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The Buzz

A Beerfly's view. If you see anything here that seems crazy, click here.

Fresh Buzz

Vintage Buzz

2006 Buzz

August '06: Messin' With Us

July '06: Break the Chains

June '06: Viva El Hefe!

May '06: Just Like Wine

Apr. '06: Mixed Messages

Mar. '06: We Print the Truth

Feb. '06: The Fairer Sex

Jan. '06: Best of 2005

2005 Buzz

Dec. '05: Look at Me Drink!

Nov. '05: Malt Monsters

Oct. '05: Sweetness

Sep. '05: When to Fold

Aug. '05: Little Nightmares

July '05: American Spirit

June '05: Miller Time 

May. '05: Breathing Beer 

April '05: Now It's Personal

Mar. '05: 7% Ain't Enough

Feb. '05: Down to 18 

Jan. '05: Best of 2004 

2004 Buzz

Dec. '04: Joys of the Dark 

Nov. '04: The Next Store 

Oct. '04: Beer's Image 

Sept. '04: Clearly Insane 

August '04: Love of Lager

July '04: Speak Up!

June '04: Get Drafted

May '04: Shedding Tiers

April '04: Keg Party

March '04: Ultra Madness

February '04: Case Law

January '04: Best of 2003

2003 Buzz

Dec. '03: Wine good!

Nov. '03: Say Anything

Oct. '03: Shots at Saveur

Sept. '03: Pay For It!

August '03: Subtlety

July '03: RIP, Corner Bar

June '03: Screw 'Em!

May '03: Extreme Beer?

April '03: Liquor Taxes

March '03: St. Patrick's

February '03: Coffee

January '03: Taxes


September, 2006 

It's Worth It

9/11, 9:42 AM Turn on your television. We appear to be under attack.

Five years. Today I opened up the e-mails I havent read in five years, and re-lived that hellish day and the days that followed. That first e-mail I got from my dad. My little girl was home from school with a fever, and while she napped on the couch, I was editing some photos Id taken. Then I got that e-mail, and went upstairs to turn on MSNBC. In one minute, my whole day our whole history had changed. I didnt hear from my father for two days. He just didnt feel up to it. I didn't blame him, then or now.

9/11, 1:08 PM Dan, TC? You guys out of hell?

I sent that one, to my two close friends in Manhattan. Id stayed with Dan when I did the Manhattan research for New York Breweries, TC is my sons namesake and godfather. Thankfully, they were both fine, though I wouldnt hear back from them for an agonizing 20 hours. I spent the rest of that Tuesday glued to the TV screen, running downstairs to check Web news, listening to the radio, and calling people.

I comforted my children. Nora was still young enough that she just wanted to cuddle up next to me and have my arm around her. When Thomas came home, I had to explain the whole thing to him: the school had kept mum about the whole thing to keep the kids from panicking. He was concerned; not scared, but concerned, and I talked history to him. I talked about how the young republic had scoured out the Barbary Pirates; and I told him about smoking, salted Carthage. I was not in a forgiving mood, nor was I alone.

But I did tell the kids that sometimes it was a pretty good thing to live in a small, unimportant town, and that they had nothing to worry about. I got them quieted down, and when Cathy came home we broke out some beers and talked quietly in the kitchen about what the nation might do to the terrorists. "They have no idea how badly theyve f---ed up," she said, savagely. Those words have haunted me recently.

9/12 Yeah, had a clear view of the entire debacle. Saw the north tower go down - it was surreal. Co-workers saw the second plane crash. Luckily my brother-in-law was late to work and was not in the vicinity.

I finally heard from TC, who worked in midtown Manhattan. He was okay, at least physically. Wed all rebound eventually, but TC, like me, was staggering on 9/12. Wed been numb the day before, but now we were trying to get a grip on everything. And it wasnt working.

9/12 Im still numb. In the shower this morning I remembered a discussion at Chumleys between Tom, Dan and me on whether it was reasonable during Desert Storm for 200,000 Republican Guard to die for maybe 10 Americans. Now just a short distance away we lose maybe 50,000 americans to a few fanatics. I say salt the earth, Old Testament style judgement. Maybe start with those dancing Palestinians. Even now it still seems unreal, like some Hollywood hoax.

My friend Bobby sent that, and we were all thinking the same way. Well, mostly. I sent an e-mail to my sister that day about telling Thomas about Carthage, and confided to her that Id been thinking about what Id said. "People still remember Carthage after 2,000 years, and shudder," I wrote to her. "Do we want to be remembered as a nation that would commit Carthage? Its all very complicated."

9/13 I still cant believe that both towers are f---ing GONE. My damn skyline is CHANGED! Those bastards actually managed to change the sky

We heard from Dan on Thursday, in typical Dan fashion. His skyline. OUR skyline. Our sky changed everywhere. At any hour of the day or night, I can stand on my back deck and see three jetliners in the air, headed for Newark, Philadelphia, JFK, and the local West Trenton airport. There were none, not so much as a single-engine Piper. It was quiet, and it was frustrating. They took away our wings, they actually managed to change the sky!

Nobody was laughing yet. We would, but we were still reeling. I hadnt done any work in two days. Life went on, but it was different.

9/13 This morning I stopped by my sons school to sign some forms. As I was leaving, I saw two kids with U.S. and state flags in the hall, waiting around after a school assembly. The boy was dinking around, talking, and the U.S. flag was drooping to the ground. I walked up behind him, put my hand on his shoulder, and as he turned around, lifted the flag with the other hand and said: "Son, today of all days, take care not to let our flag touch the ground." I smiled, he went wide-eyed and lifted the flag further, and said, "Okay!" "Thanks," I said, and left.

Sounds kind of patronizing today, but I dont regret doing it. We all gave a damn a lot more those days. Its all very complicated now, but then flags sprouted everywhere, and we were willing to do what had to be done. Where we may have screwed up was in doing what didnt have to be done.

9/14 I work at home. Im not getting a lot done this week because its extremely hard to focus, particularly on something suddenly so trivial as writing about beer. And... this IS my water cooler. I have nowhere else to go, and its making me nuts.

I was using the beer newsgroups as a way to reach out from my basement office, from the disheartening situation in which I found myself. FBI agents were tracking terrorist movements, CIA and Special Forces were moving into Afghanistan, the military in general was bending towards that country, the police and fire departments and construction workers in New York fruitlessly raced to find possible survivors. Even my wife was working on potentially life-saving drugs. And I was supposed to write about beer. Bullshit, I thought.

9/14 One of my nephews worked in the upper floors of the first building to be hit and has undoubtedly died. I was hoping to be in the chat room tonight but I am going to be with my sister.

Dear God. I knew that nephew. I know his brother. I know the uncle. I cried. I just cried again. This is not easier after five years.

9/19 How you doing, otherwise? Im still freaked out and useless, especially at work. Its just this unthinkable blight somewhere in back of my mind; and the moment I focus on it, I remember that the unthinkable is now thinkable.

Dan again. I heard what he said here, and I thought the very same thing. Freaked out and useless.

9/19 Noras been crying a lot, losing her cool very easily. Thomas ran out to catch Cathy at the curb this morning, begged her not to go to work, he was worried about her.

We coped, we cared. And it was finally my family that brought me back, pulled me together, with a little help from John Trogner. I was making a few lackadaisical calls for my Ale Street News column, and I called Tregs. I told John how I just wasnt getting it back together. For God's sake, I said, I write about beer. I just dont know why Im doing this. It seems so pointless and unimportant. 

"I know what you mean," John said. "Im 'just making beer.' But you know, we still have jobs that need done, and people that are counting on us. We still have families that need fed, mortgages that need paid." It seems almost over-simplified now. But it was just what I needed at the time. People are counting on us. 

My job hasn't gotten any more important in the five years that have passed. I still just write about beer -- er, beer and whiskey. Realistically, my wife feeds the family and pays the mortgage. I cover the real estate taxes and take-out Chinese, approximately. But we do what we have to do, because people are counting on us. 

People tell me that my writing entertains them, that the points I make are good ones, that the questions I ask are interesting and difficult. People tell me that my books help them find great beer and good times, and that makes me feel great. I'm no great novelist, I'm not the historian I once thought I would be. I don't even 'just make beer.' But I'm still doing what I have to do, and it's worth it. 

Brewers, distillers, wholesalers, retailers: what you do is worth it, too. You make people smile, you make people feel good, you make people's food taste better, and you make their good times happy. Don't ever question that what you do is trivial. 

Thanks to everyone who supports me in what I do. My family, my colleagues in the beer-writin' biz, the editors and publishers, and all the brewers and distillers who give me something to write about, and friends, and colleagues, and yeah, drinking partners. And a special thanks to John Trogner. It's worth it. 



Copyright 2008 Lew Bryson. All rights reserved. 
Fee required for reprints in any commercial media.
Revised: November 01, 2006