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This And That


I occasionally make a more serious attempt to put a halt to my daily beer habit. Sometimes I’m successful. Sometimes I’m not. A few years ago, I stopped for a few months. Occasionally, I stop for a few days or a week or two. Last summer, I didn’t drink any beer for the month of July. At one point, I decided to try a non-alcoholic beer for the first time. It was an IPA from Surreal Brewing Company, and it was the worst thing I’d ever put into my mouth. Worse even than the Greek lasagna my mom made when I was a kid and we ended up all having McDonald’s for dinner.

After that NA IPA experience, I swore off all NA beers. And after July came and went, I resumed my nightly beer habit. Until this month. At the beginning of the year, I developed my 21 for 21 list. At #11 on the list is a commitment to go beer-free for three months. I started January 1. Today is the end of my first month. Except for one beer I had the first week of January while waiting for some pizza, I’ve had no alcohol this month. But I did return to exploring NA beers and here’s what I’ve discovered. The hoppier the beer, the worse it is. Some pilsners and lagers are remarkably close to the “real thing.” But those IPAs and similarly hopped beers are just ghastly. Horrible. There are no words that really describe just how bad they are. I also found a stout that was a reasonable facsimile of the real thing. My favorite so far — Bitburger’s NA Pilsner. I really can’t tell the difference.

But next up … no NA beer in February and March. And then we’ll see where I want to go with this.

* * * * *

GameStop and the hullabaloo of the last week. I find this whole thing fascinating. The “masters of the universe” have engaged in legalized gambling on the stock market for decades. They have strategies and tactics that guarantee that they will make money no matter what direction the market goes in. Hedge funds are some of the most vile of these people. They are opaque, control billions and billions of dollars, and manipulate the market however they can to ensure their profit.

Investing is a zero sum game. So, if those guys win, the rest of us lose. And that’s basically what happens over and over and over again.

That some nobodies, guys in their basements, ladies on their phones, and all sorts of common folk found a hole and leapt into it to knock the “masters” down a peg is a thing of beauty. I do have a small worry that this is kind of like Pandora’s Box, and the people behind this may have opened up something that will spread and create much larger problems for all investeors. But I’m still thrilled, at this moment, with what they did. Here’s my prediction. The regulators will figure out a way to outlaw what they did, while continuing to allow the legalized gambling and manipulation the big guys engage in every single day.

* * * * *

I had a bit of an epiphany a couple of days ago. Why do I write stories? Why do I keep plugging away at novels, novellas, and short stories? Well, I can’t really say that I’m plugging away a lot as I still struggle with it, but I do keep trying. The question is … why? Because I want to make people feel.

There are a couple of recent situations that have reinforced this. First, Trent Lewin read The Irrepairable Past and wrote a wonderful review about how it made him feel. Whenever I read that review, I am reminded of what it is I’m trying to do when I write. Which ties into the second thing…

A friend asked me for some book recommendations. He is a relentless reader, easily reading more books in a year than I probably read in three. He is a history teacher so a lot of what he reads is non-fiction to fuel his interest in that topic. He also reads a lot of Eastern European and Russian novelists. Because of his typical reading, I was reluctant to go where I wanted to with my recommendations, but I did anyway.

I offered to him my holy trinity of books: Everything Matters, The Art of Racing in the Rain, and The Book Thief. I also offered him a few books about the Iraq War, and also The Final Salute, an absolute gut punch of a book that tells the story of a couple of officers who are responsible for notifying the next of kin about a combat death. And finally, I recalled another book I wanted to recommend to him. The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.

He recently finished Everything Matters and The Art of Racing in the Rain, and is now on to The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. While he has read these books, he has texted me his thoughts and feelings, and it’s clear that these books have moved him just as they moved me. These are the books that have left me in tears, the books that have left me spoiled when it comes to reading fiction. I want that feeling every time I read a book now and, unfortunately, that kind of feeling doesn’t come often enough when I read.

But … this is why I write. I want to write something that helps or makes readers feel something. The thing is that even though the parts of those books that made me cry were the “sad” moments, the sadness was sweetened by something in the way the writer told the story. There was more there than just the sadness of a death or some other trauma. These stories go into things much deeper than just a death. They left me, amidst my tears, feeling such a sense of hope and renewed purpose in my life.

This is why I write these days. I want that feeling for my readers. I only hope that I achieve it every now and then. Trent’s review gives me hope that I might be able to.

Here is the quote from Everything Matters that I’ve shared on this blog before. It is my favorite from any book I’ve ever read. It says everything that needs to be said about life.

Everything matters not in spite of the end of you and all that you love, but because of it. Everything is all you’ve got — your wife’s lips, your daughter’s eyes, your brother’s heart, your father’s bones and your own grief — and after Everything is nothing. So you were wise to welcome Everything, the good and the bad alike, and cling to it all. Gather it in. Seek the meaning in sorrow and don’t ever turn away, not once, from here until the end. Because it is all the same, it is all unfathomable, and it is all infinitely preferable to the one dreadful alternative.

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5 responses to “This And That

  1. Trent Lewin January 31, 2021 at 6:59 pm

    No comment on the beer thing. No comment! On the stock market stuff, yeah, there are shadowy and not so shadowy groups out there manipulating the market on a regular basis, and we often get hosed as a result. I kind of like it that others stuck it to the shadow-mongers.

    Now to more important stuff. The latter half of this post is why you’re a writer. I think you’ve distilled it into exactly what it means: that ability to be evocative. To create feelings in others, the types of emotions that we have experienced when reading the works of others. There are other motivations, to be sure. Fame, money, purely for the self, etc. But creating a feeling, that is something special. It’s what music does, too. Could you imagine if we could write marvellous music? Great songs? And those songs allowed people to soar, or be sad, and to lift themselves out of themselves? That’s the real magic. That’s the art of it all. Writing can do that, and I think you’ve listed a bunch of books here that I now must get my hands on.

    I sometimes wonder as we age if the feeling, the ability to be moved, dies a little bit more every day. When we were young, wasn’t it so easy to just feel? Every day, every moment was choke full of feeling. Then comes schooling. And work. And the day-to-day grind, and I think it does numb us. It takes something away that we badly want. I refuse to grow up, myself. I won’t do it. I’ll take on the trappings of the thing – of being an adult – but I’ll never be one. Because I want to feel, and I want to make others feel, the same sensations that I was born with and that made the world seem so glorious once upon a time. It’s still glorious. I felt glorious at the end of The Irrepairable Past. And that’s just something to be thankful for. That I can still feel something. That others can stir those precious emotions in me, whatever they may be.

    You have that talent and that ability. I’ve seen it. Of that, I have no doubt. None. It’s right there.

    So onwards to the writing world. Towards feeling something profound, if even just for a few moments. That’s where human glory resides. Our ability to be truly great. That’s when we elevate. Man, if I could play a small part in doing that… awesome. It’s the Elevation of the Species, my friend. It’s in our words. Always was, maybe.

    • kingmidget January 31, 2021 at 8:32 pm

      I actually think that my ability to feel things has increased with ages. Going back to my last post, it’s one of the things having kids taught me. I think back to the me that was in his 20s. I would have never cried while reading a book, I wouldn’t have felt how I felt when I read those books. But, as the years roll by, as I went through the act of parenting my kids, as friends have come and gone, as some have gone as a result of early deaths, as other things have happened (or not happened), the sense of what can be lost and what can be found becomes more and more real to me. As a result, I think it’s the exact opposite of what you suggest. At least for me.

      I’m trying to hold on to this, what I put into this post and what you have said in response, and renew myself and my writing.

      Thank you, as always, for your words of support and encouragement.

  2. TamrahJo January 31, 2021 at 7:16 pm

    I love “The Book Thief” – sounds like I would enjoy “Everything Matters” – on the no beer front – if you have it as a goal and made it for a goal for yourself, go for it and many NA brews try to replace the relaxing formula of ‘alchohol’ with strong flavors – I’ve had low alchohol/no alcohol drinks, that were made from herbal ingredients purely mixed/matched for ‘tonic, relaxing, anxiety solving’ properties and they were enjoyable and I enjoyed them (thus my continuing exploration into making home made sodas/country wines that serve the need but aren’t brewed JUST to get the highest BAC as possible – – LOL – I’m down to mixing various blends of tea and using bread yeast and when the ‘raisins drop’ to let me know the fermenting to get rid of the sugar/honey has finished (I’m more a dry pref gal, not sweet tasting gal) ITs STILL to high BAC for me to drink straight without doing a cup straight and saying, “OH! MY! I’m a lightweight, i’m going to bed and will re-think my life choices and recipes tomorrow….” – – LOL – – For me? IF anything – tobacco, alchohol, entertainment, gambling in a casino TAKES priority over my kids eating or me paying my bills on time? Then it’s a problem – If I can say, “well – no $ for that this month” and make it through the month without wondering how I can rob a bank or the local store and get away with it? Then NOT a PROBLEM – but that’s just me – – Which, on the topic of gambling – me and the son had this conversation and yes, maybe there are a slew of little guys finding a way to highlight the overall brokedness of the entire Wall Street, Investment, Rampant Captialism economic system we’ve lived in since Alexander Hamilton won George Washington’s ear before Thomas Jefferson did – BUT – it’s still a hollow victory – because….well….if 2008 taught us nothing else, it should be remembered, that in banking, investment, insurance, wall street worlds that ‘too big to let fail’ exists and even before COVID and stimulus checks, I know that bailouts funded by tax payer dollars back in 2008 robbed any grandchildren/great grandchildren of any low taxes future they might have – – this year? Did I spend my stimulus checks given to pay my bills? Yes, I did! Did I use it to shop for stuff or eat out? No, other than to make a grocery order that included seafood, because I do so love seafood and canned tuna (budget buy) just doesn’t meet the craving all the time – – LOL – but legalized gambling and the house always wins? You BETCHA! Right there with you and apparently, I”m an idiot Marxist or Socialist because I still believe it to be so – – House and those in power (through public service or income or class – who cares?) they will always have more resources available to them to keep things just the way they wish and so many, including my son, seem to be missing the core take away point I saw from the whole Gamestop thingee – – which is, “Make a point, play the loophole and if you tread on the house/majorities’ toes, guess what? can be shut own and now they’ll work to close that loophole, too, meanwhile, you just played within their system” – By the way, I own $898 worth of self-employement taxes on $9,707 total income for the year and I’m not allowed to count my ‘stock up of non-perishable dehyrated foods’ as my ‘IRA/unemployment insurance” – etc., so there ya go – – LOL

    • kingmidget January 31, 2021 at 8:35 pm

      I need to stop drinking booze due to some health issues. It’s a battle that I need to win.

      As for the gambling … yes, I agree. I think it will end up being a hollow victory. The game is tilted against us little guys and seems like it always will be.

      • TamrahJo February 1, 2021 at 10:27 am

        I firmly support anyone who makes dietary changes in pursuit of better health – for myself? Sometimes it’s less about ‘restrictions’ and more about focusing on nutrition packed meals/drinks, etc. But I can relate – – one of the most major Warning signs for me that I’ve gotten ‘out of whack’ and ‘off the track’ of health is I start craving Pepsi – and when I drink it, it tastes good — – LOL – When I focus on ingesting foods/recipes that focus on ingredients to ‘help here and there’ the craving goes away and if I order, out of habit, or grab one when ‘on the road’ – it tastes horrible – – LOL

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