Nice and Easy

Nice and tired from an easy tour of Table Bluff back roads yesterday, this morning I find myself thinking about The Byrds and Larrupin’ Sauce.

Enough time has passed since I last listened to Sweetheart of the Rodeo that right now, for one brief listen or maybe two, is it no longer worn out. This morning it feels fresh and renewed yet comfortable and old. A sing along record, a groovy morning starter–one of those rare moments when an album exactly hits the spot.

I haven’t been in a very good music appreciation groove since I moved to Humboldt. The ritual has changed. It used to be that Todd and I would listen to music at our desks all day long. It was part of work: I’d come in, and if I was there first (hopefully) I’d queue up an album. Then after it was done I’d respectfully allow Todd to select one. And repeat, choosing thoughtfully, a pair of desktop DJs trying to make the day go down a little more enjoyably. Trading riffs, swapping anthems, or sometimes more embattled and grumpy, pitting Fleetwood Mac versus primitive French black metal. What an unholy match up that was!

But this morning I’m DJing for myself and it’s me and The Byrds and a toaster creation of jalapeño bagel, egg and cheese with some semi-experimental Larrupin’ sauce inserted somewhere. It’s actually not much of an experiment because I’m beginning to learn that Larrupin’ Sauce can be safely employed almost anywhere. And that maybe it’s a sign, that through fully adopting this local elixir I’m becoming a more fully naturalized resident of the Emerald Triangle.

Now that Sweetheart is over, the next pick is Song of America.

A few weeks ago I rode up through the Arcata Community Forest with a few buddies, wearing my old NATO Army surplus backpack. We dropped down the back side of Fickle Ridge on somebody’s private fire road then rode West End out to Mad River to purchase homebrew supplies.

I put the ingredients in my backpack and we headed for home. However on the way back los amigos decided it would be way radder to climb back up over the ridge instead of taking the flat way home. I grimaced and weighed a mutiny but decided what the hell, I’d do it.

Somewhere on the minor death march back up the hill the brown paper grain bags in my backpack burst open from sweat and jostling. As we rode back down through the forest, floating root sections, hooting and hollering, the grains got tossed in my NATO pack with all of the jacket lint, miniature ribbons of old trail maps, and etc. This was the first step in the creation of the Backpack IPA.

The second step happened later that night when we fired up the massive propane ring in Dbo’s back yard and boiled ten gallons in ten minutes. Somehow I ended up with Amber DME for my mini-mash IPA, but no matter. You do your best and adapt when change becomes unavoidable.

Last night we reprised the Community Forest Blue Lake route, but this time at night, wearing 12 watt halogen bulbs. Nobody crashed, and the night was clear and mellow with a beautiful full moon. When we got to West End it was so bright we didn’t need lights and rode through the ghostly pastures and farms in moonlight. The Mad River was silver and we all thought about how lucky we were.

The brewery was celebrating its 20th anniversary by tapping a cask of double IPA and a few kegs of wheat wine. It was overcrowded and hard to get a beer from the bar; as we wedged our way in we found ourselves parked next to a guy with an impressive mustache and a skyscraper of empies. “Six firkins!” he started ranting, “Pour these gentlemen six firkins! And a pint of bourbon barrel aged stout to drink while they’re waiting.” That’s how I found myself in possession of two fists full of DIPA. And that was about all I would need.

Today I bottled the Backpack IPA into two 1.5 gallon Tap-a-draft jugs. As I was finishing up, trying to pull the hop bag out through the neck of the carboy, it got wrung and produced a glass of hop juice in the foot of the fermenter. Ah, sweet nectar: I drank it. Tastes like adventure.

Dear Oakland Athletics:

Goodbye for the year.  It’s been an erratic affair.  It started, as it always does, with so much hope.  We all dreamed that Giambi, with his slump-busting golden thong, might re-kindle the magic he used to conjure on a regular basis.  Maybe Nosemar with his illustrious past and shins of glass would stay healthy enough to swat a legion of first pitch fastballs into the gap.  Or perhaps Matt Holliday and his boxy alpha male jaw would take the whole team on his back and hike us to the top of the mountain.

Giambi fizzled, Nomar was whatever, Holliday was flung to the Red Birds.  So instead of those nonfunctional famous guys, we got to watch the emergence of a few young ragamuffins.  Like Rajai Davis and his track and field build, taking adventurous, blazing routes through the alleys.  Rajai the team barber, wearing a pencil mustache, making sure everyone looks good.  Andrew Bailey sawed off a tall pile of bats, representing for South Jersey.  Cliff Pennington defined scrappy with heart.

Oh, and what about the young starters.  Brett Anderson!  What a cold blooded young aryan, 21 years old with the chipmunk cheeks and steely gaze.  Throwin’ back foot sliders and makin you miss.  Painting 96 on the corners, inside and out, up and down.

Trevor Cahill, the Pterodactyl, looking more like a juvenile weasel, but oh how he made the ball dance.  Sparkling sinkers, wobbling changeups.  How do you harness so much movement?  That is your task, my friend.

And Gio Gonzalez, my primo, keep letting Rajai line up your beard cause it looks good.  Gio it’s almost like you care too much.  Like way way too much, enough for three young Brett Andersons.  And sometimes it works, when your curveball corkscrews and your fastball zings erratic, but sometimes you try too hard to throw your most perfect pitch every time, which makes you fall behind and nibble and then the walks.  And then you grab too much of the plate and witness the three run homer and watch your world collapse.  It’s a mind game for you–this winter I expect you to start bending spoons.

Jack Cust, you bambino lumberjack, you only barely hit your 30th percentile projection, but still provided enough majestic shots to left to keep me interested.  Thank you.  Kurt Suzuki wore his puka shells every day and kept things positive.  Michael Wurtz threw enough sliders to make his arm fall off, to good effect.  Well done Michael.  See you later Bobby Crosby.

It was an erratic season, but they always are.  It was a few different seasons in one.  We saw week long trainwrecks sandwiched around flashes of brilliance.  It was ugly and unreliable, but through it all I can’t help it, I love it.  I love the trainwreck known as Oakland A’s baseball.  Never enough money, never filled with stars, but always a compelling group of miscreants, re-treads and youth.