Monday, August 16, 2021

Hard Pants and Rabbit Holes


Alice gets it.

As a writer I have two audiences, you and me. It’s kismet when they align. When I started this blog in 2005, I intended it as a platform for whatever I felt like writing. In those early days I wrote about American whiskey but also politics, culture, and everyday life. When I moved the show over to Blogger (i.e., Google) in 2007, and made the masthead I still use, I intended to focus more on American whiskey but still would write about 'other stuff' from time to time. I have, but the ‘other stuff’ has been infrequent. 

Around that same time, 2005-2007, I joined Facebook. A lot of my ‘other stuff’ writing moved over there. But although Facebook allows longish posts, I try not to get too wordy. Longer stuff goes over here.

But back to that tension between the two audiences, you and me. It’s there. Because of my long experience in and around the booze business, especially the American whiskey part of it, I feel I have something to offer, something of value and I feel some obligation to share it. Duty but also opportunity. I’m sensitive to the need to tend my brand. Most people who read me are interested primarily in the whiskey stuff. Whiskey writing has never dominated my income stream but it has played an important role in it since about that same period, early this century. I appreciate the patronage and hesitate to stray too far from that audience’s comfort zone as I perceive it. This blog has been an important link in that chain.

I came up in marketing. Positioning is second nature to me. But another, older part of me, the born iconoclast, always tries to sabotage my best efforts to stay on message. I’m here to announce I’m more and more inclined to let the iconoclast win.

I’ve thought about creating another space for my non-bourbon thoughts but I’m lazy and that seems like too much work. One thing I believe about web sites in general is that they’re useless if they’re not active. If you have a web site that hasn’t been updated since 2013, you might be better off with no web presence at all. This site is underperforming as it is. I can’t support another one.

But things change. I’m mostly retired now. What ‘mostly’ means is I’m still working; I’m just not hustling for it. I was a freelance writer for 35 years. Other gig workers understand. Being retired means getting up every day and doing whatever I want, no deadlines, no meetings, no obligations, no hard pants. 

Since July 21, a good part of every day has been spent exploring a family history rabbit hole that became the nine-part series just concluded. The first installment explains the rabbit hole I went down to get there. I love rabbit holes, always have. Google is rabbit hole heaven.

But Google can’t do it all. Many friends helped me put together the pieces of the Tucker story. I won’t name them to protect their privacy, but they know who they are, and I am grateful to them. 

I’ve always been interested in history. My focus is beginnings. How did this or that come to be. That quest is all about rabbit holes because the beginning of everything was the beginning. Of everything. There was only one beginning. Any other beginning is arbitrary. I have trouble picking one starting point and following it through to a conclusion. But I digress.


So I don’t know if I want to make a prediction, but I feel like there will be more personal stuff here in the future. I may even stop warning readers when there is no bourbon content in a post. You probably can figure that out for yourself.

There is an expression among writers called “writing for the drawer.” Before writing became my profession it was the way I processed my thoughts, experiences, problems, passions, memories, everything. If I had something on my mind, something I needed to work out, I picked up a pen and pad and wrote it down. That’s how I became a writer or discovered I was one. Milton White, one of my professors at Miami University, gave me the only advice a writer needs: “writers write.”

These days, as I lurch into my eighth decade, I’m all about learning and as I learn I process what I learn by writing about it. A lot of that always has been ‘for the drawer’ and always will be. I envision the blog as somewhere between the drawer and publication. The Bourbon Country Reader, my American whiskey newsletter, is on that same continuum but nearer to my books and magazine pieces. The blog is closer to the drawer and may move even closer to the drawer than it has been in the sense of becoming even more personal and idiosyncratic. I don’t know. I just know how I feel today, after concluding that nine-part series. 

I get a buzz from writing. Not all the time and not always the same, but the buzz is the gold. I don’t always know where the gold is. No, that’s wrong. I never know where the gold is. I just know it’s down those rabbit holes.


Tom Johnson said...

A while back I sat in a bar n Washington DC with a mutual friend of ours whose name rhymes with "Lou" talking about World War II. I thought at the time it was one of the smartest conversations I'd ever had -- and I used to make documentaries about World War II so I have pretty high standards.

Anyway, ever since then I've been trying to get the guy whose name also rhymes with "shoe" to work on things that would bring his knowledge and perspective to other things than whiskey. I have failed miserably at that, I think because he is pathologically humble.

Allow me to encourage you likewise. I've read your stuff -- duh -- and what you bring to the table is voice and perspective and the skill of researching and discovering. Screw people's expectations. Apply those skills to whatever catches your eye -- the more obscure, the better. We'll all be better for it.

Lew Bryson said...

We could just go back to the bar and record there.

Ken said...

Man, let your freak flag fly. I found you in 2011 when Malt Advocate Whisky Awards Best Buy of the Year was discontinued, because you still tasted whiskeys I couldn't, and still had opinons about their values I couldn't. That's what I need. I sent my dad to one of your tastings, he had a great time. He's gone now, RIP. I still check you every day. You don't talk about whiskey taste or value as much as you used to, but you never said you wouldn't, so I'll keep checking until you do.

Richard Turner said...

Although I'm certain my opinion is far less consequential as some others who have commented here (Tom, Lew, Ken ...anybody), or may yet do so, I'll add my voice to the chorus.
Please keep being 'YOU'. ...And please don't allow yourself to feel too constrained by anyone else's expectations. The latest 9-part series was very interesting, and surely entertaining to . . . me at least. I do find value in the 'Bourbon content', as well; but, lately I think the 'other stuff' is an even better diversion. So, that's my "vote" FWIW.

Unknown said...

Keep writing from the rabbit hole. Good stuff.

Brian (AKA The Dean) said...

Just echoing the others, and saying "keep it up. Chuck". I look forward to any update. And I figure, as long as you are writing then bourbon content can't be too far behind.