Coffee, Tea, or …

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

“I like to look at ‘em, but I wouldn’t want to own one.” W. C. Fields, comparing women to elephants.

That’s how I feel about coffee: I love the aroma when it’s brewing, but I rarely drink it. To be sure, I never say no to a Starbucks when someone else is buying, but I don’t go out of my way for one. Especially when it would entail a 2-hour bus ride there and back.

No, just give me my tea, a decent book, and I’m good to go. Bring me constant refills and I’ll follow you to the gates of hell itself.

But coffee? Meh. I can take it or leave it.

This morning was different. I enjoyed a nice breakfast and had just sat down to peruse Medium when our house guest started brewing a pot of Sumatra Mandheling on our Mr. Coffee knock-off.

Remember what I said about the aroma of coffee when it’s brewing? Yeah. It got me up out of my chair and into the kitchen so I could smell it better.

Constant Reader, I confess: I yielded to temptation—which by the way is how Oscar Wilde said is the best way to avoid it—and am now enjoying a cup of strong coffee, tempered by the addition of real cream(!), sweetener, and a hint of flavoring (just a tiny splash of genuine New York State pure maple syrup).

It was the best cup of coffee I’ve had in a long time.

“How long, Robyn?”

Long enough that I can’t remember the last time I drank one.

And I find it interesting that each and every time I drink a cup of coffee, Gordon Lightfoot starts singing in my mind:

“I’m on my second cup of coffee and I still can’t face the day
I’m thinking of the lady who got lost along the way
And if I don’t stop this trembling hand from reaching for the phone
I’ll be reachin’ for the bottle, Lord, before this day is done.”

Thanks for taking a few precious minutes out of your day to read this.

I’ll Definitely Quit This Time

It’s a Piece of Cake!

Photo by Rainier Ridao on Unsplash

To paraphrase that great American philosopher, William Claude Dukenfield (aka W. C. Fields),

Quitting smoking is easy. Why, I’ve done it hundreds of times!

And I have. And I keep coming back to it.

Coffin nails. The noxious weed. Cancer sticks. I’ve heard them all. Lung busters.

Hell, I’m even smoking one as I write this.

It’s an addition, a crutch. And a great way to kill boredom…if not myself.

It’s the stereotypical image of a writer: cigarette in one hand, glass of whisky in the other, starting at a blank piece of paper, deciding what to write. Or in Hemingway’s case, replacing the shot glass with a shotgun.

Except I’m not suicidal. Or am I? Smoking is, if nothing else, slow-motion suicide. Russian roulette with better odds. The depressive’s choice of poison.

And yet…

I like smoking. I like the first cigarette of the day, in conjunction with the first cup of tea of the day. I smoke and toke as I read Medium stories, looking for new works by my favorite writers. Finding new writers. Hell, it’s every bit as good as a public library — or it would be if I could smoke and drink there.

But I’m not ready to quit, not really, Not now. I’m pretty sure they time will come when the dollar cost outweighs the benefits. They always do.

Believe me, I know.

I’ve done it hundreds of times.

Photo by Stas Svechnikov on Unsplash

90° F. Is Just Too Hot!

We’ve been experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures here in Rochester, and while you folks in the Southwestern USA might scoff and welcome such temperatures as a welcome break from even warmer days, 90° is just too hot for this transplanted Alaskan. Even though it’s been almost 30 years, my blood still hasn’t thinned enough to handle the heat.

Which is why I haven’t been writing lately: who wants to even boil a pot of water, much less drink it, in this heat?

Not that I’ve completely stopped drinking tea; on the contrary, I’m going through record amounts of iced tea-flavored juice mixes.

But when I woke up this morning and came downstairs to discover that the temperature was still under 80°, I knew it was my chance! 10 minutes later and I was enjoying a nice cup of hot Earl Grey. Of course I had to make a second cup.

Sadly, by the time it was done, it was already 84°, which made it too hot to drink hot tea. But no worries: it’s sitting in the fridge awaiting until the next time I want a cup of iced tea. And with the temperature expected to once again reach into the 90s, that won’t be too awfully long a wait.

What About You?

Do you have any special ways of coping with the heat? There was a time in my life when I did live in a warmer part of the country. San Antonio, Texas, to be exact. And while I didn’t much like living in Texas, San Antonio still remains one of my top choices of cities I wouldn’t mind living in.

I discovered that some of the houses—the ones that had been there since the city’s earliest days—all had flat roofs, with exterior walls that reached some three feet or so above the roofline. I learned that they were designed this way so that whenever it rained, the rainwater would be trapped and collected on the roof. Later, as the temperature rose, the water would slowly evaporate, sucking heat from the houses and making them bearable. In essence, the entire house became a swamp cooler.

How Hot is Hot? Perspectives on Heat

When my father lived in south Texas (McAllen is just a couple of miles from the US-Mexico border), he told me the story of when he had visited one of his parishioners in her nursing home. She explained to him that she preferred living there because she couldn’t stand any of her relatives.

It was her 100th birthday. She had been born and raised in McAllen, and never ventured more than 20 miles from that city.

You have to understand McAllen’s climate to truly appreciate what I’m going to tell you. My father would leave his air-conditioned house in the morning, drive his air-conditioned car to his air-conditioned office…and then come home at lunch to change his shirt. The heat and humidity were that bad a combination.

Anyway, he and his parishioner—let’s call her Mrs. Johnson—were discussing what it had been like growing up and living in McAllen for so many years. My father told me that when he asked her, “Mrs. Johnson, how did you manage to live with such heat and humidity before you had air conditioning?”

To which that wise old woman replied, “Why Pastor, before we had air conditioning, we didn’t know we was hot!”

And that, dear reader, is perspective.

Until next time!

When the power goes…

11:30 a.m. Wednesday

The power went out at my house 20 minutes ago. No real surprise, since we’re under a high wind warning and gusts up 70 mph/112 kph are in the forecast.

After going through the house and unplugging all my electronics, I sat down to chronicle the experience…

…and immediately ran into problems: not wanting to sit in the dark as I wrote, I moved to a seat next to the window…

…where the glare was too harsh on my iPhone screen for me to write comfortably. So I’m back in the armchair I usually sit in to write. The light is dim in this corner, but it could be worse: Charles Dickens must have written by candlelight, or the glow of a kerosene lamp. And since my internet connection is down, I can’t check to see if gaslight was available to him.

How easily we take things for granted. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” So said Arthur C. Clarke in the ’60s or’70s, and it’s just as true today as it was then. There was a time in Salem, Massachusetts, for example, when my iPhone would have had me prosecuted as a witch.


2:00 p.m. Wednesday

The power just came back on. Well, not just—it took a few minutes for the router to reboot. Then I had to crawl under my desk and plug my laptop back into the power outlet and wait for it to boot up. But you get the picture.

NOTE: Dickens did indeed write by gas light. Many of those same fixtures are still operational today.

My 2-hour loss of power forced my to solve yet another First World Problem: should I continue to read a novel on my iPhone, or should I conserve my battery power for the more important task of posting memes to Facebook?

I’m no longer writing this on my iPhone: once the power (and with it, my internet connection) was restored, I uploaded what I had written so far to my iCloud folder, then copy/pasted it into Open Live Writer, my default blog composer.

And while Dr. Clarke was right about technology and magic, he neglected to point out how easy it can be to take both things for granted: I’m sitting at my writing desk, surrounded by the latest technology, connected to the knowledge of the entire world, and yet I am lost when the power goes. I can be in instant communication with nearly anyone in the world, but what keeps me humble is this:

The knowledge that when Arthur C. Clarke was consulting (from his home in Sri Lanka) with Stanley Kubrick (in Los Angeles) on the movie version of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” they did so via a pair of Kaypro 8-bit, 64K RAM computers connected by 300-baud modems…a far cry from my Wi-Fi connection to the cable internet router.

Not spoiled too much, am I? Before I got rid of my old Keurig coffee make, I could have a cup of fresh coffee in under 5 minutes whenever I wanted one. Even now, my microwave lets me brew a cup of instant coffee in under 4 minutes…if I decide I even want a cup (to me, there are a time and a place for instant coffee: never, and in the trash).

Talk about spoiled: I still miss my 2-hour battery backup UPS (uninterrupted power supply) I had when I was in Oregon. Yes, I miss it, but not enough to shell out $200 to replace it. I spent that money on a 3-terabyte external hard drive.

But now I’m rambling

So I’ll post this entry and log off for now.