Just Like Old Times? (via The Hip Flask)

Republished below is an exceptionally good post, from a blog I’ve just discovered. The subject is bar culture, and I think it will be of interest to many in my generation.

This is as good a time as any to toast the bars of my misspent youth: The Raw Bar in Bethesda; Gentleman Jim’s in Twinbrook; Mr. Henry’s at Tenley Circle; The Schnitzel Haus and the Pirate’s Den in Ocean City; Ireland’s Four Provinces on Connecticut Ave.

And special mention to the bars whose names I can’t remember: That MJC bar? on Upper Wisconsin Ave? Got it, it was called The Lodge. I think it was the first place I drank a beer, when I was 18. And a few blocks south, the Grog and Tankard.

If I habituated all those bars, and lived to remember, I must have had a rollicking good time! The smoking and drinking was a horrendously unhealthy lifestyle. And I admit that I drove my car home from all of those bars, over and over, weekend upon weekend, and in Ocean City, night after night. It is only by the grace of God that I was spared a serious accident. In fact, I never even got a ticket.

I’m thankful I was able to quit smoking at 29, and drinking by about 35. I had good friends who never quit, and they are dead now.

Was life as simple as I remember it then, in the 1960s and 1970s? We can’t have been all that innocent! We had Vietnam, and Civil Rights, and Assassinations, and Watergate. But we still believed in the intrinsic goodness of America, and the U.S. government, and Wall Street.

Without further ado, here’s the post that sparked my bar nostalgia:

Just Like Old Times? A Three Part Lamentation on Modern Drinking Culture Part 1: Progress? The idea of progress and drinking has been on my mind lately.  New drink creations, new styles of decor, and re-imaginations of old classics seem to be all the rage.  New technology follows these new trends, be it bars that pitch their Wi-Fi hotspots or boast of countless high-definition televisions.  These technologies have become ubiquitous in bars and pubs, which has made fi … Read More

via The Hip Flask

Simplify Or Perish


Golden Retriever with dog biscuit on nose


My first encounter with simplicity came in a chess game, when I was a boy.

Sometimes I found myself on the defensive. My opponent had the momentum, I was constantly reacting to his moves. I needed a “game-changer.” When I could see no better option, I resorted to simplification.

In chess, I learned two quick ways to simplify. A player can “castle,” which is the only gambit in chess that allows you to move two pieces at once. Your king switches places with one of your rooks. This allows your king to escape immediate pressure, and possibly creates a whole new dynamic on the chess board.

The other way to simplify in chess is a last resort. You “exchange” pieces of equal value. For instance, you take your opponent’s knight, knowing that one of your own knights will be captured. You sacrifice your knight for your opponent’s, and both knights are removed from the board. The result is a “simplified” game, perhaps working to your advantage.

If the exchange involves the most powerful chess pieces, sacrificing a queen for a queen, the result can be dramatic simplification. Without the queens, the players may be reduced to a frustrating game of attrition, possibly leading to stalemate rather than checkmate.


In real life, as in chess, you often have to give up something in return for simplification.

I can choose a new major in college; fire my boss (i.e., quit my job); end a friendship or relationship. I can give up a hobby or recreation that takes time away from responsibilities; change a harmful habit or behavior, improve my diet, quit smoking.

As in chess, I may have to give up something, sacrifice something.  Changes usually require thought and decision-making, even discernment. Not every change leads to simplicity. Sometimes we need to make a change to challenge ourselves more, not less; to grow; to be more productive. Small changes may have greater consequences than we imagined.

Some changes can be turning points.  A career change, a marriage or divorce, a geographic relocation — all these have the power to change the course of your life.

A desire for ease or simplicity is not sufficient reason to walk away from a responsibility. Many times, life requires us to take up new responsibilities. Necessary change may make life more complicated, not more simple.

But even shouldering heavy responsibilities can sometimes simplify life. The responsibility may be greater, but the way forward may be clearer. By giving up what is unnecessary or distracting, we may be able to focus on what is important.

As the author Marsha Sinetar says, attention is power. Giving full attention to what is important is a kind of simplicity.

Simplicity is not for every person or every situation. When I study, I like to study in silence. But many people prefer to study while listening to music. People are very different in their abilities, talents, and needs. My doctor once pointed out that intelligence is like computing power. Some computers have more processing power than others. Some people can tolerate more complexity than others. Some people thrive on complexity.

I’ve often found myself working with people who have faster brains than mine. I’ve often compensated by working longer hours to keep up. This can lead to fatigue or even burnout. So I often seek simplicity, either through focused concentration, or simple lifestyle. Not many responsibilities, only one or two. Not many interests and recreations, one or two is enough.

I’ve always been attracted to simplicity. As a boy, I though Dunkin’ Donuts had an excellent business concept, and later, McDonald’s. They concentrated on a limited menu. Donuts and coffee; or hamburgers, French fries, and milkshakes. They focused on consistent quality and service.

Simplicity is not for everyone. I don’t agree with self-help gurus who say, “Everyone should do this,” or “Everyone must do that.”  You hear that everyone should meditate; the world would be better if we were all vegetarians; everyone should exercise four times a week; everyone should give up sugar and salt; everyone should use mass transportation, or ride a bicycle to work. All good suggestions, but not for everybody. People are different, and one size does not fit all.

Many people thrive on complexity.  I need to simplify in order to survive.

— John Hayden

Escape To A New Reality

I am a refugee from reality, if you call grinding work, urban congestion, and expensive lifestyle “reality.”

I began seriously losing speed and altitude in 2002, when I accepted a small buyout from a large company, at the age of 53. It was my last stop on a career of more than 25 years. My boss said I “had guts” because I was making a change in my 50s. I said, “Change is good.”

In the intervening years, I’ve made do with a variety of survival jobs in metro areas. Twice I stayed with the same job nearly two years. By the time I hit 60 (last summer),  I felt like my job was killing me. The metro suburbs seemed more and more congested, stressful and expensive. There was no sense of community. It didn’t feel like a civilized way to live.

I thought all summer about escaping. In early September, I found an inexpensive and very small apartment in a beautiful area, at some distance from the big city. I gave two weeks notice. I spent October sorting and boxing possessions. What I didn’t need I gave away or tossed in the dumpster. Most of the large furniture went to good homes with relatives. A few boxes and chairs are stored in a relative’s basement.

What was left, was transported, with help from my brothers, in one pickup truck and three carloads, to the new apartment. I felt like a fugitive — a happy fugitive. I escaped in broad daylight.

It took most of November to get unpacked and settled in my new retreat. After 44 continuous years of paid work, from age 16 to age 60, I granted myself a winter off. Six months of leisure and freedom to partially restore body and soul. To be continued . . .