Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Lost Abbey at Long Last

All beer geeks have a list of places they must visit. San Diego should be high on the list. I chose to run the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon for a few reasons. My desire for good beer just happened to be one of those reasons. Unfortunately, the days before running a marathon aren’t the best to visit breweries and beer bars. I did the best that I could. In one day I visited Lost Abbey / Port Brewing, Stone, and Pizza Port (Solana Beach). Thankfully, I had a driver.

Lost Abbey has always been a sort of mecca for me. Due to a scheme that I should not detail on the interwebs, I was a member of the Lost Abbey Sinners and Saints Club a few years ago. I went to great lengths to attain their limited release beers. As a result, I received emails from Lost Abbey about pickup only bottle releases that seemed like cruel taunts. 

When I worked at Tria I was obsessed with knowing the town of every brewery. I always mentioned San Marcos in my description of Lost Abbey. Not that the town particularly matters, nor is San Marcos actually that notable, but I couldn’t believe that I was finally in San Marcos.

Out of all the breweries with tasting rooms that I have visited, Lost Abbey ranks high. The nearly seatless bar in the breweries’ warehouse space has an aura of relaxation. I’m sure the place can get crowded, but it feels expansive. If I lived nearby, I know that I would stop in for a few four-ounce tasters with some frequency. 

The locals seemed to be devoid of stress; maybe that’s a southern California thing. People engaged me in causal conversation; this rarely happens on the east coast. While ESPN was on the TVs, not many patrons were particularly interested. In my five o’clock hour visit, on a Wednesday, I had finally made it to a place that I had long revered, and it was awesome.

The Lost Abbey / Port Brewing Co.
155 Mata Way, Suite 104
San Marcos, CA 92069
(800) 918-6816 x102

Friday, June 8, 2012

My Top 10: On Beauty and its Discontents, Part 2

When I first learned that I had the opportunity to leave Western Mass, I felt relieved and reluctant; even though I did not have much to leave behind, I felt connected to something. What could I take with me, and what did I have to leave in Amherst? What had I learned from my rural experience?

As I mentioned in the previous post, in spite of its beauty, Western Mass can be an unsettling place to live. I have come to attribute this discontent to my previous experiences in cities. The differences between the transient experience of city life and the staid experience of rural life are jarring.

Within my first weeks and months in Western Mass, I felt the need to escape. I craved the experience of the “time—space compression.” As David Harvey defines it, “the overwhelming sense of compression of our spatial and temporal worlds.”[1] Harvey suggests that this experience “is challenging, exciting, stressful, and sometime deeply troubling, capable of sparking, therefore, a diversity of social, cultural, and political responses.”[2] To a degree, the “time—space compression” is lessened/absent in a rural area. I felt trapped in a place where the passage of time was clearly discernable and the experience of space was expansive, yet limiting.

For many reasons, I felt a sense of relief the moment I drove onto 91-S to leave town. I went months without driving over 60 mph. My life was literally going slowly nowhere. Other times, I drove about seven miles east of Amherst to RT 202. While you cannot drive terribly fast on this winding climb, the payoff is a view of the Quabbin Reservoir.

In the 1930s, four towns in the Swift River Valley were flooded to create the largest man-made public water supply in the U.S. Covering 39 square-miles this eerie Reservoir provides drinking water for Boston. Before I knew the story of its creation, I drove to the Reservoir for its beauty and sense of expansiveness; for once, I could see beyond the hills. But, after learning of its inception, I drove to the Reservoir to view the “creative destruction” and annihilative power of modernity. I needed evidence of modernity. Yes, I saw modernist architecture at UMass everyday. But, I read the campus layout as the product of a disorganized and poorly funded state university.

While my conclusion about rural discontent reinscribes a nearly unavoidable dichotomy between urban/rural (excuse the academic jargon), it appears that my experience of rural life as confining, suffocating, and inescapable contrasts with the sense of possibility, reinvention, and freedom one finds in urban life. I craved the modern/postmodern life I had known; it was time to return to the chaos.

[1] David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers Ltc., 1990), 240.
[2] Ibid., 240.