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Ramblings of an American COVID confinee in Brussels


By Peter Gutierrez

Ah, but we do live in extraordinary times. Cooped up in our spaces, unable to go to work, forced to watch doom-and-gloom predictions on our cathode ray tubes. Actually they’re mostly flatscreens nowadays, aren’t they? You get my meaning.

Being thus cruelly confined to one’s home, it has been necessary to drink beer. Readers will quickly realise that this writer is not a beer connoisseur, nor even much a of a beer drinker. No, this reader can more aptly be compared to a monkey, pacing back and forth inside a small cage as he goes slowly insane.

Mort Subite!

People will do almost anything to escape extreme monotony. Extraordinary times, as they say, require extraordinary measures. Alcohol, please!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. It all started, innocently enough, with the confinement, which had made it difficult to carry on as if nothing were out of the ordinary. Having spent several days, not to mention weeks, stuck in my Brussels apartment, with nothing better to do, actually with nothing at all to do, I decided to catch up with some old friends, via the e-mail.

When I do think of old friends I think mostly of my old drinking buddies back in Texas: Pete, Richard and Joe. They were all glad to hear from me, obviously desperate for any distraction of any kind. Everyone’s ok, no one’s sick, no one knows anyone who’s sick, and no one knows anyone who knows anyone who’s sick. Very good news.

So what’s everyone up to these days? Among my corona contacts, at least one has been laid off and is considering early retirement, at least one is working reduced hours from home, and at least one is carrying on as if nothing has happened. Could be worse, I guess.

Preliminaries out of the way, the subject of our ‘reply-to-all’ exchanges came around to world events. Words such as China, Donald Trump, the damn Democrats, 5G, globalisation, Boris Johnson and toilet paper were circulated, in increasingly agitated tones. Everything was on the table, except the EU – Americans don’t tend to think much about the EU.

Opinions ranged across the board on these and other subjects, and no one was ever going to be convinced they were wrong. We’d heard it all before. But we’re old friends, so no one got huffy about it. These exchanges ended with a polite ‘Hey, Fuck You!’ and then we moved on.

What else? Funny memes copied off the web were exchanged – people wearing unexpected things on their faces in place of surgical masks, goofy ‘Corona’ jokes, which brought to mind the delights of brewed liquids.

It was time for a new twist. I asked ‘What are y’all drinking?’ and I attached a photo that I had taken just moments before. It was a picture of a bottle of beer, purchased at my nearest Carrefour corner store. I wouldn’t dare go anywhere else. Unlike with toilet paper rolls, there never was a panic on beer at the old Carrefour. Funny, that. You would have thought people would be more worried about running out of beer than toilet paper. Then again, maybe not.

Not being a consumer of particularly rare or outlandish beers myself, I went with a standard Mort Subite, which is outlandish enough in American eyes. I like the fruit beers.

Pete looking grizzly at the lake house

 One thing you’ll notice right away in looking at the pictures accompanying this article is that average Americans don’t know they’re supposed to put the right drink in the right container. Or they don’t care. Once in a while they do put the right drink in the right container, purely by accident. I say it drinks just the same, but you will know better.

As it turns out, my old friend Pete, who is not really cooped up at all, but who is nevertheless refusing to shave, to the great consternation of his wife, children and mother-in-law, until the confinement is lifted, is spending most of his corona time on the porch of his lake house, sipping, to the great consternation of his wife, children and mother-in-law, straight vodka with olives, or on his boat drinking vodka martinis.


Sunset and martini on Lake Buchanan (image left)

Richard, who was our quarterback in high school, is alternating between Jameson in a German beer mug, which mug was presented to him as a gift by his old drinking buddy and former defensive end who lives in Belgium, and Heineken 0.0 in a Stella Artois glass. What?



Richard likes Irish whiskey (image below)…


…and Heineken 0.0 in a Stella glass (image below)


And what about Joe, you’re all wondering by now. Holding on for dear life, as far as anyone can tell. If all of this seems to feel a bit off kilter, well, what do you expect? These poor men are being driven, as I have already suggested, quite literally insane, if not to drink. Extraordinary times and all that.

I’m going to the kitchen for another beer now, before I become incoherent. Oops, too late! Do keep in touch, won’t you?

Joe says ‘Hey…’



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Laurence Demartin
Laurence Demartin
3 years ago

Pas mal, j’aime l’humour et certains noms ne me sont pas inconnus… Laurence