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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.





Image courtesy of rahulsankraft on









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Twenty-Fifth Anniversary

Twenty-five years ago, I left home on a cross-country road trip that somehow changed the direction of my life. 

A Transcendental Journey was the first book I wrote, though not the first published. From time to time, I have shared some excerpts here with my Green Room friends. The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Edition, with a new afterword, is available today.

I’m grateful for those who in one way or another kept me going, and especially for those who pointed the way.


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A Dream

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I had a dream that when we die, the story of our life is added to the universe.

A good life becomes light. A bad life becomes dark energy that sends the heavens spinning apart.

So we decide our fate.


(Image from the James Webb telescope)



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The Price of Beauty

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Something has devoured my flowers.

I suspect it was the deer. A family of deer (buck, doe, and two fawns) have been coming to the parkish place behind my apartment for a couple of weeks. They are beautiful, and wild, and tame, and charming. They have no fear of humans, or their dogs, though if you approach they will grudgingly move on.

They come most often in the late afternoon, and I can see them as I sit writing. Sometimes I find them hiding from the sun under a large pine tree in the front, as I walk out to get the mail. The fawns are a few weeks old at most, and I can see their legs trembling still as they stand and munch the grass, or the leaves that have fallen during the frequent summer storms.

I had planted the flower seeds sometime in June, in the 10x4 patch of ground that serves for a garden in front of my porch. I don’t recall what kind of flowers they were. I had ordered a packet of seeds for flowers that would attract butterflies. They had grown to about 8 to 10 inches tall, the largest with broad oval-shaped leaves, handsome and not at all delicate. They had not flowered, so I don’t know what kind or color they would have been. And now I will never know. '

When I woke this morning and looked out, all of the leaves had been eaten, leaving bare slender stalks standing like small green telephone poles, or an invasion of tiny slender aliens. Perhaps they will grow leaves again. But I doubt it.

I was angry at first – these are the first of anything that I had planted myself (though honestly I did little more than disturb the ground and sprinkle). And water faithfully, as instructed. But now, I suppose I can’t blame the deer; they have offered fair trade, beauty for beauty.

Perhaps beauty is the price of beauty, always a trade, beauty like energy being never created nor destroyed. The law of conservation of beauty. Perhaps that applies to many areas of life, as well, all things in balance on the seesaw of eternity.

Perhaps. But until the deer start hovering delicately over my garden like butterlies, I will regret the loss of my flowers.



Photo by Kristina Paukshtite:

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