Of self-analysis and sourdough

Chronologically speaking, I find myself in an interesting place with this issue’s column. The thing is, dear readers, today is Sunday, Dec. 16; I’m solidly ensconced in the holiday season. However, by the time this issue hits the stands, the holidays will have passed us by, leaving nothing to look forward to but dreary old February and Valentine’s Day.

As it is, Christmas is nine days away. The lights are twinkling. All is holly jolly, merry and bright, but in fact, something feels a bit off with me. I can’t quite put my time finger on it. Besides the fact it is 60 degrees and sunny outside, I find myself feeling somewhat salmon-like. Which is to say, I feel as if I’m swimming upstream, cheer-wise, this Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong. Although I may not be Clark W. Griswold, I’m not Ebenezer Scrooge or Mr. Grinch either. The usual solution is to put on The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album followed with 1968’s Christmas Album by Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass and … embrace the sunshine! Which I’ve done, but it only worked for a couple of hours as a temporary balm to soothe my restless mind. So, I watched a Charlie Brown Christmas. Messrs. Schulz and Guaraldi always, always kick start the Christmas spirit for me, and yet I am far from carefree. Where is my peace on earth? Where is my goodwill toward men and all that?

What is the cause of this joyous interruptus, you ask? Anxiety, thy name is Trump (expletives deleted). The constant barrage of denials and lies beamed live and direct from the White House have my head spinning, but not with visions of sugar plumb faeries.

I could go on, but I trust you understand.

I’ve done a lot of touring this year. For the first time ever, normally reserved and polite European and Brit folk have been asking, “What the hell is going on in your country? Have you gone crazy?” Aside from a simple, “Yes,” I haven’t had a good answer. A ball of confusion, that’s what the world is today. Temptations sing!
Like my man Socrates said, the unexamined life is not worth living, and I am nothing if not a life examiner. My self-analysis has revealed an interesting phenomenon. I have concluded I’m transforming into a 1950s housewife or, more accurately, a 1950s househusband. This is to say I’ve been self-medicating with an over-abundance of liquor. To put it in ’50s terms, everyday I’m living a Hagsie Knows Best episode, if you will.

My self-analysis further informs me that my domesticity of late is in direct reaction to the state of our (dis)union. My vehemently exercised single vote brought scant satisfaction, and I have retreated to the hearth and the solitary lifestyle of the bread baker to find my refuge while the winds of intolerance rage outside.

500 words to get to the point? Really, Hags?

[Editors’ note: Since you mentioned it, we’ve been wondering the same thing for the last eight paragraphs.]

Forgive me. I’m a scene setter!

Sourdough bread baking is salvaging my sanity in these gas-lit times. “Ferment and Be Saved” has become my mantra. Sourdough is a micro world. Four ingredients make a successful loaf: flour, water, salt, and yeast. Four ingredients kneaded together with my hands, stretched and folded, rested, and baked in cast iron bring a quiet satisfaction. It is a simple, yet profound exercise: simple in preparation; meditative in its multi-day process; and profound in the sense that these inexpensive, uncomplicated ingredients combine to form something so deliciously sustaining. All it requires from me is time and attention, the perfect antidote to screaming headlines and hateful sound bites.

A spoonful of yeast, a couple cups of flour, some water, a pinch of salt, and a preheating oven to warm the house. That’s it! The Hagskins Diet. You’re Welcome! Hey, whaddya know? My Christmas spirit just kicked in. God bless us, EVERYONE!

Hags is a part-time bon vivant, sourdough bread baker, and resolute goodwill ambassador for The East Nashvillian. He earns his keep as a full-time bassist extraordinaire.