I’ll be honest. I hadn’t thought about or logged into this website in a long, long time. What was once a passion project for myself and a small group of beer-obsessed peers petered out years ago (like roughly 99.9% of all blogs). A small part of that can be attributed to the dizzying, exponential growth of craft beer. What was once a relatively niche industry that was at least reasonably easy to keep track of has been transformed into a behemoth. Any restaurant worth visiting has at least a dozen local craft options. When you travel to a new city, one of the first suggestions you get is which breweries you need to visit. One craft beer insider recently predicted that the number of breweries in the US might top out at over 10,000. It’s incredible, of course…but it has made keeping tabs on the craft beer world more or less impossible.
The second, and far more pressing reason this website faded is that life got in the way. The Aleheads have experienced births and deaths. Marriages and divorces. New careers and new houses. This fun little diversion became less and less of a priority until it simply wasn’t one. We had a nice, little run, but time marches on.
And speaking of time marching on, today would have been the 40th birthday of one Magnus Skullsplitter. Although, I suppose that nom du plume is so far removed from usage that it’s time I just referred to him by his actual name…David.
I made a vow years ago that even if this website became defunct, I would continue publishing one article a year on David’s birthday. A tribute to our friend who shuffled off this mortal coil nearly 8 years ago. Of course, in this, as in many things I’ve made vague promises about over the years, I failed. It’s been three years since my last St. Magnus Day post. I don’t even remember if I acknowledged his 38th or 39th birthday which is profoundly sad. In the dog days of summer, with two kids and camps and travel, etc…the day just kind of slipped my mind. Although, if I’m being honest, having his friends disappoint him was one of the hallmarks of David’s life. So really, all I was doing was playing to type.
There are two strange phenomena that occur when you lose a friend so early in life. The first is that they become trapped in amber (or carbonite as I’m sure David would have preferred) in your head. As the rest of the Aleheads approach our own 40th birthdays, David is still 32. David will always be 32. And while that still makes him a grown-ass man, he seems younger and younger to me with each passing year. As I look in the mirror and see a graying, balding, crows-footed old man, in my minds-eye, David is still just entering his prime. It wasn’t his choice, but he didn’t come along for this ride with us. Even now…as we creep towards a decade without him, that stings something fierce.
The second phenomena, related to the first, is one that I’ve mentioned in all of these St. Magnus Day musings…the “what-ifs”. Anyone who has lost a friend or relative before their time (a silly phrase, I know…your time is your time whether you like it or not), is plagued by these questions. If David were with us today, where would he be? He was growing weary of Manhattan in his last few years…would he have departed the city that loomed so large in his life? He was never enamored with his job as a lawyer. Would he have left the world of big NYC firms and become an in-house counsel? Would he have jumped on board one of his friend’s start-ups? Would he have quit the legal profession entirely and become something different? An entrepreneur? A teacher? A tour guide to NYC’s finest dive bars?
And there are the bigger questions. Would David have found someone to share his life with? Would he have become a father (he would have been the best)? Would he have kept in touch with his massive group of friends in that uncanny way he always managed? I talked to the man nearly every day a decade ago, but as my duties in my work and family life have continued to absorb my time, I’ve lost touch with virtually all my buddies from the halcyon days of my youth. Would the same have happened with David? If he were still with us, how often would I hear from him? Once a month? Once a year?
David was a man who loved life and family and friends. While we can never know how his story would have played out if he were still with us, I think it’s fair to say it would have been a good one. He was a genuinely kind and decent man and he brought out the best in people. While I’ve lost touch with most folks, I’d like to think David would have been an exception. And with him still in my life, I suspect a lot of those other connections would still be intact. He was nothing if not the glue that binded us all. For those of us that knew him then and those that would have met him in the past 8 years, our lives would have been fuller and richer for his presence. You never really know what you’re missing until it’s gone.
Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing on this, David’s 40th birthday…raise a glass, would you? Time may march on. Questions may go unanswered. The frustration of his loss may never truly dissipate. But today, we honor the man. To my friend, David…Magnus…Spud…I wish your lum had reeked just a bit longer. I wish we could have celebrated your 40th together…surrounded by friends, with your terrible music blaring and a beer in our hands. Slainte, l’chaim, prost, cheers, salud and all that. I miss you, old friend.