Archive for the life Category

Over 1000 Words (What!?) On Why I Took A Job At Craft Tasting Room

Posted in beer, life with tags , , , , , , on October 16, 2014 by cueball

“Well, I’ve been listening to my gut since I was 14 years old, and frankly speaking, I’ve come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains.” – Rob, High Fidelity

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot today.  Today, I gave my notice to Lowe’s Home Improvement in Shelby, NC so I can essentially go and become a bartender (It is more complicated than that and I will get into that later.).

I’ve been thinking about that quote because, since announcing this move, I’ve been getting some well-meaning advice and concerns from friends and family.  I think the reason for this is, for most people this seems like something that has come out of the blue and seems to be a lark.  A move that makes little to no sense because it seems to be a step down from what I am currently doing.  My past history probably contributes to that feeling.

While this particular job, bartending at Craft Tasting Room and Growler House in Charlotte, did arrive on my doorstep suddenly, the planning for a move like this has been ongoing for at least six months.  Actually, it started before that.

In the last year, I’ve applied for two jobs at Lowe’s and I got neither.  The first that I applied for, was for a job with the Lowe’s Foundation that had the same description as the job I held at Foundation For The Carolinas.  I would kind of be doing the same work I left 6 years before, which is a whole other set of issues that were thankfully avoided.  I didn’t even get a telephone interview.  I do not even know if I really wanted the job, but I knew I had the skills to do the job.

Not even getting an interview forced me to rethink many things.  I decided to stop and reevaluate what it was that I truly wanted (mostly I knew I didn’t want to stay at Lowe’s on the sales floor for much longer, but not much more) not just as a job but how I wanted to live. That sounds like a bunch of new age bullshit, but I felt myself falling into patterns that were dangerous for my mental and physical health. Let’s put it this way, I really like beer and bourbon.

So, I rededicated myself to my rudimentary study of Zen Buddhism and mindfulness training while actually taking the time and effort to think about my life from the ground up starting with the most basic question, “How do I want to live my life?” This was not some abstract philosophical question.  This was a day to day logistical question of what a normal day for me would entail in my perfect life scenario.  Once I had that I moved to the specifics of where would I live to have this life and what would be doing for work to have this life.

There were four places I would like to choose from to eventually settle permanently:  the Triangle, Charlotte, Asheville, or Denver, CO. Then I had to figure out what kind of job would I have to live this perfect life scenario.  To get to that I thought long and hard about what skills do I have and what are the things I like.  Then I tried to manufacture a way to combine those things.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written, you can probably guess the job/jobs that will provide me with this life scenario I created involve writing and beer.  Here is the problem, there was no direct line from the job that I have to the type of work that I want.  The last six months especially have been about doing what was possible working a full time job with shifting hours to train and prepare myself for getting the work I eventually want.  At some point I was going to have to make a choice and make short-term sacrifices to get to where I wanted to be.

So over the course of a week almost a year ago, I actually set out a path for myself with what I wanted my life to be like and how I planned to get there.

Oh yeah, I did apply for another job at Lowe’s.  This time I applied for an Assistant Store Manager’s position at a neighboring store.  I did get an interview, but I think I subconsciously tanked the interview and didn’t get the job.  I say I tanked the interview because as I left the interview I remember thinking, “Do I want to be a store manager,” because getting that job would have put me on that path.  The more I thought about it, the more no was clearly the answer.

At that point, I knew I wanted more than to be a department manager or an ASM for the next ten years.  Watching that life unfold in my mind’s eye was as chilling as any horror movie.

This isn’t to denigrate anyone who does those jobs.  There are some people who are built to manage in retail and they are great at it, and I’ve worked with some of those people.

Not long after that, I decided to become a Certified Cicerone (I’ve earned the Certified Beer Server designation) and dedicate myself to the study of beer.

So, while this may seem to be sudden and foolhardy move on my part, it has been something I’ve been preparing myself for, for almost a year.  This isn’t a move without risk and it is not risk taken lightly or with no forethought.  To get where I eventually want to be, I need to be in the craft beer industry full time and I need to have the time and ability to really study craft beer as a product and as an industry. I believe this job at Craft is the perfect opportunity for that and it is an opportunity that met the preparation I began almost a year ago.  This is not the end point of something, it is the beginning of it.

What does all this have to do with that line from High Fidelity? This move isn’t something silly I’ve thought up and just decided to do with no conception of the consequences.  This is the first time I’ve actually thought out the direction of my life and what I really want it to be and taking this job is the second step in getting that life. Up until now, with the exception of one decision (the conscious decision to move to Charlotte after a time in Greensboro), I’ve gone with my gut during every decision.

Taking the time to think out what I want, how to get it, and the consequences of attempting to get it this time has taught me, I was a lot like Rob.  I looked around at where I was and what I was doing and I realized my guts had shit for brains.  They put me a hundred miles from ever a semblance of the life I wanted.

No life goes exactly as people think it will.  I’m probably not going to have everything in that perfect scenario I have in my head, but in the attempt to get that, I think I will get close enough to have a life that I actually like.

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Notes On The Occasion of My 40th Birthday

Posted in life with tags , on September 15, 2014 by cueball

I’ve been trying to think of some deep and considered advice I could give to whomever reads this as I officially pass the point where the end is closer to the beginning.  Most of what I wrote (this is not the first draft) are the same bromides you can read in the better greeting cards.  So here it goes. By the way, since I woke up this morning the line from Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage”, “The lunatic is on the grass,” has been flowing through my mind.  Not the whole song.  Just that one line.  Anyway

Find that one thing you love and do it.  If you can do it for money that’s great.  If you can’t do it for money, do it anyway.  Have things in your life that give you pleasure and that you make time to do not just find time to do.  You need something that takes your mind from the griminess of the real world or at the very least puts in perspective and helps it make sense in your mind.

It is OK to be a selfish asshole on occasion.  This is a hard thing for a lot of people to learn.  You are taught from an early age to not be selfish and to think of others before yourself.  At some point in your life you will have to walk your own path and many people around you won’t understand it. Learning how to say no is a very important and underrated skill.  It will keep you from going down a lot of dead end roads.

Find a job where the people you work for don’t think paying you means they own you.  Especially when you are younger, you will have jobs where you are low man in the pecking order and sometimes people will treat you like you are sub-human.  Leave those jobs as soon as you can.  Life is too short to deal with jackasses like that.

Now, after you have done all that selfish stuff to find your happiness, remember you still have to pay rent and put food on the table. That means there will be times you have to suck it the hell up and do what you have to do and work where you have to work.  Just make sure you give yourself a plan to get in and to get out of the situation as quickly as possible.

Speaking of plans, you don’t need a step by step plan for your life.  Mostly, because life will get in the way of that plan and blow it up, also, what do you do once you reach the end point of your life’s plan?  You do however need goals and you need to stay mindful of your decisions and how they affect achieving those goals.  Some people work great with plans, some don’t. For those that don’t (like me) two goals are all you need:  Where do I want to live and how do I want to live.  Once you figure those things out, you’ll fill in the details along the way as long as you stay mindful of all the decisions you make and how they point you in those two directions.

Finally, whenever you are about to use the bathroom, always, always, always check to make sure there is enough toilet paper before you sit down.

Late Night Musings, Edited For Clarity In The Light Of Day

Posted in life, writing with tags , , , on August 25, 2014 by cueball

This may be the most personal thing I will write for this space (and yet it is still rather obtuse).  I have been thinking about this blog.  I have been thinking about my life and everything else.  Mostly, I’ve been thinking about writing and its role in my life. 

After going a few months without really doing any writing and then coming back to it, I’ve discovered that I am the best version of myself when I write. 

What does that even mean?  The best version of myself.  That is some first world verbalization of a concept that had no meaning until the last 20 years.  For me it means the act of writing stills my mind.  It isn’t something I need to be paid to do.  It is something I need to do to keep me sane and to keep the better angels of my nature front and center.  It allows me to see myself and the world around me clearer. 

It lets me like myself.

The act, this very thing I’m doing right now, forces a discipline on me that compels me to make choices on a daily basis that are good for me.  In doing this thing, I am totally present for at least a couple of hours a day. 

Maybe that is what I mean by the best version of me.  Writing makes me stay present.  If not I have a tendency to lose myself in the past and the future of my imagination. 

Everyone needs that thing that is theirs.  That thing they do that makes the world seem correct, logical, and safe.  That thing that takes them to a place where they feel comfortable.  The place where you do not care what anyone thinks.  It is about you and for you and nothing else.  You don’t do it to make others happy or to make others comfortable.  You do it because it means more to you than anything else and it makes you happy. 

I read a lot of writing advice books and essays.  Sometimes the person writing the piece will say you need to think of your ideal reader or your audience when you are writing.  I agree you need to write in a way that is clear so that you do not confuse your audience.  You should write in a consistent voice that follows the internal logic of the work so that your reader will stay with you.  However, if you are writing for anyone but yourself (once you strip everything away), you will not be happy.  You have to write because you have something to say, something you need to express.  Yes, you want others to like it to read it to tell you it is good, but that comes later.  In the beginning, it is just you and the page.  The first priority is for you to say what you want in the way that you want.

There is a certain amount of selfishness and perhaps self-delusion to be a good writer and to live a good life in general.  Selfish enough to tell people no and to walk your own path without regard to others.  Delusional enough to think that you can do whatever you put your mind to. 

Walking away from the life you have for the life you want is not an easy thing.  It is fraught with minefields from internal and external forces.  When you make the decision you have to be know what you are getting into.   That is one of the things I’ve learned in my life.  In any decision you make, you must know and understand the consequences of your decisions and actions.  If you can accept the good or ill consequences of the decision you make, you have made if not a correct decision at least one you can live with for the rest of your life.  

When Robert Johnson was at the crossroads and he made his deal with the devil, he knew what he was getting into.  I love the idea of the crossroad.  It’s that place where you have a choice.   Neither choice is necessarily wrong, but they both have consequences.  You just have to decide what you can live with, what you can accept. 

Passion

Posted in life with tags , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2014 by cueball

Passion. 

I recently found a podcast, Tasting Notes, which combines two of my favorite things:  beer and music.  Each week, the hosts, Reis Hansen, Adam Mackie, and Tony Porreca, and a guest taste craft beer and try to match it to a song or an album.  It is an interesting and way to taste beer, talk about the beer, and talk about the how the beer is made.  If you like craft beer it is a fun and informative listen.

On the last show, the guest was Ben Howe the head brewer of Idle Hands Craft Ales and the owner of Enlightenment Ales. The thing that stands out is Howe’s passion for craft beer.  He loves every part of making beer, from the original conception of the beer to the name of the beer to the artwork on the label.  He has a true unquenchable passion for what he does. 

As consumers of art, literature, music, beer, food, we can all tell when someone truly has a passion for what they are doing.  We can tell when someone creates something that is more than just a thing they are doing for money.  You can tell when someone puts not only their skill but their soul into a project.  That is probably why I like craft beer and podcasts.  There is very little money in either.  The people who do these things and are successful are the people who care the most about what they are doing.

There is so much stuff out there, how do you distinguish between what is worthwhile and what isn’t. You really can’t.  What you can do is sample as much stuff as you can and hope you experience those worthwhile things more often than not, and the distinguishing characteristic about the things that are worth your time is the passion behind them.

That is why events like the Great American Beer Festival are great.  Even though GABF can be a shit show of people trying to get drunk 3 ounces at a time, if you really care about craft beer you do get the opportunity to interact with the brewers and let them tell you about their beers.  This may be the most fun part of the experience.  Anytime you have passionate, articulate people talk to you about their passion, you will learn a lot. 

That passion is a hard thing to find for many people.  Some are lucky and they find their passion early and work to hone it for years.  Others, wander about looking for it, with it just out of reach.  They know it is out there. They know there is something missing in their lives that they should be doing.  Sometimes those people find it, but more often than not, they don’t and settle for something that at least pays the bills. 

So here is to all those fortunate people who have found a way to make money through their passion.  They have never worked a day in their lives and they are the luckiest of us all.  May they continue to entertain and feed us. 

Staying Even Keeled By Trying To Stay Present

Posted in life with tags , , , , , , on August 20, 2014 by cueball

What keeps me even keeled?  What keeps me from going over the deep end and either killing myself or just leaving one day and never coming back, disappearing into the ether.  That is a question I have asked myself many times over the years.

At one point, I was unconsciously using alcohol to do it.  With proper dosage and almost constant application, alcohol can keep you even keeled.  Terribly numb to anything going on in the world, but even keeled.  It is a false since of contentment.  Alcohol, and I suspect any drug, only mask the things that are wrong.  They don’t solve them, which is why you have to keep going back to them for more and more as it becomes harder for them to cover up your issues until they drown you.  Luckily for me, at some point I figured out what was going on and got out of the situation I was in and walked away unscathed. 

I also have used exercise and diet to keep myself even keeled.  However, much like the alcohol, it slowly took over and replaced conscious thinking and feeling.  I jumped so deep into working out and eating healthy that I was counting every calorie eaten and burned on a daily basis, weighing myself every morning and tracking every ounce lost or gained.  Instead of the numbness of alcohol I was using the hyper-vigilance of obsessive behavior to mask what was going on in my head. 

I have learned alcohol and eating right and exercise can all be a part of a healthy lifestyle.  As long as they are used in moderation. 

I have an obsessive personality.  That manifests in two ways, one I grow obsessed with things in bursts.  This is great when it comes to learning about a subject and writing about it. That is why I’m going to start channeling this aspect of my obsessiveness in researching and writing about one subject a month on this blog or elsewhere (hopefully for money).  The other aspect of this obsessiveness is that I worry about the future a lot.  I start thinking about what will happen if I do this, then what will happen next, then this other thing will happen, then this person will do this, and then I’m in trouble.  The first thing that I need to do hasn’t even happened yet and I’ve already gamed out how this will end with me in pain.

How do I stay even keeled?  I started reading more, writing this blog, and also keeping a journal.  When I say journal I mean an old school Moleskin journal in which I write in by hand every day.  I’ve also started Zen Buddhist philosophy and I’m attempting to start a meditation practice to keep myself present.  One of the things about Zen is how it focuses on the present and keeping yourself from allowing things that you can’t control (like the past and the future) from controlling your life.  The past is over and the future is not guaranteed so you should not let them control your life because you can do nothing about either of them. 

The other thing I love about Zen is its concentration on process because process is something you can control.  You can’t control outcomes.  All you can control is your work towards those outcomes, and if you do the work correctly you will achieve a desirable outcome.  Though it may not be one you thought you would get.

The sand mandalas are the best example of this.  Buddhist monks spend days or weeks using sand to create beautiful mandala paintings on the floor.  The meticulously place each grain to create these intricate designs, and when they are done, they are ceremonially destroyed.  It was never about creating the design, it was about doing the process correctly and concentrating on your task to create this representation of the universe.  They are destroyed to show the transient nature of the material world.  The beauty of the painting is incidental to the process.  It is the only logical by product of the process.  

The idea of a long term process is at odds with so much of how we function in today’s world where instant gratification and short term success are prized over the slow act of building something that will last longer than 15 minutes.  You see this often in sports where the people in charge not only seem incapable of understanding how to build something long lasting, they seem almost hostile to the idea of attempting long term success. 

One of the ways this is manifested in sports is the idea that you need to get a player with a big name to sell tickets.  The idea is you need to get someone fans will want to see no matter how bad the team is.  That will work for a week or maybe a half a season, but if your team is crap no one is going to keep shelling out money for a bad product.  Building a consistent winner is the best way to get fans to pay money to see your team in the long term and for a long period of time.  That is harder than signing some aging free agent with a big name and no game left who won’t actually improve your product on the field, but whom fans know and will want to see.  If you pay attention to a lot of the GMs and coaches who work for your favorite sports network, you understand why they not only got fire, but should never be hired to run a team again.  They have no conception of any type of long term process geared towards a future outcome and only concerned themselves with winning today. They are all so concerned with keeping their job, they don’t actually do their job.

That is the great thing about Zen.  While it asks you not to worry about the past or the future because you cannot control either, it helps you focus in the present on the correct tasks and the correct processes for completing those tasks that helps you find the best possible outcome. 

So, how do I stay even keeled?  I try to always be present and trust in the process. 

The One Where I Ask a Bunch of Questions I Can’t Answer

Posted in life with tags , , , , , on August 18, 2014 by cueball

I’ve been reading The Rebel by Albert Camus this week.  It is an interesting coincidence that Ferguson, MO blew up at the same time.  It has been an interesting juxtaposition to read Camus’ ideas about rebellion as a populace battles its own police department in the streets they share.  Camus’ book was meant to be a critique of fascism and communism particularly communism.  It is also a tour through many of the rebellions and revolutions of humanity starting with Cain and Abel. 

I am thoroughly enjoying it. 

With the book and what is happening in Ferguson, the concepts of power, freedom, and community have been in mind constantly.  How does the power dynamic work?  How should freedom be expressed?  What makes a community/society?

It was Tommy Tomlinson on Twitter last week who said something like, America isn’t revealed in its most famous places, it comes out in the small places no one has ever heard of like Ferguson. 

In a city like Ferguson that is two-thirds black, yet has only 5 black officers on the police force, and all the governing structure is white, except for the aldermen from “the black part of town” who has the power?  Those who govern only have power by the consent of those whom they govern.  In theory the people are ultimate holders of power.  What happens when the people withdraw that consent?  Does the group in charge have the right to use its power, i.e. guns, to keep control? Is an insurrection by the people acceptable? 

Does freedom give the people the right to an insurrection if they feel the government is not responding to their needs and wants?  Is there a way to use freedom to protest a government without one side or the other escalating the situation into violence?  Can one group’s quest for freedom impinge on the right of another group to be safe?  Ultimately, what happens when freedom and power crash into each other?

Most importantly, what makes a community?  What makes a society?  Are societies simply groups of people held together by laws alone? If a society is held together solely by laws, isn’t that like building a brick wall with nothing by the bricks?  What is the mortar that holds a society and a country together?  The Soviet Union and many of its satellite countries were made up of disparate groups that were only held together by the laws governing those countries. As soon as the Soviet Union collapsed all these countries flew apart.  There was no there, there.  They had few commonalities outside of the power of the state holding them together and as soon as they went away, so did the country.  What is it that holds our 50 states together? 

I’m full of questions, but not many answers.  I just think what is happening in Ferguson is something that could happen across America.  From the feelings of not being heard or respected by the residents, to the over militarization of a police force, to tone deaf reactions to the situation by the power structure, this could happen in almost any city in America.  I guess I’m asking why it doesn’t.

Power and Freedom

Posted in life with tags , on August 16, 2014 by cueball

Power and freedom.  When people hear those words they think they mean to be able to do what you want whenever you want.  In a sense that is true, but those rudimentary definitions miss the fact that those two concepts are dangerous at best when they aren’t combined with an understanding the responsibility both entail.  The responsibilities are related but slightly different.

Power comes with the responsibility of knowing when and how to wield it.  The first rule of power in this case is, if you have constantly have to show or tell people you have power, you really have none.  Flashy shows of power come about for two reasons.  First the knowledge that you really have no power and second the knowledge that what power you did have is quickly disappearing. 

On one hand watching people and organizations run amok as they try to prove or hold on to power is fascinating.  They cast about wildly striking at anything and everything they see as a threat and thy think the more they do or say is strengthening their argument when it in fact is only hurting it.  On the other hand, as they swing about they are at their most dangerous and sad. The sadness is primarily because someone will be hurt for no good reason it is usually the people on whom this power is being exercised. 

In a perverse way, having the power to crush someone and not using it can actually give you more power.  The ones you don’t crush when you could have will be grateful and feel they are in some kind of partnership with you and give you a benefit of the doubt when you use your power. 

Freedom carries with it the same type of knowing when to use it.  With the freedom of being able to do what you want comes to responsibility of knowing when not to do something.  Freedom is a little trickier then power because the over use of freedom is not governed by fear as much as it is by a self-confidence that you can handle anything and an ignorance of your own limitations.  That ignorance is not only of your own limitations but of the power of things outside of you. Part of adolescence is the discovery of your limitations and the power of the things around you.  Part of life is the constant recalibration of both of those things. 

An important question is, how does one exercise this responsibility collectively in the public sphere, particularly when it bumps up against power. 

In a free society, when one group feels that another group is using its power in an adverse manner, how does one exercise their freedom to protest?  Protests are either nonviolent or violent. I use nonviolent instead of peaceful because protesters can be non-violent, but those they are protesting do not have to respond in kind and often do not.  That is actually the beauty of nonviolent protest.  It both shames those being protested and those who are “neutral” into correct action.  The nonviolent civil rights movement of the 1960s worked because it shamed moderate whites who up that point ignored what was happening into working to eliminate the inequality and violence being perpetrated. 

That’s the thin line.  When power is challenged it reacts violently.  To hold the moral high ground necessary to win eventually the challengers should not strike back with violence.  However, the fact that violence against a foe that is entrenched in power and has all the advantages that entails is a viable option for protestors should say a great deal about how dire they feel their circumstances are. 

With the granting of power and/or freedom comes the responsibility to use both for the greater good.  Only by functioning in concert through the judicious use of power and the responsible use of freedom does society function.