Muse on tap: Poetry leads to pub crawl

September 15, 1995|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,Sun Staff Writer

Inspiration hit John Forde during his morning shower.

He bounded out, grabbed a pen and scribbled the first lines of his ode to Bass Ale:

"If I had some Bass to share in threes,

The first I'd share with Socrates

For Hemlock is too bitter, I think,

To ask a man so wise to drink."

Not Shakespeare perhaps, or even Charles Bukowski, the deceased doyen of barfly poets, but good enough to win Mr. Forde his own 11-day pub crawl in three cities of his choice from a worldwide menu.

Mr. Forde, 29, Charles Villager, Loyola and St. John's grad, Agora Publications copywriter and editor, is one of eight winners in Bass' World Pub Expedition contest.

You had to name three people you'd like to drink Bass Ale with and why in 125 words, or less. Along with Socrates, Mr. Forde picked Michelangelo and Hepburn to share a pint with.

". . . Truth and Art can be sublime,

But none can beat Hepburn in her prime.

In case you wonder which one I mean --

Kate or Audrey of silver screen

Come by, sit down, hold up your glass:

I'll tell you all over pints of BASS!

"A lot of ideas come to me in the shower," says Mr. Forde. The last three verses came easy after his initial shower-stall inspiration.

"I didn't really agonize over it." In fact, he says, "When I found out I'd won, I'd almost forgotten about the contest."

He often drinks Bass in Fells Point oases such as the Cat's Eye Pub, the Horse You Came in On, Max's on Broadway and the Wharf Rat, where he picked up his entry blank.

But now he thinks he might like better the stouter Guinness as summer lengthens into the cooler days of fall and winter.

Baltimoreans seem to do pretty well in European beer contests. Last year Paul Bollard, a 31-year-old draftsman from Parkville, came close to winning his own pub in Cork, Ireland, in a contest sponsored by Guinness.

In the finals at Cork he lost Doolan's Pub narrowly to a Boston Irishman named Jay Mulligan, who demonstrated a bit of Gaelic lyricism as well as a nice ability to pull a pint of stout.

Mr. Forde, who's single, gets to take a companion to pubs in three cities from a list that ranges from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to Grand Cayman Island. He hasn't made a choice yet, nor has he picked a friend for his expedition.

"It'd be easier if I knew who I was going to take," he says. "I'd have a second opinion. I'm leaning toward Rhodes in Greece."

He's been through pretty much of Europe.

A backpacking tour took him to most European cities just after he got his master's degree from St. John's in 1988. But he got cut off short of Greece when his pack was stolen on a train between Turin and Rome in Italy. "I have a friend trying to start a newspaper in Ho Chi Minh City," he says. "He told me to look him up."

Ho Chi Minh City, of course, used to be Saigon, when it was the capital of the now-defunct South Vietnam. Vietnam is once again attracting Americans, including maybe Mr. Forde.

He's a big, good-looking, unbuttoned, kind of guy who writes copy and articles for Agora's newsletters, of which there are about 20 dealing with everything from international living to scuba diving to investment advice, with some 400,000 readers.

Agora is packed with St. John's grads like Mr. Forde. He went to the Annapolis liberal arts college after graduating from Loyola with a business degree and working at various temporary jobs.

"It was great," he says of St. John's Great Books Program. "It forced me to ask a lot of questions I hadn't asked before."

And he's got a stash of unfinished short stories and poems he occasionally works on.

"But the only other writing thing I won was for the best graduation essay at St. John's," he says.

Its topic was Shakespeare's tragedy "Antony and Cleopatra." Neither drank Bass ale.

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