Sometimes changes are thrust upon us by circumstances beyond our control. Being the Wannabe control freak that I am I do not like such changes – but like everyone else I have to accept and live with them.
I’m dealing with one such change right now.
With all of the Fooferaw about this virus thing I’d been hearing about there was one change that really tossed my routine into the laundry hamper of my life.
For a number of years I was used to getting up in the morning, driving down to the nearby St. Arbucks and writing for an hour or two. Six days a week I did that – and then that Corona Sumptin or Other butted in.
St. Arbucks became a Drive-Thru only and I was left on the outside looking in. Horror of Horrors! Oh, the Humanity! My writing sanctuary was taken away from me. Why didn’t they just cut off my fingers and gouge out my eyes? I don’t care what any says – writing at the Kitchen Table just wasn’t the same. There were just too many distractions.
This sudden and sadistic exile didn’t completely stop me from going down the street and getting my coffee. It just changed the How and Why of it all. My trips for coffee became social outings rather than creative efforts. I would abase myself by going through the line and getting my coffee handed to me from a small window. Doing it that way ended my free refills (Sob, Sob).
After being handed my plastic cup of iced coffee I would drive around the building and into the Kroger supermarket parking lot and join four or five other exiled coffee sippers who had set up an impromptu and ad hoc Gypsy encampment. Instead of writing every morning I was now spending my time chewing the fat with other retirees. It was a pleasant diversion, but nothing was getting written.
It was during this caffeinated diaspora that I restarted this blog with a weekly rather than a daily output. Writing any longer Fiction became almost impossible. All I could produce were 500 – 700 word bursts of extended random thoughts.
This Parking Lot Coffeehenge of circled SUVs went on all through the Spring and Summer. It was in early September that things began to look up. It was then that they unlocked the doors at St. Arbucks. We could go inside to order, and we could stay inside but there were only a few randomly placed seats. Our solution was to loiter outside in what the Manager of the store called “The Patio.” The Patio was about five feet wide and thirty feet long – not a traditional design. This same crew of Geezers was happy to move from the parking lot to The Patio just because it also opened up their emergency access to the Men’s Room. There were a few available tables available I was additionally happy because I could now get my free refills! This “better than nothing” improvement was a relief but it was still not helping my writing.
In Mid-September my prayers were answered…to a degree. Actually it was a lack of degrees that made me smile. We had a cold snap that made our early morning Patio Parties unbearable. I was not going to sit out there when it was only 8 degrees above freezing! I was the first one of our Senior Citizen Play Group to move inside. They were nice fellows but I wasn’t going to freeze for them.
For the first few days I was inside all alone and, wonder of wonders, I was able to write again! After about a week of icy temperatures the guys began to join me inside. Their Senior Bones had begun to object to the chill. On most days this group would begin to arrive at about 7:30 AM. When I was inside all alone I began to be creative, but when they followed me into the warmer interior everything fell apart again. My only solution was to come in even earlier than they could handle.
The St. Arbucks had returned to their earlier business hours opening at 5:30 AM for the Insomniacs and Methheads who were still up from last Wednesday…and the odd writer or two. I altered my schedule to arrive at about 6:00 AM to give me a good 90 minutes of writing time. It works for me. I get my work done and I remain a Social Animal.
One of the things that I used to write about rather frequently in this blog (Pre-Virus) was my early morning Playgroup at St. Arbucks, AKA – “The Usual Suspects.” It was my wife, the lovely and always welcome, Dawn, who named this gathering of Geezers as my Playgroup. I came up with “the “Usual Suspects.” I think her choice is more accurate.
We are a bunch of mainly retired gentlemen who get together to get out of the house and give our wives some peace. Our ages range from early 60s up to the mid 80s. Some of us were teachers while others were Chiropractors, Store Owners, and Whatever I was. We have one fellow who is still working. The rest of us look down on him. We had one female member of our group, but she wised up and moved out of state.
Almost everyday of the week we meet over coffee to discuss just about any topic except politics. We have that restriction as a health measure to avoid heart attacks and assault and battery issues. If one of the crew does start to bring up something political I will loudly interrupt with, “How about them Cubbies?” just to change the subject.
During this time of restricted social gatherings and face masks our normal meetings inside the nearby Starbucks were seriously disrupted. An alternate solution was called for.
Fortunately our Chapel of St. Arbucks (Patron Saint of Jittery People) is located adjacent to the parking lot of a Strip Mall that can accommodate several hundred parked cars. Each morning we would get our coffee via the Drive-Thru Lane and then move over to the larger parking lot. We circled our wagons (SUVs and Sedans), pulled some lawn chairs from the trunk, and carried on without missing a beat. On most mornings we had a circle of 5 to 7 vehicles. The only problems that ever arose with this arrangement were the occasional rain and swarms of gnats that found us much too attractive.
Actually there was one other problem that plagued our Parking Lot Playgroup. One of our noble Geezers had a real hearing problem and maintaining a good Social Distance caused a lot of shouting of “WHAT?” It wouldn’t have been so bad if he had remembered to put in his hearing aids. His hearing was bad, but so was his memory. Too many mornings he would leave his hearing aids at home on the kitchen table so everyone ended up shouting at him over their coffee.
A couple of weeks ago our prayers to Juan Valdez were answered and we were blessed when the Starbucks reopened the doors to their cafe. So far the weather has been pleasant and we have been meeting on their outdoor seating area. The lawn chairs are back in the trunk and the gnats haven’t found us. As far as I’m concerned this arrangement has an even better positive aspect: By ditching the Drive-Thru lane and ordering inside I am getting my iced coffee free refill once again. That’s all that is really important.
Life as we know it on this planet will continue.
Oh, Man! Am I getting tired of this – or what? It’s not the omnipresent virus and all of the foofuraw surrounding it that I’m talking about here. I’ve already done too much of that. There is nothing new for me to say about it or for you to read about.
What I’m talking about is COFFEE.
You know- that golden nectar that every day brings millions of people back to life? That liquid DNA that transforms us from mere meat with shoes on into a planet filled with creative men and women – some of whom know the difference between coffee and …anything else you might pour down your throat in the morning.
I started drinking coffee when I was in high school. I wanted to look “grown up” and coffee seemed to be my best way to look older and more worldly. Of course I put enough sugar in my grownup looking coffee cup to trigger a Diabetic Episode and three cavities, but I looked “Mature.”
All through college, a long and tortuous journey, I stayed with coffee. By that time I was hooked on the need for the caffeine but the mass amount of sugar faded until it was gone the way of bicycle training wheels and that ridiculously futile crush on Jayne Mansfield.
The sugar was gone which left me with a cup filled with black coffee. I didn’t like black coffee and I still don’t. I don’t hate it. I’ll drink it in a pinch or an emergency. For instance, if some alien species from another world landed here on earth and fell in love with our bovines and cownapped them all back to their home galaxy there would be a crisis in a cup. If that happens I will be forced to drink my coffee black. And don’t even talk to me about “Non-Dairy Coffee Creamers.” Paint belongs on the walls not in my mug.
As time passed my coffee needs did not really change, except perhaps in the quantity consumed, but Coffee Technology was in the fast lane. I went from a metal percolator to the first generation of Mr. Coffee drip brewers, Italian espresso in those tiny cups that were never enough. There was a brief romance with a French Press (It never would have lasted there was just too much pressure.). Then came the explosion known as Starbucks. They were everywhere. Where I lived in the city of San Francisco there were five Starbucks within walking distance for me…and if you know me at all you know that “walking distance” for me is “Drunken stupor crawling on all fours” for most other people.
I liked Starbucks coffee from the beginning. They brew it strong and I like my coffee to be able to fight back if it ever finds itself being poured in a dark alley. I have been a loyal slurper in Starbucks all over the country and even overseas. I have no complaints. But now a pretender to the Throne of the Golden Bean is in my kitchen.
I was first introduced to these devilish little machines a couple of years ago. It was Love at First Sip. Here was something that would let me brew myself a cup of coffee – toss it down my pie hole – and then, almost immediately make another, but a totally different flavor. I could do that all afternoon. And Morning. And Evening.
In deciding to write about this I knew that some people might disagree with me and my thoughts. Well, frankly, I’m not bothered by that. I might offer to share a cup with them and if they don’t see the error of their ways, may they spend the rest of their life drinking Airline coffee. I’m an easy going guy…at least until my tenth cup of the day kicks in.
WELL, I’M GOING TO ASSUME THAT, IF YOU ARE READING THIS, YOU ARE STILL ALIVE. In some cases I know that that may be a bit of a stretch, but it does look as if you made it through another Christmas.
Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Christmas Dinner – and then there is a day of Christmas Leftovers and Batteries not included. That seems to be the Order of Battle
For me that day after Christmas usually involves multiple trips to the supermarket for a can of this or that and a Dollar Store Safari for batteries of the size I failed to buy before Christmas. How was I to know that nothing uses “D” size batteries anymore? If you ever find that you need some “D” batteries let me know because I have a boxcar load of them out in the garage. Most of them may be thirty years old, but they can be yours at a reasonable price.
ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS I DID ONCE I LANDED IN FLORIDA was to locate the nearest Starbucks. No matter where I am I gotta have my morning coffee. My afternoon and evening coffee too, but that should be obvious. The closest Chapel of St. Arbucks to my lodging is about two miles away. I can live with that. I have to. But all Starbucks are not the same.
While the buildings vary little from state to state, country to country, but the clientele is unique to each store. On a college campus most of the customers will have just finished puberty, while in Midtown Manhattan the majority of the sippers will have high blood pressure and be paying child support. This week I am in sunny South Florida.
It may be 33 degrees outside, but I am roasty-toasty warm inside. The furnace is on. I’m wearing three layers (not chickens) and I have my electric throw plugged in and I have a Hunter’s Hand Warmer in my pants. I’m warm and I like it.
I would never have been a great Arctic explorer. Amundsen and Byrd would have pushed me overboard when they caught me trying to convince the crew that Miami was close enough to the Pole.
“Let’s all stop here and have a hot toddy.”
When the thermometer begins its slide into the range that causes talk of things like “Wind Chill” and “Antifreeze,” I break out my Thermal Thongs.
SOMETIMES I JUST DON’T KNOW WHO TO BELIEVE. I hear somebody say something and I automatically take what they say as truthful. It’s not long before “WHAM!” I find out that the Truth is more elusive than a Penguin at the North Pole.
What gets me thinking about this was my recent experience of trying to buy fuel for the Toyota. It made my head spin.
WHAT IS WITH THESE PEOPLE? It is 5:45 in the morning. It is still dark and there is a line out to the door at St. Arbucks. Is it the End of Times? Has a fleet of UFOs begun to attack Earth? Has Godzilla been spotted coming out of the Wabash River?
Something is afoot at St. Arbucks my coffee and writing refuge.
Oh, I get it now! It is some sort of Holiday Season Promotion and they are giving away decorated reusable plastic cups with the purchase of some overpriced beverage creation.
BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN. No, I’m not imagining that I’m Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, or any of the countless other singing cowboys of my youth. I’m strictly feeling the approaching rut of doing the same things every day until I get run over by a train or shot by an unemployed mortician.
Even though I took my computer with me to Ireland and I did keep up with this blog I didn’t get much done as far as writing some new fiction is concerned. I had hoped to get off to a good start on a novel.
I got nothing.
Not one word.
I barely got any thinking about it done. I spent more time eating and shivering. I was really good at those things while there.
I’M FEELING IN A MAGNANIMOUS MOOD TODAY.
I feel like reaching
out to my fellow bipeds and seeing if I can be of help. So, I have declared that today is officially:
FREE BAD ADVICE DAY!
For today – and today only – I will be dispensing free bad advice on a wide range of topics.
Let the games begin!
For the first three weeks we were tourists and tour guides. We were blessed to have our “Alaskan Cousins” with us. They had never been here before and we wanted them to see the parts of this island that has brought us back time and time again. We may have run them a bit ragged, but with us they saw more than those tourists who saw the country from inside a rolling tour bus.
Before we left Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Guinness does go well with chocolate.”) our itinerary would have had us on the go about 36 hours a day. We’ve done it before and we thought we could do it again. Reality threw a pie in our faces on that idea. The first time I came here I was 60 years old and Dawn was…a mere yute. This trip has defied my experiments with time travel and tore too many pages off our Calendar. When we all landed in Dublin the age range of our group went from 73 years down to 62. We were not being mistaken for Hostelling Students on Holiday.
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.”
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?
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.
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.”
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.