ON THE AVENUES: The wonder years.


ON THE AVENUES: The wonder years. 

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

(I’m a bit late, sorry)

Even our esteemed Gauleiter Duggins knows the word “year” is a noun.

It’s … The time taken by a planet to make one revolution around the sun.

And also … The period of 365 days (or 366 days in leap years) starting from the first of January, used for reckoning time in ordinary affairs.

These numerals from the solar system are pure science, at least until humans arbitrarily string them together, and so because the Christians decisively defeated vast hordes of Roman deities in the original God Bowl (the Muslims hadn’t yet been granted an expansion franchise), we’re currently observing 2018. It’s already been an eventful year, but aren’t they all?

Have you ever wondered which year was the most eventful ever?

Obviously, millions of years have passed unnumbered, and overall the question is limited by the comparatively short span of human history, as well as something complicated by cultural differences.

As such, for many indigenous people in the Americas, the most eventful year ever probably was the one in which they were slaughtered by invading Europeans.

History’s a harsh dominatrix, you know.

Some might say it’s Year Zero – not the Khmer Rouge, but the year of Jesus Christ’s birth, from which several thousand planetary excursions have been demarcated, backward as well as forward.

Maybe it’s 1776 and the start of the American Revolution, or 1967, when the arch-criminal mastermind Dr. Owades invented light beer. There’d also be votes for 1989. Not only did the Berlin Wall and Commie dominoes fall, but my beloved Oakland A’s won the franchise’s most recent World Series title.

Perhaps it’s easier to pinpoint the most eventful years in one’s own life. Obviously there are fewer to consider, and each one of us has been present every step of the way, although there are times when we probably wish we hadn’t been.

Like 1996. There’s one I’d like to have back.

For many people, it would be the year they graduated, got married, had their first child, got divorced, won Employee of the Year, golfed an exclusive course or retired.

Life’s tricky, and the chronology of mortality gets in the way. We regularly celebrate our birthdays, although none of us had a say in it, and we can’t look back on our deaths even if doing so might be the most instructive perspective of all. Maybe for a little while, some of us are remembered by others.

For a reality check, take a walk through Fairview Cemetery.

Historians will tell you that while important events occur in a single year, they cannot be cleanly delineated in terms of causes and effects. The surrender of Confederate forces in 1865 ended four “official” years of Civil War – and also inaugurated endless decades of Reconstruction, which may or may not have happened.

Accordingly, in one’s own life it’s probably better to think in terms of eras. Graduating from IU Southeast in 1982 represented the end of my formal education after 16 years in school. Lindsey Buckingham was right: I’m never going back again.

My first extended European trip came in 1985, and it irrevocably changed my life, but similar journeys in 1987, 1989 and 1991 deeply affected me, too, suggesting that these explorations constitute a 7-year post-graduate package tour.

Let this be a public notice that I’m willing to accept an honorary Master of Arts degree for habitual beer travel.

In 1992, after two years of prevaricating, I decided to enlist full-time in a family business formerly known as Sportstime Pizza & Rich O’s Public House, later to become the New Albanian Brewing Company.

This entrepreneurial era lasted until 2018, when the exit treaty became final. It encompassed the end of one personal relationship and the beginning of another; many wonderful travels, albeit mostly visits of shorter duration than those in the 1980s; the deaths of both my parents (and way too many friends); and my whole blogging career.

I’m not sure if NABC made me famous, or infamous. Truth be told, I prefer the latter.

Today’s seemingly aimless rambling is occasioned by the unexpected return one morning last week of a thought, this being that of all the years constituting my “NABC era,” a strong case can be made that 2014 was the single most eventful one.

The reasoning is both personal and professional, and not for the first time, the explanation owes to my choice of music on Wednesday morning.

In 2014, the album “Pure Unadulterated Joy” by the British band called Morning Parade was a welcome surprise. It became a major ear worm, but no sooner than I declared this group to be the latest in a series of new musical favorites, it quietly disbanded.

I couldn’t forgive the ungrateful wankers.

Consequently, either I consciously declared a boycott of Morning Parade – or, without a follow-up CD to remind me, it’s more likely I just plain forgot. Either way, when I listened to the album last Wednesday for the first time in at least two years while driving to the veterinarian for Nadia’s prescription cat food, I almost had to pull over.

Crying while driving sober isn’t as bad as being drunk or distracted, but tears make it awfully hard to see the damn road.

For me, music possesses a fabled ability to rearrange my brain molecules, usually in a euphoric way. But one must be prepared to play whatever hand the chords deal, and this time, I was unprepared for an emotional reaction.

It all became clear to me soon enough. I hadn’t listened to Morning Parade’s album since my mother died, and these songs took me back to the early summer of 2014, when she sold the family house in Georgetown and moved to the Villages at Historic Silvercrest, there to remain until her death last spring.

In retrospect, my mom’s move in 2014 was more traumatic for me than it was for her. She decided it was time, and just like that, a 47-year stay ended. She never looked back, and meanwhile, I was a wreck. I really do believe in ghosts; not the supernatural spirits, just the ones inhabiting my own head space.

Like the spiteful ghosts of business decisions past.

In 2014, as myriad contractual, legal and real estate wheels started turning toward the Georgetown property sale and my mom’s big move, my workplace became inordinately chaotic and stressful even by the nerve-wracking standards of a company that always managed to function, albeit only in an exceedingly dysfunctional way.

That’s because we were in the process of closing the original kitchen concept at Bank Street Brewhouse in May. The operating numbers were undeniable and there was handwriting aplenty adorning the wall. We did what had to be done, kept slogging forward — and it killed me inside.

Fortunately, Diana and I already had planned what proved to be a restorative trip for September of 2014. After lengthy absences from Berlin, Bamberg, Brugge and Poperinge, it was time to return. Rediscovering these sources of inspiration, and clinking glasses with old friends, proved to be like a homecoming. The whole stay, I was walking (and drinking) on air.

When we returned home, I went back to work, and it was undeniable. Something had changed. I was numb to the probing of the fork; still, it poked me, and I was done.

It wasn’t burnout. It was a forest fire. As one of three co-owners, I lost a succession of 2-to-1 votes about the future of Bank Street Brewhouse after the kitchen’s demise, and in fact, the business hadn’t worked out the way it was intended. As early as 2012, the “craft” beer world began morphing into something narcissistic and unrecognizable. I suffered an allergic reaction to these cultural shifts, perhaps because it was clear I’d had a hand in enabling them.

The IBUs in my favorite hoppy beers declined as the bitterness in what vaguely passes for my soul escalated.

Meanwhile in Nawbany, whatever early hope had been attached to Jeff Gahan’s mayoral accession had long since tarnished and become satire and parody, and my escalating polemical absorption seemed to be pointing me toward putting my scant money where my rhetorical mouth already rested. My failed and fascinating 2015 independent mayoral campaign was the result.

To summarize, 2014 was a tremendously eventful year for me. By New Year’s Day of 2015, I knew something very fundamental had been altered; to be sure, changes initiated in 2014 took their sweet time to play out, and now, returning to the notion of eras, this transformative period of my life should be concluding on the evening quite soon when Pints & Union opens.

I’m going to help my friend Joe Phillips as much as I can so he can achieve his pub-owner’s dream. We’re going to have a classy joint. There’s a sense of peace and acceptance about what’s happened up until now, and most (not all) of my beer demons have been boxed up, silenced or sent out for Chinese.

Diana’s been patient and supportive. We’re going to rock these next few years together. Indeed, it’s hard for me to imagine either passivity or contentment, and there’s a lot yet to prove. I think a golden era is coming.

How many more will there be?

Recent columns:

April 19: ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: Our great and noble leader is here to stay, so let’s break out the țuică and make a joyful noise.

April 12: ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: In Havel, I trust.

April 5: ON THE AVENUES: New Albany’s downtown food and dining scene is solid … for now.

March 29: ON THE AVENUES: Al Knable doesn’t lie, but the local Democratic Party is a flood-plain Pinocchio. Let’s censure it at the ballot box.