I took this photograph at Lawrence Beer Company in late November while I was sampling beers and taking notes for a story. At the moment, I was killing time between beers and took various shots of the tasting room. My attention drifted back to these three guys on my left, who were chatting and sipping on beer on a Thursday afternoon. The amber glow of the sun brought life to their rosy expressions and transformed glasses of beer into ingots of liquid gold.
I didn’t think much about the scene while pressing the shutter-release button. I discreetly pointed the camera, took three shots, and then concentrated on my beer. Later, I edited photos at home for the story but didn’t include this irrelevant shot. Cropped here, it’s the best of the three of them that I snapped.
I find myself thinking about this photo and the scene. These three guys, who appeared to be retired, spoke to each other with the closeness of friends. While I didn’t eavesdrop, I heard them mention the Sixties, the time they served in the military, and where they were based. Their old stories seemed fresh in the telling, full of warmth, earned wisdom, and conviction. Exact words eluded me, but their voices were mellow and rounded, even-keeled mostly, passionately delivering a phrase here and there. They spoke without bitterness or anger, any raw edges of yesteryear had been burnished by time.
Their words were a form of time travel, bringing the past to the present. Their younger bodies were long abandoned. Their former deeds and experiences, memories uttered as personal truth, carried forward on faint wind flowing from their lungs in patterns that circulated between them.
They slid their chairs closer to me after a spell and, later, moved farther away. One man explained with a laugh that they were trying to get out of the path of a sunbeam that temporarily blinded the vision of the guy on the right.
I found myself slightly envious of them. They seemed more than drinking buddies. They were at ease in each other’s company, sharing the weight of lives spanning decades that bound them together more than politics or sports on television.
More than once, I’ve observed how beer helps to strengthen bonds between people. Without romanticizing beer itself, I am reminded by this photograph how the ritual of having a beer with others facilitates conversation and connection. Far more powerful than a photograph, these fleeting moments create a time capsule.
Three guys and their beers. It’s a timeless scene. Eventually, the conversation dries up and the glasses empty and it is time to go. Parting ways is not a goodbye. Rather, the parting is a lull between occasions for gathering once again, to share, to drink, to live fully with each brief moment.