Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2018

Archive for the category “Coffee”

A View From The Corner

 

WHO NEEDS TELEVISION? Who needs movies? Who needs any form of traditional entertainment when you’ve got people walking around? Every day, free of charge, there is a non-stop parade of the Human Animal passing by in all its variety. I almost said, “Passing by in all its Glory,” but Glory is rare in humanity. Variety is a better word to describe the people I see every day.

People Watching is more fun than Movies or TV. With the actors on the screen, who are always good looking and mouthing someone else’s words, they are following a Director’s commands. Their moves are predictable and rarely surprising. However, the folks wandering in front of my astigmatic eyeballs are anything but predictable and continue to surprise me on a daily basis.

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Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Two

 

Boxer  —  Part Two

 

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

 

“You’re either at the table or on the menu.”  —  Al Capone

 

And that was where Mike Walker came in. He was a fan of The Sweet Science.  He’d liked watching Terry fight because he knew it wasn’t just “entertainment.” He respected Terry’s work as a boxer and rewarded him by throwing some jobs his way. Mike Walker had a “Private Security” business. He was an ex-cop, a bad one, who did background checks, provided an extra pair of eyes for shopkeepers when inventories grew legs, and he collected overdue debts. Terry Jarosz entered the picture when payments got slippery.

 With ninety-five out of a hundred people who missed a payment or two it was just one look at Terry and wallets opened up. With the other five per cent – they got stupid before their money finally came across the desk. Stupid is what sent Terry to see Doc. Doc never charged Terry for helping him. He knew that The Rules were never fair for either of them.

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Throwback Thursday from Nov. 2015 – There Is Music In The Air

Throwback Thursday from Nov. 2015 –

There Is Music In The Air

SOMETIMES I THINK THAT HEARSAY IS BETTER than actually being a witness to something. A couple of nights ago was one of those times.

Now, I want to put a Caveat, with a capital C, in play here. The following anecdote was told to me by one of the notorious Usual Suspects. For that reason alone I take it all with a fifty pound salt lick. A grain of salt is just not enough.

Let me begin.

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Throwback Thursday from Nov. 2015 – Grumble, Grumble, Mutiny, Mutiny, Mumble, Mumble

Throwback Thursday from Nov. 2015 – 

Grumble, Grumble, Mutiny, Mutiny, Mumble, Mumble

Angry gifMY OFFICE IS CROWDED TODAY. Of course, “my office,” also doubles as a corner table in the Starbucks a few blocks from home. I can usually shut out the hubbub and foot traffic around me, but today, for some reason, it is all getting on my nerves.

Most of the people in here at this time of day are college students. This location sits almost exactly halfway between two schools. On most days they have their noses deeply buried in either textbooks or computers, but not today. Today must be a day after they have gotten their grades or test scores back. It sounds like they all did well.

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Trust Me, I’m A Doctor

SOME MORNINGS WHEN I CAN’T GET my regular seat in the corner at St. Arbucks (Cursed interlopers!) I am forced by circumstances to plop down next to a group of early morning Geezers and Geezerettes. They are nice enough folks but I’m not isolated enough to do my writing uninterrupted.

A couple of that group are in the medical field and work at a nearby hospital. When they start chatting about things medical I can’t help but eavesdrop, big time. As a result I have picked up little bits and pieces of information about obscure medical conditions – and you know what they say about little bits of knowledge. I am now, officially, a dangerous man. I now feel qualified to make snap diagnoses on everyone who walks through the door.

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Throwback Thursday from Oct. 2015 – I Told You This Was A Bad Idea

Throwback Thursday from Oct. 2015 

I Told You This Was A Bad Idea

20151028_135610WELL, I NEVER THOUGHT THEY COULD PULL IT OFF. I was right. Today was the day at St. Arbucks when the baristas were planning to dress up as the customers. It was supposed to be a real laugh riot. It wasn’t.

First of all, I never expected The Boss to give her imprimature on the whole idea. “Dress up like the customers? I don’t think that is a good idea.” But she did give it her OK. Something I’ll bet she now regrets.

I thought that it would be a bad idea because there are some customers around here who are just a tiny step away from an extended visit to the Thorazine Hotel, and seeing someone looking like them staring back at them from across the counter might be enough to push them over the edge.

I now know that I shouldn’t have worried about that because, as they say in the closing credits of most movies, – “Any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, is strictly coincidental.”

When I walked into the Chapel earlier this morning I was met by one of the crew wearing a tee-shirt and blue jeans and sporting what was planned to look like a white moustache. The moustache was painted on. I didn’t say anything because, at first look, I was concerned that the white stuff on her upper lip was some kind of medication.

Did she burn her upper lip? If so, how? Perhaps I shouldn’t ask. She might be sensitive about it, being so obvious.

It never occurred to me that it was part of a costume meant to look like one of the Drive-Thru customers. My bad. When I asked The Boss about it she told me that she thought it looked like an application of “Nair” –  there in an effort to get rid of the gal’s real moustache. Ouch.

It was several minutes later when one of the other members of the crew began to berate me.

“You’re not wearing a Hawaiian shirt!” she snarled at me.

“It’s 50 degrees out there and raining – of course I’m not wearing a Hawaiian shirt.”

That was when I was finally informed that today was “Customer Costume Day” at St. Arbucks. You could have fooled me, and they did, I guess.

As far as I am concerned it all looked more like, “We All Dressed in the Dark Day” at St. Arbucks. Is how they have dressed today what they think we, the customers, really look like?  I’ve always felt that I have a bit of dash and flair in my wardrobe, and not like I’ve been Dumpster Diving after a nice three-week camping trip in the City Park fighting with the squirrels over loose chestnuts.

So far today the barista who is allegedly dressing like me has not shown up for work. At least I don’t think so. I see no Hawaiian shirts, no baseball caps, no remarkably outstanding example of Machismo and Adonis-like good looks.

I won’t be surprised if the “other me” doesn’t show up. After all, who wants to go out in a cold, rainy, blustery day while trying to maintain a persona like mine? I have enough trouble keeping the Original together. I just can’t envision some amateur trying to do it.

Uh-Oh, she just showed up. This is one brave girl. She dresses impeccably, as you can tell. The only problem is – she is so slim that she makes me look like The Hindenburg. For those of you under fifty – look it up.

Next year I will suggest that the crew at St. Arbucks all dress up like The Boss. I think that would be fun – if The Boss doesn’t fire them all, that is. If she does fire them all, then it was a bad idea and I will disclaim any knowledge of it.

I, The Jury

EARLY THIS MORNING I WAS QUIETLY SLUMPED OVER MY COFFEE when I overheard a conversation from the next table. It seems that one of the men sitting there had been called for Jury Duty. My ears began to twitch and I inched a little closer.

The gentleman said that he reported to the County Courthouse the day before anxious and willing to do his civic duty. Apparently that was when things began to fall apart.

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There Are Questions That I Cannot Answer

ONE OF MY MORNING RITUALS, AFTER SAYING “THANK YOU,” putting on my socks, etc. is to check my email. Most mornings I get about 20 new messages from around the globe. Some are trying to sell me something, some are unleashing thunderbolts of wisdom that have been common knowledge since the 14th century, and some are asking me questions. Some of the questions are philosophical, some are more “religious,” and the rest are in reference to the blog and are your basic “What in the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks are you talking about?”

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I Must Put My Foot Down

YOU’D THINK I WOULD HAVE LEARNED MY LESSON BY NOW, but i did it to myself again this morning. I should wait until after my morning coffee before logging into Facebook. And maybe something to eat as well.

It was barely 6:30 AM when I turned on my computer and hit the Facebook icon – and there it was. Some strange person, a friend of a friend of a friend I assume, posted that one of his favorite foods was a Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwich.

Good God, man! It was not even sunup and you’ve gone and ruined my gastrointestinal tract for the entire day.

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Howard Schultz

A FEW DAYS AGO I WROTE ABOUT A YOUNG CAT that showed up outside of the nearby St. Arbucks (Starbucks to most people.). That little cutie pie is no more than 4 to 6 months old and a ball of yellow/orange fur.

Well…it’s still there.and has been unofficially adopted by the customers and staff. This cat has stumbled into a good thing.

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It’s Just The Way Things Are

ANIMALS AND I GET ALONG WELL. Dogs, Cats, Squirrels, Birds, etc. will come right up to me as if we were old friends. I’m not knowingly doing anything make them approach me. I don’t think that I look or smell like a meal. I don’t get it. I’m not complaining, mind you, but it’s just unusual I’ve been told. It’s been like this all my life.

When I was a kid I used to walk to school and it was not rare for me to show up with a dozen dogs walking along with me. The nuns didn’t like that.

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Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Conclusion

Fiction Saturday Encore

The Henway Chronicles – Finale.

 

If you want to see somebody who is anybody at Wilma’s All-Nite Café (Just a knife’s throw from the Embarcadero.) you’ll have to wait until the Moon is high and the Moral Threshold is low.

It was close to 3 AM when I brought Hank O’Hare into Wilma’s. I didn’t need to help him find the door this time. Ever since he got his new eyeglasses from the Optometrist Hank had been like a kid in a Candy Shop. In fact, he told me that he had stopped into a Candy Shop just to enjoy the view. He could see the shapes and colors clearly for the first time since he’d lost his real specs and started buying replacements at the Dollar Store.

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Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Part Five

Fiction Saturday Encore

The Henway Chronicles – Continued – Part Five

 

 I hate listening to people bickering, especially if I’m not one of the bickerers or the bickeree. With Lech Ontario and Daisy Cutter, his moll, bickering was as pointless as a truckload of watermelons. Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer.

“Shut up – both of you. Can’t you wait and do this bickering stuff when you’re at home so I don’t have to listen?” That seemed to work. They both looked at me.

“Awww, shut your pie hole, Henway,” sneered Daisy.

“You dummy,” snapped back Ontario “With Henway it would be ‘shut your German Chocolate Cake hole.’”

“Would not, you Great Ape. The phrase is…”

I reached out and slapped them both just like Moe used to hit Curly and Larry.

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Not Today, My Friends

TODAY IS A DAY WHEN I NEED AND RELISH THE ROUTINE. I want it to be a quiet day so that I can think about the past, live in my present, and dream about what I see for the future.

I want my day to begin softly with a coffee or two and not much in the way of conversation. To do this I will have to visit St. Arbucks early, do a little writing, and then leave before the influx of Usual Suspects filter in. If I don’t I know what will happen. There will be anger and high blood pressure all around me. Not today, my friends. Not today.

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Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Part  Four 

Fiction Saturday Encore

The Henway Chronicles – Continued – Part Four

 

Sitting in that booth I was face to face with Lech Ontario – one of the Greats – if you listened to him and I was going to have to to find out why my old friend and tutor, Hank O’Hare, was looking for him.

“Tell me, Ontario, why is Hank so anxious to find you? Did you stiff him on a debt, did you cheat him at cards, or did you try to steal his woman?”

When I said that the dockside doxie sitting next to him spoke up.

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Throwback Thursday from Sept. 2015 – “She Just ‘Sort of’ Robbed The Bank”

Throwback Thursday

She Just “Sort of” Robbed The Bank

tripleI WAS CHATTING WITH THE USUAL SUSPECTS the other day when the topic of bank robbery came up. Sometimes they scare me. This bunch of Geezers couldn’t rob the Food Bank, let alone an actual – “Money in the vault, Can I see some ID, please,” type of bank. This group would be called the “Don’t forget to take your meds gang.” Even so, they would be a bigger threat than a person I once knew who really did try to rob a bank.

About ten years ago B.R. (Before Retirement) a female coworker whom I knew and liked working with, called in to her Supervisor one sunny morning. She said that she was going to be in a little late because she “Had some business to take care of.” Little did we all know that her “business” was knocking off a bank.

While I and everyone else at work were getting ready for another day on the job, she was out pulling into the parking lot at a local bank.

From later reports it went down something like this –

My coworker drove to the bank, checked her .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun to be sure it was loaded (it was), got out of the car and walked up to the front door of the bank. At this point things began to fall apart for her.

She pulled the handle to open the door – nothing. It wouldn’t budge. The door was locked. It was locked because, in an effort to rob the bank and still get to work, she got an early start to her day and arrived, fully loaded, before banking hours. The bank wouldn’t be open for another half hour.

There is an old adage that says, “Plan your work and work your plan.” My friend, the would-be bank robber, skimped on the first part of that. If this plan was to be as easy as 1 – 2 – 3 you can’t skip the 2 and go straight to 3.

So, there she is – standing at the front door of the bank, holding her shooting iron, and she can’t get the door to open. It was then that she made the decision to try again another day. Perhaps it was best to just go on to work like nothing had happened. No harm – No foul.

No way.

While she was standing there contemplating her “Plan B” the people who worked in the other bank, just across the street, witnessed this entire fiasco and had already called the Terre Haute Police Department. Terre Haute – that’s French for, “Mama don’t ‘low no bank robbin’ round here.”

Before she could get back to her car and go off to work, she found herself surrounded. It was not even 8 AM and her day was not going to get any better.

Since she never really robbed the bank, they couldn’t charge her with that crime, but they had a list of others to present her with.

It turned out, upon further investigation, that she had lied on her job application – in that part about “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” She had done some hard time a few years back for some other failed misadventure. This, of course, made her possession of the .45 caliber semiautomatic weapon a serious “No – No.” Added to that – she had no Concealed Carry permit for the gun – which was not registered anywhere. At least she did have a valid driver’s license – but the car wasn’t hers.

Fast Forward about three years –

I was tooling up and down the aisles of a store in town when I hear a voice behind me call out, “Hey, John!” This happens a lot to me. It is usually a former client or parent thereof – not this time. I turned around and there was our own local Bonnie Parker Wannabe.

“Hi, John. Remember me? We used to work together.”

Now this was one of those moments when you really don’t want to say the wrong thing. So, of course, the first words out of my mouth were,

“Sure, I remember you. Where you been keeping yourself?”

“Oh, I’ve been out of town for a while.”

Courtesy of the State of Indiana.

I really don’t remember the rest of the conversation.

I always enjoyed working with her. She was friendly, confident, and easy to get along with. Lucky for me she never needed an accomplice.

Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Part Three

Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Continued

 

Late at night, when the Innocents in The City were asleep in their beds, the Not-So-Innocents were busy about their monkey business. The darkened streets were a hunting ground where the unwary became prey for the waiting shadows. Places of safety were few and far between, but a light shining through the fog promised refuge and maybe a Hot Roast Beef Sandwich, au jus – “just the way you like it.”

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Throwback Thursday from August 2015

Throwback Thursday from August 2015

 

Ooh, I Can Hear Myself Thinking

tree aloneTHIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE TIMES of the year at the Chapel of St. Arbucks here in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Why did I buy more onion dip?”).

At this time every year we have a Scholastic Solstice of a sort. For about ten days this place is quiet. The Public Schools have resumed classes while the colleges and universities don’t kick into gear for another week or so. As a result, the usually busy St. Arbucks is an oasis of relative quiet. The decibel level drops from “Karakatoa on the Wabash” loud down to “My headache has disappeared” manageable. The difference is both thrilling and humbling.

During the summertime when the schools are out, St. Arbucks becomes a favorite haunt of the pubescent masses who come in, order a “Strawberry and Cream Frappuccino,” and think they’re drinking coffee – Oh, so grown-up. All they are really doing is getting a fortified sugar rush and turning into nonstop chatterboxes. The giggling alone from a table with 10 high school girls is enough to make my Curmudgeon Lobe work overtime.

It is different with the obligatory teenage boys who are also here, following the girls and trying to look macho. At least they are much quieter as they practice looking both sullen and somewhat dangerous or James Dean emotionally lost and in need of a cuddle.

These two factions are in St. Arbucks all summer, minus the two weeks when their parents drag them to visit the Grandparents in some version of Iowa. When they return though, they have two weeks of giggling and posing to catch up on. It is during those two weeks that we try to get out of town.

When the colleges and universities shovel their students into town they show up by the study-group load, monopolizing tables and power outlets for their computers and cell phone chargers.

As a rule the college age crowd isn’t as noisy as the younger chair-fillers. They just fill the sonic landscape with keyboard clicks, textbook page turning and low frequency murmuring about the validity of the scientific method and the real meaning of “The Fight Club.”

Whatever happened to the days when college freshmen argued philosophy in on-campus student lounges and not out in public where the rest of us can hear them and are thrown into fits of despair for the future?

It is during this all too short respite when the younger students are back learning how to cheat on tests from their underpaid teachers and the older students are still trying to figure out how to smuggle microwave ovens into their dorm rooms that the Chapel of St. Arbucks becomes a place for contemplation, reasonable discussions about unreasonable things and, on occasion, a venue for impromptu middle-aged performance art. Things that could never happen if the students were here sounding like a billion hormone driven cicadas.

At this moment I am one of four customers/worshippers here at St. Arbucks. Two of them are women in their thirties who are chatting and sipping quietly. The fourth person is seated at the table behind me and I haven’t heard a sound out of her. Perhaps someone should check to make sure that she is still alive. If she isn’t, let her be for a while – it’s nice in here right now.

Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Part Two 

Fiction Saturday Encore

The Henway Chronicles – Continued…

 

Wilma Van der Sluice served the best German Chocolate Cake this side of the cafeteria at the Mortuary College. When she set down her last slice in front of me both my eyes and mouth began to water.

“New perfume, Wilma?”

  “Yeah, you like it? It’s called ‘Evening in Newark.’” She waved her two too massive braids my way. My glasses began to fog up.

“Nice.” It was all I could say.

“Well, enjoy your cake while your ‘Little Gum Drop’ here takes care of those customers in the booth by the Wurlitzer. I’ll be right back to help you lick the plate.” I knew she meant that. It bothered some customers, but Love is Love.

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Questions And Answers Beyond Me

I WAS UP EARLY THE OTHER DAY – a good half hour earlier than usual. So I went for my morning coffee. I now know why I was awakened so early. There was a reason. I was to be told a remarkable story.

It was barely 6:10 AM when I walked through the door at St. Arbucks and I was greeted by a friend I hadn’t seen in months. He had just popped in for a coffee and five minutes later we would have missed each other. I’m glad that we didn’t.

Terry is a retired career Navy man who moved back to the Midwest after 20 years of service. We sat down and he brought me up to date on his life.

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