So, I went to a whiskey tasting Friday night at the Raue Center in Crystal Lake – one of those grand old movie houses elagantly converted to a performing arts palace across the suburban landscape in the hopes to drawing patrons and reviving old downtowns while bringing genuine culture beyond O’Hare.
This was a small affair, limited to less than 60 guests in an upstairs bar and offering just six or so whiskeys, half of them Tullamore Dews, poured from behind a bar in a narrow room.
I figured it was a good way to start the time leading to the American version of St. Patrick’s Day. And they even had highlights of Riverdance playing in the background – the scenes where Michael Flatley’s mom rushes the stage to sew the buttons missing on the front of her son’s white shirt. Or not.
I actually got my Irish up – go figure – per the set up and trying to figure out how to belly up for a sample. Note to others: Deflate my temper, when necessary. It very much often works and is good for a laugh.
Anyway, my favorite sample of the evening turned out to be Connemara, the taste of which reminded me of a December trip to Killarney.
Act this out with the two big white guys you know:
Me: What’s that smell?
Best fest buddy Tom: I think we might have burned out the clutch.
Me: Really? Great. Where the hell do we go to get that fixed? Will the rental insurance cover it?
BFBT (a little later in the drive): You know, I don’t think that’s the car. I think it’s peat. They’re burning it for heat.
Thus, the whiskey reminded me of how Ireland smells in winter, on one of the best vacations I’ve ever been – which means the tasting melded senses and memory, like I was freaking Proust.
And then, being a victim of these times, I had to go post pictures of all this on Facebook, where I found out that Sun-Times writer Dave Hoekstra took a buyout and is leaving what’s left of the paper with a lot less soul.
How this ties to the whiskey: Dave is a writer who most often takes time to delve, to find the detail, to research, to learn about what he’s covering, and to show pop culture between the glittery, over-covered surface.
Nowadays, a good many reporters are required by their bosses to crank out one story every three hours, shooting video and their own pictures on top of it all, and write at the micro local level. And it’s all about the hits to the websites, the shares, and the sneaky online information being collected about where your browser is taking you.
Detail – thanks in large part to the ADHD world created with the Internet – seems to have gone by the wayside. Keep it short, because they’re are plenty more shiny objects to grab attention so Google and Apple can learn more about you and your buying habits. (Maybe you’ll come across something odd, funny or scary enough with your phone cam that will get lots of hits to the website.)
Yet, in these schizoid times, the most popular books have been the Harry Potter novels, which can run 800 pages. The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies clock in at more than three hours each. A good many of us will spend three hours watching the Oscars and longer watching the Super Bowl.
But when it comes to reading journalism of any sort, we’ve been led to believe, short is where it’s at, that it’s all about the quick hit, the Tweet, and a 90 second video – shot with an app on an iPhone – to win the readers, especially the skinny jeans-wearing types that the middle aged guys who can’t lose their muffin tops so long to be..
Back to the booze.
And there seems to be a growing number of people – from Wicker Park hipsters to way out in the boonies suburbanites – who appreciate this, and the fact that the people making the food and beverages need years to develop their skills.
But somehow, at the same time, way too many folks paying the bills for the information we all devour have decided news of any sort is best delivered in morsels, in pithy social media posts, in videos made with apps in less than an hour.
And way too many of us – with our smartphones always giving us instant gratification and self-inflated ego validation – buy into the model. We want stuff now, quick, and when it comes words, music, and images, for free.
But you can’t compare a whiskey to a trip to Ireland unless you’ve actually taken the time to visit the country. You can’t smell it, get lost in the landscape via Google. Yet.
You can’t really report news or know what’s really happening if it’s all surfaces. One day that mirror will break.
It was raining out when I left the tasting, a hope that winter was finally ending. But I’m not so sure.