Most of us have routines and rituals. One of mine is to spend an hour or so every Friday after work at the local bookstore’s café with a book and a cup of coffee. I’ve been going back there for last few Fridays now that the café is open to full capacity. Now that I’ve fallen back into that welcome routine I’ve discovered two things.
The first thing I discovered is that a few moments alone (even in a crowded café) to decompress with a good book before heading home is invaluable. That hour or so allows me to leave work worries at one place before heading to the next. The second is that the coffee at the café sucks. They offer a passable brew, but a year of lockdowns had me experimenting with a variety of excellent brews and now I recognize that the coffee at several places I frequent is not good (and that’s a polite assessment). I don’t plan on changing my Friday routine (I value my coffee shops hours too much) but I’m wondering if I should try to sneak in my own coffee (hip flask in the movie theater style) and just leave a bigger tip.
June is leaving a heat wave in its wake in the Midwest, and with June’s departure the topic of coffee and cigarettes has come to an end. I feel as if I only scratched the surface of this topic. I started the month mentioning an individual’s relationship with coffee/caffeine and cigarettes/tobacco. Hopefully some of this month’s posts got you thinking about your own relationship with coffee and cigarettes, it did for me.
Caffeine and tobacco are vices for many people, but vices tend to provide some of the best memories. This month got me thinking about how many hours I’ve spent in various cafes drinking coffee while reading books and how the two activities are interconnected for me. I remember reading Still Life with Woodpecker at a Borders Café on a rainy Sunday. The book cover got the attention of an inquisitive redhead and the caffeine gave me the courage to start up a conversation. The redhead and I didn’t work out it but it is a fond memory. I’ve also been thinking about the many nights spent smoking cigars and playing euchre with friends when I was in my early twenties. I’ve lost touch with most of those old friends, but the cigar talk and trading stogies are memories I’ll never lose.
I mentioned at the start of the month that an individual’s relationship with coffee and cigarettes (caffeine and tobacco) can give you a bit of insight into that person’s character. Thinking about your own relationship with coffee and cigarettes can also give you personal insight and maybe stir up some fond memories.
Another Sunday morning suffering the side effects of Saturday night. I’m no doctor. I have no cure for what ails me, but a healthy dose of the blues does treat the symptoms. My current prescription is John Lee Hooker’s “Never Get Out of These Blues Alive” (I recommend the version Hooker sings with Van Morrison).
If you have ever sat up all night drinking black coffee and smoking cigarettes then this song is worth a listen. If you have ever spent your nights pacing the floor then you want to download this song. If you have ever stayed up all night obsessing over a woman (or man or whoever) then this song will speak to you. If you have ever wondered if you will escape the blues then this song should be on your playlist.
John Lee Hooker’s “Never Get Out of These Blues Alive” is quintessential blues (Hell, John Lee Hooker is quintessential blues). Whether you are new to the blues or already have an extensive playlist consider adding this song. There is one important thing to keep in mind when listening to this song (or the blues in general for that matter). The blues isn’t just about how bad things are, the blues is about a hope that things will get better.
The Best of John Lee Hooker 1965 to 1974 (1992) by John Lee Hooker
or Why I’m Going to Pass on the ‘bucks and the Dunk’
I am a creature of habits (some bad, a few expensive, but most relatively harmless). As the state I live in moves into the next phase of its quarantine I feel like some raggedy ass bear coming out of hibernation (if you saw my beard you would have a better visual). One habit that this forced solitude has allowed me to break is my ‘need’ to stop at coffee shops.
I always make coffee in the morning whether it’s a K Cup or a full pot, but on most days I stop off at a coffee shop after work to get a caffeine boost. I’ve come to realize that this coffee shop habit is mostly laziness on my part. It’s just as easy (and hell of a lot cheaper) to make a cup of coffee when I get home. They (insert name of major coffee brand here) want to convince you that their coffee shops are a “third place.” They want you to believe they are a home away from home, a caffeinated version of Cheers where every barista knows your order. These branded coffee shops are nothing more than big box retailers on a different scale. They are creating a ‘need’ I don’t have or want (three months of quarantine cold turkey have proven this).
So here’s to staying home and brewing your own. Here’s to sipping coffee (cold brewed or regular) on your porch, patio, deck, or front stoop. Here’s to making a cuppa joe and going to the library which is a much better “third place” (they have free internet too and books, oh so many books). Here’s to being you and realizing you don’t ‘need’ to conform to somebody else’s idea of where to get a good cuppa joe.
War Profiteering in Blue Helmets and Black Markets
Most of us have spent more time than usual at home over the past few months. I spent some of that time reviewing my current events/history bookshelf (yep, I’m the kind of person who has organized and dedicated bookshelves). It’s interesting how current events become history. Today’s newspaper is nothing more than tomorrow’s fish wrapper if we don’t take the time to study, analyze, and learn from current events, history, and were the two meet. We should all keep a current events/history bookshelf and review it on a regular basis. One of the books I recently reviewed is Peter Andreas’ Blue Helmets and Black Markets The Business of Survival in the Siege of Sarajevo. Its message is as timely today as it was over a decade ago.
History can be viewed as a series of specific events over a general period of time. Some of these historical events can be too specific to appeal to a wide audience. Andreas’ book covers the Siege of Sarajevo which lasted from 1992 to 1995. This event, and time period, may be too narrow to appeal to some readers but it shouldn’t be a surprise that wars tend to be wars and politics tends to be politics. Andreas contends that various political and military groups, including UN soldiers, profited from the black market that existed during the siege. This profiteering also served to prolong the siege for the citizens of Sarajevo. Andreas states, “Cigarettes were so valued in wartime Sarajevo that they became an alternative form of currency.” At another point in the book reporter Maggie O’Kane states, “The UN soldiers here are making themselves and the Sarajevo mafia rich. The soldiers are the importers and the locals are the middlemen for a trade in cigarettes…worth millions of dollars.” This is not the first, or last, time soldiers and politicians have profited from war, but without analysis of historical events it is difficult to develop an understanding and learn from history.
Peter Andreas’ book is an insightful look into the lives of the citizens who lived through the Siege of Sarajevo and the politicians and soldiers who prolonged and profited from the siege. It is a book worth study and analysis for its historical context. It is also worth a read in a time when current events are fraught with individuals who willingly manipulate and prolong conflict for profit.
Blue Helmets and Black Markets The Business of Survival in the Siege of Sarajevo (2008) by Peter Andreas.