Monday, January 05, 2015

The PC: My brain cells sent me a nice thank you card.

The PC: My brain cells sent me a nice thank you card.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

Lately I’ve tended to swear off end-of-the-year lists, enumerations and reflections, particularly as they pertain to beer. My official, recurring explanation is that during a typical twelve-month time span, the sheer volume of great beers and wonderful beer drinking experiences has tended to overwhelm my narrative and organizational abilities.

In short, I can bask in a warm glow of beers past with a sort of year-long area buzz without trying to remember each one of them.

However, it strikes me that the past year was different, for the simple reason that I didn’t drink nearly as much beer as usual. Granted, there were plenty of good beer times, just fewer of them. Therein lies a story.

Beginning on January 1, 2014, I resolved to “lose some damned weight, already.” It wasn’t the first time I’ve had this good idea (2007 springs readily to mind), but it assuredly has been the most successful such effort in recent memory. One year later, exactly 30 lbs. had disappeared, and I’ve managed to hover around the lighter target range for more than six months, even when allowing for periodic bursts of caloric debauchery.

For most of us, the formula for weight loss is no mystery: Eat and drink less, exercise more. That’s it, in a nutshell, and generally it works quite easily for me. Of course, the trick is continuing to follow the formula consistently without sustained lapses. Binges are my biggest enemy, inevitably leading to lost yardage and an erosion of faculties both physical and mental, and so I tried keeping them to a minimum in 2014.

This brings me to mental health in the form of clarity, a double-edged sword if ever there was. Simply stated, when your head is clear, you can see life’s infinite possibilities and sometimes even act accordingly. Unfortunately, you can also see the squalor, grubbiness and stupidity surrounding you, and these are precisely the observations that can lead to a resumption of bottle feeding.


To tell the truth, clarity was the primary reason for curbing my bibulous proclivities in 2014. It was the reward for consuming half the usual trencherman’s portions (I said less food, not necessarily “better”), walking roughly 4 - 5 miles a day rain, snow or shine, and stopping after the second pint … well, most of the time.

I came into the year knowing quite well that it was going to be a very difficult twelve months, likely demanding my full attention without the debilitation of binges, and as such, it’d be the time to practice keeping a clear head. It seems my prescription was timely, because the prediction was accurate.

While it may not have seemed obvious to onlookers at the time, the year 2014 began with the cumulative daily continuation of a long-term review of the food operation at Bank Street Brewhouse, undertaken with the specter of humorless bankers looming overhead and numerous bookkeeping tasks up for examination and resolution.

As you know, the review culminated with the Bank Street Brewhouse kitchen being shuttered in May after five aesthetically successful (and financially underwhelming) years. I had to let 15 good employees go in one fell swoop, and never in my life as an independent small business owner have I felt lower.

(It was far too hard to do drunk)

Then there were the long months afterward spent dealing with the various business repercussions of this move, which might be summarized as the frustration occurring when the same bank that kept insisting on the need to boldly cut expenses, responded to those expenses being utterly gutted overnight by expressing newfound and decidedly tender concern for the entity’s cash flow.

(Thanks much. As Jeeebus is my witness, there are times when I really would rather be a Commie)

But to return to the point, while none of this was a certainty amid the torpor of my January 1st hangover, the very possibility of it happening strongly suggested clarity. Once the change of direction for the front of the house at BSB was determined, a fresh breeze would fill the room, the fog would lift … and naturally, a whole new set of challenges would be manifested, each of them screaming for attention, queuing the buck-stops-here process all over again.

(That’s right – there are times when the thought of working for someone other than myself is appealing, at least until I consider that a quarter-century on my own has rendered me absolutely unemployable)

Of course, it was advisable to hoard excess clarity even after navigating these revolutions in the front of the house, because there was a brewery in the back of the house, and after five years of imagining that the quality of our beer would always be enough to carry the day, it was becoming evident that I understood very little about the selfie-driven, solipsistic narcissist’s “craft” beer-porn-market … apart from the multi-syllable words I so dearly enjoy using to denounce it.

(That’s why I contemplated escaping to go and join the French foreign legion, except that I’m too old for camping and have very little use for guns)

Also in 2014, I lost a few friends way too soon, moved my mother to a new residence, emptied and sold her house, revisited far too many ghosts of youth while doing so, disposed of two vehicles formerly belonging to my parents, had one of our cats die, and struggled mightily on an hourly basis to understand why my chosen city is so unremittingly mistaken about most everything it does despite my frequent reminders to the contrary.

(Which means I’m running for mayor, but more about that later)

Through most of it, I kept to the regimen of clarity with a shrug and a sigh, as ever certain that for me – an opinionated, intellectually pretentious asshole of an individualist – quitting simply isn’t an option. Neither is lapsing into a 275-lb alcoholic stupor amid the detritus of chicken wings and bacon. That’s life. You continue throwing punches, landing a few and absorbing more, and cease only when the bell can no longer be answered.


It's about being comfortable in your own skin. I’m just a natural born dissenter, perhaps even a full-scale dissident; always have been and always will be. I understand that the 90 percentile never can be mine, because the 90 percentile is made up of the planet’s cookie-cutters – Taco Bell, Budweiser and Wal-Mart – and who wants any part of mass-market insipidity of that magnitude?

But the 90 “majority” percentile also applies to conformity within my own “minority” peer group. This is the hard part, but it is no less vital to question the precepts of one’s own coterie than to dissect the platform of the opposition.

Where this leads next, I’ve no idea. As always, the joy will come in finding out, and all the better if my head is clear, because it’s probably a bit too late for purity of heart – don’t you think?

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