Bong Said

Okay, fourth attempt to set the featured image on WP today. Don’t know what’s causing this but it’s frustrating. Is the fourth time a charm?


Friday’s Theme Music

Looked in the mirror this morning…

Yeah, big mistake. Reminder: never look in the mirror before medicating with coffee, Michael.

My father’s image started replacing my image about ten years ago; now his father is replacing his image in my mirror. After reflecting on that (hah! get it? yeah, I thought you did), I drifted toward the day’s beginning where the cats awaited the feeding rituals. Thinking about what needed to be done today and tomorrow, I drifted toward a spot of sunshine peeking over mountain, and through the trees and window. With that, a 1979 Kinks song flushed into the stream.

Woke up this morning, started to sneeze
I had a cigarette and a cup of tea
I looked in the mirror what did I see
A nine stone weakling with knobbly knees

I did my knees bend press ups touch my toes
I had another sneeze and I blew my nose
I looked in the mirror at my pigeon chest
I had to put on my clothes because it made me depressed

Surely there must be a way
For me to change the shape I’m in
Dissatisfied is what I am
I want to be a better man

Superman, Superman, wish I could fly like Superman

h/t to cuz’ cut and paste is easier than typing.

Here’s the song, “(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman”. Dig that bass line.


A Noble Coffee House

I’ve been coming to Noble’s for a few weeks at this point. It’s a damn fine place. Larger community tables have outlets nearby, what we regulars (yeah, I’m a regular now) call a power table. Besides those tables are many tables that seat two to four. Conversation pits with sofas, easy chairs, and rockers offer comfortable options for chatting with friends.

Located among a few other businesses on the bottom of Fourth Street where it meets A Street at the bottom of the hill, still downtown but away from the Plaza, Noble’s is larger than other Ashland coffee shops, with space for fifty to sixty without too much problem (and there are days when it’s been packed). Large windows along one wall deliver delightful natural light but well-placed and assorted light fixtures (no fluorescent, thanks) help minimize shadows. And, for those who wish, several outside tables (on the sidewalk) give more seating and visiting options.

Coffee is very good to excellent. They offer two fresh options every day. My preference is a dark blend called Daydream. It’s all those thing you hear about in coffee commercials, like smooth, robust, and flavorful. I might have had an orgasm the first time I drank some.

Not surprising. Nobles uses fair-trade, organic coffee. The owner/operators go on buying and picking trips a few times per year. See that glass door in the corner? If you look in it, which they encourage, you’ll see their coffee roaster. Yes, it’s all roasted and ground on site.

Besides appealing, fresh coffee, tasty pastries like scones, muffins, and croissants (savory (like ham and cheese) or sweet (like chocolate)) will satisfy your peckishness. I’ve had the gluten-free pumpkin scone (baked in the kitchen in the back) three times (for quality purposes, of course), and tried the blueberry gf muffin twice. Now I need to talk myself out of buying one (or something else) every time I come. They’re addictive, I’m telling you. You’ve been warned.

Friendly baristas serve it up, the final touch on a proper coffee place. Come along. It’s a good place to meet with friends, take an energy break, study, read, or write a book.


Coffee House Rules

My home office is a comfortable place. Got a big desk, chair, books, all that stuff, with easy access to the kitchen and coffee.

You’d think it’d be ideal for writing. Cats, spouse, neighbors, and generalities seem to conspire against it working. If I had to name one as the greatest offense, the cats would take the spot. They’re like, “Hey, I hear him typing. I better go put a stop to that by getting on his lap or the keyboard.” (This is called an interflooftion.) Just doesn’t work for me.

So I like coffee houses for my writing endeavors. I abandoned my previous favorite (management changes, and they treated former employees (who are family) like garbage, so I’m gone). The search was on, causing me to remind myself what I was looking for. Also, people ask me, “What are you looking for in a coffee shop for your writing?” or “Why do you go there?”

So — no order, really, but numbered for convenience.

  1. Tables with chairs and access to outlets.
  2. Good coffee.
  3. Some space.
  4. Decent prices.
  5. Location – must be in Ashland, OR.
  6. General ambiance.

A nice staff also helps but I must say, in fourteen years of frequenting Ashland’s coffee houses, I’ve not encountered a nice (code for friendly and engaging) staff.

These are subjective things. (Right? Most things are.)  I settled on Noble’s after trying a few places. Noble’s has all of the above (plus excellent scones and muffins (although I try not to indulge, right?) except their coffee costs one dollar more. After deciding on the place, though, I then had to pay attention to its ebb and flow, cause, you know, those tables, chairs, outlets, and space aren’t unlimited.

As with most places, you either must arrive early (typically before 8:30) to beat the morning rush. The next break generally arrives at ten. With Noble’s, I found the best time to arrive for my writing is 11:30 AM. The place empties. Most tables (with outlets) are available, so I have a choice of places. There’s then a forty-minute lull before they experience a lunch rush. I can settle in and write for a few hours. It’s great.

The start time pushes back my time, so I need to adjust either ends. Of course, this is winter; things will be different in other times of the year.

It probably won’t surprise you, but I ran into friends everywhere I went in to have coffee and write. (“Oh, you’re writing here now?”)

Alright now. Got my coffee. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

Fun, Fun, Fun

My writing sessions continue as entertaining and productive sessions. The book in progress is booking along (sorry for the pun — no, I’m not) as the characters grow and the story expands.

Didn’t go to the Boulevard today (see yesterday’s post, “Unbelievable”. As recap, Allison’s father, who owns the property, had Allison and her husband (Josh) managing the property for him, and fired them yesterday (Merry Christmas!). Baristas walked out in solidarity, and I went, too. Yeah, I know, I don’t know all of the story; I’ve witnessed how hard Allison and Josh work, though.

Anyway, had to find a new writing spot today. The first was too crowded. I made the second work. I’m at a breakfast bar on a high stool. Not comfortable. I alternate between standing and sitting, but the writing must be done. I’m thankful that our small town (population less than twenty thousand) has about ten coffee houses (which is down from when we first moved here, and two of them are Starbucks, which is a last resort).

Best, the muses didn’t care where I was. (“What? You’re not at the Boulevard? Well, screw you, mister,” they didn’t say.) They crowded in and began their thing before I’d taken off my coat.

I have ten main characters. I don’t know who the final primary protagonist will be. Several candidates are slugging it out. Meanwhile, each character apparently has their own muse. So, today, when settling in to write, these muses were all clamoring for me to write ‘their’ character’s story.

That’s what writing like crazy is all about — getting it down without prejudice, sorting it out as needed later, and editing and revising to improve it sanity — I mean, flow — and story-telling.

Good day of writing like crazy. Off to the movies now, to see Knives Out. I’ve been looking forward to it, and today is five dollar Tuesday.

Hard to beat that.

A Bevy of Muses

After awakening with busy dreams, my muses immediately pounced on me.

“Add these sentences to this, this, and this,” one was telling me.

“You need to pick up Sly’s point of view,” another was saying. “It’s ready and needs to be expanded and told. Here’s what happens.”

A third was saying, “We’re not done with Selena. There’s a lot more for Selena.”

“Okay, okay,” I was answering all of them, making mental notes about what they directed.

That didn’t mollify them. I think it even energized them. Much more was directed, becoming a tsunami of scenes when I was walking to the coffee shop where I write. “Alright, alright,” I kept saying, nodding as each muse bubbled up to add more. I was trying to keep up and trying to shut them up, but without offending them. Never want to offend the muses or piss them off, nope, nope, nope.

Got my coffee. Yeah, time to obey the muses and write like crazy, at least one more time.

So, Traveling

I haven’t flown in about a year. It’s surprising how much has changed at the various airports and airlines. Most critically, I let my TSA Pre-check expire. Now I must wait in lines, strip down to my boxers, flash my privates, and share everything that I have to eat with anyone in a five foot circle before going through security.

One thing that hasn’t changed are my people. I don’t know them. I hope they’re my tribe. You’ve probably seen them, one arm bent at the elbow, a cuppa coffee extended in front of them like a bumper, marching their bags in search of. Soon as localized, I found a Peet’s — YES! PEET’S — and purchased a coffee.

High airport prices haven’t changed. $3.19 for a small coffee. Yikes. If it wasn’t a bonafide medical emergency, I may have passed. But caffeine was calling and the sky was falling…

It was needed, though. Looking forward to another thirteen hours across land and through air before reaching the final place.



Coffee Confessions

I admit that I like dark, strong coffee. I prefer not to put anything in it. Sometimes, though, I will change things up and have a twelve ounce mocha with four shots of espresso.

They asked me about my coffee preferences today at my regular coffee haunt. The two brews available both work for me so it was sixes. What I’m looking for a good cup of coffee is what seems like a clear and unambiguous flavor. I don’t want woody or winey blends, or coffees that shrink away from being strong.

It prompted thoughts of the coffees that I don’t like. I know you’re curious and anxious about it, so here’s the list.

  1. McDonald’s coffee
  2. Dunkin Donuts
  3. Starbucks
  4. Any other fast-food place where I’ve ever sampled coffee, like Burger King, Wendy’s etc.

People are often shocked when I mention Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. Eyes bugging out, their voice rises. “You don’t like Dunkin Donuts coffee? I love it.” They gape at me as if I’ve just spoken an alien language. I imagine them going home to loved ones in a state of shock. The family gathers around to comfort them. “What is it, honey? Are you okay?”

They slowly respond from their depths of horror, “You’ll never believe what I heard today.”

“Tell us, tell us.”

“Michael doesn’t like Dunkin Donuts coffee.”

Gasps all around.

It’s always amusing when one person is appalled that another doesn’t the flavor that they love themselves. “You don’t like Budweiser? I think that’s the best beer in the world.” I, course, respond without snobbery, asking, “Have you had any other beer? Do you have any taste buds.” See? I’m just like them.

I feel like I’m required to mention Seattle’s Best, Pete’s, and Tim Horton here. I’ve never had Tim Horton, so I can’t comment on it. I’ve had Seattle’s Best, and can take it or leave it. I do love Pete’s Coffee; it’s my go-to when there’s a need to find some and it’s there.

My coffee days began in the military over a quarter of a century ago, when American coffee options were much smaller. I was a shift worker. Night shifts sometimes required some stimulation, especially those of the twelve hour variety, in at six in the evening, out at six the next morning. In those bunker-like places without windows, lit by fluorescent and tasks lights, warmed by multiple telephones, radios, and computer terminals, I began drinking coffee.

I began with the leftover day shift coffee, you know, whatever was still in the pot. I’d nuke that sludge and drink it down. As my taste buds developed, I realized how dissatisfying that was. Actually, it was nasty. Instant, like Nescafe and Sanka, was then embraced and discarded. They frankly seemed worse than the warmed up sludge.

I started brewing my own pots. That’s when my preferences awakened. I figured out what strength I preferred when I was required to measure out the scoops for my pot. In the early days, it was, “More is better.” Command posts and operations centers typically had Folgers or Maxwell House. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I found them weak and unappealing, forcing me to bring in my own grinds. Then I started buying beans and grinding them at home…

Yes, I was hooked.

It’s amazing how many coffee options now exist. It seems like just like everything else in the world, we go for overkill, trying to fill every niche and nuance of flavor and delight.

I guess I can live with it, as long as I get mine.

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