Smaller Is Better

Trey and I each have a favorite beer. His is the Hexagenia IPA from Fall River Brewing, a small-batcher made with water from the same and you can only get your hands on it in Redding, California or thereabouts. My favorite, shit you not, is the DC Brau spring seasonal Yonder Cities, which is only around DC from Marchish to Junish (and may, I’m now discovering, have been discontinued). I have a hard time believing that, were both of them available everywhere, they’d still be our favorites.

 

Look at it though

Look at it though

First, because there’s a value we find in novelty, whether through regionality or seasonality. A quantifiable value and a big one, if you look at Starbucks pumpkin spice sales figures. Two, because I don’t think they’d be as good when they’d gone from small-batch to major distribution. Both halves of that thought are important, but I’m dealing with the latter.

Trey and I advanced the idea between ourselves, mostly in terms of craft beer, that it might be honorable to keep a company small. I don’t know if I can say ‘good’ out of hand, because by some metrics, it isn’t—you’ll make less money, for sure, and definitely fewer profits. More, there are some things you can’t do as a small firm—huge infrastructure projects, the really big machines; most of the stuff, in short, that Boeing and GE do. But in general, we thought, the more and smaller are the businesses that make up your economy, the better.

The brain trust

The brain trust

Let’s start big because that’s easiest. Semi and regional monopolies plague the US, many or most of them created by merger, buy-out, and Congressional award. The newly merged American Airlines Group is now the world’s largest carrier, and by some accounts second only to United in awfulness. Their combine with US Airways resulted in increased delays and cancellations, heralded the demise of free domestic checked baggage and the installation of ever more cramped seating (as well as massive reneging on agreements with their five unions).

Comcast and Time Warner are in many places the only options for internet service, and anyone who’s ever dealt with them knows that the connections they provide are shoddy, their tech support bad and overwhelmed, and the personnel doing home visits so overbooked as to be entirely unreliable.

Electronic Arts is the biggest name in video game publishing, and it got there by buying, cannibalizing, and closing smaller independent studios. Those who’ve been through or followed one of their disastrous recent launches, the out-and-out theft they’ve perpetrated through their digital distribution platform Origin, or was a fan of Westwood or Maxis or a myriad of other companies knows that quality always declined following the takeovers.

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A (Very) Late Review of Inequality for All

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I just watched Inequality for All, and it’s great. Crystallizes everything we all should have been angry about since 2008 if not, like Secretary Reich, since the Reagan Administration. Rising income inequality in the US has poisoned our democracy which has in turn poisoned our economy (etc.), and the two effects have waltzed hand in hand for decades now, dropping us dozens of places in world rankings of every indicator of prosperity.

But there are two points the filmmakers either missed (or, more likely) chose to ignore, at least in terms of a holistic picture of the post-crash situation in the States. Reich mentions polarized politics and correlates them with inequality. Somewhat fair. But while the rest of the film draws on parallels between our own time and the period between the Gilded Age and the Great Depression, politics at that time were nowhere near as polarized (contentious, maybe, but not along ideological party lines).

While he brings up both Occupy and the Tea Party as exemplars of dissatisfaction with wealth inequality, he equates them erroneously, failing to mention the (pretty critical) differences. Both were ostensibly set off by big money interfering with government (TARP and Citizens United, for example). But while Occupy advocated polices that were at least oriented towards amelioration of the situation, the Tea Party (partially and significantly funded by the Koch Brothers) pretty much lobbied for the rich and against themselves.

Which illustrates the problem that Inequality ignores—politics in the States has become a matter of faith, and a good chunk of Americans, if not 50% of the country, takes on faith the line that continuing the trickle-down policies of increasing inequality begun under the Reagan Administration will somehow solve the same crisis they precipitated.

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Halfway

It’s some small irony that when you hit Mid-Service Training it means you’re more than halfway through. The timing varies by post and by class and by year, but at the end of MST, we of PCM-15 were only eleven months out, ten if you want to take the standing offer to leave thirty days early.

It’s a cliché to say that the time has flown, and it wouldn’t be right, either, not all the way. The days haven’t gone inasmuch as my perception of time has grown confused—I can barely account for the last thirteen months and definitely not for their order.

The ten weeks of training back in September and October 2013 seemed to stretch on forever, longer than all the months that have passed since June lumped together. I keep thinking that we celebrated Mexican independence in late July instead of September, and I can’t make anything that’s happened since stick in my mind apart from the All-Volunteer Conference, Día de Muertos, and Thanksgiving. All one-hundred-twenty odd days apart from those? Can’t account for them.

Maybe I just blocked it all out after this

Maybe I just blocked it all out after this

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Parenting

I got a little liquored and sentimental awhile ago and scribbled all this out on printer paper at two in the morning. It’s more melodramatic than I’d like, but it’s not bad and I don’t mind it as a little giving-thanks, especially since we did our big dinner this past Sunday. I’ll see what I can do to make the pictures lighthearted.

Last Sunday

No reason for it. This is just our Thanksgiving

I’ve written about kids, but I’m not sure I’ve ever written about parents except to denigrate the idea of becoming one. There’s a lot of thought behind that. In the first place, not much is left of the American Dream except the notion that you ought to give better than you got. My folks came of age during the last great gasp of old-time Corporate America. From the golden age of Reagan’s military straight into the arms of General Motors they went, knowing that thirty years from the first day in the plant they’d be taken care of, that the Company’d care for their health, their kids, their retirement. And they did well for themselves. Smart, driven people navigating the world they’d been bred for.

I grew up in the most luxury you can have without being ruined as a human. I never had cause to want. I lived abroad, went to good mostly public schools, met decent people. Any desire on my part was not the result of privation but considered withholding on theirs, careful choices by my parents that kept me grounded. I was never aware of our wealth until late in high school; they’d shielded me from the tacky excess that seems to typify the upper ranks of the middle class now. They worked hard and long, maybe too much so. Much of our early care was given over to nannies and au pairs, but it’s a testament to my folks that I barely remember those caregivers’ names now, while my father reading us One Thousand and One Arabian Nights at bedtime is as fresh as what I ate for breakfast.

The Nights kind of created the bedtime story, if you think about it

The Nights kind of created the bedtime story, if you think about it

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The Siege Paranoid

In Danse Macabre, King brings up the idea that paranoia is the last refuge of sanity in a world that defies comprehension.

In such a world it is perfectly credible that a mental defective should sit on the upper floor of a little-used building, wearing a Hanes t-shirt, eating take-out chicken, and waiting to use his mail-order rifle to blow out the brains of an American president; perfectly possible that another mental defective should be able to stand around in a hotel kitchen a few years later waiting to do exactly the same thing to that defunct president’s younger brother; perfectly understandable that nice American boys from Iowa and California and Delaware should have spent their tours in Vietnam collecting ears, many of them extremely tiny; that the world should begin to move once more toward the brink of an apocalyptic war because of the preachings of an eighty-year-old Moslem holy man who is probably foggy on what he had for breakfast by the time sunset rolls around. All of these things are mentally acceptable if we accept the idea that God has abdicated for a long vacation, or has perchance really expired. They are mentally acceptable, but our emotions, our spirits, and most of all our passion for order—these powerful elements of our human makeup—all rebel. If we suggest…that it just happened and nobody was really responsible—things just got a little out of control here, ha-ha, so sorry—then the mind begins to totter.

It sounds a lot like something I began to think about a few years ago.

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Distressful Wishing

I’m in the Peace Corps. And without being all that proud of it, being a volunteer is about as youth chic as it gets. Along with working for Google and, if you’ve gone to Georgetown, getting ten grand at signing to whittle your soul away from Deloitte or Credit Suisse. But for all that, there are times when I’d rather be elsewhere. Not out of the Peace Corps (although I got that response from a staff member at a party during what I thought was a nice conversation). Out of Mexico. Not because there’s anything wrong with Mexico. Kind of the opposite.

I was talking to the famous-within-this-blog Alex Guyton the other day.

You remember Alex

You remember Alex

We just had our first in-service training last week, and we were updating ourselves on Ukraine the whole time, the more internet connected filling in the real rural volunteers and everyone getting updates between classes. I mentioned the Crimea or something to Alex and she more or less says ‘Sure that’s crazy but look at this.’ She hauls the laptop around and I’m staring at grainy, artifacted footage of Gezis building barricades and getting firehosed by riot police all in honor of Berkin Elvan. She turned the camera back around. “General Lamarque is dead!” I say. She laughs and says ‘Pretty much spot on.’ ‘That’s what I’m good for,’ I say, ‘Half-witty commentary from the other side of the world.’ It’s about all I’m good for. I want what Alex has.

Righteous social unrest

Righteous social unrest is what Alex has

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The Old Lie

This is another one of those days when I was too insomniac the night before and too lazy the morning after to catch the sun. So while I’ve missed out on toasting myself, my time on the deck has been agreeably shady today. If anyone’s wondering why I keep updating you on the state of the deck, its because I hope that wherever I end up writing in Mexico will be a little more visually interesting, and the pictures will give you a better sense of my day-to-day.

This deck

Today I’m on the deck

I’m going to talk about saying goodbye again, but this time it’s about saying goodbye to places. You know, trying to give yourself a big send-off, really trying to live up to the last few days, see everyone and everything that makes a place your home. I’m bad at that too. For one, anyone who’s been to one of my parties knows how well they go. Ditto for bar nights, excursions, and outings. What’s more, with half the people that mean home to me out of the picture, it’s hard to really hold a get-together to say goodbye. With Gebeily, Martinez, Guyton, Rice, Lujan, and God knows how many others off in parts unknown, a farewell in DC can’t be complete.

I don’t have the cash, the fortitude, or the partying acumen to make my way to enough cool bars and clubs and venues to have a last real go-round in the city either. It’s never been my bag, as much as I would have liked it to be. But the real reason that wouldn’t work is that DC isn’t really my home. Not the whole city, anyway. Love or hate the fact of it, but since my folks left Detroit and Akron and moved to China, Georgetown is the only home I’ve got. Not the neighborhood, the school. And the last time it still had any chance of being home to me was graduation weekend, when the mass of familiar faces was making its final appearance. I find myself taking long unnecessary walks, constantly panning and scanning, ogling campus like the open-mouthed summer program kids and trying to catch a whiff of what the last four years smelled like.

And taking really bad photos

And taking really bad photos

Georgetown now is full of naïve and unbearable high school students that make you hate them and wish for just a second that you could be that dumb and that excited just to be here again. But you can’t, and they aren’t us, and their Georgetown isn’t mine, and my shot at saying goodbye is long gone.

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Adieu, Adieu, to You and You and You

Porch time’s a little more hospitable today.

See how there's shadows and stuff

See how there’s shadows and stuff

The heat’s gone and been replaced by an autumnal cool that I’m perpetually up too late to enjoy. The reason that I could be so tardy to the writing porch is also the subject of the post today: unemployment. Up til now, I’d had fairly regular work at the T. Box of DC M St fame, and would be two hours into a Friday evening shift as of time of writing. Unfortunately (or not), I got a call from my manager around noon to let me know that we never had the legal go-ahead to serve food upstairs and that they wouldn’t need me for two weeks. Fourteen days is a long way to go without income, and as the chasm stretches in front of me, I can’t help but thank the Peace Corps, because no matter how intimidating or challenging it’s going to be to go abroad and start a life from scratch, it’s better than unemployment. And the Corps gives me a chance to wait out our crisis, with the option to put in another two years of procrastination with a Master’s program. Sweet!

I can’t say that I’m entirely surprised about the Box. That the owner hotboxes his office on the reg, that our white wine thefts are the sole responsibility of his wife, that if you talk to any ten bartenders in this city, one has a story about him being a shit, that both of his restaurants have been shut down for health code violations in the last month, and that the AC upstairs has been raining into the mold colonies in the ceiling for more than three years without even the most jury-rigged repair all speak volumes about the business practices in place. But uh, more time for me, I guess.

Moving onto topic, I’ve got a bit of saying goodbye to do, and I’m not going to do it. Not that I don’t want to or that I’m afraid, but because I’m bad at it. Always have been. All the feelings, the heartfelt, touching stuff that needs to be said, the pain of loss and separation, the anticipation of long gulfs of time without the ones I most love, all that only ever hits me way after the time for it has come and gone.

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