ON THE AVENUES: Cataloguing my consciousness on a warm spring day.


ON THE AVENUES: Cataloguing my consciousness on a warm spring day. 

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

“It can be costly to speak truth to power in your own home community” — from Harry Caudill: Man of Courage, a film by Jerry Deaton

Seldom do I “wing it” when writing a column, but it’s been an improvisational kind of week, month, year and career. Maybe I’m learning to live with it, so here goes.

My mother died almost two weeks ago, and since then, Diana and I have been touched on a daily basis by the many kind words, heartfelt consolations and loving memories.

They’ve come in abundance from our kinfolk, her former students and teaching colleagues, my older friends and newer acquaintances, and especially (at least from my perspective) from my parents’ neighbors on Baylor-Wisman Road in Georgetown. They’re such wonderful people.

Any effort to convey our appreciation almost inevitably will be feeble and inadequate, so please accept from us a final, simple “thank you.”

At the visitation, I found myself fielding numerous questions about what I’ve been doing these past two years and whether there are concrete plans on my horizon.

These are fair questions, and when folks care enough to ask me, I’m happy to attempt an answer.

For those just tuning in, my career as part of the business entity variously known as Sportstime Pizza, Rich O’s Public House, the New Albanian Brewing Company (and later, Bank Street Brewhouse) lasted from 1990 through 2015.

By early 2015, themes and threads gestating for several years had combined into something approximating a personal resolve to do something different with my life, and I decided to sell my share of both NABC corporations to my two longtime business partners.

Why, exactly?

In retrospect, numerous minor differences of opinion among the partners seemed poised to become major, and while it may yet prove to be mistaken, I thought perhaps some of the rancor might be avoided by being pro-active.

Concurrently, the craft beer revolution of which I was a regional originator looked to be well traveling down the familiar path of self-consumption and bastardization via capitalism as usual, soon to emerge as respected, business-publication-salivary-market segment, one consequently ripe for counter-revolution.

Seeing as I don’t tithe at the altar of the American religious cult known as Business for the Sake of Business, and I’ve never been able to abide business pursuits that involve propriety, respectability or One Southern Indiana (some would suggest “profitability” be added to this list), when “craft” beer stopped being fun, it ceased being me.

I don’t regret the decision to melt away and start over. However, it admittedly disappoints me that the NABC “divorce” settlement has not been resolved in all this time.

Perhaps this always was to be expected from an internal dynamic mirroring that of Fleetwood Mac, circa 1977 — though without the cocaine (trust me, there was a time when my beer consumption made up for it).

What now?

Interestingly, having steadily conceded ground in desultory settlement negotiations until sparse pennies on the dollar appeared a preferable alternative to the risk of brain damage from the inanity’s expanding extent, my mother’s unfortunate passing has altered the stalemate – at least in my head.

It is as though I’ve been freed of restraint, with the sweet radicalism of old tapping gingerly on the door of a hitherto bolted closet, asking for an opportunity to stretch its legs for the sake of old times.

So, until an agreement is reached and a check is cashed, I remain a one-third owner of all things NABC – some parcels of which are worth more than others, for which there is a simple, business-like solution, although it remains unavailable when two-thirds of ownership has blockaded (and sought to starve) the minority partner, this being me, and categorically refuse to implement the one expedient most helpful to all.

Yes, I’ve made plenty of rotten decisions in my life. However, drinking as often as possible with lawyers has not been one of them. Cocktails may be set to resume.

In spite of the settlement imbroglio, I have no regrets at all about the last two years of my life. It isn’t the first time I’ve retired for a short bit while I’m young enough to enjoy it, rather than waiting for decrepitude.

Borrowing against the future always is something of a risk, but the rewards have been ample, even if it can’t last forever. We’ve gotten by, and enjoyed lots of love and laughs along the way.

You can’t ask for anything more, can you?

I’m still a beer guy and always will be, and my beer business legacy is secure. I know quite a bit, and the pendulum is swinging back toward my sweet spot. There’ll be opportunities, whether on my own (as previously discussed) or working for someone else.

Stepping away from the business has allowed for time to clear my head and recover from what hasn’t always been a harmonious journey. There have been hours to read, learn and absorb much of value apart from beer. It turns out that I’m still as interested as ever in education and teaching. The passion merely needs a fresh venue.

Running for mayor in 2015 was an epochal experience in itself. I’m proud of what we managed given lack of resources and daunting odds, and the dissident in me became newly empowered. It isn’t about winning or losing. It’s how you game the play.

I’ve been writing at length each and every day, and while most of it has come without remuneration, a unique body of work has been created. At some juncture, this blog will be seen for what it has become.

Two years ago, when I embarked upon the original “leave of absence,” my mother was beginning her transition into assisted living. From this point, her health began a gradual decline, but there still were plenty of high points and memorable times.

Remaining “at large” in terms of employment and obligations enabled me to be there for her. I did the best I could, and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to share in her final months.

In short, now the time has come. Coffee break’s over, and it’s time to stand on my head again.

Many of you know that I’ve been strategizing about a beer business comeback under narrowly defined parameters. Full-tilt gonzo entrepreneurialism may or may not be a younger man’s game; at any rate, it doesn’t have quite the lure as before.

However, if the cats can be herded within those parameters, I’m more than game for the challenge. I’m also listening if any prospective beer entrepreneurs believe I may be of help in assisting in their efforts.

I’ve often joked about how 25 years of self-employment can render one unemployable. It may even be true, but this same quarter-century of experience has certain value of its own. I have a strong work ethic, plenty of zeal and passion, and an absolute commitment to disseminating knowledge through education and explanation.

I may be able to give someone a hand.

Whatever comes next for me is likely to be the result of serendipity as much as planning. I’ve broken a few rules and bent a good many more, but I believe that’s how it’s done.

Everything is relative. My stakes haven’t ever been as high as Harry Caudill’s, and yet insisting on speaking truth to power in my own home community probably haven’t made things easier for me in the past, and won’t in the future.

So be it. If we don’t stand for something, we fall for anything.

After all these years, perhaps finally it’s becoming clear to me. My father was blue collar; passionate, outspoken and honest. My mother was a professional educator; intelligent and determined in pursuit of a mission to educate, one no less zealous for being conducted more methodically.

They raised me right, and I inherited the good from each. Maybe I wasn’t always comfortable with it. These days, it all makes sense.

There it is – an hour’s worth of column scribbling with minimal edits and no conclusions. As always, thanks for reading.

Recent columns:

March 16: ON THE AVENUES: It’s all so simple, says Jeff Gahan.Remove the impoverished, and voila! No more poverty!

March 9: ON THE AVENUES: Never preach free speech to a yes man; it wastes your time and annoys Team Gahan.

March 2: ON THE AVENUES: Breaking up is hard to do. Just ask the Reichstag.

February 23: ON THE AVENUES: A stern-side view of Gravity Head, nineteen times over.