Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Xmas Xoffee!

"Jeez! What the hell was that last entry? Remember the good old days, when this "Ted" clown went by “caffeinator_x”, and he’d actually talk about coffee on this supposedly coffee-flavored web log? Nowadays, it’s just a constant stream of .02 cent philosophical pontificating, like some excruciating, low-rated daytime talk show - “Chillin’ with Chochem - how long before this dork finally just disappears in a poof of bargain-basement special effects?”

Yeah, sorry about that, folks. Just so much else going on in the ol’ cranium, I ‘spose - what with the holidays and all.

But, hark! What’s this?... Some astounding miracle of the holiday season is actually inspiring me to engage in some real, live coffee-talk!

Now, this time of year can be a boon for us sales-support types; good old fashioned yuletide guilt sets in among the sales folk, who pity me the paltry sum I get for showing up with a smile on my mug every day. Truth be told, the gift-giving was a little more extravagant at my last job; but where I'm at now, I don’t have to work until 7 pm on a Friday while the sales staff begs off early for a “business meeting” (*coff* round of golf *cough*) Besides, I got some surprisingly good peanut butter candies, a pretty nifty-looking scarf from my manager, and, no matter how “indie” and “hip” you are, 30$ worth of free java from Starbucks is a hell of a lot better than a lump of coal in your stocking.

Sure, everybody has their own laundry list of issues with Starbucks, whether it’s the squeaky-clean corporate atmosphere, or how bitter the coffee is, or that their fully-automated, completely self-aware espresso machines debase the barista's profession, or the fact that the afternoon shift-lead won’t go to bed with them. And, hey... good points, all.

But you know what I absolutely, un-ashamedly LOVE about Starbucks? What keeps me going back, in spite of everything above? It's the fact that I could go back in time to Seattle, in 1991, order a grande drip coffee, put it in a locker at the bus station, come BACK to the ass-hole end of 2007 (where I’d now be ridiculously wealthy, what with all my Amazon stock) dig it out, and it would still be roughly the temperature of the sun’s corona.

For me, this is a huge plus. I can drink the vilest cup of mud in the world - brewed at some god-forsaken diner, from a vacuum-sealed packet, sitting on a heating pad since Neil Cassidy originally ordered it – and not even blink an eye.

So long as it’s hot.

Conversely, I don’t care what religious figure blessed which pound of ultra-rare beans that were digested through whatever exotic animal’s rectum – if it doesn’t scald my stomach lining – baby, that’s just not coffee.

Just what mastery of nuclear fission does Howard Shultz possess, that allows him to weild the power of the sun like a Greek god? Can all his money afford him even that?

The other unexpected, out of left field gift that'll be remembered at least as much as the more expensive presents I've received was a Dunkin' Donuts coffee gift set, from my wife's best friend in Conn.

Yeah, that's right - Dunkin' Donuts coffee, pre-ground, shipped across country, not even packed in an air-tight container, from a fast-food chain that specializes in keeping the U.S. the most morbidly obese country in all the world. And you know what?

It's freakin' good. And, no, my wife's friend isn't reading this now.

Dunkin' Donuts is one of those places that you take for granted when you live someplace where there's one on every corner, but once you can't find one, your rare visits are undertaken with the reverence of a religious pilgrimage, like Mecca for Muslims, or White Castle for displaced midwesterners. The wife (east coast born and raised) has been preaching to me about the virtue of this stuff for years, but only now have I seen the light.

This is not the gourmet, subtle cup from Kaladi or Pablos. This is the stuff Philip Marlowe drinks in a diner while talking shop with Sam Spade; a cup of joe. It does the trick, and it's as good of a coffee as my $20, Satuday-nite-special of a coffeemaker deserves.

The label reads "100% Arabica Beans", but then right below, there's something about "Natural and Artifical Flavors". Which I'm betting is code for "opium" and "cocaine".

Crack for Christmas... almost sounds like a missing Frank Capra movie, doesn't it? And it's a hell of a present.

As long as it's hot, of course.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Jupiter and Pluto in the Hiz-ouse!

My 10th house that is - which is all about career, and fame, astrologically speaking.

Now, I’m not a strict adherent of astrology - not by any stretch of the imagination. I mean, what exactly is there to adhere to, anyway? Candle burning and Goddess worship for Winter Solstice? Do you have to make an annual pilgrimage to the Renaissance Festival to stock up on healing energy crystals? Keep Madonna’s “Ray of Light” in heavy rotation with your whale song CD’s?

I’ve always enjoyed astrology, as a kind of ancient, pre-Freudian psychology. I like to imagine the Druids using horoscopes for pre-job screenings; like, if you’re a Pisces, maybe methodically placing the giant rocks at Stonehenge isn’t for you, but we do have an opening in our “staring up at the sky all day, charting the heavenly bodies” department.

I have this completely bogus, pop-psychological theory as to why any system of divination “works”; I think the Tarot cards, or I Ching coins (or whatever) once they’re dealt, they engage the logical, analytical, language-centered left brain, freeing up your intuitive, creative RIGHT brain to play free-association with the world at large, sort of like a giant Rorschach test. So really, the answers aren’t supernatural; rather, they’re coming from deep down inside you. And the reason you can’t access that wealth of self-knowledge without all the pre-modern parlor tricks and slight of hand is that usually, your left brain is way too busy dressing down your right brain, like James Randi getting all up in Sylvia Browne’s grill over in the smoking area, while the poor old bat is just trying to inhale a carton of Camel Straights so she can maintain the demonic growl that Montel Williams finds so positively enchanting.

Ah, I just love relativism, allowing me to get my new-age cake and eat it, too - with my existentialist tendencies perfectly intact.

But, then, what about those real-live supernatural moments, those honest to mergatroid flashes of intuition, like knowing who’s on the phone when it rings, even though you haven’t heard from that person in years? Sure, science can test those experiences back in the lab and confidently slap them with the “COINCIDENCE” stamp – but what if that doesn’t satisfy the person who actually experienced that nigh-transcendent mystery moment?

Just the other morning, I had a dream where I screwed up a big pile of stuff at work. I’d wake up for an second and know that it was just a dream, but when I drifted back to sleep I couldn’t shake that lingering sense of “Oh, crap”. Sure as hell, I came in, and something was messed up – no, nothing big, but still, just kinda weird.

Which brings me back to astrology; everything I’ve ever read about me, as a Pisces, so entirely captures my little personality quirks and gawky fetishes that it’s downright spooky. On a lark, a few months ago, I got a book called “Darkside Astrology”, which centers on the Zodiac’s less admirable traits. After a few passages like “anything with a pulse will get you going, and you sometimes think that maybe you’re being a teensy bit too picky” and “what you want is never what you will want in one minute, or what you did want 3 minutes ago” I swear, I wanted to cry. My editor at The Onion, he’s a Pisces, and I’m convinced that if I never met my wife (a Pisces-Taurus pairing predicted in the books with a level of accuracy usually reserved for blood tests) I would actually BE him; like, if we tried to occupy the same space at the same time, we’d melt together in a fit of CGI fueled protoplasmagoria, like Ron Silver and his future self in Timecop.

This year has been unusual for me, astrologically speaking. Those hip, irreverent horoscopes from Rob Brezny at “Free Will Astrology” have followed the events of my life over the last twelve months like a Daniel Stern narration from The Wonder Year. It’s not so much that they’ve predicted events, but they’ve commented on little milestones in my life, from my car accident, which occurred in no small part to my infinite distractibility (“I'd like to see you permanently lose at least 50 percent of your chronic aggravation.”) to my freelance gig w/ The Onion (“it's definitely a time when you can move closer to making a living from doing what you love.”)

Then, in October, my co-worker Katy (a free spirited creative-type whose natural hair color is a shade of red that every woman I’ve ever loved has spent countless dollars on trying to mimic at one time or another) pointed me in the direction of Astrologyzone.com, and that’s when things got really weird.

For about 12 weeks now, my horoscope has been predicting a big, enormous shift in my professional life; not just vague little subjective tidbits, but actual specifics, like what industry I’d be working in (media) and even dates when the shift would begin to take place. And sure enough, on December 11th (as predicted) I had an interview for a job. And really, not just any job. You know how you’ll talk to a friend, and ask him how work is going, and he’ll say, “OH, its okay. I mean, it’s not my dream job.”? Well, what I interviewed for, truly, hands down, without a doubt, would be MY dream job. And no matter what happens, I’m just happy to know that it’s out there; I was beginning to think that such a thing – where I would spend my days writing about what I love, and actually make a living wage, AND health benefits – only existed in my post lunch hour day dreams.

But that's the thing - as of now, nothing has happened. I’m sitting, and waiting, and wondering, and hoping, and (so far) successfully staving off little pointless bouts of regret and self loathing about what I could have done differently. But I’ve gotten no word.

So it begs the question: was Sartre right? Is the universe inherently empty, with no direction or purpose, regardless of all our hopes and dreams? Or is Daniel Dennet (another avowed humanist) correct; that a living, conscious universe, guided not by mechanistic determinism, but rather on cosmic intervention, no better for humanity’s intentions?

I withhold judgment for now – but no matter what, I’m gonna continue to do what I can to make the things that I want happen. That's probably the best way to go, no matter what side of the philosophical / spiritual fence you sit on.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


(get your minds out of the gutter, kids!)

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while… lots going on. We took a whirlwind trip to St. Louis last week, where I was lucky enough to see The Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker. Once, just the wife and me, and again with both kids, who got to meet all the dancers up close after the show. I got to watch my daughter cower in fear from the dread Drosselmyer (who my son refers to as “that vampire man”), and then cuddle up to the snow queen. My father-in-law, the executive director for Dance St. Louis, told me that the dancer who performed Drosselmyer is in his 40’s. How come I don’t have quads like that? “Bar exercises”? Yeah, so what? I go to the bar sometimes...

Also, I had 3 stories due in the last week, including one with an amazing DJ / visual artist named Wigdan Giddy; turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. He’s showing his work next month at The Martini Ranch, so I encourage everyone to put aside their slavish rejection of Lodo for a night to check out his work.

PLUS… I’m waiting to hear back on an Incredibly Awesome Opportunity, which I’m really not at liberty to talk about it right now. Which means, of course, it’s the only thing on my silly little monkey mind. Therefore (ergo, Q.E.D., and all that) I’ve chosen to keep my virtual lips zipped, for the time being. I should know how that will turn out soon-ish, and no matter what happens, I’ll have lots to say about it at that time.

In the meantime - let's do this thing!

1. When you were born, how much did you weigh?
You know, I really don’t recall – but I’m sure I thought I looked fat.

2. What's you're sugar poison?
Like BD, I’m really more of salty guy, but lately, I have rediscovered my palate for Slurpees.

3. If you had to choose between meat and cheese for the rest of your life, which would you choose? Then be specific.
Funny – the thought of being without either really doesn’t really toss me into the pit of despair. I’d miss dairy though (cappuccino made with soy / rice / vegan’s breast milk is just plain wrong)
4. What, is your opinion, is the worst song ever?
Yeah, “Proud to be an American” popped straight away into my head. Since 2 other folks chose the same thing, I think we could make a strong case for it being a "fact". Something about guys in John Deere hats with their chins up, dewy-eyed with the sniffles just fills me with alternating currents of contempt and embarrassment.

Other than that – pretty much any of those neo-country faith/family/ “I love my little tiny daughter so much it’s creepy” songs.

5. Who was your favorite teacher growing up and why?
I had a couple good ones in junior high, which bears mentioning, since everything else about my junior high experience was absolutely wretched. Other than that, it’s a tie between two from high school; Mr. Studholme, who was one of those awesome, cable-knit sweater-wearing, all-day coffee sipping English teachers, kind of like an emotionally stable, in-shape version of Paul Giamatti in “Sideways”. I always knew I could write, but he taught me how to actually read (not just “sound out the words” stuff). The other was Mr. (Dr.?... it was never clear) Talmage-Bowers. He taught a class in Western Civilization that turned me into the philosopher-hobbyist I am today.

6. What personal activity, when performed in public, bothers you the most?
I could eavesdrop on private conversations in a coffee shop all day long, no matter how pretentious or utterly pointless; but I hate hate HATE women who babble incessantly on their cellphones, describing their life in vivid detail, as if it’s the best episode of Sex in the City EVER.

In person - hell yes; but over the phone, it’s just so canned.

7. Ok, there's a $50 bill lying on the ground. You pick it up. Dumbfounded by your incredible luck, what do you selfishly purchase?
Some books. Coupla CDs. The change would get me my coffee for the remainder of the week.

8. Do you have a recurring nightmare? If so, explain.
(Keep in mind that in “waking life”, I’m a high school dropout) I’m, like, 20 years old, and I’ve gone back to school in order to graduate. It’s the day of report cards, and I find out I’ve STILL failed (…something… usually science); Oh, well, just one more semester, right?

Then I realize I’m actually 35.

Haven’t had that one in a while. Great… now I’ll probably have it tomorrow morning. Thanks a lot.

Also, I lose a lot of teeth in my dreams. And I have long, flowing locks of hair when I look in the mirror.

9. Name one place on Earth you've never been, but vow to visit at least once.
Europe. And Europe. Oh, and, Europe.

10. You notice that question #9 wasn't really a question. You feel smart for catching such a small detail. What else can you do really well that reminds you how smart you are?
If being married 10 years has taught me one thing, it’s the fact that there’s absolutely no difference between a question, and a command for information. (OOOoooh, I’m gonna hear about it on that one…)

“do really well”… “makes me feel smart”… ?

There’s stuff, but I can always be better!