Henry and Hilaire Walk into a Bar

A wonderful, homey pub, actually.

They enjoy a few pints each, the best ales and lagers either had ever enjoyed. The owner-brewer, prevented from expanding into a major regional establishment by differential taxes meant to encourage widespread distribution of property, thereby limiting the banality of a landscape marred with repetition, opted instead to focus on improving the quality of his brews.

Looking to expand his operations, he successfully applied for a grant, receiving money extracted from the coffers of the multi-national Schlitweiser, which mass-produces canned “beer” intolerable to all but college students and “ironic” hipsters. His remarkable brews, paired with his prime location, have made him a successful, and affable, provided of moderately priced libations.

Given the popularity of his neighborhood, and consequent increased property values, the owner had contemplated selling his establishment to the highest bidder. After sweeping tax reforms denied property owners the right to accrue additional benefits from the popularity of the locale, and not the mixing of their labor with the property, he changed his mind, opting instead to continue, happily and proudly, to serve suds to the people in his community, with many of whom he’d grown up.

Would this be such a terrible way of life?


Who Says That We Can’t Mix Business and Pleasure?

My most recent crazy life dream:

The Hemlock Pub: No Sports, No Mass-Produced Beer; All the Discourse You Can Imbibe!

Biden-Palin debate drinking game: Open thread

Please, add your suggestions in the comment boxes.

*Palin talks about not blinking, one shot or drink; two additional shots/drinks per each repetition of the word “blink” within a single statement

*Biden rambles incoherently, one shot or drink for first minute; one per every thirty seconds thereafter

*Palin refers to being able to see Russia, two shots or drinks

*Biden refers to John McCain as his friend, then says he’s out-of-touch, or something to this effect, two shots or drinks

Lighter fare: Hilarious family antics that might explain me.

Apologies and excuses not-with-standing, I feel as if I ought to post some-thing. Wishing to avoid dedicating what brain power still serves me (The hour-hand of the clock approaches the four on the face as I type this.), I shall, rather than comment on some news-piece, posting on another web-log, or matter of import, relay a couple of stories, of actions taken by my forebears, that, well, amuse the hell out of me.

I apologize in advance for my lack of certainty vis-à-vis details; the Hindle (my mother’s paternal ancestors) family tree/history is back in Indiana. My great-great-grand-father (perhaps a generation earlier, even) kept a general store in small-town Illinois. (I believe, at the time, the family resided in Brimfield, IL, a short distance north-west of Peoria.) Additional to serving as a local merchandiser, he served, I understand, as the town’s mortician. It so happened that he received a shipment of coffins on the last day of October of some year. As Great-great-uncle Merrill tells it in the family history, the delivery took place sufficiently late that my antecedent had, over-night, to leave the coffins resting upon the porch (or side-walk) fronting his store. He worried that, Halloween being the optimal night for such antics, some youths in the community would attempt to abscond with one of his caskets. “How might he defend these vessels against the perfidious jackanapeses of the town?” you ask.

Well, he opened one of the caskets (I presume that, rather than being possessed of prescience respecting which box might be taken, he wisely left them stacked, and chose, for him-self, the upper-most sarcophagus.), crawled into it, closed the lid, and waited. In due time, some of these scapegraces, either by happen-stance or by machination, ambled by the store and attempted to purloin the box wherein my progenitor lay. Permitting his abductors to haul their ill-gotten-in-good-fun booty a short distance away from the site of their caper, he began to wail and to beat upon the inner walls of his chamber, sufficiently frightening his captors to compel them to drop the box, him still with-in, and to flee for less terrifying environs.

Pivoting, presently, to patrilineal predecessors, I produce a price-less plot in which Great-uncle Frank Origer plays the primary part. In the early Nineteen-thirties, either home from Purdue for the summer, or back on the farm, prior to his establishing him-self in the Columbus, IN, vicinity, where, smart son-of-a-gun as he was, he enjoyed employment as an engineer for Cummins ’til his retirement, Frank, exercising the sort of ingenious aptitude for entertaining one-self that served those in the days prior to our hideous mass-production consumerism, particularly throughout the Great Depression, but which, to-day, with our Guitar Hero, X-Box, and d.v.r., we have, it seems, lost, startled the residents of my home-town, North Judson, some two-and-a-half miles south-east of the farm, into suspecting that that mad Austrian then in power in Berlin had let loose his Luftwaffe, re-igniting the still-warm embers lingering after the Great War.

Displaying mental prowess that leaves me approaching, but not reaching, incredulousness, Uncle Frank, having constructed a box-kite, attached there-to a couple of sticks of dynamite (used on the farm to clear additional pasture) and, some-how, kept the wick at just the right length that after he lit it and let the kite fly . . .

the damn explosion, timed perfectly, occurred over down-town. I should like to think that were Frank to commit this fascinating feat to-day, my family would have to deal with the press coverage that arises subsequent to an American citizen’s being apprehended by the S.S. D.H.S. Had any-one other than my beloved Grandpa Joe, on multiple occasions, regaled me with this tale, I should have no problem with writing it off as mere fiction. As things stand, though, I have no doubt that Grandpa’s elder brother, Puck who he was, engaged in even more absurd, hilarious, and, doubtless, dangerous doings.

One final, brief tale: Once upon a time, the Origers, on the family farm (where, as I’ve previously noted, my grand-father still resides) had a small butchering building. During the Prohibition era, I’ve learned, this slaughter-house played host to a small facility the purpose of which was to brew inebriant beverages — honey rum, I believe –, which my grand-father’s brothers (and, perhaps, scandalously enough, Grandpa, who rarely ever drank, but who believed that pepper-mint schnapps made for the best cold remedy, too) served — in moderation, I’m sure — to friends and acquaintances who danced away the occasional night in the garage on the farm. Great-Grandpa Joh(a)n noticed some-thing peculiar, one day, upon entering the slaughter-house. As far as I know, he made no attempt to dis-suade his sons from their black-market booze-brewing. Of course, he’s also the man who swore his political allegiance to the Republican Party because they, and not the Democrats, first offered beer and sandwiches to him, a young vegetable-farm-worker in Chicago-land.

You can’t pick who comprise your family, but you sure can hope to emulate them.

I know in which America I want to live, and good beer is plentiful there.

With that line, I ended my senior essay, the cap-stone of the Program of Liberal Studies, “‘Third Way’ Distributive Economics: Catholicism, Democracy, and the Good Life.” Properly to understand the connection, one must read the two quotations that precede it, which I present now:

Finally, I present my last defense of Distributism.

Better beer and a greater choice would result from penalizing the large brewery and with the revenue subsidizing the small one, down to the cottage brewer. –Hilaire Belloc, An Essay on the Restoration of Property, page seventy.

Do we want an America where, on the highways and byways, all we have is catalog houses? Do we want an America where the economic market place is filled with a few Frankensteins and giants? Or do we want an America where there are thousands upon thousands of small entrepreneurs, independent businessmen, and landholders who can stand on their own feet and talk back to their Government or to anyone else?101 — U.S. Senator Hubert H. Humphrey (D-MN), in a 1954 speech on the Senate floor.

I know in which America I want to live, and good beer is plentiful there.

I refer to this passage because I believe in the intrinsic virtue of good beer, or, at least, in the virtue thereof when drunk well and respectably. A cluster of related articles posted in the Friday, 1 August, Arts & Letters Daily, thus truly saddens me. The articles’ writers elegizing the seeming down-fall of the English pub, I cite, here, an article from the Telegraph. Writes Andrew O’Hagan,

I’ve gone from being someone who stopped in at a pub several times a week when I was younger – and practically living there when I was a student – to hating pubs.

Many of the establishments are so pressed for custom that they will do anything to fill their bar – mainly selling toxic drinks in devastating quantities to kids who consider a good night out to be one that ends in copious vomiting.

I grew up knowing very well the dangers of excessive drinking, but most of that was done in private, at home or in the street, while social drinking was a matter for the pub. On Coronation Street, the Rovers Return seemed a perfectly typical hub of community life, where – believe it or not – conversations took place and business was done and views were exchanged.

Young and old used to meet in the pub, as did the differently educated (in Corrie, Ken Barlow would be at one end of the bar reading the London Review of Books while his rival, Mike Baldwin, would be at the other end chatting up the barmaid).

These days, it’s considered more typical for the social element to be bypassed, and for people to drag home a case of cheap booze from Tesco’s and demolish it in front of America’s Got Talent.

It would be hard to convince anyone that the pub was once the premiere venue for literary and journalistic life in this country, for intelligent argument and amorous adventure, for meeting with the unknown.

Not one person under 40 that I know met their partner in a pub, or got their present job via a pub assignation. Though quite a number of them could say that the last time they were exposed to violence was in a pub during “happy hour”.

In truth, this entire excerpt indicts my generation, English, American, and, I presume, of virtually every other “first-world” nationality, quite justly. Were I to go out to-night, I should, I shamefully confess, probably find my-self at the The Thirsty Turtle, quaffing twenty-five-cent whiskey-and-Diets with reckless abandon, the sheer uncultured nature of such debauchery a mere after-thought. My peers, mayhap, briefly, interested in debating the presidential campaign, soon would degenerate into a staggering, stumbling, slurring swarm seeking sexual success, whereby, of course, I mean a night of meaningless intercourse with the prettiest girl desperate, lonely, or crapulous enough to have lost all sense of right and wrong and all capacity to make sagacious decisions four vodka-and-cranberry juice cocktails ago.

Contrast this all too real, all too frequent scenario with what, having some time to spare, prior to helping a friend to move, I encountered at Hank Dietle’s, a deliciously dive-ish public house in Rockville, during a week-day happy hour: Five or six middle-aged gentlemen, one in a sport-coat, the others clearly of a more blue-collared persuasion, discussing, continuing on conversation from a previous evening at their watering hole, Constitutional arrangements vis-à-vis presidential succession; which presidents, for how-ever long, due to what-ever circumstances, served without a vice-president; and matters appurtenant to the current contest for commander-in-chief. (Unsurprising, most of my company supported, at least tepidly, Senator Obama.) I couldn’t help remarking to the one in nearest propinquity, who wore the sport-coat, that I found my-self slightly amazed that I found more intellectually stimulating conversation at Hank’s than I should have had I spent happy hour, imbibing as many still-over-priced Bud Light’s as I could before the discounts had met their end, amongst my own cohort, who, it, some-times, is alleged, represent the leaders of to-morrow.

I wonder what life was like when this particular line from O’Hagan held true: “It would be hard to convince anyone that the pub was once the premiere venue for literary and journalistic life in this country, for intelligent argument and amorous adventure, for meeting with the unknown.” I bet it was nice. Really nice.

Will: Weaver on property and proprietas; beer

Will, at the Reactionary Epicurean, has been more generous than I in referring to posts that I’ve made that he’s deemed worth passing along, problematic because he usually has more worth-the-while posts than I. This being the case, I feel as if I ought to act in kind. So, asking for forgiveness for risking a cycle of back-and-forth references, I direct you, first, here, to a quotation from Richard Weaver (whom I’ve not read, but, I swear, shall read). Continue from that post to this, a recipe for home-brewed strawberry-wheat ale, a personal favorite amongst beer varieties. I swear that, some-day, I shall brew my own beer. Maybe I’ll follow this recipe, using my home-grown strawberries.

I love the Scots!

Tell it as it is, Mr Robertson!