The other day, a buddy of mine & I went to a small craft distillery in San Francisco for some whiskey and beer tasting. Over the last couple of years, he had taken a liking to whiskey and wanted to explore this (for him) new world further. He really had to strong-arm me into accompanying him to the tasting, but, as a good friend, I dutifully drove him around SF to entertain his growing obsession.
During the hour-long tour and tasting, we learned that whiskey is essentially created from beer. Most whiskeys are distilled from crappy beer, but these guys make their whiskey from good beers, some of which they brew themselves. Having been on a few other brewery and distillery tours previously, I know that this processes is neither easy nor cheap. To make a great product from great ingredients is a labor of love, especially when with limited resources. During the tour, our guide informed us that the distillery only employs 4 staff, and that this small space houses all their equipment. When I asked about their bottling procedures, he took us to a side room where they bottle their products BY HAND!!! Bottling a fresh batch of product can take 9+ person-hours to complete.
After our delicious and educational tour, we headed out to another part of the City for dinner at one of my favorite bars. From the front, it just looks like any other dive, but they serve over 100 different beers and liquor. My buddy just stared in awe at the bar, trying to figure out what to drink. Overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of the options, he asked for a recommendation from the bartender. We also ate here, as they serve food in the back of the joint. Again, the decor doesn’t look like much, but the food here is excellent and ever-changing. In my past wanderings, I’ve had dishes like crawfish and grits, and tater tots cooked in truffle oil. That night, still a bit full from the previous stop, I ordered just fish and chips (cooked perfectly, of course!), while my buddy got a burger and fries, with an order of bread pudding to soak up all the alcohol he had drunk (by this time, I was only drinking soda as the designated driver).
After I dropped him off at his house, I thought back on our day. We spend the afternoon/evening drinking whiskey and beer and eating some delicious food. Along the way, we spent a little bit of money (between the tour tickets, beers and appetizers at the brewery, a couple of bottles to take home, then drinks and food at the bar for dinner, not to mention gas and tolls for driving to SF). We could have stayed home and ordered food and drinks in (which is normally what we d0). Or we could have gone to a chain restaurant closer to our area and had burgers and Jack Daniels. Either of these options would have been less expensive than our chosen path. But we decided to try something different and enjoy the fruits of other people’s labors.
As we approach a very important election in a few months, my social media feeds are filled with reminders to vote. Many of my friends are taking sides, some not shy or hesitant to share their views with their followers. While I am withholding my choice for president at this time, I realize that I already voted. I voted to support a small distillery instead of a well establish alcohol vendor. I voted for a small dive bar instead of a chain restaurant. I voted for small businesses instead of corporations. I also voted for San Francisco instead of the East Bay (a more unusual vote for me).
I often feel like my vote in our democratic government does not matter. I am one of over 300 million Americans, 38 million Californians, and 7 million residents of the Bay Area. But every time I take money out of my wallet, I am voting. Some days, I vote in support of a mega-corporation that has the ears and eyes of Washington. Other days, I vote for a small proprietor in my suburban town.
Sometimes, I worry that the future of America has been foreseen in the great cinematic film, Demolition Man:
If we do not support local small businesses in our areas, then they won’t be able to stay in business. All that will be left are the larger conglomerates, as has been prophesized by our heroes above.
Of course, my middle class income only allows me to vote so many times. While it may be dismaying to many, the reality is that the upper class does wield more influence on society. Their purchasing power has a greater effect on more people and more corporations (and yes, more politicians) than a regular citizen.
My individual vote may note matter much, nor does my middle-class income. But I can make a difference. If we, as a general public, were to make a stance on an issue, either against a particular company or even a particular person, our collective voice AND purchasing power will be noticed. That is how Washington (and Wall Street) will make note of us. Otherwise, if we do nothing, say nothing, and keep shopping the same way, the powers that be will never change.
Remember, Election Day is not just on November 8, 2016. Election Day was yesterday, and today, and tomorrow.