been up to

When the pandemic started I felt this need to write about it in this kind of ‘dispatch’ series. A kind of daily retrospective into what I was feeling, what was happening in the world – just so I could look back and remember it all. See the ‘old life’ as it was being molded into this kind of workable piece of something that I hopefully ended up with. My problem was that I was stuck in the deep end.

SARS-CoV-2 has been this ominous cloud, just looming. I work in Marketing – a fickle industry – and within that, my current agency focuses on event & museum marketing. I followed the corona story with clenched teeth before it crossed the oceans knowing if it made the jump what it’d mean. I walked into the agency president’s office in early February, asking what the plan was, what we were going to do, and how we move forward. The claws had already slunk into my anxiety gripped chest. Let me be clear – I said from the beginning, I’m not afraid of getting sick – I have been, and still am, more worried about the world, what will be left for my son, what horrors or glory wait for all of us across the deep canyon of the unknown – but I digress. There was no plan. Everyone, including my boss, was focused on ‘two weeks;’ a lie we told ourselves to keep the creeping terror at bay. Just two weeks and we’d be back – a fortnight. Simple.

On to five months and I’ve moved from the riddled aches of overloaded anxiety and fear, to an apathetic wandering that left me with deep breaths around the house, to now an uncertainty that things not only won’t ever be the same, but that life is seismically different. Society – how we lived our lives, how we go through our days, how we see people, how we view someone coughing in line at the grocery store, to the masks we wear and now attach a sense of fashion – is different. A cure or not – there will be another invisible thing to catch to step up and take hold. Maybe not in a year or ten, but eventually. Existential terror taken hold.

Why the title though? The above should explain, but let me say it in simple words. I’ve felt detached for a while, a feeling of strange wondering – never settled – not so much unhappy as unfulfilled by my work, never feeling what I do is enough both in life and work. With riots in every major city now, unemployment the highest since the great depression, very little financial support for the masses – tensions will rise. The media is focused on sensation, getting back to “a new normal” (when they really mean is ‘as close to before’ as possible) and there doesn’t seem to be leadership from our government. I’ve taken to mostly feeling dizzy reading the headlines and stories of the day making jokes, laughing at memes, and trying to ignore the ever-present, more pronounced than ever feeling of being unmoored.

A coworker told a story very early on in the lockdown that their neighbor had ‘lost it’, climbing onto their roof and yelling about the coming pandemic in a mask and gloves. My first feeling wasn’t pity or concern for the person on the roof but understanding. I knew that for most people staring into the dark maw of headline news, the call to fall into the hole was strong. I could see one bad day, a terrible afternoon, or just being slightly more detached – it could be me up there. Empathy for those on the edge. That feeling never really went away, we just live with it.

Maybe that is the new normal, learning to live with the row rumble of impending doom.

More soon.

Where to start from the last place we left off? Yeah, this is getting a bit clunky with a touch of this or that and there are pieces of ideas and nothing really fully formed, so I guess it’s a catchall. Which will have to be okay.

In life: we’ve moved back east. It’s wonderful and scary and sad and beautiful. We have found love in the movement in things, gliding through the ever-seasonal landscapes of New England and squeezing as much out of it as we can muster. Hiking is a real thing we’re doing without fail every weekend. We’re away from family which is always less awesome, but as an excuse – with schedules and kids the way they are we’d likely see less and less of them anyway. This doesn’t lessen the impact of missing some people you enjoy, but it’s more akin to giving my brain a lolly. So we’re here.

In brewing: I’m more or less done homebrewing in full. I sold off the entire kit for scrap. Years of accruing pieces for pennies, but it wasn’t going to move. Would I still brew if I didn’t sell it off? I’m unsure. I rarely drink beer – a feeling of atrophy washes over me just looking at the craft beer shelves. I mostly take home 4-packs of cider now – which is becoming a thing out here. I think it’s more aligned with wine in so much as it doesn’t make me feel bloated (any beer) or turn my stomach into battery acid (sour beers). So it’s shelved until.

In work: I’m a Digital Director now for a small (but growing) agency in the burbs.

In dreams: I still want to write, but I’m so strung out now after work, helping with homework, and the gym, and and and – that I get tired thinking about this let alone trying to cobble a story together. I’d love to still write a novella or story or graphic novel or… something someday. I have to make time for it. I’m cooking an idea up in my head about an apple orchard as a life goal. Maybe I’ll think about writing a business plan? Cost out how much everything is. See how viable it would be and how much start-up cash my “retirement dream” would be. In a way, an apple orchard could be a way to bridge all of my interests into one – gardening, science, working with my hands, trees, nature, research, history and I could even erk out a book about it. I may go into detail in the future. It’s something I keep coming back to.

In family: My son is ever older; smarter than I ever was. I see myself in him a lot – which sometimes just makes me feel bad for those forced to be around me at a young age. Lis is crushing it as per always.

I’m not sure I have much else to share so I’ll end it here. In short – make time for the things you find important in your life. It’s okay to pause what you thought were ‘life goals’ to shift your priorities. Don’t get hung up on staying focused.

More soon.

2016-08-24 13.31.31When I homebrewed a lot more, I had a subject. When I worked in food, I had a subject. Now? I work with hotels and while interesting, complex, and not at all structured the way most people think – it’s not an issue I’d focus on. I’m still a dad, so I can write more about that – but I’m not really one of those who likes to talk about my kid. I don’t know if I’m board with brewing or it’s become too much of a time sink? I make too much at one time for… just myself? I don’t have as much free time? A part of me wants to hunt for a new hobby, sell off the homebrew wares and do something that I can keep and do in a tiny space. Oh ya know, like finally work on writing the script for the graphic novel? Or finding more/better things to write here? I’m running a lot and training for a marathon at the end of October, but who gives a shit about that besides me? Maybe a couple of other runners I know, but the sum of that conversation exists in a vacuum as much as talking about working out; people will talk about it with you if a) they share an interest, b) don’t have anything else to talk about. I’ve got a modular kayak now – so that quite fun. Maybe it’s that this summer’s been jam-packed with activity, there isn’t much brain space beside slowly falling asleep to woodworking youtube videos. I could write more about social media, I guess? But I’ve found most “social media experts” to be a load of wind without much practical experience, like self-help writers who only have acclaim in writing self-help. I’m too mired in practicality, maybe. I have this friend that works at writing. That puts me to absolute shame as far as his work ethic on becoming a writer. He’d very much likely be there a long time before I grazed the surface. I’m in awe of him. I want to put out work at his clip. He’s good too, plus he puts the hours in.

Maybe it’s time to apply what I’ve learned from running to my writing: lace up, shut up and get out there.

So I seem to have picked up a new hobby. This post is more like a tale of my fitness than a straight line explanation of why.

I was not into structured fitness and prescribed by junior or, horror-of-horrors, high school. It started in college. I’m not sure if was tennis near the dorm, racket ball, swimming, my badminton course, but moving just came easily. I wasn’t an expert in any field, but I put just enough effort in to have fun. I could keep up, no trick shots, or many baskets or unattested matches, but I liked it. Unknowingly a spark struck. Year three, I took in a job at Walmart nearly 4 miles away. I was going to ride my bike to work. This came as a shock to everyone but me, but I knew if I just set to do it, it wasn’t going to be hard. I still remember that first ride on my first day to work. My shift started at 9 am, I left early to make sure I was on time, but also could ‘cool down’ before starting work. It was an unseasonably warm late spring day, and it didn’t take long for me to question my sanity. The other important detail? My college town, Macomb, is situated amid a couple of swollen hills. I lived at the very bottom of the these, my journey to work took me from there to the highest in a pretty short distance. The hill is steep enough to question why I’d bought a cruiser bike with extra wide handlebars. The first time I hit the hill in the near-empty college town – the only sounds were distant birds, my huffing and the clang of a cheap bike chain. I could have walked to the top faster, across four lanes country roads, but I was riding my bike. It got easier; summer got hotter, and then it got hard again. I started bringing a shirt to change into and hitting the rarely used water fountain to keep up appearances. On days off I began riding the corn-glazed hills, getting chased by leash-less dogs and developed a love of moving under my own power.

After college, I biked to work, and one year non-stop through winter – which got rough in early February – but the sense of accomplishment became a badge I wore. In Maine, I rode from our house in the East End (North Side) to work near the airport (clear across the city limits). Later, out East I rode through dark woods –  where every day brought adventures; nearly crashing into deer, turkeys, and other critters. Once Finn was born and I worked from home, we rode for 30 miles in one direction, walked/played for a bit, and rode back. We were out there and moving, 4′ snow falls didn’t stop us from at least walking the neighborhood.

Maybe I just have to keep moving. The thing was though I always hated running. I liked to bike. Running was the for the birds, but starting in those rolling hill college days, speaking to mentors and peers – a dream arose. Something that I wanted to do, one may call it a “bucket list item” but I never classified it as such until late: to run a marathon.

It started with me running my mouth. I had joked for years that a 5k was for children, and I could just sign up and run one, no training was needed. My wife did just that, giving me a fair warning first, but entered my name no less. We did great, and I started to really… like? running? After our race, I confided in her that running a marathon was on my bucket list in a halfhearted chuckle about my madness and slight melancholy about it never coming to fruition. I got a text a month and a half later – I was still jogging off and on short distances – that we were now entered in a half marathon. My heart sank. This was my test; it was only half, but it’s a path to see if this could ever happen. I got more serious about training, I put in the miles, and somewhere in there, fell for it. Post half I wanted more.

Now for the real reason why I run. I’ve tried to explain it, but people think I’m either insane, or I do it for the endorphins; I’m not sure they’re entirely wrong or right on either count. The longer distances I go, the more I “like” (up to a point) running. So what happens? I’m not entirely sure. I’m me, but not me. I’m running, but I’m not. At the peak jogs, the best ones, my body melts away, and my mind takes its path. I’m plugged into an audiobook, focused and melding into the story. In there, in the movement and deep listening, in the quick pace of books (1.6x) – I’m there and not there. I’m listening and wandering all at once. Transcendence?

That is why I run; I run to get away.

There are, of course, the normal fears that come chained to running and exercise. Fear of gaining too much weight; I have relatives with serious health problems – obesity, heart issues, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, etcetera – and I’m running away from those too. I’m also running to find balance, to put time in for myself and adding savings to my life bank. I’m feeling healthy and happier every day, and I’m sure that is thanks to my activity.  I run for my kid; exercise is not only fun but an important part of taking care of yourself. Couple that with the former fears, I’d like to be around as he ages. So I run for all those things too, it’s an added benefit.

So now I’m training even more: killing off the majority of a weekend morning to moving, and then squeezing in short runs during the week. Recently, I’ve found it hard to get up to and past 14 miles; I get tired, thirsty, hungry, and so on. But I’ve got until the end of October. I’m at the bottom of the hill again – I’m sweating in the quiet hot morning – either pedal or I’m late.

I’ve been doing my share of thinking lately. There has been a weight resting firmly on my thought bubble. I stop short of saying “birthdays at my age” but something about my last handful have left me heavily self-reflexive. To be honest, I’m not sure where I want to start here. Am I worried about life? Death? My family? Career? Who I am? What is my “role” in life?

No? Yes? I don’t know.

I wrote this trite passage on Facebook they day after about how we’re all floating in a sea and how as we move through it, it defines us. Some people got, maybe, but did I?

I’ve been wrestling with emotions like a tired willow in a strong blow the last few days. Thinking a lot about my father. Who I am as a dad, a husband. My family in general, where they fit in my life. Should I call my brother “just to talk?” I feel as though I’ve had ‘youngest child syndrome’ for far too long. The part of me where I’m right no matter what my feelings are and even if you soft-step them, damned you are. I’m not right just because I grit my teeth harder.

I do a lot of moaning about how others don’t seem to do enough self-reflection. That finger can and should be pointed at me; maybe something about how if I point one finger, three point right back. A lot of learning is done in trying to teach my kid about morality, feelings, and the world. Who am I to teach someone if I don’t have it all together?

Maybe growing up is being able to admit many of your stalwart stances aren’t on a foundation as solid as you thought. That maybe for all this time you’ve been wrong. Maybe they aren’t the foolish or simple one, but the asshole, the jerk. I’m not so great, or the best – but now it’s time to admit it, say sorry and try to do better. Less criticizing and more understanding, just be kinder.

I have to take my first real piece of advice from my son:”people gotta do what they gotta do.”


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Turns out I’m horrible at keeping at this. I’m going to make it a goal to either edit or write in the evenings going forward. I need to get my brain moving. I have a graphic novel kicking around inside of my head that I need to put to “paper,” three unedited or unfinished blog posts on here, and I’d like to talk more about Social Media Marketing. So I’ll be rolling the latter into the mix as well.

My hotel portfolio has expanded to five, so there we are. After a solid three weeks of what can only be described as “fuckery” – getting behind, “working” in Kansas City for a week, then coming back to a new month (expense reports & analytics) – I’m caught back up and feeling much less stressed. Looking to crush July. I’ve also implemented a nice ‘trick’ to power through getting posts up and pushing through my ADHD: I set a fifteen-minute timer and just schedule posts for ONE hotel on ONE social platform. Previously I was spinning my wheels bumping around attempting to get one or two posts out only to get distracted by something and forgetting to go back to what I was working on. My fix has worked well thus far.

Finn is riding his bike without training wheels. His energy level is still at 11, but now he’s a +40# brute.

31 soon. Another post to directly follow.

In the seashore of life, the tide can change quickly. And how has it exactly? Well, the vast expanse of the internet – I got a new job. And you know what? It’s pretty excellent. I was hired with four other people doing – basically – the same thing I am. The position is brand new, and we share our wins and losses as a team. My job is managing four (then three, and now four again) hotel’s social media marketing. It’s a nice step up to what I was doing previously – a lot less hectic, although a much larger time sink. I have four very different brands, very different in-hotel contacts, and expectations run the gamut. I want to air out here and put “pen to paper” to ‘rotate the puzzle’ and rethink some ideas and issues – one example: how do you get someone you work with to read your emails?

My son, Finn, turned four. I’m not sure if I’m getting used to him, he’s getting older and more receptive, or I’m getting through finally. There was a long stretch where I was near the end of my rope. I understand children are as they are, but nothing was getting in; that is until very recently. Let me restate: he still can be a colossal pain in the ass if’n he wishes it – the same can be said of me, without doubt. In those lessons, the kneel-down to talk, “tell me what is happening” chats – there are small, fleeting moments where he gets it now. Or at least acknowledges my point. Progress.

Beer? It’s off my radar. Reading, talking, posting, and even making beer for the last few months have been a nonstarter. Focus has been elsewhere, priorities on Factorio, YouTube, and sleep. I’d like to write more, cinch up the graphic novel, focus on making better, more transcendent brews, do productive things. I’m stuck with what is easier, faster, and finds me relaxed faster. Games and woodworking videos. It is amazing the production value gulf that exists between homebrew and woodworking videos, let alone the sponsorships. But I digress.

Life is good. I’d say more soon, but I may break the promise.

I haven’t forgotten about the blog – it’s hard to keep up. I’ll be working on another brew update along with a flushed out post on the ‘brewery’ as it’s moving right along now. As a preview, I’ve set up a STC-1000 on Gary’s old fridge, 23-tip NG burner and Gary has laid out a tile backslash. Churning out beers and more experimental goodness. Don’t worry, I haven’t lost sight of the solera – now moving onto its real name: Renard.

Until then.

It wasn’t so long ago that I could futz around for a half hour during Finn’s nap or a rack a beer to a keg at any time I wanted. This helped focus my ‘brew day’ whereas now I’m stuck doing as much as humanly possible before I have to leave to either end up driving in traffic or having my son fall asleep (as in bedtime) in the car. Today my prep-work paid off (and a huge help from Gary) – I brewed and kept focus there but did humdrum tasks (like label, eat lunch, start soaking bottles, organize) between hop additions, sparging, and mash-in. To make things seemingly more astounding – I finished early, had time to hang out, used a candy thermometer (b/c I forgot the thermapen again), protein rest, and generally had a damn nice day. Historically, I’m running around being dumb. So finally, a really nice day.

So, what did I make? The first of the solera.

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Simple enough, save for a mildly irritating hiccups. Smelled wonderful and had iceberg lumps of  protein from the 50% non-barley ingredients. Father-in-law was nice enough to clear out [more] space in the basement solely for this project so it’s got its own home now and everything is great. I had planned to do the 100% white wheat grapefruit saison, but rice hulls were on hold for a spell. Next time – it’ll be a summer beer anyway.

A quick note before getting into more ‘fun’ – I crafted a quick and dirty sparge arm from an old tube and a hose clamp. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?

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The good stuff: A stand and more ‘accommodating’ brewery in the garage space is coming. Last week, I asked about the NG line running to the central heat system as an option to replace the LP tanks. Turns out Gary is/was pretty interested in this idea (as he’s pledged to keep the tanks full), and is going to reach out to a neighbor to plumb the line. Fast forward to this afternoon where talking up potentials got interesting. A stainless steel wall covering (for fire protection), operable windows, vent hoods, fans, a brew stand, were all floated and none batted down – hell, he even said “the landlord is responsible [sometimes] for upgrades.” Sweet mary. Homework starts now – ideally: a firewall/backsplash of some sort with a three-tier gravity system, hood and at least one window with the ability to open. Needless to say, I’ve got a bit of homework and reading to do, but open to ideas if you have them.

Good news abound. Well traveled.

First, let’s get a small detail out-of-the-way: All of my brew equipment is about an hour and half west from where I live. The long and short of it is my Father-in-law houses it all and watches my son while I do my thing. It works great.2014-05-09 11.20.14

With that said, making the trek out and forgoing a brew is odd. Driving that far with a toddler in tow forces unorthodox kettle fire times (8am) and ‘forced’ do-everything kind of brew days. Kegging has made transferring easy, but now that I’m ushering it off to my brother-in-law, things will likely change some. As it stands now, I will nearly never set a brew day solo; doing just a brew would be fine but because everything is bookended with a commute, I squeeze every single possible activity in so I’m not feeling as though I could have done more.

Which makes the past couple of visits even more strange. Friday, I spent a day bottling 10 gallons (2x 4gal Amber, 2x 1gal House variants). Then came Tuesday, where we spent just the early afternoon and I bottled 4 gallons and prepped. Of course, I wanted to brew, but forgot to stop for the rice hulls in making a 100% wheat beer, which helps not make one want to pull our hair during the sparge (rinsing of the grain).

So that means the brew-off, impending from the arrival of summer and the group buy is getting stacked: 100% wheat is marrying with two other styles I wanted to make – a session saison and a grapefruit wheat (featuring rind and juice of 4-5 massive family grown fruits), so there is one. Summer Stout is in the mind-cooker, a summer-solstice inspired number, the first of the solara, the… well you get the idea.

Time stops for no man. It’s time to get cooking.