A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.
On being a writer, Ernest Hemingway suggested leading with truth.
“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
Much later, Stephen King elaborated.
“Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”
The summary already had been offered by Mark Twain.
“Write without pay until somebody offers to pay.”
These thoughts are prompted by a question many of you have asked me.
Well, if you figure it out, let me know. Just remember that we’re speaking personally, not in the municipal sense.
The political aspect of the query has been answered for now, although it bears repeating that during the mayoral campaign, I always sought to remind listeners that politics at the local level isn’t about “me,” but about “us.”
Will any of “us” remain here after four more years of Gahanism?
Conversely, and in vocational terms, what comes next is highly individualized, because it addresses what I’ll be doing with the rest of my own life. Chapters are closing and eras coming to an end. Like most other facets of one’s journey through this world, the future is overwhelmingly gray, and as yet amorphous.
Throughout the year, I’ve said that I’ll be selling my share of ownership in NABC to my business partners. This statement of general intent remains accurate.
However, it should surprise no one that the process for doing so always stood to be prolonged, and it is quite likely to take a while. There are nuts, bolts and legalities to be sifted through. Disentangling may well become a full-time job, and unfortunately, this position is pro bono – at least until it isn’t.
Consequently, for perhaps the only time in history, allow me to summarize my innermost condition with words penned by Southern rock legend Charlie Daniels:
“They’re my troubles; don’t let ‘em worry you none. When I signed on to be a man, I figured I was gonna have some. Like I say, either way – go or stay – you ain’t gonna change my life.”
About my high school listening habits … yes, they were a bit different back then. The world changes, and so must we.
Obviously, business matters eventually will come to rest, and there’ll be a resolution. Meanwhile, it would be helpful for me to determine what I intend to do after leaving a quarter-century-old sinecure, large chunks of which are of my own creation.
In fact, the possibility that I might choose to grow up some day has occurred to me from time to time, and I’ve frequently joked that one’s marketability isn’t necessarily enhanced by being the undisputed best-ever person to perform a job you designed for yourself.
Or, put another way, working long enough for yourself can make you unemployable. I’m about to find out if this is true. So it goes, come what may, and dial your own cliché.
I always wondered what this would feel like, and now I know. Sans the stereotypically abrupt, earth-shattering epiphany, it’s something that transpires over time. Your consciousness evolves. You become aware that one reality has passed, and another awaits. The feeling is daunting and liberating all at once, and it’s a bit scary at times.
What does it all mean?
Honestly, I don’t know.
Looking in the metaphorical mirror, I’m no less entrepreneurial in disposition than before, and remain zealously committed to the same principles of economic localism and independent local business advocacy which have served as motivation throughout my career.
As for beer, it’s been a big part of my life, though never the only part. I believe there’s still a place for me in it. However, the simple fact is that I’m not very interested in owning another beer (and food) business. I’d rather help other such businesses, perhaps through education, training and organization.
This is why I’m bullish about the future prospects for the New Albany Restaurant and Bar Association as a professional trade group. Unity among the purveyors of shared interest stands to lift the segment and take it to a higher level. I’ll help NARBA in any way I can.
Of course, I’ll also continue to write. In the end, writing is non-negotiable.
For me, writing is both compulsion and sublimation. I often wonder how it came to be this way.
Why is it necessary for me to unburden myself of thoughts, feelings, venom and delights, along with any other notions humans find themselves in need of releasing to the world at large, through this demanding medium of the written word?
It probably goes back to being a reasonably intelligent only child, and trundling off to the first grade with two bad legs requiring bulky exterior braces, as well as a speech impediment, one subsequently addressed with corrective therapy. Neither of these conditions was painful physically, but psychologically they were burden. In retrospect, these and other childhood health issues made me feel inferior.
On top of all that, we lived outside of town, and there weren't many other kids nearby. My social skills were stunted, and it would be an understatement of colossal dimensions to merely say “he was shy.” Rather, it was a crippling, oppressive and introverted shyness. Literally, I didn’t know what to say.
My father was a profane and outspoken extrovert who viewed potential human redemption exclusively as a function of team sports, and he meant well, but if I'd have been able to communicate and cooperate with others playing games, there'd have been no issue in the first place.
Books were my solace. What I liked to do most of all was read, and it was through reading that I gradually learned the merits of writing as a means of being able to express what I couldn't manage to say aloud.
It was only much later, when I got into the pub business, that I finally learned how to speak, and to address people directly with thoughts previously reserved for pen and paper.
By now, most readers know that my interest in better beer brought me into NABC. It was opportunity, circumstance and serendipity, not an MBA or previous management experience at a chain restaurant. After a few years behind the bar, it all started to make sense.
And yet speaking remains hazardous and always will. There is no "cure" for shyness. Your brain continues to work as before, while you ceaselessly and remorselessly treat the daily symptoms.
Learning to interact with others made me a better bartender and informed my writing. Moreover, it was a way of breaking out of my inner little boy’s ongoing prison and finding common ground with fellow humans.
They can be almost as interesting as words … at least some of the time.
So, now what?
Insofar as I can control my future progress, perhaps a bout of personal discovery, as prompted long ago by Michael “Beer Hunter” Jackson’s astute observation: “The pursuit of the perfect pint should last a lifetime.”
Words may be substituted for “pint” according to your own tastes and disposition.
Is there money to be made by following my writing muse? Will I become a greeter at Wally World? Is another political campaign likely down the road? Who was better, Charlie Parker or John Coltrane?
So many questions, so few answers. Then again, Beer Zen 101 always held that it’s less about the destination than the journey, precisely because the only finish line we share is the one marked Death, which always comes into view soon enough. It’s time to find another path less traveled, and get with it.
I’ll close with a request of the sort I seldom make: Please wish me luck – and as always, thanks for reading.
November 12: ON THE AVENUES: The mayor’s race was about suburban-think versus urban-think. The wrong-think won.
November 5ON THE AVENUES: Confusion, exile, ignobility and resistance.
October 29: ON THE AVENUES: A year later, the backroom politics of pure spite at Haughey’s Tavern still reek.
October 28: ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: How many businesses already have died because of City Hall’s street grid procrastination?
October 26: ON THE AVENUES EXTRA: Gahan says speeding sucks, but street safety can wait until after he is re-elected.
October 22: ON THE AVENUES: My career as a double naught capitalist.
October 19: ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: Courtesy bicycle to the Hotel Silly (2010, 2013).
October 15: ON THE AVENUES: To the New Albanians, each and every one.
October 8: ON THE AVENUES: There’s an indie twist to this curmudgeon’s annual Harvest Homecoming column.