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TIPSY TALKS Learning unleashed at the Bushel & Bee

By on September 23, 2019 in Columnist with 0 Comments
Anthony Lubetski and his wife, Alex Rosenfield, (aka his ride home) prepping for his Bushel & Bee Tipsy Talk.

By Jamie Howell

Anthony Lubetski, 29, showed up drunk for the lecture, a little wobble in his step, soft edges where his words were beginning to blend ever so slightly into one another. 

Now, that’s one thing if you’re a college student making decisions impaired by boredom. It’s another thing entirely if you’re the one giving the lecture.

As Anthony straightened himself at the mic, checked the screen for his PowerPoint presentation, forgot momentarily and checked it again, he was simply fulfilling the evening’s contract to the letter.

Anthony was on the agenda as the featured speaker in what has to be the most entertaining educational experience I’ve been to in decades — Tipsy Talks at the Bushel & Bee Taproom in Leavenworth.

Inspired to some degree by Comedy Central’s hit show, Drunk History, the premise is simple — get liquored up, give a lecture.

Bushel & Bee owner Kayla Applebay credits employees Rhia Foster and Isaac Butler for concocting the idea, but with 10 lectures already logged, she’s convinced of its value. 

So far, the Bushel & Bee has hosted presentations on the history of Leavenworth, neuroscience, bees, Shakespeare, animé and more. You’ll be sorry to hear you missed the one entitled, “Houseplant Porn.”

Kayla has established four key rules to govern the pickled presenters:

n Be passionate about your topic

n Bring a PowerPoint presentation

n Be willing to get “solidly tipsy” prior to the talk

n Have a ride home

Beyond that, everyone is left to enjoy the thrill of seeing what transpires. 

On this particular Thursday evening, Anthony had prepared for us a series of inebriated insights into the History of Graffiti.

I joined Anthony and his wife, Alex Rosenfield — both teachers who relocated to north central Washington a couple of years ago from Wisconsin — at a delightful downstairs speakeasy known as Pika Provisions where Anthony was faithfully fulfilling the terms of Rule #3 with some skillfully crafted whiskey sours.

The conversation swerved freely from rattlesnake sightings, to rock climbing, to the Crohn’s Disease that prevents him on occasion from enjoying the outdoor splendors that drew them to the area, but does little to dampen his spirits. 

I learned, too, that Anthony, taken in as a young man by the graffitied boxcars rolling through his hometown out into the Great Midwest, had ultimately devoted his thesis at the University of Wisconsin to the subject of unsanctioned artistic expression.

Whiskey and time-keeping don’t always mix, so it was 8:12 p.m. before we made it back to Bushel & Bee for an 8 o’clock lecture start. 

Graciously, Kayla has not established any hard and fast rules about being on time.

Roughly 30 people — among them a linesman, a lesbian, locals and lookie-loos — laughed heartily as the emcee set the tone for the night, joking that the word “Graffiti” is Italian for, “Who drew this (unspeakable piece of anatomy) on my wall?” 

And with that, Anthony was lit. Lit in the best possible light. Lit by the whiskeys, lit by the subject matter, lit by a graciousness and energy in his sharing that enveloped the room. Had my own college lecture experiences approached the genuine joy contained in this one light-hearted evening of learning, I’d be a double-Ph.D. by now.

Couched in the context of humankind’s primal need to make a mark, Anthony took us from the carvings of cave dwellers, to the trench graffiti of the Great World War, through Basquiat and Banksy to the modern mosaics and sculptural variations being created by artists and collectives with names like SLU TOO, KID ALT and iNDECLINE today. 

To the benefit of everyone in the room, the alcohol had done its job — removing any remnant of self-consciousness, inhibition or awkwardness as he spoke. 

If he got off track, the PowerPoint was there providing rails for the boxcars of his mind (there is wisdom in Rule #2). And while Anthony did find himself apologizing periodically for the peppering of profanity that had wormed its way on the back of the whiskey into his delivery, we were in a taproom, not a classroom, and it served only to enliven the lecture.

Anthony didn’t shy away from the downsides of graffiti, either — the destruction of public property when it’s done maliciously; the tagging perpetrated by gangs in turf wars; his own run-ins as a younger man with the Milwaukee PD and a spray can in his hand. 

But ultimately he deemed it a supremely democratic art form and, when graffiti artists adhere to Wheaton’s Law (look it up Star Trek fans) by restricting their unsanctioned public art to canvases that can actually be improved by the work and without harming the broader society around them, “I just don’t think art everywhere is a bad idea,” Anthony concluded. 

The room erupted with applause and the free-ranging Q-and-A that followed was perhaps the first I’ve ever witnessed where watches and doorways weren’t being earnestly eyeballed for escape routes.

I paid my tuition in the form of a bar tab and a tip and left having learned a great deal about graffiti, certainly, but more importantly having been reminded of just how much fun learning can be when you take it off the leash.

Tipsy Talks take place on Thursday evenings at 8 p.m., once or twice a month. To find upcoming events, check the Bushel & Bee Taproom page on Facebook or visit their website at bushelandbee.com.

Jamie Howell is a writer, filmmaker and owner of Howell at the Moon Productions based in Wenatchee.

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