Beer Swilling Lugs

The Spike fails to find salvation in either God or Guinness

The Spike is tired and yearning to be free of the overblown hand-wringing over the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' recent opinion that the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance violate the constitutional firewall between church and state, in this case, specifically, church and schools.

Duh. Of course attaching "under God" to a public school tradition breaks that particular golden rule. Jeez, they don't even do Christmas pageants in school anymore. They've become Winter Festivals. Halloween? A Fall Carnival.

So if you're going to force schoolchildren (and unfortunate adults who happen to be in the school office at one minute past the bell when the darn thing starts) to recite the pledge, do it without God. That seems to The Spike to be what Ninth Circuit Court Judge Alfred T. Goodwin might call a no-brainer. The Pledge of Allegiance is a tribute to a symbol of a concept. Say it, don't say it, just don't fly airplanes into buildings or blow anything up and The Spike is fine with your level of patriotism.

That said, the folks who make Guinness beer could take a page from the Founding Fathers, the part about freedom to choose. The Spike was forced to give thought to the whole meaning of patriotism on a recent evening while attending a soiree hosted by the beer company. The Spike (almost) never turns down free booze and grub, and thus was enticed by the invite requesting The Spike's presence at a "Guinness Believer Party" at the Phoenix Zoo.

First, The Spike, being a veteran reporter, tried to sit alone in the corner and just pound a few, but was soon caught. "This is supposed to be a party," a Guinness Nazi scolded. "The point is to socialize."

Oh, all right. So The Spike began asking questions. Investigative reporting revealed that most of the people had been summoned to the party by a random e-mail and had no idea what they were doing there, just that God — make that Guinness — had chosen them for free drinks.

Whoopee. A large trough of beer on ice was set on every table, and The Spike and tablemates were served very fancy food like chicken satay, shrimp, and wrap roll sandwiches.

Then the meaning of Guinness' patriotism became clear. Our host for the evening, after a few remarks he believed were jokes, told us that the true purpose of the evening was to convert everyone into a "Guinness Believer." The Spike is not making this up. The Spike was then asked to pick up this or that type of beer from the trough and sample the difference in the bottle draft and the can draft. These are not to be confused with the draft draft. As if.

Our host divulged that there was nitrogen in the beer.

"What's in the beer?" he asked, over and over.

"Nitrogen!" shouted the room, suddenly full of Pavlovian alcoholics who gulped down anything liquid that they were given.

For some reason, which The Spike thinks may have something to do with trying to make Guinness sexy, our host kept using the words "surge" and "head" — over and over again. Now, everyone knows that beer sells best when accompanied by sex, but The Spike figures that they need to use bribery as well, because a pub full of white Irish guys drinking pints of brown liquid while singing "Danny Boy" just isn't sexy. Not even after three pints of Guinness.

The Spike isn't sure that anyone at the table really became a "Believer," but one man was inspired to abscond with two bottles of the draft in his pockets, so that should count for something.

The party ended with The Spike pondering this ethical question: Since The Spike accepted enough free Guinness to even be pondering (much less driving), does The Spike now have some sort of moral commitment to the Guinness label? Would ordering a Bud Light or Fat Tire now be tantamount to treason? Is The Spike part of the Coors/Miller/Budweiser Axis of Evil if it doesn't drink Guinness?

Evidently, it is no longer enough to merely drink beer. Now, it is necessary to pick sides. Guinness must think the title "King of Beers" is up for grabs.

But The Spike isn't going to bite the hand that provides food and drink, so here goes (with apologies to Francis Bellamy):

The Spike pledges allegiance to the beer of the Guinness/Bass Import Company and to the hangover for which it stands. One bottle, under (insert deity or substitute word of choice), inebriated, with draft pour spouts and nitro-surge for all.

Author, Author

There are times The Spike can't help but shake its pointy little head in amazement at the ways of the world. One of those times was last week when The New York Times best-seller list (paperback nonfiction) was released, and there at No. 12 was The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club, a collection of "comic essays" by Laurie Notaro, a columnist for azcentral.com, the Arizona Republic's online version.

Notaro's essays used to appear in The Rep until even the Republic couldn't take it anymore and saved readers from Notaro's special brand of journalistic pabulum. The Spike hears that Notaro received dozens, if not hundreds, possibly even thousands, of e-mails from readers who were upset that the column was spiked. But hey, consider the source: They're Republic readers.

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