Guy packing a box in front of empty bookcases.

So, like these last couple of weeks have been full of whack. We were backed up against an immutable deadline–demolition. So we moved a generation’s worth of life out of the space it had occupied.

I fully recognize that I’m making a big deal of what others just manage without comment. But, I’m here to say those folks are just withholding. They might be outwardly strong, but this shit is real.

It’s not like packing up all of your worldly possessions accrued over a middle-aged lifetime is insignificant. But you’re correct in your impulse to say, “Doc, shut up. It’s just life. And you’re getting what you want, you ingrate.”

Okay. Thanks for the reminder and for your chastisement. I earned it.

But now here I am with so much that I haven’t told you. Not for lack of thinking about you. Not for lack of sentences that I strung together in my head without any tether. It’s that I’ve lacked the mental space to write. Since I’m a bit behind, I’m just gonna share some pictures. And some captions. Just to catch you up.

Above is a sampling of old crappy furniture that you can’t even give away. Except that there are always takers. I might have had to post online more than once, and there may still be some crappy junk furniture yet to find it’s forever home, but I can always put it out on the curb and send an alert to the listserve. Crossing fingers that someone doesn’t try and have me cited for illegal dumping. If all else fails, there’s a dumpster on the way.

Warning sign that there is an impending dumpster. And there's some wild marigolds.

There was the day that I came home to find a pair of candy corn cones marking the spot that the dumpster will sit. It says that we have the permit until mid-November. That coincides with the hopeful move in date of, “before Thanksgiving.” Also, check out those wild marigolds that are growing from a crack in the street. I hope they survive the ordeal.


Truly a ridiculous amount of boxes. At one point I just started throwing items in and marking the boxes rando.

green yellow and orange dot stickers

Now this, this was a piece of my genius. There were some items to go to our interim abode, some things–mostly furniture–to be stored in the garage, and others to go in the basement. I color coded everything. It was brilliant. The movers thought it was brilliant. I had to mark some of the crappy furniture with duct-tape and a handwritten “NO,” to keep the flow going. That helped kill the questions that slowed things down. I paid the guys by the hour, not the pound.

The moving truck, in front of my house.

This is the moving truck. That is all.

The emptied wall.

We painted the dining room walls this amazing terra cotta twenty-some years ago. I wanted to capture the color, and the nail that steadied the sconce for four candles. You can see where the sconce hit the wall. I saved the sconce. I don’t know if it will go back there.

Two red mugs and a coffee setup.

We left the coffee rig at the house when we moved. It was the last thing to pack. We moved the bed, and that meant no coffee. Since the interim abode is only one and a half blocks away, I figured I’d walk over there and make coffee.  But guess what? The Spouse went and got it. So I woke up to fresh coffee. This was the best morning.  I married well.

Yellow tomatoes, parsley, bread and cava.

There was much eating out around the move. This was the first dinner I made in the interim abode. It was rice with minted peas and sweet, salty and sour chicken thighs. Oh, and, obvs, some bubbles. Celebratory and what not.

The Beast, chilling.

The Beast was a little worse for the wear during the move. But he found a chill spot on the floor at the interim abode. He kept an eye on everything because even though the movers came last Wednesday, we didn’t actually finish moving out until yesterday. Yes, a full week later.

It was at a point–or perhaps a few points that I may have made in a borderline hysterical tone–that I didn’t think we’d ever finish. But that’s what happens when you move. You lose your mind over the fact that you seemed to be almost done and then you weren’t. And you cycle through that again and again until you realize that the contractors are coming tomorrow. And then, it’s done. And there are things on the porch that will be picked up by Purple Heart and stuff that the person from the next neighborhood over claims to want and then the stuff that the city will take. I love the city for that.

The front door with all the signs of construction.

And today, the front door was adorned with the signs of construction. Warning labels. EPA certifications–required in a house as old as ours–permits, and the posting of the nuisance fee that we pay the city because…dumpster. Just for the record, my neighbors don’t get any of that nuisance fee.

As I walked through the empty, echoing rooms, I didn’t know what to feel. I thought that I should feel a big emotion, yet I barely even registered relief.

So I found a random pink ribbon during my clean out and decided it would look perfect next to the random green ribbon that has been hanging from our door knocker for more than a year. The house is still ours. I’m feeling good.

Shade Friday

The beast. A bit too relaxed. On the couch.

I didn’t go shopping today. In fact I don’t know anyone who did. But that could just be because I stayed close to home.

I rolled out of bed and made some coffee. We have three different coffees available. I knew it would be a volume day, so I used the grocery ground. It is too fine for the french press, but so be it. It was the first of three pots this morning. Know well that I shared.

I finished the book that I began a few weeks ago. Remind me to never again read a dystopian novel around election time. I think I read too much into it.

I went to the post office. I asked the Big Guy if he wanted anything there. He said, “some stamps.” And then doubled over with laughter, as if he would ever use a stamp.

I mailed my niece her birthday present. Her birthday was in July. She’s a baby. She doesn’t know any better. I told the woman at the post office that I bet she’d get her Christmas present by her next birthday. We both thought that was funny.

I held the door for a man as I was leaving the post office. He wouldn’t look at me. I motioned for him to walk through. He looked away as he told me he could hold the door for himself. I let the door go. As I walked down the steps to the sidewalk, a man on the other side of the handrail told me that I could hold the door open for him, any day. I took that as a compliment.

I ate a piece of pizza. It had more things on it than I generally eat. There was pepperoni, onions, mushrooms, olives and sausage. Truthfully? It was excellent. After all that I ate yesterday, you’d think I would be full, but I just wanted to eat more. I stopped at one piece, though. Seems like I was exhibiting moderation.

I drank a can of Dr. Pepper. It wasn’t even diet. Full-sugar baby. I love Dr. Pepper. And the sweet effervescence encouraged a most amazing belch, from the depths of my belly, traversing my esophagus, out of my mouth and through my nose at the same time. Baby Bear looked up. He was quite impressed.

I decided it was now the Christmas season. I asked Alexa to play some Christmas music and she obliged with Charlie Brown’s Christmas and Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole and Brenda Lee rocking around the Christmas tree. Damn that Alexa, she totally gets me.

I tried to get The Beast to relax. Wait. No. He was relaxed. Me too.

And that’s how I do me some Black Friday. Easy.

Whiskey Sour

A fancy drink on a wooden tray on a wooden bar.

He watched her study the cocktail menu. The place was very dark. He took his phone from his pocket and set the flashlight. He held it above the menu for her. She looked up from her examination and smiled as she waved him away. “I can see okay.” She held the menu closer to the lit votive and looked at him as if to say, “See? I got this.”

She returned to her selection process. He returned to watching her. She looked down at the list, and her averted lashes cast a shadow on her smooth cheek. He appreciated the contrast of the thick black eyelashes against her creamy skin. He liked the corkscrew tendrils of her curls that fell over her shoulder. Her chin and her nose were a little sharper than what he thought of as his “type,” but she was objectively pretty.

She flung her head back up and looked at the drink he had in front of him. “I can’t decide. I’m thinking either this Cicada Song or the Whatever Doesn’t Kill You. What are you drinking?”

Ugh, he thought. Here we go. He purposely got there early so he could order before she arrived. He wanted to avoid this part of the conversation.  He didn’t drink, but having drinks is what people do. So he invited her for a drink.

He was soft-spoken but it was clear that he grew up in a New York borough. “It’s a club soda.” He waited for it.


“I don’t drink. I never have. It’s not my thing. But you go ahead. We can get some snacks.”

She started to feel very awkward. “Well,” she dragged the word out as she tried to pull her thoughts together, “Well that’s cool that you don’t, but why did you invite me to this bar if you don’t drink?” Drinking alone was not what she had in mind for a first date.

“Well this place was top of the cocktail scene on Yelp and it’s a cool place, don’t you think?” Would she go for his diversion? He looked into his cooler glass as stirred the ice and poked at his lime with the cocktail straw.

“We don’t have to stay here if it’s not your thing,” she offered. “There’s a new coffee joint down the block–they have this special single origin organic & fair trade coffee that they roast on site. Why don’t we go there, and we can talk?”

“Sure, we can do that.” He left a bill on the bar. She pulled her tote over her shoulder, and they walked out into the early evening. She stood still for a minute as her eyes adjusted to the brightness.

She was much shorter than him. Online he didn’t realize she was so small. She skipped a little to keep up with his stride. She was a little sorry that she wouldn’t try that pink drink with the mezcal and egg white. She decided that she’d come back with her roommates sometime to try it.

The sidewalk was full of people making their way to and from restaurants and happy hours and to the theatre. He lost her for a minute as a posse of teenagers stepped between them. He stopped and looked around. He was supposed to keep track of her. Meanwhile she was opening the door to the coffee shop. She looked up and wondered what happened to him. He followed her in a long minute later.

She drew in a breath of the eau du cafe. It smelled amazing. None of that burnt coffee smell, just the earthy sweetness of coffee. There were just two people in front of them.

“What are you going to get?” He had his hand on his wallet. He had asked her out.

She motioned to the cashier, “You go first.”

“Oh, me?” He took a step back. “I’m not getting anything. I don’t drink coffee.”

She stopped herself from asking the snarky question that was forming in her head. Instead she just repeated him, “You don’t drink coffee?” Her phone rang. It was her best friend. She was so glad that they took care of each other. “Sorry, I need to get this.”

Her roommate asked her how it was going. She answered forcefully, “Oh no! I’ll be right there!” She looked up at her non-imbibing companion and drew her most concerned face. “I’m so sorry, but there’s trouble with our plumbing and I need to go home. Text me?” She stepped out to the curb, threw up her right hand and hopped into a cab.

He was confused. He stood in the doorway of the coffee shop until somebody pushed their way past him. He should have hailed the cab for her. She was gone. He walked towards the garage and realized that her eyelashes were so long and thick because they were fake. Also, she was entirely too short.

Next week she would go back to the cool bar. With her friends. She was pretty sure she wouldn’t bump into him.

Strange Brew

A cup of coffee in a white cup on a white saucer. I bet it's not decaf.

Nice event this evening. People were dressed very fancy. Sparkles and beads, bow ties and cufflinks. Little bitty bags with long metal chains and shiny shoes, too.

The room was filled with dozens of nicely sized rounds. Not so big that you couldn’t introduce yourself to the person sitting on the other side of your diameter but too big to have a conversation across the centerpiece. The chairs were that light metal that was welded–or maybe strongly glued–together to look like bamboo. Bamboo that was sprayed a golden color. The biggest surprise was the tablecloth. It was a fancy print–a creamy, almost yellow, background with a somewhat Asian design of small red flowers, maybe poppies, with thin green vines dispersed almost in balance to the ecru. The fabric felt more like upholstery or a heavy drape than a tablecloth and, when you put your wine glass down, the embroidery or a seam or some unevenness would make you steady the stem to find a flatter spot.

There was a big water glass and a medium sized wine glass, but if your brought your pinot noir from the reception, you would notice that the cocktail wines were much smaller. That seems like a good decision by central catering.

The seats were fairly deeply padded, but after a few sets of remarks and videos and jokes and applause you wanted to stand and stretch. The planners were smart, too. They broke the program up around the courses to allow for standing and milling and visiting. Greetings from the dais, a catalogue of grateful thank you’s that may have been commercials, then a few segments accompanied by a salad. Main course and then more videos, emcee schtick and more segments. Dessert and coffee followed by the final two segments.

But, let me get back to that dessert thing. Really, to the coffee. There was only decaffeinated coffee served. Only decaf. What is up with that? It’s like seeing a soda machine that only has diet soda or walking up to a bar to find they only have 3.2 beer on tap or looking into your Halloween bag to see only apples, boxes of raisins and pennies lined up on a piece of tape.

It’s flipping the idea of coffee on its head. Coffee is coffee and decaf is a disarmed cup of coffee. Someone decided that all coffee served after dinner would be incapacitated. What? Caffeine been bothering you? Makes me wonder what the world is coming to. What kind of monsters serve strictly decaf? Where is my choice?

So I drank my impotent brew and then took to the huge chocolate thing on my plate. And I know that there was caffeine in that chocolate thing–along with maybe nutella. It was creamy and almost gloopy. And I ate too much of it. Now I’m too full of rich food to sleep.

Seriously, if those people were looking to take care of me, they would have served much smaller dessert portions. And some real coffee. I think I’m going to have to find some fizzy water. Damn nanny state.



Morning coffee in a big red mug surrounded by the morning paper.

The coffee has been a little thin. Not necessarily weak, but, if I were being truthful, I would admit that it was a bit weak, too.

The grind for French press is fairly coarse. You don’t want the coffee to be powdery, which leads to sludgy brew. Depending where you have it ground, sometimes it presents like the tiny pebbles in sand. Sometimes the bean fragments are smaller, more like pepper shards out of a loose pepper mill. I’ve not done a double-blind study, but it seems to taste better with the slightly finer, but not too fine, grind.

Making the coffee has a few steps that I approach more like washing a car than a tea ceremony. You’ll understand better in a minute.

First, you measure the coffee and put it in the pot. I have a huge scoop so I don’t have to count so much. Sometimes I can loose track of the scoops and then I either have to pour it out onto a plate and start over or say three Hail Mary’s while praying that there is enough. I never worry about too much, it’s only too little that would be the jolt. Or, more accurately, the anti-jolt.

Second, you add the water. I always used filtered water. Although that likely becomes much less relevant in month three and four of the two-month rated filter.

Back to the coffee. The water should be just below a boil. So, after the water reaches the boiling point you need to wait a bit as it cools. The wait can range between me chanting “one thousand one, one thousand two,” as I’m patiently standing next to the kettle, all the way up to to a few (ten? maybe 15?) minutes if I forgot that I started this project. That happens. Mostly on weekends, but sometimes during the week if I get involved with a first-thing-in-the-morning Buzzfeed quiz. Which Disney villain are you? or How many of these 90s songs can you name?

Sometimes I preheat the pot. This usually occurs when I realize that I didn’t wash it yesterday and I have to wash it for today’s coffee. I shake out the dregs, pour them down the sink and rinse the pot with hot water. Very hot water. That preheats the pot, as if by design.

Third is the timing. Those of you with a drip maker or a fancy machine are unconcerned with timing. Your appliances finish all by themselves. With the French press, your coffee floats around in the water to flavor it for an optimal interval. I think it’s four minutes. That’s my goal, anyway. Usually one of three things will occur. I will set the timer and respond at the ring, I will set the timer and ignore it because of some minor distraction, or, I will forget to set the timer and contort my brain to imagine the lapsed time. The timing is actually very important to the taste. I just don’t usually get it right.

Fourth is the plunge. This is pure technique. You need to corral all the floaty grinds under the mesh net and push them to the bottom of the pot. There is sometimes resistance–not always. It’s like an air bubble somehow forms and as you continue to push the plunger down, the pot burps and very hot liquid comes shooting out of the spout. I’m usually lucky and the spout is pointing away from me. Sometimes, though, I get it in the chest like someone yelling, Good morning!

I’m a little sloppy on the plunge so I usually take the first cup. This is the one with grinds that escaped the mesh and washed above the rubber seal when I was not paying any attention. When this happens, I am glad for the grind with the large chunks. You can more easily chase them around the rim of the cup and scoop them out with a spoon. When I’m very sloppy, I get the tea strainer and pour into another cup. When I’m very sloppy and very lazy, I just add milk and go about my business focusing on not focusing on the grains. I’ll spit out the gravel later. Or, if I don’t, I call it fiber.

The coffee I drank this gray morning was amazing. It was perfectly hot and a bit syrupy to balance the goodness of bitter. It was the earthy, composty Indonesian coffee that’s my favorite. It tastes of a little dirt and a little acid, flavored with what tastes of chocolate and maybe maple–or is that dark cherry?

Someone else plunged it this morning, though. Someone who is a much better scientist than I. Someone who made a beautiful cup of coffee for me this morning. No grains. No spills. Just love in a mug.

Now, THAT’S a good cup of coffee.

Corporate Doughnuts

cake donut. mmmmmm

When I was in school we’d raise money selling donuts and coffee.

You had to reserve the space in the Union. Sign ups for student groups–mostly progressive and then finally the Young Republicans when they finally cracked the code since the progressives weren’t sharing–were at the beginning of the semester. You tried to get as many days as you could. Donut selling was easy money (see more below).

Most student groups used the same coffee makers. I forget who owned them. It might have been the PIRG. There were two big multi gallon machines. No decaf, just regular coffee. I think we bought the coffee from the PIRG, too. Or at least reimbursed them.

There was sugar we’d put in a styrofoam coffee cup with a plastic spoon. There was powdered coffee creamer which got the same treatment. My tenant’s rights group supplied our own cups and coffee modifiers, and our own napkins, too.

One day our director thought it’d be better if we owned our own coffee makers. Then WE could rent to other groups–like the Young Republicans–and it would pay for itself in a few months. Such entrepreneur. Much pain in ass.

Boss man didn’t manage the coffee makers. They’d come back dirty. They’d not come back. We had to chase down our friends in the other student groups for payment. And they’d want to pay in donuts.

All the student groups got their donuts from the same donut shop. I don’t remember the name, but it wasn’t called donut. I think the goods came from a place called Dairy Something or Somebody’s Dairy. I don’t really remember. I might be making the name stuff up.

We’d order the donuts in two dozen increments. Someone with a car–not me since I only had two wheels–would pick them up before the crack of dawn. I would be there for setup. I’d get the coffee started, lugging the big pot to the sink in the janitor’s closet to fill it. I know. Don’t judge me. We all did it and drank the coffee, too.

The donuts were all cake donuts. In fact they were all the same donuts. The differentiator was the covers. There were chocolate, grainy sugar, toasted coconut, cinnamon (with the grainy sugar) and peanut. Sometimes there were maple, but they weren’t big sellers. If the director picked up the donuts he would get those even though they didn’t sell. He must have liked them, or he wanted more variety for our display. The sprinkles on the white frosting either sold out fast or not at all. On Valentine’s Day there were donuts with red and white sprinkles. THOSE were popular. My personal favorite was the plain.

When I was on donut duty, I would eat two. Usually one cinnamon (with the grainy sugar) and a plain one. Yes, eating our profits, because although the money was easy, there wasn’t a lot of it. We might clear between $35-$65 after costs. And be super pleased.

I prefer cake donuts over yeast donuts. I’ve had good yeast donuts in the past, but it seems that nowadays everyone is imitating those Krispy Kreme donuts. Those donuts with the slippery, greazey sticky coating. I don’t know that it’s sugar. I do know that it’s nasty. Like I said, I like good yeast donuts, but these aren’t those.

The best donuts I’ve had since being all the way grown are Downyflake donuts. They have two types, plain and chocolate covered. I only like the plain. They are sinkers. If you leave them in a paper bag they grease it all up. So good. When you buy a dozen in a box and there’s some left for the next day, you pop them in the toaster oven on toast. If you put a paper towel underneath it and can avoid the paper catching fire, it will crisp up really nice. If the paper catches fire it crisps up, but not really nice.

I’ve often wondered what happened with that other New England donut, Dunkin’ Donuts. I thought they were decent, but someone brought them into work and they were absolutely inedible. It’s like they are diet donuts–in fake flavor and in rubbery consistency. It seems like they switched to good-for-you oil. I like the bad slash-tasty oil. It’s not good for you. It’s just good.

These gross corporate donuts, DunkinD and KrispyK are lousy excuses for donuts. I miss donuts cooked in good fat and that taste good. And that you could sell at school and make $45 for your cause.

But I don’t want artisanal doughnuts that cost $2.50 each that claim to be good and just aren’t that good.

Donuts have become a memory for me.

Too Much Coffee

I was washing the post-dinner dishes. It was unusual in that I did it after dinner, rather than in the morning. I know, I know. You all can’t stand dishes in the sink overnight. I can see your point, but I can’t stand to stand over the sink after getting dinner on the table.

The spouse is out of town. For like 2o days. So, for me it’s an exercise in single-parenting. It’s times like this when my respect for my friends and colleagues who do it alone runneth over.

[“What?” you child-free readers say. “Doc, your kids are big. So don’t be a whiner.” Yes, they are big, and have bigger responsibilities. More practices, more homework, and the commensurate amount of more yelling–oops, did say that?]

So after a gourmet meal out of the blue box punctuated by some darn good peas (flash frozen, not canned), I turned to the dishes. It shouldn’t surprise you that there were still dishes from breakfast.

My last task was to wash out the coffee pot. I was surprised to spill out a bunch of leftover coffee. Hunh. I made enough coffee for two this morning. But there was only me to drink it.