April 14, 2019 11:35 AM   Subscribe

Grandpa’s Beer: Sarah Miller of Popula reflects on the life, personal quirks, and beer preferences of Bob G., her boyfriend’s grandfather. “Bob G. may have loved to stop and smell the flowers but he also loved to correct people, and to be right.”
He was very upset some years ago when he watched a mass at the Vatican on television and the Pope walked around in a circle—no one remembers what it was he walked around—in the wrong direction, counterclockwise, which he referred to as widdershins. Bob G. did not like going widdershins and did not like other people going widdershins either. . . .

Bob G. was delighted when I told him about Twitter . . . and that Twitter made it possible to write to the Pope’s people about the shameful widdershins business. He also wanted me to write to Round Table Pizza to demand an explanation as to why they called their pizza “The Last Honest Pizza.”
posted by sallybrown (26 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
When you reach 90 years, you must be indulged in your 57º beer preference.
posted by Bee'sWing at 12:26 PM on April 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

This is what old people do. You will do this one day, and you will not know you are doing it.

I don't know. It might not have been involuntary at all. I feel that I have known a few men (with similar background and interests) who have chosen a small quirk to never let go. It may be a conscious choice that helps them find a way to relate to the world when they aren't that great at arcticulating their needs and feelings otherwise.
posted by Miko at 12:51 PM on April 14, 2019 [9 favorites]

When you reach 90 years, you must be indulged

my mom's getting close to 88 and becoming more demanding of certain details. Fortunately her memory is still pretty strong so I can remind her of when her mom was aging, and how she (my mom) complained about her (my grandma) making the kind of demands you'd expect from royalty. "She's not bloody royalty last time I looked."

I don't even need to mention the "r" word, just say, "Mom, remember grandma ..." And then I usually get her what she wants anyway, because I'm sure she put up with way worse from me when I was a kid.
posted by philip-random at 12:51 PM on April 14, 2019 [10 favorites]

My dad only made it to his early 80s. He didn't care about beer but he had some weird theories about people spraying for bugs at the retirement castle.
posted by Bee'sWing at 1:30 PM on April 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Back in the 90s I worked at a local coffee shop. A regular curmudgeon ordered a pound of whole bean to go, as I’m weighing the beans, he remarked, “Americans burn their beans, that’s why espresso is always bitter in the states.”

“Ok sir, here is your French roast ground for drip. Have a nice day.”
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:40 PM on April 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Bob G. sounds like he was a dear man, and I probably would have enjoyed his company, but if he had insisted on my walking a certain direction in a circle, even though I hold no strong opinions on the subject, he and I might have had a bit of a glare-off.

oh dear this is how it begins isn't it
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:57 PM on April 14, 2019 [16 favorites]

Back in the 90s I worked at a local coffee shop.

Oh dear god for a minute I thought I was back in the contentious coffee thread I had hoped to escape
posted by The Toad at 2:00 PM on April 14, 2019 [16 favorites]

I going to pull a Bob G. if I make it long enough to not be able to butter my own toast. I don’t want to see even a speck of a dry spot anywhere on that bread. Butter that thing all the way to the edges or I’m sending it back.
posted by sallybrown at 2:14 PM on April 14, 2019 [7 favorites]

Widdershins is my favorite period-based wizardry webcomic, especially for frequently making the female wizards smarter than the male ones.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:19 PM on April 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

Metafilter: A bit of a glare-off.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:50 PM on April 14, 2019 [7 favorites]

Appropos of nothing, it's fun seeing this -- Sarah is a high-school acquaintance. We double-dated to her prom. I went with Mel, and she with my friend Marc. Good times. Hi, Sarah.
posted by touchstone033 at 4:01 PM on April 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

Maybe I'm just in the wrong mood but I did not find this story heartwarming or comical. I simply do not understand the mindset of dudes (it's always dudes) who go around convinced that they are right about some stupid thing and the rest of the world must be wrong. I found the anecdote about leaving a note for the manager particularly galling. People who do that are insufferable.
posted by axiom at 4:27 PM on April 14, 2019 [6 favorites]

I'm only 44 but don't start me on American IPAs
posted by aesop at 4:29 PM on April 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

My honest and fervent hope is that as I get older, I'll be able to remember that I'd already decided everything about the world is crap so I stopped sweating it years ago, and continue to make smart-ass jokes about stuff instead. #lifegoals
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:35 PM on April 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

But yeah, still, fuck American IPAs.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:35 PM on April 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

Surely the widdershins concern is a pagan thing. I'd be ok with giving old people shit about their metaphysical concerns, but that's not normal. His goddess bothering nonsense should get no more or less accommodation than anyone else's.
posted by idiopath at 5:48 PM on April 14, 2019

Deosil or gtfoml
posted by otherchaz at 5:48 PM on April 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

His family CLEARLY missed a gift opportunity, they could have gotten him some sort of temp-controlled beer koozie whatsit (surely these exist) and then he could have checked the temp himself every time. Or just a thermometer.
posted by emjaybee at 7:18 PM on April 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Surely the widdershins concern is a pagan thing.

You’d think then he’d be more bothered by the Pope in general rather than just the Pope going widdershins. I guess you never knew with Bob G!
posted by sallybrown at 7:38 PM on April 14, 2019

Well, you know, tolerance among religions and all that. But walking counterclockwise?? That shit ain't right.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:21 PM on April 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Perhaps it's a question of consistency -- if you're gonna Pope, you oughtta Pope deosil. I was, similarly, outraged decades ago by a photo of the St Louis debs in their dresses at their ball because half of them had their hair down. Other than that I am trying to not say out loud any of the things that irrationally outrage me, because I fear that saying it aloud condemns one to doing it later, like philip-random's mother. My mother is doing one of the things that infuriated her about her mother-in-law. It's just aesthetic, it's not anything she does to anyone, but she used to hate LINENOISE LINENOISE so much.
posted by clew at 9:29 PM on April 14, 2019

Until this thread I thought widdershins was a nonsense word invented by Terry Pratchett. Now I feel as though I'd better check the underside of the world for turtles, just in case.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:26 PM on April 14, 2019 [6 favorites]

"Surely the widdershins concern is a pagan thing."

It actually has long roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition too! In (Ashkenazi) Jewish weddings, the bride must circle the groom counterclockwise, which is a sign of joy and protection, and not clockwise, which symbolizes mourning or judgement. (With roots in kaballah and in Torah descriptions of the priests circling the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple.) The Torah is paraded around a synagogue in a counterclockwise direction, likewise echoing the ancient temples.

Muslims on the Hajj circle the Kabaa seven times in a counterclockwise direction. Eastern Orthodox Christians circumambulate the altar counterclockwise. (I had a Hebrew professor in seminary who would never go clockwise in class because that was the direction of unmaking the universe while counterclockwise was the direction of making, which I think was kabbalistic but I now realize none of us asked!)

Direction of circling's repeated appearance across the Ancient Near East, popping up as important in Judaism and Islam, and in some branches of Christianity, suggests a common root, perhaps a regional superstition. (Although there are only two ways to circle, so there's going to be a lot of "false friends" in circling habits that do NOT have common roots but just happen to be the same direction because people like to ritually circle things.)

Still, the appearance of counterclockwise circling in the ancient Jewish temples, the Easter liturgies of several Christian groups, and during the Hajj at the Kabaa -- among the holiest rituals of their respective religions, among three religions that share a lot of roots -- does suggest some shared understanding of how the holiness of circling things works.

I don't actually think Catholics have a directional rule, although let me check with a couple friends, so the Pope can go deosil or widdershins as he pleases (although bishops can't, they can only move diagonally), but there are definitely lots of European superstitions about the correct way to circle or pass a church or shrine for good luck or bad luck, so maybe that was his deal. Or maybe he was concerned the Pope was being either too Pagan or not Pagan enough!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:38 AM on April 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

At first I thought he wanted to drink beer at 57 Celsius and I thought that's a bold choice. That's practically beer soup temperature. But no it is 57F so that's about 14C, yeah that's perfectly fine (it wouldn't be my choice but I wouldn't argue). Though this comment about Ronald Reagan International Airport,
“Imagine having the idea to name an airport after that man. Can you imagine?”
makes him sound a lot like someone I could get along with. As a recovering Catholic, I have no memory of directional rules - that sounds more like some kind of European superstition.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:04 AM on April 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

(although bishops can't, they can only move diagonally)

Thank you, Eyebrows, you just made my day. Hah!
posted by kristi at 9:03 AM on April 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

the Pope can go deosil or widdershins as he pleases (although bishops can't, they can only move diagonally)

[slow clap]
posted by asperity at 9:04 AM on April 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

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