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Oakes Weekly - Oct 13, 2003
Special Thanksgiving Edition
October 12, 2003
Written by Oakes
So what do you have to be thankful for? For starters, after an invigorating shot of cold, the traditional Ontarian Indian summer has returned. I’m sitting at the Winking Judge, on the back patio, under the flowering Hallertau vines (yes, I’ve dry-hopped my pint).
The pub next door is full of Italian soccer fans cheering every time the Azzuri score another one against the powerhouse squad from Azerbaijan. At the end of the block, a large crowd is cheering the competitors in the World Cycling Championships as they pour off the mountain towards the final turn and homestretch. A phalanx of helicopters fills the sky above me. I remark at how this latest pint of Church Key Holy Smoke is the maltiest I’ve ever had. Each batch of this brew has its own personality - the weak one, the Laphroaig one, the balanced one, the pungent one and now the malty one. That a brewer in Ontario is even making smoked beer is something to be thankful for. That there are places like the Judge that serve it in the face of aggressive Interbrew sales reps is another. I am also thankful that my favourite breweries are still in business, given that most of the really good ones in my local area really aren’t making a living at it.
I was in Hamilton not for the Judge nor the cycling, but because my grandparents live there. I am thankful that I’ve been able to visit all four of my grandparents in the past month or so. I don’t know anyone my age that can do that without visiting a cemetery. I know I will, too, someday, but I’ve had almost 29 years with them and that is very much something to be thankful for.
I’m thankful I haven’t had to live through war like they did. In fact, not all of their grandchildren are so lucky. So, I’m thankful that my cousin Kevin is stationed in the Kurdish part of Iraq, and that we don’t have to worry every time we hear about another soldier being killed over there.
I’m thankful that the Vancouver Canucks are one of the best hockey teams on the planet. We haven’t won a Stanley Cup since the Vancouver Millionaires back in 1915 so I can definitely understand what Cubs and Red Sox fans are feeling right about now. That I am able to concern myself with matters of sport purely for amusement is something to be thankful for. For some people, sport is their one escape from otherwise dreary lives. For others, even that is an unattainable dream.
At the Royal Ontario Museum, they have a wheel that you spin reflecting your odds of being born into a particular form of life. Insects for over 50% of the wheel, with plants forming the bulk of the rest. Not everyone agrees that humans are highest life form, but we’re definitely up there. So I’m thankful for being human, which gives me the opportunity to indulge in the wide range of human experiences. Moreover, I happen to exist at a time, and in a country, of unparalleled wealth and decadence. We are the chosen few, and we’ve overcome incredible odds to be where we are today. There was a $30 million jackpot in the lottery a couple days ago. Of course I had to join in the office pool, lest I arrive at work Tuesday morning to find the office deserted, everyone else having resigned their position over the weekend. We didn’t win, of course, but that’s no worry because we’ve already won the lottery just to be in a country where wealth is abundant and the pursuit of pleasure is standard operating procedure. I owe an unbridled debt of gratitude towards whomever arranged for that.
I am thankful to the kind souls who put up with me, and who do things to make my happier than I already am. I am thankful to all the people out there who steadfastly hold up a higher standard, refusing to allow traditions to be plowed into the annals of history by those who would whitewash modern existence into a bleak palette of suburbs, malls and senses that have forgotten about the very existence of stimulation. My ancestors did not slave in Britain’s Industrial Revolution squalor so that I could walk through life unable and unwilling to take pleasure in the wondrous creations of man and Mother Nature.
Beer is central to this outlook on life. It has, over the years, become a flashpoint for my endeavours to take full advantage of my good fortune and maximize my experiences in life. It started out as something fun. It was neat in my university days to have tried all fifty or so locally available beers. Then it became a full-fledged passion. Today it is an area where I can have an impact on others. I hope to extend this with the upcoming publication this November of some short stories I’ve written, but beer is vital.
To Bill Buchanan, Joe Tucker, Richard Cave and everyone else involved with the creation and maintenance of Ratebeer - the pulpit from which I preach - I give thanks. I am also thankful that we’re not the only ones doing this, and that our "competition" is also comprised of small, independent users, and not the creation of a major profiteering outfit like Realbeer.com or Interbrew. I am thankful that I can celebrate the product of great craftsmen from all around the world, one beer at a time.
In short, I have a tremendous amount to be thankful for. I don’t always think about it, but Thanksgiving is the perfect time to do just that. I hope this day is not just another day off for most people (and we’ll assume that most Americans reading this have already pegged this column as forward-looking from their perspective). We truly do have a lot to be thankful for. I would urge that none of us forgets just how lucky we are, and does not squander this by settling for second-rate anything. You’ve already learned not to settle for second-rate beer. And while you’re enjoying all the best that this world has to offer, save a thought for all those responsible for putting you in that position.
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I am also thankful that my favourite breweries are still in business, given that most of the really good ones in my local area really aren't making a living at it.
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