3.30.2022 – just ‘not right’ you know?

just ‘not right’ you know?
touch of the flu, a slight sprain
a tad overwhelmed

I am not sure how bad a ‘touch’ of the flu is.

I am not sure how bad a ‘slight sprain’ is.

How much overwhelmed is a ‘tad overwhelmed’?

You got the flu or you don’t.

It’s sprained or it’s not.

If things get worse, are you more overwhelmed?

Then just ‘not right’ does seem to work.

It is not right.

It is not what I would choose.

Is it not all the way to being wrong, well, gee whiz.

Then I think of this line from Wobegon Days, by Garrison Keillor.

When I was a boy, if I came around looking glum and mopey, [my mom would say], “What’s the matter? Did the dog pee on your cinnamon toast?” and the thought of our old black mutt raising his hind leg in the pas de dog and peeing on toast made me giggle.

Well it might be just ‘not right’ but no dog climbed up on the table and peed on my toast.

And the picture does make you laugh.

And I don’t feel so fluish.

My ankle doesn’t hurt.

And I seem to hold off the incoming tide for a bit.

And I’ll go make some toast.

Growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in a family of 11 kids, we all had our days and we all had our favorite things to do.

My little brother Pete loved to have toast for a snack, morning, noon and night.

We could be watching TV and Pete was gone soon to return with a plate of two pieces of cinnamon toast.

It could be late at night.

Middle of the afternoon.

For some reason it was those moments when our family would return from being somewhere, anyway, the store, a family party, church or anything where we were all gone and we would pile out of the car in fall into the house and Pete would make a beeline for the bread box and the toaster that stick in my mind.

We all knew about his habit.

And we all knew when he made toast.

We all knew because Pete never ever, so far as I know and I will have to check with his kids, learned how to operate a toaster.

Or, Pete like burned toast.

For him, the smell of burning toast was the signal the toast was done.

I don’t know what you remember about your home as a kid but in the days before people started burning popcorn in a microwave, there was few household smells worse than burning toast.

I came to hate and still hate that smell.

I would see Pete get up with the ‘I need toast’ look in his eye and start feeling just ‘not right’ right then.

It made me sick though I am not sure if it was the smell or worrying that I would have to smell it the rest of the night.

And then Pete would get up and burn some more toast.

He would come back to the TV room with his plate of charcoal and I would ask him, why, why do have to burn it.

I think I even offered to make toast for him.

I can smell it to this day.

The next time I am feeling just ‘not right’ you know? A touch of the flu, a slight sprain or a tad overwhelmed, I am going to think of a dog coming in a peeing on Pete’s toast.

Not sure what good it will do but I bet it will sure make me feel better.

3.12.2022 – incongruous range

incongruous range
of turmoil and misery
and stupidity

These last weeks have made it difficult to write both haiku and essays about haiku.

I watch TV and its about the war we can’t do much about.

I pick up one book and suddenly I am back in the refugee crisis caused by the Spanish Civil War.

I pick up another device and without any indication of where I was going, I find myself in Carville, Mississippi and learning about a US minimum security prison that shares housing with the national leprosarium because all persons diagnosed with leprosy (Hansen’s disease) in the U.S. were required, by law, to be quarantined and treated there.

While at the same time, my job is to sell sunshine and beaches online.

Going mad, using both definitions of the word at the same time.

You bet it has been difficult to write both haiku and essays about haiku.

Good gracious, but what is wrong with me today?

What worked for me in the past was to get back to the roots of all this and focus on word usage in my reading.

I came across this line from the book, How Proust Can Change Your Life, by Alain de Botton,

I have been avoiding this book because no matter how I try I cannot get into Proust.

The legendary Civil War writer Shelby Foote loved Proust and claimed to read the complete In Search of Lost Time (all 9 or is it 10 or more volumes) at least 10 times.

But I cannot get it going so I did not want to know how Proust could Change my life.

Anyway I was paging thought the it and there was this:

However brilliant, however wise the work, it seems that the lives of artists can be relied upon to exhibit an extraordinary, incongruous range of turmoil, misery, and stupidity.

Now on usage, it is a wonder.

Not just turmoil, misery, and stupidity.

Not turmoil, misery, and stupidity that works together and builds on itself.

But incongruous turmoil, misery, and stupidity.

Incompatible turmoil, misery, and stupidity.

Turmoil that rejects the misery and the stupidity.

Misery that cannot relate to the stupidity and the turmoil.

Stupidity that cannot understand the turmoil or the misery.

All adding to one vile brew in my brain.

And not just incongruity in my turmoil, misery, and stupidity but extraordinary incongruity in my turmoil, misery and stupidty.

In the words of Charlie Brown, THAT’S IT!.

1.26.2022 – I think … I am … does

I think … I am … does
not preclude us from morning
prayer of thank you

Last night was Robert Burns Night.

According to Wikipedia, Burn’s Night is when Scots eat a Burn’s Night Supper or the traditional meal of haggis, neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes).

Never had haggis.

Maybe never will.

Does anyone know if sheeps stomach tastes like bacon?

Haggis is just one of those things I doubt I will ever grasp.

I think the secret of eating haggis must lie in the what renowned Chef Paul Bocuse said in an interview you can watch on YouTube.

Chef Paul was asked when being a chef was the most fun.

“1946, 1947,” Chef Paul said, “People ate anything!”

The post World War 2 era in France and the over all lack of food and those French cooking dishes that were created helped me understand much about French post-war cooking.

That, I think, the amount of available food in Scotland, might explain Haggis.

As they used to say about Chicago, Hog Butcher for the World, “We use everything but the squeal.”

I, as I said, cannot grasp haggis and I also, truth be told, cannot grasp the poetry of Robert Burns.

Alistair Cooke, in his book/show, America, when writing about the word skills of Abraham Lincoln said, “We know that he steeped himself in the subtleties of Shakespeare, the cadences of the Bible, and the hard humanity of Robert Burns.”

Because of this line in the show which I watched when I was 12, I felt I needed to steep myself in the hard humanity of Robert Burns.

I just can’t get there.

Not sure why.

Wikipedia states, “Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796), also known familiarly as Rabbie Burns, the National Bard, Bard of Ayrshire, the Ploughman Poet and various other names and epithets, was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide.

One of his poems starts out:

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a pannic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I don’t see the roots of the Gettysburg Address here.

I remember reading about William Shirer (CBS Radio Commentator and author of “Rise and Fall of the 3rd Reich“) that he could never, ever understand the attraction of James Joyce until he was at a bookshop in Dublin and happened to catch a reading of James Joyce BY James Joyce.

I may have the reverse affect here as whenever I try to read Robert Burns, I imagine the Michael Palin/Monty Python sketch of a scots poet send up of Burns and it is all over for me and Mr. Burns.

But listening to London Radio, I am made aware of Burn’s Night.

Which brings to mind the famous Selkirk Grace.

Some hae meat an canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit
.

Which, in english, says:

Some have meat but cannot eat,
some have none that want it;
But we have meat and we can eat,
So let the Lord be thanked.

And the last line, And sae the Lord be thankit, got me to thinking about giving thanks.

And thinking about giving thanks got me to thinking about this clip from the movie, St. Vincent.

Cannot watch this clip or even think of this clip, that I do not feel better.

I like the IT Crowd.

I like Moone Boy.

Chris O’Dowd, in this 90 second moment, does his best work from the movie St. Vincent.

The way he rolls with the classroom and maintains control reminds me so much of the way so many of my teachers rolled with me in class and still kept control.

I take my hat off to them and thank God for their presence in my life at that time.

God, Thank You.

For those teachers.

And for so much more.

Neither here nor there, but Katherine Parkinson’s (IT Crowd) jaw dropping performance in the movie, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society made my jaw drop.

Yes I know, O’Dowd is Irish.

1.21.2022 – paradoxically

paradoxically
succeeded in curtailing
concern for others

Adapted from the book, “The pleasures and sorrows of work” by Alain de Botton, (Random House – 2009) and the passage:

In New York Movie (1939), an usherette stands by the stairwell of an ornate pre-war theatre. Whereas the audience is sunk in semidarkness, she is bathed in a rich pool of yellow light. As often in Hopper’s work, her expression suggests that her thoughts have carried her elsewhere. She is beautiful and young, with carefully curled blond hair, and there are a touching fragility and an anxiety about her which elicit both care and desire. Despite her lowly job, she is the painting’s guardian of integrity and intelligence, the Cinderella of the cinema. Hopper seems to be delivering a subtle commentary on, and indictment of, the medium itself, implying that a technological invention associated with communal excitement has paradoxically succeeded in curtailing our concern for others. The painting’s power hangs on the juxtaposition of two ideas: first, that the woman is more interesting than the film, and second, that she is being ignored because of the film. In their haste to take their seats, the members of the audience have omitted to notice that they have in their midst a heroine more sympathetic and compelling than any character Hollywood could offer up. It is left to the painter, working in a quieter, more observant idiom, to rescue what the film has encouraged its viewers not to see.

And the painting, New York Movie by Ed Hopper.

Reading the history of the painting on Wikipedia I was struck by three things.

One was the note that “Hopper was fascinated by film, and it is said that, when experiencing creative block, he would stay at the theater all day.

So much community has been lost due to covid and high on that list is the movie theater experience of the big room and the screen, alone in the darkness, surrounded by many.

Though much of this was already lost due to the person next to you or behind you who could not handle the idea that any message they might receive required an immediate response and of course their phone would not be turned off.

Another was the note that fans of the painting and Mr. Hopper have long tried to identify the movie in the painting.

On the one hand easily this is just oh-come-on and just-enjoy-the-painting.

But on the other, for example, when I read an obscure novel and come across an address that lodges in my brain so that years, decades later, reading another novel and this author, for no reason at all that anyone might think, uses that same address and I suspect some form of ‘homage‘ yet one that I may among the few people that get it, I feel I am sitting at a table with both authors.

Picturing yourself at a table with Compton Mackenzie and Jim Harrison is a pleasant picture.

It is a silent picture because if ever I found myself at that table, I am sure that about all the conversation I could come up with would be, “Yes it is warm for this time of year.”

The last thing, I as I read the discussion, was that I noticed that what Mr. de Botton wrote about the painting, that “communal excitement has paradoxically succeeded in curtailing our concern for others” that shows up in the painting, shows up in the discussion as well.

There was one comment though.

Others claim that New York Movie and other paintings of city life are Hopper’s ode to the warmth and endurance of the human spirit in the midst of the dehumanizing existence that is mass living.

Somehow these two statements come can come together as:

While communal excitement has paradoxically succeeded in curtailing our concern for others, the warmth and endurance of the human spirit in the midst of the dehumanizing existence endures.

I like that.

Almost like being at the table with Alain de Botton and Ed Hopper.

And me talking about the cold rain outside my window.

PS – According to Wikipedia, “Josephine Hopper (Mrs. Ed Hopper) wrote in her notes on New York Movie that the image represents fragments of snow-covered mountains.” Which makes me think that the movie must be Lost Horizons which came out in 1937/.

1.14.2022 – that morning headache

that morning headache
flat thick heavy ache feeling
on top of my head

My mornings aren’t what they used to be.

Back in the day there was this commercial that showed people driving tanks and dropping out of helicopters and running across deserts, all first thing in the morning.

The tagline was something like, ‘The U S ARMY – we do more before 8AM …’

That was me for a big part of my life.

Not only did I have to get up and get started, no small task, I had to get the kids up and going and either off to school or to school.

It was a part of being a Dad I had not envisioned.

There is an episode of that old show, Frasier, where Dr. Frasier Crane tries to explain, in detail, the way HIS day has to start so that HE can function.

Boy Howdy!, but that was me.

Most of ‘my way to start the day’ went away for a long time.

Like I said, getting kids up and going.

Getting kids off to school.

Getting kids TO school.

Getting to work.

Believe there is ‘getting to work’ and there is ‘getting to work.’

At one point I was getting up and then getting up kids and then getting kids TO school to a school that was in a different direction from downtown Atlanta that I needed to go and then getting to work in downtown Atlanta.

When I used the term, ‘dawn broke …’, it had an entirely different meaning.

It seems to me that I went to bed filled with both anxiety and apprehension.

Anxiety and apprehension not over what the new day MIGHT bring.

Though there was a lot of concern over what MIGHT show up each day.

But my plate was quite full with what I KNEW was coming.

I didn’t suffer in silence.

Seems like there is a family story of one of the kids asking “Why is Dad so crabby in the morning?”

Of late, my morning roll call is down to just me again.

My morning commute is to walk upstairs.

I almost look forward to getting in to bed and not much more on my mind than maybe the weather.

Still, there is HOW I wake up.

Of late, there are three ways I wake up.

My favorite is to come back to consciousness from REM dream sleep and let the realization that it is time to get up slowly, dreamily, drowsily, sink in.

Then there is waking up for the day, most likely to the sound of the beeping of the coffee maker and it is time to get out of bed so I get out of bed.

Maybe in those cases I am already awake, lying in bed, waiting for those beeps.

Then there are those headache mornings.

They usually start sometime early in the morning when I roll over to look at the clock and its 3AM.

The time about which Francis S. Fitzgerald said, “In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning.”

(Yes – F. Scott Fitzgerald was named after Francis Scott Key … if that didn’t contribute to the …)

And there is a flat, thick ache across the top of my head.

My first thoughts are of despair.

Oh great, the headache.

The 2nd thought is how to hold it off.

I try to arrange head on the pillow to either put some pressure on the ache in hopes that the ache might go away or relive the pressure on the ache in hopes that the ache might go away.

I have been doing this for years and for years I still try the same things.

I try but I know it is not going away.

Then I get to resolve.

Resolve that I know I will have a headache when I get up, that it will rob my morning, if not the whole day, of action, of the new day’s freshness.

Resolve that even though I know this, I can fight back with my morning shower, my morning coffee and my morning advil.

And with that in mind, I settle down to wait to get out of bed.

I don’t like the headache but, like my morning, they aren’t what they used to be.

My and a morning headache have reached the nuisance stage of a relationship and while I wish it would go away, I will push on.

There was I time that when the morning headache hit, I would find myself at work after getting the kids to school and getting myself to work and having no clear recollection of how I got there.

And that was a good day with a bad headache.

Like my new mornings, much of what caused the headaches is gone.

Much of the stress and anxiety and lifestyle that contributed to the headache is muted.

I might even venture that I know what is the main cause of today’s headache and it is physical rather than mental.

And it is something that I am doing to myself, every day all through the day.

It is these screens!

I stare at the these doggone screens all day long.

My computer screen.

My TV screen.

My iPhone screen.

My iPad screen.

My kindle screen.

Screens to the point of screaming!

I use all the tricks.

I dim the screens.

I set timers to have my tablets go darker at 8PM.

I have the ‘blue screen’ shades for my glasses.

But when I get an e book I can’t put down …

When I start reading something on a tablet and forget the rest of the world …

When I focus on my work and anyone had to poke me with a sharp stick to get my attention …

The last thing on my mind is a headache.

Is there anything new here?

Screens and eyestrain are just a latest in eyestrain.

The classic, ‘2 Years Before the Mast’ was written because a Doctor told the author, Richard Henry Dana Jr., that he might be able to hold off his apparent oncoming blindness by taking a long sea voyage.

Mr. Dana, Jr. signed on as a novice shipmate and sailed off to California in 1839 to find that after a couple of weeks away from law school and legal textbooks, his eyesight returned.

Not that he was able to get out his contract on the ship for the rest of those 2 years, but he did get a classic book out of the deal.

Another story in the back of my mind is one told by a now I-can’t-remember sports writer in Washington, DC whose Father worked at the Library of Congress.

The sports writer, it may have been Shirley Povich, recalled that when his Dad worked on a Saturday, he would tag along.

His Dad would lead him back in the stacks to the GV8 section where the baseball books were and click on a light and leave him there for the day.

‘Don’t go blind,’ his Dad would say as he went off to his job.

What can I say?

You would think that after all these years I would learn something.

And maybe I have.

Maybe my lesson is that, if the price of reading is the headache, well, where are the books?

I did though recently go off on a rant.

A rant about ebooks and epubs and mobis and kindles.

When I worked for the Grand Rapids Public Library, the old card catalog was still in place but not maintained.

Everything was on the computer terminal systems.

From time to time the system would be down.

Patrons would come to the desk and ask about a book.

I got up on my platform and would say that unfortunately the system was down.

Then I would point, majestically and slowly like Moses parting the Red Sea, at the old card catalog and say that in the 110 years of its existence, the GRPL Card Catalog never crashed.

Though that did present a really scary mental image.

What’s that saying?

The best way to hide something is misfile it in a library?

My rant to my ever faithful audience made up of my wife was that at one time I owned 1,000’s of books in my personal library and when we moved, I had to moved literally 1,000’s of books.

From that point of view, e-readers were a blessing.

Holding one small tablet in my hands and I had access to 1,000’s of books saved on my tablet and through the internet, I could access any book any where.

YET.

My rant continued with the anguish and righteousness of Orson Welles playing the Clarence Darrow character in the 1959 film, Compulsion. (worth the watch if you haven’t seen it – might change your life)

Without electricity.

Without power.

I would have nothing.

I would have nothing to read.

“Books don’t need batteries,” I said.

“Books don’t need to be plugged in,” I said.

“No power – nothing to read,” I said in a voice crying in the wilderness.

My wife listened to me as she has learned to listen to me when I get into a rant.

“At night, you would still need a light to read your books,” she said.

My wife is very good looking too.

1.7.2022 – cultural despair

cultural despair
loss, grievance anxiety when
feel dislocated

If you want to read a disturbing take on the world today, the writing of Fiona Hill is the writer for you.

You remember Ms. Hill.

She is the American lady with the brit accent who testified in one of the many hearings about important matters that mattered to important people back in the day when everyone was trying to get someone to say something that might get someone else in trouble.

Ms. Hill was an intelligence analyst under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama from 2006 to 2009. She was appointed, in the first quarter of 2017, by President Donald Trump as deputy assistant to the president and senior director for European and Russian affairs on his National Security Council staff. (Wikipedia)

Ms. Hill has a command of language and prose and wit that produces wonderful, easy to read and grasp, important books that we all should read but no one will.

In her latest book, commenting on the United States at the beginning of the century, the millennium era, Ms. Hill wrote this.

Cultural despair is the sense of loss, grievance, and anxiety that occurs when people feel dislocated from their communities and broader society as everything and everyone shifts around them.

Especially when the sense of identity that develops from working in a particular job or industry, also recedes or is abruptly removed, people lose their grasp of the familiar.

They can then easily fall prey to those who promise to put things – including jobs, people, or even entire countries – back in “their rightful place.

If what it takes is a sense of loss, grievance as everything and everyone shifts around them, it is safe to say the United States is in a state of cultural despair.

The goofy thing about the THEY in the line that starts, They can then easily fall prey … is that it can apply to either side of our great debates.

Take money.

Rich people are in despair due to a sense of loss, grievance as everything and everyone shifts around them and they fall prey to anyone who says they will return and keep the I in RICH. Back in their rightful place.

Poor people are in despair due to a sense of loss, grievance as everything and everyone shifts around them and they fall prey to anyone who says they will replace the rich people with the poor people. In their rightful place.

The right places are not the same places.

And if someone is right, why would they want to consider another point of view that has to be wrong?

Something for everyone and at the same time nothing for anyone.

Did I leave out the title of Ms. Hill’s latest book?

There is nothing for you here.

11.5.2021 – make ready, lose count

make ready, lose count
of scoops small step of faith
great start but no notes

My day starts the night before around 10:30pm.

At 10:30pm, I get the coffee maker set up to make coffee the next morning.

I am a coffee nut but a strict orthodox coffee nut.

I will enjoy a Starbucks or any other boutique coffee or latte or cafe au lait.

I will put up with the strange arrogance of vente, grande and whatever else I have to say when I want to order a small coffee with milk.

I will go so far as to say that the best cup of coffee I ever ordered was the Ho Chi Minh City at Cafe Amico in Suwanee, Georgia.

Best cup of store bought coffee anyway.

When you get right down to it, it all tastes the same after the third sip.

I have used the kuerig.

I think we have owned several.

But, dog gone it, I want a pot of coffee.

For a real orthodox coffee nut, the test is not the specialty coffees but the daily coffee in the pot at home.

I know I have quoted this before but in the book of short stories that led to the play and movie, “Life with Father,” Clarence Day describes a breakfast with his Dad.

A breakfast with bad coffee.

Mr. Day, Jr., writes:

At breakfast, Father would put down his coffee-cup in disgust and roar:

“Slops! Damn it, slops!

Does she call this confounded mess coffee?

Isn’t there a damned soul in Westchester County who knows how to make coffee but me?

I swear to God I can’t even imagine how she concocts such atrocities.

I come down to this room hungry every morning, and she tries to fill me with slops!

Take it away, I tell you!” he would bellow to the waitress.

“Take this accursed mess away!”

And while she and Delia were frantically hurrying to make a fresh pot, he would savagely devour his omelet and bacon, and declare that his breakfast was ruined.

When I first read this story years and years ago I felt I understood just what Clarence Day, Sr., meant.

If my morning coffee isn’t ‘right’ (no need for the word just here, not ‘just right’ just ‘right’) then the rest of the day is in jeopardy if not gone.

I like to say that God created the heavens and the stars and so separated the Day from the Night so there would be morning.

I like to say that God created morning so there would be coffee.

The Bible says we are created in God’s image.

Therefore it can be said that God must have a nose.

If God has a nose, God can smell.

Note the many verses in the Bible that describe sacrifices making a pleasing aroma.

Grilled lamb or steak with clouds of savory smoke drifting up to Heaven.

If there are pleasing aroma’s in Heaven then they must have coffee there.

I told you I was orthodox in my beliefs.

My day starts then when I get the coffee maker set up the night before.

For such a important part of my day tomorrow I can be cavalier about how I go about preparing the coffee maker.

It would make sense that I have a precise regimen that I follow with exactitude but, being me, I don’t.

The brand of coffee is not carved in stone.

I switch from time to time.

Sometimes just to change.

Sometimes based on price.

Sometimes based on availablity.

Right now I am using Café Bustelo.

I don’t worry about the water.

It doesn’t bother me that it will sit all night.

I guess it’s going to sit all night somewhere.

Here in the low country of South Carolina there are water towers so the city water delivery system IS based on gravity.

But the area is dotted with GRAVITY ASSIST PUMPSTATIONS at ground level to make sure water can make it up and into the multi story apartment buildings.

Then the filter goes in place.

Then I measure out the coffee.

I am making eight cups.

I will have 2 or 3 in the morning following the ‘endless cup’ method of continually warming up a cup of coffee.

My wife will have cup.

And then later that day I will make up a large iced cafe au lait with the leftovers.

There was a time when it was thought I should limit myself to a single cup of coffee.

So I did.

After I went out and bought the biggest cafe au lait mug I could find.

It was like carrying around a punch bowl.

To make eight cups of coffee takes 8 level scoops of Cafe Bustelo.

This is where the fun happens.

With everything that is riding on this simple act I cannot tell how often I lose count.

I hear a noise.

I think of a noise.

I think of something.

I look back at the TV.

Something happens and I am standing there with a scoop in one hand, can of coffee in the other, staring into the coffee maker and wondering … 5 … 7… 3?

I look at the coffee already in the filter and there is really no help to determine mass versus measurement from the size of the pile of coffee.

Then the descision.

Dump it out and start over which is the safe way.

The sane way.

Or roll the dice.

Add another measure or two of coffee and hope for the best.

Even though this has immense bearing on how my day will go this is the usual route that I choose.

I say to myself ‘Well, it is either going to be too strong or too weak, but there it is.”

I close up the coffee maker.

Put the coffee away.

I go to bed wondering, what will I pour out in the morning.

As I type this I think BOY AM I DUMB.

So here is what bothers me.

Once in awhile I make the worst miscalculation and the coffee is weak,

This is the worst.

Slops!

Slops! Damn it, slops!

And it can’t be fixed.

Sometimes the coffee is way to strong.

I stay with the idea that the coffee is strong enough if you dropped a dime into coffee and you can’t see the dime at the bottom of your cup.

Why you would drop a dime into your coffee, well, I digress.

My brother Tim told me that with my coffee, the dime dissolves.

Then there are those mornings.

Those mornings when I know the night before, I messed up and guessed how much coffee to put in.

And the coffee that morning is not too weak, it is not too strong.

The coffee is right.

Just right.

When that happens, my day starts with this thought.

THIS IS JUST RIGHT, BUT HOW MUCH COFFEE DID I USE?

Oh gosh.

5.15.2021 – present is enough

present is enough
to deal with – cannot handle
notion of future

Can I do this on a daily basis?

I am not sure.

Each day is enough for each day.

Do I want to do this?

But here is the point.

For the first time in a long time I can say I miss this.

Maybe its time to try again.

Each day by day.

Biblical teachings abound on the subject.

Guess I will see what happens.

2.16.2021 – wretched but better

wretched but better
in general, than used to be
some progress on earth

As you might have guessed I am talking about instant coffee.

As luck would have it, the Late Great Jim Harrison used these words to describe instant coffee.

Of late I have discovered the foil tubes of Café Bustelo and find that I agree with Mr. Harrison that while still not quite coffee, instant coffee is better than it used to be and shows some progress.

I have long tried all means of making just ONE CUP of coffee.

From instant to the drip funnels that sit on top of a cup to kuerig and while of these had made progress, nothing is as good as I remember the coffee that my Mom’s old Hamilton Beach percolator made.

It might be memory but that is my gold standard and I have tried everything to make that coffee.

It the right moment, I can smell it.

From what I have read, trying to match anything to a memory is a losing game.

But I try.

Why is it so hard to get a hot, rich single cup of coffee at home with a minimum of fuss.

As I started to write this, I tried to remember how and when it was that I started drinking coffee.

Coffee from the a percolator at our house was only made on the occasion of guests in the house.

At some point the coffee maker showed up and we got one of those but I had been drinking coffee long before that.

I know I was heavily influenced by my reading.

In the book, The Good Shephard, which by the way is a REALLY good book and I wish Tom Hanks had had a chance to read it before he made a movie supposedly based on it, the hero, Captain Krause, is a coffee nut.

Captain Krause drinks not cup after cup, but pot after pot of strong hot BLACK coffee.

Late in the book with some coffee still in the pot, he offers a cup to the officer of deck.

The OD pours a cup and then adds cream and sugar to “reveal the type of man he was.”

Then there were the Hornblower Books.

A series of novels on the life of Horatio Hornblower, a British naval officer during the wars with Napoleon.

Coffee is a theme throughout the 11 books from Hornblower’s first taste as a mishipman to complaining how the late the coffee was brought it his office when he was an Admiral.

Hornblower thought just too hot to drink was not hot enough and he sweetened his coffee to a syrup with cream and spoons of sugar.

The odd aspect to these literary pictures of how to drink coffee is that both of them were written by C. S. Forestor.

Somewhere along the line for some reason, I started drinking coffee.

About that time Maxim freeze dried coffee came on the market and my Dad starting having it around the house.

My Dad also was in on the search for a good single cup of coffee but he was primarily a tea drinker but had many a conversation of one cup coffee makers.

The google says Maxim came out in the 70’s so I must have started drinking it when I was 12 or 13.

And from time to time I would have a cup of coffee.

With lots of sugar and some milk for color but that is when it started.

That’s also when my Dad noticed an odd phenomena.

One Sunday afternoon when I was getting on everyone’s nerves just being more or less myself, my Dad called me into the kitchen.

He had made me a cup of coffee and he told me to sit down and drink it.

My Mom watched this and then gestured my Dad into the next room.

I could hear them talking and the gist of it was that my Mom wanted to know what in the world Dad was doing getting caffeine into my system when I was already driving everyone nuts.

Dad told Mom to just watch me.

He said he wasn’t sure why but he had noticed that when I drank coffee, I calmed down a bit.

He said maybe it was just that it was so hot that I had to be careful (when I was 9 I had managed to spill a tea kettle of boiling water all over my legs but that is another story) and being careful I calmed down.

Or that I would usually prop a book up in front me while I drank and that always seemed to slow me down for a bit as I ventured off into other worlds.

For some reason, my Dad said, it worked.

And it did.

Even though I heard them and knew I was being played, I still drank the coffee and for whatever reason I was better for it.

Often after that, both my parents recommended I take a time out for coffee now and then.

That may even have been the reason we got a Mr. Coffee at home now that I think about it.

So began my coffee habit.

For a good part of my life, I had a pot of coffee in the morning and another at lunch and another after dinner.

Over the years I have had to cut back and now I am down to 2 or 3 cups to start my day and the random cup of instant in the afternoon.

As the Devine One, Sarah Vaughn sang:

I walk the floor and watch the door
And in between I drink
Black coffee.

Sarah Vaughn was once asked why she was called the Devine One.

“Ella Fitzgerald said so,” was the reply and as they say, nuff said.

So me and coffee.

Waiter, Waiter, percolator.

The search for a single good cup of hot coffee at home continues.

It is still wretched but in general better.

There is some progress in the world.

As a post script, years later our first son started Kindergarten.

At his first conference, the teacher described him as well you know, one of those kids with an ‘active bottom.’

He was always in motion.

We talked with the teacher about whether or not he needed something like well, what was it called, Ritalin?

The teacher did not want to make and calls or judgments but she gave us this tip.

The next time he was really really active, try giving him the soda pop called Mountain Dew she said.

With most kids, the caffine would rev them right up.

But, she said, a kid who might be a Ritalin candidate, the caffeine in the pop will calm them right down.

I didn’t say anything at the time.

But I sure did think about it over my next cup of coffee.

2.10.2021 – defend those you love

defend those you love
fearlessly for life is full
of imagined monsters

Standing on a cliff, I was shoved from behind and I yelled.

Woke up in bed and once again my dear wife had shaken my shoulder as it seemed from all my murmuring I was having another bad dream.

Where do bad dreams come from?

Charles Dickens writes in The Christmas Carol that Ebenezer Scrooge doubts his senses that the ghost of Jacob Marley is real.

Marley’s ghost asks Scrooge, “Why do you doubt your senses?”

Scrooge replies, “Because a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

Mr. Dicken’s adds that, “The truth is, that he tried to be smart, as a means of distracting his own attention, and keeping down his terror; for the spectre’s voice disturbed the very marrow in his bones.”

My dream didn’t happen but did that make my feelings didn’t happen?

Bad dreams are the stuff dream are made of.

As Big Bill wrote in Hamlet (Act 3, Scene 1);

To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come.

Dreams don’t happen or the stuff in dreams anyway but does that make feelings any less real?

Life is full of monsters both real and imaginary.

Mr. Twain said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

Imagined worries.

Imagined monsters.

Real worries.

Real monsters.

I worry for myself and my monsters.

I worry for my wife and her monsters.

I worry for my children and their monsters.

Do we all feel this way?

If we all feel this way, how do we help each other?

It occurs to me that if these monsters are imaginary monsters and these dreams are just dreams we can wade into battle against them fearlessly.

Often maybe just knowing I am not in the battle alone would be enough.

Often maybe just some words of encouragement or words in my defense would be enough.

Often maybe all I want is expressed in the play Harvey.

In the play the eminent psychiatrist Dr. Chumley describes what he would do if only he could.

Dr. Chumley relates that he would go to a trailer park in Akron and sit with a beautiful woman who would hold his hand.

“Then I would tell her things.
Things that I’ve never told to anyone.
Things that are locked – deep in here.
And as I talked to her, I would want her to hold out a soft white hand and say ‘Poor thing. You poor, poor thing.'”

Somehow, the older I get, the better that sounds.