By Victoria Paul
I gazed at my father across the nightstand and took the bait, "Ok, why do you drink Budweiser?"
He smiled and took another draught of his Pilsner Uruquel, getting a misty look on his face. I knew I was in for one of his famous tales and slid a sideways glance to see if any tissues were on hand. We were traveling in The Czech Republic and had actually driven through the town of Plizn a few days before where Pilsner beer originated. Many of our dining adventures had involved sampling the local beers and comparing them to more familiar labels. On this day we were having a picnic of sorts in our hotel room being weary from the day and refueling our energy resources for an evening concert. A few sausages and some fresh bread and cheese were scattered about on plates on the bedclothes and we passed the knife back and forth across the gap separating our beds, slicing off tasty morsels to be washed down with cold beer. The beer was strong and we found ourselves leaning back into the pillows and reminiscing.
I had told my father about how the taste of Pilsner beer reminded me of when I was a very small girl and would curl up in his lap while he watched football and steal sips of his beer; always cold Budweiser in a can. I can vividly remember the semi darkened room, my fatherís groans and cheers as he followed the game and the tiny figures rushing back and forth across our old black and white TV. I would eat snacks from a small bowl my mother gave me and my father would scold me if I tried to take too many sips of his tasty beverage. "Victoria," he would say. He always calls me by my full name when he disapproves, "This is not a childís drink", but a few minutes later, caught up in the game, he would give me another sip without paying too much attention. We used to save the pull off tabs and make long chains of them which we draped around the house. It was a comforting memory of a time long ago.
"I thought you just like Bud and that you always drank it." I said.
"Not Always" He said. "But that all changed in 1984, when the Olympics came to LA. Thatís when I started drinking Budweiser on purpose."
I thought back to that summer. What a special summer that had been. The summer Olympic games were being hosted in Los Angeles and she had never looked more beautiful. It was as if the entire city had been steamed cleaned and put out itís best side for the world. The official colors were teal, raspberry, goldenrod and purple and bright banners hung from the lampposts down every major thoroughfare. Locals had worried for years that the traffic would be a nightmare and the city would be overrun by tourists. But instead, the construction at the airport was miraculously done on time and all the grumpy people seemed to have gone away for the summer. The traffic was fine and the streets were filled with smiling faces. The foreign visitors were courteous and inquisitive and the Los Angelinos were helpful and welcoming. The crowing glory was the Coliseum itself, which had been painted in the official colors and scrubbed Ďtil it reflected the sun. Even the smog seemed better that summer.
We had attended a number of the track and field events at the Coliseum and the memory of those exciting dashes and jumps still makes my heart stand still and my blood race. Carl Lewis ran before our eyes, a swift figure right in front of us: a huge, sweating, gleaming figure a hundred feet high, and bigger than life on the giant screen above our heads. We had clutched our hands together, leaping out of our seats cheering and screaming and weeping for the pure effort of the athletes. It was a glorious memory and I wondered aloud what it had to do with beer.
"It was the Budweiser commercial. Donít you remember?" my father asked.
"Tell me again." I said.
He began, "The camera pans across a sweeping vista of a corn field at dawn. The early morning light shines slivery green and dewy gray. A voice over is heard, ĎEarl Johnson and his son, Wayne are up everyday at the crack of dawn to begin their work on the farm. But today, their machinery lays unattended and the fields are quiet. Today they are making the 4 mile walk to the highway."
"The camera pans downward as two small figures emerge from the corn and stop by the side of the road. They both turn their heads and gaze down the road at the horizon. Nothing is there, but the distant shimmer of the early morning mist hanging above the tarmac. Slowly, out of the haze something begins to gleam and shine. Gradually a forms draws nearer. The daylight brightens slightly as the two men stand their vigil. The form takes on the shape of a vehicle still obscured by distance and the dawnís fickle light, itís headlights glimmering. Then, out of the mist another shape becomes visible in front of the vehicle; something slow and moving. Then, a lone, plodding figure of a man emerges from the dim light. He runs deliberately and draws nearer and nearer. His countenance is determined. His arm is extended. He runs, carrying a shining torch in his hands. He is the Olympiad carrying the eternal flame from Greece across the Midwest towards the games. The farmers cheer and raise their fists in glee as he passes. He nods, but keeps his pace. They shout and holler as long as he is visible. Then, the farmers turn and head back into the corn the way they came."
"Upon the screen appeared the words, 'Budweiser is a proud sponsor of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games'"
"That," said my father, his voice warbling with emotion.
"Is why I drink Budweiser."