As I wind down the clock before my flight back to Portland, I’m left with that peculiar feeling of loss that comes every time Ipack my things up and leave another hotel room in another city. I’m sure most people don’t think about it much, but with every check-out I feel the lost possibilities of the days spent there, or I try to hold onto the memories I’ve made, to cement them in my mind so they’ll be there forever.
I know I made about the most of this trip I could have. A year and a half ago, I was here for my friend’s wedding, and I couldn’t arrange my own transportation to go visit the breweries I wanted to see. My friend was busy – even then, we made it downtown for some drinks on the night I flew in. When I left for Portland on that trip, I was really quite bummed about being basically stuck in a fairly remote hotel in late summer, when the places I wanted to go would have been heaving with energy and people. My friend promised we’d make the tour I wanted to do, and here I am. Sadly, I was still unable to get to all the places I wanted to see, but not for lack of trying. You can never prepare for another family member getting sick when they’re the ones that offered to look after the kids while you go somewhere else overnight (in this case, an overnight stay in Cedar Rapids).
I didn’t get to Cedar Rapids, and am instead flying out of Des Moines today. My friend has paid for almost everything on this trip, and I am grateful in ways I can’t express easily. I am humbled by his help and friendship, and it’s another confusing emotion I have to pack away while I edit and write and get some thoughts together to make this trip more than just another adventure I’ve been able to have at someone else’s expense. I have been struggling to find purpose and direction, in a literal, very real sense of the phrase, and having a chance to break the routines I got stuck in after losing my RV trailer is worth more than the financial debt I’ll always owe him in the back of my mind. Someday, I say to myself, I’ll pay him back. Somehow.
I have seen some things here that have inspired me even more than I was before to write about beer and the industry itself. There are trends and things happening that will shake up the small taproom even more than it already has, but will also cause the top-heavy big companies start to teeter a bit as they’re devoured from below. I see one brewery here in Iowa that has set it’s sights on something ambitious, and I want to find out more about them before I put together a piece there. The vibes and feeling I got from the folks at these places was pretty good overall, and it was also very young. I can’t say how much of that is just a reflection of the typical workforce in restaurants or if it’s a genuine reflection of the way beer and brewing has become more ingrained in our culture. How much longer the craft brew scene remains male-centric is open for debate, but the interest from younger consumers, especially in the midwest, is encouraging.
This trip I was able to go where I wanted, and though I kept that to a very small number of breweries and a restaurant or two, I nonetheless feel I spent my time well enough. I made one last visit to my grandparent’s house, where I spent many summer days, before it vanishes from this earth. I missed my ‘step’-grandfather’s passing by a few weeks, and the dirt hadn’t yet settled on his grave. The years of slow neglect were evident, and I have some definite guilt about how quickly I left Iowa when I was younger. My grandmother passed more than a decade ago, and Ed had been more involved in my life as I was growing up than my blood grandfathers had been. I probably owed him more over the years, but it’s too late to change any of that now. I just have to hold on to the memories of that tiny house, with the wood-fired furnace and the cats my grandma used to feed, with the big tree in the corner and the fishing poles in the dirt-floored garage.
I’ve got some editing to do on the beer stuff I wrote over the last few days, maybe I’ll be able to get it done on the plane, or my 6 hour layover. I think maybe I’ll go sit in the hot tub for a half hour before I have to clean up and check out. I’ve got a lot to think about. My grandparents here in DSM worked hard, almost every day of their lives, right up until the end, and everything they built, owned and left behind will be gone soon. Nothing left but a headstone and memories. Struggling with the weight of it all, and I hadn’t even considered it would bother me so much before the trip.
But, like I said, I have seen things and people have pulled up this very blog AS I WATCHED (talk about validation!) because they were so interested in what I had to say that they’d actually read some of it, too. I hope to follow through with engaging content, it will continue to be more personal than professional for a while but I’m moving in the right direction, I think. My friend here has tools to help me monetize and get eyes, but I don’t feel ready just yet. I need to get back on my feet in Portland and stable before I can be free of the anxieties that have plugged me up since August. Stay tuned.