middle brow \ citizen how /

your own personal river. really.

i'm sitting here. in my landlord's side yard. listening to the hypnotic sound of running water. in their wo-man-made, artificial creek-coi pond thing. and it makes me reckon: rivers are it. really. the only metaphor we ever need. rushing. mellow. loud. soft. rude. gentle. simple. complex. wide. narrow. thoughtful. inconsiderate. anyway... rivers really are it. (there's another word! really! i had a dream last night that i named a daughter realize. so that i could call her really. as a sort of nickname. and how beautiful really would sound bouncing and echoing through the house and neighborhood. really!)


some people jump in lakes. some people don't. indeed they very much ease into them instead. the thinking being: this water's gonna shock-hurt the hell out of my penis/vagina! i better take it slow! ... and whew! there it goes. yikes! that was a rush. oh. ooooh. ok. ok ok. i think i got it. yeah. ok. yeah now i'm used to it. and oh how this describes craft beer. and life. in such a boring and obvious way. ... like: some people really take life by the horns! some people are a little more cautious!! oh hell fucking yes! george gordon lord byron over here. a regular pynchon paragraph. hang it up!

but no no. i mean this: we go so blind to everything. all the time. we let life happen to us, adjust our nerves/emotions/blood, and live a new life. we get into a lake or a river one way or another, and water currents flow past our bodies. and change our internal body temperature. and we adjust our brains to those bloody changes. and are totally blind then to the fact that our status quo has been altered.

there's a craft beer story here. ... imagine waking up early as f. i'm talking dark-outside 3a. and hooking up your flat-bottom boat to your hitch. and driving out to the humboldt park lagoon. pre-gator. and lowering the boat in. and floating around for a couple hours. with a fishing line and some bait. and a beer or two. dragging behind you. in the water. why does that beer get cold-ish (depending on the water) faster than a beer you put in the fridge? cuz new water is running past it constantly! stealing the heat from it! and starting again!

----~-~-~~~-~(cold water)~~-~~~---~~-~~> (floats past warm can) ----~-~-~~~-~(hot water)~~-~~~---~~-~~> repeat cycle. until: ----~-~-~~~-~(cold water)~~-~~~---~~-~~> (floats past cold can) ----~-~-~~~-~(cold water)~~-~~~---~~-~~>.

the can's internal temperate changes so quickly because water is flowing past it quickly and ripping the heat out of it (through conductive aluminum) quickly and jesus christ i'm just fucking kidding this is not how it relates to craft beer. not at all.

it's more like when people scream-say "behind" and "corner" in a restaurant. i sometimes say it too. but sometimes, instead, i merely say "excuse me" at a normal volume. or else i scream, "i'm walking at a particular pace and i refuse to break this pace not even for a second and so you better get the fuck out of my way" sarcastically. and that's how rivers relate to craft beer. and, for that matter, to restaurants. in the brashness and rudeness and inconsideration of such. ... we do try constantly at bungalow to be more like a nice river, gently flowing around a rock. making way for the things that existed there before us. or that exist in a peaceful state. no need to interrupt them. or make them move. unless absolutely necessary. unless we've got a fucking avalanche we're trying to contain. or a fire we're trying to put out. (this metaphor works!)

but there's a bigger picture here.

craft beer: i read a tweet recently. can't remember by whom. and it caused me to scribble a little note in my "modestly topics" book. and it was about craft beer growth. and adaptation. and someone was baggin' on craft breweries for navel gazing. and making their 8th ipa of the year by february. and spending far too much time yelling dramatically and fecklessly about the macros (bud. miller. heineken. corona.). and patting each other on the back. and all the while, the macros are growing smart. they're acquiring good, sound craft breweries. they're investing in the brewpub movement. they're investing in online shopping and delivery. they're investing in media. etc. etc. etc. running circles around the silly little craft beer boys and girls. dumb to the river flowing past them. enveloping them.

and in some ways, this is right! but in other ways, it completely elides the organizing purpose of "craft" as an industry. as a word, even. the point of "craft" beer was to get back to caring about the craft. not simply rivering the shit out of a business. and acquiring this piece and that piece. and growing this way and that. and making whatever new selzter and CBD widget it floated past. could craft breweries STFU about their craft a bit more? fuck yes. please god. could they navel gaze a bit less? yes. see (every single goddess-living modestly ever written.) should they spend a single fucking second worrying about macrobreweries? i mean, shit. if they're a faux macro, maybe. if they're sierra nevada or sixpoint or some "authentic" craft "ish" dixie or PNW brewery with a jewel-osco font(tm) or whoever. but should we? should transient? should pipeworks or is/was? no.

point is: the relevant people employed by the macros don't spend time thinking about beer. and how to make it cool. and how to make it different. how to innovate behind it. they also don't really think about the brewpub experience in a real way. to the extent these things don't play into a particular widget growth model. whereas craft breweries have set up their companies in such a way as to encourage beer innovation. quick-footedness. painstaking attention to the manufacturing of a single beer. and the broader consumption experience. to make it personal to the proprietor. and that's what makes them fun. that's what makes them exciting. and edgy. that's what makes them attractive places for customers to gather. that's what makes them different.

that's what makes them real. really.

so the fact that AB Inbev is running circles around we modest craft folk wrt seltzer and cbd and distribution channels and media and etc etc etc does not matter. we want to be run circles around. we want to make something nice for our neighbors. to create a special "third place". and to make a modest living doing so. and to grow! from something very small to something very meaningful! and to create a career and a community doing so. ... we don't have to create 40 "third places" around the country. we don't have to sell our shit on amazon. we don't have to grow our company from $1 billion to $1.1 billion next year. cuz we don't have institutional shareholders who require national (international?) domination. and cuz then we'd just end up looking like the ballast point in fulton market. or that giant bud bar in the new wrigley field playlot. or whatever the fuck that giant disney-fulton flop is up there.

this applies to restaurants in chicago (and many other cities) too. it makes us a little cringy when we see resto group after resto group opening joint after joint after joint. ... true: if you wanna make a living in this business, you gotta be agile. you gotta be thinking about growth and the leading edge. constantly. but far too many people get caught up. they let the rude river take them for a ride. they open a place, and while it's on fire from lack of sound management, they're prancing around town opening up a second and third and fourth place. nice widget, there. would be a shame if it failed in the next five years. but then again, so what! just open a new one!

true: this model works. for money. for power. for "success". for good stories in 80s america. but does it work for self-respect? for happiness? for good stories in radical america? wethinks not. and we're happy to be part of the generation that thinks about self-respect. and happiness. and that values humans qua humans. and not qua economic animals.