In my family, there’s a little story I shall call “The Legend of Stroh-Man.” It goes like this:
Late one wintry night during a family gathering at my grandma’s house in Clearfield, PA, most likely at Christmas, my parents and aunts and uncles all went down to the local bar together. I was a mere babe and most of my cousins weren’t even born yet. In the bar there was a dartboard. There was also a jukebox.
The Bangles’ immortal tune “Walk Like an Egyptian” came up on the playlist. My dad and my uncle started doing the “Walk Like an Egyptian” dance right in front of the dartboard, pulling their arms away really fast whenever my aunt threw the darts. A good time was had by all.
In this bar on this night there was also a very special visitor. His name was Stroh-Man.
The Stroh’s brewing company website describes their beer as “A full-bodied American lager unlike most.” They do not, however, describe, the Stroh-Man. Through various retellings of The Legend of Stroh-Man I have managed to piece together that Stroh-Man was some kind of promotional cardboard cutout that Stroh’s brewery had sent out that year, possibly in the shape of a snowman. Stroh-Man had been sitting in the bar for a couple of months that winter, as though he’d been waiting for something.
At some point during the evening, somebody decided that the intrepid band should…steal the Stroh-Man.
At this point in the story, usually everyone is laughing too hard to explain exactly what happened next. Stroh-Man somehow made it outside the bar. They got in the back of Dad’s Jeep. There was some running. Somebody (possibly even the Stroh-Man himself) fell out of the back of the Jeep. But ultimately, triumph! Stroh-Man and his band of merry men (and women) arrived, possibly giggling, at my grandmother’s house, where she and I lay asleep.
The next morning, everyone woke with the same question on their minds: “WHAT ON EARTH IS THAT SMELL?”
Stroh-Man stank of two month’s worth of absorbed heavy-duty smoker-bar fumes. The entire house now smelled of Stroh-Man. He was unceremoniously tossed out into the snow, to stink in solitude.
Fast forward some twenty-odd years. My dad and I have decided to go out for our traditional beer and cigar (beer me, cigar dad) at the Hideaway Lounge here on Saint Pete Beach. The Hideaway is a true dive bar, with an excellent jukebox, an electric dart board, a dancing bartender, and lots and lots of heavy smokers. This is but one of the many traditional circumstances under which the Legend of Stroh-Man gets retold. Last night was no exception.
After recounting the Legend of Stroh-Man, monopolizing the jukebox for an hour, meeting some people from Pennsylvania who were watching the Eagles game on TV, and philosophizing about life, the universe, and everything, Dad and I got in the car to wend our way homeward. We drove for about five blocks. Then I said, “Dad…we smell like Stroh-Man!”
At the time, we laughed. However, the next morning, it was revealed to us by my mom (who did not come to the bar) that in fact when we arrived home, she woke up thinking, “What is that pungent smell?…Oh.”
The return of Stroh-Man.