There's this beer in Ecuador called "Club Negra." It's my favorite. The beer selection in Ecuador is atrocious. There are basically two options that are readily available. One is a Bud Light knock-off called "Club Verde," and the other is a cheaper Bud Light knock-off called "Pilsner." In the list of cultural priorities of the Ecuadorian people, beer falls somewhere towards the bottom, between "not peeing in public," and "considering how loud people around you want you to play your music." It's not a priority. Soon after Peach and I moved to Ecuador, after spending six weeks drinking the world's best beer in places like Brussels, Reykjavik, and London, we discovered the cold, hard, urine-colored truth that we might have to do without good beer for the duration of our stay in Ecuador. But, shortly after we had come to grips with the reality we faced, the brilliant people over at Club decided to release a (what we didn't know to be at the time) seasonal dark beer called "Club Negra." Oh, heavens, it was amazing. In reality, it's as good as an average craft beer back in the States. But to us, it was the greatest beer we had ever tasted. The relief that washed over us when we discovered that we wouldn't have to settle for miserable, watered-down "yellow drink" was tremendous. We were in heaven.
I'm exaggerating, probably. But since it all came crashing down, I have come to remember Club Negra with that type of reverence. Somewhere around January, Club stopped making the Club Negra. It was a tragedy. The supply became limited, and as the days dragged on, it became harder and harder to find. I should mention here that neither Peach nor I ever drink more than two beers per week. One is a safe average, I think. Beer for us is a treat, it's a thing to enjoy and savor and look forward to. I think I've spoken on our feelings about beer before here, but it might have been on the other blog. Anyway, it was a sad turn of events. Since the onset of this disappointing reality, however, I've found myself going on several quests over the last few weeks to seek out the last remaining bottles of Club Negra that Cuenca has. I've gone to dozens of corner shops and grocery stores, asking for whatever they have had left. I'm proud to say that I've been successful. I'm normally met with a laugh and a "ya se acabó," (there aren't any more) accompanied by a look of, "silly gringo, don't you know anything?" But on occasion, I come across a vendor that still has some lurking on the back shelves. Tonight I found El Dorado, and came home smiling wide with my arms full of Club Negra. It was a treat.
I've noticed this trend in my life. My most consistent hobby over the last decade has been a treasure hunting of sorts. In California, I would spend a fair amount of time going to discount clothing stores or now-obsolete record shops and trying to find cheap prices and unique merchandise. I moved to Georgia and fell in love with used book shops and thrift stores; spending my free time amassing collections of books, kitchen ware, hats, you name it. I would hardly say I'm a hoarder, as I realize that these last couple of sentences make me sound as such. I didn't usually purchase but one book or one beer glass, etc. at a time. But, the hunt was what I enjoyed. I love the idea that there is some piece of memorabilia, something old and antique, something beautiful, something discarded but precious in these piles of unimpressive junk. I feel myself drawn to the story of it, of someone who is convinced in the value of something that everyone else has disregarded, and sets out to bring it home. I empathize with those old copies of Moby Dick or those Thriller records that have been donated, resold, or discarded. I'm certainly not someone who has experienced an inordinate amount of rejection in my life; only a normal amount. And, my own self-loathing and self-rejection drives me to feel like a reject, like a 1996 Olympics ball cap or a Members Only jacket. But, when I remember the redemptive story of my life, I feel alive and valuable. I feel at home. God has reached into this dirty life of mine and called me "son." He has delved deep into Last Chance Thrift Store or The Book Tavern and dug through the trash, where I have buried myself, to pull me out and proudly walk me to the cash register. He has made some remark to the clerk about how happy he is to have found this copy of Vonnegut or this moon wolf coffee mug, beaming in joyous victory that this treasure finally has a home. There's a box of discarded things back in Atlanta that I can't wait to pull out. Because in some weird, metaphysical way, I understand what it's like to be them. God says that we are treasure, and it is entirely life-giving. I am nothing without those words. And, I like playing that same redemptive story out in my spare time. For now, it's Club Negra. Soon, I'll be right back in those familiar thrift stores and record shops, digging through the trash.