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Same as it Ever Was

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"For a multitude of causes, unknown to former times, are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and, unfitting it for all voluntary exertion, to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor. The most effective of these causes are the great national events which are daily taking place, and the increasing accumulation of men in cities, where the uniformity of their occupations produces a craving for extraordinary incident, which the rapid communication of intelligence hourly gratifies. To this tendency of life and manners the literature and theatrical exhibitions of the country have conformed themselves."

William Wordsworth, 

Preface to Lyrical Ballads



Image by " target="_blank" rel="noopener">Gerd Altmann from " target="_blank" rel="noopener">Pixabay


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The Chipped Bowl

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Years ago I bought four small white ceramic bowls from Pottery Barn. I use them primarily for fruit, or occasionally chili or rice or vegetables of some sort. They are very handy and are dishwasher and microwave safe. Highly recommended if you need some.

At some point over the years, one of the bowls got a small chip along the top of the bowl. I don’t know how it happened. It’s not unusual for me to break something. I definitely got that dropping stuff gene from my Dad. Or maybe the bowl is not as dishwasher safe as they say.

It’s a tiny chip and it doesn’t really bother me. But I started putting that bowl down at the bottom of the stack anyway. Yet somehow, when I pick a bowl from the top, it often seems to be the chipped one.

How can this be? I have imagined various scenarios:

  • The other bowls feel sorry for him and let him go first.
  • Scotty beams him up.
  • The only time I notice is when the chipped bowl is on top.

Okay, I suppose the last is most likely, but I am hoping for one of the other two. But even the last one is interesting in what its says- about me I suppose, but I will generalize anyway.

The chipped bowl is the one we notice. Because it is different. Unusual. Unique. Not like all the other bowls.

In my life, I have aspired to be a chipped bowl. And certainly, given the number of chips in my heart and soul I have succeeded, in that at least.

So I admit, now I root for the chipped bowl to get to the top. Solidarity I suppose.

Then again, if you look closely at the bowls, you can see that they are all unique - each is imbued with a different pattern. Very clever of those Pottery Barns folks to include a life lesson in their dinnerware.

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The Anatomy of Morning Coffee


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First, there is water.

I don’t want to waste my morning coffee taking pills.

Then coffee, often carafe-aged for 24 hours, because I don’t drink a whole pot in a day. A dash of fat free half and half, then 1 minute in the microwave.

My parents drank Luzianne coffee with chicory sold in cylindrical metal containers, though as far as I know they had never been to New Orleans. Later, they drank Folgers decaf in large green plastic containers that looked like laundry detergent. It cost less, and by then money was tighter.

My mother drank hers in the morning, hot, from a cup that said Tennessee is Udderly Delightful. She had bought it on a road trip with her best friend Ann to Asheville, North Carolina, which meandered over the Smoky Mountains into Gatlinsburg, Tennessee.

My father drank his hot in the morning, then cold the rest of the day. In the summer when I was growing up, he would have a large mason jar filled with ice and coffee as he was mowing what little grass he could get to grow in our yard. Later, he had a tiny purple cup that held less than most coffee cups. I don’t know why he drank from that—it shall remain a mystery to the end of days. But it was easy to knock over, of which the coffee stains on the carpet are evidentiary proof.

I like to drink my coffee, hottish, from clear glass cups, so I can watch the cream swirl into the darker liquid. I find the patterns endlessly fascinating, a metaphor for something, though I haven’t yet figured out what. If I ever go back to college, I will study fluid dynamics. Unless there is math. Then maybe art history.

I never drank coffee until I got married, and my wife made it in the morning. But it didn’t become important to me until we moved to Minneapolis with its wonderful coffee shops. Eventually, I left Minneapolis, but coffee (if little else) stayed with me.

Coffee is a leitmotif in my short novel The Marriage Gift. Here is an example:

James walks over to the vendor. There is no line.


Two what?

James looks at the sign.

Two coffees.

The Vendor shakes his head.

We don’t have coffee.

James looks at the sign again.

It says COFFEE.

The vendor shrugs.

It's a fluid market.

James looks at the sign once more.


Coffee is a fluid.

Actually coffee is a suspension and an emulsion.

James considers this information.

It's not helpful.

My novels are a compendium of perspective just like this.

I used to drink whatever coffee caught my eye at the grocery store. Now I order Community Coffee off the internet. I imagine it tastes better. Perhaps it does. There is expertise in most things in life, not to be disregarded.

Once I mistakenly ordered whole bean coffee instead of ground. Then I had to order a coffee grinder, which cost much more than buying new coffee. I eventually decided that the enticing aroma of newly ground coffee was not worth waking everyone for four blocks around me. So I am once more grounded.

The ritual of morning coffee is a celebration of living. Dionysian in intensity. Apollonian in joy. One more night is over. One more day is given.

Morning coffee is also an allegory of life.





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