Nighttime’s dissonant cacophany
The country goes by quickly through the driver’s side window at 70 MPH. Headlights and neon a streaking dissonant cacophony of notes in nighttime’s orchestral performance. Each straining to be seen and heard above all the others without regard for harmony. A blur of trees, plains, mountains, roadside restaurants, cars, and the people inside. No time to focus on anything or anyone for more than brief second, if that. I learned that lesson almost thirty years ago when I drove from New Jersey to California for law school. Staring out at the Pacific from the beaches in Malibu upon arrival allowed ample opportunity to look forward in anticipation of friendships to be made, experiences to come, and hopes to be fulfilled.
Life goes by even more quickly through a 4 inch smartphone screen. Headlights replaced by opinions. Trees replaced by photos of children in celebration, ribs on the grill, abandoned pets in distress, and shoes to be purchased. Roadside attractions replaced by corporate offers, suggested recipes, recaps of last night’s hot date, raves about Dorito’s great new flavor, and triumphs over vacation packing and lawn care challenges. One another’s cares, hobbies, causes, victories, and failures fly by in a blur of likes and rants that make the headlights and neon at 70 virtually stand still.
My Taste is Superb & Public
I Pinned a Nail Product!
Eerie FB Blue Bullhorn
So much to like
Lonely Out There
Blue Screen of Compassion’s Death
In Your Face Opinion
Online diaries can’t be read during a screen refresh or pull down update. The vortex of social media values quantity and snappy pontification over meaningful communication as each of us turns the dial of our bullhorns up to 11 lest we be ignored over the din. Forgotten at the bottom of the screen. Hoping to be buoyed by a like to a post but knowing that few took the time to read it. Have we come to a point where the more we share, the less we care? Are we losing compassion to the scroll or has it already been lost? Can we care and meaningfully engage at the speed of social media?
Quantity Over Quality
I recently had the occasion to stare out at the Atlantic from the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. A symbolic bookend to those days gazing over the Pacific, though lacking the past’s anticipation of friendships to be made. Lacking anticipation of friendships became liking antics and posts by friends already made.
And I even read almost every one.
Wasn’t long ago that Atlantic City’s slot machines had honest to goodness handles that you could pull in hopes of a payout of a cascading stream of real coins. The apparent constant sound of metallic waterfalls made you think everyone was a winner on every pull of the handle. Of course we knew better. We knew every pull was a hit or miss proposition – usually miss.
Atlantic City isn’t what it used to be. The casinos have grown, improved and modernized. The slot machines have gone digital. Most of them don’t even accept real coins anymore and the cacaphony of cascading coins throughout the casino floor is just a digital sound file that could very well be pumping through the gaming floor’s sound system from one of the resort VP’s daughter’s iPods. Real coins aren’t the only things missing from the the slot machines these days. The slot handles are gone too.
Thankfully, the slot handles have been replaced by tap handles at Firewaters in the Tropicana. More thankfully, the payout odds with each pull of those handles is far better than the odds upstairs on the casino floor, in fact, the odds are perfect. Every pull of a tap handle at Firewaters guarantees a tasty payout.
Fifty craft and import brews on tap (OK, there are a few industrial swill spigots) and 101 bottled varieties. More than a handful of the available brews when I visited were impressive. A large selection is nice but a quality selection is far more important. I had a Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard and a Founders Breakfast Stout and if I was staying there that night I might have sampled a few more from the wall of taps which boasted Lagunitas, Great Divide, Left Hand, Smuttynose and plenty of others.
As an added bonus, the bartenders know their hops. Call me crazy, but I think you should know what you’re pouring, especially if you’re filling the glasses with some world class beers. You wouldn’t select a bottle of wine from a sommllier that raves about Sutter Home so you should expect the bartenders at a place with a respectable beer selection to respect the selection themselves. Anyway, our bartender, Sherri, knew her stuff and told us that management requires the staff to take tests on beer styles and brewers. Good for them. Good for us. Good for business.
So there are now 2 legitimate beercentric bars in Las Vegas’s poor step-sister city: the Tun Tavern Brewpub and Firewaters. Here’s hoping that the list grows! While hoping for that I’ll be sampling the bottled selections at Firewaters (to be certain there really are 101).
Oak Creek Brewpub in Sedona, AZ
Ask me almost anything about beer and there’s a pretty good chance I’ll know the answer. “What’s the difference between dry hopping and continuous hopping?” I know that. “Does chocolate malt really contain chocolate?” I know that too, and – no, it doesn’t. “What’s Fritz Maytag’s claim to brewing fame?” Yeah, I know that and it doesn’t have anything to do with inventing a combination Maytag dishwasher/brew kettle. “Who brews Pliny the Elder Ale and what styles of beer pair well with Thai food or Texas BBQ? Yes, I can tackle those as well. The list goes on and has gone on at beer tastings and other events for a while now. I’ve been a proud bearer of the beer geek tag for a good 8 years. I’ve hosted countless beer tastings, reviewed hundreds of beers, sampled hundreds more, brewed my own beer, given purchasing advice to a handful of owners, buyers and beer managers at local liquor stores and designed flights for some local craft beer bars but one question has evaded even a poor answer despite many attempts: “when did you become a beer geek (or beer nut as the question is usually posed)?” For far too long, the best and most honest answer I could come up with has been, “I don’t really know.” Absurd, how could I not even know enough to take a weak stab at such a basic and obvious question? Well, never one to be comfortable with not knowing the answer (especially to something so seemingly simple), I sat down with a contemplative pint or two of Great Divide Yeti Oak Aged Imperial Stout and determined to come up with something better than “I don’t really know.”
When it came to beer in the first place I was late to the tap handle, not having my first one until midway through my second semester of sophomore year at Syracuse University. A self-imposed goodie two shoes I can honestly say that I never had a drink at a high school party and I didn’t even thought about sneaking a little something from my parents bar. Throughout Freshman Year I never uncapped one of the Haffenreffer’s my future roommate, John Chawner, and his future wife, Cathy, were so quizzically partial to. When I did start to accompany my college buddies to the bars adjacent to campus I tended to stay away from beer completely – just hated the taste of it and couldn’t understand why anyone would drink it. Embarrassingly, I would usually be caught with a vodka Collins in those days but that’s another story.