Coffee glides into one’s stomach and sets all of one’s mental processes in motion. One’s ideas advance in column of route like battalions of the Grande Armée. Memories come up at the double, bearing the standards which will lead the troops into battle. The light cavalry deploys at the gallop. The artillery of logic thunders along with its supply wagons and shells. Brilliant notions join in the combat as sharpshooters. The characters don their costumes, the paper is covered with ink, the battle has started, and ends with an outpouring of black fluid like a real battlefield enveloped in swaths of black smoke from the expended gunpowder. Were it not for coffee one could not write, which is to say one could not live.

— Honore de Balzac (a 50-cup-a-day man)

(You know the first cup is great when you feel that clutching feeling around your heart, as the caffeine grabs hold of your cardiac muscle and SQUEEZES it.)


New drink recipes

I came across a few good drink recipes that I had never tried before. Two are actual recipes, and one is my own concoction. We’ll have to see what you think.

First is the whiskey & ginger ale. Of course I didn’t invent this; I actually got it from Raymond Chandler’s classic noir novel The Lady in the Lake. I was intrigued when I read private eye Philip Marlowe set out whiskey & ginger ales for the hotel staff he was pumping for information. (As a former hotel drone, I could very well picture myself coming up to Marlowe’s seedy sweatbox of a cheap hotel room and drinking several whiskey and ginger ales while he plied me with a few laconic questions. Sounds like an interesting shift.) I tried the whiskey and ginger ale with some economy-minded (read cheap) bourbon, and it was an instant smash hit. (The cheap stuff was Ancient Age, for those of you scoring at home. It tasted fine, especially for the price; a little rough edge to it though. And it turned my piss a deep orange shade. That was different.) Rye is my favorite type of whiskey, so that’s what I usually stock the cabinet with. (I like the strong flavor.) I’d been getting Jim Beam Rye regularly, but then I started branching out & that’s okay. Right now I’m on a bottle of Bulleit Rye, which is pretty good. It’s got good flavor, but it doesn’t have the heft of the Jim Beam. (I started with Jim Beam because they sponsored the Deftones’ tour one year, and that happened to be the year that their concert I caught at the Quest in the Cities saved my life, just about — pulled me out of a righteous funk. The things you remember from when you were younger, the redemptive power of music, love and crushingly loud volumes…I guess that’s part of why companies sponsor rock bands in the first place. It worked on me.)

Another drink I ran across: the Ward Eight. “Despite the perplexing connotations of its name [what might those be?], a splash of this sprightly drink will perk you up in no time!” K, whatever. It’s 2 parts bourbon, 1 part lemon juice, 1 part orange juice, dash of grenadine, and cracked ice. Shake with the cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. It’s got an interesting flavor to it. This is the first drink recipe I ever tried out of a book. Its main virtue appeared to be that I already had all the ingredients on hand (as opposed to other cocktails in that same book.) I foresee it being a good drink for the summertime, because of the citrus flavor.

The last one is a drink I invented. I can’t help feeling it’s a little lame or silly, but I liked it well enough and the idea seemed clever. (I thought of it before I drank it, for the record.) It’s called a Zebrafish: Kraken black spiced rum and vanilla Coke. (Get it?) The premise is a little bit of a stretch but it was fun to come up with. Drink one and tell me what you think.

Huzzah! I KNEW it! (or, another pro-coffee post)

I always knew, deep down, that my coffee habit was/is good for me. But now I have evidence to back it up, in the form of this article.

I need to go show this to my dear wife, who thinks I drink too much coffee. And I’m going to go make…a pot of coffee. Because the French pressed motor oil/jet fuel I had with breakfast just won’t hold me the entire day, not when I have this much to do. Salud!

Let’s do this.

Come Away with Me

The rain continues to beat against the windowpanes. I turn down the lamp, and return to my seat by the fireplace. Our cabin is on a hillside, so the rising waters can’t reach us. I picture the brown, foaming waters rushing around the base of our little hill, and am glad I am here, safe and dry with Betty.

As I return to my seat by the fire, she looks up from her sketching. The firelight flickers across her dusky face and dances in her dark eyes. We smile, and I stretch out on the rug with my book in front of me, head to the fire. I look around our little cabin. Spiderwebs adorn the corners and dust lies thick in places, but the floor is clean and there’s a bunch of violets in a glass of water on the table. A couple of Betty’s drawings hang in rough wooden frames I knocked together, adorning the walls. We made a good living here, Betty and I. It’s much better than in the city, which is where we each lived before. But they can’t find us here. I roll back onto my stomach lazily. Staring into the fire and listening to the rain falling on the roof, Betty’s voice cuts softly into my reverie.

“Penny for your thoughts.” I blink, then focus on her face.

“Just listening to the rain.”

“Oh,” she says, but she keeps looking at me. To change the subject, I ask if she would like a back rub. She agrees.

“So how long do you think the rain will last?” she asks as I work the knots out of her back. I pause in pressing on a particularly large knot to consider my reply.

“Not too long I hope. A couple days, a week….” I move my hands higher on her shoulders before finishing. “I kinda like it in this cabin, actually.” The only sign she had heard me was a slight tilting of her head. I finished the back rub and she reclined back into my arms. We stared into the fire, each thinking different thoughts. We have dropped off to sleep, between the fire’s warmth, the soft lullaby of the falling rain, and each other’s company, had not the stupid cat decided to join us and perch on my neck. I moved slowly, trying to shoo the cat away without waking Betty, but without success. She started, then reached for her notebook. I silently cursed the cat and weighed the loss of a good mouser versus a new pair of mittens.

“Stupid cat,” I pronounced to myself. Betty’s head, bent over her drawing, came up. Mischief sparkles in her lively dark eyes. She said something about Emily (that’s the cat’s name), but I didn’t hear a word of it, I was so focused on her eyes…her hair spilling over her shoulders…the curve of her arm as it held the pencil poised over the paper….Emily stalked away and jumped up onto the calico-covered table and arranged herself to survey the room. Her job was done. And as I gently removed the notebook from her hands, and took her in my arms, I realized that I didn’t mind the rain.

(#7, 5/13/99, place#24)

A jar full of pencils

On my desk I have a jar full of pencils. The jar once held homemade jam, given to us by a friend. The jam was delicious so it went quickly. The jar’s shape and height are perfect for holding pencils — straight sides with just a little slope out, not too tall so it’ll get in the way, plus the glass has a pretty raised diamond design.

I keep a jar full of pencils on my desk because I like to be able to reach out and just grab one when I want to write something down. Maybe it’s a thought that I don’t want to let get away, maybe it’s a song title or a snatch of a Bible passage; maybe it’s another irritating little bit of office work that needs to be taken care of and that usually lands on me. It gives me a quiet little lift of joy whenever I put out my hand and hover it over the jar, then grab a pencil and start writing.

Sometimes when I’m too busy or focused on other things, I put the pencils back in the jar unsharpened – their points worn down to nubs, hardly any graphite showing at all. I try not to do that, but sometimes standards slip. It’s annoying to me, even though I do it at times. What I’ll do instead of putting them back in the jar unsharpened is I’ll set them off to the side on my desk, grab a new one, and keep writing. Or I’ll just take ten seconds and jam it in the sharpener. Electric pencil sharpeners are the best thing ever, although those are calories I’m not burning — exercise I’m not getting. I wonder how much stronger my hands would be if I sharpened every one of those pencils by hand. Or I’d have carpal tunnel, one of the two.

The pencils in the jar are all gradually getting shorter. Over the days and weeks and months, the eraser tops of the pencils are creeping downward, declining toward the rim of the jar. This is a sight that makes me both a little happy and a little sad. I’m happy because that means I’ve done a lot of writing, had a lot to say and a lot to think about. I’ve been interacting with my world the way I know how — through words, writing, moving a pencil across a page and then thinking about it. It makes me a little sad because the sight of that jar full of bright, pristine new pencils, standing tall and straight and proud, filled me with anticipation and glee. Now they’re shorter, creased, nicked, their erasers flattened and ground away. They don’t stand up quite so straight. They seem a little tired, like they’ve seen more than they bargained for and they’re not sure they liked all of it — everything they had to write at my behest. I guess that happens to all of us sooner or later.

I’m not entirely sure what the next act will be for my jar of pencils. Once they get too short to draw out of the jar, I suppose I’ll sharpen them one final time and take them to church. There some child will use them to fill in their catechism quiz, or a councilman will use one to jot a note to himself, or an elderly parishoner might use one to take notes during Bible class (although they usually bring their own pens; the elderly have learned to be prepared.) Short pencils have their uses, but for the jar that sits on my desk, I need long pencils — brand new pencils — pencils standing up straight and tall and ready to serve in the fight for free speech and cogent thought. Part of the fun is using them up, but new pencils remind me that somewhere in me lives the little kid that looked forward to school starting in the fall, because that meant I got new notebooks and pens and pencils, and with them, things to think about and learn and explore and connect in my mental map of the world. I’m always thankful that I have things to write about and think about, and things with which to write those thoughts down and work them out.