Archive for the ‘Rambling Thoughts’ Category

Not Prophecy So Much as Observation

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Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

73 years ago, George Orwell wrote:

“All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.”

Today I realized how true that is.

My tea cup of choice is a tall, 12-ounce cup from Starbucks. For the past 2 years, I’ve been brewing my tea with either 2 tea bags (PG Tips) or 2 teaspoons of loose tea leaves.

Such was my first cup this morning.

But it wasn’t so satisfying as it was yesterday morning. It didn’t seem strong enough for some reason. Two teaspoons of leaves didn’t quite satisfy me.

Each type of tea has an optimal steeping time, depending on its type and the drinker’s preference. For me, with my strong black Assam tea, it’s 4 and a half minutes.

For a stronger brew, one adds more tea, rather than increasing the steeping time, which only makes the tea more bitter.

For my second cup, I used 3 teaspoons of leaves. The result? Too strong. Finally, the third cup, with 2–1/2 teaspoons of leaves, was perfect.

George was right.

Now my only problem is trying to figure out how to brew a cup of tea with 2–1/2 tea bags. A hopeless task? Perhaps.

But as Arthur Wing Pinero so wisely said, “Where’s there’s tea, there’s hope.”

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

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” And so begins Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel which was turned into a brilliant movie by none other than Alfred Hitchcock. It starred Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine.

But that’s neither here nor there. And I apologize for the title, which is the uniquely American bad habit of turning verbs—in this case, journal—into verbs. And vice-versa.

I like to record my dreams…when I remember to. It’s a simple process, really: I just jot down a few notes on my iPad and save them for later. Later, when I go back and read through them, I can see trends in my dreams and therefore, in my life.

There are places I’ll remember all my life.

I would love to have written that line, but John Lennon beat me to it.

Dreams are elusive creatures

They don’t like being seen in the light of day; that’s why they fade so quickly when you wake up. Until very recently, I’ve always been able to remember my dreams. I’ve also been able to remember if they were in color, or black and white. But lately, while I remember the basic subject of my dreams, I’m still hazy on the details.

And for the past few weeks, all of my dreams have been centered around Juneau, Alaska, as well as New York City.

New York City

The New York City dreams always begin the same way: I’m driving in my car down US Highway 101, about to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, when the bridge turns into the George Washington Bridge. I’m in New Jersey about to head into Manhattan.

The next thing I know I’m in downtown Manhattan, usually in one or two places: standing outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or underground waiting for a subway at the Christopher Street station, in Greenwich Village. But regardless of where I am, I always take out my cell phone to call my cousin, who lives in Brooklyn, to make arrangements to meet her.

At which point I wake up.

Juneau, Alaska

The thing about Juneau is that I lived there for 15 years. My then-wife and I moved there shortly after the birth of our first daughter in Petersburg, AK. Our second was born in Juneau 4 years later.

15 years is the longest I’ve ever lived in one place.

Stef-Zanne

My daughters at Eagle Beach, Juneau

Believe it or not, we did a lot of camping in Juneau. The summers were so short we took advantage of every bit of nice weather we could. And while the season was short, the days were long. I still have pictures of a sunset I took at 10 p.m. one night. It’s the complement to a sunrise I shot later that same year at 10 in the morning.

In the Juneau dreams, I’m usually driving down Old Glacier Highway, heading towards our house on Taku Boulevard. Just as I turn into the driveway, I wake up.

Sometimes I’m shopping in downtown Juneau. Not current-day Juneau, of course, but the way it was when we left in 1989. My friend Suzanne owned a kayak that she would lend me so my daughter Suzzanne and I could paddle among the whales. Naturally, thee two of them became Big Suzanne and Little Suzzanne. She also owned a health food store I frequented.

Usually, the shopping dreams ended when I entered Suzanne’s store. I’d wake up, feeling disappointed.

And I’m still not sure

What my dreams mean. But I’m not losing any sleep over it. They do, after all, give me things to write about.

Thanks for reading.

“  April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.”
–T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

It’s springtime in Rochester, and that means sunshine, rain, snow, and ice—sometimes in the same week, sometimes in the same day.  But the garden persists, giving us not lilacs (that should be next month) but rather crocuses, daffodils, and even a tulip or two.

Another result of the warmer weather is I can no longer let the pets nap on my bed, as warm temperatures also bring fleas. And no amount of flea treatment gets ride of them. So I’m sorry, Macy, and I’m sorry, Moe, but we’ll do this again next winter.

Stacey and I went to the food bank on Tuesday, then spent the rest of the day together. Grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, getting a few art supplies, and topping it off with a lovely stir-fry at Stacey’s place. I even had the chance to play with Fyona, Stacey’s golden doodle.

We’ve had a couple of days in the 70’s, so I think it’s safe to say yes, spring is finally here.

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.