly realize they actually share a common goal. Whoa! Whaddamovie!)
Regatta Golden is good enough stuff, but my feeling is that Cambridge Amber emphasizes the common ground these men share: a beautiful, friendly, small city (sometimes also known as 'the people's republic of Cambridge') that has been enormously influential in shaping American history and American attitudes.
Cambridge Amber is, according to the brewery that makes it a: Well balanced, medium-bodied, deep amber-red color[ed with a] complex palate [that] covers all the bases...malty caramel sweetness is followed by notes of chocolate and a dry, slightly roasty finish, complemented by a touch of fruity, spicy hops.
Well-balanced. Complex. Notes of chocolate. Covers all the bases. Yeah. Something there for everyone, I think. And so there should be. It's America, after all. Even if it's too warm, temporarily broke and there are not enough hockey games, still nobody has the right to obstruct anyone else's pursuit of happiness. Have a brewski, and chill. For God's sake! Let's get the wheels back on the wagon.
And now, I hope you will all join me in wishing the President and his guests good fortune in pursuing the best possible outcome from this eminently 'teachable moment'. At 6pm EST I invite you to join me in raising a glass (of whatever suits you, mine will be non-alcoholic) to their continuing success.
Some see this meeting as a way for Obama to spin past a distracting racial embarrassment. There's a lucid piece about this very thing in the Christian Science Monitor which you can access here.
I think we still greatly underestimate Obama's determination to personally change America for the better. I think the man sees this as an historical proof of the ultimate value of the country's black minority. I think jazz and barbecue and Toni Morrison are already great cultural contributions, but Obama seems to be going for something bigger, so I'm very interested to know what comes out of this small, beer summit. Crowley and Gates seem perfectly situated now to do something positive for the rest of America. And that's why they need to start by getting the right beer.
Have a great picnic, boys!