I asked for a beer in a tavern on the road to Mostar from Sarajevo back in 1996.  The bartender set up a glass and a warm can of beer.  I remember touching the can and correcting him, hladno pivo molim, a cold beer please.  The young man said nothing, his forelock of greasy dark hair between his eyes, and he brought me a new can, wet from a hose behind the building, the same temperature as the first.

My friend and host, momentarily distracted, missed the transaction and asked the bartender something I did not understand.  “he said that’s the last one for you” he told me.  “What did I do?” I asked, offended  and hurt.  You want a cold beer?  He says go back to America and get one.  In a country freshly ruined from war, I blunder in mincing about beer vs. a cold beer, oblivious that to drink a beer at all, in a quiet room of strangers and smoke a cigarette, was a priceless gift from God, and that the only good response is živjeli

I can taste the shame of that Lasko Pivo in the back of my throat as I write this 17  years later, and I would give anything to go back and drink that first warm can, and enjoy it, and buy another.


5 Responses to Cheers

  1. Agh. I remember asking for a second plato of chicken and rice in Guatemala once because, “God, a person would starve on that little bit of chicken.” SMACK!! 🙁 How can the rest of the world stand us?

  2. I walked up out of the subway in New York City one day, many years ago. It was stinking hot — a real, pissy NYC heat wave. A homeless guy at the top of the stairs asked me for some change, and I offered him my water bottle that I had not yet opened. He said, “Is it cold?”

    My point being that even bums in America are choosers.

  3. Had it been 1996, I’d let you be regretful, but 2006 and there on that road, no.
    He probably regrets his attitude toward you as well.