It is the beginning of another month and thus time for another installment of the Ohmygod saga (to catch up on the previous installments click on the Ohmygod menu up top). As you will recall, I used to be a cycling tour guide in Europe for several years. Through that job (yes, it is a bit difficult to call it a “job”) I met countless interesting people and have a few compelling stories to tell, but most of them pale to the story of Ohmygod, one of the clients that I had for three weeks. Some may wonder about the moniker, but the name chose itself really; it is what I uttered repeatedly during just about every interaction with him.
In the previous installment (Part Forty-Five), I gave Ohmygod his “new” bike and we eventually made our way to the train station and on to Bruges, without much of a hitch. We arrived at the hotel shortly after 9:00, which meant we had time to meet the new group at dinner. While there were vestiges from the previous crew (Paul, Maggie, and of course Ohmygod), there were also four new clients: the good-looking (and seemingly normal) Adonis, the odd couple Brad and Angelina, and the attention-seeking Anita.
Soon after I ordered, and after a bit of conversation and observation, it became clear that the new additions to the group would potentially be the source of much consternation. First, there was Adonis. While on the surface he seemed to be perfectly nice and well-adjusted, it did not take long to realize that he was a “player” as he visually engaged every woman in the room, particularly those who came within close proximity. As each would pass our table, his assessment of the unsuspecting female would start slightly below the shoulders and above the navel. As she continued her gait, he would venture a bit further north to the face, and a moment after passing, he would be sure to spin around and appraise her hindquarters.
I thought about addressing his rakish behavior immediately, but no one else at the table seemed to notice (or care), and seeing that I just met the guy, I opted for prudence.
Next, there was Anita. She carried on a conversation the entire night, apparently with me. At first, I tried to at least feign interest, so as not to be rude, but I noticed that she would continue “our” conversation even when my head was turned away from her and talking to someone else. It was clear that she did not really care if I responded or not, or even if I acknowledged her speech–she just kept talking. Perhaps the oddest part of it all was that she would continue with her diatribe to the back of my head (presumably) without even the slightest pause or an attempt to redirect her discourse to another at the table who might be willing to listen. When I did manage to actually pay attention to her, nearly every one of her sentences began with the first person singular, and subjects ranged from her job (she was a producer at a Miami television station), her husbands/lovers (she assured me she had many), and her prowess on the bike (and on the ice—curling). This caused me to conclude that there was no way that she could possibly be seeking my affection—she was far too in love with herself and she was not looking for any competition.
Then there was Brad and Angelina. Oh boy. They had “met” just weeks before, through an ad on CraigsList. Angelina had placed the ad, stating that she was looking for a cycling traveling partner. Brad answered the ad, for whatever reason, and they went on a weekend trip together to the Poconos. Brad found that weekend sufficiently encouraging, apparently, as he soon booked them on their current trip. They had arrived in Bruges two days prior, and if facial expressions and body language were any indication, it was not going as he had planned.
This story came out in bits and pieces over the course of the evening and each time that Brad started to give a bit more of the story, Angelina would very deliberately start talking to someone else at the table, in a much louder than normal voice, with the sole purpose of silencing Brad. It did not seem, however, that she did not want the story to be told for she would periodically provide information on her own that seemed to corroborate what Brad was attempting to recount. I believe her interruptions were based solely in the fact that she did not like the sound of his voice.
Near the end of the meal, I mentioned to the group that I would be heading over to one of my favorite bars in town, ’t Brugse Beertje and I asked if anyone would like to join me. No sooner were the words out of my mouth than Ohmygod’s right arm shot into the air. It seemed as though the force of the action was so great, that he was propelled out of his seat slightly, causing him to momentarily lose his center of gravity. Somehow, he was able to not fall from his chair, but he did grab a hold of the table, causing it to noticeably shift. Once stabilized, he grabbed his beer (his fourth in less than an hour) with his left hand and proceeded to guzzle the two-thirds of the glass that remained, all while keeping his right arm perfectly erect as if his wrist were attached to an invisible cable and someone in the rafters was pulling on it, trying to lift him off the ground.
While the newcomers were a bit taken aback from this otherwise startling response, both Paul and Maggie barely noticed it. In the end, all but Angelina agreed to join me. She mentioned that she needed to go back to the room since she wanted to get up early to “study.” This caused Brad to actively roll his eyes with such conviction that I thought he might cause himself to pass out.
The bar was about a five-minute walk away, and the route took us right by the hotel where all but Brad and Ohmygod decided they were going to pass on the bar. Despite my assurances that it was an institution in Bruges, it was just the three of us who strolled on another couple hundred meters to the bar.
As we walked in, I suddenly had a moment of anxiety—the bar has well over 300 beers available and knowing that Ohmygod had a penchant for asking the wait staff to repeat the selection of beers ad nauseam, I was a bit worried how that might manifest itself.
We grabbed a table in the corner and were soon presented with the beer menu, which was about three inches thick. Ohmygod lurched for the tome and was soon engrossed with its contents turning pages back and forth frantically as if he were a five-year-old operating a toy catalogue. I procured another menu, and in less than a minute looking, Brad closed the book and handed it back to me.
He opted for an ‘Oude Gueuze’ based on the recommendation of a friend back home who assured him he had to try it since they are nearly impossible to find outside of Belgium. Gueuze is a certain type of lambic beer—beers that rely on open tank spontaneous fermentation and are often fermented with fruit (cherry or Kriek being the most common). Gueuze differs in that there is no fruit involved and it is a blend of new and older Gueuzes that then go through a second fermentation in the bottle (which is why it is sometimes referred to as “Brussels champagne”).
The result is a bitter beer that usually has quite a bit of Brettanomyces, adding a distinct “barnyard” odor to the beer. Recently, many breweries have started to add sweeteners (like Aspartame) to make the beers more drinkable, but an Oude Gueuze is the straight-up original style.
And an acquired taste.
For me, the choice was clear: I ordered a Westvleteren 12, which many consider the best beer in the world.
Since that is the way I roll.
It is only available from the Abbey that produces it, and it only can be purchased on a few days over the course of the year. Apparently, there is an impressive line of traffic on those few days a year when the public can buy the beer.
After what seemed like a good fifteen minutes (although I am sure it was more like 12), Ohmygod finally ordered.
He ordered a stinking Molson. And it cost 10€ (about $12).
Here we sat in one of the best bars in one of the best cities in perhaps the best country in the world to drink beer, and he orders perhaps one of the worst beers produced in Canada. I had to ask:
“Ohmygod,why on earth did you just order a Canadian beer? We are in Belgium, for chrissakes where they make some of the best beers in the world! You can drink all the crappy Molson you want when you get home.”
His response was quick: “I thought if it cost 10€ here, it must be better than the stuff we get back home.”
Dejected, but still determined to broaden his horizons, when our beers arrived, I promptly ordered him another: a Kwak since it is served in a distinct glass/holder combination which serves as a great photo opportunity (and is actually a pretty good beer to boot).
No sooner had I placed the order, Brad took an average size gulp of his Gueuze, stared out the window for about three seconds, pulled out a 10€ bill, placed it on the table, and then stood up.
“Thanks guys, I am going to head back now.”
“Huh?” I replied, “We just got our beers—and you just took one sip!”
“Yeah, I am not much of a beer drinker, but now I can tell my friend back home that I tried it. Besides, Angelina is probably already asleep, so it is safe to go back now.”
In the moment I took to formulate my next question, Brad had already made it half way to the door.
And Ohmygod had already consumed half of Brad’s remaining beer.
What had started as what I thought to be a fairly good idea: getting the group to go to one of my favorite bars, had turned into one of my greatest fears: spending another night out with Ohmygod.
I stayed, nonetheless, since it had been a particularly long day and I had the best beer in the world before me. The next half hour or so was odd, to say the least. There I was, in the middle of a crowded bar, with loud, happy people on every side of me, but there was nary a word said at our table.
There was a bit of an anxious moment when he was drinking the Kwak, however. Ohmygod prefers to drink his beers in large gulps, filling his cheeks to the point of noticeable expansion before swallowing. When he tried this with the bulbous Kwak glass, air found its way to the bottom of the glass rather quickly, which forced the beer out much faster than he anticipated, causing the beer to spill out on either side of his face. Once he realized the problem, he returned the beer stand to the table and immediately placed both hands on his neck, just under the jaw. He then proceeded to slide both hands up his face in a squeegee like motion in an attempt to remove as much of the beer as possible.
He then licked the beer off of first the left, and then the right hand so matter-of-factly that it left no doubt that this was a fairly common occurrence.
Once he finished this somewhat perverse display of personal grooming, I decided it was time to leave. I pulled out enough money to cover my beer and Ohmygod’s Kwak, and stood up to leave. Ohmygod, while drinking the rest of his Kwak with his right hand, raised his left, as if he wanted me to wait. I paused as he finished his beer and then returned the empty glass to the table. With his left hand still raised, he placed his right on his stomach and emitted a large belch.
This caused nearly everyone in the bar to stop talking for a moment, and caught the attention of our server.
He simply said “Molson” as he lowered his left hand to the table.
Back out on the street, I decided to go for a walk around Bruges. During the day, the city is packed with tourists, but usually just before dinner, the city somehow rids itself of the picture-taking throng, leaving the beautifully illuminated city center virtually devoid of people.
I walked back past the hotel and toward the Markt—the beautiful square in the center of town.
As I wandered a bit aimlessly, I noticed the occasional couple walking hand-in-hand in what has to be Belgium’s most romantic city. As I neared the hotel once again, I passed a small park with a few such couples entangled on benches.
Just as I was about to clear the park, I thought I heard someone call out my name. Instinctively, I turned around. There, on one of the park benches, a large male was taking a break from his partner, and was frantically waving.
Motioning to come over.