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 – 2019

Archive for the category “Coffee”

Throwback Thursday From October 2016 – “I’m Glad I’m Not Dave.”

star1THIS MORNING I WENT TO ST. ARBUCKS EARLIER THAN USUAL. I figured I could get some time to write and calmly sneak up on the day.

It didn’t work out that way.

I should have known that things weren’t going to work out for me.

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Rolling After The Rock

MAYBE I AM GETTING OLD, BUT GETTING UP AND WALKING JUST ISN’T AS GRAND AS IT USED TO BE. I had that change pushed in my face this week.

We loaded up the car on a fine Irish morning (That means it wasn’t raining as hard as it was last night.) and headed out from Enniscorthy to play tourist. Our destination was about a 90 minute drive away. We were going to revisit “The Rock of Cashel,” an ancient Royal Castle perched high on a hilltop with a commanding view of the countryside. Anyone with plans of conquest would come around the curve in the road and see that humoungus Fortress Castle up there and think, “Perhaps we should forget this and just go to the beach. We could get a shrimp roll maybe.”

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I’m Packing It In

 

WE ARE GOING TO BE HEADING OFF FOR IRELAND IN A FEW DAYS. I think it is time for me to begin deciding what to take and what to leave behind. My wife, the lovely and highly organized, Dawn, started her side of this process in 1973 give or take a day. We tend to operate at different speeds.

I’m not saying that my way is right or hers wrong. No. No. No. I think it is just a difference in the basic structure of our genders.

I have spoken to a number of men and women about this topic of packing for a trip and the answers have been running consistently along gender lines.

The Question is: How and what do you pack for a week-long trip?

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I Am Not The Pope

THERE ARE JUST TOO MANY INTERRUPTIONS!

This morning I slid into my usual writing/coffee slurping position at a little ahead of the Big Hand telling me it was 6 AM and before I could take a sip the parade of characters began.

The usual early morning collection of non-entities was not meeting today. Some were out of town. Some were out of their minds and some were out on a limb somewhere. The leftovers decided to come and visit with me “for just a minute or two.” An hour later I have been made privy to their life story and their plans for the weekend.

I don’t care.

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Throwback Thursday From September 2016 – “What Drives A Person To Do That?”

Throwback Thursday From September 2016 – “What Drives A Person To Do That?”

 

What Drives A Person To Do That?

A1I HAVE MADE A NEW FRIEND HERE IN TERRE HAUTE, (That’s French for, “Is he housebroken?”). He comes into St. Arbucks almost every morning on his way to work. He is also there whenever I drive past the place. I think he has a cot in the back room and that he actually lives there.

When he says that he is on his way to work and drives off I wonder… what does he really do? He is wearing a uniform that has, in bold letters across the back, “Animal Control.”

I think he is The Dog Catcher.

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When I go to St. Arbucks and he is there reading I sometimes go over to chat with him. We talk about what he is reading – mostly nonfiction, 20th century history – never anything about dogs.

Lately I started asking him about the bat infestation of a local school and what was being done. To me he pleads complete ignorance about it all.

“Not my area of responsibility,” he says. He must be a Specialist. I didn’t know that one could be a Specialist in the Animal Control field. I guess he knows dogs, but bats? Not so much.

Of course, his claims of non-involvement fall on deaf ears when it comes to me. Every day for the last two weeks I have been asking him for “Bat Bulletins,” and he keeps telling me, “Not my area of responsibility.”

I know that I shouldn’t keep after him like that, but – he’s the Dog Catcher – one of the most hated job titles in Post-Renaissance Earth. The Dog Catcher is reviled only slightly less than A7Human Organ Thieves, Schoolyard Drug Dealers, or Members of Congress. You never hear of a kid aspiring to grow up and become the Dog Catcher. Most parents would rather have little Johnnie or Susie announce that they want to become Cannibals or Circus Geeks.

I would never say anything to him about the stigma that goes with being in “Animal Control.” He seems to be a nice guy and I’m sure he’s had to deal with a hostile society. Plus, I don’t want him to key my car in frustration if he can’t find that missing Rottweiler he’s been chasing.

A year or so ago the two dogs who live next door took off for a little doggy “stay-cation” around town. I asked my friend what he would have done to apprehend them.

“Nothing, unless someone complains.”A3

He has got a sweet deal going.

His shirt says “Animal Control” instead of “Dog Catcher.” A wise choice. “Animal Control” is not so obvious a target. It sounds so benign, so soft and cuddly, like the bartender on Noah’s Ark.

I have no idea what he did before the Animal Control phase of his life. Being the Dog Catcher (by any name) is not a career. One doesn’t go to college to become the Dog Catcher.

“Yes, I went to Indiana State University where I majored in Dog Catching, with a minor in Squirrels.”

 Whatever he did before he must have truly hated it. What job is so bad that you would leave it to become the Dog Catcher? Selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door to the Suicidal? Bulletproof Vest Tester? Blogger?

I’m sure that I’ll see him again tomorrow. I’ll have to ask him how they are doing with the bat problem at the school.

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I’ll Eat It, I Just Don’t Know What It Is.

 

IF YOU’VE DONE ANY TRAVELING IN THE UNITED STATES IN THE LAST TWENTY YEARS I’m sure that you have encountered something redundantly called the “Complimentary Free Breakfast.”

At more and more hotels the Free Breakfast has become almost unavoidable. The big chains, such as Holiday Inn, Marriott, and a dozen others trot out the hot trays every morning to feed their guests between 6 to 9 AM. During those hours you can see the early risers slumped over their plates of eggs, sausage, and potatoes.

While I admit to being among that crowd on most mornings I am doing so for mainly medicinal purposes. Every morning I have my own buffet of medications that I take to stay alive and I am obligated to have something in my tummy to buffer the explosion when the pills kick in. So, I head down to the hotel lobby and the “Complimentary Free Breakfast.”

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Let’s Take Another Look At That

OH, I GET IT! You’re doing your Stevie Wonder impression. No? What happened? Tell me…if it doesn’t involve the Police.

Thus began my morning last Monday as I walked into the Chapel of St. Arbucks.

“Oh, you broke your glasses? That’s why you are wearing sunglasses at 6 AM.”

At least it wasn’t me who had the broken glasses.

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Throwback Thursday From September 2016 – “I Spy Something”

Throwback Thursday From September 2016 – “I Spy Something”

 

I Spy Something…

watching-bush-babyDESPITE THE UPSETS AND WOES OF EVERYDAY LIFE there is one thing that can still be enjoyed no matter where or when you find yourself: People Watching.

Unless you are in the middle of nowhere or alone on a deserted island it is likely that there are people about – and they are free for the watching. Of course, if you don’t do it properly and be discreet, it can get costly in black eyes and those pesky restraining orders.

watching

People Watching can be done almost anywhere. I say “almost,” because there are those places where folks expect to be, and want to be, unobserved. Violating that expectation is often called “Invasion of Privacy,” or “Stalking.” You don’t want that tag following you around.

The beauty of People Watching is that there is an unlimited variety of subjects walking past. On most days it is like watching the better dressed escapees from some Monkey Island. I say that making no pretense of being the best dressed guy in town – on most days I’m dressed like the insides of a Honolulu Goodwill Box.

Just this morning, sitting in my pew at St. Arbucks, I have seen a bunch of High School students stopping off to get a serious sugar high before heading off to class. The boys all tried to look somewhat tough and mildly rebellious. The girls? Well – I saw 17 versions of Marcia Brady (I guess that ironing one’s long hair is back in fashion.) and a few Joan Jett wannabees. Maybe they’ll be able to draft a few of the boys into being their “Blackhearts.”

Don’cha just love Rock ‘n Roll?

Being the first day of school I can understand all of the extra effort to look their best – or at least their best according to their chosen image and budget. Within a week or so the 1470489173223importance of “The Look” will dissipate and the reality of having to get up early to catch the school bus will set in. After a few days standing on the corner waiting for the bus and they will all start looking like their laundry hamper.

People Watching is a two-way street and I know that. I look at them. They look at me. It’s only fair, I suppose – but I have a “Look” that lasts past Opening Day. In Summer I wear Hawaiian shirts (even to church) and the rest of the year I am in sweatshirts.

Either choice is always accented by a San Francisco Giants baseball cap. On occasion I change hats, just to keep things fresh. My alternate might be a cap from a Minor League team, or from the Trinity College of Dublin – a reminder of our Ireland trips.

stalking

NOT People Watching!

My alternate cap that gets the most commentary is my “Thinking Cap” cap. On days I wear that I can count on having at least 2 or 3 people coming up to me wanting to know where I bought it. Truthfully, I don’t know where it came from. It was a gift from Dawn, so it could be from anywhere this side of Neptune. She has her sources.

So, I heartily recommend People Watching as a pastime. It is fun, inexpensive (barring the need for legal defense), no equipment is needed, and a great way to troll for characters if you are a writer. You don’t thing Stephen King comes up with the people in his novels by sitting alone in a room staring at the wall, do you?

Go out, find a seat somewhere, and park your carcass down. Look around and enjoy what will, inevitably, pass by. There will be a parade of humanity to enjoy as it saunters by.

Refreshments are optional.

watching drinking-starbucks

I Try To Be Fair

NOW…I’M NOT A FUSSY PERSON who lets every little thing get under my skin and bother me… (Pregnant Pause)…OK, that’s not true. I am a fussy person and I do get all worked up by the little things that most people wouldn’t even think twice about. Truthfully, I’m still growling about not getting to see the “Tall Ships” that toured the Great Lakes during the Bicentennial Celebrations. That was in 1976 and I’m still miffed.

I try to keep that under cover and under control because no one wants to see me grumbling and muttering about something the world regards as trivial, but that I hold to be the key to the survival of Western Civilization.

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You Can’t Get There From Here

THIS MORNING I FOUND MYSELF TRAPPED in the middle of a conversation that went from confusing all the way to positively incoherent.

The morning started out quietly which is all I ask for until I have evidence of a stable heartbeat and access to coffee.

I got to my usual spot in the corner at the Chapel of St. Arbucks (Patron Saint of Jittery People) and began my climb to bipedal humanoid status. There was only one lone member of The Usual Suspects present. He was there when I arrived, so I assumed that he had slept there overnight. He was a half step ahead of me toward the ability to speak in a recognizable language.

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Did You Watch The Game Last Night?

 

THERE ARE SOME MORNINGS when I really don’t mind that there is no one around to talk with over coffee. The quiet helps me to sneak up on the day without having to think or be “Sociable.” I don’t know if I would like every day to be like that. I don’t think that I would make a good Hermit.

Most mornings when I go out for coffee there is a constant flow, sometimes a deluge, of people who want to talk to me. Some of them are like me at that time and can do little more than grunt. The two of us grunting back and forth must confuse and disturb those people seated nearby.

Others who try to engage me have long orations of opinion that they feel the need to drop on me. I try to ignore them. They don’t notice my lack of focus. They are busy listening to themselves. When they stop to take a breath is when I leap into the breach. I speak up and change the subject on them. I switch it to something, anything, more benign. If their rant is about politics I will start talking about baseball or the need for remedial driver training classes. That early in my day I really don’t care about either subject. I’m just trying to shut them up.

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It Almost Brings Me To Tears

 

WHO SAID THAT TERRE HAUTE (THAT’S FRENCH FOR, “THERE’S ROOM FOR DANCING!”) is just another small town? Well…actually it was me once or twice. Truthfully, compared to some other places where I have hung my hat, it is rather small – about 60,000 humans and 12 million raccoons and squirrels.

It may be a “small” town, but it is crawling into the higher ranks one stumbling step at a time.

The latest positive move that is elevating this Metropolis on the Wabash (Not counting the resumption of lethal injections at the Federal Prison Death Row) is the grand opening of Starbucks Store #5. Five Chapels of St. Arbucks in a town of 60,000 people ain’t bad. That comes to one store for every twelve thousand bipedal Hautians. That is pretty good…except when all 12 thousand show up at the same time when I’m trying to find a parking space.

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I’m Putting My Foot Down!

 

SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE! This is just getting out of hand! I’m putting my foot down! Both of them even…otherwise I might fall over and doing that in public makes it hard for me to be taken seriously.

Grrrrr.

What has me worked up into such a lather? It is The Usual Suspects.

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Throwback Thursday – from August 2016 – “Ooh, I Can Hear Myself Thinking”

Throwback Thursday 3

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.

There Is No Time For This

A FEW DAYS AGO I SAW a small news item in the local newspaper about an old building that was being renovated. As they were working on the foundation the workers uncovered a Time Capsule. For those of you with no sense of history let me explain about time capsules.

It used to be the practice when public buildings such as Libraries, Government Buildings, and other large structures were built to place a box into the foundation corner stone. In the box they’d put things about the town, their lives, and times. The box would stay hidden until the building was torn down sometime in the future.

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200…Maybe More

 

I HAVE REALIZED, FINALLY, AT MY ADVANCED AGE that the basis for all life on this planet is not carbon or water or even chocolate. It is coffee. Everything else is window dressing.

I’m sure that the entire universe is put together that way. Not necessarily with coffee as the base, but with the structure of everything resting precariously on a base made of something simple and barely noticeable – until it disappears.

When the Scientists on this planet began to figure out the basic structure of everything they came up with a short list of Electrons, Protons, and Neutrons. As time moved on they started adding things to that short stack of atomic particles. Neutrinos, Quarks, Photons, Bosons, Mesons and Masons…OK that last one isn’t true. I just stuck it in there to see who was paying attention.

So far they have identified over 200 subatomic particles. I think that means that everything – you, me, that raccoon living under your porch – everything is composed of more than 200 different tiny bits stacked up. We are all pieces in a giant game of Jenga. Pull out just one piece and it can all collapse into a pile of junk mail.

The two hundred itty-bitty particles making up your milkshake are the same bits making up that boy or girl you were making time with in high school. Your first car and McDonald’s Special Sauce are the same stuff…except for maybe that secret dye that Mickey D’s uses to make those green milkshakes on St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t know what that stuff is. No one does. Even Albert Einstein would have shaken his head and muttered “Verdammt, wenn ich es verstehe.”

Well, there you are. That’s pretty much the extent of my take on the composition of the universe. I’m not comparing myself to Albert Einstein, but even he knew when it was time to just shrug his shoulders and toss in the 200 plus particles that made up his towel.

As far as earth is concerned I am sticking with my Coffee Theory. I will not delve further into it because I don’t have the Education, Time, or even the Interest to go looking for the Cosmic Glue Stick that holds everything together.

I’m going to go get a refill on my coffee and maybe pick up a bagel – 2 major particles…3 if I get cream cheese.

Throwback Thursday From August 2016 – “Hairs Looking At You, Babe”

Throwback Thursday From August 2016 – “Hairs Looking At You, Babe”

6I’VE BEEN NOTICING SOMETHING RECENTLY – Something that the rest of the world may have been aware of for some time. I can be slow on the pick-up at time.

There seems to be a fad, fashion trend, or style, for men that is news to me. I’m seeing a lot of younger men sporting really long beards. I’m not talking Abraham Lincoln beard, but something closer to the ZZ Top band or the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Under 50 years of age break out your Google).

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There was a fellow, whom I guess to have been about 30, who came into St. Arbucks for the early services/brewing with a neatly trimmed beard (red, no less) that reached to his belly button. The hair on the top of his head was cut short, but his beard was the size of a fuzzy red placemat. He had the moustache to go with it. When he sipped at his coffee he had to use one hand to lift the ‘stache so he could access his mouth.

I would not want to watch him eat a slice of pizza.

A few days ago he came in with a friend. He also had a most prodigious beard (blonde). I don’t think it’s a cult thing – they both looked sane and neatly dressed in a rather Preppie manner. Aside from the beards they could have been part of the “Up With People” cast (Look ‘em up again.).

1When I mentioned this to the collected Usual Suspects (possibly a mistake) they said that it was a style that was considered “Hot” by the current crop of young ladies. There is no way I can personally verify this without risking getting myself slapped, kneed, or called a variety of names. So, I’ll have to take them at their word.

There has been a beard, in one form or another, on my face for close to 50 years. I first grew on for a part I was doing in a play and I kept it. Right now it’s just a short moustache and small lawn on my chin – all gray.

3

I’ve never had a long beard like is fashionable now. That would be too much work. Taking care of a beard like that is similar to having a small dog that needs constant grooming. Imagine a Chihuahua that, left unattended, grows up to be an Irish Wolf Hound.

While I get some coffee and go on a short fact-finding mission to learn more about these beards take a look at the slides of my trip to Yellowstone.

Slide One: A picture of a bear. I took the picture.

Slide Two: A picture of me. The bear took the picture.

Slide Three: A picture of me and the bear. I don’t know who took the picture.

{Courtesy of the late Jackie Vernon. Thank you, Funseekers}

During my minimal research on this phenomenon I read an article that called these long beards “Hipster Beards.” Do tell? Hipster?4

I have been seeing these guys carrying around their Shetland Ponies for a good year now. That’s a long time for anything carrying the label of “Hipster.” The 1960s style Carnaby Street Skinny Suits came and went. The “Soul Patch” mini-facial hair stayed around longer because it required no effort or cost, but these Ground Cover Beards might call for the hiring of a Professional Landscape Artist to maintain it.

Hmmmm? I’m wondering…could these guys with the Astro-Turf facial hair be wearing fake beards???

Hipster, indeed – more likely made in North Korea by slave labor!

An intriguing possibility, but, on second thought, unlikely.

These two jokers I see at St. Arbucks look more like runaways from a West Virginia Jug Band than some “Hipsters” from Terre Haute (That’s French for, “There’s something moving in your beard.”).

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Digging My Way Out Of Kolaches

 

I’M GETTING INTO A RUT. SOME PEOPLE MIGHT SAY, “KRAFTY, YOU ARE GETTING TO BE AS DULL AS DIRT.”

They’re probably right.

It was just yesterday (if you actually read yesterday’s blog) that I highlighted (highlit?) my day with safari into deepest, darkest Dollar General in search of the Wild Parmesan Cheese. How could anything be less exciting than that?

Quite easily if you are me.

This morning, after dream-filled night fraught with images of me walking in circles and the more I walked the farther away I got from everything, At a couple of minutes after 6 AM I popped into semi-consciousness. With only one lobe plugged in and operating I dressed myself, staggered down the stairs and made a pot of tea…all without any injury or embarrassing fashion faux pas. That gave me hope that things might be on the upswing.

I should have known better.

As I sat there slumped over my mug of tea like an early-morning barstool cowboy my wandering (read: unfocusing) eyes lit upon a shopping list note propped up within my field of vision.

Small Bottle of Bleach

Pepto Bismol

I don’t care what fad diet you may be following in your pursuit of skinny jeans, there is no way in Rochester, Minnesota that mixing Bleach and Pepto Bismol can be a good thing. Just seeing that list at that hour made my tummy-tum-tum do a triple back flip. I tried to ignore it as I submerged myself into my tea. It didn’t work

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The Last Straw

A BROKEN STRAW –A METAPHOR FOR MY LIFE.

Even though I am more or less retired I still find Monday to be a toxic spot on my calendar. This past Monday morning was no exception.

For some unknown reason I woke up at about 4:30 AM and could not get back to sleep. So I grabbed a pair of sox and started from there to get dressed and go get some coffee. All I can figure is that I must have either nodded off or I was kidnapped by Space Aliens and returned to my bed 90 minutes later. I felt no evidence of “probing.”All of the proverbial sudden it was 6 AM and I had one sock dangling from my right foot.

I finished dressing and completed my morning obligations (Making a pot of tea and gathering my morning meds) and steering the Toyota down the street to St. Arbucks. I was on the verge of Psychic Collapse.

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The Latest Joy Killers

 

THE LATEST ATTACK UPON HAPPINESS AND JOY IS UPON US. Two “Food Scientists” as they call themselves, (Actually two Dweebs from Seattle) have announced to the world that they have created a “Beanless Coffee” that tastes, they say, “…the way coffee should taste.” In other words these two morons have reinvented “Postum.” (Look it up)

          An article from NPR comes close to orgasm lauding this bit of nonsense.

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