Ashes to Ashes (A Progressive Wake)

Today is my 59th birthday. Happy Birthday to me. Last Saturday, I attended a funeral. It’s getting a little close to home.

The only way for me to deal with death is to laugh. I hate death. I hate sadness. I don’t like crying. I don’t like being in a room with lots of sad people. So, I want to prevent that at my funeral.

Now, some may say it’s unlikely there will be much sadness at my funeral, but I’m trying to be optimistic.

I don’t want a preacher with a couple of readings and a generic homily with my name stuck in a few places.

I don’t want a “Celebration of Life” since that just means “boring-ass funeral.”

So, I want my services to be fun (or at least different.)

One of the interesting (or bizarre) aspects of cremation is that the ashes don’t have to end up in only one container. More than one of the bereaved can receive a portion of the deceased as a memento (“souvenir” seemed crass.) For an extra fee, you can have ashes sealed in a locket, so you can match your relatives to your outfit.

This has been discussed twice now, coincidentally at two different Italian funerals. This is why so many Churches in Italy have so many pieces of so many Saints. Divide and conquer.

I am planning to be cremated when my time comes, and hopefully not before. Since I am not a small person, there may be an excess of ashes. So, this is my last request, which my wife predictably refuses to honor.

Wait for my wife to be acquitted of my murder on grounds of temporary (or permanent) insanity.

Cremate me. First, put some microwave popcorn in my pockets so I have a snack while crossing the River Styx, then cremate me.

Divide my ashes into ten urns. There aren’t ten people who care enough to want a piece of me – again, see the Italians: “You wanna piece of me?” – but they’re not for people, they’re for pubs. They’re the stops on my progressive wake. A progressive wake is a pub crawl to the Hereafter.

Mark the urns:

  1. Trinity Hall
  2. Dubliner
  3. The Ginger Man
  4. The Old Monk
  5. Adair’s Saloon
  6. Lakewood Landing
  7. Meddlesome Moth
  8. Hillside Tavern
  9. The Londoner
  10. Flying Saucer

Deliver each urn to the appropriate pub. (I didn’t choose any outside the Metroplex or on a cruise ship, so this should be doable on an afternoon.) The delivery person might want to wrap the urn in a box and address to me, with a good tip to the bartender and a promise that it will be picked up quickly. This would probably be more acceptable than to ask, “Can we leave a small jar of dead guy here for a few hours?”

Now, you (my mourners) are ready to hold the progressive wake.

At my memorial service, hand each of the five or six people that show up a map with all the pubs marked. You could also show them the map at the bottom of this discussion, or give them a link to this page.

Call an Uber or two for the participants (don’t drink and drive!)

  • Visit a listed pub.
  • Bonus points for calling “Bring out your dead!” as you enter.
  • Drink the suggested drink (see the map) – or whatever, it’s not like I’m there to judge. (Well, part of me is there, but I won’t judge.)
  • Tell an amusing story about me. After a few drinks, just make something up.
  • Collect the urn.
  • Tip the bartender.
  • Repeat.

Once all the pubs are visited and all the urns collected, return to the memorial service. Apologize to the hosts from the funeral home for the slight delay.

Record any eulogies that are given. If the participants followed the spirit(s) of the Progressive Wake, they may be good blackmail material or at least they will be funny.

Dump all the little urns into one big-ass urn. Have someone with allergies do this, so there will be some tears at the service, after all.

Bury me none on the lone prairie.

Progressive Wake

How much is it worth?

Everyone has food memories from their childhood. Some even have happy food memories.
If you’re like me, and you’re living in the city where you grew up, you may still be able to relive your childhood memories. The only time you can’t is when the place closes. (I really miss Kip’s Big Boy, but I have Frisch’s Big Boy when I visit my grandkids in Ohio.)
I think food memories are hardest on people exiled from their childhood homes (sometimes by choice) where the food is still available, you just can’t get there from here. This is especially true if you are from a cultural background that reveres food.
The Spousal Unit is from Brooklyn and she is Brooklyn Italian. She is … opinionated about food. If you want to get her going, just call “pasta” “noodles” or tell her if she needs pizza, Dominos can be here in a half-hour, and if she really needs an Italian food fix, there’s always the Olive Garden.
Never mention Olive Garden – except to her sisters, who inexplicably like it.
This week, in earth-shaking news, DaVinci Pizzeria, the Spousal Unit’s favorite pizzeria in Brooklyn (and therefore in the world) started shipping their pizza. Shipping, as in having FedEx deliver pizza to anywhere they can reach in two days that is willing to pay the rather pricey shipping charges. (Frozen food requires two-day shipping, which is not cheap.) You can order online, which takes some of the fun out of calling for pizza, but it works. 
DaVinci has Sicilian pizza, which is not pizza. It’s a very thick crust, and you don’t get slices, you get squares. It reminds me of Chicago deep-dish pizza, but I don’t say that out loud, because I want to live.
So, while my wife was reveling in the pizza of her childhood arriving on her doorstep, a lot of other people are complaining directly to the pizzeria on their Facebook page about how much it costs.
These were my (slightly-edited) thoughts which I posted, but their page is wisely moderated, so we’ll see if they think it’s worth posting – it’s a defense of small business and a plea to just mind your own beeswax if you think someone has their priorities out of whack:
To everyone complaining about shipping costs, I feel your pain. As the husband of a Brooklyn expatriate, I have had 19+ years of “You don’t understand! You can’t get that here! I NEED IT.”
 
I’ve only been to DaVinci Pizza once – we were visiting my wife’s family and friends in the area, so we went for lunch. My wife was taking photos of all the food with her cell phone. One of the staff asked if she wanted a picture of the two of us. She said, “Why would I want that? I just need photos of the food.”
 
Any food shipped to Texas from New York is insanely expensive – but it’s mostly the shipping costs, with the possible exception of Junior’s Cheesecake – and they’re relatively famous, so they have volume in their favor. Pastosa Ravioli will ship, but the shipping costs more than the pasta. We tried to order cookies for my wife’s Aunt in Florida once, and decided we just didn’t love her that much. 
 
My only salvation is Jimmy’s Food Store  in East Dallas who has owners that import some critical Italian necessities (as in the aforementioned Pastosa Ravioli.) So, if you’re in Dallas, go to Jimmy’s. Tell them Kevin sent you. 
 
Here’s the issue that Mom and Pop businesses run into – the stores don’t set the shipping rates. They either absorb them which kills their profit or pass them on which annoys their potential customers. Sure, you can ship more slowly, but the food won’t arrive edible. I did think $80+ shipping to get $100 of pizza to Dallas was a bit insane, but it’s cheaper than us flying to Brooklyn and having my wife discover all the other stuff she needs to take home. (It’s also cheaper than a two-day UberEats delivery with the pie in the back of a random driver’s car.) 
 
So, I had really, really good Sicilian pizza last night and a calzone for lunch today, and my wife is happy (Happy wife, well, happy wife.) However, I know my late mom-in-law will put in a good word for me on Judgement Day because I got her favorite child (well, except for her Shih-Tzu) a real Brooklyn Sicilian pizza and I ate a proper calzone.
I didn’t really have much of a choice – I saw the announcement that they were shipping, and I told my wife, so it’s my fault, anyway. My only fear was adding up the costs, and wondering what would happen if it arrived and it sucked.
It didn’t suck.
It may be too expensive for some. However, if it brings someone’s childhood back, even for a moment, that’s worth it.

Funeral Rites (for a Rat)

Dearly Beloved,

We are gathered here today,
to remember our brother rat.

He died as he lived his life,
On the patio, and in the yard.

Place rat gently in the pooper scooper.

Please forgive his brother Chihuahua,
Who really just wanted a new fuzzy toy.

As we process to his resting place,
We commit him to his Creator.

Oh, Lord, bless this rat.
Unto You, we commit his soul.

Dump gently over the fence.

Amen.

Notes: Yes, the Chihuahua did it again. I admit “brother” rat is an assumption because I really didn’t want to be examining a dead rat’s genitalia on a darkened patio. You have to say “resting place” and not “final resting place” because while the Chihuahua is inside the fence, there are other critters on the outside. Rest In Peace.

A Short Story

This is the story of a bonsai plant, so by definition, it is a short story.

Monday, May 7, 2018

My Mom and I have had our differences over the years, but last week was Mother’s Day, and she’s still my mother, so I decided my wife and I should send her a small gift. I dislike flowers, partly because of the markup, partly because it’s so predictable, but mostly because of their short shelf life. So, I decided a plant would be a more lasting gift.

Since everything in the universe is online these days, I just pointed my browser at 1-800-Flowers and looked for their Mother’s Day plant suggestions.

Mom’s in a condo, so there’s not a lot of extra space for gardening, and one of the suggestions was a bonsai azalea. That sounded a bit exotic, nice and small, still very pretty, and within my price range. So, I ordered that for Mom, a doggie bouquet for my wife (from our Chihuahua) and called it done.

I was proud of myself – even with the Mother’s Day rush in full tilt, I had gotten the order placed in time enough where my wife’s gift would arrive Thursday, Mom’s on Friday, both before Mother’s Day with room for error and minimal excess delivery charges. Yea, me!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A flower bouquet arrived at our door. The enclosed card said it was for my wife from our Chihuahua, Rocky, and specifically said it was only from him and not our other dogs. Quite funny, even though that’s the third time I’ve put that on a card. Everybody in my house is happy.

Friday, May 11, 2018

I got a note on a different subject from Mom, replied to her, and in her reply to my reply, she thanked us for the beautiful plant. So, both gifts are delivered, Mother’s Day is coming up, everything is done. Yea, me!

For a normal person, this would be the end of the blog post. Sigh.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mother’s Day. My brother was taking Mom out to brunch with some of his friends and their Moms, so we had lunch with my in-laws. Everybody’s covered. Life is good.

After I got home, I received an apology email with a $20 credit from 1-800-Flowers for letting me down. Hmm. As far as I knew, everything was delivered. I actually saw one gift arrive and got a thank you note for the other. So, I figured it was a systems error from the insanity of Mother’s Day at a nationwide florist, and forgot about it.

Monday, May 14, 2018

I got an email notice that my Mom’s gift would be delivered on Tuesday. So, that explains the apology note, since they had completely missed Mother’s Day. Wait. Why did I get a thank you note on Friday? There are a number of medical conditions running in my family, but clairvoyance is not one of them.

Maybe they just sent a placeholder bouquet until the real gift arrived, but they never mentioned that in the note.

I was confused. This is not the first time I have been confused about gifts.

Maybe I should ask my Mom. I sent her a quick, “Hey, I got a really strange email” note.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

(Happy Birthday, Ellie!)

Mom replied to my note. In fact, we had a stream of notes that day. I will attempt to summarize.

She had received a box on Friday with a tray, some pebbles for drainage, care instructions and a six-inch azalea in full bloom. However, there was no bonsai plant.

I started having flashbacks to my first long train ride with my son, when he was six or so. By the time we were an hour out of San Antonio, he had gone through everything I had brought along (snacks, books, coloring books) for the twelve-hour trip. So, I said, “Why not just look out the window at the scenery for a while?” He said, “There isn’t any scenery, just rocks and cows.”

There is no bonsai, just a small flower bush.

So, Mom had called 1-800-Flowers. (Mom and my wife call people. I use chat and email. My wife and I have a long-running debate about which is more effective.)

After a discussion with the (probably off-shore) customer support line, the 1-800-Flowers representative had agreed to send another plant for delivery on Saturday.

Hmm. That would explain the $20 credit.

The plant did not arrive Saturday, so Mom called back – and amazingly got the same customer sales representative (thank you, Evelyn, for helping Mom). They were becoming close. The delivery was assured for Sunday.

Nothing arrived Sunday, so Mom called back. Same customer service representative, who now recognized my Mom’s voice. (You would think they would have CallerID so they could swap repeat customers.) Monday, for sure.

That explained the delivery notice for Monday that I received for a gift that had been delivered Friday.

I was beginning to have visions of a bonsai forest on my Mom’s balcony.

So, I emailed Mom the picture of the bonsai azalea from the website, to show what I had chosen. Surely, that will clear everything up.

To her credit, she only called in the first place because she wanted to receive what I had selected. It never occurred to her that I would actually select a bonsai azalea. I’m not really sure what that says about what she thinks about my taste.

To her further credit, she does not consider a miniature azalea to be a bonsai plant. I checked Wikipedia a while ago, and it says that bonsai is a cultivation method, which means (I believe) that technically any full-size plant could be raised as a bonsai plant, given the time and patience. Speaking of patience, I’m not sure I have the energy to explain to Mom how to update the Wikipedia page to her definition. Maybe she can call Evelyn to have it corrected.

So, Mom now has two bonsai azaleas, whether they are bonsai or not. I have a good name for my next band (“Ladies and gentlemen …. Bonsai Azaleas!”)

I received another apology with another $20 credit from 1-800-Flowers.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Popcorn Factory sent me an email that said they were having a sale on popcorn tins. My grandkids love popcorn. It’s a sale. I like cheap popcorn. So, I was about to hit the order button, when I realized that 1-800-Flowers owns The Popcorn Factory. So, I used one of the apology credits to send my grandkids some really cheap popcorn.

Win-win.

Aftermath

As in, the math after it’s all over. So, I spent $39.99 on a bonsai azalea to attempt to make my Mom happy. Instead, Mom got two bonsai azaleas, a personal quest that kept her busy over the lulls in Mother’s Day weekend, and a new friend in the Philippines. I got $40 in credits. The kids got popcorn. My wife got a flower arrangement from a Chihuahua. I got a really strange blog post, even for me.

I never saw Mother’s Day as an investment opportunity, but so it goes.

I may have to use the other $20 to get my Mom some miniature tools so she can keep her azaleas small. There is nothing more embarrassing than a large bonsai azalea.

Next year, I will just toss a small plant at her and say it is a kamikaze azalea.

A Tale of Two Cities

I’ve been in Dallas most of my life, and as much of my travel has been for business, I usually visit cities that are relatively easy connections. However, visiting the relatives can be a different story. I speak of two of my favorite “cities”, Cedarville, Ohio, and D’Hanis, Texas.

Editor’s Note: This is a filtered brain dump of a bunch of research I did in the middle of the night. So, whether or not it’s coherent is probably in the eye of the beholder. (As always, if you read something I wrote and think, “That is profound!”, please call my wife and ask for her neurologist’s name. She has a lot of specialists.) 

Here’s the ways I usually travel:

  • Ship. Fun. Relaxing. Requires deep water. (So much for Dallas.)
  • Plane. Pain. More Pain. Expensive Pain. Pretty fast, though.
  • Train. Faster than my wife’s driving. Might not be as fast as mine. 24×7 travel. Limited stops. Usually visit Chicago.
  • Bus. 24×7 travel. Small towns. Get to see a mob of people descend on a McDonalds every few hours (“Buses Welcome!”) Spousal Unit refuses to ever ride one again (something about riff-raff touching her.)
  • Car. Back-seat drivers (often in the front seat.) Stress. Highways. Rest Stops. Overnight Stops. Souvenir Stops. Still more fun than the bus.

And now, our two citites.

Cedarville

We’re thinking of visiting the grandkids later this year, and we’re thinking “roadtrip.” I believe they used to drive straight through (ah, youth!), but we’ll stop somewhere for a night along the way. (Memphis is about half-way.)  Two nights in a hotel are cheaper than flights, we don’t have to rent a car, and it’s not like I can’t afford the time right now.

There are two airports within an hour or so of the kids’ place, even though Cedarville is not a large town. (There are a number of universities in the area, so there are students to consider.)

Train service is really bad in Ohio. Cedarville is close to Dayton (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) and Columbus (Ohio State and it’s the freakin’ capital) but neither is on the Amtrak network. (Amtrak was my cruise before I found ships.)

The closest bus service is Springfield and we’ve stayed in Springfield before, so it’s not really that far. (Still, there’s a university in Cedarville. Today’s kids don’t ride the bus? The bus has WiFi onboard, so you could live blog it.)

So, you fly to Dayton, take the train to Cincinnati, take the bus to Springfield, or just drive.

This time we’ll drive.

D’Hanis

My first thought when presented with the transportation options to Cedarville was, “Geez, even D’Hanis has bus service.” Now, D’Hanis is small. It’s unincorporated. It’s in the middle of nowhere. Wikipedia lists it as a “human settlement.” It’s my spiritual home (well, one of them.) It’s also my Mom’s hometown.

The closest airport is Hondo (one town to the east), which is a regional airport (and former Army Air Force training base) so there’s no commercial traffic. My Dad flew in there once in a private plane, and had to wait two days for the weather to clear before he could leave again (instrument ratings are good to have.) The closest “real” airport is San Antonio. Let’s just say people go to the Hondo airport more for the restaurant than the flights.

D’Hanis had train service when my Mom was growing up – in fact, when the first train line was built in Medina County (in 1881) and bypassed the town, they just moved the town closer to the tracks. (This is why there is technically an Old D’Hanis and a New D’Hanis.) By the time I was riding Amtrak for fun, the Sunset Limited passed through town, but the closest stop was San Antonio. I had to stay up late to see D’Hanis from the train, since we passed through before the crack of dawn, but I did manage to see the town – just for a second. Again, it’s a small town. I also found D’Hanis in the 1954 Southern Pacific timetables, so the Sunset Limited stopped there at one point, on the eastboound and westbound runs.

D’Hanis had Greyhound service and the Kerrville Bus Line which was a Continental Trailways affiliate. I actually rode the Kerrville Bus to HemisFair ’68 with my Mom and little brother, who got car-sick. (Bus-sick?) Greyhound absorbed Continental Trailways years ago, and the Kerrville Bus just goes to college towns and casinos now (an interesting market plan.) However, Greyhound seems to be routing on I-10 instead of US 90, so they don’t stop in D’Hanis any longer. So, no more bus service. Ouch.

So, now you have to go to San Antonio to get anywhere. That hasn’t changed much, it’s just now you can’t get to San Antonio.

So, D’Hanis is off the grid. Unless you have a truck. (Pretty much everyone has a truck, but still.)

This really distressed me. It took a while to figure out why, but then I realized that D’Hanis was the place I always knew I could go when I was down to my last $200 (bus fares kept going up!) I would get off the bus, and go mooch off call on my relatives. By the time they realized it was more than a visit, I would be moved in. D’Hanis was the place my late grandmother once said I could be buried if I “died alone” because there were extra slots next to her and my Granddad. (I think she was comforting me after my divorce, since that was the last time I was alone.) Sweet and morbid at the same time. (That’s pretty much the definition of my family.)

Cedarville was the place I knew I could go when I was down to my last $200 and the kids would give me a cup of coffee and point me to D’Hanis. So it goes.

This also means neither town will ever be in a country song. If you can’t get out of town, you can’t be in the song. It’s in the rules.

Stayin’ Alive

The job search continues. It’s been a bit busier lately, but nothing of substance yet. There were a couple that were close, but not close enough. I’m still looking at random alternatives, and there are a lot of sites that seem to think I would be a really good Uber driver. There are also a plethora of recruiters who seem to be keyword-matching my resume to jobs and then asking to present me – if I send them a copy of my resume. Uh, how did you think I was a fit for the job? Maybe I should start a recruiting company.

We’re not going to sell the house and get an RV since the Spousal Unit has decided she’s probably afraid to drive an RV. Luckily, she determined this before we dropped a hundred fifty grand on a rig (and sold the house), so I have that to be thankful for.

I’m also thankful that this year can’t possibly be as bad as last year. (Yes, I realize that is a challenge to the universe.) However, I realize that every other time I thought I had hit rock bottom, I bounced, and then fell further, but I’m pretty sure that losing a job after 19 years (“retiring”) is about as low as it can go. If nothing else, I outlasted the co-op who also wanted to retire as an IBMer. Also, technically, I retired. On the bright side, it was a job I really hated. I didn’t hate the job, I just couldn’t handle the politics. So, if you need a program manager and you’re at a company that’s too small to have politics and turf wars take up most of the productive time, call me.

So, I’m still alive. The dogs still like me as long as I cough up the snacks. I can still work, if somebody needs a presales technical engineer who can learn a product in a week or two and be presenting to customers the week after that. I’m constantly amazed that even though I’m apparently very old, companies seem to be choosing millennials over me, especially since I’ve seen millennials almost pass out while doing a presentation, and use instant messaging to ask a question of someone in the same conference room. For the record, I’ve never passed out doing a presentation, and I just ask questions if I don’t know something.

So, my New Year’s resolution is to survive until 2019. It’s one of my poorer resolutions, but hopefully, I can accomplish it.

The Times They Are a Changin’

So, my daughter-in-law called the house this afternoon, and said that Carson (grandson #2) wanted to talk to “GrandmaGrandpa”. In his mind, we are a single unit, and either word can be used for either of us. I’m “Grandma” from time to time, if he’s excited or not paying attention, or he’s asking me so I don’t feel left out, but he really wants Grandma’s opinion. So, if you get the collective noun “GrandmaGrandpa”, he’s serious.

Grandma was out saving the universe, but I said if I was good enough alone, I was happy to talk to him. So, my daughter-in-law said, “Call us back!” and I said “Facebook Messenger?” and she said “Yes.”

A little less than nine minutes later, we were done. Everybody was happy. Thirty seconds after we disconnected, my iPad chimed. My granddaughter had just realized she missed GrandmaGrandpa, and she wanted a turn.

A couple minutes after that, all the grandkids were heading off to bed, and I was waiting to go to dinner.

That’s when it hit me – just how much technology has changed just in my lifetime, and how my grandchildren’s assumptions are wildly different than mine were as a child.

When I was growing up, it never would have occurred to me to call either of my grandparents – one set in Providence, Rhode Island, and the other in D’Hanis, Texas. I’m glad it never occurred to me, because I can only imagine what it would have cost, paying AT&T by the minute to talk long distance. (Then, I can only imagine what my Dad would have said.)

I started thinking about how Carson called me today, and how he takes a lot of things for granted that still seem a bit magical to me – and I’m in IT.

First, his Mom called our house phone, which isn’t even analog any more – it’s Voice over IP digital. She called on her cell phone, because my kids don’t have a home phone at all. I’m not sure they ever have. If you want my son, call his cell. If you want my daughter-in-law, call her cell. Better yet, text them.

We keep our house phone because we tend to use our cell phones for data more than talk, and because it’s handy to have one number that can get either or both of us (sometimes.) We really don’t need it any longer, but it’s a representation of GrandmaGrandpa.

So, phone service has completely changed, not only in my lifetime, but in the last thirty years or so. (I would have to look up when the cell phone became widespread.)

So, in one generation, we went from analog dial service to Voice over IP and cell service. Some people dropped their home phones completely.

Carson doesn’t want to “talk” to us. He wants to see us. When he says, “Call GrandmaGrandpa”, he means “video conference”, he just doesn’t know that is a thing.

I remember when we got video conferencing equipment at work – it was very expensive, very fragile, and worked somewhat, as long as you were talking to a matching system in one of your other offices. (I had a job interview a couple of weeks ago that was a video conference with some managers in Chicago. I had to go to the Dallas office, and be ushered into a special room where I could see myself on one screen and the interviewers on another. I remember thinking, “Well, it did make me dress up and get out of the house, and they won’t hear my dogs, but what’s wrong with Skype?”)

Carson’s assumption is that you can look at Mom’s iPad in Ohio and see GrandmaGrandpa in Texas and there’s no magic at all – that’s just how it works. Everyone knows that. “Call GrandmaGrandpa”.

So, in less than a generation we went from voice being the norm to video being available to anyone with a cell phone or a tablet with WiFi and a Facebook account.

Wait. When did WiFi show up?

I remember my first Internet account – which I got so I would have an email account. I pestered the admins until they told me where to put web pages and how to get to it, so they hosted my first web site. It was a dial-up account on a system in Massachusetts. I used to pay long distance to edit my webpages and collect my email every day – not that I got much. I learned a lot of basic Unix, because it was the only way to get it to work.

Then, we had Prodigy and AOL, and we could dial a local number to get to the Internet. Man, that was high tech. When you heard the right scrambling noises, you knew you were connecting. You were about to be online. Modems were cool.

(My Dad was still paying for AOL account access even though he had DSL at the house and unlimited Internet. I converted it  to a free account after he passed away. I had to keep the account because my Mom still uses her AOL email. I turned my old address back on, just for old times sake.)

So, we’ve had a lot of technology appear in the past few years that the current generation assumes was always there. We’ve suffered through a lot of early versions and failed attempts that they will never see.

I had a flashback to a discussion with my son when he was young, and I was trying to explain to him that I didn’t have video games when I was growing up. I’m not sure he ever believed me. (I still need to find him an electric football game.)

So, Carson, remind me to send you an email about the good old days, and phones you had to dial with a dial. You could ask GiGi Mary about having to pick up the phone first, to see if any of the neighbors were already using it. In the meantime, if you need me for anything, just say, “Alexa, call GrandmaGrandpa.”

The Essence of Ripley

Two more memories of Ripley, both involving sleep.

When our first dog, Bubba, came home, he seemed to have some behavior issues. These culminated in his marking my side of the bed (ick!) His trainer said he was trying to assert dominance, and the procedure to stop it was easy: you tied him on a short lead to the bedpost, so he could sleep near us, but not on the bed with us. After a couple of days, Virginia caved and removed the lead – but Bubba slept on the bed, and no more dominance issues. He learned his lesson.

With Ripley, we decided prevention was better than cure. We tied him to the bed with a short lead, and went to sleep. In the morning, he was sleeping on the bed. On a very short lead. The rest of the lead was still attached to the bedpost. It was in his way, so he had just chewed through it, so he could sleep where he wanted. He learned a slightly different lesson than Bubba had. Advantage, Ripley.

Virginia and Ripley had an ongoing battle on sleeping by the side of the bed. They each wanted to sleep on the outside, nearest the side of the bed. (Ripley’s sister Katie sleeps next to me on the side of the bed now, but if she wants to sleep next to the side of the bed, I don’t care. It keeps me further away from the monsters.)

Virginia asserted her dominance and put Ripley between us, so she could have the outside lane. Once she was asleep, Ripley jumped out of bed, went over to her side, and started scratching on the bed. Virginia moved over. Ripley jumped up and slept where he wanted. Advantage, Ripley.

Un Poquito Espanol

I have been dealing with our corporate team in Latin America lately. They are lovely people, very easy to work with, but their customers all speak Spanish. This has been a challenge. I took Spanish in prep school, never did that well, and never practiced after that.

The first internal call with the team, I apologized and explained I knew “Bar Spanish.” It is a very simple dialect:

  • “Una cerveza, poor favor.” (A beer, please.)
  • “Uno mas.” (One more – can be repeated.)
  • “Gracias.” (Thank you – after each delivery.)
  • “Manana.” (See you tomorrow.)

They found this quite funny (whew.) I did not cuss in Spanish, which I learned in college, although not officially. The problem with Bar Spanish is that it only works in Cozumel, and they all speak English there, anyway.

Most of the rest of the basic Spanish I remember is “Una cerveza y dos helados” which is “one beer and two ice creams.”

It was from a story we had to read in sixth grade, a picture book using basic phrases as captions for each picture. I never understood why a Dad would order beer while getting his kids ice cream. Then, I had my child.With grandkids, I would have to learn “one defibrillator and three ice creams.” 

For the record, my former manager (current translator) told the Latin America team about beer and ice cream, and they found it hilarious. At least laughter is the same in English and Spanish. I hope.

There’s Trouble a’Brewin’

I started drinking coffee because years ago, one of my bosses had a secretary that would bring him coffee, and after we went out a couple of times, she would bring me coffee, too. It pays to sit next to your boss’ office. It pays to date the coffee maker. (The person who makes coffee, not the machine.) (Yes, this was a long, long time ago. At my current job, nobody has secretaries but upper management, and they have assistants, and they don’t make coffee. Well, they might, but if you’re in Dallas and your assistant is in Raleigh, it doesn’t help much.)

That started a long addiction to the bean-flavored hot water.

I’ve had fresh-brewed coffee, stale-brewed coffee, coffee from random machines, Starbucks (it gives me a headache), instant coffee, you name it.

Eventually, I became a bit of a coffee snob. I went from instant to brewed coffee to grinding beans just before brewing. I even roasted my own beans. Once.

I spent years on the Gevalia plan, getting overpriced coffee shipped to my door, so I could grind beans every morning, and make a fresh pot. (Being home-officed means you are in charge of your own coffee.) I finally gave it up to prove to the Spousal Unit that I could give up my frivolous spending, but it just encouraged her to increase hers, since we were saving money elsewhere.

If I had to go into the office, there was a QuikTrip on the way, and I like their coffee. Plus, the drive there was about as long as it took my diuretic to kick in, so win-win.

Over time, slowly, I stopped grinding. I suppose it was because I found that I could order Wawa coffee (after having it every day while visiting the in-laws) but they didn’t have beans, just ground. It may also be because I am getting lazy. One less thing to clean, one less thing to do.

So, Wawa is pre-ground. But it’s good.

So, I went from “Frankly, I feel that if you don’t grind your own beans, you are not receiving the essence of coffee” to “Wawa good. Brew now.”

That was the first step into darkness.

The next issue was that the Spousal Unit gave up coffee. So, now, when I made a pot of ten to twelve cups (aka three to four mugs) in the morning, I was drinking it. All of it.

Wow. That will raise your heart rate, especially when coupled with constant conference calls.

That is just too much coffee, even for me.

So, I needed a way to make less, and I really don’t like how coffee tastes when you try to brew only a couple of cups in a big machine. I got down to making about three mugs, which was less waste, but it still took a while to brew, and I was usually behind schedule in the mornings.

That lead to the … evil … K-Cup.

There were only a few things in the coffee world I had said I would never do.

  • I had made instant (shudder!)
  • I skipped coffee, had soda or tea and survived the mornings, but would have a headache in the afternoon.
  • I had used an Italian stovetop espresso machine (and not blown up the kitchen), after I had to go buy espresso cups.
  • I had used a French Press (Spousal Unit broke it.) Actually, I had a large one and a small one.
  • I had used a vacuum pot (Spousal Unit broke it.)
  • I had made cold brew coffee, the last time it was in vogue – it’s coming back again.
  • I had used an aluminum percolator like my Grandmother had, just without putting eggshells in it to mellow the brew.
  • I had used a single-cup drip coffee maker that was really just a filter holder that sat on top of a cup.
  • I had a four-cup machine, a ten-cup machine and a twelve-cup machine (Spousal Unit broke the carafe.)
  • I ended up with a twelve-cup machine with a reservoir for the coffee and nothing made of glass that the Spousal Unit could break.

However, I had never used a single-cup K-Cup machine.

I don’t know what my original objection was, since I’m old and rather forgetful, but it was a pretty strong objection, let me tell you.

So, now I have a single-cup brewer. In my defense, it will also brew grounds and pods (if you can find pods), so I’m not stuck with just K-Cups. It’s a multi-tasker. Sort of.

Now, I can make one cup of coffee at a time. It takes two minutes, which is a lot less time than brewing a pot of coffee. In fact, I can get one cup brewed while I’m removing the previous cup from my system. Efficient.

Single-cup tasted better when somebody was bringing it to me. However, I’m not wasting a half a pot any more, and that bothered me a lot.

The only issue is that the K-Cup universe thinks 10oz is a large cup. Have these people never been to Wawa? QuikTrip? 7-11? (I leave Starbucks out, since I do not make enough to enjoy a large cup of Starbucks coffee.)

Luckily, the cups that came with our dish set are the perfect size for single-cup use. Now, I know why they were so tiny. Otherwise, you just brew twice into the same cup. This is non-optimal, obviously, because who has four minutes to wait for coffee?

I still make a pot of coffee on days I will need it – say, more than two meetings. The rest of the time, it’s one at a time.

Wawa sells K-cup pods.

Life is good.