Pancakes And Beer

Pancakes And Beer

What Prize Do You Get When You Become An Honorary VC? Beer of Course!

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What Prize Do You Get When You Become an Honorary VC—Beer of Course

Vietnam, the Mekong Delta—conjures up images that really aren’t that pleasant. Hot, muggy and if you are of my generation, war movies that are dark and murky. Luckily, all the conflict took place 25 years before I set foot there. But for some reason at my first chance, I went. While I was working in Hong Kong – the year of the big handover (97) I made a trip to Vietnam for a few days. If you get the chance, go. It’s a beautiful country with very friendly people—much different than Hong Kong—more on that in another post. If you are serious about health and working out on things such as rowing machines – you should definitely avoid beer.


They still call it Siagon instead of Ho Chi Minh City. In fact, the only place you really see it referred to as that is at the airport. Siagon is a bustling, energetic city with a mix of bicycles, cars and human propelled carts. And it’s filled with great smells, sights and people. As we were driven through town to our hotel, so many visions connected with images from the past, real and imagined, from film and newsreels. Past the American Embassy where tanks drove through the gates in April 75, museums where APCs and Huey UH1 stood sentinel and Buddhist temples where the monks weren’t on fire in the streets.

The hotel we stayed at was simple, clean and nice. Geckos scurried up and down the walls, especially in the bathroom and there was a ceiling fan above the bed where of course, I had to listen to the Doors song (The End) as I lay on my bed sweating. The best part of the hotel was the restaurant on the roof where you could escape the din of the city, get very delicious food and look out over the Siagon river.

The high light of the trip was going up to the Cu Chi tunnel complex area. This was about 45 miles from the heart of Siagon and was where the VietCong staged for things like the Tet Offensive. Today it’s a great outdoor museum/memorial about “The War of American Agression” (that’s how they refer to it). The tunnels have been widened so guys like me can actually move through the tunnels. There’s nothing funnier when I guy my size pops out of a tunnel in front of a local school group in the middle of a social studies field trip. The laughter was worth the entire trip.

After we finished exploring the tunnel complex, I noticed a sign that said Firing Range This Way. My curiosity peaked, I drug Bob over to the range. Sure enough, they had a live fire range set up and you could should both an M-16 and AK-47 on their range at targets. Being in a bit of a withdrawl from my time in the military, I jumped at the chance. $40 secured 20 rounds of ammo for each weapon and I was guided to the range by an guy who looked a whole lot like George Takei in the classic John Wayne movie, The Green Berets (yes, the quote “Traitors, I was prepared for this” kept coming to mind).

Having fired both in my time in the military, the guide was a bit surprised when I loaded the magazine, flicked off the safety and started knocking down targets (tigers, bears, etc.). I started with the AK and then moved over the M-16. After firing the M-16, I broke it down just for old time sake and wiped it down a bit with a rag. Like any grunt, I hated doing it in the military, but when you’ve been out awhile, it was fun and brought back many memories.

After I had knocked down quite a few targets, the Guide said, “You very good. You hit many targets. You Honorary VC”. With that, he handed me a boonie hat like he was wearing and the black and white checkered scarf which I had seen in movies and pictures from the era. It was very cool and brought up an interesting thought – how would that look on my DD214 (military record)?

We ended the trip to Cu Chi by visiting a huge shrine built to honor the Vietnamese War Dead. It was a large tower, with far too many names on it. To get to it, you walk by pictures of the devastation inflicted on the area by the repeated B-52 bombing raids.
After the fun and games, we headed back to Siagon and our rooftop perch on the hotel. Looking out over the city, we had delicious spring rolls served with fresh mint and strong fish sauce. To top it all of, 333 (Ba Ba Ba) Beer. Like so many beers found in a hot climate, it’s a lager that just seems to go with the place. It was perfect with the fish sauce and I imagine many of my military brethren before me had the same experience. It was also the perfect way to celebrate my new status as Honorary VC. Throughout the rest of my trip, I took every opportunity to celebrate my new status with this local lager and even now back in the States, I try to find Vietnamese restaurants serving it. While not ever tasting as good as that day, it still brings back memories. Unlike so many of my fellow Americans who came back from there, mine are all pleasant. You can find more fitness tips here:

So if you get the chance, take a trip to Vietnam. The people are very warm, it’s a beautiful country and it’s worth exploring the history from their point of view.
And I should know. After all, I’m an honorary VC. Time to De De Mao.…


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As I’m sure everyone can imagine, Africa has some interesting customs. One of my favorite is the “small boy” concept. Not really a concept as a way of life, the custom is that as an adult, you can ask any child in the village to do something or get you something. “Small boy, go fetch water. Small boy, go bring in the goats. Small boy, go get us some beers.” Makes me wish that would catch on with my two sons.

izzy-in-africa-300x270But to get to that point, some background. My cousin was in the Gambia for the Peace Corps. She ran a teaching resource center and taught as well. She was in Albreeda, which is the town made famous by Alex Haley’s Roots, as it is the village of Kunta Kinta. Her father and I decided to go and visit her one year for Christmas and New Years. My uncle (a big fan of beer) coordinated the trip with my cousin and of course, in the typical male manner, didn’t really communicate anything from my cousin (who’s like my sister) to me. Things like – “Don’t rent a car, don’t drive to my village and just meet me in the capital”. Me, thinking I can do part of the Dakar-Paris road rally, has the great idea of renting a 4WD in Dakar and driving across the desert of Senegal to Gambia. You can see where this might go.

Anyway, we arrive in Dakar and rent an Izuzu Trooper at the airport. We arrive late in the evening and our first experience of driving in Africa is driving through a pitch black city, with those stupid yellow French headlights and seeing nothing aside from the occasional smile of a full set of white teeth. The next day, we’re off across the desert.

Did you know they have almost no street signs in Dakar? Did you know that the streets and highways are so similar that you can’t tell them apart. Did you know that you can actually get halfway to Mali before you really find out where you are on a map.

Imagine if you will a crappy, dusty little town in the middle of a huge salt flat. Images of the Road Warrior come to mind. I’m looking for the little feral boy with his razor edged boomerang. We finally find a policeman standing on a street, who speaks only French or Woloof. We have a map.

We get pointed in the right direction. We have only a liter of water each to continue our journey. We have no other food and don’t feel comfortable eating off the local economy at the moment. We need a beer.

After a few hours we’re getting into vegetation. We find ourselves on a road so bad with potholes that we actually had to stop after an hour to give our internal organs a break from all the jostling. Hours later, we arrive at the banks of the Gambia River.

We settle into my cousin’s mud hut and the thing I remember most is my Uncle saying “I can’t believe my daughter lives here.”

The day starts early. Each of the five tribes that makes up the village specializes in one aspect of agriculture. One tribe fishes, one makes salt, one harvests palm nuts, another tends goats and one farms small crops. Each tribe takes great pride in what they do and each demonstrates their skills with much singing and dancing. Imagine a day where 300-400 people sing, dance, wave palm fronds and follow you wherever you go all day long. It’s hot, dusty and the buzzards are circling overhead (I swear to this day, we could look out the window of my cousin’s hut and there wouldn’t be a bird in the sky; two minutes after my uncle and I walked out the door there’d be vultures above us).

Finally, all of the villagers go home to get ready for the night’s festivities. We are left alone finally. We go down to the boat dock where the sun is low on the horizon. There is a lone boy sitting on the dock, fishing with a line and no pole. We ask the small boy to get us some beers. We tip him when he returns (not normal for adults to do for small boys) and sit on the dock enjoying a cold Jul Brew. The mighty Gambia River is in front of us, and two miles or more away we can barely see the other shore. We sit, sip and reflect on Africa. It’s been an amazing trip though we are only three days into it. We met a witch doctor, we drove across the desert, we found my cousin’s village and we’ve done it all in typical male manner – with piss poor planning.

This is one of the most amazing life experiences I have ever had. It is a true moment of peace. I’m sitting under a beautiful African sky, it is quiet with just the sound of water lapping the river bank and a small boy is doing what many small boys do around the world, quietly fishing.
And now we sit, having one of the best beers you could ever have. Not because of the beer itself, but because of the things we saw and experienced that led up to sipping that beer at that particular time. It was the setting for a great World Beer Tale, one of my most memorable trips and the genesis for the idea behind this site. I have come to realize over the years that while I love a good beer, I love the stories that people tell more, many of which always seem to include a beer they’ve had along the way. I like sharing these stories and I hope you do as well. I invite you to share your story of a beer tale you’ve had and hope you enjoy reading the ones that appear here. Peace and happy drinking.…

Beer, anyone?

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I don’t think I’ve ever heard the concept explained any better than this…


Cliff explains beer to Norm

“Well you see, Norm, it’s like this . . . A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. Pancakes has the same amount of calories which you’ll burn after two hours of an elliptical machine. Read more about selection of the best elliptical machine here. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Now, as we know, excessive intake of alcohol kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. And that, Norm, is why you always feel smarter after a few beers.”…

Spring Fling ‘11

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One of the advantages of running my own blog, (with the help of P&B’s many contributors of course), is the fact that I can basically put on whatever the hell I want. This weekend is my alma mater’s (damn it feels strange to say that) Spring Fling aka UPenn’s annual weekend of debauchery and shitfacedness.

In honor of Fling, I want to dedicate this playlist to the doe-eyed freshmen who will wake up in places they never even knew existed on campus (i.e. the Bio Pond), to the Sophomores who will undoubtedly attempt to get into Smokes, fail, and will stumble in and sweat their asses off at Copa, to the Juniors who will be taking advantage of the innocence of the aforementioned classes, and to the Seniors who will be looking to forget the past 4 years of Ivy-League education in 72 hours. And of course, a special dedication to all generations of Sigma Chi Cheese: may your weekend be filled with tons of hilarious stories for once-arounds.

Enjoy Fling Penn, and as our schools founder Ben Franklin probably stated, “Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots, Shot-Shots”.

  • Bromance Dynamite – Tim Berg vs. Taio Cruz
  • Where Dem Girls At – David Guetta ft. Nicki Minaj, Flo Rida
  • Look At Me Now – Chris Brown ft. Busta Rhymes & Lil Wayne
  • Till The World Ends – Britney Spears (The Bloody Beetroots)
  • Ready 2 Go – Martin Solvieg ft. Kele
  • Tonight (I’m Lovin You) – Enrique Iglesias ft. Ludacris (Chuckie Rmx)
  • Love Handles – Akon ft. David Guetta
  • ID – Avicii
  • Charlie Sheen – Duck Sauce (Spinstyle’s “Bi Winning” remix)
  • Star – Christopher S ft. Max Urban
  • Who Dat Girl – Flo Rida ft. Akon
  • Infinite Dream – The White Panda
  • Freaks & Geeks – Childish Gambino
  • In the Loop of Teenage Crime – Axwell vs. Steep remix
  • Beamer, Benz or Bentley – Lloys Banks, Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, Fabolous
  • I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now – Lupe ft. MDMA
  • Seek Bromance – Tim Berg (Avicii Vocal Edit)
  • Poppin Bottles – TI ft. Drake
  • Closing Time – The Five One
  • Wolfpack Party – The Pack (Dino Roc ReRoc)
  • Got Damn Love It – Wiz Khalifa

Bonus OldSchool SigChi Basement Pregame Tracks:

  • G-Code – Geto Boys
  • Ohh Ahh – The Grits