Beer and Pavement

The Cult of Tree House

Posted in Beer, Massachusetts by SM on July 20, 2017
Zac Early (@sm_jenkins) - Instagram photos and videos.clipular (1)

Lining up for that Kool-Aid.

Tree House Brewing Company is maybe the hottest brewery in craft beer right now. And they specialize in what is the hottest trend: the ultra-murky, extra-juicy New England IPA[1]. They recently made news by opening a new facility that welcomed some 4000 craft beer enthusiasts despite little-to-no advertisement.

And the beer is good. I’ve been lucky enough to either have folks deliver me some cans or twice have had the honor of standing in line for about 20-30 minutes for my allotment of ~8 cans of the hazy stuff. Kids all over are going cucko for these Cocoa Puffs.

The people of Tree House are pretty rad as well. They run a tight ship and are really easy-going despite the opportunity to go all Soup Nazi on their fans. They keep folks updated through their Twitter feed and can often be found answering questions on public Facebook groups obsessing over their canned goods.

The problem I have is not with Tree House, their people, nor their beer. The issue I have is with the Cult of Tree House. By this I mean that the endless number of Tree House worshipers and sycophants have made it hard to enjoy the hazy goodness from Monson Charlton.

Now, I’ve been around long enough to know that anything that’s hot has its annoyingly mindless followers. However, the Tree House devotees are another breed entirely. They reveal a side of craft beer I thought had died out over the years.

To find these followers, I joined a Facebook group of Tree House enthusiasts. This particular group does not allow trading which would be completely intolerable[2]. However, posts in this group revolve around how awesome Tree House is, how much better the Xth batch of a particular beer is than the latest version, complaints of some using mules[3] in order to increase their allotment, complaints about people who complain about mules, how every other beer on the market compares to Tree House, and endless pictures of fridges filled with Tree House brews[4], Tree House cans stacked like PBR’s in a frat house[5], or obligatory empty can next to favorite Tree House glassware with something akin to an Orange Julius[6].

How awesome is Tree House? Pretty awesome[7]. Did they reinvent beer and all other beer is really just derivative and equally inferior to Tree House? No, not even close. But don’t tell that to their fans.

This has all happened before. I remember when it was Pliny and dudes made the trek to Russian River while tricking their spouses with trips to wine country[8]. The annual rite of passage in attending Three Floyds’ Dark Lord Day was something on every beer nerd’s bucket ale pail list[9]. Or how about those of us checking off stops at one of Mikkeller’s seemingly endless bars around the globe[10]? And there’s many others.

The worst I’ve seen prior to moving to Western Mass was the annual mad dash for Bell’s Hopslam[11], an imperial IPA reeking of so much cattiness that some have sworn to have seen tiny hairballs floating among the carbon dioxide and yeast cells[12]. I wasn’t living in Michigan where I assume there’s enough Hopslam for every man, woman, and child to each have a case or two[13]. Instead, I was living in Missouri, a state still starving for a world-class IPA[14]. Every January or February, the rumors would start all over social media as to just when the Hopslam would arrive, who had it in bottles or on tap, and what the allotment would be. This was inevitably followed by complaints there wasn’t enough beer to go around, it wasn’t as good as last year’s[15], or people stockpiling the stuff.

Still, none of that compares to the bellyaching and simultaneous one-upmanship of the Tree House fans. According to these beer enthusiasts, Tree House makes the perfect beer which is the New England IPA[15]. All other beers are either “juicy” or not, but they all fail to achieve Tree House levels of juiciness[16]. Also, mules are great if it means I get more beer cans to collect but awful if I didn’t get my allotment of trade bait.

Zac Early (@sm_jenkins) - Instagram photos and videos.clipular (2)

Tree House makes truly fantastic beer, but there is beer beyond Monson Charlton[17]. In fact, just a few miles away in Ludlow, MA, there’s a tiny brewery by the name of Vanished Valley making NEIPA’s as juicy as anything Tree House, Trillium, or Other Half are brewing these days[18]. Oh, and there are other styles out there as well. The market is flooded with nearly as many high-quality Saisons as IPA’s. Oh, and one can’t forget the inexplicable abundance of imperial stouts in the middle of summer[19].

And what about when the hype dies? What about when the next great style of beer reaches our taste buds? What about when the next garage-based, nano-brewery brews said beer style in such tiny quantities that beer nerds line up for miles[20] just to sample a taste or be told “NO BEER FOR YOU”?

I’ll tell you. There will be a new group of acolytes full of hyperbole and tunnel vision who will state their preferences as fact and obsess over one beer or brewery to the extent their spouses will leave them and their children will swear off beer forever[21]. Then what? It will all happen again.

All that said, I will continue to drink Tree House beers, but I won’t drink their Kool-Aid[22].

Notes:
1 I don’t know about the “juicy” part, but friends used to bump up the mouthfeel of their beers with some oatmeal in the mash. One side effect was that lighter-colored beers had a haze not unlike today’s NEIPA. I like the color, but it’s getting old seeing all these pictures of new IPA’s that look like glasses of Tang.
2 I find sporadic trading to be fun, but those “professional” traders out there who buy cases of beer only to trade most of them for whales and whatnot to be kinda boring. Plus, who has the time and resources to constantly trade beer? When does one find time to drink these beers.
3 No. No one is shoving cans of beer up their ass in order to smuggle beer across a border. The term “mule” in this instance refers to the significant others, domestic workers, and others who are asked to “purchase” another allotment of beers so that one person can double or triple their inventory.
4 I never understood the beer porn of endless shelves and fridges filled with so much beer one human could never consume it all without their liver failing instantly. Great. You have three cases of beer from one brewery of basically one style that coincidentally does not age well no matter how tight that can is or how cold you keep your refrigerator.
5 Really? Really. Grown adults are collecting beer cans and either stacking them like they did blocks as a toddler or lining them along the top of their kitchen cabinets. I helped build one beer can pyramid in college and promptly dropped that skill from my repertoire.
6 Yes, this was done on purpose. Julius is one of TH’s most popular brews. I actually don’t like it as much as their others, but it’s good. The reference also refers to the orangey/milky appearance of the beers as well as their fruit juicy flavors and smooth, creamy mouthfeel.
7 Not gonna front. This is the most inspiring brewery I’ve encountered in years and they happen to be on the forefront of a subgenre that’s overtaking the market.
8 I’ve never done this, but I mention it every time a trip to wine country is suggested. Honestly, I would try whatever IPA’s RR has on tap, but I would linger over and enjoy their sour beers even more obsessively.
9 Another thing I haven’t done, but its moment is in the past. I’ve stood in line for beer at 3T’s and I love what they do. I still have the bottle from the lone Dark Lord I’ve had, but that was enough for me.
10 I’ve been to two of Mikkeller’s Copenhagen bars and they were totally worth it. I’ve vowed to visit all of their locations whenever I visit a city where they have a bar. That said, I long for the day I dine and imbibe at their BBQ joint effort with Three Floyds, AKA War Pigs.
11 I don’t remember why I footnoted this one.
12 This is an exaggeration because hyperbole and essentialism are the most important tools when talking about craft beer.
13 Yes, craft beer everywhere, but no one can figure out how to supply Flint with clean water.
14 To be fair, there is tons of great beer in Missouri. Some of the IPA’s are even good, but that’s not what Missouri does best. Breweries in Missouri do everything well, not just one style. Nothing really stands out aside from Saisons and sours here and there, but that’s okay as a lot of good beer is happening there.
15 The New England IPA is a cloudy, orange-colored, fruity, somewhat not bitter version of the IPA that is all the rage. Check any brewery’s social media feed and they’re probably posting milky-orange beers with virtually no head and using terms like “juicy” or “hazy” to describe these concoctions. Also expect limited runs and long lines as no one seems to have figured out how to make this style in large quantities that have a shelf life beyond a few days. Still, when fresh, the NEIPA is an exceptional offshoot of the IPA.
16 The term “juicy” needs to die. I’m so over it and feel it’s overused. I recently noticed members of the aforementioned Tree House FB group describing every beer on a scale of juiciness when these beers do not feature the fruit juice qualities of the typical NEIPA.
17 Tree House has moved its main operation to Charlton from Monson. Google it.
18 Trillium is a Boston-area brewery doing what Tree House will be doing in a few years and Other Half is a Brooklyn brewery doing what Tree House was doing just a couple of years ago. Both are pretty amazing. I feel lucky to have somewhat regular access to all three if I want it.
19 Why is this? There are never imperial stouts on the shelves when I want them in the dead of winter. No. Most have been hitting the shelves this summer. Time to stock up, I guess.
20 And they will. Despite so many great beers on tap or occupying store shelves, craft beer enthusiasts only want what they can’t have.
21 Yes, I realize the hypocrisy of obsessing over a band (Pavement) in which I compare them to pretty much every other band and sometimes beers while calling out Tree House fanbois for the same thing. I’m just taking the piss.
22 Even then, I bet a Tree House Kool-Aid would be a hazy-ass hop bomb to end all hop bombs. In fact, I bet it would even be…dare I say juicy?

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Starting Over

Posted in Beer, Massachusetts, Travelog by SM on August 4, 2015
The Dirty Truth

The Dirty Truth

Over the course of the last 10 years, I was part of a burgeoning craft beer scene in Middle Missouri. I was there before a lot of great breweries distributed and several new breweries opened there. I was at the first ever Columbia Beer Enthusiasts‘ tasting and eventually became an officer (a position I guess that I still hold despite moving 1300 miles away). At the height of the international and national craft beer boom, I was fully embedded in my own scene.

And now, I’m starting over.

I am no longer part of a scene outside of the fact I’m the “new guy” on a local Facebook group dedicated to craft beer in the region. However, I’m no longer a regular…well…anywhere. There are no local breweries following me on Instagram and Twitter. No one’s giving me the inside scoop on releases. In fact, I haven’t a clue when any beers are hitting the shelves. I’m lucky to stumble upon beers I’ve never had that are actually fresh.

It’s weird having to start from scratch. I don’t know that I have the energy to hunt down white whales or hit tap takeovers or hit the road on the weekends to travel to a nearby brewery. I received word of a beer fest in nearby Springfield and I scoffed at the $45 price tag. I don’t really want to start over.

So, my other choice is to ease into the craft community. And if it happens that I become an integral part again, so be it. However, it will most likely mean that I know a thing or two about beer. I know what I like and generally know where I can find it.

Somehow, I’m okay with this. I guess I kinda have to be. I mean, weeknight drinking (including Sundays) now becomes a lot tougher to maintain as my daily commute has tripled (10 to 30 minutes) and the demands of my new job have increased with less flexibility. Sure, I’ll get my summers off, but the coming fall will mean that I need to have a clear mind and plenty of rest to be effective. This is what I want and it’s worth adjusting my lifestyle.

Of course, there’s always the weekends…to spend with my almost-7-year-old and 17-month-old. The second kid made my participation in craft beer and homebrewing tough enough, but now I have to attend to my kids’ needs more that my time and availability is tighter during the week. Will I enjoy a good craft beer? Yes. Will I be ticking away at an impossible list of options? Probably not.

It’s similar to my place in the music scene. The scene here is so much more robust with five significant campuses and a couple of smallish urban centers loaded with creative types. So, it’s probably too big for me to put a dent in it anyway and once again, I honestly don’t have the energy anymore.

And all of this is okay.

Maybe my 30’s was my time to get involved in a scene or two. My 40’s seem to be about my family and career with a little enjoyment on the side. Through all my efforts in music and craft beer scenes, I feel I have a handle on how to enjoy them without being a part of them.

So, where do I get my craft beer fix now? I have Spirit Haus which is nearby – like 2 minutes nearby. This area is loaded with these little beer/wine/liquor stores with an assortment of odds and ends. This is good for exploring the possibilities of the region as well as scoring a gem now and again. Plus, there’s usually a guy at each of these stores who knows everything. At Spirit Haus, they have a guy (Gary, I believe) who knows wine. I haven’t been there enough to know whether or not they have a beer guy, but someone seems to know what they’re doing. The shelves are stocked with a nice spectrum of craft beer and there’s some interesting Belgians as well. The cooler is a labyrinth you enter at your own claustrophobic risk. I was in need of some unique tripels for a pesto dinner and instead of going for Belgians, I wanted some New England fare. What I got was the tripel from Allagash (maybe the best of the style I’ve had) as well as a somewhat older Fluffy White Rabbits – kept in the cooler as an older, hoppy beer should be. Spirit Haus is my neighborhood stop, something I’ve not had for a decade.

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The other stops are not so close, but they offer a fix. Most beer folk know that to fully explore the range of a state’s distribution (if not always the complete breadth), you should hit a Whole Foods. The quantity is never amazing, but they feature locals, regionals, and some rarer, more expensive choices. If I want something local or high-end, I grab it at Whole Paycheck. (However, I’m going to avoid all the West Coast IPA’s that have been sitting there since last fall!) There’s also 44 Liquors which is a regional chain that’s just plain huge. They get everything and in large quantities. For a lot of special releases, places like this get a large share and it sits there for a while. There were so many 120 Minute IPA’s and World Wide Stouts not to mention a full lineup of Lost Abbey beers, that I was nearly overwhelmed. Of course, a place like this also has year-old IPA’s. I guess it’s all part of the learning process.

While Spirit Haus is in Amherst and the other places are in Hadley, my favorite place might be in Northampton. Provisions is one of those fancy food and drink stores that have everything. However, these stores often half-ass the beer and overprice everything. That is not the case with Provisions. They had the local breweries covered, including some rarer beers. I was even able to score several affordable offerings so that I could sample some beers from several breweries. Despite most of the beers being kept on shelves (there was a fully stocked cooler as well), the ages seemed appropriate. I suspect these beers move quickly. My only disappointing discovery was that the place with the largest number of bottles from Shelton Brothers (of nearby Belchertown who carry Mikkeller, Evil Twin, Jolly Pumpkin, everybody) was limited to a shelf in the corner. I opted not to check the dates of those beers as they looked to be not a priority to the store. Something I can overlook since the rest of the store is so amazing.

With unpacking and dragging a 17-month everywhere, I haven’t had time to check out local watering holes. That said, I enjoyed two. One was High Horse Brewing and the other The Dirty Truth in Northampton. I was told by a grad student that High Horse served great food, but the beer was so-so. The food was good, but I don’t know what beer these grad students must be used to. The Anti-Imperialist Session IPA was really good. If a brewery can do a good session IPA, they can certainly do most styles.

The other watering hole was sort of a spur of the moment stop. My father-in-law treated me to a beer at The Dirty Truth. After being carded and having to produce multiple forms of ID because my ID is still out-of-state (also, I’m 40), we slipped in at the end of a long bar to peruse the ~40 taps to try. I had the incredibly bitter Boom Sauce from Lord Hobo Brewing Company and my FiL sipped on White Lion’s Insane Mane (which I sampled as well). Nice, dark joint and they didn’t mind the antsy toddler at the bar.

And that’s about the extent of my beer adventures here in Western Mass. I feel so out of it not knowing any of the beers on tap (particularly local ones) or knowing where and when special releases hit the shelves. Just today I went looking for the Victory/Dogfish Head collaborative saison and two of the above places didn’t have it.

It’s either going to be a long time until I get fully acclimated with this beer scene or I just get back to enjoying the beer again. I mean, every time I go out or pick up something to take home, I’m having a beer I’ve never had before. So, that’s something right? It will be interesting to see how long I go before I start chasing white whales again.

For those who read this blog (assuming that you know it’s producing again) for the beer stuff, hang in there. I’ll find something to say. I might even go back to reviewing records with beers again which could be fun.

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Also, I forgot to mention that it helps to have good neighbors. There will be more to say about this later, but I feel two families have been particularly welcoming and it would be wrong not to mention them in my quest for a place in the new beer scene. First, one couple has an in with Shelton Brothers. We’re hoping to set up a tasting sometime. I don’t need to tell you how excited that makes me. If/when it happens, that will be a night of epic beer drinking proportions. Probably.

The other neighbor only had two beers in his house when I was over last. It just so happens they were both two-year-old brews from Brasserie Fantôme. The first was Saison D’Erezée – Hiver which somehow tasted like a peaty scotch. How does that happen?!? Then, there was  Fantôme de Noël which was also silly good. I suspect there will be more stories involving that guy when the only two beers in his house are two white whales of the highest order.

My Non-Encounter with Kim Gordon

Posted in Book, Life, Massachusetts, Travelog by SM on August 2, 2015

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Let me begin by saying that I am not a stalker. I do have a habit of obsessing over my heroes when there’s an off-chance I could meet them at the least and become best friends in my own delusional world at the most. Then, I realize I’m about to overstep and back off, because they are just working schmucks like the rest of us. Now, by overstepping, I would never do anything weird. I might just be a hanger-on or an awkward third wheel or whatever. But I’ll explain that all below.

So, as you know, we moved to Western Massachusetts. We live in Amherst (where J Mascis lives), next to Hadley (where there are farms, big box stores, and Frank Black), and across the river from Northampton (once the home of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore in a grand, old house on a hill). It’s liberal heaven and beautiful. There are five fairly progressive campuses on top of each other and two of them are all-women colleges (which are either cooler or lamer than your school, the former in this case) surrounded by wilderness, rolling farm land, and mountains.

As I hinted above, some of my heroes live or have lived in the area. Kim Gordon is one in particular. I’m reading her excellent memoir Girl in a Band. So, I was sure Kim and I would hit it off or she would find my daughter reminds her of her daughter or my son would charm her the way he charms everyone or my incredibly talented wife would make quick friends with her as they discuss feminism over wine or… You get the picture.

It was nothing creepy. I, like any Sonic Youth fan, went through a Kim Gordon phase (similar to phases involving Kathleen Hanna, Kim Deal, etc.), but that was a youthful crush. I have friends Kim’s age with similar sensibilities. I didn’t want to have steal a piece of her soul or spy on her or her child. I’m just a fan who wanted on the inside, but I didn’t want to harm my hero in any way.

That said, I learned Kim Gordon was having a garage sale. How could I not go to Kim Gordon’s garage sale? Would I score some cool piece of art or a X-Girl t-shirt or some piece of Sonic Youth memorabilia? Something. And I would hand my cash to Kim and we’d strike up a conversation and she would ask that I bring the kids by sometime and maybe her daughter could babysit… I have an active imagination, but it hardly resembles reality.

Using my expert Googling skills, I confirmed that the address on the flier a friend sent me a pic of was indeed Kim Gordon’s residence. Not wanting to overwhelm her street with parked cars, I parked on a main strip and walked the last couple of blocks. At the corner of her street was another sign with that distinctive flier. Running down the hill was what looked to be the type of aging hipster who would be good friends with someone like Kim Gordon. You know the type. These dudes can pull off longish gray hair, a pair of Ray-Bans, Chuck Taylor’s well into the nursing home. He was fixing the sign. So, I hurried in case he was closing up the garage sale.

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The house was old and somewhat stately. The landscaping was the typically overgrown New England jungle that somehow looked purposeful despite all the weeds. There were older foreign cars strewn along and in the driveway along the side of the house leading to the garage sale in the back.

I passed a for sale sign (same realty company we worked with) with more fliers covering one side and the other revealing an “Under Contract” add-on. This is when it struck me that this was more than an attempt at cleaning out some closets. Kim’s and Thurston Moore’s divorce had been known or in process for quite a while now. I guess I didn’t expect that she would leave Northampton. Rumor on the street is that Thurston lives in an apartment in Northampton with some rocker dude, but he’s rarely around as he’s been touring pretty steadily with his solo project. This was a divorce-caused-moving sale which is the saddest kind of garage sale. At that point, the sun felt a little more oppressive and the house began to sag a bit, but I was not to be deterred.

On my way toward the back, I could see some shelves, lamps, boxes of assorted stuff, and a couple of loaded bookshelves. A hipster couple walked in just ahead of me and an older couple was walking out with a newly purchased lamp. A few other people were perusing the piles as what sounded like a French woman oversaw the proceedings. And more aging hipster friends managed the merch.

The aforementioned hipster couple looked straight out of Singles. I guess grunge is back in style. They were raiding the racks of clothes. The woman was forcing a leather jacket around her torso, convincing her boyfriend that it fit. No doubt she was thinking it was Kim’s leather jacket, but the size made me think it was potentially Kim’s daughter’s, something she had grown out of years ago.

The lamp-carrying older couple looked a little less crazed grunge fan as they walked out with the retro metal lamp. We had a lamp like that once and I’m 99% it was also purchased in a garage sale. On their way out, the man turned to the screen door from where some loud music was coming on the side of the house and hollered “Goodbye, Kim” or some farewell message.

Kim Gordon was not actively supervising her own garage sale directly. However, I suspected that she might have been watching from her kitchen between packing boxes. Instead, a couple of dudes who were either in bands, owned record stores, or both managed some of the merchandise and took money from customers. The French woman wore a long, flowery dress and oversized sunglasses, encouraging people to look around and try things out.

This is when I started to shop. The racks were mainly filled with women’s clothing. I am terrible at shopping for women’s clothes, so I moved on. There were some nice shelves another couple was studying, but we just moved in and I didn’t know where we would put such shelves. Some card tables and boxes at typical garage sale junk. There was a box of framed art, but nothing hip of fancy. I grabbed a bicycle pump with a gauge. (However, in my haste, the pump was missing a nozzle necessary to actually pump up a bicycle tire.)

After browsing the bookshelves, I sauntered into the garage – one of those old, wooden, barn-like garages which probably got little to no use except to store some junk. The junk was there, but so were some Sonic Youth stacks or at least that’s what the masking tape labels claimed. Fifty bucks but you had to take the pair. I deliberated over this for a bit. I have a guitar with a pickup, but this seemed a silly thought as it’s an acoustic and I barely play. I then considered if the stacks would work for stereo speakers. Again, that’s ridiculous. Besides, we just moved into a smaller house and it was largely unpacked. I passed.

I clutched my bike pump and grabbed a bunch of kids books for my daughter. Kim’s daughter Coco was either an avid reader or she just had a lot of books. And they had all the right books from the last 15-20 years of children’s lit. I wanted some science books for my upcoming gig as a 4th grade math and science teacher, but it was mostly literature.

As I wrapped up my shopping, I still hadn’t found anything personal that screamed “SONIC YOUTH” or “this was Kim Gordon’s personal whatever.” Then I found a blank book or journal in the stacks. The cover was an Andy Warhol piece, one of those blank books you buy at Barnes & Nobles to use as a diary of journal. I opened it to see if it was still blank. However, inside the front cover was a collection postcards, newspaper clippings, ticket stubs, etc. On the first page it read “Remember that Katie gave this to me.” I continued to flip through the pages. There were some crude drawings and comics, but most of it was blank.

There was a rush of blood to my head at this point. I had stumbled onto a tiny piece of Coco Gordon Moore’s childhood, but even worse, it was her private journal. Sure, it was unfinished and forgotten, but this was more than I bargained for. I am not a stalker. I do not need to be inside Kim Gordon’s or her daughter’s life. Despite selling her things on her driveway, she and her family didn’t deserve my snooping even if it was accidental.

I quickly shoved the book back into the shelf and went to pay for my items.

One of the aging hipsters came up with a price and I agreed to pay. (I don’t haggle.) The stack of books were a little unwieldy, so they offered me a tote bag from a bin of assorted tote bags. The French lady (not totally sure she was French, but it makes for a better story) grabbed me this “jazz in Paris” tote and I was on my way.

As I walked back to my car, I thought about Kim Gordan’s junk. I only use the word “junk” because that’s what everyone sells in a garage sale. There was an expectation of cool items that would connect to Kim’s celebrity, but that was unrealistic. Kim Gordon has junk in her garage sale like the rest of us.

And that’s when it hit me. The thing I like about the musicians I like is that they are all working stiffs like the rest of us. Sure, there are exceptions. There indie bands who have become insanely rich or down-to-earth megastars, but most indie rockers are often only a few months separated from a 9-5.

I’ve come to this conclusion on many occasions despite my near-worship of bands on indie labels playing the same shitty clubs my friends play. I remember chatting with a friend who was talking about his chance encounter with Tori Amos and how magical that moment was. As he searched for the words to describe his experience, he finally just turned to me and said, “You know how you feel when you meet one of your people.”

I didn’t know how he felt. My “people” are like me. They have to work really hard for a living – on the road or in a steady job to make ends meet. They have families. They have student loans. They have car payments. And they sell junk in their garage sales.

Yeah, there is the celebrity and often there’s a bunch of money they have from doing some rock festivals overseas or having one hit song. I looked for some clues online as to where J Mascis lives. I assumed he lived in a neighborhood like mine or closer to downtown, but it turns out his mansion with recording studio burnt down a few years ago. He doesn’t live in my neighborhood, needless to say. Kim Gordon’s house was listed as selling for 1.5 million dollars online. I don’t know how accurate that is, but she doesn’t live in my neighborhood either.

Still, there are all these moments where one rock hero or another demonstrated some bit of humanity that’s made me check my hero worship. There was that time when the guys from Archers of Loaf reminisced a raucous show they cut short because the crowd was too rowdy, stating that “they needed to be beat down with yard sticks or something.” There was that time Bob Pollard drunkenly talked my brother’s ear off about the importance of the teaching profession. There was just the other day when I was listening to the last Walkmen record and on the back cover was a portrait of the band members and their children. There are so many other moments, but the point remains that no matter the fame (or perceived fame), they’re all a bunch of working stiffs like you and me.

Kim Gordon sold her house and a load of her junk because she’s leaving the Pioneer Valley. She has to do all of this because her husband had a midlife crisis and hooked up with a much younger woman. They divorced and suddenly look as vulnerable as the rest of us. She played her last show in town and packed her car. Most of this move is documented on Instagram, much like the way I recorded my own move.

There’s some saying about how we all eat, shit, and fuck like everyone else or something to that effect. We have to remember this about our heroes now and again. I am the worst about getting wrapped up in celebrity. Luckily, people’s humanity shines through and I’m reminded they are people who are no better than I am. Conversely, I am no better than they are and I don’t deserve a piece of them, even if I pay for their junk at a garage sale.

Additional note about the book: Kim Gordon has a straightforward writing style that shows her story to be an interesting in worthy read. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that we should have been hearing more from her over the years than her ex Thurston Moore. Gordon is sharp, politically aware, open-minded, and in-touch with reality. This memoir – although I’m not done reading it – is right up there with the Patti Smith book, Just Kids. You don’t have to be a fan of Sonic Youth to enjoy this book, but you should be a lover of the arts and a leftist.

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Amherst, Mass

Posted in Life, Massachusetts, Meta by SM on July 25, 2015

(The Pixies are not my neighbors. Although, Frank Black does live in Hadley.)

I no longer live in Middle Missouri. After ten long years of enduring its unforgiving heat and humoring the masses needing to be shown everything, I have left the Cave State for Amherst, Massachusetts. I don’t normally write about my distaste for the state in which I lived on this blog, but it was a tough time for me.

Sure. I met some amazing people and had some amazing experiences, but it was time to go.

So, what does one do when one moves 1300 miles to a region he knows pretty much nothing about? I guess I’ll kick this blog off again for one and tell you what else I am trying to do to get acclimated.

Before that, I had to decide what could be moved and what couldn’t. Since this is a blog that has focused on beer and music, I’ll start (and probably end) there. The beer from my cellar had to be consumed. So, for the past few months, I have been drinking through all the stuff I was trying to age. This wasn’t a big deal as most of these beers were over a year old, meaning they were aged to perfection. In my opinion, 1-2 years is plenty of time to age a beer (made for aging). Additionally, the homebrewing I didn’t really have time for since my son’s birth last year came to a standstill. I did manage one batch of a blueberry lambic. Even that didn’t have the time it really required to age perfectly.

The records were a different story. After some extensive Googling, I found that the standard, small boxes from Uhaul were ideal. The trick is to pack them in tightly so that there’s no room for bending, breaking, or warping. So far, all the records have played well. So, you can release your collected breaths. FTR, the records were the first things I packed but not the first things I unpacked. Once I could get agreement for the placement of the Expedit shelving, I was able to unpack my collection. It’s not a huge record collection, but it more than makes up what it lacks in quantity with quality.

At this point, we’re pretty settled. I have done minimal exploring and have a lot to learn. There are a few good vignettes I’d like to share, but I may have to share them over the course of several posts. I’d really like to get back to longer posts that explore subjects and not just reports or updates on what I am doing.

That said, I can at least give you a preview of a few of these topics. There was the day I drove over to Northampton to buy some of Kim Gordon’s old stuff at her garage sale. It’s not an exciting story and it’s really kinda sad that she’s leaving the area, but it presents an opportunity for an interesting blog post. There are the breweries and beer retailers I’ve discovered not to mention the rich craft beer scene here. So, there will be plenty of beer-related posts. (This is important as more of you read this blog for the beer stuff than the indie rock rants.) I also have a completely new music scene to sort out. There are some interesting leads and still record stores to explore, but that will take me some time. Also, there’s a generally cool area of DIY and local craft economies to suss out. I have a lot to process.

Sorry for the hiatus I seem to go through every few months. I think I have the motivation to make this blog work again. Either way, thanks for sticking with me. If you are new, please look back through Beer and Pavement’s history. There’s some stuff in there I’m quite proud of (and some I’m not).

(Also note the change in username. I have taken on a job that I don’t want to jeopardize with a beer blog in which I curse now and again or profess controversial ideas. So, consider me somewhat anonymous.)