Friday, September 21, 2018

LIVE TO EAT: Read my story about The Fat Lamb by grabbing the latest issue of Food & Dining Magazine, out now.

Photos by the legendary Dan Dry.

I've been negligent in noting the arrival of another quarterly issue of Food & Dining Magazine.

It appears I missed the previous tout as well, so let's catch up.

Links lead to issuu. At some juncture when there's time, I'll publish my Summer 2018 articles here at the blog.

CURRENT: Fall 2018 September/October/November.
Observe the publishing notation (August is omitted), indicating a change in quarterly month groupings. My contribution this time is a profile of Fat Lamb, Chef Dallas McGarity's first area restaurant (now he owns the Portage House in Jeffersonville, too).

At 40, McGarity’s career trajectory is gaining speed, but ask him to explain what got him here and the answer comes from a far slower time in a vastly different kitchen.

“I grew up in South Carolina and lived on a dirt road in the country, said McGarity. “My grandma would have corn every summer, and we’d shuck it on the back porch and shell beans. I saw her butcher chickens.”

“What kid nowadays has seen a chicken butchered? It’s nice to know that’s where your food comes from.”

PREVIOUS: Summer 2018 May/June/July -- I profiled bar Vetti, the amazing Italian eatery conjured by Ryan Rogers and Andrew McCabe, and my beer column explained the rise of New England IPA, with a focus on Louisville's Mile Wide Beer Company.

Mapping Skopje's modernism inadvertently leads to a valuable lesson about New Albanian "set design."

Regular readers are familiar with my offbeat obsessions, among them the pros and cons of Modernist architecture. In this article, the architectural intersects with the European ... the Balkan, no less.

Big time sweet spot. Here's the link, followed by some background.

Mapping Skopje’s Modernism, by Feargus O'Sullivan (CityLab)

An earthquake hit the city in July 1963, killing over 1,000 people and leaving 200,000 homeless. The inventive, vernacular-influenced designs behind the rebuild are worth celebrating.

Skopje, one of Europe’s lesser known capitals, is an unlikely battleground for an internationally debated architectural clash. In recent years, the capital of what is still (but may not for long be) called the Republic of Macedonia has developed some notoriety as the location of a new set of extremely bombastic, neo-historicist buildings and monuments that supposedly pay tribute to a hazy and heavily contested regional past. As a new publication points out, however, this steroidal historicism is only part of the city’s architectural story.

It wasn't until the summer of 2017, when viewing my long-lost slides from 1987, that I finally fathomed the intended pattern of those buildings I saw in Skopje. 

1987 European Summer: "Skopje, capital city of Macedonia, is a dream world for lovers of cosmic concrete communist-era architecture."

My visit to Skopje in 1987 was purely accidental, but it made a deep impression.

30 years ago today (May, 1987): Five days in Skopje with the greatest seismologist of them all.

Returning to O'Sullivan's essay, he references a phenomenon I've written about on a regular basis, wherein local governments eager to coordinate all aspects of construction and "beautification" projects in which they've chosen to initiate and/or partner (using public money), invariably prefer artificial design templates of dubious aesthetic value, ones more appropriate to the plasticity of Disney theme parks than varied urban settings.

Precisely, writes O'Sullivan; this same impulse has impelled Skopje's city fathers to construct grandiose replicas of buildings that never existed rather than honor their specific cultural legacy -- which even the detested Brutalists managed to do amid Communism after the earthquake.

Consequently, I've seldom seen it expressed better than O'Sullivan does in this passage. Replace his "Mussolini-era" with my "Disneyesque," and voila -- all my critiques of New Albanian government-imposed design flaws in a nutshell.

These new buildings seem less inspired by architecture than set design, an aspiration underlined by the government’s yen for recladding many modernist survivals with neoclassical details so that they look like housing projects dressed up as Mussolini-era stations for Halloween.

"Set design."

That's it.

BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: An issue with LEO Weekly's Beer Issue, and a good review for Pints & Union.

The Great American Beer Festival unspools this weekend, and anyone who's anyone in beer circles is out there in Denver, pounding the new generation of Chantilly Cream Custard Stouts.

Meanwhile, I'm right here in Nawbany, getting back to where I once belonged. If I had my druthers I'd be in Europe, not Colorado. In other words, my condition is perfectly scattershot, and therefore normal.

This week's Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO) is the annual Beer Issue, with an excellent cover story about women who brew.

What's more, our local alternative weekly has started collating its beer news items in one spot.

LEO has a new web page devoted to all things local beer. Our brewery guide, past Beer Issue stories, an archive of I'd Tap That... Beer columns and the latest season picks.

This is helpful, although I'd like to see a new beer column devoted to classicist ruminations on a theme of comfort beer. Then again, edgy youthful writers probably aren't as well versed in such matters.

Speaking of comfort, it's pure joy to see so many of free-lancer Kevin Gibson's beer bylines collected in one place amid LEO's new beer bullpen. Kevin gets the facts right, and he's also been known to quaff the occasional sample for the sake of accuracy.

Concurrently, I must say that LEO's Big Brewery List is somewhat confused -- and Kevin had nothing to do with it.

The Louisville region, including Southern Indiana, has 21 breweries, including 19 locally-owned breweries.

Flat12 in Jeffersonville appears in the list, and Gordon Biersch does not, except that Flat12 is just as non-locally owned as Biersch; however, in terms of actually brewing beer in a physical location, Biersch is more local than Flat12.

That's because Flat12's beers are brewed in Indianapolis, while all of Biersch's beers are brewed at its Louisville location. As proof, here's the first paragraph of Kevin's cover story.

The two men were enjoying the hefeweizen beer that Maggie Bray had brewed as assistant brewer at Gordon-Biersch — and they had questions about it… but not for her.

Let's see.

Flat12 doesn't brew in Jeffersonville, and it's somehow still local. Biersch does brew in Louisville, and it isn't. Flat12 seems always to get this sort of free pass, and it should not. Flat12 accepted economic development incentives to brew in Jeffersonville, and never did. Were these incentives refunded? At the end of the day, Flat12 in Jeffersonville is a tap room, not a brewery -- and coverage should reflect this simple fact.

Finally, what's the 21st (omitted) brewer? Is it those guys in the Oxmoor Mall? Well, doesn't BJ's import its beer in kegs from production central, just like Flat12? It's a taproom, not a brewery -- just like Flat12.

This brings me to an undisputed highlight of the current issue. Robin Garr captures the Pints&union vibe quite well.

Good beer, food boost Pints & Union’s cozy pub vibe, by Robin Garr (LEO)

Every now and then, a new local place to eat and drink makes me exceptionally happy. Sure, I’m always glad to see any new eatery come to town. But, now and then, a fresh arrival delivers such pleasure in its food, drink and mood that it makes me jump up and down in delight.

Consider, if you will, Pints & Union in downtown New Albany, the utterly lovable restaurant … er, no, beer bar? … um, no, not that, nor a brewpub either. It’s a public house, a European-style pub, then, built into the beautifully renovated shell of an 1880s-era general store that later served as a neighborhood saloon.

In an age when most restaurants seem rigged for noise, Pints & Union is… well, not quiet, but tuned for sociability, with soft folk music in the background that’s loud enough to hear but not enough to dampen conversation. What’s more, there’s nary a television in the place. Stop, take your eyes from the screen and turn them to the people at your table. Don’t feel chatty? Grab a book from the extensive collection, or settle down with a friend for checkers, chess or a board game.

Pints & Union takes its beer seriously, without taking it snobbishly ...

Much appreciated. Now if you'll excuse me, it's back to work.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

ON THE AVENUES: Fighting the power with ballots, not bullets.

ON THE AVENUES: Fighting the power with ballots, not bullets.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Next summer will be the 30th anniversary of my month’s stay in the German Democratic Republic, or as we still refer to the fading image in our cracked rear view mirrors, East Germany.

In 1989 I had the opportunity to spend more than three months in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and the USSR. This period remains a defining experience in my life, something that continues to intrigue and haunt me all these years later.

Regular readers of the NA Confidential blog know this, seeing as I’ve told the story so many times before. In 1989, I was still traveling in Europe when suddenly the Berlin Wall came down. No one expected it, least of all the Ost Berliners who lined up at checkpoints on the fateful evening of November 9 with little more in mind than seeing what life was like on the other side.

Earlier the same day, border guards would have opened fire on them for trying to cross.

For them, for me, for virtually all of us, the Cold War’s spheres of influence seemed eternal at the time. We had no idea drastic change was just around the corner. There were minor fissures, hairline cracks and other warning signs, but no indication they wouldn’t be resolved within the overall context of the postwar victors’ division of power.

Here, there and everywhere, politics ultimately is about power -- who has it, who doesn’t, who is in, who is out -- and who ultimately decides. In East Germany, the Communist regime addressed the people like this: If you’re not with us, you’re against us.

However, it was different in Hungary, no less a Communist state than the GDR, and to be sure, capable of undemocratic threats and repression when necessary. Hungarian leader Janos Kadar artfully borrowed money from the capitalist countries in order to make consumer goods more readily available, thus altering the political power equation: If you’re not against us, you’re for us.

These days it is assumed that political power is about money and vice versa, but in fact it isn’t always about money, even for Mitch McConnell, and as numerous small-time, tinhorn dictators have proven. Not all those Communist-era kingpins were in it for the money, although the closer you got to the Balkans, the more likely there’d be noticeable self-enrichment. Like Kadar, some of them were personally austere.

I’ve always cited Romania’s Nicolae Ceausescu as the worst composite of all worlds. He was a true doctrinal believer in Marxism-Leninism who didn’t at all practice what he preached, amassing personal wealth amid widespread societal misery, and also imbued with an evangelistic mission to inflict his inner aesthetic (read: atrocities) on a captive population.

It was power, all right, and the oppressive ability to puff his own ego by commanding uniformity in thought and design from people who didn’t possess the means to resist -- or so Ceausescu thought, until he learned the hard way.

You’ll recall the year 1989 concluding with Ceausescu in the company of his widely detested wife Elena, the two of them captured by revolutionaries, given only a cursory trial and then shot on the spot in the courtyard of a school.

It is reputed that those soldiers chosen to carry out the verdict refused the option of a conscience-salving random blank round, and were so eager they actually started shooting before the video was ready to record the executions.

Frustrated small-timers like Ceausescu who possess grand, unfulfilled ambitions invariably become the worst leaders of all, and to repeat, it isn’t always about the money. Rather, their purported political stewardship becomes a process for assuaging the pain of being picked last for kickball in elementary school.

They begin by seeking vengeance against their perceived betters, but like any addiction, soon too much evening-up isn’t enough, and it doesn’t take long before these big fish in small ponds are mashing members of their own peer group underfoot.

Granted, some of them die with their boots off, in bed. Sick and old, Kadar began seeing the ghosts of the people he’d ordered killed on his way to the top. All the goulash communism in Budapest couldn’t help him by then, and Shakespeare would have had a field day with Kadar’s dementia-laden inner terror.

In 1989, the DDR’s Erich Honecker already was suffering from cancer, perhaps the outcome of his nation’s institutionalized environmental catastrophe. Honecker fled the collapsing police state of his own creation and washed up in Chile, where the terminal disease killed him with the same remorseless efficiency as policeman manning his wall’s many towers targeted potential escapees.

And so I say death to chains … and to tyrants, every last one of them.


Maybe I’m digressing, maybe not, so let me try to arrive at a point. While a particular monopoly on political power may seem to be permanent and irreversible, history is filled with evidence to the contrary, and in 1989, as explained here, I witnessed it myself.

The Berlin Wall would stand forever, right up to the point when emboldened ordinary people began chipping at the asbestos-laced monstrosity with screwdrivers, shovels, tire irons and their bare hands. In less than a year, Germany was reunified. The East Bloc disappeared almost overnight, and a few years later, so did the USSR.

The elites, juntas and cliques may seem to have all the power, all the money, all the propaganda, and all the guns – metaphorical or otherwise.

But they never, ever have a monopoly on truth, honesty or simple human decency.

Paranoia’s a big destroyer. So is hubris. Even worse is the reality once addressed by John Lennon: “One thing you can’t hide, is when you’re crippled inside.”

It can be hidden for a while, though not forever. Back in 2008, there was a huge red maple on the west side of our house. It seemed healthy enough, then one night we heard a crash. A branch had fallen, barely missing our car parked in the driveway. Shining a flashlight up the trunk, we could see the tree was hollow and termite infested.

There was little choice except to have the red maple taken down, which was done just a few days before the damaging straight-line winds from the hurricane occurring to the southwest, in the Gulf of Mexico, which probably would have knocked the hollow tree on our house.

I really hated losing that tree. But we needed to be rid of it before further damage occurred. Trees are to be loved, but has anyone of sound mind ever fretted over losing a despot?

This guy got it right.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

This passage wasn’t written by Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa or even the fellow clad in denim carving away at the Berlin Wall with his souvenir Bulgarian pen knife.

Rather, it was Thomas Jefferson.


Recent columns:

September 11: ON THE AVENUES: After 49 years, two more reasons to be an Oakland A's fan.

September 9: ON THE AVENUES: May, Kennedy, wigs and prayers, but where's the delightful infidel gardening column?

August 30: ON THE AVENUES: From Baltic to Mediterranean, the diary of an unrepentant New Albanian Europhile.

August 23: ON THE AVENUES: The "downfall" occurs when we all fall down.

August 20: Non-learning curve: This ON THE AVENUES column repeat reveals that since 2011, we've been discussing the safety hazards on Spring Street between 10th and 9th. Too bad City Hall is deaf.

Evan Stoner previews the advent of Southern Indiana Pride.

Evan's essay begins with an appropriate history lesson before seguing to the launch of Southern Indiana Pride. It appears that Southern Indiana Pride will be a successor of sorts to a previous group, now defunct. 

UPDATE: Southern Indiana Equality is no more.

At times it takes time, and the time seems right ... right now.

Launching Southern Indiana Pride
, by Evan Stoner at Medium

... Hyper-partisanship and division plagues the current state of U.S. national discourse. I strongly believe that re-discovering American unity rests squarely on the shoulders of my generation. Since 2016, Jeffersonville Pride has refused to pour gasoline on a partisan wildfire. Our organization has consistently invited leaders who represent opposing political views to speak at Jeffersonville Pride and have welcomed support from Democratic and Republican leaders. Why? Because supporting LGBT civil rights transcends political partisanship. In these starkly divided times, our organization has been a strong voice of unity. We are proud of this identity, and we are proud to announce an upcoming event that will truly reflect our commitment to building bridges of unity throughout our hometown.

In early October, a brand new organization will launch. Southern Indiana Pride will harness the support and enthusiasm of Southern Indiana creators, educators, business leaders, and world-changers from across our region to work towards advancing LGBT inclusion and equality in Southern Indiana. Southern Indiana Pride will take Jeffersonville Pride’s place as the new host of the annual PRIDE parade and festival in Southern Indiana. Southern Indiana Pride is slated to take place summer 2019 in Jeffersonville.

The official launch of Southern Indiana Pride will take place at 7PM on National Coming Out Day, October 11th, 2018 at 300 Spring St. in downtown Jeffersonville! ...

This week's must-read: "Life in the Spanish city that banned cars."

"A metro-style map of Pontevedra shows typical walking times."

No two places are exactly the same, and what works in one may not fly in another, but what this soul-boosting article informs us is that another way does indeed exist.

During the past seven years in New Albany, we've experienced a highly deceptive, and in my view purely intentional, bait 'n' switch. Road improvement projects primarily benefiting drivers of motor vehicles are pitched to us as offering enhanced "walkability," "safety," and various other buzz phrases of no more value than words used to sell breakfast cereal.

Conversely, the mayor in Pontevedra gets it. Try to wrap your brain around this statement.

I'm in awe.

“In effect, these are everyday public works that have been carried out in the context of a global project, but they cost the same or even less.” “We haven’t undertaken grand projects. We’ve done what was within our grasp.”

There is no pay wall at The Guardian, and consequently no excuse not to click through and read the whole article.

And that chart up there at the top of the page?

We need some of those here. If the city and/or Develop New Albany can't get it done, maybe downtown businesses can.

'For me, this is paradise': life in the Spanish city that banned cars, by Stephen Burgen (The Guardian)

In Pontevedra, the usual soundtrack of a Spanish city has been replaced by the tweeting of birds and the chatter of humans

 ... Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores has been mayor of the Galician city since 1999. His philosophy is simple: owning a car doesn’t give you the right to occupy the public space.

“How can it be that the elderly or children aren’t able to use the street because of cars?” asks César Mosquera, the city’s head of infrastructures. “How can it be that private property – the car – occupies the public space?”

Lores became mayor after 12 years in opposition, and within a month had pedestrianised all 300,000 sq m of the medieval centre, paving the streets with granite flagstones.

“The historical centre was dead,” he says. “There were a lot of drugs, it was full of cars – it was a marginal zone. It was a city in decline, polluted, and there were a lot of traffic accidents. It was stagnant. Most people who had a chance to leave did so. At first we thought of improving traffic conditions but couldn’t come up with a workable plan. Instead we decided to take back the public space for the residents and to do this we decided to get rid of cars.”

They stopped cars crossing the city and got rid of street parking, as people looking for a place to park is what causes the most congestion. They closed all surface car parks in the city centre and opened underground ones and others on the periphery, with 1,686 free places. They got rid of traffic lights in favour of roundabouts, extended the car-free zone from the old city to the 18th-century area, and used traffic calming in the outer zones to bring the speed limit down to 30km/h.

The benefits are numerous. On the same streets where 30 people died in traffic accidents from 1996 to 2006, only three died in the subsequent 10 years, and none since 2009. CO2 emissions are down 70%, nearly three-quarters of what were car journeys are now made on foot or by bicycle, and, while other towns in the region are shrinking, central Pontevedra has gained 12,000 new inhabitants. Also, withholding planning permission for big shopping centres has meant that small businesses – which elsewhere have been unable to withstand Spain’s prolonged economic crisis – have managed to stay afloat ...

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: Nick Vaughn unveils new web site.

As the 2019 municipal election cycle draws ever closer, Nick Vaughn continues to intrigue.

Nick Vaughn forms exploratory committee, then joins anti-KKK protesters in Madison.

Nick Vaughn announces the formation of an exploratory committee, but what office is he seeking?

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: What does it mean, this social media surge by Nick Vaughn?

Earlier today, this landed in the Green Mouse's "in" box.

Friends and Supporters,

We wanted to let you know that everything just got easier! Now, you can visit to find out the latest news, sign up for updates, make donations, and find links to social media, all in one place!

So, how about you go check it out! And while you're there, consider donating $5, $10, or $15 so that we can keep the ball rolling!

Your continued support is appreciated!

Team Vaughn

Transparency, 21st-century solutions and a potshot at "career politicians"?

The Mouse still isn't in possessions of details, but he definitely approves.

PINTS & UNION PORTFOLIO: St. Bernardus Tripel (heritage) and Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout (serendipity) to debut new draft lines this Thursday, September 20.

Or, a beer list's incremental progress.

Regular readers already know that I'm a pendulum theorist. As the pendulum pertains to the wonderful world of better beer, it recently has been swinging back toward the center. Old-school is the new counter-revolution.

For me, comfort beer is a fastball with no movement, right down the center of the plate. Accordingly, my aim as beer director during the first eight weeks of Pints&union has been to re-establish the concept of a beer list purposefully designed to showcase world heritage classics -- not ignoring contemporary craft creativity, but contextualizing it.

In short, you can't know where you're going unless you know where you've been.

As such, phase one of the bottle and can list at Pints&union largely is complete. We have a few housekeeping tasks to complete with regard to storage, then phase two can commence, boosting the everyday list to around 50 selections, with room for a few rotating guests.

Meanwhile draft sales have been the steady engine we hoped they'd be, and in spite of being frustrated by wholesaler outages, a firm template is in place: eight lines, six of them fixed and two rotating, albeit it very slowly on a seasonal basis.

We're using a basic, short-draw keg box system for draft, and all along there has been space in each box for a 1/6 barrel keg. I wanted to take a few weeks to assess the sales landscape, and accordingly we can now begin to use these two draft lines, beginning on Thursday (September 20).

In terms of formatting, one of these taps will be devoted to heritage, and the second to serendipity.

By "heritage" I mean ales like St. Bernardus Tripel.

Belgian Tripel derives from the Trappist brewing tradition, and especially in terms of its typical deep golden-orange hue, it stands as a relatively recent adaptation of old-school brewing methods.

Hendrik Verlinden of the Drie Linden brewery, brewing scientist and yeast specialist, had been formulating a golden ale to combat the celebrity of pale beers in Europe in the early 1930s (he helped Westmalle in the 1920s as a consultant of sorts). In 1932, he released Witkap Pater (now Witkap Tripel). His beers were marketed as Trappist, which wasn’t altogether apropos with those monasteries, but because of his earlier role in assisting their brewing, he was the sole non-Trappist brewer allowed to market his Witkap Pater as a Trappist-style beer. His role in helping Westmalle develop its tripel is nebulous, but it is known that the monks were also tinkering with this new style by 1931. Westmalle introduced its tripel, and newly built brewhouse, in 1934. It is still considered the standard by many. Ever the perfectionists, Westmalle’s esteemed Brother Thomas tweaked the recipe to include more hops. It has remained unchanged since 1956.

Note that Pints&union also carries Westmalle Tripel on bottles, but the draft of the moment comes from the St. Bernardus brewery, one-time Trappist supplier, now a producer of "abbey" styles -- signifying a connection to the Trappist legacy.

Located in Watou, just 12 kilometers (about 7 miles) from Westvleteren, St. Bernardus brewed the “Trappist Westvleteren” beers under a license from the monks at Sint Sixtus Abbey from 1946-1992. There’s a billboard from that era in the St. Bernardus tasting room that reads: “Brouwerij Sint Bernardus: alleenvervaardiger van de bieren van de abdij van West-Vleteren,” or “Sint Bernardus brewery, the sole producer of the beers of the Abbey of Sint Sixtus in Westvleteren.”

That arrangement came to an end when the license expired in 1992. A new brewing facility was established in Westvleteren. Crucially, St. Bernardus retained all the recipes they had brewed for Sint Sixtus during the 46-year relationship, including that of the Westvleteren 12, a 10.2% ABV Strong Ale which RateBeer awarded “Best Beer in the World” in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2012, and 2013.

Although St. Bernardus is just a few clicks from Poperinge, a town I've visited many times, somehow I've never been to visit the brewery. This omission will be rectified in 2020. Pints&union also carries bottles of the epochal St. Bernardus Abt 12, which is the finest Trappist that isn't a Trappist at all.

Moving to the second new draft line, we'll be inaugurating it with Sierra Nevada Harwhal Imperial Stout, which dates to 2012. Interestingly, the idea of brewing stout goes all the way back to Sierra Nevada's inception almost 40 years ago.

When Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi opened Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California, in 1980, the first beer they made was a stout. Sierra Pale came along shortly after but took almost a dozen tries to get the recipe dialed in to their liking. In his book Beyond the Pale: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Grossman says the pair spent a lot of time “trying to decide exactly what flavor and aroma profile our flagship beer should have. We knew we needed to create our own style of beer that would stand out as being unique and distinctive.”

Of course "imperial" stout is the boldest and strongest of the stout family.

Though the history of imperial stout is somewhat murky, it was indeed a London brewery that is credited with popularizing the style as a strong, exported stout. Around 1781, Barclay Perkins began exporting its stout to assorted ports in the Baltic region. Purposely brewed to be a formidable beer, it would easily withstand the voyage. The serendipitous extension of this attribute was that it was also perfectly suited for the cold, gnarly climate, where spirits were very much favored. When Empress Catherine II discovered it, its place in Russian legend was cemented. The commercial viability of the brew ensured that the style endured.

Recently the enduring mystery of the narwhal's distinctive "tusk" has been partially resolved: it's used to immobilize prey as an aid in fishing for food.

The narwhal is the unicorn of the sea, a pale-colored porpoise found in Arctic coastal waters and rivers. These legendary animals have two teeth. In males, the more prominent tooth grows into a swordlike, spiral tusk up to 8.8 feet long. The ivory tusk tooth grows right through the narwhal's upper lip. Scientists are not certain of the tusk's purpose, but some believe it is prominent in mating rituals, perhaps used to impress females or to battle rival suitors. Females sometimes grow a small tusk of their own, but it does not become as prominent as the male's.

Here is Sierra Nevada's description.

A malt-forward monster, highlighting the depths of malt flavor, Narwhal Imperial Stout is inspired by the mysterious creature that thrives in the deepest fathoms of the frigid Arctic Ocean. Featuring incredible depth of malt flavor, rich with notes of espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a light hint of smoke, Narwhal is a massive malt-forward monster. Aggressive but refined with a velvety smooth body and decadent finish, Narwhal will age in the bottle for years to come.

At 10.2% abv, Narwhal Imperial Stout is a "gravity" beer and will be served in 10-ounce glasses. To me it's a dessert beer in itself, to be sipped after a meal.

For St. Bernardus Tripel, we have 25 cl signature glasses. Pair with a Croque Madame and seasoned frites.

As for what will follow these two beers, I'm not sure. I'd like to keep the Tripel on tap for at least two weeks, at least until Harvest Homecoming. Narwhal's a one-off, and I'll see what's available before rendering a decision.

Plot twist as Jenna Clem (Huber) takes to Go Fund Me: "Save Joe Huber's Family Farm."

Jenna Clem says there's another side to the story.

Lamentation aplenty as Joe Huber's Family Farm prepares to be parceled and auctioned.

I have no dogs in this fight, but let's allow the daughter have her say. Click through to read the entire testimonial.


$2,230 of $1.0M goal
Raised by 79 people in 8 hours

My name is Jenna Clem (Huber).

I would like a chance to tell everyone the truth, instead of the version that will be portrayed in a statement by the auction company, as to not make anyone “look bad”. At this point, I’m not worried about hurting anyone’s feelings, as some are not concerned with hurting mine.

My father was Joseph Huber lll. I’m sure that most of you reading this also know that my father was killed in a tragic mowing accident at his home on July 27th, 2015. My father devoted his entire life to the farm, as did my grandfather, Joseph Huber Jr. Since the death of both my grandfather and father, there has been a divide in the family. To some, money means more than keeping a family tradition alive. My husband and I have made multiple fair offers to purchase the farm from my aunts and uncles which were not even considered. So I can assure you that the next generation is very interested in keeping their legacy alive. I can say this with certainty, as I am the next generation ...

Lamentation aplenty as Joe Huber's Family Farm prepares to be parceled and auctioned.

As the late, great Kevin Richards was known to observe, it is what it is.

Joe Huber's Family Farm & Restaurant to be auctioned off later this year (WDRB)

There's no doubting the level of pure country boy genius behind the idea that city folks would be wiling to drive 35 miles out of their way to do the work themselves and pay the property owner for the privilege.

That's hall-of-fame savvy, and there ought to be a plaque somewhere.

At the same time, it's simultaneously the best and worst component of a family business to be comprised of family members. Hypothetically, the only child wishes not to continue in the family business, while multiple siblings can't come to a collective decision and feud.

Will the Huber property be purchased and populated with hundreds of McMansions in a great orgasmic outburst of peak sprawl?


Just remember that the only constant is change -- and for the love of Jeeebus, stop asking about what is to become of Pop's Reserve; the winery and distillery are owned by the other branch of the Huber family.

Grappa, anyone?

"We can’t eradicate dangerous human errors, but we can design our road systems to protect us."

No matter your station in in life, here's a reminder that if you fancy yourself "progressive," but believe city streets are meant for the convenience of high-speed, pass-through traffic, and not to better serve the needs of a healthy neighborhood occupied by humans, then I've got some jarring news.

Turns out you're not very progressive at all. That's because street grid design is a social justice issue, too.

Beginning today, a new rule: any candidate for public office who fails to display a solid grasp of these issues won't get my vote. We may be perfectly aligned otherwise, but if a candidate feels it best for cars to speed from one end of the city to the other on a street corrupted into a highway, sorry, no go.

In the following, the author focuses on speed limits, which as we know are only partially effective. Other design elements are probably more important. The point is to begin at the beginning: speed kills, and if safety is the goal, we should be doing what it takes to reduce vehicular speeds in neighborhoods.


Hey, Neighbor! Slow Down, Speed Matters, by Alli Henry (Walk Arlington)

Alli Henry is the Program Manager for WalkArlington. As an engaged Arlington resident, she spends her days advocating for creating walkable, livable and equitable neighborhoods.

It’s no secret – speed plays a major role in traffic related injuries and fatalities. With national traffic deaths on the rise, cities across the US are embracing safer street policies and lowering speed limits.

Most vehicle crashes can be prevented by avoiding dangerous behaviors like distracted driving, driving under the influence and excessive speeding. Yes – we’re all human and we make mistakes, but human error shouldn’t result in life or death situations. Studies have proven lowering speed limits is a highly effective tool in creating safer environments for all users (i.e. vehicles, bikes and pedestrians) to share the streets.

Boston and Seattle, recently joined a growing list of US cities that have reduced speed limits on arterial (fancy word for major roads) and neighborhood streets in the name of safety initiatives, such as Vision Zero. As highlighted in this Vision Zero video, “No loss of life is acceptable. The road systems need to keep us moving, but it must also be designed to protect us at every turn.”

Speed Matters
It’s no coincidence progressive cities are reducing speed limits to 20-25 mph. Research has determined that traveling above 30 mph puts our most vulnerable users at higher risk of serious injuries and death. A recent study published by Smart Growth America, identified people of color, lower-incomes and older adults as being the highest risk populations.

The graphic below, created by the City of Seattle, illustrates the varied chances of a person walking surviving a collision with a vehicle. Pedestrians have a 90% survival rate if stuck by a vehicle going 20 mph. Sadly, chances of survival are reduced to only 50% when a vehicle is going +10 MPH faster (30 mph).

There’s no single solution to make our streets safer; however, there are proven fixes we can collectively pursue. In addition to speed reductions, tougher school-zone enforcement, installing protected bike lanes and implementing “Complete Streets” are all becoming increasing popular tools.

What’s next?
It’s simple, take action! We must demand safer streets and holistic collaboration from our elected officials, engineers, urban planners, enforcement officers, educators and citizens. After all – we’re all in this together and every day we delay taking action leaves our communities and loved ones vulnerable.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"If we continue to absolve our urban design of any wrongdoing with these deaths, how are we ever going to make positive changes?"

No matter your station in in life, here's a reminder that if you fancy yourself "progressive," but believe city streets are meant for the convenience of high-speed, pass-through traffic, and not to serve the needs of a healthy neighborhood occupied by humans, then I've got jarring news.

Turns out you're not very progressive at all. That's because street grid design is a social justice issue, too.

Another Metro Atlanta pedestrian blamed for his own death, when urban design looks like the guilty party, by Darin Givens (Medium)

It’s important to improve the way our news outlets report pedestrian deaths and collisions. It’s about respect for the dead, who can’t speak for themselves, but it’s also about the need for change. If we continue to absolve our urban design of any wrongdoing with these deaths, how are we ever going to make positive changes?

Monday, September 17, 2018

S&M -- or, the pain and pleasure we contemplate as INDOT and KTC meet to discuss the (S)herman (M)inton's 2021 renewal.

Great minds think alike.

We all know the bridge repairs are necessary, and at least it's nice to have more than a day's notice for a public meeting.

Here are the details of the more than $90 million Sherman Minton Bridge renewal project, by Caitlin Bowling (Insider Louisville)

... Officials with the Indiana Department of Transportation and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said they haven’t decided whether to close the bridge during the construction, which would save time and money but force many drivers to find alternative routes, or opt for a partial bridge closure, which would ease traffic pains but increase the cost and length of construction.

The two government entities are seeking feedback from residents before making a recommendation in fall 2019. The input gathering is part of a federally required environmental study, which includes an analysis of the social, economic and environmental impacts of the project, as well as mitigation efforts.

Two open houses will be held in October, allowing residents to comment on the project and ask questions. The first is from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2, at Scribner Middle School, 910 Old Vincennes Road in New Albany. The second is from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4, at Chestnut Street Family YMCA, 930 W. Chestnut St. in Louisville.

Construction is slated to begin in early 2021 and take two to three years to complete. The work is expected to add up to 30 years onto the life of the 56-year-old bridge ...

BOW reveals Senor Iguana's to occupy the former Dragon King's Daughter space at the corner of Elm and Bank.

This has been rumored for weeks, but now the Board of Public Works and Safety has let the tacos out of the bag.

Speaking of tacos, Señor Iguanas Restaurantes Mexicanos will be occupying a space just yards away from Taco Steve at Bank Street Brewhouse, just a couple blocks from the new Longboard's Taco & Tiki, with La Tiendita only a block away from Longboard's.

That's a Taco Walk in itself, and year-round. Maybe DNA should invest in its own food truck?

How I learned to stop worrying and appreciate Mark Twain.

The only piece by Mark Twain that I can recall reading after completing high school graduation requirements is "Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven," evidently the last story published by Twain during his life (in 1909).

Just as far as your eye could reach, there was swarms of clerks, running and bustling around, tricking out thousands of Yanks and Mexicans and English and Arabs, and all sorts of people in their new outfits; and when they gave me my kit and I put on my halo and took a look in the glass, I could have jumped over a house for joy, I was so happy. “Now this is something like!” says I. “Now,” says I, “I’m all right—show me a cloud.”

The late Bob Youngblood may or may not have had an acerbic comment to make about this revelation, but I'll press on and further confide that my attitude toward Twain has tended to align with Ignatius J. Reilly in John Kennedy Toole's novel, "A Confederacy of Dunces."

“It smells terrible in here.'

Well, what do you expect? The human body, when confined, produces certain odors which we tend to forget in this age of deodorants and other perversions. Actually, I find the atmosphere of this room rather comforting. Schiller needed the scent of apples rotting in his desk in order to write. I, too, have my needs. You may remember that Mark Twain preferred to lie supinely in bed while composing those rather dated and boring efforts which contemporary scholars try to prove meaningful. Veneration of Mark Twain is one of the roots of our current intellectual stalemate.”

Likewise, until two weeks ago I hadn't viewed Ken Burns' documentary film about the life and work of Samuel "Mark Twain" Clemens; having done so, I found myself deeply and surprisingly moved.

Samuel Clemens was a country boy who yearned to be a city slicker, and largely succeeded in becoming one, but couldn't completely evade his origins.

It's an apt metaphor for America, and maybe even me.

Clemens created a fictional mirror image of himself called Mark Twain, a name borrowed from steamboat jargon for a navigable depth of the river. Predictably, the man and his role eventually merged and became inseparable. We see it all the time now in this hyperbolic media age, but Clemens knew all along.

The creative process is endlessly fascinating, whether pertaining to a writer like Clemens or Burns as a filmmaker. Both display immediately recognizable stylistic templates, and both have been known to bend the truth a bit in pursuit of art. My guess is that Burns would be troubled by articles like this one, but Mark Twain the master storyteller far less so.

Mistakes and Misrepresentations in Ken Burns' film MARK TWAIN

PBS Broadcast - January 14 and 15, 2002

The following is a list of mistakes and misrepresentations in the documentary MARK TWAIN by Ken Burns. In many cases, accuracy has been sacrificed to artistic license. Other errors were made at a point in the production when corrections were impossible to make.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Death to chains, death to Dunkin Donuts -- and spare me the tired argument that it's a "local" business.

Charle's Marohn's piece at Strong Towns is almost five years old, but no less relevant now than it was in 2014.

Next time you're playing bumper cars and competing for inches of asphalt on State Street, look up past the runoff waterfalls to the plateau called Summit Springs, where the buildings being constructed will house businesses like Dunkin Donuts, the subject of Marohn's focus.

According to Marohn, there are at least two big problems with these chains -- which couldn't have been installed without local government subsidies generally unavailable to indie entrepreneurs, and propelled in the case of Summit Springs by TIF bonds used to finance the Daisy Lane road extension.

First, the relationship that Dunkin Donuts – and any national chain, whether selling tacos or auto parts or massages – has with your community is the same relationship that England had with its American colonies back in the 1700’s. The colonies provided raw materials. English merchants, manufacturers and transporters would take these materials, process them and provide them back – with all the value added – to the colonies. The government would take a nice bit off the top for the trouble and, just like that, you have a mercantilist economy, one designed to have a positive balance of trade for the English.

Second, there is an effect on the genuine grassroots entrepreneur.

In the localized version of capitalism, this person starts the doughnut shop. Over decades they slowly and incrementally build their business, creating a modest amount of wealth for themselves and their family in the process. In the national corporate franchise version of capitalism, this person becomes the night manager. They work for someone else. They may have some corporate profit sharing, but it is disconnected from their day-to-day work. They may have a 401(k) plan, but they’re not going to get wealthy from it.

Here’s what breaks my heart: I’ve seen that night manager. I’ve seen the look in their eyes. And I’ve seen that entrepreneur, felt the look in their eyes. One is borderline resignation, an acceptance of fate. The other contains endless optimism. I want an America full of endless optimists.

Tragically, we’ve priced them out.

Speaking personally, I hate chains because they're aesthetic abominations. I also know just how hard it is to create a business from scratch without recourse to throwing money at a tested template, and if this means I have a degree of contempt for those with enough cash to do it, that's fine by me.

But Marohn's valuable contribution to this discussion, as so often echoed in these pages by other contributors, is this:

Not all economic development is created equal. Not all local investments build wealth in our community. Not all open markets produce optimal outcomes for all places. If we want our places to prosper over time, we have to be prepared to ask a tougher set of questions at the local level.

Here's the rest of his essay, which has as its starting point the conditions to obtain a Dunkin Donuts "unit" in Minnesota. Thanks to JG for pointing to it.

Dunkin Our Future.

... Amid all the celebration, one little tidbit of information caught my attention:

Adequate capitalization – Requirements vary by market, but the lowest requirements are $250k minimum liquid assets and $500k minimum net worth per unit.

Now truly, when going through a list of potential small business startups, the kind of thing that someone without an MBA but just a lot of drive and desire could undertake, is not doughnut shop at the top of that list? Along with bakery, pizza joint and coffee shop, in my mind I imagine these as being the familiar Stage 1 businesses that pop up out of nowhere whenever that magical critical mass is obtained. (For more on Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 businesses, listen to my interview with Economic Gardening guru, Chris Gibbons.)

But if you are going to start a Dunkin Donuts, you need a cool half mil in net worth, at least half of which is liquid, meaning cash or something that can be quickly converted into cash. That doesn’t sound very small business friendly.

For households where the highest wage earner is under 35 years old, the ideal age for someone who is not necessarily college material but nonetheless has the work ethic and the entrepreneurial spirit to step up and start a business, the median net worth (excluding home equity) in 2009 was $2,003. Let me say that again. Take over half the families where the primary breadwinner is 35 years old or less, add up their investments and savings and then subtract their debts, and they have less than $2k. In other words, they are only $498,000 short of being able to start a Dunkin Donuts.

Note that for people 65 and older, that number jumps to slightly over $25,000, which should scare the hell out of everyone.

“Dunkin Donuts – and national franchises like them – are not looking for entrepreneurs. They are looking for investors.”
What this means is pretty clear: Dunkin Donuts – and national franchises like them – are not looking for entrepreneurs. They are looking for investors. They want people who already have money, who have already amassed wealth. They are looking for those people because they want someone locally to assume the bulk of the risk, whose interests will be aligned with the corporation and shareholders sufficiently to ensure that the right management is retained and the store is run efficiently.

That’s a very different person, and a very different impact on the city, than the doughnut shop started by your local go-getter with vision and a dream ...

PINTS & UNION PORTFOLIO: Johnny Drum Private Stock is the bourbon, and Civil War drummer boys are the inspiration for a tune.

What does this ...

... have to do with this?

Maybe something, maybe nothing.

I'm the beer guy at Pints&union, conducting my latest sociological experiment into retro classics -- those neglected, heritage, legacy and "greatest beer hits," which these days are overshadowed by the ever-shifting cornucopia of newer-age craft styles.

Naturally there'll be a few of the latter thrown into the mix for good measure, even if my mission statement stays the same: We can't know where we're going without knowing where we've been.

As should be obvious by now, Pints&union is a varied establishment, and it's "about" far more than beer alone. The ambiance is unique, the kitchen is hitting on all cylinders, it's family-friendly, and the bar program features liquor, wine, champagne and cocktails to suit all tastes.

This isn't merely advertising copy. In its infancy, the pub already is displaying a mature balance of offerings, which is testimony to the forethought and planning Joe Phillips has put into it.

I'm the beer guy, but I'm also a beer guy who is forever in favor of learning more about spirits --and history. When I saw we'd started carrying a bourbon called Johnny Drum, it intrigued me, so I did a bit of research.

Johnny Drum Private Stock is 101 proof (50.5% alcohol), and part of a Willett Distillery (specifically, Kentucky Bourbon Distillers) product line. Willett has been a family-owned company since it came back to life after Prohibition. There was a period of dormancy during the 1980s after an ill-fated experiment with the production of ethanol as a motor fuel additive, and distilling on-site only resumed in 2012.

What this means in practical terms is that until recently, all of Willet's various bourbons were sourced from other distillers, something we know is fairly common in the bourbon business.*

As a beer guy, it reminds me of lambic blenders in Belgium, which acquire spontaneously-fermented ales from brewers and combine them to achieve the desired house character.

Apparently Johnny Drum was created in the 1960s at the behest of a California wholesaler. Originally it was labeled as being 15 years old, but today there is no age statement. Apparently this practice is controversial in some quarters, although it falls outside my limited aims at present.

It’s not that these whiskies aren’t aged at all, it’s simply that rather than have a specific barrel age, the whiskey is composed of a blend of variously aged whiskies, selected and blended by the distiller to evoke a consistent flavor.

As for review, I love this fellow's approach.

My friend Lew Bryson's 2015 review for Whisky Advocate also makes sense in a complementary way.

88 points
Johnny Drum Private Stock, 50.5%

Plenty of color, and the nose says it ain’t lying. Sharp warehouse oak aroma puts an edge on an authoritative nose of honey, Indian pudding, spicy hard candy, and old-fashioned root beer, the not-too-sugary kind. Fiery and bold on the tongue as oak roars from start to finish, but the sweetness builds sip-by-sip: cornbread, buckwheat honey, King syrup, and a teasy bit of citrus peel. Long finish as the oak dies down. At this price, let’s keep it our secret. Sourced whiskey.

Indian pudding?

Mention Indian pudding to a non-New Englander, and you'll likely draw a blank stare. Though it has always been staple on Thanksgiving tables in New England, and was known throughout the country well into the 20th century, the humble corn custard has largely drifted off the modern-day culinary map. Some older Yankees may harken back to memories of eating the colonial curiosity as children, but there are even more who have simply never heard of it.

Cornmeal and molasses. Got it.

The beer guy is a word guy, too, and so it should come as no surprise that this bourbon's name of Johnny Drum intrigues me as much as the contents of the bottle.

According to the bottle’s label, Johnny Drum served as a drummer boy in the year 1861 during the Confederate (Civil) War. At the end of the war, legend has it Johnny returned home to his native Kentucky, where he staked claim among a beautiful spring. Johnny learned the importance of finding a way to convert his excess corn crop into a profitable item, rather than allowing it to go to waste. As the story goes, it wasn’t long before Johnny’s determination produced an exceptional bourbon whiskey.

It's a fine explanation for the socioeconomic rationale of distilling in a free-market economy, and it would be tempting to dismiss the remainder as hokum except for the fact that there probably were several thousand drummer boys named Johnny during the American Civil War, and it's likely more than a few were nicknamed Johnny Drum out of sheer expedience.

Perhaps the best known example in popular culture of the Civil War drummer boy is the depicted in the song leading off this post, "The Drummer Boy of Shiloh." Specifically, it's the version included in the 1976 commemorative bicentennial 100-LP set from New World Records called The Recorded Anthology of American Music, which itself requires an explanation.

Civil War songs: "I’m a Good Old Rebel," but assuredly not like this.

Appropriately in this sesquicentennial Civil War year, I’ve been listening to Songs of the Civil War (New World Records 80202), with liner notes by Charles Hamm. It’s always been my favorite of them all.

Hamm's liner notes tell the tale.

Track 6: The Drummer Boy of Shiloh

More than 100,000 members of the opposing armies were under sixteen, and some were as young as thirteen. The youngest boys often enlisted as drummers; their duties were to drum for drills, parades, and marches and to give various signals once a battle was in progress. A “long roll” was a signal to assemble for action, and sometimes they would “beat the rally” to instruct troops scattered in battle to reform around the colors, near the drummer. In the confusion, excitement, and panic of battle they would often put aside their drums, take up the arms of a fallen comrade, and become part of the fighting. And they were often killed. The death of any man was horrible, but even seasoned veterans were shaken and sickened by the sight of maimed and slaughtered children lying on a battlefield. Poets and songwriters commented on this aspect of the war, as they did on so many of the dramatic and horrible facets of the conflict; and if their poems and songs strike us today as maudlin and sentimental, we should at least be thankful that the conditions that prompted them are no longer part of our life—at least in the United States.

William Shakespear Hays, a Kentuckian who turned out more than three hundred songs, wrote the first successful portrait, published in Louisville in 1862, of a dying drummer boy. The style is eclectic, with echoes of Irish melody and Italian opera giving the song a flavor that by now was characteristically American—and appropriately poignant for the sad tale of the wounded boy who “prayed before he died.” Later editions, published by Blackmar & Brother in Augusta, Georgia, gave the music “as sung by the First Tennessee concert troupe, arranged for the piano forte by E. Clarke Isley. ”The song’s success caused a flood of similar pieces, including “Little Major” by Henry Clay Work,“The Drummer Boy of Antietam” by Albert Fleming, and “If I Sleep,Will Mother Come?,” the mournful saga of the drummer boy of the 1st Minnesota Regiment.

The most famous drummer boy of all was named Johnny -- Clem, not Drum, and he was a northerner, not a rebel.

Photo credit: Wikipedia.

For many years it was reputed that Clem was present for Shiloh, and may have served as (living) inspiration for the song's melodramatic mythology, but the evidence weighs strongly against it.

Clem became famous a year later.

Clem served as a drummer boy for the 22nd Michigan at the Battle of Chickamauga. He is said to have ridden an artillery caisson to the front and wielded a musket trimmed to his size. In the course of a Union retreat, he shot a Confederate colonel who had demanded his surrender. After the battle, the "Drummer Boy of Chickamauga" was promoted to sergeant, the youngest soldier ever to be a noncommissioned officer in the United States Army. Secretary of the Treasury, later Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and fellow Ohioan, Salmon P. Chase, decorated him for his heroics at Chickamauga. Clem's fame for the shooting is also open for debate, despite press reports supporting the story into the early 20th century. It is possible that he wounded Col. Calvin Walker, whose 3rd Tennessee opposed the 22nd Michigan towards the end of the battle.

In October 1863, Clem was captured in Georgia by Confederate cavalrymen while detailed as a train guard. The Confederates confiscated his U.S. uniform which reportedly upset him terribly—including his cap which had three bullet holes in it. He was included in a prisoner exchange a short time later, but the Confederate newspapers used his age and celebrity status for propaganda purposes, to show "what sore straits the Yankees are driven, when they have to send their babies out to fight us." After participating with the Army of the Cumberland in many other battles, serving as a mounted orderly, he was discharged in September 1864. Clem was wounded in combat twice during the war.

Now, where was I?

Ah, yes; Johnny Drum Private Stock. To be honest, I've been so distracted by listening to Civil War music that there hasn't been time yet for a taste. Seems that in bourbon, as in other facets of life, We can't know where we're going without knowing where we've been.

But do I even have the palate yet for bourbon tasting? I guess there's only one way to learn -- and no spitting, either.


* Sommelier and Pints&union patron Jonathan Kiviniemi provides this "sourcing" update.

Johnny Drum is one of my favorite every day go to bourbons. Originally all sourced, it is now a blend of sourced and Willett distillate.

Everything they put out was sourced until they launched the new version of Old Bardstown a few years back. That was their first release of something 100% their own distillate (outside of a handful of 2 and 3 year rye bottlings in the Willett Family Estate line).

Since then, they've been blending their own distillate into the KBD products (Kentucky Vintage, Pure Kentucky, Johnny Drum, Rowan's Creek, Noah's Mill) and into the Pot Still bottle. Outside of the 2, 3, 4, and 5 year Estate bottlings and Old Bardstown everything is either partly or 100% sourced.

On pints, union, Jouett Meekin and a people's history of New Albany.

We saw two major league baseball games in Baltimore last week, with my Oakland A's happily winning both, and although our arrangements were made long before youthful New Albany native Josh Rogers joined the roster of the woebegone Orioles, there was at least a theoretical chance Rogers might pitch.

He didn't, but it got me thinking about the greatest pitcher New Albany has produced up until the present day: Jouett Meekin (1867-1944), who retired in 1900 just as the "modern" era in professional baseball began.

Of course "modernity" is at best an approximation. Did you know that a baseball clearing the outfield wall on one bounce still was considered a home run as recently as 1930? Since then, it has counted as an automatic double, or in the vernacular, a "ground rule double."

Over the years I've mentioned Jouett Meekin several times in this space. At six feet, one inch and 180 pounds, he possessed a murderous fastball compared by none other than stats guru Bill James to Amos Rusie's and Cy Young's, averaging 16 wins a year during a career lasting from 1891 through 1900.

Meekin undoubtedly was New Albany's most famous baseball player prior to the advent of William Jennings Bryan Herman.

Billy Herman, named by his parents for an early 20th-century politician, presidential candidate and religious zealot (frequently targeted for well-deserved abuse by H. L. Mencken), was a second baseman from 1931 to 1947, and later coached and managed.

Herman was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975. There's a ball field downtown named for him, and his granddaughter Cherie is married to former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels.

As a baseball lifer, Herman lived on the road, and it isn't clear whether he spent any significant time in New Albany during or after his playing career, although by the mid-1960s, his permanent residence was listed as Florida.

I mention this only because Meekin returned home when his playing days were over. There's a plaque marking the house of his residence, which in spite of perennial slumlord neglect still manages to stand a mere block away from NA Confidential headquarters.

One fact unites Meekin's and Herman's eras in baseball, in that neither made very much money as baseball players. While Herman obtained employment in the game, Meekin was in his early thirties upon sporting retirement, and he needed to work, so he became a fireman and stayed a fireman for the remainder of his working days.

Ironically, a short time after Meekin's death a stylish new firehouse was built right across the street from his house, as yet in use as Rogers recorded his first win as an Oriole.

The preceding ruminations stem from a Wednesday evening with beers in a nearly deserted Camden Yards, thinking about Rogers, Herman and Meekin, and the thread of sporting continuity that links them despite crazily disparate time stamps.

The chronology wouldn't let me be, so I had to take a second look, learning that Meekin was born on February 21, 1867.

Damn it!

We missed the opportunity to honor Meekin's 150th birthday with a gala at Pints&union, except of course Pints&union didn't exist until his 151st also had passed, so the very best we can do is have a 152nd birthday party in 2019, hopefully making it an annual event in subsequent years. Meekin's birthday being February, perhaps a spring training motif is best.

Given that our friend Mark Keeler has conducted research into Meekin's life, and he's keen to share it, celebrating the pitcher's birthday might also afford the opportunity to honor a few more chapters in the "people's" history of New Albany.

As noted previously, taverns most often have occupied the 130-year-old building at 114 East Market that now houses Pints&union. Was Meekin the fireman ever a patron while off duty?

To conclude, Herman probably was the best baseball player this city has produced, at least yet. Still, we need to treat even this assertion with a disclaimer; for instance, what do we know about New Albanians who may have competed in the pre-desegregation Negro League?

It is my belief that Meekin deserves special consideration for his post-baseball career as hometown fire fighter, and taken together with his achievements in baseball, a simple plaque on a Midtown house doesn't quite do it for me. It wasn't until 2002 that Meekin's grave in Fairview Cemetery even had a proper marker, thanks to the efforts of Curtis Peters and the Floyd County Historical Society.

Stay tuned for more, and if you have any information about Meekin, please pass it along.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: Throwback time, or "Finding Sanctuary on September 11."

We flew to Baltimore earlier this week. It was September 11, 2018, a date determined by the major league baseball schedule, just another flight on Southwest into BWI on a Tuesday morning and back out again on Thursday.

Tuesday's major news item was the apocalyptic approach of Hurricane Florence, with remembrances of 9-11-01 being reduced to those few airport televisions not already tuned to the Weather Channel.

At some point I began thinking about the terrorist attacks 17 years ago on September 11. They were strangely sepia-tinted, suggesting a whole different world. Perhaps this owes to the fact that for me, it really was.

My father had died earlier that summer of 2001, and my first marriage was rapidly disintegrating amid escalating preparations to build the original NABC brewery on Plaza Drive. It was a period of grief, stress, uncertainty and self-doubt.

I won't deny my alcohol consumption was at an all-time peak even before the fateful day in September, which occurred less than two weeks before a "beer travel" group tour of Eastern Europe I'd been planning for many months. There was little choice except to postpone the trip, which eventually departed in May, 2002.

However, my first airplane voyage after the attacks occurred a couple of months prior to the international flight, circa March, ironically was from Louisville to Baltimore.

It was a very strange experience. People were still on edge. Seemingly overnight, air travel had changed in ways that now seem inevitable given what we know about Osama bin Laden's efforts at inciting planetary war, but at the time were jarring and a tad Kafkaesque.

I'm digressing considerably, because the reason for this post is an e-mail I received while seated at the Max's Taphouse bar in Fell's Point this past Tuesday afternoon. It showed me this:

Something about it seemed very familiar, and for a moment I suspected a time warp, but no, Diana was right there beside me, and a repeat of the previous evening's Washington Nationals game was showing on one of the televisions.

Clicking through, I saw Stan's and Daria's All About Beer story from January 1, 2002. First, a sobering thought.

Children Born After 9/11 Are Now Eligible to Serve in Our Endless War in Afghanistan, by Jacob Weindling (Paste Magazine; September 13, 2018)

We have become completely numb to our forever war in Afghanistan. It is the longest war in American history, and it barely makes the front pages anymore—despite the fact that the Taliban is getting stronger by the day ...

... Tuesday marked the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. You can enlist in the army at age 17. Which means that babies born after the September 11th tragedy can now fight in the war launched in its name. If that doesn't break your brain even a little bit, your brain is already broken.

As of July 27, 2018, 2,372 American military members have died in Afghanistan. Another 20,320 have been wounded. Civilian deaths are notoriously difficult to track, especially since our military is loath to admit their failures on this front, but a rough estimate pegs the total civilian deaths in Afghanistan at over 31,000. And for what? What is the mission in Afghanistan? Why are we still there?

In other words, I could have been drinking beers in Baltimore for the last 16 years, and the war Osama actually did incite in Afghanistan still would have served as backing track -- after he was killed, a new building erected at the WTC site, and I was divorced, remarried and completely out of the NABC orbit.

Are we still taking our damn shoes off?

Anyway, the All About Beer article having returned to my consciousness after a long hiatus as I drank at Max's, I could remember when Stan phoned to ask questions about the mood at Rich O's on September 11, 2001. Clarity through the haze.

I hope the magazine doesn't mind the full reprint below. Be advised that their website is an excellent source of information, especially the style essays, so please consider a visit to make their advertisers happy.


Finding Sanctuary on September 11, by Stan Hieronymus and Daria Labinsky (All About Beer Magazine)

In the hours immediately after terrorists flew airplanes into the Pentagon and New York City’s twin towers on September 11, Rich O’s Public House publican Roger Baylor paced anxiously between his pub and Sportstime, the restaurant/bar next door that he also owns. Sportstime has television sets; his pub does not.

“I was freaking out, basically,” he said. He began to think of the many people with whom he wanted to talk, whom he should call. “Then I realized that I didn’t have to. I thought, ‘They’ll all be in here.’” Sure enough, as shifts ended, regulars began to drift in. “There’s a group of us; well, I’m always here; we all sort of appear at the same time,” Baylor said.

The regulars discovered that Baylor had put a television on the counter up front–the first time a TV had been in the bar in three years. Those who wanted the latest news could get it, then find seats out of television range. “People would retreat back into the bar to talk, to get away from these images for a while,” Baylor said. “The first few days there was only one thing that they talked about.”

Television news stories in the following days sometimes showed bulging barrooms across the United States, and other times, empty ones in tourist destinations. TV news reported patrons flocked to bars because they did not want to be alone while they watched the horrible images on the television screen, but did not differentiate between people watching alone in a crowd and those who sought familiar faces.

“People wanted to go to a place where they felt like they were with family,” said Daryl Woodson, who has been running the appropriately named The Sanctuary in Iowa City, IA, for 27 years. “They didn’t say that, but people who come in normally at 10 were in at 8.”

The Sanctuary has two fireplaces (one working) but usually not a television. Woodson brought one in on September 11, and took it out the next day. “People wanted to watch what was happening while the story was still unfolding,” he said. “One of our regulars asked where I got a TV with such lousy reception. I told him it’s called a cheap antenna.”

Throwbacks to Another Era

Rich O’s and The Sanctuary offer a broader selection of beer than do most bars–the best-selling beer at Rich O’s is Three Floyd’s Alpha King, and if an interesting specialty beer is available in Iowa, The Sanctuary is probably the first place in the state to offer it. These bars may be more noteworthy, however, because they are throwbacks.

The population of the United States has more than doubled since the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, but the number of licensed drinking establishments has shrunk by as much as two-thirds. In Chicago, for instance, there were more than 10,000 tavern licenses at the end of World War II, and now there are fewer than 2,500.

In The Great Good Place, author Ray Oldenburg notes that what he calls “third-place” taverns have been particularly hard hit. Oldenburg writes that not only have such taverns disappeared or changed–so have post offices, drug stores, grain elevators and similar “third places” (after home, first, and workplace, second) that provide informal gathering spots essential to the survival of any community.

The role of the tavern in American community life goes back almost to the time this country was settled. Parts of the American revolution were plotted in taverns. A century later, unions were born in taverns. Celebrations for soldiers heading to (and returning from) two world wars were held in taverns.

There are occasional reminders. Visit Cadieux Café, which has served Detroit’s Belgian enclave since Prohibition, and you’ll find a large display on the wall listing “Our boys at camp and overseas,” with the names of neighborhood boys who became soldiers.

Most such places are gone–torn down in old city neighborhoods, never built in carefully planned suburbs. Many watching the September 11 scenes from the rest of the country probably were surprised to find bars full of customers in much of New York City outside of lower Manhattan, but it is still a prototypical city, still has neighborhoods and still has bars that cater to those neighborhoods.

Neighborhood Bars

There are enough around that drinkers may choose a nearby place because the owner is Irish, because the happy hour prices are great, or even because the beer is more interesting than what’s next door. Across the country, beer with flavor has been an essential component in helping some bars build community, instantly giving would-be regulars something in common.

Beer is why many of the regulars started going to O’Brien’s Microbrew Pub in San Diego, but not why they were there the week of September 11. “Lunch times were ridiculous the first couple of days, nuts, just nuts,” said owner Jim O’Brien. Customers who usually visit only after work for the wide beer selection were also there for lunch, drawn by the food and televisions but also because they knew they’d find a friend on a nearby bar stool.

“We pretty much see the same faces on a day-to-day basis,” O’Brien said. “There was only one subject (of conversation). This place is never quiet and these guys aren’t afraid to be totally honest about what they feel.”

Things were quiet at the Country Inn in Krumville, NY, near the Ashokan Reservoir, which serves New York City and which was closed for safety reasons. “The original reaction was numbness; it’s still numbness,” said Larry Erenburg, the owner and guy behind the bar for more than 25 years.

The Country Inn doesn’t have a television, so customers sat quietly around a radio on September 11 before conversation returned to a normal level later in the week. Beer sales were up for the week, although the place was almost empty on Thursday when President Bush addressed the nation on TV.

“This place is a sounding board for people,” Erenburg said. But there are house rules against certain topics: politics, softball and chain saws. “There were flags waving, quite a show of patriotism in its own way, but it was just conversation rather than politics,” he said.

Politics is a more constant subject of conversation at Rich O’s, where The Economist and International Herald Tribune are always available for reading. “There’s a certain amount of discussion about the state of the world,” Baylor said, but also plenty about beer. “We always talk about beer,” he said, finishing with a laugh.

The discussion might center on what international company just acquired another smaller brewery or what to do with the firkin of Bell’s (Kalamazoo, MI) Two-Hearted Ale that accidentally got delivered to the bar. (The decision was to drink it.)

Woodson figures that about one-third of The Sanctuary’s customers come in for the live music (jazz, roots), one-third for the food (great pizza) and one-third for the beer and conversation. Few ask why there isn’t a television. “Having a TV is a good way to kill conversation,” he said.

His business was up in the weeks after the attacks. “I think people wanted to get away from it, seeing it all the time on TV,” he said. “Especially people who live alone.”

Affordable Luxury

Woodson, who in 27 years has seen more economic ups and downs than most of today’s brewpub and brewery owners, also doesn’t think that the economic downturn the attacks seem sure to worsen will seriously hurt a neighborhood tavern’s business.

“You are still going to go out for an reasonably priced meal, a decent evening, a few beers,” he said. “It is a luxury you can afford.”

Pam Brittingham, a bartender at The Globe in Athens, GA, saw a similar attitude in the weeks after September 11. The Globe opens at 4:00 p.m., so she and other employees listened to National Public Radio (the Globe has no television, and didn’t even offer one during the 1996 Olympics, some of which took place in town).

They kept the radio on in the first hours after the pub opened, but then changed to music at a low volume. “We wanted to give them some relief from what they had been listening to all day,” she said three weeks after the attacks. “By the weekend, people were needing to get out and do something normal, they didn’t even want to talk about it. It’s still probably what people talk about the most, but every three or four days somebody will say, ‘I can’t talk about this any more.’”

As important as neighborhood taverns were to so many people September 11, like too many other third places, they will probably continue to disappear at an alarming rate. But they really were “great good places” to be, and also to work, that day.

“There were definitely people coming in looking for each other,” Brittingham said. “It’s still going on. Everybody is extremely friendly and appreciative of each other.” And perhaps of having a good public place to gather.