That’s Some Ancient Beer

I’ve never liked beer. I have no idea why. The people in my life who have liked it (some alcoholics, some not), all have one thing in common: they can wax rhapsodic about beer. It’s as if it’s the elixir of the Gods or something. It’s lost on me.

I do like the smell of beer, though. Go figure. I wouldn’t mind working in a brewery.

So when I stumbled across an article on entitled, “Abydos beer factory: Ancient large-scale brewery discovered in Egypt,” I instantly imagined myself surrounded by pyramids that were infused with the aroma of beer. That would be surreal.

This brewery, which they believe to be more than 5000 years old, contained 8 rooms, each 65 feet long, and each containing 40 earthenware pots that were used to heat grain and water. It is estimated that this brewery could make 5000 gallons of beer at a time. It is strange to imagine ancient Egyptians engaged in what is essentially factory work, but there you have it.

It’s even stranger to imagine a factory of this size just sitting there, complete with vats, for centuries, as the sand crept in. How do you forget about an entire brewery? Why would you? Archeology fascinates me.

The funny thing is that Abydos is, according to archeologists, an ancient burial ground and temple complex. Why have a brewery in a burial ground? Apparently beer was used in burial rites for Egyptian royals and/or sacrificial rites. I sure do hope the slaves were allowed to get good and drunk before being buried with their masters. They surely would have earned it.


Beer vats in Abydos.

Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book!

The Dancing Man

The first time I saw the dancing man, he was standing beside my car. That made me uncomfortable, because drawbridges seem to draw an unusual number of characters, and as a bridgetender I can’t really leave the tower unattended simply because I fear for my paint job. So I had to stare helplessly out the tower window and hope for the best. In other words, it was my average day at work.

I used to wonder what it was about drawbridges that attract strange people. I’ve blogged about my unique encounters before. But my latest theory is that there’s nothing special about drawbridges. These people are everywhere. It’s just that I get to be a full-time observer of them here. I look at it as my own little sociological investigation of a cross section of humanity.

Anyway, back to the dancing man. I gave him that name because of what happened next. He went to the front driver’s side corner of my car and did what I can only describe as a ritualistic dance. The steps, while rudimentary, seemed full of purpose.

But this is Seattle, so people took note but continued to walk by, letting him do his own thing. Next, he moved to the front passenger side and did the same dance. He repeated the process until he got to all four corners, and then he walked away.

I was confused. I was mesmerized. I was a little charmed. But mostly I was relieved that no damage had been done to my car.

Since then, I’ve watched the dancing man perform this ritual on at least a half dozen occasions. I’m increasingly delighted every time. I’ve chosen to view it as some sort of blessing he is bestowing upon my vehicle. Maybe I’ve avoided an accident because of this magical love bubble that he’s placed on my car. Who knows?

Recently he stopped by to get his groove on during shift change, and I pointed him out to my coworker. “I just love that guy,” I said. Apparently, mine is the only car he interacts with, but he is still a regular fixture on other shifts.

My coworker said, “See that coat he’s wearing? I gave that to him. He was walking past and he looked like he needed one, and I had an extra.”

So there you have it. The one who bestows blessings had a completely unrelated blessing bestowed upon him. I really love how the universe works sometimes.


Cultivate an attitude of gratitude! Read my book!


Pennies in the Parking Lot

A friend and coworker told me a delightful story the other day. When he has spare change he drops it in parking lots. Why? Because when one of his daughters was young, he noticed that she had inherited his extreme ability to quickly spot when things were out of place. This ability meant they both always noticed when there were coins on the ground. Over time they got into the habit of collecting those coins in a special jar, and when they got enough money they’d have a father/daughter outing, such as going to see the movie Pocahontas or getting ice cream at the mall.

Now that she’s grown up and moved away, they naturally don’t do this anymore. So now he drops coins in parking lots because he figures somewhere out there is another father and daughter who have taken up the torch and he wants to contribute. He never mentioned to his daughter that he does this until just the other day, and she laughed and told him she does the exact same thing.

So there you have it. This ritual connects them to this day. And I suspect this tradition will get passed down through generations of his family, because I can’t imagine a sweeter or more delightful way to say, “I love you just the way you are and I want to spend time with you.”

Stories like this make me wish I had known what it was like to have a father. For those of you who have one, remember that it’s never too late to start a new tradition.

Happy Father’s Day.

This particular coworker passed away after I wrote this. He was an amazing man. May he rest in peace. I wrote about him here.



Despite the overwhelming weight of traditions as described in Fiddler on the Roof, I’ve always admired people who have them. Whether they be national or religious or cultural or simply family traditions, these customs help to bind each of us to a greater whole.

Coming from a fairly nomadic and rootless family, I don’t have very many of these habits to fall back on. But we do have a few. For example, we always shake the milk before pouring it. This came about because my grandfather was a dairy farmer. If you get raw milk directly from the cow, the cream tends to separate if you don’t shake it back up. So we shake the milk to this day even though it no longer needs it.

When we go to the movies, we always whisper “Previews are my favorite part” at the very beginning. I don’t know why, and it isn’t even always true, but we do it nonetheless.

And when traveling long distances by car, when we get close to our destination we say, “Smell the salt?” That’s because when my mother was a child they’d take family trips to Long Island, and they knew they were almost there when they started smelling the salt water.

And I’ve invented a few traditions of my own. Each year I’ll buy a Christmas ornament that reminds me of something from the past year. And I always make red, white and blue fruit salad (strawberries, green grapes, and blueberries) to eat while watching the Independence Day fireworks. And one I particularly like is the one where I blow all my worries and concerns over my shoulder whenever I cross a state line when I travel. Leave that stuff behind. Don’t take it on your trip. Like it or not, you can always pick it back up when you get home.

Customs. Habits, Rituals. Beliefs. They’re what connect us and define us. If you don’t have them, then make the effort to create your own and define yourself.


Image credit:

Transplanting your Roots

I have always envied people with familial roots–People who have lived in the same house or farm or town for generations, people with relatives right down the street, people with family plots in the local graveyard. Roots imply stability and history and solid foundations that the rest of us, of a more nomadic bent, simply do not have.

As much as I love to travel, experience different cultures, take in varied vistas, and eat new foods, there is something very comforting about coming home after a long trip to sleep in one’s own bed. Home sweet home. I can only imagine that this feeling is compounded when everything and everyone around your home place has been there your entire life.

As people become more uprooted and relocate for work and families become more scattered, it is important to make extra efforts to preserve your connections. Wherever you may find yourself, you can always maintain ties by taking the time to observe traditions.

Traditions are intertwined with roots. Whether they are cultural or religious or simply something one’s family has always done, even if the reasons for these traditions have been lost over the years, these rituals help form a solid connection between you and the place that is at your very core. Traditions can be transported to new locations, and often take on increased significance with distance.

So light a candle, do a dance, cook a meal, or say a prayer. Carry your home within you.

roots4 Xavier Cortada