Friday, January 30, 2015

Point of Brew: Burying my head in the Sandy


From page A7 | November 08, 2012 |

By the time you read this I shall have pulled my head out of the sand.

That occasion was planned for Wednesday morning of this week when the campaign for president should be over and done with and the results of the election known (God willing!). Very little gets through to ears buried in sand (though Sandy got through, see below), and I have been able to filter out most of the noise of the election (read: have TV switched off).

Something must be done about our elections. The present system is so broken, so saturated with money (I have seen numbers from $1 billion to $6 billion mentioned as the cost of campaigns), so rife with corruption, hypocrisy and lies, that the electorate distances itself in disgust.

The electoral stench is awful. Even through sand.

The main problem, seems to me, is that the process is way too long; we need a simple mechanism to shorten it. With the present system, there is endless amounts of time in which to spend endless amounts of money on a never-ending campaign that deals in never-ending trivia and spin.

For reasons that I am not exactly clear about, perhaps a short attack of insanity, I accepted an opportunity on work at a telephone bank calling into swing states to persuade voters to vote. Turns out other things arose that prevented my participation; in retrospect, I’m pleased about that: Those poor voters in swing states have so much electoral din to put up with that the last thing they need is some jerk from the relative calm of California calling to ask them to get out and vote.

Give Ohioans a break, for goodness’ sake!

Wouldn’t it be great if the president could call an election at any time that suited his agenda and short of his full term (like the British prime minister). That would set the cat among the pigeons!

I was able to filter out most of the election cacophony. However, news of Hurricane Sandy seeped through to my sand-filled ears because it was such a horrific storm that reached land in a vulnerable and highly populated spot at a particularly bad time.

Also, the hurricane had the potential to afflict my family and that is a serious attention-grabber if ever there was one. Son David and his wife and three little ones live in Virginia. They were hard hit by Hurricane Irene last year when a tree fell on the house and rearranged the roof line; they were hit again this year by a derecho (wind storm). But they came through Sandy relatively unscathed, though their neighbors did not.

We also had a good deal of interest, beyond the general dread and fear for all those folk in harm’s way, in the happenings in New York City. This was because my daughter Karen was signed up with friends to run in the NYC Marathon and was slated to fly into the city last Friday. Fortunately, the true extent of the storm damage, the true degree to which the city’s resources were stretched, and the true opinion of New Yorkers about the race became more obvious by Thursday evening and Karen canceled her trip. She did not want to add to the problem.

There is a lively craft brewing scene in New York City, and along with a thousand other businesses, some of the breweries were affected.

Anheuser-Busch-Inbev closed its breweries in Merrimack, N.H., Newark, N.J, and Williamsburg, Va., as well as a can plant and distributorships throughout the affected area. Damage at these breweries was minimal.

Some small breweries were not so lucky. A little brewery called Barrier Brewing in Oceanside (I guess that tells the whole story!) on Long Island took heavy damage estimated at well over $100,000 in lost equipment, raw materials and beer. Six Points brewery in the Red Hook district of Brooklyn took significant damage that will put them out of business for some months. However, the much larger and more famous Brooklyn Brewery says the flood waters came within a few feet of the door and then receded.

Some distributorships have been flooded and, though the beer can survive that, the cardboard packaging for cases and six-pack holders cannot.

Breweries have reached out to help in disaster relief. Anheuser-Busch-Inbev plant in Cartersville, Ga., converted a can line to package water and shipped more than a million cans to the Red Cross in NYC for distribution as needed. I have no similar news from Miller-Coors. Magic Hat brewery sponsored a concert to raise funds and brewers are reaching out to each other with equipment loans, materials, services and manpower to help get their competitors back in business.

As I write this last paragraph, it is Election Day. This election and Sandy are monumental events that we shall talk about for years. Sandy was a frightening display of Mother Nature’s power to rearrange the landscape and it has forever changed the lives of many citizens; this election, in a similar way, has the frightening potential to determine the nature of our country and affect the lives of all of us. Whatever the choice we collectively make, I hope it turns out to be the right one.

— Reach Michael Lewis at [email protected] Comment on this column at



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