The Cuckoo’s Tufted Combover

Wouldn’t Trump

make the perfect dystopian leader.

Erect at his podium

tongue spreading trepidation

like wildfire,

after lightning strike in prairie grass.

 

Feathered combover

waves and bounces with gusts

of wind.

Orange hue

unnatural in light,

skin should not glimmer

with such radiation glow.

 

As if he was

the quintessential allegory

for America’s secretive bigotry.

George Orwell

in all his totalitarian imaginings

would marvel

it didn’t happen

in 1984.

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Craft Brewers are the Willy Wonkas of our Generation

I like to imagine that if I owned a brewery, it would look like Tim Burton outfitted the mechanics of the operation, and of course it wouldn’t be complete without some strange character portrayed by Johnnie Depp, lurking in the shadows, flitting around the brewery floor. But seriously, this generation, my generation, the Generation Xers who awoke to find themselves listening to Pearl Jam and Nirvana, Screaming Trees and Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains and Weezer, confused and enthralled by the transition from the eighties rock our siblings consumed to the alternative music which exploded out of Seattle in full flannel regalia, seem to have wakened a sleeping giant. Resurrecting the fabled craft breweries that seemed to have wane and fizzled out during the middle of the twentieth century, the kind of breweries of who’s passing our parents lamented, as they cracked open a can of light, over-carbonated, piss-colored, dull tasting beer, because it was the only thing left for them to drink, is the product of our generations heterogeneous nature.

After being bombarded with lesser quality products for years and years, we came out on top, brewing, experimenting, creating phenomenal brews; whether at home in our basements, fermenting in 5 gallon carboys, or on a larger scale, in the craft breweries we all love and know today. To give you an idea on how bad the situation was, how dire it became for us in the beer world, let me give you some statistics. In 1887, 2,011 breweries were in operation throughout the United States. After the Eighteenth Amendment was enacted, and repealed with the Twenty-first, many breweries who’s operations ceased during this thirteen year drought, never reopened. Unable to cope with the change, breweries shuttered their doors of many famous beers our grandparents imbibed. This eventuality led to a homogeneity of the industry, and even as time moved on, and the Volstead Act seemed a distant memory to the population– nothing more than an unbelievable story lost in time, passed on from parent to child–its effects were still seen like ripples in a pond, each small wave growing larger as it moved away from the epicenter of that careless pebble tossed into the placid waters by the irresponsible peddlers of hypocrisy and temperance.

It was in the seventies that we saw the worst of the worst, and when you reach rock bottom, you only have place to go, and that is up. Many of us grew up with our parents drinking cheap beers smelling and tasting of sulfur, looking like urine from a camel having been in the desert for weeks on end, only palatable ice cold, the smallest bit of warmth instantly skunking these mass-produced brews; the Walmart of beers. Maybe this is why we revolted, why we needed to do something different, to buck the trend and bring back flavor. Whatever the reasons, I am relieved it happened. In 1977 there were only 89 breweries left in the United States. Think about that, from 2,011 to 89 in only 90 years. Many were bought up by greedy companies that didn’t care about taste and quality–and that still happens today–and many just couldn’t compete against industry giants, due to their large marketing budgets and campaigns which dominated the television screens of my youth, and so they faded away, their beers slowly disappearing for the shelfs of package stores and within bar coolers.

Come the rumblings of a revolution. A youth upset that toys moved from metal to plastic, that greed consumed everything in society. We watched our television shows with 90 second commercial breaks and no interruption for over fifteen minutes of program viewing. We saw quality programs. Imagination and innovation prevailed.  There was something unique about all this, but at the time, it was the norm, the status quo, the standard convention; we never thought twice about it. But then as we matured and got older, as we began to observe and rationalize, to coalesce information and our observations, to synthesize all this into coherent thoughts, we realized times had changed, and quality degraded, till there was nothing left but the tripe we find today in the mass media. Jump ahead, past our formative years, the years when we absconded sips of our parents beers and sneered at the foul taste, past the years we bought suitcases of Meister Braü because few others were available to us, and drank it with disdain, lets move past all those years. There on the horizon of the current, yet still the unknown future of our youths, was a revolution of brewing growing inside all of us, disgusted by what a generation of greed had done.

We exploded, like a firecracker in a closed hand. We blew up the industry, awakening a youth with our tastebuds, nothing less of something fabulous and revolutionary in flavor. Brewers began to melt out of the shadows, rubbing their eyes at the light of day, hidden for so long below the piles of empty silver beer cans, heaped with red and white emblems on many, others bearing the mark of “light or lite” on their bodies. These beer magicians become heroes for our generation, giving back taste to something that was so prolific in our lives, yet was missing for so long we didn’t know any better. They merged malt and hop with the cleanest water. They found strains of yeast, known only in Europe, to munch on rich sugars, creating the brews we began to love. And so it happened, we found ourselves destroying the bonds of homogeneity and creating something spectacular, an imaginarium of all that we held holy.

There is no sign of abatement, and for this I am excited. It seems we’ve reached an epoch, an era, a historical moment in time where we appreciate higher standards, taking quality over quantity. Today over 3,418 breweries and brewpubs exist in the United States, and that number is growing every year. Yes companies like InBev, one single company, now owns almost a third of the beer distributed in the world, but this is not a concern for us, the beer lovers of the world. While a few smaller breweries have allowed themselves to be bought by Anheuser-Busch InBev, selling out their values siting easier distribution, the majority of craft breweries resist this trend, knowing a loss of regional and local fanbase would occur, and, also, the whole reason they began this journey was to create something beautiful, works of art we consume, and no artists wishes to see their work destroyed. But, how can small breweries compete against giants like AB InBev, easy, they already do it. By creating better beer, and due to the attention their beers get by brewers who care about their product, they are like a gardner nurturing a plant, willing it to grow and flourish, investing the time so it can flower into something beautiful.

Like Willy Wonka hiding a golden ticket to sup on candy in his factory, breweries create special edition beers, that only the most dedicated beerphile will know of, find, and relish with secret delight, squealing with sheer giddiness and glee as they imbibe these toothsome brews. With brewery-release beers, like the hop forward, delectable pale ale Dinner, from Maine Beer Company in Freeport, Maine, droves of people wait in line for hours to buy a case, some even camping overnight to be first in line. Smuttynose Brewery, in Portsmouth, NH, once upon a time, released an imperial stout named Kate the Great, which, to obtain said beer, had to purchase a scratch off ticket for $2, of which 900 tickets out of 1000 were winners, allowing the holder to claim this illustrious, coal black stout. These events seem tame compared to 3 Floyds Brewing Co. who hosts a Dark Lord Day during which you can purchase their Dark Lord Imperial Stout. With musical acts and over 10,000 people arriving for this monuments day, those who purchase a “beer lover’s ticket” are then allowed about 3 or 4 bottles of this holy relic of beer. These are just a few of the special occasions we find ourselves drawn to as beer lovers, while domestic beers fall flat and insipid, even trying to capture the craft market, but always falling short with beers that lack flavor.

With so many other events and speciality brewery release beers out there I could go on forever. As we constantly rebel against the commercialization of everything, from enjoyment to experiences, food to nature, like a phoenix from the ashes of our childhood youth, we are creating something unique and exquisite, which is only going to grow with time. As Willy Wonka–the one, true, and only Willy Wonka, Gene Wilder– said, “We are the music makers and we are the dreams of the dreams.” Please, brewers, keep on dreaming.

 

Why I Love The Onion, and Why You Should Too.

Recently there was a tragedy, occurrence, event, catastrophe, calamity–whatever you wish to call it or the politicians wish to name it with their rhetoric. Either way, there was an event in which people died; that we can all agree upon. Whatever you wish to call the shootings in Colorado Springs, it doesn’t change the outcome. People are dead, lives are forever changed, and like a pebble thrown into a placid mirrored pond, the ripples from that stone will affect the lives of so many within their communities, families, and circles of friends.

Only a day after the shootings on November 29th, The Onion, the online satirical news media website, openly satirized the shootings, well at least poked fun at a certain segment of the population that tend to act like ostriches, burying their heads deep within the sand. The writers of this online website did what they do best, satirize an event, while at the same time, making Americans scratch their heads, thinking, “is this supposed to be funny?” As a comedy website that has articles named “Realtor Was Not Expecting Such Hard-Hitting Questions About Water Pressure”  or “New Study Finds Box Still World’s Most Popular Container,” it is hard to think of these writers taking such a serious stance on an issue such as gun violence in America, but that is exactly what they do after major incidents like this most recent killing spree .

#MemeOfTheWeek: That Article From The Onion About Mass Shootings

In October NPR wrote an article titled, “#MemeOfTheWeek: That Article From The Onion About Mass Shootings,” illustrating the prevalence of mass shootings in the United States. NPR highlighted something that confounded some; that even a website like The Onion,–one who satirizes moms drinking wine, or dads feeling failure from daughter not being as boyish as the boy he wanted– that they are one of the few media outlets who really tell it as it is, and give their opinion openly on these tragedies. And yet, they are comedy, they are Tosh.O, they are South Park, they are Steven Colbert, they are the sarcasm that some of us love, the sardonic wit of twisted individuals, with their dark humor. I wonder….I wonder if everyone who reads The Onion, really understands what they are reading. That in these moments, in these articles, they are reading something so powerful, something so important, something about an event that has affected so many lives, and will affect so many more in the future.

Frustrated Gunman Can’t Believe How Far He Has To Drive To Find Nearest Planned Parenthood Clinic

After shootings at military bases, colleges, schools…. and the list goes on, and on, and on. But seriously, after so many shootings at so many different locations, we have our most recent shooting, at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Again, The Onion was there to bolster us up, to remind us, that there is life after tragedy, but tragedy should not be part of life. Instead tragedies like this are part of insanity and extremism, and should be abnormal, not the normal. On November 30th, the article “Frustrated Gunman Can’t Believe How Far He Has To Drive To Find Nearest Planned Parenthood Clinic,” poked fun at lack of gun control coupled with religious zealotry. You know who they are mocking, it is there under the surface. Hell, they even chose Texas as the state of location; I wonder why? The irony isn’t missed on me either, that while in our nation, we are deathly afraid of Islamic terrorists, but Christian warriors, who do God’s will, are not terrorists. Huh, interesting. Now you may think this is all too soon. But no, it isn’t. Instead you get a feeling, reading this article, there is a sense of helplessness, a feeling of frustration. However you feel about it being in poor taste, The Onion is creating open dialogue and conversation on this horrible event, while candidates running for president will not even  make statements, acknowledging something horrible occurred.

NRA Visits Colorado Police Evidence Room To Check Up On Rifle Used In Planned Parenthood Shooting

Within 24 hours this satirical newspaper posted two articles, poking fun at the extreme groups that have a tendency to rally around religion, guns, and fear monger the most, and didn’t think twice about openly mocking one of the largest lobby groups in the nation, The NRA. In one line, The Onion highlighted how the lives of Americans are less important than their guns, and how you cannot feel sympathy for one, without alienating the other. Silence descends upon the Republican candidates all vying for position as the presidential front runner, as this tragedy confuses and befuddles their emotions. How can you feel empathy for the families of these people, who sold baby parts? How can you tell Americans this was a tragedy, while having no solution, because a solution would alienate your own political party? And thus comes the conundrum, what is more important, gun rights or people’s rights to live, to a safe society.

In the wake of this most recent tragedy, I read the articles posted by The Onion  and I did not laugh, or feel anger toward their satirization of this event, instead, I was grateful that they have the conviction to highlight the extremist ideologies that are attached to such events. Hiding your head in the sand, or debating and argument with the answer, “its my right,” is not productive discussion, instead it is opinion and want; it is pure desire. So, I love The Onion because they make me laugh, they make me smile. Their sarcasm warms my heart like reading a David Sedaris book, but above else, they have the mettle to stand up for what they believe is right, when others fall silent.

Wonderland

We groped along the dirt path in the onyx night bereft of moonlight. Stars twinkled brightly in the inky abyss of space like a fish eye lens high above our heads. The sky seemed to stretch on forever, with only the silhouettes of spruces and pines loosely clinging to the duff under our feet, stretching out their scraggily limbs as if unknown assassins reaching out for us in the stillness, disrupting our view of the stars for only a brief moment as we passed by. Granite protruded from the ground around us like the backs of dolphins breaching the ocean’s surface, a still undulation of the permanent ground, and underneath our feet, the loose gravel skidded caught in the treads of our shoes.

The sky unfolded overhead as we made our way into a clearing, the bony spruce encircling us like a stockade of rawboned statues, as we walked upon the mounded, rough stone covered in lichen and moss. Small plants, eking an existence out of the minuscule patches of duff which rested in depressions and bowls carved out by centuries of rainfall, tickled our uncovered calves as we wandered in the barely illumined night. Craning our necks high we stared into the brilliant milky sky of stars and heavenly bodies phosphorescent against the inky vacuum of space.  Lying down against the the rough surface of rock, the cool stone penetrated our shirts, chilling our bodies, as a breeze whipped off the ocean crashing in the distance, shrouded by the darkness and gaunt, gnarled trees.

The only sounds were the waves off in the distance as they crashed upon the shore, their spume resting upon the barnacled covered, pink boulders, that dotted the rocky beach as they washed over the tops with furious vigor, and the wind carrying heady, salt foam, which whipped off the vast ocean, a dark blob of nothingness, writhing as one, heaving, erratic body, somewhere out there, past our ability to view in the abysmal chasm of that hour. Laying there, with the night like a blanket caressing and covering our bodies, we could barely see each other only feet away. The stars exploded overhead with each twinkle and wink of light, their luminosity changing colors, like auras depicting moods. In those moments we seemed to melt into the rock, and a peacefulness took us over, washing away any worries that the mind trapped and imprisoned for later distress. The world embraced us, and encapsulated us in this wonderland of nature.

 

 

 

David Jester: Amnesiac Moments Indistinct in a Fog of Memory

If you haven’t gone over to their site, Drinkers with Writing Problems, then you are missing out. Great bunch of writers, and always entertaining content.

Drinkers with Writing Problems

The problem isn’t that I am not listening, or tuning you out. But in the end, your words empty from my mind, like sand through a sieve.

I have always had a poor memory. As a child I learned strictly through repetition, and I spent countless hours beating multiplication tables, the order of the presidents, and Spanish verbs and nouns through my thick skull. Now, it’s not that I consider myself stupid, it is just how I learn. Because I know this, and am frequently affronted with the loss of memory as if a bout of amnesia took me over, I’ve learned to write inspiring moments and reminders for the future with an immediacy that borders on panicked urgency. I have found myself whipping my car off the road, barely tapping the brakes, as my wife and I speed down some remote highway in the wooded state of Maine. Barely…

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The Philosophy of Durden

Everybody wants to be Tyler Durden, even if it is only for a short moment of time. No person alive wouldn’t want that much confidence to well up inside them on occasion and course through their body like a surge of epinephrine, enlivening their inner powerhouse. You want to sit back and say “Fuck it” with an utter calm and coolness that even Frank Sinatra himself could not conjure. We all want the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings that fueled Tyler and gave him his cool, to truly believe the devil be damned attitude rather than a mask we wear. This cool, to look abject danger in the eye with an ambivalence and apathy, is reserved for only those with Ubach-Wiethe disease–but yet they didn’t choose that. In the End, everyone wants to have control over themselves with the fuck all attitude that Tyler Durden lived with.

As the Boeing 777-300 takes off from Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, the Aerflot planes shakes uncontrollably with an extreme shudder of seat, wall, floor, and myself. This feeling–unusual in my flying experience–I wonder to myself, what would my last thoughts be if this hunk of metal dropped out of the sky like a molotov cocktail thrown off a building, bursting into a ball of flames among the trees and apartment buildings on the ground below? Would my last thoughts be of my wife and dog waiting for me at home? Would I think fondly of my family, and smile about the memories? Would I feel apathy or regret, anger or sadness, fear or confusion, denial or terror, or, would I ride that plane down to the ground, like Slim Pickens straddling that nuke down to the USSR, as he dropped the bomb on those cold war Ruskis. I wonder if in that moment, my inner Tyler Durden would materialize, and I would have some insightful pithy saying, forever etched in time, to spit in the eye of death and say “give me seconds please.” One could only hope, because, well, at that point, you can’t change the outcome.

I guess the true cool, the real hip, the James Deans, the Frank Sinatras, the Tyler Durdens, they accepted, instead of denied, moved on, instead of regretted. I think in the end, it is that acceptance of the inevitable which defines the coolest of the cool. Hell, when the world collides with Melancholia, I hope to be sitting on the lawn of some house, its verdant lawn stretching down to the crashing ocean, with my friends and family by my side, my wife and dog right next to me. Drinking the most expensive bottle of rye whisky ever made, we will sit there sipping manhattans made with ruby port, and I’ll dress in a black suit, black tie, white shirt, with dark cruiser sunglasses on, my bare feet feeling those soft, flexing blades of grass between my toes. I will watch the earth spin into oblivion with a coolness reserved only for the classic hip.

In the meantime, I will settle for plane flights with free wine served from the flight attendant’s cart. But, in the event the world spins out of control, I should stock up on whisky. I mean, you never know who might crash the party.