Thursday, November 26, 2015

ON THE AVENUES: Faux thanks and reveries (The 2015 Remix).

ON THE AVENUES: Faux thanks and reveries (The 2015 Remix).

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

My annual Thanksgiving Day column has evolved into variations on a predictable theme, during which I append something topical to regurgitated musings from the past.

Or, much like the procedure at family gatherings occurring throughout this nation today.

Cutting and pasting leaves more time for mandated eating and drinking, except that this year, for reasons unknown, there has been a catastrophic and shocking diversion from our usual holiday tradition.

Vietnam Kitchen somehow is closed on Thanksgiving in 2015. I haven’t been this disoriented since spring training in 1976, when the A’s traded Reggie Jackson to Baltimore.

The Confidentials will give Annie’s Café a try instead, and afterward, slip into River City Winery, because Gary says that while he gave everyone else the day off, he’ll be on hand to serve wine until 5 p.m.

In fact, carry-out spring rolls paired with dry local red wine sound very good together. We just may have a new Thanksgiving tradition in the offing.


I may not “give” thanks in traditional terms to non-existent deities using annoying code language, but it doesn’t mean I refrain from thankfulness. Top billing goes to wife, mother, friends and co-workers, all of whom comprise a diverse extended family.

To be truthful, I’ve always gotten by with a little help from everyone. Throughout this strange, transitional year, I’ve constantly reminded myself of how fortunate I’ve been in this life. There has been dumb luck, and I’ve also “made” some of my own breaks. Serendipity and opportunism both have played roles. I’ve worked, worried and plain bore-assed in equal measure.

I'm thankful for balance. That’s always the important thing.

For a quarter-century, I’ve been fortunate to make a living from drinking beer, most often in my natural habitat of the public house. Naturally it is a business, and profits always have been necessary for survival, but at the end of the day, intangibles and ideas invariably have mattered far more to me.

Being in a position to educate and challenge has been the real motivation, because the pub truthfully should be the poor man’s university. I’ve tried to make it that way as often as humanly possible.

At times a higher percentage of filthy lucre would have been useful, and yet the absence seldom bothered me. I've never been rich, and likely won’t ever be, but I’ll stand on my record when it comes to teaching, agitating, creating lasting memories and trying to get to the heart of the matter – whether it’s beer, localism, streets, running for mayor or all the above, tied together as they should be, sensibly and coherently, because nothing exists in a vacuum.

Legacies needn’t depend on wealth. Most aren’t. “Profit” and “non-profit” are mere concepts in the mind of the beer holder, and we won’t be taking any of it with us, money or beer.

Legacies are about doing what you can, while you can, as best you can, and producing history impervious to calculations of interest, percentages and historical revisionism. Twenty years on, if someone smiles because they recall good times at the pub, then it’s the best return possible on my time and investment.

Meanwhile, bear in mind that the game isn’t over until the lawyers stop slinging. The more you hurry me, the slower I get.

Saturnalia, NABC’s annual celebration of winter seasonal and holiday drafts, begins tomorrow (December 27) at NABC’s original Pizzeria & Public House location, and runs through the month of December. Josh Hill’s first solo batch of Naughty Claus was tapped a few days ago, and will pour until it’s all gone.

I’ve had nothing to do with any of it this year. Still, Saturnalia is a personal favorite fest, and a memory maker, primarily because so many fine people return home for the holidaze.

Seasonal beers like these provide suitable accompaniment to the joys of reconnecting, sharing war stories, and remembering those who no longer are with us -- the folks I’m very thankful to have known while they were here.


A few years ago in the Jeffersonville News & Bugle, I made an observation: There’s never any better time than Thanksgiving for an iconoclast’s thoughts to be made public.

Naturally, it remains futile to expect anyone to read my outpouring of words on Thursday, the holiday itself. Given the inability of many New Albanian readers to wade through my commentary without scratching their heads in confusion, it’s plainly impolite to ask them to waste valuable football viewing time by engaging in a frustrating, household-wide search for seldom-used dictionaries and thesauruses.

But I am nothing if not stubborn, so let’s revisit the notion of “iconoclast”:

1. A breaker or destroyer of images, esp. those set up for religious veneration (like those chintzy, totalitarian-style, mass-produced photos of a leering Jeff Gahan that we’ll all soon be expected to place strategically behind our desks and at the entrance to area pay toilets).

2. A person who attacks cherished beliefs, traditional institutions, etc., as being based on error or superstition … rather like your humble correspondent.

My heroes have always been iconoclasts. From Socrates through Tom Paine, and not exempting 20th-century polemicists like H. L. Mencken, there’s nothing as thrilling as an iconoclast taking a headlong swipe at unexamined assumptions.

In recent times, as Russell Brand’s revolutionary rantings remind us, the most wonderful aspect of iconoclasm is that personal dissipation does not pre-empt the message. It actually may enhance it (see “pub” above).

Consequently, it is my duty to remind you that Thanksgiving, while perfectly enjoyable from a hedonist’s standpoint, and wholly conducive to this bibulous trencherman’s standards, actually stands for something more than gluttony and sports.

This certain “something” isn’t the prevailing pastel-colored viewpoint of Puritans and Natives merrily gathering for a quaint New England picnic, pausing only occasionally from the consumption of corn chowder and non-alcoholic cranberry wine to pray before their respective deities.

The need for apologetics aside, and whether or not Squanto miraculously facilitated a peaceful first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock, the subsequent history of the white man on the North American continent featured the unabated slaughter of Native Americans, incessant pillaging of the environment, and an exculpatory doctrine of “manifest destiny” interwoven with prevailing religious belief, as intended to ease the consciences (if any) of those pulling the triggers.

We’ll leave the open approval of African-American slavery, emanating for many generations from Christians occupying American pulpits, for another day of faux “thanks.”

In the context of genuine American history, and to the exclusion of mythology and wishful thinking, the holiday we term “Thanksgiving” is ironic, to say the very least. I prefer reflections on all human history to be in accordance with the record, and as events actually occurred, without the tidying impulse to obscure and sanitize them.

I accept that people in all places and times do what they can with what they have, and believe that the best we can hope for is to learn from the past in the hope of learning worthwhile lessons and avoiding mistakes. In my opinion, the worst error of all is to misrepresent the historical record to justify theological needs.

Like what’s about to happen to Jeff Speck’s traffic study when it finally is “implemented” beyond recognition for maximum monetization by Gahanism’s resurrected, non-book reading Orwellian cadres.

Yes, I observe Thanksgiving, too.

It’s just that I do so realistically.


America’s Christmas shopping season started on July 4, and it will reach a crescendo tomorrow, which frenzied pop culture vultures have dubbed Black Friday.

Pavlov’s overworked and fever-ridden mutt can be expected to salivate continuously as university economics school analysts (I’m gazing at you, IU Southeast) read imported tea leaves to guess whether holiday season retail sales will be sufficient to keep Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Home Depot and Meijer’s solvent for another year.

I prefer Plaid Friday, and shifting my shopping to independent small businesses. But at least there’s food on Thanksgiving. As noted above, this means seeking new Asian digs this year, and I’m sure Annie’s will suffice wonderfully.

Iconoclasm aside, I enjoy the traditional Norman Rockwell bird-spread as much as anyone, but cooking it at home simply isn’t an option. Our Thanksgiving indulgences take the form of alternative cuisine, from exotic peppery veggie noodle dishes to clay pot catfish.

After all, to each his own “tradition” – and may yours be peaceful, and not harmful to others.

Một hai ba, yo!


Recent columns:

November 19: ON THE AVENUES: Beer, farthings and that little-known third category.

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.

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