Saturday, August 20, 2016

My Kind Of Place

I was deep in the country, having traveled west from the suburbs in the hopes of finding a morning meal not cooked by me, and as I stepped into the small-town restaurant shortly after its opening time of 6:00 a.m., I realized that I’d stumbled upon one of those rare places where I immediately felt like I belonged.

The main reason for this was the half-dozen patrons already present at that early hour, all of whom were grumpy-looking old men. You see, I plan to someday become a grumpy-looking old man myself, and here I was, in what appeared to be their natural Saturday morning habitat! What an opportunity to observe and learn!

The first thing I noted was that even though I was in a small town where everybody had to know each other, none of the grumpy-looking old men were sitting together. In fact, they’d carefully positioned themselves in such a way that ensured the maximum amount of distance between each other. Clearly, this was a place where one’s personal space was valued, which in itself was enough to vault it into my Top 10 Restaurant list.

Being relatively young, I knew that I stuck out like a sort thumb, and so I found the best possible place to sit that wouldn’t infringe on anybody’s personal space and made a beeline for it. I nodded to one of the customers as I passed by, and he politely returned the gesture, but I could tell he was suspicious. I obviously wasn’t from around here. Also, I wasn’t a grumpy-looking old man. Yet.

The waitress came over and I ordered coffee, because that’s what Jack Reacher would do, and then I began to soak up one of the most unique experiences of my life.

It was quiet, so very, very quiet. Obviously, a lot of the silence was a direct result of the personal space rule, but even when the waitress topped off the cup of one of the grumpy-looking old men, their conversation was subdued, to-the-point, and generally seemed to focus on the topics of celery, tomatoes, and mud. Nobody was showing off here. This was a serious place for serious people, and although I’d only been inside for a few minutes, I could sense that foolishness of any kind would immediately be met with multiple passive-aggressive glares. What a place! It was no wonder I was falling in love with it! Heck, I excel at passive-aggressive glares!

The overwhelming silence, however, was not in the least bit awkward, and instead could only be described as blissful. How refreshing to sit in a public place without anybody striving in some way for attention! My entire body relaxed, and I sipped at my coffee and eventually ordered a meal. I’d take this over a day at the beach anytime! (Unless maybe nobody was at the beach and they served coffee there.)

The closest thing to excitement that broke out during my visit was a brief conversation between two of the grumpy-looking old men. They were sitting about 5 or 6 booths from each other, and their discussion was held with slightly raised voices. The topic at hand had something to do with celery, tomatoes, or mud, but it didn’t last long. Points were succinctly made, and silence soon returned to the restaurant.

It wasn’t, however, a complete silence. There was background music to contend with, in the form of a radio tuned into a pop station. It seemed to me to be an odd choice, and as Taylor Swift was singing “Blank Space,” I kept waiting for one of the grumpy-looking old men to pull out a pistol and shoot the speaker off the wall.

But then again, who am I to say? I’m not yet a grumpy-looking old man, and so why should I assume I know anything about their musical tastes? While I couldn’t help but imagine that most of them would rather listen to Earnest Tubb than Taylor Swift (as would I), perhaps I was completely misjudging them.

I wanted to ask the closest grumpy-looking old man about this, but I held myself back. I’d gotten away with a polite nod to him earlier, but I didn’t think an actual conversation would fly. No matter how comfortable I felt, I was still an outsider, and I was deeply afraid of being on the receiving end of a terrifying passive-aggressive glare.

My meal soon arrived, and since I was quite hungry it didn’t take me long to work my way through it. I then sighed contentedly, and as I pushed away my plate and began to think about paying the bill, I realized that in the time I’d been in the restaurant, nobody who’d arrived before me had left. They obviously weren’t distracting themselves with frivolous conversation, and, assuming they weren’t all slow eaters, I came to the conclusion that grumpy-looking old men spend the majority of their Saturday mornings sitting in quiet restaurants, either because they have nothing better to do or because their wives have a honey-do list waiting for them at home. Either way, it sounded like a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning, and I felt my motivation to someday become a grumpy-looking old man growing by leaps and bounds.

Not long after, I left my tip and stood up. No matter how at-home I felt in my quiet little booth, I couldn’t sit there any longer. I hadn’t yet earned the right to linger over a completed meal for hours on end like the grumpy-looking old men were doing, and the best thing I could do was leave before I upset the natural balance of things even more than I already had.

As I paid the waitress at the front desk, we chatted briefly about the weather, mainly because I didn’t know much about celery or tomatoes or mud, and soon after I found myself walking towards my car, wondering what all the grumpy-looking old men were doing now that I was gone. I imagined them all still sitting there, quietly listening to Taylor Swift, sipping coffee, and practicing their passive-aggressive glares, but perhaps my assessment was wrong. Maybe as soon as I drove away the entire place would erupt into song and dance, with each grumpy-looking old man playing an instrument of their choice. I mean, how was I to know? No matter how much I want to be one, I’m still not a grumpy-looking old man, and there’s bound to be plenty I have to learn on the subject. However, when I do finally reach that point in my life, I’m pretty sure I’m going to spend a lot of my time in restaurants such as the one I discovered on that rainy Saturday morning. It was definitely my kind of place.


Monday, June 27, 2016

Missing: One Voice

It’s been said that 93% of all communication is non-verbal. However, after recently conducting an impromptu scientific experiment on the matter, I can now confirm that whoever came up with that statistic is either a liar-liar-pants-on-fire or a person who never lost their voice for a semi-extended period of time.

It all started on a Saturday, when my immune system, which obviously had been up late partying the night before and wanted to sleep in, didn’t hear its alarm go off and never reported for duty. Unable to protect myself, a virus of some sort quickly descended upon me, leaving me not only exhausted, but also with a sore throat and a fading voice. Things quickly went downhill, and by the early evening I’d been rendered nearly mute, to the point where anything I did manage to say sounded like it was coming out of an 85-year old chain-smoker who was gargling marbles.

Cursing my lazy immune system, which had since woken up and sheepishly apologized for its woeful lack of vigilance, I spent most of Sunday resting and recuperating, which was helpful in that by evening I felt good enough to resume day-to-day activities, but which unfortunately did nothing to restore my golden baritone.

I need next to mention that I was in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at the time, and also that Monday was my day to drive back to the Twin Cities. Now, while this may seem like the perfect opportunity for vocal rest, you must also consider the “Singing Along to the Radio” factor. I mean, what’s the point of driving for 7 hours straight if you can’t bellow out mournful country songs with an intensity that would frighten most normal people? Needless to say, the drive was very frustrating. I tried to listen to music, but being unable to harmonize with the likes of George Strait and Merle Haggard soon turned me to talk radio, which quickly made me hate the world and everybody in it. My only solace was junk food, which propelled me through Wisconsin while expanding my waistline by a good several inches. Feeling the effects of extreme-chocolate-overload, I then somehow made my way through rural Minnesota and back home to the Twin Cities.

On Tuesday morning I started what I’ve since coined the Woohoo! test. Upon waking up, in order to assess the high end of my vocal register, I tried to let loose with a hearty “woohoo!” It was, however, a complete failure, and I produced almost no sound. Disheartened, I headed to work, where I labored with a raspy, broken voice that made me feel like I was going through adolescence again. Soon I’d picked up the nickname “Whispers,” and finally, by mid-afternoon, my voice had given out completely, leaving me no choice but to communicate via hand-gestures, such as the classic “thumbs-up,” along with the always entertaining “finger pistols.”

My updated name tag. Don’t ask about the Dennis Eckersley card.

On Wednesday morning the Woohoo! test again failed miserably. However, the deeper end of my voice had begun to come back, which happily allowed me to sing the “Giddy Up, Oom Poppa Oom Poppa Mow Mow” part of “Elvira” in the shower. Alas, in a cruel turn of fate, my nose decided that then was the perfect time to start running profusely, and a nagging cough had also begun to manifest itself. Too stubborn to admit defeat, I spent the day at work being Annoying Sniffly Guy Who Should Have Stayed Home But Didn’t Because He Doesn’t Consider Anybody But Himself. (Yeah I know, I hate that guy too.)

Luckily, the rest of the week went a lot better, and the Woohoo! test progressed each morning until my voice had completely returned. The “Whispers” name tag was taken down the next week, and things have since returned pretty much to normal.

Overall, going for roughly four days without the ability to easily communicate via vocalization was much more difficult than I ever would have expected. While I consider myself to be a fairly quiet person, there were still many times when I wanted to contribute to conversations but didn’t, mainly because my ridiculously raspy voice was almost unintelligible, not to mention a bit embarrassing. At one point I was trying to book a hotel over the phone for an upcoming vacation, and being barely able to speak made it an exercise in silliness:

Hotel Guy: “Okay, can you give me your name?”
Me: “K**t I****s*n.”
Hotel Guy: “Did you say, Dirt Eyes In One?”
Me: “No! “Ku*t I*****on!”
Hotel Guy: “Cute as a Lion?”
Me: “No!”
Hotel Guy: “I’m just going to put you down as Guy Jones.”
Me: “Ok.”

The moral of the story? Don’t lose your voice. However, if you do, please make sure to seek me out. I really want to pass on the Whispers nickname.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Epiphanies and Hot Water Heaters

Recently, I had an epiphany. However, before you get too excited, you should know that it wasn’t a life-changing epiphany. Heck, it wasn’t even a mid-level epiphany. In fact, now that I think about it, it may not have even been an epiphany at all, and instead more of a mundane realization on steroids. Regardless, I’ve used the word “epiphany” a number of times now, so I’m just going to have to stick with it.

Let’s start at the beginning, which, like so many other compelling tales, involves hot water heaters.

You see, the hot water heater that came with my house was somewhere along the lines of eight-thousand years old, give or take a century, which basically made it the Mr. Burns of water heaters.


"Excellent"

If it had ever sprung a leak and flooded the house, or exploded into a gigantic fireball reminiscent of a scene from a summer blockbuster movie, the only rational response I could have had was, “I’m surprised this didn’t happen in 1997.” And so, with this in mind, I decided to get a new one, and, calling upon the can-do spirit of the pioneers of yesteryear – who built an entire nation with their own two hands – I rolled up my sleeves, put on my big-boy pants, and heartily used my phone to hire out the work.

The hardest part was scheduling a time for the install with the salesman I spoke with. Apparently, the people who install hot water heaters like to do so during the typical workday (who’d have thought?), and so I had a choice between 9:00 to noon and noon to 4:00 on the selected day. Without hesitation, I chose noon to 4:00, mainly because I’m philosophically opposed to taking a half-day of vacation during the morning hours. (If I’m going to be tired and useless, I may as well be tired and useless at work, right?) The salesman agreed to this, and with that accomplished, I went about my business of staring vacantly out of the window.

Then, about a week later, which was also the day before the water heater was supposed to be delivered, I received a phone call from the actual people who’d be doing the install, wondering if 9:00 to noon would be a good time for them to come.


After I finished hemorrhaging internally, I calmly explained that 9:00 to noon would not, in fact, work out, and that I’d already scheduled it from 12:00 to 4:00. The representative told me she’d see if she could make it work, and then promised to call back.

As you’d probably expect, as I hung up the phone I was both angry and annoyed. The salesman promised me 9:00 to noon, and I’d already taken that time off work! How inefficient a program were they running to have such a disconnect between the people making the promises and the people doing the actual work?

Then came the epiphany: As a computer programmer, I’ve been intimately involved in this situation many times before, and it always goes something like this:

Management: Hey, there’s a new project we need you to get on.

Me: What is it?

Management (after telling me what it is): How long will it take?

Me: About 3 weeks.

Management: Is there any chance you could do it in 1?

Me: No.

Management: Are you sure?

Me: Yes. It’s physically impossible to do in a single week. In fact, 3 weeks is probably pushing it.

Management: Oh… well, the sales guys promised the customer it'd be done in a week.

Me: Can we get somebody to help me with it?

Management: No, everybody else is scrambling to finish previous projects with unrealistic timelines set by the sales guys.

Me (with a sigh):  I suppose I could sleep at the office…

Management: If you’re going to be eating from the vending machines, I’m going to need you to sign the proper waiver forms.

Suddenly, I was no longer angry at the person who’d just called me. She was my mirror image, somebody working on the actual implementation side of the equation, and she was probably just trying to make things fit logistically on her end. In my mind, the sales guy had probably scheduled an unrealistic amount of installs from noon to 4:00 on that day, and she was just trying to make it all work. (“Okay, according to this we have to be in two… three… four places at once this afternoon. Hey, that’s better than usual! We barely even have to break the laws of physics!”)

And so, even though I’d probably already known it at a subconscious level for some time, I came to the realization that computer programmers aren’t the only ones routinely thrown under the proverbial bus by the sales people, and I vowed then and there to try and keep this in mind when working with anybody on the implementation side of things in matters such as these.

And I highly recommend that you do, too.

(Also, if you’re wondering, they were eventually able to fit me in from noon to 4:00, although I’m pretty sure time travel was involved.)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Ornaments and the Christmas Spirit

Throughout adulthood, my relationship with the Christmas Spirit has always been fickle. One moment I’ll be annoyed at how hectic and over-commercialized it all is, and the next I’ll have watched It’s a Wonderful Life and want to run up and down the street hugging everybody that I see. So, it came as no surprise when in late November I began to have mixed feelings about putting up my Christmas tree.
                
The Grinch in me (who gets easily annoyed by Christmas music, Frosty the Snowman, and children’s laughter) argued that it was a complete waste of time and effort, while the child in me wanted not only to put it up, but also to have candy canes for dinner.

This conflict lasted for quite a while, and it was only resolved once I’d returned home from a foray to the Upper Peninsula for Thanksgiving, which was when I decided that since I’d spent good money on the stupid tree in the first place, I might as well put it up. And so, armed with an temperament that leaned more towards cynicism than it did the Christmas Spirit, I pulled the tree out of mothballs and made it this far before giving up:


The next day, feeling a burst of inspiration, I pulled out my box of ornaments. My intent was to get perhaps a quarter of the tree decorated before inevitably being distracted by the prospects of a good chair nap, but surprisingly, an hour or so later the entire job was done!

Now, before we go any further, I have to warn you that this is going to get a little sappy, and I apologize beforehand. However, it is the Christmas season, and I’m allowed to be a bit sentimental.

Anyway, the reason I was able to get the entire tree decorated in one shot was because I found that going through my collection of ornaments was both fun and – dare I say it? – a little heartwarming. Here are a few examples of what I had to work with:

The Ninja
My nephew made this for me last year, after I’d seen some of his earlier work in the same vein and put in a request for one. The best part about this ninja is that he's dressed in black from head to toe, and when he's on the tree he just sort of disappears, like you'd expect a ninja to. But deep in my heart I know he’s always there, constantly protecting my house from burglars.

The Red Bird
This ornament was snuck onto the tree last year by my sister. It has a motion detector, which, when set off, causes the bird to sing cheerfully. Now, while this feature is fun in theory, it turns out that the motion detector was calibrated so finely that it picked up eye-blinks in the adjacent room, which meant that it never, ever, EVER shut up, and within a day the constant chirping had pushed me to the brink of insanity. Needless to say, I had to take out its batteries, and now it sits in the tree, blissfully quiet.

Homer Simpson
The awesomeness of this one is pretty self-explanatory. I mean, it’s Homer Simpson!

Snowman Whose Head is Bigger Than His Body
This was constructed by one of my nieces or nephews, and it cracks me up every time I look at it.

Baby Me
Proof that I was once adorable and cuddly. Also, I was pretty much rocking the bald look way back then!

Chewbacca
This isn’t even an ornament, but it amuses me in so many ways. First, it looks more like a random lump of fur than it does Chewbacca. Second, when you squeeze it, Chewy emits a hilarious roar that I can’t even begin to describe. And third, it reminds me of the time last year when my brother and I bought it, which was during a roughly 24-hour period where we devolved from mature adults to a pair of giggling lunatics, which is usually what happens when we get together.

Bacon and Eggs
I like this one because even though it has nothing to do with Christmas, it still involves bacon, and bacon transcends everything.

Gingerbread Ninjas
Another contribution from the nephews and nieces. (Apparently, ninjas were the popular thing for a while.) They made me quite a few of these ornaments, and each one makes me happy, especially the one pictured above.

The Grinch
Every time I look at him, The Grinch Song gets stuck in my head. (“You’re a mean one, mister Grinch…”) And now it’s probably stuck in yours!

Darth Vader
It’s nice to know that even one of the most famous villains of all time has a little Christmas spirit in him. Also, his head is gigantic!

Minion
This is about as self-explanatory as Homer Simpson.

Basketballs
These were delivered to me at one point from an anonymous source, so if you’re reading this, thank you!

Snowman and/or Angel
Another work by the nieces and/or nephews. I think it’s a snowman, but it also looks suspiciously like an angel. Either way, this is one of my favorite things to pull from the ornament box.

Spider-Man
Another example of something being used as an ornament that’s really not. However, it’s still Spider-Man, who was a big part of my childhood, and he certainly deserves a place on the tree. Thwip!!

Bear That I’m Pretty Sure Was Made By My Niece Who Is Now A Licensed Driver
The years they do fly by!

In the end, my tree isn’t perfect. There are ornaments too close to other ornaments of the same color, and places where something should be where nothing is. Also, I still haven't gotten an extension cord to plug in the star, and I'm still short one tree skirt. However, I don’t really care. I like it just the way it is, and I think that's as close to the Christmas Spirit as I'm going to get.



Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get dinner going. Those candy canes aren’t going to prepare themselves!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Cruzing With Ted

For those of you who were wondering, the trusty Honda made it back from the body shop and is again serving as my primary means of transportation.

I’ll give you a moment to breathe a huge sigh of relief. There we go.

So far, the car is showing no ill-effects from having gone under the welder, and for that I’m incredibly happy, especially since I’ve recently realized that I just may have to drive it for the rest of my life.

I made this decision during the time it was being worked on, when I was renting a newer model Chevy Cruze. (Nickname: Ted) Driving this car opened my eyes to the technology that is being jammed into today’s automobiles. When I sat behind the wheel, I felt like I was at the helm of the Enterprise, as I was surrounded by a sea of buttons and screens and digital readouts, none of which made much sense to me. Based on the sheer volume of buttons, I initially thought I had only to find the right one, press it, and then let the car do the rest. However, technology has only gotten so far, and there was no “Drive to Work” button, and most certainly no “Pretend To Go To Kwik-Trip For Gas When You’re Really Going For Cookies” button.

Still, there was more than enough to attract my attention, and I quickly found that driving Ted was, in one word, distracting.

Ted was even more complicated than KITT

Let’s start with the giant touchscreen on the dash, whose job it is to keep you up to date by displaying a never-ending stream of car metrics, none of which is very helpful and/or interesting. For example, when I adjusted the heat, a number would pop up to tell me that it’d been changed from, say, “5” to “7”, which I found to be sort of insulting, like the manufacturers didn’t trust me to know which way to turn the dial to make the heat go up, and which way to scale it back, and so they had to spell it out to me in large numbers.

Not that there’s only one setting for heat, mind you. I’m pretty sure the car featured enough individual options for there to be roughly 47 individual climates going on at the same time. (“Let’s see, I’ll set the temperature for the driver-side head to ‘8’, but crank it up to ‘10’ for the feet. I’ll also set left butt-cheek to ‘5’ and right butt-cheek to ‘6’. And since I don’t like the jerk sitting next to me, I’ll set everything over there to ‘Blizzard’.”)

The touchscreen also gave me way more information than I needed about whatever radio station I was listening to. Instead of a simple call sign (I.E. “102.1”), it would instead say something like: “K102: Today’s Bro Country: Now Playing - Some Terrible Sam Hunt Song That Will Seriously Make You Consider Driving Into The Ditch Just To Try And Make It Stop.”

I have to admit, however, that the touchscreen wasn’t all bad, as I liked that it would switch over to the back-up camera as soon as I put it into reverse. However, even this was over-engineered, as whenever I turned the wheel while backing up, the car would calculate where it thought it was going and then overlay that course on the touchscreen via a series of colored, curving lines. However, instead of helping, all it did was make it feel like I was playing a video game, and I kept catching myself looking for extra lives and power-ups.

Moving beyond the touchscreen, I'd like to talk about the rear-view mirror, which for some reason sported three buttons. Now perhaps I'm missing something obvious, but for the life of me I couldn’t imagine what they were for, and while I wanted to test them out, I was afraid of what would happen if I did. (“Oh, so that’s the ‘Mirror Fall Off’ button!”) And so, despite the near-universal guy urge to randomly press buttons, I decided to just leave it as a mystery.

Another source of stress for me was that along with the traditional needle speedometer, Ted also featured a digital readout. Upon seeing it, I couldn’t help but question why I had to be notified by multiple sources how fast I was going, and I soon began to wonder if the car could somehow violate the laws of physics: “I’m going both 57 and 59 miles-per-hour! How it that even possible?! AAIIEEE!!!!!” After a while, I started to ignore them both, which made things a whole lot easier, all while getting me to where I was going in record time.

Ted was even stressful after I was done driving him. I’d put him into park, turn off the lights, and then shut off the engine. Except the lights wouldn’t turn off. Instead, they’d stay illuminated for roughly an additional minute before finally going dim. Now, you might assume that once a person realizes this is how the car works, they’d simply ignore the still-glowing lights and walk away. However, that’s not how I operate. No matter how bad the weather was, I still had to stand outside of Ted each and every time just to make sure the lights would eventually flip off, because if I didn’t, I’d slowly go insane over the next hour wondering if they were still on, slowly draining the battery.

While there’s more I could say about Ted, at some point I’d cross over the line from criticizing to whining (assuming I haven’t done so already), and so I think it's best if I channel my inner Kenny Rogers and know when to fold ‘em. In closing, I’d like to say thank you for reading this, and also if you need me, you can find me in the garage, giving the trusty Honda a hug.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Deer and the Trusty Honda

For those of you who don’t know, I’m sort of a physics geek, and so when the opportunity arose for me to find out what would happen when both my car and a deer attempted to occupy the same spot at the same time, I leapt at the chance.

Or maybe it was the deer who was into physics and who leapt at the chance. I don’t really remember. It all happened pretty fast.

Regardless of the instigator of the experiment, the end result was some damage being taken by the trusty Honda.


I assume the deer also incurred some damage, but he didn’t stick around long enough to swap insurance information. Maybe he had to get back to his home to discuss his scientific findings with the other deer nerds.

But I digress. My reason I’m writing this isn’t to discuss the deer, but rather the trusty Honda.
                      
I’ve had the Honda for close to 10 years and 160,000 miles, and we’ve become very close. We never have too much to say to each other, but it’s always been a comfortable silence that’s existed between us. Plus, it never minds when I feel the need to belt out George Strait at the top of my lungs. I guess you could say we just get each other.

I’ve heard it said that the kind of car you buy reflects the type of person you are, and in my case, I believe it to be true.

The Honda isn’t much to look at, but it also doesn’t send you screaming away in terror – at least not that I’ve noticed  and while I might be wrong, I feel like I also fit that description.

The Honda is also pretty quiet (it doesn’t even have rear speakers) and for the most part, I try not to be too loud.

The Honda is reliable. Besides routine maintenance, it rarely has to go into the shop, and in my case, I’m pretty sure my primary care physician is, at this point, Dr. Cox from Scrubs.

The Honda is low-tech. It has no blind-spot detector or backup camera. There’s no GPS or DVD player, and it most definitely doesn’t get WIFI. As for me, while I carry a smart phone like everybody else, I have no plans of ever wearing smart glasses, a smart watch, or smart clothing. A phone is more than enough. The day my watch tells me to look at my phone so I can read a text is the day I hurl myself off a cliff. (Assuming Google maps can direct me to one.)

In addition, the Honda has plenty of room in the rear to carry around my stuff, including a volleyball, a basketball, horseshoes, and a tennis racket. I guess, for lack of better words, you could say there’s a lot of junk in the trunk. As for me – wait, what’s that? That’s enough with the parallels? It’s time to move on with the essay? Well, I guess so…

As you can probably see, the Honda is more than just a car to me, and so after the deer incident, there was never any question in my mind as to if I’d abandon it. No, the decision was always to get it fixed. Luckily, it remained in a driveable condition, and it’s been meeting my transportation needs ever since. It reminds me of a basketball player who sprains his ankle but gets right back into the game. “Just tape it up and get me back out there!” is the Honda’s motto.

Now, however, the Honda’s appointment at the body shop is drawing near, and I’m getting nervous. We’re going to be apart for the better part of a week, and separation anxiety is beginning to set in. Also, I’m worried that the repairs will be a too invasive or there’ll be unforeseen complications. Talk about stressful! All I know for sure is that I’ll be anxiously awaiting the phone call where I'm told the repairs went well and the Honda is resting quietly, waiting for me to pick him… er it up.

Assuming everything goes well, there’s one thing I’d like to do when it's all said and done: give the Honda a proper nickname. I’ve been trying to for years, but nothing has stuck. It’s not rough-and-tumble enough to be a “Hoss” and it’s not decayed enough  to be a “Rusty.” Sure, it’s been called the Grandpa-Mobile on more than one occasion, but I’d like to come up with something a little more edgy. Any suggestions? If not, I’ll have plenty of time to mull it over, because when it’s in the shop I’m sure I won’t be getting any sleep.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Coffee: An Appreciation

Ah, coffee. When I recently found myself carrying two large mugs of you up the steps to my writing area – because one would not be enough – I realized just how much you mean to me.

While there are a multitude of things I could say about you, what amazes me the most is your ability to bring me joy in so many different ways.

When I open up a fresh package of you, I like your smell as it gently drifts up to my nostrils. It’s almost as if you’re telling me, in your own special way, that I made a truly wise decision in purchasing you.

I like the whirring and the crunching that I hear when you’re being ground, and although I know you’re only going through a physical change, it still seems like there’s more to it than that, like I’m witnessing something almost magical.

I like the gurgles and the hisses that emanate from the you-maker when you’re brewing, and I especially like when the first droplets of you fall down into the pot, so slow and tantalizing, like a faucet dripping miracles.

I like the sound you make when I pour you into one of my cavernous mugs: a waterfall of black gold worth far more to me than any oil.

I like when I raise you up to my lips and your steam tickles my glasses, enveloping them in a fog that perfectly symbolizes my blind devotion to you.

I like my first sip of you in the morning, and how for that one beautiful moment everything in the world feels right. It’s like having Christmas every day.

I like when you become one of my companions on a long road trip, joining the mournful sounds of country music in making bearable the task of putting up with drivers who have never heard of turn signals or brakes.

I like you in no-name cafes and small town diners and roadside restaurants, where you make breakfast a thing of beauty, or perfectly top off an evening meal with a hint of class that never reaches pretension.

I like drinking seemingly endless quantities of you when engaging in a deep conversation with a good friend. You’re like a silent third party; the best listener in the world.

I like you in mugs and I like you in Styrofoam, and I like you in the gas station cups with the lids that never quite fit. I also like you in tin, especially when huddled over a raging fire on a cold night.

I like you in the winter and I like you in the fall, and I even like you during the dog-days of summer when you make me sweat to the point of wanting to discard several layers of clothing, even if I’m in public.

I like you in full-strength and I like you in decaff, and sometimes I even like you in hazelnut. I do not, however, like you with cream or with ice, or when you’re instant, or when you’re strong enough to remove paint from the wall. You need only to be hot and black to achieve perfection, and perfection has no room for improvement.

Ah, coffee. You’re my lifeline, my rock, my constant companion. You’re my sunrise and my sunset, and if I’m ever in need of money, I’ll spill you in my lap at McDonalds and find a good lawyer.