Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Furloughed

The last time I went to work was Friday, December 21st, 2018. I set up an out of office message, took a look around, and left. I still have some trail mix and chips on a shelf in my office. I wonder if they've gone stale, or if a library mouse is enjoying them and the solitude.

When the shutdown started, our living room furniture was set up just so. Since then it's been moved two more times. I think we're finally happy with it.

I do some quick calculations in my head about our food situation. We're fortunate that we can miss a month or two of paychecks and be okay, but just in case, better to buy in bulk now--hello, Costco--and supplement with Aldi or the "seconds" produce at the weekly farmers market. I update my resume and CV, just in case.

The second week of the shutdown my wife notices some water damage on our bedroom ceiling. We call a roofer. They spend maybe twenty minutes poking around, and two days later write us an estimate for $11,000. We laugh.

I also apply for unemployment in the second week. I figure I pay into this system, I may as well use it. At the end of the process the unemployment website gives me fifty-eight jobs to apply for that are either in a library or library-adjacent. I filter them by distance to my house, fifteen miles or less given Metro and the state of local roads, and an hourly rate of $20 and over. The updated search returns zero results.

I hear nothing for over a week, then get a letter in the mail, instructing me to use their website to file a weekly claim. There is no information on how to file a weekly claim on the website. I call instead. Due to the volume of callers, I'm asked to try again later.

I meet fellow furloughed friends for lunch downtown. The takeout traffic looks okay, but the dining room is empty, and a server confirms that business is down about seventy percent. Some of the staff are losing shifts.

Mr. 12 in particular thinks the shutdown deals are a hoot. We live within walking distance of an &pizza, a fast casual chain that cooks made-to-order pizzas in a high-speed oven. They're offering a free pizza with a federal or contractor ID card between 6 and 8pm every day, and bless them for it. On Friday, January 11th, the day of the first missed paycheck for federal workers, there's a line out the door at 7. I don't tell Mr. 12 that I could buy about eight pizzas at the hourly rate my contractor bills.

My aunt sends me $100 Trader Joe's gift card. We don't need it, but the thought, the kindness, matters so much more. When I go "public" on social media about filing for unemployment, I receive more kind messages, and some friends asking about the process, which they'll choose to go through.
People ask me how I'm holding up. I tell them that the laundry is done, the house is clean, the meals are home-cooked, I'm caught up on prestige tv, and the dogs are walked. But at about week three I start thinking about the $6,000 or so I've lost thus far. As a contractor, I'm almost certainly not getting that back. My anxiety spikes.

It spikes a second time when I think about going back to work. The emails I'll come back to, the feelings of being overwhelmed that other staff will almost certainly have and how I'll manage that, the accreditation committee that hasn't been tended to in almost a month, the missed deadlines. I bake cookies. I walk the dogs again.


If you'd like to help, and have the means, the following organizations do good work:
Bread for the City
Capital Are Food Bank
Greater DC Diaper Bank
So Others Might Eat

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Beer and Music, Music and Beer, 2018 Edition

Well, that was a year. 2018, with the never-ending news cycles, sapped much of my ability to concentrate. Pretty sure I'm not alone in that. To "celebrate," my top ten of 2018 is unranked, in alphabetical order.

Smash that play button and let's go.



Beach House - 7: Their biggest, most extroverted album.
Charles Bradley - Black Velvet: You come for the searing cover of Nirvana's "Stay Away," but you stay for his voice and the Daptones on his final record. Rest in peace.
Holy Fawn - Death Spells: Shoegaze with touches of black and doom metal. The sequel to Sigur Ros' Kveikur you didn't know you needed.
Kraus - Path: The shoegaze album of the year marries emo-style lyrics to breathtakingly loud guitar and pedal work.
Panopticon - The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness Parts I and II: A double album that's black metal and bluegrass, doom and Americana, with an ecological bent. And yet it works. Loud or quiet, it's beautiful.
Parquet Courts - Wide Awake: I didn't know they had it in them to make a political record, but it's here and it works.
Pusha T - Daytona: At 21 minutes I've got hardcore albums that are longer, but here are 7 bangers with no filler. Maybe burn it onto a CD-R with his highly entertaining diss track-slash-investigative journalism of Drake.
Ty Segall - Freedom's Goblin: The Use Your Illusion of psych-garage-punk maybe could have benefited from being edited into a single album, but it's surprisingly funky and well-done.
Shopping - The Official Body: Gang of Four-style post-punk. Most impressive.
Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt: Jason Pierce aging gracefully, making Brill Building-, Beatles-, and Brian Wilson-style pop and R&B. Some songs are warm, some are abrasive, all are exceptionally well-crafted.



The best of the rest:

Amen Dunes - Freedom: Damon McMahon sounds like early Mick Jagger on a few of these slow-burners. Most impressive.
Belle and Sebastian - How to Solve Our Human Problems: Nice to have them back, making perfect pop songs.
Cardi B - Invasion of Privacy: I've come to terms that the boom bap sound of my youth isn't coming back, and maybe, finally, that's a good thing. I wish that JID album hadn't come out so late in the year.
Des Demonas - s/t: The album came out in late 2017, but I didn't discover it until early 2018. US Girls seems to get the critical love as far as bands from DC go, but this political and polemical garage, surf, and punk band is well worth a listen.
Iceage - Beyondless: They've become one of the more interesting bands out there, and they're not even 30 yet. This album's more post- than punk and it works. The Jam for our times?
Jesus Piece - Only Self: The year's artiest hardcore album.
Lucy Dacus - Historian: This, plus the boygenuis EP.
Mitski - Be the Cowboy: I didn't get the hype before this one. Now I do. What a lyricist.
Nicholas Paschburg - Oceanic: My favorite ambient record of 2018.
Sleep - The Sciences: They're back, so pass the bong.
Thee Oh Sees - Smote Reverser: They sound more like Sleep now, so pass the bong.
Anna Von Hausswolf - Dead Magic: Something like a goth Kate Bush making doomy, funereal pop.

Singles: Tracey Thorn - Sister; Cardi B - Get Up 10; Shopping - The Hype; Snail Mail - Pristine; 1975 - Love It Cause We Made It.

Jeers: I wasn't into albums from a few bands I'm normally into. Sorry Courtney Barnett, Churches, and Deafheaven.


Beer

I thought DC Brau had comfortably entered their middle age, making beer that's "good enough." They killed it in 2018, releasing an excellent British-style barleywine in Sleep Standing Up; then made a hoppy rice lager, Tuk Tuk, that's very good, and that was just last winter. They followed it up with the Jameson-barrel aged Pet Your Cow milk stout this fall and then finally put their keller pils in tallboys. They had a really good year.

Some thoughts:
1) Our post-whalez scene continues, with Bourbon County and Canadian Breakfast Stout sitting on shelves, which is how it should be. Overall I saw a lot fewer lines in 2018, too.
2) There's more attention being paid to how breweries conduct their business, from dealing with intellectual property and trademarks, to racism and sexism, and wages. Keep shining a light and calling it out.
3) I don't know if this is good or not, but the DMV burbs are where it's at right now, maybe at the expense of some of the city's breweries. Sure, the quality in the city is there; see the DC Brau rave above. And Right Proper and Bluejacket are particularly locked in, but Port City's lager series continues to impress, as do Crooked Run's IPAs, and pretty much everything I had from Ocelot and Dynasty. And that's just Virginia.
3a) Then again, I saw a local brewery charge $65 for a bottle of stout at a pop-up event in the city. Not for a case of stout, but for one 500ml bottle. Do what you want with your money, but that's foolish.
3b) And I continue to be unimpressed with the most of the breweries in Montgomery and Frederick counties, especially those along MD-355 and I270/70.

The locals, in no particular order:

Port City Schwartzbier and Baltic Porter.
DC Brau Sleep Standing Up barrel-aged barleywine, Tuk Tuk rice lager, Jameson barrel-aged Pet Your Cow, and Keller pils.
3 Stars and Finback Low Riderz IPA: 3 Stars did a whole series of these and this was the most floral, and also the lowest ABV.
Ocelot Home IPA: a new hazy version.
Ardent Pils.
Rocket Frog Wallops Brown Ale, and, uh, Snark-Infested Waters Schwartzbier was pretty good, too.
Penn Druid Table Beer.
Dynasty and Lost Lagers 1858 Mild Ale and Dynasty Festbier, the most Teutonic of the locals. The hazy pale is also very good.
Right Proper White Bicycles aged in peach mead barrels from Charm City.
Black Narrows How Bout It American Lager.
Devils Backbone and Chuckanaut Dunkle.
Anxo Cidre Blanc in cans: Goldrush is bae.
Bluejacket For The Company in cans.
Mad Fox's Brut IPA was my favorite of the ones I've had. I know it's a divisive style, but I'd pay to drink this one.

The out-of-towners:

Suarez Palatine Pils and Round the Bend porter. I'm not sure if these were 2018 releases, but they showed up in DC this year, and I'd like to see more of them.
Fat Orange Cat White Stout.
Deschutes and Bells Schwartzbier collaboration, if you're noticing a trend.
Allagash Brett Pils and Brett IPA: So pretty much anything they do with Brettomyances is good.
The Bruery's Yount, a blend of Black Tuesday imperial stout and cabernet that somehow works. The perfect beer for Savor.

Want DCBeer's take on the year that was? Here ya go.

Here's hoping 2019 treats us better than 2018 did. Cheers.