Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Weasel Piss

We called it weasel piss--I’m not sure why. In those days, we didn’t pay much attention to our metaphors, so I don’t think we had much of a reason. We just did.

Nonetheless, Old Milwaukee and Milwaukee’s Best were awarded the title of “weasel piss,” cheap beer college students consume not for its questionable quality, but because its price allows it to be consumed in quantity. [When I was a store manager in a college town, we sold it on sale for as little as $6.99 a case, and sold 50-100 cases a week.]

My housemates and I, of course, felt we were above this. That’s largely because one of our housemates had an uncle or cousin or something who worked at a Miller plant, so we could purchase through him cases of beer we saw as better at a discount. I had a stash of 4-6 cases of Löwenbräu dark piled up in the corner of my closet. [The same housemate had a teacher who farmed potatoes on the side. We purchased grocery bags full of red potatoes (which we also believed were better) for 80¢ a bag. Life was good.]

I thought those days were behind me. Guess not. Although my days of drinking weasel piss are far behind me, I still see my share of Old Milwaukee--on my lawn. I live out in the country, a good six miles from the nearest college (which even then is in a small town), yet there they are--can after can, day after day.

Perhaps this is because drinking drivers and riders need to get rid of the evidence. OK--that’s at least prudent behavior. And probably not limited to students--I find a fair number of Bud Lite cans on my lawn too. But I also find soda cans, juice boxes, ice tea bottles, cigarette cartons, potato chip bags--no damning evidence here. True, we get a lot of wind up in the hills, and trash blows around sometimes--plastic grocery bags full of household trash, milk jugs and such--but clearly much of the debris comes from cars.

I was driving behind a pickup truck when the driver stopped at an intersection and unceremoniously dumped an empty donut box, coffee cup and cigarette carton out the driver’s window. His back window featured a bumper sticker announcing “Osama bin Laden can kiss my American ass.” Apparently, so can everyone else. And why not? If you want to identify yourself as an asshole, might as well get people in there close to the action.

This behavior isn’t limited to drivers. Campers at Stony Pond, where I daily walk my dog, leave behind beer cans and broken bottles along with their still smoldering fires. Fishermen cut loose their lines and just leave them on the ground. One morning a gosling trying to flee my dog and I along with its parents and siblings got tangled in such a line just at the water’s edge. I spent half an hour working to free the struggling chick from the line, which cut deeply into its leg, while juggling an excited dog and upset, honking geese. The story ended happily, but it easily could have ended in an unnecessarily slaughtered goose.

“A weasel is wild. Who knows what he thinks?” begins Annie Dillard’s essay “Living Like Weasels.” “He does not let go.” She describes one naturalist’s encounter with a weasel “dangling from his palm,” “socketed…deeply as a rattlesnake.” In another instance, “a man shot an eagle out of the sky…and found the dry skull of a weasel fixed by the jaws to his throat.” Tenacious little buggers.

wea·sel (wē'zəl) noun 1. a carnivorous, burrowing mammal of the genus Mustela. 2. a sneaky or treacherous person. 3. one who behaves in a stealthy, furtive way. verb 1. to use deliberately vague language. 2. to be evasive.

Seems about right.


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