This is part of the annual Year in Review series of essays. It begins with an introduction found here.
Let’s get food right out of the way: I’m not a real vegetarian, but I have a kind of kooky approach to eating. If I know who killed it, I’ll eat it. This can be a problem for me when I’m on the road, because it’s tough to find fast food that isn’t gross. I started the year off right with fast food that wasn’t gross. OK, “not gross” needs a little qualification. What is fairer to say is not as gross as fast food tends to be.
Every year I try and indulge in fewer and fewer chain experiences. Except for Goodwill, there aren’t any
chains I frequent when there is a local choice. It isn’t completely mercenary, but because I’ve been in local media for the better part of this century, I understand that the small local businesses are the engines that make jobs like mine possible. I’ll talk more about that later as well, when we get me into Ocean City, but for now, January 2015 found me where it always does, Union Beach, N.J.
At the beginning of the year, White Castle began promoting its veggie burger. There are ecological and economical reasons that it is a good call on their part. For me, though, it was a call to put my money where my mouth was. I did. And while I didn’t regret it, that was all I had to say about it. It was an unregrettable fast food meal, which is kind of the highest praise possible.
Back to “business”
After a year away, I re-entered the newspaper business, working for a company that put out the Laurel, Seaford and Salisbury stars. I didn’t over romanticize it, but I was happy to be back to writing every day. One thing I learned is that the only thing that helps you write is to have to do it. No one gets writer’s block when there’s a paycheck involved.
The thing about very small newspapers is that they have a particular culture. What I like about working for small publications is telling the stories of people, their lives and why they do what they do. I knew almost immediately that that wasn’t was my new job would entail. My second day on the job I covered the Bethel town meeting where, in addition to seeing my first town official sporting a rat tail, I also witnessed an altercation between two older women at the end of a four hour long meeting.
Bethel has fewer than 200 residents.
Beer saves the day
Fortunately, I also started with ShoreCraftBeer.com, blogging about beer life and culture on the Eastern Shore. Shore Craft Beer is owned and run by OceanCity.com, and would be my eventual in to getting this job. People sometimes worry about beer, because it has alcoholic content. This almost is understandable. Let me give you my beer cred:
I’ve written a couple of books on beer. One was called Eastern Shore Beer and the other (coming out May 2016) is Delaware Beer. Beer has played a critical role in American history. It was practically the only thing we drank as American workers until the rise of Prohibition. Craft beer is an economic engine, especially today. It give small towns the opportunity to produce their own goods and to be competitive in the regional marketplace. It boosts tourism and attracts people who enjoy some of the better things in life.
My first column for ShoreCraftBeer.com was about such a place and an event. It was the RaRtoons breakfast extravaganza. The Cambridge brewery was celebrating the release of a coffee maple beer and decided to serve breakfast at the release. I was there to cover it.
So as the month closed out, I took a chance on a new job, had my first “fast food” meal in a decade and had beer for breakfast. This last one I’d done before, when I was in my 20s. My father took me to a bar by our home in N.J. that had a steak and eggs and Budweiser Sunday morning special. This was when there was still smoking allowed in bars and was a qualitatively different experience.
In OceanCity.com news, the Dew Tour announced it wasn’t coming back, and the TripAdvisor website named the resort a top destination. And February was getting ready to bring the winter in a big, big way…