Friday, April 03, 2009

Poking sticks into cages here in lovely NA.

I write a weekly column for the local newspaper. This week's effort boasted a bit of free association, but since some of it has to do with beer, perhaps it's worth reprinting here.


BAYLOR: Poking sticks into cages

Local Columnist

Once upon a time at our pub and pizzeria, two male customers came bouncing inside in an obvious state of delirious pre-intoxication — whether liquid or herbal couldn’t be determined — and ordered pizza.

Soon they were verbally harassing other patrons, and our man on the point called the police. Two officers quickly arrived, cleanly removing the offending duo from the dining area and shifting them outside.

There the tragicomic dullards put up a mild, slapstick resistance to arrest. I earnestly hoped the officers would deploy nightsticks, flashlights and perhaps even cattle prods, but they were impeccably, professionally restrained in the face of provocation.

Astutely observing the condition of the unruly future drunk-tank occupants, the policemen merely shrugged and maintained a loosely demarcated cordon, permitting the miscreants to damage each other as much as possible before being loaded into the waiting squad car.

Sure enough, the two stooges kept smashing into one another like semi-erect, soggy egg noodles before finally plummeting onto the unyielding pavement in a tangle of sodden ineptitude. One broke down and began moaning, wailing in the fashion of a starving, flea-bitten, matted-wet cur barred from the soothing warmth of house and hearth:

“We jess cayme ta eeeet peeezza! Whar’s mah peeezza?”

It was as pathetic a performance as I’ve witnessed during my 17 years in business, as well as a sad reminder, because try as you might as an owner to maintain order and an ambiance of non-threatening good times in your place, there is a certain percentage of the human race unable to follow the handy directions on the teleprompter.

While many remain perfectly capable of being functional social drinkers, others simply do not possess this gene, and what’s more, those who behave like the bedraggled pizza cravers seem ever determined to drag others down into their own morass of dysfunction.

It’s all vaguely reminiscent of the process required for dealing with our city’s no-progress-at-any-price Luddites.


I’m not sure why this ancient memory passed through my mind, or any conceivable connection between it and the new series of Miller Lite TV commercials, which have proven so relentlessly insulting during recent basketball screenings.

Maybe it has something to do with target demographics, and the eternal gullibility of the public.

The ads in question trumpet the latest crucial reason for Miller Lite’s superior flavor (Really?) as the master brewer’s innovative insistence on hopping the beer a total of three (Three!) separate times during the brewing process. This tripartite hopping strategy might seem impressive to the bulk of our nation’s 5-year-olds, until one recalls two inconvenient truths about brewing:

1. Virtually every beer currently brewed in America or elsewhere is hopped three separate times. The bittering hops go into the kettle first, followed at later stages by flavor and aroma hops. This practice is default, not unique.

2. Miller Lite has no discernible flavor, anyway. How can we be sure the hops were added three times when there is no evidence of their existence?

As I ponder the significance of “high-country barley” and “drinkability” in the context of P.T. Barnum’s immortal axiom about the birth rate of suckers, it would be nice to have a real beer that actually tastes like something. Fortunately, good beer is close by because I sell it for a living.

That’s a good thing because if there weren’t good beer in New Albany, I’d have to leave town.


It’s true. Anyone not “liking” or “loving” it here — in a city block, a municipality, a state or the nation — has the right to exit at any time.

Sorry, but that’s not my style.

At some point earlier in my life, I concluded that there was great personal value in certain areas that embrace knowledge and ideas, and that because my place of birth attaches a pathetically low value on its educational attainment, these areas are seriously undervalued hereabouts.

It seemed there were two choices for me. Either attempt a measure of self-growth and comprehension by playing the role of contrarian gadfly in the midst of localized incomprehension, or risk the relative happiness of placid normalcy in another locale where most other people view life the same way as me.

Door No. 1, please.

Hard-wired somewhere deep within my psyche is the conviction that it’s better to stay put and confront complacency and apathy at home — to be a royal pain in the posterior and a performance artist for my vision of truth whenever and wherever possible in an effort to illustrate that it’s OK to be different — than to cut and run ... whether to Madison, Wis., or Bamberg, Germany, or to a new life and career altogether.

My preferences may or may not be noble, although they serve nicely as self-referential beacons for various themes of my disaffection. I won’t deny my fair share of character flaws, or that my philosophical precepts are riddled with exceptions. Yes, a fair number of New Albanians would vote me off the island; then again, they’d also proffer the hemlock to Socrates if it meant not having to think.

Recently, I received this anonymous admonition:

“Congratulations Roger on your fine spelling of words that were never meant to be transliterated into English on your blog and Guest Column anyway. I canceled my newspaper subscription. I’m sick of your propaganda, and you’ve just lost all credibility.”

Thanks — that’s justification enough for me. Have a thoughtful day, folks.

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