Monday, April 11, 2011

In Which I Promise To Drink Heineken For the Remainder of my Natural Life

Just imagine: it’s Friday night! Where are you? Maybe you’re at the sports bar, or at the orthopedic surgeon’s. Maybe you’re at shul!

Here’s where I am:


This is a picture of me — showing off the plastic smile and rigid upper body that made me so successful as a Deal or No Deal model — and my friend Kelsey accepting a giant silver cup from a sporty man in a shiny jacket as a “Heineken Babe” wearing Avatar ears looks on.

This picture was taken at the end of a very surprising night.

A friend whose name used to be Cindy but who — in what I would consider a step away from English mastery — recently changed her name to Sunny sent me a text message inviting me to a free beer tasting. Her friend’s company, she said, was holding the tasting in order to get some publicity.

“I don’t care what it’s for!” I said as I strapped on my most sophisticated beer helmet and prepared to talk about all the caramel malt notes I was detecting. “I’ll be there!”

I invited Kelsey and Lizzie, friends who share my sophisticated tastes and boundless interest in free alcohol. We agreed to meet at the subway stop at 7 pm, when my friend would arrive to bring us to the tasting.

When we arrived, the first surprising thing was that the subway stop was in the middle of field full of rubble.


Real-life satellite image of subway stop and environs.

The only thing in view not made of twisted pieces of concrete and steel was a large mall with pulsing lights and a huge LED billboard which would have been an eyesore if it hadn’t been a welcome distraction from the large piles of debris. It didn’t seem like a place where a ton of people were going to be evaluating the resin and spice aromas of the hops. And indeed, it wasn’t. When we got to the plaza, we discovered that the so-called “beer tasting” was, in fact, a Heineken promotional event for members of the media and local VIPs. (The name tags we received upon entry indicated we were in the latter category.) Free beer, free snacks, and free fun: courtesy of the beer that Chinese people drink when the want to appear worldly.

You know what was also free? The laser light show starring women dressed as visitors from a future society full of shoulder-guards, robot boots, and a light beer with style, substance, and a uniquely refreshing taste.

Laser light

Standing on a painting of FIRE.

This “beer tasting” event had another interesting feature, which I will let the Heineken Babes introduce by coolly leaning against it and trying to appear coy even thought they look like extras from a pornographic remake of Battlefield Earth:


(In the future they have no sunlight, and also no clothing which covers the midriff.)

Yes! Foosball! A game which appears casual but which I usually associate with humiliation and dread! This Heineken promotional event which had already failed to live up to my expectations in so many ways was also a foosball tournament which we unwittingly joined right when we walked in!


Kelsey and I — VIP Team Number 7 — won every single game we played that night. I think we can ascribe most of our success to the fact that we were playing against Chinese people (whose success at miniature tabletop tennis does not translate into success at miniature tabletop soccer). Each game began with the referee (there were referees! Just like real sports!) explaining to each team which goal to shoot for. THERE ARE HANDLES. THE MEN HAVE FACES. Who sees a foosball table and thinks: “ok, I understand the basic premise, it’s tiny plastic men playing soccer, my only question is, are these normal people or are they the backwards man from Freddy Got Fingered?” When Chinese people see a soccer ball on the ground in real life, do they ask, “should I kick it forwards, like a normal person, or should I stand in front of it, throw both my heels backwards so I’m falling face-first into the ground, and just see what happens?”

So perhaps we shouldn’t be praised too much for winning all of our tournament games. Everyone else, though, was really impressed. Look at shiny jacket man giving his play-by-play into two microphones at once! Look how intense my tongue is! Look how shocked the man in the upper left corner is! (“What is this game they’re playing???? And how do they know which direction to go?”)


What is surprising is that our tournament play attracted the attention of these two Hispanic gentlemen who, by all rights, should be much, much, a million times worth of much better than we are at foosball. We beat them too.


(All of the above pictures come from, by the way. We were on Chinese ESPN.)

At one point during the competition, the host got so excited by our success that he called me over for a television interview. The host introduced himself and asked if I liked football.

“Sure do!” I replied.

“What’s your favorite team?” he asked.

“Manchester United!” I said, which was the only football team I could think of at the time.

“Can you name a single player from Manchester United?” he said.

I stared at him.

“The goalie. What’s the goalie’s name?”

“I don’t know.”

“Who’s the captain?”

“Not sure. Can’t remember.”

He paused and glanced at the cameras.

“Well,” he said. “Good luck tonight.”

Which is exactly what we had: at the end of the night we were holding a large silver cup. And a large ticket — a ticket for an all-expenses-paid trip to Fujian province for the National Foosball Finals, in which we compete at the end of May.


None. Of this. Is a joke.

So when the host on stage held up the microphone and asked whether Heineken would be my favorite beer for my whole lifetime, I smiled, looked across the crowd, and said, “absolutely.”