Quarterly Report #10

Ten quarters is two and a half years. Throw in the quarter where I blew off writing one of these, and I’m almost three years into writing this blog. My output last quarter was just under a post a day, and some of the posts I added weren’t more than a picture and a few words. But it’s clear to me I still enjoy doing this.

This quarter I quit drinking coffee, on the theory that I would sleep better at night if I cut back on the caffeine. And I also created an avenue for artistic expression with the teabag haiku thing that I do sometimes. I have fun with it, and that’s the best reason for doing it.

Last quarter I also didn’t eat at McDonald’s once, which is probably a good thing. I still overeat in other ways, and other fast food outlets may get a visit on occasion (darn you, Colonel Sanders) but on the whole this is a change that I’m glad to have made.

I also commented on some celebrity deaths last quarter, including Philip Seymour Hoffman and Harold Ramis. We all die eventually, and a classmate of mine from high school died very suddenly this month,too. I didn’t know her very well, but again it’s a reminder that we have to enjoy the time that we’re here.

And lastly, I contributed a few things to four other websites, so that cut into the things that I put here. But it’s all good, because taking a thought from my head and then sending it out to the world always feels great.

The next one of these will be in the heat of the summer. Until then….

They had me at #Starbucks

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I’m sitting in a Starbucks, with some time to kill as my daughter works with her tutor. It’s mundane now, but these are moments I’ll probably miss some day in the future. So I’ll spend a moment capturing it before it slips away.

Since I gave up drinking coffee a few weeks ago, going to Starbucks feels a bit strange. It is as much a player in the coffee business as anyone, yet they want people who don’t drink coffee to come on in, too. So the result was “Starbucks Coffee” is now just “Starbucks” instead. And evidently that is enough. They had me at “Starbucks,” it would appear.

A haiku with my tea this morning

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In honor of Bill Hicks and his suggestion that creating and sharing is what we are here on earth for, today I wrote a haiku on the back of an unused tea bag. It hit me in an instant, and it took longer to find my camera and take a picture than it did to actually write it up. That was the “create” part.

Now, with a few minutes to spare before my family sits down to dinner, I’m typing up this post to share my flash of whatever this is with my blog and, thus,the world itself. I’ve done this sort of thing before, and I hope that I’ll be able to do it again, too.

I love coffee, but I’m proving to myself that I don’t need it. And if writing things down on a tea bag wrapper makes it more amusing, then why not?

 

An estate sale find

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I go to estate sales when I find them, and sometimes I find interesting things at them. Whether this one counts as interesting or not, I wanted to say a few words about it anyway.

I wouldn’t know where to find a coffee mug like this in the modern world, at least when it comes to buying one new. And I wouldn’t go looking for one new to begin with, since I have lots of coffee mugs, already. But when the person who originally found this mug, and then paid retail prices for it, passed over to the great beyond, I was happy to relieve that person’s heirs of this silly little coffee mug for 10 cents. There isn’t too much else that a dime can buy, anyway.

I use this when I’m in the office, and for the rest of the week it’s safely out of my mind. I figure that every time I get up for some coffee, I get a reminder of what’s out there, waiting for me when my time comes. And I hope some like-minded soul will then happen upon this mug, give my heirs a dime, and continue the cycle.

Life after coffee

coffee

The person who wrote multiple posts in the same day for this blog seems to have disappeared over the past month. I like getting sleep, it turns out, and the price I pay to write here is giving up sleep in order to get my thoughts out. It seemed like a fair trade for a long time, but now I’m starting to question it. The thoughts keep coming, but the willingness to commit them to anything permanent seems to have waned a little bit.

A related development, I think, has been that I weaned myself off of coffee for the first time since the late 1980s. On New Year’s day, I wrote a post singing the praises of coffee, and savoring my need for it. In the post-alcohol world that I’m living in (and post-many other things, too), coffee seemed to be my last remaining indulgence.

When I returned from Spring break at the beginning of April, I was as sick as I can remember being in a very long time. I felt so bad that I couldn’t make coffee in the morning. And making coffee in the morning was a ritual for me, over the past quarter-century. But all I needed was a few days away from it to realize that it was something I wanted to do, and certainly¬†liked to do, but never really had to do. So I gave it up, just like that.

Now I drink less coffee, and I sleep more at night. Is there a correlation between them? It seems pretty clear to me. Instead of drinking cup after cup of coffee, I’ve started to drink water instead. I’ve heard that hydration is a good thing, and I’m starting to see that this is correct. Unlearning old habits isn’t such a bad thing.

I’d like to think this is doing my body some favors, but that isn’t the real motivation for doing this. It’s more to prove to myself that change is always possible, and that it can be made without upending anything important. Or as Van Halen once put it, “Change–nothing stays the same. Unchained–and ya hit the ground running.” Based on my relationship with coffee this year, I wouldn’t dispute that one bit.

A booyah day

Chicago

Today started off with some of the best things I know: A hot cup of coffee, an old classic on the radio (Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” if it matters), and a brilliant sunrise that defies an easy description. I thought of it as Daybreak over Chicago, and it was beyond beautiful.

My little one was on the ice at her skating rink, and I was making a water run for her when I saw the sun rising. I went inside the rink, gave her the water, and told her all about the sunrise. She wanted to go and see it, but there wasn’t enough time to get her skates off before the moment passed. These things don’t last for very long.

My daughter then wanted to do a handshake with me, which is actually a semi-elaborate series of jumps, shakes, and an ending where we do a hip bump and call out “Booyah” It’s something that’s only ours, and a combination of a secret ritual and an inside joke. It makes all of the tribulations of being a parent worthwhile.

At the end of our handshake, and after a shared laugh and a smile, my daughter told me it was going to be a Booyah day. I thought about the sunrise, and the coffee, and the music, and the city, and the love inside my heart, and told her she was absolutely correct.

Partially my place

For me, Starbucks is a company unlike any other. It’s the one company I think of when I’m out looking for a cup of coffee. In fact, the terms “Starbucks” and “coffee” are¬†interchangeable in my mind. I might say to someone “I’m going out for a Starbucks. Do you want anything?” and they’ll know what I mean. I don’t make “Skippy and Smucker’s” sandwiches for my kids, and I wouldn’t think to order a “Pepperoni Domino’s” for dinner. But with Starbucks, it’s something else altogether.

I bought a small handful of Starbucks shares, back around 2006. It eventually went up to $40 a share for a few minutes, and then–like a caffeine buzz wearing off–it started to drop. The recession set in, and people who were worried about keeping their jobs didn’t want to spent $5 for a coffee anymore. I stopped watching its descent, but I also couldn’t bring myself to sell that tiny stake in the company. It would have felt like giving up on coffee itself, and that was more than I could bear to do.

The stock was down to around $7 a share in 2008, and then it started to come back. Howard Schultz returned as the CEO, and he brought the company back to where it was, and then some. Today the stock is at $50 a share, and Starbucks is pushing into new markets like China and India. And if these traditionally tea-drinking nations develop a taste for coffee instead, look out!

I like how it feels to own a tiny, tiny little piece of Starbucks. Perhaps other companies make more money than Starbucks does, but I’m certain that I couldn’t readily see (and partake of) what it is that they do. And that means something. I bought their stock with the goal of making money, yes, but I also like to think that, when I walk into a Starbucks, all of my interests in the company are somehow concentrated into that one location.

To give an example, there are fifteen letters lit up in the “STARBUCKS COFFEE” sign above. Perhaps I own ten of those letters. Or let’s say I’m out and I need to use the restroom somewhere. I can go into a Starbucks and not feel bad about it because, after all, I own the place. And even if it’s just the bathroom door and the toilet and the mirror on the wall in that one location, it’s still something, isn’t it?

Are there any companies that you feel this way about? Disney, perhaps, when you go to see one of their films in the theater, or visit Disney World in Florida? Or maybe it’s Nike, and it feels like all the athletes wearing the Swoosh stripe are working on your behalf? Or maybe it’s something else that I can’t think of here. Tell me about it in the space below, if you’re so inclined. And thanks for reading, as always.