Front Porch Chats #51

Gigantic's Massive barleywine ale, in glass on table outdoors.

That’s Gigantic’s Massive barleywine ale, aged in port barrels, sitting on the table. I know it’s got to warm up a little before I’ll get the most out of it, so I’m just waiting, pondering.

I’ve been thinking of my own thoughtlessness of late, because my niece got her picture published in the paper. It was the first day back to school since the pandemic, and her mom, thinking it was pretty neat that her kid was on the front page, posted that on social media.

My niece’s joking response was that it was ‘a hate crime’.

Which is….a bad look. Equating your emotional discomfort of having a picture taken to be equivalent to the threat that Black, Jewish, or LBGTQ people live under every day is just not a funny thing. I wondered if she knows any people who would need protections under hate crime laws-I didn’t at her age. And, given she’s growing up where I did, it wouldn’t surprise me if she didn’t, either.

Which was the second thing I thought about: how I didn’t know I I knew any gay people, until I was 17, and while I knew Jewish people, the fact that they were Jewish had as much relevance to me as someone having brown hair instead of black. I made dumber comments at that age, thoughtless about the larger context of the world and my place in it.

I was just fortunate enough to not have social media to document my fuckups.

Then I got older and learned more. But, even within the last year I have had to confront internalized racism and classism, to unlearn things I didn’t even know I was being taught. It doesn’t end, not if you want to legitimately do the work.

I am grateful to my friends who have spent time with me and celebrated who they are, so that when events came up that were hurtful I could recognize that something I once thought as benign was actually harming them-sometimes even killing people they know.

So it was up to me to grow, and be better. So that they wouldn’t have to struggle alone. I didn’t-even when I probably deserved to.

And my niece? She’ll be fine-she’s got good people around her and is certainly ahead of where I was back then. That error will self-correct.

As for the Massive…well, that won’t self-correct. There are notes of gasoline-it’s a boozy ale-and a bit of fig, but no sweetness, just the dry, bitter part. After it’s all done, there’s an element of woodiness that doesn’t sit well with me. The caramel sweetness I enjoy in barley wines has been replaced with something that tastes burnt.

It’s that burnt quality that is throwing it all off: maybe that barrel of port has seen too many miles, but it certainly wasn’t making friend with the barleywine.

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