Hey Look, I Forgot To Add A Title — Again!

It’s been time to write a post for a while now.  Hell, it’s been past time for a while now.  But…

Yea, there’s that damned but again.  God, I hate that fuckin’ word.

What sentence, statement, wish, or thought ends well that has the word “but” figured prominently in it?

Ahem.  Anyway…

I still find the time to write nowadays.  In between meetings and research and accounting and planning — and all of the other things that crowd the top of your To Do list when you’re opening your own business — I still try to make time to write.  Unfortunately, there really isn’t anyplace near me where I’m comfortable enough to sit in the corner and lose myself in the words.

Well, not until the Depot opens.  Then…

Then, all bets are off.  And, shit, do I love that thought.

When worries about costs and fees fill my days…

When thoughts about lights and tables and chairs keep me up at night…

When stress about licenses and certificates and approvals wake me in a cold sweat…

I picture myself sitting in the corner and writing.  And I smile.

The joy this whole process has brought cannot be overstated, by the way.  Oh, not just my joy — and trust me, there ain’t really a limit on just how much freaking joy this brings me — but the simple, honest joy of others, too.

The joy of my friends in this new home of mine at the promise of a place built to bring something  different — something real — to a town with little on offer besides corporate schlock…

The joy of my dad’s friend at seeing his grandfather’s picture still hung on the wall of the vestibule…

My dad’s own joy at seeing the happiness grow in a son more known for cynicism and writing about the dark side of life…

The joy of that son at building a legacy — a legacy not just for a father, but for a grandfather and a great-grandfather…

Look, if I don’t stop now, I’m gonna go all writerly and start trying to cram a series of profound thoughts and emotions into a two-hundred flashfiction piece.  I think I’ll skip that, for the moment.

I’m going to skip ahead to the end of the story, actually.  I don’t know about other writers, but I write — and think! — in images.  Most of the time, when I write a piece, I have a final image I want to leave in the heads of my readers.  That finally image is always intended and designed to elicit certain specific emotions and thoughts.  

On this blog, I tend to replace that final written image with a musical thought.  I use a song in place of a mental picture to try and convey some of the thoughts and emotions that went into the creation of the post.  Honestly, the best way to really understand what I write here is to listen — and pay attention — to the music I post.

Oh, it doesn’t always work.  Sometimes my mind — and my writing — changes direction in ways my ear can’t keep up with.  But today…

Well, if today’s post ended up being a short bit about joy, rather than what I first set out to write, the song I initially thought to build around still holds some very real elements of truth.  Plus…well…it’s really fucking good.  It is, in fact, one of the two or three most evocative songs I can think of (and I can think of a lot of songs).  It also happens to be one of my favorites…and I don’t mean just from this specific band. For me, this song stands up there among other, far more well-known songs & bands.

{Musical Note — just turn the volume up.  No, really, turn it all the way up and let the music wash over you!  That is how I write, by the way, with music blaring in my ears and the world held at bay.  That is when I write the most — when I feel the most — when the music is felt as much as heard, and the world is nothing but a distant tug, easily ignored.}

It’ll Come

Want to know what’s really hard?  Lighting.

No, seriously…freaking lighting is a nightmare.  Table lamps, chandeliers, recessed, track, indirect, spot, flood…

Lights are, to all intents and purposes, flat out evil.

Have you ever tried to find the perfect pendant lights for a brewery in a 100-year-old train station?  Good lord, I feel like a 14 year old trying to find just the right outfit for his first date…

*sigh*

See, this is how places end up with basic fluorescent lighting that doesn’t only look like shit, it also pisses off the customers: it’s just easier that way.  There are companies out there whose entire business model is based on our society’s subservience to FOMO.*  But not these lighting folks, nosireebob.  They’re just the opposite; they build their model off our willingness to surrender and simply settle.  They know someone shopping for new commercial fixtures is likely starting a new business.  They know that particular someone is going to be stressed and overwhelmed.  They know timelines and costs are probably already out the window by the time the buyer gets to lighting, so they base their marketing and product selection on that other little nugget of societal gold: “Stop dithering and just buy something, ferfuckssake!”

*Fear Of Missing Out, if you’re wondering.

It’s insidious.  It’s evil.  And, of course, it works.

Crap, I wish I had known more about sales and marketing when I was in high school and college — I wouldn’t have left “those” parties and bars alone quite so often.

Ahem.  Never mind.

The good news out of all this is that I am at the point where lights are a concern.  Freakin’ lights! That right there is progress, if I do say so myself!  Remember way back when I told you about how I really am able to write — really write — only in taprooms?  And when I hinted about becoming my own best friend in that regard?  Yeah, that “really far down the road” ain’t lookin’ so far away now…

Of course, then I just have to find (or manufacture) the time to actually step away from everything else and just write.  Ah well, it’ll come…it’ll come…

Ray Bradbury was really good at titles.  Yeah, the man could write, too…but he truly ruled at creating titles.  My favorite title of his?  Something Wicked This Way Comes.  Change your perception of the second word to our modern slang interpretation, and…oh my, does that title work even better for me right now!

If you’re curious, by the way: Desmond Depot Brewhouse

{Musical Note — Let’s go with a band I haven’t posted on here before…

Edit: the writer created this song while backpacking alone through a strange country. It was a song about alienation, and missing home — and also about hope. It is also, of course, a song about the cost of being away from home. This is, when you get down to it, a song all of us wanderers and hobos can identify with.}

Food, Beer and a Music Podium

So I started thinking about food.

No, not like that!

Err, okay…pretty much exactly like that, but I plead hunger and impatience for my lunch to come.

Well, it’s a bit more than that, actually.  I started thinking about food a few days ago, mainly because I was cooking…and because I love to cook.  I love the process of taking a pile of disparate ingredients and turning them into something greater than the sum of the parts.  It is actually one of the more satisfying things to me, to be honest.  Strangely — for a guy as given to impulse, randomness and flights of fancy as me — that process of turning chaos into order is pretty damned relaxing.

But just as much as the process do I enjoy what food means.  Look, when I get together with friends, we inevitably end up in the kitchen.  We inevitably end up sharing booze and food and good times.  Even at “work”, when I get together with others involved in the beer world, we inevitably end up back in the brewhouse, still sharing booze and food and good times.

So where am I going with this?  No, that’s not me projecting your response to the opening above, it is me legitimately asking myself that question…

When it comes to food, I love it.  No, really, there is nothing I won’t try.  I love it all. I’ve had some of the most refined, perfect food you can imagine, from Kyoto to New York to Nice.  I’ve also had street food.  In the back alleys of Mexico City; in the streets of Marrakech; in those neighborhoods in Naples you aren’t supposed to go…

And in every bite there has lived that one thing so impossible to define, but so crucial to life: culture.  The culture and life and heartbeat of those who gave birth to that food, both the individuals and their people as a whole.  The food that sticks with me — and the food I like most to eat — is, by the way, the street food.  The peasant food.  The food that make families brag about still using great-grandma’s recipe.

I once spent several hundred dollars on a formal 30-course kaiseki dinner in Kyoto.  I loved the meal, but if you pressed me, I could only really describe one or two dishes.  Do you know what I remember more from that trip?  The grilled chicken cartilage* I had at a tiny Shinjuku izikaya.

*Yes, it really is a thing.  I won’t explain in the interests of saving space and word-count, but buy me a beer sometime and ask about it.  I can go on for hours about some of the weird shit I’ve had in my life.  Just don’t ask about the sheep’s eyeball — I didn’t enjoy that one.

I thought about this as I was cooking dirty rice, by the way.  More peasant food.  Food that started as a way to extract all the flavor possible from leftovers and off-cuts and what was left after the rich had their pick.  It was James Michener who introduced me to this reality.  I don’t know if you have ever read any Michener, but one of the things he excelled at was connecting his readers to the cultures he was trying to explore.  One of the ways he did that was through their food; more importantly, through the historical nexus between food and culture.

In the US that nexus is one of class, yes, but also of race.  Steaks and roasts we all know.  They were — and still are, to an extent — the food of the wealthy.  Then you have the foods for the rest of us, for those at the bottom.  The fish stews and pies for the New England fishermen.  Gumbo and jumbalaya for the French Acadians (yup, that’s where “cajun” comes from) transplanted to far off Louisiana.  For the slaves and former slaves there were wild greens (collard, mustard, etc…), catfish and leftover/unwanted cuts of pork and beef…all those things that lie now at the very heart of American barbecue.  As a matter of fact, I just paid $25 for a meal that once was given to slaves because the master couldn’t be bothered to supply anything better.  Hell, lobster was once so despised that is was used only to feed prisoners…

That is how food both reflects and embodies culture.  That is how food defines who we are as a people…and, just as much, who we once were.  That is a key part of the magic of it all.

As a writer, I sometimes get chastised for using food and booze too much.  I use them, however, to reflect my characters.  To reflect who they are, and who they aren’t.  I use them, often, to create situations where the food — and the atmosphere around it — defines the cultures and backgrounds of the characters in ways that would otherwise take hundreds and hundreds of words.

I am, at heart, a peasant.  I would rather have real coq au vin in a tiny country village than the best dishes from the fine dining places in Paris.  I would rather, as a writer, use a hundred words of my characters’ thoughts and reactions about food and everything surrounding it as a mirror for the real world than five thousand words of exposition.

One of my disappointments with George RR Martin, by the way, wasn’t that he talked too much about food, it was that he didn’t use food enough to truly comment on the lives and circumstances of the different strata of the society he created in GOT…

{Musical Notes — this started as something very different.  It started as a desire to find a good, old school song to use.  That desire morphed into finding those anthems that are truly evocative of an era.  Then, me being me (and beer being beer), everything morphed again into finding those songs that we don’t even have to actually hear anymore; into those songs from which we need only an exposure of a second or two to remember, and to feel.  I had to limit things to the last fifty-ish years, if only to keep the number of songs manageable.  As a further note, these are all songs I love…and all songs that bring their own memories for me.

Gold Medal: perhaps the most instantly evocative of these songs, for far more than one generation.  Don’t cheat, don’t look ahead.  Just listen.  It won’t take more than one second if you are anything at all like me…

Silver Medal: a better song than the first, it does not have the instant cross-generational impact of the “winner”.  It is to me one of the best songs ever recorded…

Bronze Medal:  This song is my generation.  It should probably take the Silver, to be honest, but the second place song is just a better song by a better creator…

Honorable Mention: I couldn’t help myself, this song had to make the list.  It had to make the list because, not long ago, I was walking to my own locker room at a hockey tournament, only to hear a bunch of middle school players belting out this song in the next room.  That is cross-generational appeal…and a song you will instantly recognize…

Lambs Beat Bungles in Superb Owl!

Okay, if you’re not a fan of American football, this post’s title very likely means nothing to you.  Even if you are a fan, if you don’t take part in the time-honored fan traditions of snark and sarcasm towards other teams — not to mention the internet slang/jokes the title is pulled from — it still likely means nothing.  Bear with me, all will (hopefully) make sense as I try to work a whole bunch of random, unrelated thoughts into a coherent post.

Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday here in the US.  Now, the Super Bowl is one of the biggest events in the American media universe.  Whether you love or hate it, the Super Bowl dominates the landscape in a way almost nothing else can touch.  Hell, we’ve had twenty years of the freaking Puppy Bowl solely as an anti-Super Bowl for those who hate football…and if that ain’t impact on culture and life, I don’t know what is!

Okay, but…

Yes, there’s always a but!  But the media landscape is changing.  It is changing as surely as is the socio-cultural landscape.  That is no bad thing, by the way.  Nor is it a new thing.  Things change.  Things have to change.  Life and love and progress are built on dynamism, on imbalances in the system and the alterations those imbalances drive.  Think of it as a physics problem, if you will; unchanging stasis is an utter impossibility.

At present, the change to the landscape is a splintering, and a devolution.  Oh, not devolution in a bad way, but devolution in the sense of de-centralization.  No longer do we all watch the same TV.  No longer do we all experience the same programs and thoughts and cultures.  We, for the most part, are far more active in our viewing today; we pick through Netflix and Prime for the best movies and TV.  We follow Youtube and Twitch and TikTok creators who are the definition of niche — our niche.  We actively choose our viewing, rather than the simple passivity of absorbing what someone else chooses for us.

Individuality is the order of the day, and that is a change very much for the better.  For the most part.  It has its negatives, too.  The splintering of the media landscape also reflects a splintering in the socio-cultural fabric of our lives.*  This is why I mentioned the Super Bowl above; its power is on the wane.  It still is a media behemoth, and an arguably over-powered presence in the American media landscape, but no longer is it an absolute, automatic dominator.

*Or is it a cause?  You can argue that one from both sides and make a good case either way.

I don’t do “regular” TV in any way, I only stream.  Over the last couple of years the Super Bowl has been far more of an afterthought than it a must-watch.  For anyone with similar viewing circumstances — a large and growing percentage of us — to watch and get overwhelmed by the Super Bowl requires actively seeking it out, rather than having it thrust upon us.  Now, that is no bad thing since American football is not for everyone.  Nor does it, in and of itself, say much of anything about our culture.  But…

But, the Super Bowl used to be one of those touchstone, shared-experience things.  We all saw it because we couldn’t escape it.  We all talked about it the next day because there was nothing else to talk about.  That no longer applies.  One of our shared experiences — one of those things that unifies a culture — is no longer filling that role.  Another crack appears, another splintering of our shared experiences.

The question of the day, of course, is what comes out of those cracks and fractures?  What culture emerges?  History is, in this, not much of a guide as “today” really is unique (a concept I am usually loathe to assert).  In the past, the slow pace of communications meant culture was essentially a local thing.  There could be no real splintering as, try as they might, folks living next to each other experienced the same things everyday.

Today?  Today I doubt my neighbors watch the same things I do.  Yeah, a whole lot of folks have experienced The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+ right alongside me, but how many followed that up by watching the Millenial Farmer on Youtube?

Yeah, the Lambs beat the Bungles on Sunday, but I didn’t watch it.  I didn’t care.  Instead I binge-watched Apple’s attempt to turn Asimov’s Foundation into a show (hoo boy, is that a post for another day!).  Thanks, Mr Yeats, for touching on this:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Wait…was that another crack I heard beneath my feet?

Okay, so this part of the post started as a mere Musical Note appended to end, but it grew a bit from there.  It grew into an explanation and an exploration that I think merits inclusion into the main body.  Music exerts tremendous power and influence over me.  I say it all the time, but it bears repeating: music has power.  I don’t do a terribly good job of explaining the particular how’s and why’s of that power, so I thought I would take a stab at it again by using an explanation from this particular song’s writer/singer as a way to illustrate:

I write quite a few songs where the sort of issue is faith – having faith, keeping faith. And this song in particular is about the difficulty in having faith in things, and finding things to have faith in. In yourself, in God, in like he said, a woman. Faith is a weird thing, it in a sense it is all about waiting. It’s not actually about getting anything, you know, faith is about the wait, because once you get something there is no need anymore. So a lot about faith is just the willingness to sort of throw yourself on a fence and hang there for a while. That’s a very difficult and bitter thing, you know. In this song, I keep saying the main character, *I*. I said, “All my sins, I would pay for them if I could come back to you.” It’s not just about finding things to believe in, it’s about wanting to be able to believe in anything too. And it’s about all the voices that get inside your head and whisper for you to do it or not to do it as well.”