ON THE AVENUES: Faux thanks and reveries (The 2013 Remix).


ON THE AVENUES: Faux thanks and reveries (The 2013 Remix).

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

This annual Thanksgiving Day column is evolving into a variation on a theme, in which I append something topical to regurgitated previous musings.

The cutting and pasting leaves more time for eating, you see.

I may not “give” thanks in traditional terms to non-existent deities using code language that annoys me, but it doesn’t mean I’m not capable of being thankful. Top billing goes to wife, mom, friends and co-workers, all of whom comprise a diverse extended family. I get by with a little help from everyone, to be truthful, and I’m like anyone else. I’ve been lucky, and also made my own breaks. There has been serendipity and opportunism. I’ve worked, worried and plain bore-assed in equal measure.

Balance. That’s the thing.

I’m fortunate to make a living from drinking beer, preferably in my natural habitat of the pub. Yes, it’s a business, and we need to make a profit to survive. However, at the end of the day, intangibles and ideas matter more. Being in a position to educate and challenge is the real motivation, because the pub really should be the poor man’s university.

Granted, a higher percentage of filthy lucre would be useful, and yet it seldom bothers me. I won’t ever be rich, and I’d rather be good at what I do: Teach, agitate, create lasting memories and try to get to the heart of the matter – whether it’s beer, localism, streets or all the above, tied together as they should be. Legacies don’t have to be built on wealth, and “profit” and “non-profit” are mere concepts in the mind of the beholder. We won’t be taking any of it with us.

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

This year marks the 10th edition of Saturnalia, NABC’s annual celebration of winter seasonal and holiday drafts. It begins tomorrow (December 29) at the original Pizzeria & Public House location, and runs through the month of December. It’s a personal favorite, and a memory maker, primarily because so many fine people return for the holidaze. These festive beers provide suitable accompaniment to the joys of reconnecting, sharing war stories, and remembering those no longer with us.

You know: The ones I’m thankful to have known.

A few years ago in the ‘Baminator, 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 the bicentennial junta’s year-long fixation on the year 1872).

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. As Russell Brand’s recent revolutionary rantings remind us, the most wonderful aspect of iconoclasm is that rampant personal dissipation does not pre-empt the message. It actually may enhance it.

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 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 Christian 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 boasted 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 approval of African-American slavery, emanating for many generations from Southern 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. Or, conversely, those of a bicentennial committee.

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 (November 29), 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 to independent small businesses.

At least there’s food on Thanksgiving. As oft times before, this means transformative dining at the venerable Vietnam Kitchen in Louisville. 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 are crisp spring rolls, exotic peppery noodle dishes, clay pot catfish and French coffee for dessert.

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