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SWORD OF BUTTER

Welcome back! It’s been a spell, truth-telling. Busy body, busy mind, distractions are like trying to catch snowflakes with our little brewery and family firing on all cylinders, the heat from our internal combustion melting the precious creations as they descend to alight on our waiting tongues. in other words, we’re on fire!

my heels (do flippers have heels?) dig in against the floating inertia of my dream. it’s my place, here in the weeds and dirt with the trees looming overhead, trying to keep calluses on my hands. i am doing my best to stay ashore as the ship that I built fills its sails and does it’s best to pull me deep out to sea. i am resolute. Transformation avatar: I am a walrus out of water.  

This year, like last year, like the year before has been successful and rewarding and challenging. Our beer is getting better (& better!), we are making good on our promises to customers new and old. My family is absolutely astounding. I’ve been too distracted and busy to sit down and write. This is changing! Right now! While not getting any less busy, I am committed to engage myself in this writing endeavor for at least one day per week. It is the polar opposite of the brewery activity in terms of what success means; all I want out of this selfish act is a bit of time to sit and think. And hope for things, like

an old engine. covered in rust and oil, it rumbles and dances as it hugs the explosions that keep it going. I heard once that some engines (like some people) reach a point in their life beyond normal expectations (read: Empirical Data) where, as long as they keep active, it becomes more likely that they will continue on, day after day. Into oblivion, perhaps? This applies:

The brewery is also transforming. The industrial revolution is creeping in, with all of the promise of easier life and efficient systems for working. Our ship avatar is no longer relevant, and in many ways I need to drop the rope from my bliskered tusks and allow the ship to leave shore, the wind furling canvas sails, hauling it effortlessly over the horizon.

the walrus watches, confused and relieved and slips back into the sea.

What then? The whale dons a suit? Trades tusks for a painfully white set of teeth? Begins smiling with the face and not the eyes?? Pay his favorite people too little, both in terms of money and time?

OR

Perhaps, instead, (with my newly discovered walrus strength) I pull as fucking hard as I can, allowing the surprise and indignation caused by the realization of ones dreams

outrageous confusion, raucous pride, rowdy anarchy

to grip me like Quincas Wateryell, the loafer-hero in Jorge Amado’s tall tale, in the scene where he earns his name. This is important, so please indulge:

‘Catching sight of a bottle on the counter, filled to the brim with clear, transparent, beautiful white rum, he poured himself out a glassful, spat to rinse out his mouth, and drank it down in a single gulp. The next instant, an inhuman bellow rent the placid morning stillness of the marketplace, shaking the very Elevator to its foundations. It was the howl of a mortally wounded animal, the cry of a man disgraced and betrayed: “Waaaaaaaaaaaater!”’

                                                -Jorge Armado, The Two Deaths of Quincas Wateryell

Imagine, for a moment, that the bottle is Life and the liquid in it my dream, my solution, my wish. By the Direct & Concrete Efforts of bottling my dream (i.e. Realization) Life transforms them into something that may look the same, but tastes much different than originally intended. (I have been known to claim that this process, this transformation, is much the success of our beer, oddly enough. But that’s different. Right??) In this case, it’s not the taste that causes the shock of surprise (the howl of the mortally wounded animal), but the betrayal: this is not what it was supposed to be like!

Now, I admit, this is a fairly dramatic portrayal. However, it helps me to account for my frustration with all the unseen challenges and ugliness that I spend most or a lot of my time on these days:

Pointless city and county code requirements. Ineffective and/or excessive taxation from an astounding variety of pinches. Throwaway culture and material mindset.  Armchair critics and quarterbacks. Elitism. The collective shrugging of shoulders. Always always always having ‘something to do’ with this business. Glommers. Trolls. Spreadsheets. Budgets. Big banks. Capitalism. Entitlement. Expectations. Credit card companies, insurance companies, loan officers, inspectors.

livin’ the dream

Now, back to the walrus gripping the creaking hemp rope between those bliskered tusks. The desire and mud and effort and love and confusion boil up until nothing can stop what comes next. The howl of the mortally wounded animal, the cry of a man betrayed. Yes, I know. DRAMATIC. But wait. Next. The howl of the walrus has attracted the attention of nearby whales, which immediately present themselves and turn in the direction of the ship. In karmic form, they use their broad heads and tails to smash the boat to splinters, the water churning and frothing. “You’re welcome!” fluked tails say as they sound off towards the resting place of a famous captain with a leg made of their bones (it is not lost on me that I didn’t place myself in the captain’s seat on this fateful ship…).

the rope goes slack in the walrus’ mouth. The gift of the whales lay at flippered feet. Water glints, clouds bump, sun sets. If the ship is no longer, what then becomes of the dream? The walrus hauls in the rope, expertly coiling it with his tusks. At the end of the rope, the dream is still attached! Not made of wood, but itself, whole. It swirls in diaphanous, blurred excitement. Unencumbered by the awkward container that held it previously (I make no claims to be much of a ship builder) it fires just like it did when it used to live inside me, before I had tusks.

This dream (not The Dream, but my dream) may often look like a brewery, but it is important to realize that the brewery is simply its dazzle camouflage (thank you, Lynda Barry). The brewery is its warm jacket and megaphone. The old friend when times get tough or when, er, someone (with good intentions) builds a ship around it and pushes it into the unknown with a hearty ‘BON VOYAGE’. The brewery is the stand-in history professor and it’s de facto father of my dreaming. The brewery is the form of my dream, bent and quirked all to hell by capitalism and the failed human promise into something truly beautiful. It’s my return on the investment I made with the world. No less beautiful as the whales whistle its swan song on their way to their appointment, mind you. Remember, this is mine. See what a good little capitalist walrus I’ve become?

see the walrus? Silhouetted against the unforgiving sea, it stares at the fibrous glow at the end of his rope. The end of his rope, for crying out loud! Somewhere back in the trees, a rusty old engine limps along. The walrus can hear it clearly in the alternative silence. It’s a comforting sound, and the promises of movement and warmth land on the confused walrus’ ears (they do have ears, I’m assuming). Humping his way into the brush, following the sound, the walrus drags the rope and the attached burning dream-thing behind him. He looks like a blubber bomb attached to a gigantic lit fuse. Oh!

Details, yes, but incredibly important ones. Unfamiliar waters, to be sure (again: ha!). I don’t know a thing about engines, really. Others do. Even if only in the figurative sense. Take the Smith family, for instance.

The Functional State of Things, pt 1

Our only full-time employee, Mr. Jared Smith, has assumed command of brewery operations. From brewing and fermentation to barreling down our beer, he is our Captain of All Things That We Make. A fucking righteous cylinder! So goddamn reliable. I should probably have some sort of ceremony and affix a badge to his bibbed Carharts. Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah! (The badge in the shape of a piston rod). His wife, Mrs. Nora Smith, is our Chief of Label & Tag Applications. Assisted, of course, by The Second Son with vigor, by young Isley Smith with gusto, and even younger Harvey Smith with sheer adorableness. I rarely take part in these essential operations anymore, and I tell you, this encompasses the part of our engine that keeps us afloat (HA! Do you see??). It appears that our engine is relying on only 2 cylinders for any and all forward momentum.

the walrus is stuck between a couple of small, bendy fir trees now. Wriggling, still clutching the rope, he wishes he had said ‘no’ to that last piece of flan earlier. At the end of the rope, the sparkling visage threatening to alight the duff it sits in. The walrus hears the “KA-dup KA-dup KA-dup” of the bumbling engine ahead and continues wriggling, fighting off the urge to grin for fear of dropping the rope.

The Functional State of Things, pt 2

I (in non-walrus form) spend my time filling bottles of beer, delivering beer, ordering supplies and materials, scheduling, tallying. Writing checks and mailing stuff. Talking on the phone, sending emails, occasionally posting something on instagram. Entertaining people. Talking to lawyers! Using the printer! Sealing envelopes, moving barrels! Reconciling! Struggling to find time to get a list together for our one-day-per-week cellarman, Hans Schopen. I think it’s because of the incredible amount of stuff that we don’t have time for. He’s managing to learn our weirding ways by osmosis somehow and I rarely give him enough room or instruction to complete the tasks I set out before him. Maybe I will in the future? I told Jared the same exact thing in the past. I never made good on that particular promise. He finally wrestled me for it and I gave a half-assed effort to resist (which I revisit from time to time). I have high hopes that in 2017 Hans will assume control of this 3rd cylinder, and without having to grapple with me for it.

the walrus twists and flops. Sighs. Lays its head down, blinking.

The Functional State of Things, pt 3

Enter Staci Arney and our excitable children. 2017 marks the year when we cut off our reliance on corporate amerikka (which saved our ass more than once, btw) and when we will begin existing as a true Mom & Pop operation. I almost typed ‘Mom & Poo’! Staci is leaving the job that allowed me to immerse myself in this brewery since 2011. She has brought home the consistent paycheck to cover our food, bills and fun. The brewery paid for our mortgage from the start (with the help of my 401k). Just this year did it start paying me; next year it will provide both our salaries plus insurance. Yowza! The Responsibility! Staci leaves this well-paying, flexible 9-5 job to come run our tasting room, which we are currently developing with love and intention. She will also take some of the tasks that I listed (with the same love and intention) above, and not necessarily the ones with the exclamation marks. Along with Hans’ part-time efforts, this tasting room endeavor along with my scattered responsibilities (& focus) make up the erratic and jumpy part of the engine, the one I hope to ignite consistently with the help of my silly perfect little family.

the walrus breaks past the trees and the odd glow behind him jumps along, leaving smoldering needles in his wake. The engine rambles in a small clearing, slanting bars of light beam from the branches of the trees above it, the exhaust illuminating Tyndall’s effect. The approach of this fat walrus akin to a worshipper approaching an altar. This is Magic, Faith without God. This greasy apparition, born of man’s refusal to accept what his god hath given, has become The Answer. The walrus slides up next to the engine, the heat of combustion makes his blubber feel funny. Rising above it, he slurps the rope toward him with his bumpy sea cucumber tongue. Carefully and not without heaping amounts of magic (it abounds in these places), he encourages the tiny star to move from the end of the rope and into the machine.