A brewery, of course. Narrow Path in Loveland. Masked up. Socially distanced.
A brewery, of course. Narrow Path in Loveland. Masked up. Socially distanced.
I didn’t post yesterday. Technically my streak ended on January 31. I didn’t post that day either. As I recall, I just forgot. I had a couple of ideas, but I got into the mode where I substituted thinking about doing something with doing the thing itself. I do that with emails all the time. Well, I did back when people sent me emails I needed to reply to. That doesn’t really happen that much anymore. Words can’t express how OK I am with that. Seriously. This lack of steady income thing is, frankly, a pain in the ass, but I don’t miss being dismembered one paper cut at a time.1 Anyway, not posting yesterday wasn’t a matter of forgetting. I put it off several times earlier in the day. Not having a damned thing to talk about seemed like a pretty compelling reason to procrastinate. There wasn’t a point where I said “Nope, just not going to post today.” Apparently there was a point when my brain decided that I was going to quit reminding myself that I hadn’t posted because it didn’t occur to me again until I got up. So here we are. I missed a post.
Carla suggested that I write today about what I’ve learned about forcing myself to write every day. Carla often makes suggestions like that. Good suggestions. Rational suggestions. Suggestions about what a person sitting outside my skull might want to hear out of the cacophony inside it. Because my life story is largely a series of cautionary tales for others, though, I usually don’t follow up on them. This time I’m gong to take a shot at following through. We’ll see how it goes.
I resent structure, but I generally do better when I have it. I’ve figured out that when I can get a post up early in the day I’ve probably struck a pretty good balance between structure and creative space. “Creative space” is what the people who used to pay me money to do things I mostly wasn’t interested in doing called “fucking around.” The more a task was something I didn’t want to do, the more creative space I needed. Why was creativity necessary? Mostly because I needed to figure out how to make whatever it was that somebody else wanted go away so I could continue to get a paycheck without shoving a pencil through my ear2. I joke now that I’m not housebroken enough for an office job. Well, I really never was. And now I’m not in one. So now there’s nothing between me and the realization that there’s a much shorter natural distance between me and someone in a coma than there is between me and a productive member of society. Here’s another example of where going with my gut is a a really bad idea for me. Some people seem to have a built in “Start” button. I have a “Sarte” button. You press it and nothingness happens. I know now that I’m going to have to fight that and it’s never going to be easy. I will mutter a lot.
I’ve read and listened to a few books lately that have really made me look at what I’m doing in a different way. Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy came out back in September. I can’t tell you how much I admire her as a writer and and as a person. Technically those aren’t two different things, but I don’t want to go down that rathole right now. She is such an amazing writer. She’s managed to create this persona on the page that’s kind of like a one-way mirror. We get to look in and see what’s going on, but she’s able to distract herself by making funny faces at herself. She overcomes her fear by being fearless. Which makes no sense if you think about it but is so clearly true you decide the best course of action is to just not think too much about it. The second book is Felicia Day’s You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). Her inner monologues and self-deprecating humor are brilliant. I like to say I like write in a flow-of-unconsciousness style, but she pulls it off. It’s also a great testament to the power of not knowing any better. She had no idea what she was getting into when she did The Guild. Confession: I’ve only watched a few early episodes. I was never a gamer. Doesn’t matter. To pull off something like that is amazing. The book explains exactly how hard it was to create something without knowing what the end product was going to be. I hope it’s obvious why I’d be interested in something like that nowadays.
I’ve discovered I enjoy writing the most when I can do it in the first-person. I don’t know why that is. Probably terminal self-absorption., which is weird considering how little I like myself. I think I grew up thinking people were always pointing and laughing at me so I might as well get ahead of the game and do it myself. I know now that people weren’t pointing and laughing as a general rule, though I did know some assholes growing up who definitely were sometimes3. In a more serious vein, I did come to the conclusion early on that I wasn’t wired like everyone else so I’ve had the blessing or curse (depending on the situation) of not assuming anyone else sees things the way I do. I know now that’s not true all the time either, but damned if I can figure out when it’s true and when it’s not. Thus, first-person seems the safest route. It’s a commercially-limited approach however, mostly because no one knows who the fuck I am and has no reason to care. That sets me up for posts like this that I’m having fun writing but ultimately don’t matter.
I know I don’t like writing when I’m mad or depressed. I seldom get less of either while writing. It’s probably that self-absorption thing again. I don’t think what I write then is all that good when I look at it later. Maybe it’s because I know where my head was at the time.
I’ve learned I wish I could make money writing haikus. That doesn’t mean I think there’s a way to actually do it, but I can no longer say I don’t have a dream. You want an impossible dream? There you go.
I like writing jokes. In casual conversation I do OK telling them, but I don’t know that I could get up and do standup. No, that’s not true. I could do it. I’d have to work on it a lot. I don’t know that I want to do it so badly I want to work at it. I just wish there were somewhere I could write “You know how people always say do what you love for your job? The first time I heard that I thought to myself ‘What? Where’s the money in masturbating?'”
I like thinking about beer. I like drinking beer. I’m still finding out how to write about beer I don’t find tedious.
Many mornings Carla and I hear a bell ringing at the Catholic church that’s across the park our condo backs up to. It turns out that bell once hung in the John Hauck brewery up in Cincinnati. I don’t know why, but that’s what I can’t get out of my head lately. I’m going to write that story. It involves people who are dead, buildings and businesses that are long gone and the small number of still-living people who have first-hand memories of events probably don’t realize they know part of an interesting story. It’ll be a piece of cake.
I’ve got to be working on something. I think this is going to be it.
And that’s what I’ve learned from trying to write every day and missing only two days so far.
1I know there are people I’ve worked with in the past who read this. Understand that I don’t mean the emails you used to send me. I treasured each and every one of those. You know who I’m talking about.
2If at any point I’ve been someone who reported to you, I need you to know that I’m not talking about you. You’re well aware that I’ve done many different things in my life and I’m talking about all those others that don’t involve your wise direction and leadership.
3Probably not you. Probably.
So I changed my mind and did a Hoperatives April Fool’s post after all. It’s not the usual one, but I worked on it pretty hard this morning and I think it came out pretty good. I could have easily done this same post in a non-beer mode. People have always been grumpy about April Fool’s Day, but it seems worse this year. My theory is reality has gotten too weird to handle satire. How does one write satire nowadays? What idea or event is beyond imagining?
It’s a miracle. I actually wrote a post for Hoperatives. “Well of course you did,” you say, “you never hesitate to mention you’re a co-owner of it. You certainly say it’s why you hang out at so many breweries.”
Yeah, that’s true. But since when does that mean I actually put any work into it?
When I said I was going to start writing here every day I wondered how I’d handle beer-related ideas. The funny thing about Hoperatives is that we don’t really think of it as a blog per se. Its job is really to be a clearinghouse for news and events concerning the beer community in Cincinnati. It’s relatively niche in that way. There are a few folks in town who are writing more traditional opinion/news blogs about beer. There used to be more, but they keep getting hired by breweries and distributers. The Cincinnati Enquirer and the Cincinnati Business Courier both cover the beer scene pretty well from a straight news perspective. The TV stations tend to do a pretty good job as well.
WLWT WCPO used to have a guy who was quite plugged into the scene, but then a brewery hired him away.
In case you’re wondering, I’m not housebroken enough to be anyone’s full-time employee anymore. I’m all ears if a brewery is looking for somebody to do a project, but I may be the one white guy over 40 who doesn’t want to go work for a brewery full-time. It’d really cut into the time I can hang out in them. Plus I’d have to leave the basement. That means pants.
So anyway, how to handle blog posts that might deal with beer? Ones like today are a no-brainer. A brewery I really fell in love with on a couple trips to Detroit — Short’s — is coming to the Ohio side of the river. That’s a news story and it belongs on Hoperatives. Lots of beers come into the market all the time, but I don’t always have a personal history with them. I worked that in, but it’s still a Hoperatives story. On the other hand, beer has played a large enough role in my life to date that it’s bound to come up here now and then. I think, though, that I’ll mostly try to come up with other things to talk about here. I’m really trying to avoid the “hey, I wrote this thing over at Hoperatives, that counts for my post here” type of approach. But is that worse than a haiku? Not sure.
I don’t know. Like everything else, I’m making this all up as I go along. Within the confines of this blog, at least, I’m only trying to make me happy.
I got in touch with my inner Canadian yesterday. Carla and I went to the Cincinnati Gardens Skating Center to join fifteen or so other folks who’d backed Braxton Brewing’s Kickstarter campaign a year ago. One of our rewards was a “Learn to Curl” session with the Cincinnati Curling Club. Since the ice can only be maintained in the cooler months and Braxton’s first year has been a whirlwind, it took a little while to get it all to come together.
It was absolutely worth the wait.
My knees are pretty much crap nowadays from carrying around too much weight for too long. That lunging move you see when people launch the stone? Yeah, that’s not going to happen for me. It turns out they’ve come up with a cheater stick that old fat guys like me can use, and I spun a few stones down the ice. I’m going to say what everyone who ever plays the game for the first time says: it looks a lot easier than it really is. And it’s even more fun than it looks.
After about an hour on the cold ice my knees were screaming at me, so I shot some video on my phone. I decided to finally give one of those iMovies templates a try so I this edited on my iPad this morning1. Here’s what I came up with. Two explanations of things in the video: Braxton’s motto is “Lift One to Life” so that’s where the title “Curl One to Life” comes from. People who contributed to the Kickstarter campaign are “Braxton Builders.”
With no further ado:
1I think back to ’91 or ’92 when I got a call from a guy at Adobe who was bragging that they had hardware and software that could digitize video at something like 12 frames a second at (I think) 320×240. It might have been 160×120. And it’d only take about an hour a minute to capture. I can’t remember how much it cost because I was laughing so hard. And now I’m shooting on a phone and editing on a tablet. Kind of nuts.
Braxton Brewing Company officially opened last Friday and one of the things done during the opening is play a little video I dreamed up and then had a chance to edit. Here it is:
You can go to Hoperatives to read more about Braxton and the opening, but I wanted to say a bit more about how the video came about and the challenges of putting it together. This is anything but a woe-is-me exercise because I had an awful lot of fun doing it. There was some pressure, but it was mostly the kind I put on myself. I wanted the final product to be good and it seemed like there were roadblocks every step of the way. It’s a story in and of itself and it ought to be written down somewhere. Luckily. I have a place to do that. This goes on for a while, so I’m going to go ahead and make a jump. It’s not like I update this blog all that often, but I would like the page to be a bit manageable. So click on down if you want to experience some video nerdery
I guess I really don’t need to rationalize why I nerd out so much about barbecue, but I do. People are often surprised I’m not big into homebrewing given that Carla and I do Hoperatives. I have several answers that are all accurate but incomplete. “There are lots of professionals who are willing to make it for me in exchange for small sums of money,” is what I usually say. Sometimes I explain that I’ve tried it and liked it well enough, but just decided I didn’t want to make the investment in the gear I’d need in order to do it seriously. “Obsession” and “gear” go together in my world. In the end, though, I think smoking meat scratches the itch in me that homebrewing does for others. While smoking and brewing take about the same amount of labor (brewing more, if anything), but the nice thing about smoking is that at the end of the day you have barbecue. With homebrew you have a couple of weeks to wait. If you build up enough inventory over time you can deal with that issue, but that gets back to the whole equipment/space/storage issue. I don’t do delayed gratification well. Barbecue works for me. And if I want to homebrew, I know lots of folks who’ll let me come over and use their gear (and who will protect me from doing something dumb that will ruin a batch).
Beats the hell out of me how gardeners manage that hobby. I respect it immensely. But it’s not for me.
So yesterday’s batch of pulled pork may be the best I’ve done so far. I wound up pulling it off the smoker at 185° internal and let it rest a half-hour or so (I expect I got a carryover to 190° or damned close). You can see from the picture that it split as I was taking it off. I had to tug a little, but the bone came out clean. Used a set of Bear Paws and the meat shredded in short order. The bark is flavorful, but not overpowering, so the rub was a real success. That last stall didn’t really make any difference in the end. I’d decided that 190° was my target temperature and was getting frustrated that it wasn’t getting there steadily. I was wondering if I’d wind up having to slice the meat rather than pull it. That wouldn’t have been a disaster. It just wasn’t the plan.
All that time I was in the second stall good things were happening, though. Collagen starts to melt and squeeze out water (that then boils away) around 160°. I think I hit the first stall around 151° when we had a good breeze and circulation was pretty good inside the Egg. The humidity was high inside because of the water pan and I think the wind died and circulation became much, much weaker, setting up the conditions for a second stall at the higher temperature. Except it really wasn’t a “second” stall. It was the same stall, just moved to a higher temperature.
So what does this do to my approach for next time? It turned out so well that I think I’ll continue to use the water pan and just tough out stalls when they happen. If I know going in that I’m on a schedule, I may do something along the lines of what’s discussed in this article about wrapping with foil when the meat gets to 150° or so and the smoking is done. The article draws on the research of Dr. Greg Blonder that I cite whenever possible. It just seems kind of dumb to say “I used a water pan. I made the best batch I’ve made so far. So next time I don’t use a water pan.” But some days I may not have 12 hours. And there’s just enough futzing with dampers to keep me from trying an overnight.
The last loose end from this cook is the lump charcoal. Most of what I put in yesterday burned. There’s some left and I figure I have at least two long smokes left in the bag I bought. I expect less waste than what I get from your basic bag of Royal Oak or whatever. It seemed to burn evenly and the ash is very, very fine indicating complete combustion. I still can’t decide if it’s worth the money, but I think it performed well. A Twitter friend clued me in to where I can find Humphrey up in Dayton. I want to try it.
I think I’m going to go enjoy the fruits of my labor yesterday.