There once was a time I took upon myself the challenge of learning to love Guinness.
Guinness and I had gotten off on the wrong foot. I was visiting my friend Jeff in Virginia -- this goes back maybe 25 years -- and I'd gone for a long run on a hot summer day. Jeff knew I liked a cold beer after a sweaty workout -- got to replenish those fluids! -- and being a good friend, he had one waiting for me. A Guinness. A nice, heavy, foamy, rich, dark Guinness. Not exactly what I had in mind. An icy cold Bud would have hit the spot.
But Jeff had gone out of his way to be thoughtful, so I drank it down. Right to the bottom. And hated every bit of it. And didn't have another Guinness for a long, long time.
Then four years ago, as a birthday gift, my wife put together a trip to Dublin, a city I'd wanted to visit for quite some time. We'd be staying in the Temple Bar area -- epicenter of lively Dublin night life. I'd knew we'd be spending a fair amount of time making merry in the pubs. And I knew I'd have to make my peace with Guinness.
I had five months to prepare for the trip, and I worked hard at Job One. First I got to the point where I could tolerate the dark brew. Then, to actually liking it. By the time we took off for Ireland, I could honestly say I loved the stuff. Which just goes to show what you can accomplish if you want something bad enough and really, really work at it.
I mention this because I'm now trying to learn to love water.
I'm doing this for a whole lot of reasons. For one, I tend to get an inordinate number of muscle cramps, and my doctor and my trainer and pretty much everyone else I know all say it's because I don't hydrate enough. Also, I'm not averse to staying away from some empty calories, and water would probably be a better answer than my go-to lunchtime drink -- Pepsi. Finally, all three of my sons and all their friends consume water by the gallon and swear by it, and they all seem to be looking pretty good.
The thing is, though at times I might be dying for a Pepsi, and at other times I might be dying for a beer, I'm never dying for water. I don't really have much of a taste for water at all. When I'm served water, and have no other choice, I'll make a face, force myself to down a few swallows -- and that's it. I'd almost rather be thirsty.
Over Thanksgiving, my boys made a suggestion: Have beer, or wine, or whatever you like, with dinner. But for lunch, and the rest of the day, every time you want a fluid, make it water. Not Pepsi. Not iced tea. Not an Arnold Palmer. Just water. You'll be amazed, they said. After two weeks, you'll be craving water.
And I've been trying. For over three weeks I've been trying. Here's how my lunches go. I'll make a sandwich, surround it with carrots, a pickle, cherry tomatoes, maybe some chips -- and I'll put out a nice cold bottle of water. I'll have a few bites of the sandwich, and then feel thirsty -- so I'll pop a few cherry tomatoes in my mouth. Then I'll go for some chips, and feel thirsty again -- so I'll take a big juicy bite of the pickle. Then it's back to the sandwich ... thirsty ... quick glance at the bottle of water ... and nibble a few carrots. And so it goes. When my plate is clean, and there are no other options, finally, I'll have a sip of water.
So, my sons, the weeks have come and gone, and I don't love water. I don't crave water. I'm certainly not hydrating any more than I was before. Instead of drinking Pepsi, I'm basically just drinking nothing.
Hey! Maybe if I want to stay away from Pepsi at lunchtime, I just ought to have a Guinness.
Hank Herman is a Westport writer, and "The Home Team" appears every other Friday. Hank's adventures with his dog, Ricky, can be followed on his blog "Beagle Man" on the Westport News website -- http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/ . Hank can be followed on Twitter @BeagleManHank and reached by email at DoubleH50@gmail.com