Tripio The Novel

How I found my mind, brewed some coffee, and learned to write novels.

              “What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?”

                                                                                         – Thomas Merton

 

It has been a while since I posted. I feel like I need to explain myself, so I will. I did, with intent, step away from posting for a month. As anyone who’s begun work on post number two will tell you, creating these things ain’t easy. I needed a break from the grind of a weekly post. Mostly though I needed to free up and direct my mental energy elsewhere.

I have at long last begun working with an editor for Ironjaws and have found a cover artist to re-design the cover of Tripio.

The search for an editor took a while. The vast majority of us are doing this by the seat of our pant and alone. I mean that no one has been pounding on my front door asking to help me on my next novel. No one is texting me offering to reboot Tripio‘s cover. I have never logged into WordPress and found that someone has ghostwritten a post for me. To make matters worse, the distance from my couch to this chair where I write had become a long, treacherous and terrifying abyss of several feet.

Then there is that irritating work week. It gets in the way too. Plus, there’s eating and sleeping and feeding the cat. I am not making excuses here. Just establishing that we are most likely in this same boat when it comes to making time for everything we have to do along the way. Which includes getting to things that do matter to us. One doesn’t’ have to be blogger or writer to know this. It’s daily life.

I have been unhappy with the cover of Tripio for at least a year now.

I have wanted to get another, second book on Amazon for almost a year now.

During that vaguely described period of time, it must be noted, I did have a couple knocks on my door. For a brief moment as I stepped towards the door each time, I felt sure it was someone from a Big Five publishing company dropping by. But no. Once it was a Spectrum guy. That other time it was a guy handing out religious pamphlets (not Merton, btw).

It took a little more time (that word again) before I gave up hope. I have finally taken action. Over the last week, I have started, as I mentioned above, working with folks who will help me accomplish things that matter to me. I had an hour Zoom meeting covering the cover on Wednesday. I submitted a 1633-word except from Ironjaws on Tuesday.  The cover is a way off still and I have no clear idea what it will look like. I am not sure what the editor to be will think of Ironjaws. But way before the process is complete on both, I know I have made the right choices for both.

Is this guy nuts? How can you know you like the car if you haven’t even driven it? How can you know you’ll like the new vanity in the bathroom until it’s installed?

Easy. Conclusions like these are simply a result of how well we know ourselves. Can and will a new blue car make me happier than the green one? Can and will a bathroom vanity that opens to the right make me happier than one that opens to the left? No. Of course, they can’t.

Will an editor destroy Ironjaws. No, they don’t’ have the power to. Will the new cover of Tripio ruin my day when I see it? No, I won’t allow it to. In short, this world isn’t about me. I feel like I have an obligation to adjust to it, to give it some of me, and not take from it what I want. Sounds crazy but it has a way of clarifying the decision-making process.

And -Yes, I did have good reasons for not being able to get to these two important projects. But I think there was an element of fear there too. Fear of what would happen, of what would people think. These fears took the form of resistance to undertaking the projects. That form, in turn, manifested itself as me on the couch watching college football’s “Bowl Mania”. I’m not saying it happened overnight, there were 38 Bowl Games to get through, but once I let go of those “what if” fears, the abyss from couch to chair seemed like just a couple steps once again.

 

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May I help who’s next?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 New Year’s Day this new year

This year I celebrated New Year’s Day on the day after Thanksgiving on the shores of the Ohio River. That is what I have been doing for the last several years now. If you are a little confused, I will be happy to explain.

It not about the calendar. I fully realize the appointed NYD is January 1st. That day is the designated day to begin a commitment to a resolution or two or three that will change us all for the better. However, as most of us have experienced, after a week or two, they gone. Why is that? If you will allow, I think I understand a little about why that happens.

In this unfathomable existence here on earth, in the constantly changing time period we take on our physical forms, there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” solution. We are all very different. Take a look around. Am I right? In fact, there is no other way it can be. It is the fact that we are all different entities (as safe a word as I can find to use, which is a discouraging enough practice, reflecting these times) that ultimately unites us.

Celebrate the way that works for you

But, in the case of New Year’s Day, this is not good for advertisers, alcohol sales, and the people who make the pointy party hats. Since we are all unique and wonderful as we set upon our life’s journey, our point of true reflection, recharging and rejuvenation must all be unique. Think of someone you don’t know very well giving you a gift of a new outfit that you will be obliged to wear. It doesn’t fit, the colors look bad on you but it’s from your boss or in-law, so you feel like you have to wear it from time to time, mostly for their sake. An extreme example would be having to wear a life-sized pink bunny suit like Raphie in a Christmas story. It just doesn’t’ work for you.

Let’s share the customary New Year’s Fun as we should. But to start on a path of real change that has a way better chance of taking hold, I think it works better and makes more sense to find your own starting point.

The drift log of attachments

My point of renewal and recharging usually happens to be late July on the shore of the Ohio River. Cue Dick Clark. Don’t know him? Is Steve available? Ryan..? No matter, Here goes.

My realization journey to the Ohio began seven years ago as purely a get away from a recent family tragedy. I found the immense and indifferent flow of the Ohio River soothing to my core, to my mind, heart and soul. I had to get back. That much I knew.

I have returned with some or all of my adult children each and every year. Over the years the mid-summer trip has, for me, evolved into as much a spiritual pilgrimage as a summer holiday. It’s a holiday week. I spend it having fun but also taking spiritual stock of myself during the past year and even years. This year’s trip, however, was moved to Thanksgiving weekend.

 

The attachments of 2021

 

This year long intention has come to be manifested by the “drift log” rite or practice I now perform annually on the shores of the Ohio. The river never fails to give me a sturdy, nearly two-foot-long drift log to take back home with me. The riverbank is full of them. Once back home it I put on my front porch in summer, on the buffet in the winter. Both places easily in view and accessible. They need to be because as the year proceeds, I take physical reminders of the year and attach them to the drift log: receipts, lists, appointment reminder cards, masks, wrist bands, personal notes. The good, bad, happy and sad get stapled or glued onto the drift log. By vacation time each year, the drift log is full, carrying the attachments of the year with it.

New Year’s Eve in the morning on the river

Then, on one of the days of the weekend when the river seems receptive, I head to the shore with this year’s drift log. I’ll call this New Year’s Eve. It is always very early in the morning when the river is calm like glass, and I can feel the power and energy of the water. I know it is time for the toss. It is like the ball dropping on Times Square, less crowded, less noisy but with a hell of lot more significance, intention and energy. I begin my countdown and take some breathes as I review the array of glued and stapled reminders of the year.

When I’m ready, I throw it as far as I can throw it! I release this year’s drift log. It takes its time coming down upon the indifferent water. It splashes, settles for a second or two and begins its trip to New Orleans or somewhere I will never discover.

I am lightened, renewed, freed of attachments to events from the previous year and years. I can go back to the laptop and work for the sake of working, write for the sake of writing. My New Year’s Eve celebration. A bit odd, maybe. A bit confusing for people who send out holiday cards, sure. My drift log tradition or rite is not the midnight ball drop on Time’s Square, but considerably less random a lot more effective starting point to begin intentions for the following year. I have space to take them on now. I have already started to prioritize them. 

Before I leave the shores of the Ohio to begin my new year, I chose a new drift log. It’s hard to tell from the photo but this year’s is a bit smaller. I’m hoping that means that fewer attachments will find me in 2002. Happy New Year!

 

             A new year awaits.

 

 

 Has Starbucks gone to pieces?

Starbucks today and the Starbucks I worked at in Chicago and set my historical fiction novel Tripio in, would have a hard time recognizing each other. For one, there are about 25,000 more stores and 200,000 more employees around than when I wore the green apron. Those numbers tell the story in the way only numbers can. I thought I would confirm them and at the same time illustrate the change of culture in a different and hopefully humorous way.

Image result for smiling face coffee

So, as I read From Barista to Boardroom, I highlighted ten phrases that were found in Barista and used by some of those 200,000. Barista was published inn 2021 and covered Starbucks growth over the past 25 years. I then took the list and asked the protagonist of my novel, Jay, who is still in 1992, to see what he thought they meant to him his crew of a dozen or so at his store on the corners of Diversey, Clark and Broadway…let’s listen…

The answers from someone who should know

“Jay, would you describe what the following ten terms mean to you and the crew at store #204?

1-“Customer service piece” – “That happens when the doors open.”

2-“Promoted to customer”-   “Remembering the customers names, jobs and family members.”

3- “Implementing a new customer relationship management system”- Deciding who’s going to be on the espresso bar at rush time.”

4 -“Project deliverables’- ” Making sure there we’ve ground enough drip coffee ground for the next day’s rush.”

5- “Mentoring relationship’- “Explaining to a customer that Starbucks has nothing to do with that skater, that the logo is not a mermaid, that Starbucks is not a franchise.”

6-“Highly matrixed organization” – “When everyone in the line of customers is all asking the barista, “Is this one mine?”

7-“Brainstorming sessions” – “Where are we going after close tonight?”

8-“Mindshare” – “Knowing the regular customers drinks so well that you start on them before they order.”

9-“Transformation Agenda’- “The weekly schedule.”

10- Partner Resource Director – “Whichever manager counts and divides the tips.

 

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How’d I do?

A while back I read How Starbucks Saved my Life by Michael Gates Gill. In the interest of full disclosure, I read it out of curiosity, as opposed to organic intellectual interest. In other words, I read it to see how that memoir compared to my historical fiction novel, Tripio. I may offer a full review in a later post. But for now, I will simply offer a comparison of “How” to Tripio, ingeniously using coffee as the yardstick.

How Starbucks Saved my Life = Blonde Roast  How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son Of Privilege Learns To Live Like Everyone Else By Michael Gates Gill - Used (Very Good, Missing Dust Jacket) -...

Lightly roasted coffee that’s soft, mellow and flavorful. Easy drinking on its own and delicious with milk, sugar or flavored with vanilla, caramel or hazelnut.

Tripio = EspressoTripio a novel: 3 Shots: Starbucks Millionaire, Novelist, or Father? by [Jerome VanSchaik]

A complimentary blend of beans of differing origins: it is intense, deeply flavored and when brewed correctly leaves a lingering sweet aftertaste.

 

 

                                             Starbucks books I have yet to read

From Barista to Boardroom: Lessons about Life and Leadership from a Career in Coffee

 

I am also following up on my intention to find other books about Starbucks. I was curious to see if there were other novel length works of fiction out there with a Starbucks flavor. Ha, ha. I found the list below via Christine McHugh who is a Starbucks alum and author of the soon to be released From Barista to Boardroom. I will admit that I have yet to read any of the titles below expect the aforementioned. I have pre-ordered from Barista to Boardroom after speaking with author by phone. Both Barista and How can be and probably categorized as memoirs. Below are others worth a look that I have yet to read:

 

Coffee for Dummies by Major Cohen

Taking Responsibility: Heart mind and Soul by Jeff Hamill

It’s Not About the Coffee and The Magic Cup both by Howard Behar

Work Freely: Love your Job, Love your Life by Nancy Richardson

The Multiplier Effect of Inclusion by Tony Byers

Female Firebrands by Mikaela Kiner

Steady Work by Karen Guadet

Pour Your Heart into It and From the Ground Up both by Howard Schultz

 

I hope the list if useful!

 

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Thoughts on Barista to Boardroom

 

It felt like the circle had softly closed, like it was all meant to happen exactly that way. I could now let go and move forward, embracing life as a former partner.’

Image result for steaming milk barista

These couple of sentences conclude Christne McHugh’s’ memoir, From Barista to Boardroom.  In my historical fiction “Starbucks novel” Tripio, Jay (me) leaves a once promising career at a lit fuse of that small coffee company at the around the same time McHugh’s career is taking off. Christine’s memoir is a detailed and revealing look at the 27-year career she had at Starbucks. Reading her memoir, for me, was a look back at the career I didn’t have.

I am personally grateful to have read it, to experienced it vicariously because I could not have done what she did.  My mind has used some considerable mental energy over the years wondering “what if I stayed at Starbucks and pursued a career there?’ I have taken numerous mental reveries thinking how much better (who imagines it worse?) my life would have been if I stayed at Starbucks, held onto my IPO shares etc. I have written numerous posts, hey- even a novel, all of which to some degree kept that mental “circle from closing.” Now, it is closed, and I have Barista to Boardroom to thank for it.

 When I say career, I define it in terms of Chrisine’s world of corporate machinations, promotions and politics.  And of agonizing decisions to move a family for a chance to further your career, of even more agonizing calls to partners to lay them off, of Starbucks employee (partners) mentorships, demotions and disappearances.

The day the Frappuccino was born

I cannot offer thoughts on that world. Christine has done that. But what I can do is acknowledge that I was NOT cut out for it. How many people are? I just wanted to steam milk for 20 more years and watch my 268-stock options split. Split and steam. Steam and split. That was my hope, my goal, my intention.  I felt that world coming on, even as early as 1992. In fact, I like to pinpoint the date exactly as June 23, 1992. The date of the Starbucks IPO. Or, as I refer to it as the day “the Frappuccino was born“. The end of the vibrant, regional coffee company which to this day was the best workplace I’ve been a part of, and the birth of the global, corporate behemoth that Christine plunges us into in Barista.

A tale of two baristas

Christine started as a barista about a year before I did and, unlike Jay in Tripio, pretty much kicked ass for the next 27 years. She describes many meetings, deadlines, initiatives, reorgs which many, if not most of her intended readers will recognize and response to with- “I’ve been there” or “I was in that meeting.”  I read these sections of corporate workplace life and finding myself saying “No way I could have done that.”

So, for about 99% percent of the book, I could not identify with Mchugh’s experiences. But, in the 1% of the time that I could, explains why it was, and has, been so hard to let go of my 4 years as a Starbucks partner. In that 1% I found the empathy and comradery and unity that being a Starbucks partner brings, apparently forever.  I was rooting for the Alaska native who started as a 19 old barista, whose favorite coffee was Verona.

As that emotional partner, I was most upset when I read the part in which Christine was more or less abducted and demoted while very pregnant. (I’m being dramatic here, but part of this post’s intent is to generate interest in the book). I thought to myself that no business enterprise is worth treating one human being like that one time- ever. How can that be worth it, justified?  Yet, she overcame that and carried on in her career.

There are many more wisdoms related from her career that are found in Barista which will serve those interested in career crafting.  Read Tripio if you want a lesson in career detouring, by the way.

A benefit for life

Back to the 1% part. I could relate to and was most moved when I read of Chrisine’s determination to keep her “mark-out”. The last time I heard that term I was wearing my green apron.  My weekly mark-out of the best coffee I’ve ever had, was priceless to me!!  For the duration of my 4 years at Starbucks, I may have missed taking this small but glorious benefit only a handful of times. In fact, I would often come to know which baristas didn’t drink coffee and would relinquish their mark out and ask if I could have theirs for the week.

Found in that example which so spoke to me, are the traits that were perhaps McHugh’s most valuable on her path from Barista to Boardroom. I saw her willingness to try something new and to persevere until it was done. I found her effort to keep receiving her favorite coffee to be an unintentional tribute and nod to the baristas like me, and Mark and Denis and Sarah and many, many others who worked hard at Starbucks back when it was a regional coffee company. The company that attached encircled me a long time ago.

Another circle closed

Lastly, a bit more about me. I realize that it is merely a self-told and often believed fantasy that I could have stayed at Starbucks for 20 years. And spent those years merely steaming milk and splitting stock options.  Over the years that fantasy has appeared less and less in my “if only” mind. Luckly, I have, in real life, found my fortune, the one hinted in the epilogue of Tripio.  Thanks to reading Barista I was able to at long last, softly close that circle, imaginary though it was.

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Steam barista, steam.

 

                                                                  ‘All of spring is found in one bud” Oscar Wilde

 

 

 

 

This post’s first bud of spring appears way back when I first began contemplating direct-publishing Tripio. To be clear, the idea of publishing Tripio came way after the origin thought of writing it. And way, way, way after I kept the journal entries that became the novel, Tripio. Just two (repost disclaimer : 3 years) ago, I did not have a blog, shop Amazon for books and only used Facebook to keep track of my kids. Just to be clear and for context and perspective (however unpopular those are these days), Tripio’s direction was always inward.

 

As for the two, sorry, 3 years ago, that is when I found myself taking a class at the Indiana Writer’s Center, called Publish your Memoir. Since then the information and advice available on and around publishing Tripio has been staggering. A tactic for dealing with all that information, advice and insider know how is to let most of it pass by you. What you need will come back to you over and over. One item that kept coming back to the top of the pile was the selection of the right category for Tripio. Here is where I feel it is important to refer back to the prehistory of Tripio. If I would have known it was so important, I could have written Tripio with a category in mind and directed it’s plot, characters, it’s very soul, into the correct and ultimately profitable category.

Ah.

Hell.

No.

Plant your book in a category

 

In order to sell on Amazon at all, a book needs a niche, a genre, a category. The category is your book’s sacred ground as far as Amazon is concerned. Plant your book in the correct category and in just a few weeks a dispatcher at Brinks will call you and set at time for the truck pull into your driveway with money to unload.

 

I realized the importance of it all, but finding a category for Tripio came and went on the priority pile. I think one reason I couldn’t get closure on this was that there is no simple answer. As you may know, Tripio has three distinct but collaborative story lines so it is a hard novel to grab hold of and define. To me, this a sign of something special and unique. To Amazon, that is a problem. Since I “had” to choose, I placed Tripio in the “historical fiction” category.

Replant it if you have to

That just didn’t feel right. I felt like I had picked a major going into college just to keep my parents happy. That choice was made over a year ago. Life went on. But for the past several months, sales have stagnated, which may or not have anything to do with category choice, but one never really knows. It was enough motivation, however, for me to find myself contemplating the right category for Tripio yet again. Category choice had once again found itself near the top of the pile of things to do.

 

Which brings me to yesterday. For the better part of an hour I considered a category for Tripio as I drove to Elwood, Indiana. All options were in my mind. Was Tripio a romance? Literary fiction? Maybe contemporary historical fiction? I was back to the same thing that had kept me from settling on a category in the first place. In and around those thoughts was the hope there would be coffee shop somewhere in this small town. I love that type of coffee shop. They are usually found in an old bank or pharmacy. They are roomy but carry a sense of gravitas and history, not of transaction.  I asked an Elwood local to point me to such a place and soon enough I found myself at the Gypsy Soul.

 

 

The gypsy soul is indeed a coffee house. I chose a cappuccino for the ride back from Elwood. But the Gypsy Soul is also part a salon and another part boutique. A “women’s dream” the barista told me as she steamed away at the milk. The cappuccino she made was quite good. I almost bought some hand cream. I regretted that I didn’t have time for manicure.

Water your category

 

As I drove home later, I was thinking of the Gypsy Soul. It would make a great coffee shop on it’s own with it’s high ceilings, long wooden bar, and view of Elwood’s old streets. The other elements were there but, for me, Gypsy Soul was a coffee house. My next thought was that, at it’s core, Tripio is a coffee book with a coffee title, which mean it belongs in a coffee category, right?

In order to stand out yet at the same time feel “right” to me, Tripio belonged in a coffee category. I already knew there was a coffee category but it was for the business end of things, or for making mochas at home. I took my visit to the Gypsy Soul as a sign of good fortune however. If you can’t believe a Gypsy fortune, who are you going to believe? I decided that I would dig deeper into the category selection on Amazon when I made it home.

Put it in the sun

 

 

 

The Gypsy was right. She told me to keep searching and I would be rewarded. There was a category on Amazon called Coffee Shop Fiction! This is where Tripio belongs. Such a relief. This is a category that would also work for Back outta the World and Altonstreet & Philpatrick, both of which take place in and around actual coffee shops, ( Brazilia in Columbus, Ohio and Oregon Street Coffee House in Dayton respectively).

I can rest easy now. The category was not large which also means Tripio will be easy to find among Grounds for Murder and Bikini Baristas. This gives me hope that I will one day “own” the coffee shop fiction category. I can finally cross the category search off my list. I can now tune out the background noise in my head that had been buzzing around for over a year. This means that I can spend more of my valuable time actually writing. Time to get started! But not before I order my copy of Bikini Baristas.

 

 

 I keep doing things backwards. Oh well.

I chose to update this post for a practical reason. Firstly, I hope this post does help your book find a category. Secondly, as I rework Altonstreet and Philpatrick it occurs to me that I do in fact have a “Coffee Trilogy” on my hands. A & P is  now going to take place over two day – entirely in pre-Starbucks era coffee house. And, if all goes well, Altonstreet & Philpatrick will join Back outta the World in the Coffee Shop Fiction category.

 

                                                                                WE SUFFER MORE IN THE IMAGINATION THAN WE DO IN REALITY

                                                                                                                                                  -Seneca

Sure, but he didn’t live in my neighborhood. Actually my neighborhood rocks. It is a throwback to before the time when houses were built around garages that swallow up neighbors. Neighbors that I have experienced take your kids to school in a pinch, loan you a lawn mower, sit on your front porch and shoot the breeze, give you tomatoes, walk with you and overall look after each other from a close distance. Before I go on with the meat of this post, I believe the end of civility began when the homes stopped having front porches. We now know our neighbors cars, not our human neighbors. Mull that over your local Starbucks on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

I was suffering in the middle of the night

 

 It was with trepidation and a little fear that I headed off my porch, coffee in hand, back to my grass alley where I made a left  (the opposite direction of the all of my known neighbors) in an effort to discover the source of the noise that kept me awake on and off all last night….

I work the night shift

         I work the night shift

     It was around three last night, when one should be asleep, that I was woken by an odd humming noise. I had gleefully anticipated this particular night of slumber for days. It was predicted that the temps would be cool enough to open the windows. They had. I sleep much better with the windows open, as the choir of bug sounds and soft evening breeze soothe me into slumber. On top of that, I had taken a short evening walk. In addition I practiced  my “restore, release and relax” yoga asanas on the front porch about an hour before bedtime. It was Friday and even though I would not be sleeping in, I knew that I would sleep deeply. That created anticipation of a pot of Crimson Cup’s Sumatra Mandheling to accompany a morning of writing which would produce not just content, but, surely, genius.

    Then comes the odd humming noise coming my windows. It had to be originating from one of he two rentals on that end of my solid, working class, tree lined street. It is not uncommon in big cities in the U.S. to have stable neighborhoods populated by a couple houses that are occupied as nearly as quickly as they are vacated. Life in the big city. If the noise had originated from any of the half dozen known neighbors who I have in my phone and even trade house keys with, I could have texted the problem away.

I begin to suffer in my imagination

 

No such luck. As I lay awake, fully awake now, and listening, I knew that it had to be a motor of some kind. OK. Not a car motor but a generator or compressor of some kind. It was not as loud as said car motor, so I figured I could fall back to sleep to it’s compressing or generating. Right. It will have to stop generating or compressing soon. I redirected my thoughts for a time to a metaphysical exercise of visualizing a candle flame- a lot less taxing than counting sheep. I next tried some yoga breathing, letting the mattress of my bed rise up to meet my limbs and torso. That did not work. The compressing did not stop compressing. The generator did stop generating. I could not reclaim my sleep. A thought locomotive made a stop in my head:

I kick the suffering into high gear

   “What if it is like this Sunday night before work? Or even tomorrow night. I have yoga tomorrow. I’ll be tired and that will be a mess. What if I stop doing yoga. My writing will go down the drain. I’ll be tired at work all the time. My job, home and all that I worked for are in jeopardy. I can creep under the cover of darkness to the power source of the generator and unplug it, damned the consequences. A bit of a stretch. I’ll call the police. But it’s not a 911 type call. Can’t someone else hear it and do something? Why me? If I can’t sleep then tomorrow will be waste. My productive Saturday gone. Whole weekend will be shot to hell. And my life disrupted forever…

     Or, I could take my very real fears into the next room, empty for now, where the windows were open but facing away from the compressing generator, and fall back asleep. Which I did. Luckily for you, however, this is not the end of the story.

I make a decision

     We resume the next morning with me holding my cup of coffee, the aforementioned Sumatra, and headed towards where I suspected the noise to originate. Still in my slippers and sleepwear, I walked out of my back yard and headed toward the unknown: the end of the grass alley, the other side of the tracks as far as my immediate neighborhood was concerned. It was a generator. I saw the extension cord leading from a small mobile home through a fence surrounding a beat up house at the end the grass alley. The yard and that section of the grass alley had the look of a parking lot of a Walmart that had just exploded. There was crap everywhere: a wooden pallet, plastic chairs, soggy cardboard boxes, several lawn mowers and shapes of things wood and plastic that were once recognizable, useful.

 Writing this now, I am struck that I had so little fear of walking into an unknown, potentially confrontational or volatile situation with a stranger. I noticed movement over the fence. There someone moving around in the yard behind the beat up wood slat fence. I could only see him from the forehead up to his curly reddish hair. This forehead topped with reddish hair held my life in it’s hands. I looked again at the extension cord that powered the generator, which led from the small trailer to the yard in which he was working. I stepped closer, holding my coffee cup, inhaled, and began. “Excuse me, I...” 

I suffer no longer

  In a few moments it was all over. Not a shouting match, not the call to the police, just a quick conversation. From the forehead with the curly reddish hair  on down, the man was quite reasonable. He summarized his situation by the following “Been evicted, have to be out of here by Wednesday.

As for he moral of the story? Don’t believe the worst you think of your writing, painting, scrap booking, deviled-eggs or your life as a whole. None of the the worst case situations that I convinced myself were very real outcomes, are now going to come to pass. In this blog, I blather on about the power and wonder of the mind. We are our thoughts. But with observation and some slightly courageous action, we can tell some of those thoughts to take a hike. Or in my case, a short walk in your jammies. Ultimately, one must walk down the grass alley to the source of our fears. Then we need to call them out. You’ll sleep a whole lot better.

Re-Post disclaimer

By the way, this is a repost. It is relevant to me because I have to practice what I preach. I am taking a class at the Indiana Writer’s Center on “Revising your work”. It is required that you submit and then discuss live on Zoom a 1,000 work expert from one of your works. Let the suffering begin….or not.

 

I will not suffer beforehand.

 

10 questions to verify your morningness chronotype

Image result for the lark

Morningness-eveningness or chronotype is an individual difference trait1. This trait refers to the sleep-wake behavior (preferred bed times and wake times), as well as to times preferred for peak cognitive and physical performance and to psychological aspects, such as affect (e.g., the feeling after awakening). Some people are early risers that get up early, but go to bed early in contrast to people that get up late and go to bed late. Morning types (sometimes colloquially labelled as ‘larks’) usually feel refreshed soon after awakening and have their peak cognitive performance in the morning.

Like me, you might posses a monringness chronotype

 

  • If you wake up, roll over, see that the clock reads 5:58 and feel good because you’ve slept it. On a Sunday.
  • You enjoy the view from your front porch-before the sun is up.
  • Your know the meaning of antelucan because it describes your favorite time of day.
  • When you’ve been up and writing for an hour or so before heading to work, and your start time is 6 a.m.
  • When your son texts you asking you to get him to the airport at 5:45 on a Saturday morning. And you text back ‘That fits into my schedule”
  • You’ve been up long enough on weekends to want a nap before Sunday Brunch.
  • You can verify whether it is actually darkest just before dawn.
  • It’s your job to wake up the “pre-dawn” hours.
  • You are up weeing before the wee small hours do.
  • You can observe and marvel at just how calm and beautiful this world really is.

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Is Jeff Foxworthy a lark or an owl?

. ‘He reminded us that the ambitions for Starbucks were focused on large and global company growth.”

 

– from Barista to Boardroom recounting Howard Schultz announcing Starbuck’s IPO

 

 

 

I look down the now quiet tree lined street and wonder why it wasn’t enough? Why wasn’t a record breaking weekend at store #204 enough?’

 

– from my historical fiction novel, Tripio

When is enough enough?

Because, Jay, it is the easy way out.  I am working on this blog in the living room of my house. It is over 100 years old and on this November morning the house is already inviting fall inside with a little too much enthusiasm for my taste. And it is not event that cold yet. I can turn up the heat but that costs money. On balance this old place has survived over a century in good shape. I have hot and cold running water in two bathrooms. Plus all the electric appliances still work and continue to make my life easy. I don’t do laundry, my washer and dryer do. Nor do I make my coffee, my coffee makers do. Don’t boil water for my paste noodles, my stovetop burners from my oven do. Hey, I got it made.

Then why the hell to I refer to this place as a “hell hole?” I mean I make it a point to offer what I call “brick and mortar” gratitudes for my house, car and employment. Maybe I need to do this more often. Or maybe I can move to a newer place. Perhaps I should move somewhere warmer. Maybe have replace these seasonally receptive windows replaced. But that ain’t cheap.

Or maybe I can put on a sweater and be happy with what I have.

The quotes above

The quotes above are from two different books which partly address the early days of Starbucks. The top one is from Christine McHugh’s memoir and the bottom one from my historical fiction work. I am just getting started with reading Barista to Boardroom. I am not going to post something as useless as a “review” of the book when I’m done. That ain’t my style. In fact, I spent a bit of time just now searching for a post I thought I had drafted in which I compared reading a book to a rain drop hitting a leaf.

Two completely different forms of energy, the reader’s mind at that moment and the book at that moment, meeting for that period of time. That’s what reading a book can be. Now you see why I am not going to bother with a review as such. What are the chances of your rain drop hitting that leaf during the same storm over the same forest as the same time as mine?  You don’t’ need to answer. In fact, you  are probably breathing a sigh of relief that I didn’t find that post after all.

Back to the post

And that also goes to the conundrum found in the title of this post. When is enough enough? In Tripio, Jay felt that if he could have enough Starbucks stock money, he would move to Costa Rica, write and be happy.  The brass at Starbucks wanted global growth. When I say I said it was the easy way out to start this post I think I meant that “global growth” is way more easily definable. Isn’t it always easier to tell someone where you are going, planning to go or hope to be at one point?

It is easier to look over to the stranger next to you at the wedding reception nd say “I am going to downsize to a smaller, newer house in a warmer climate.” Than, “I am grateful for what I have?” The first response engagers a nice conversation, the second will lead to person next to excusing themselves and head for the complimentary bar.

Which is easier to aspire to be -Billionaire Howard Schultz or Jay Altonstreet acclimating to his draughty house?

Recognizing enough is the hard part

The recognitions is the hard part baked into the answer. For my money, if I had it, I think to this day the Howard Schulz believed that success is better when shared by everyone. By extension, I think the sharing  of that windfalls of that growth was enough for him. (I know its easy to demonize Howard but I was in the same room with him on multiple occasions, shook hands with him, spoke with him and that’s he vibe I got.)

As for Jay from Tripio, he is little harder to define to recognize with one word. If you are playing along at home, don’t try “billionaire” or even ‘millionaire”. Don’t get me wrong, I am still the Jay wondering why enough isn’t’ always enough. Especially when it is reinforcing constantly  that I don’t have enough of it, need more of it and must have the latest version of whatever it is.

Yet, this morning I sit in my house with no “for sale sign” out front and I recognize this house as good as it’s going to get for me. This living space is enough for me. I also recognize that I have a world of blessings out there, some of who grew up this drafty hell hole. So I believe if Howard and I were reunited in my living room right now having coffee and he asked, “Jay, do want me to turn up the heat?” that Jay would reply, “No, Howard, I’ll just put on a sweater.

 

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This apron is pretty warm.

“It is odd to realize how little we know ourselves.” -Oscar Wilde

“What is sometimes simply needed is just a gap of pure time, an insulating period, between the making of your art and the time your share it with others.” – Art & Fear -Observations on the Perils and Rewards of Art Making

 

 

Image result for paralles parked cars on the street

A true work of art

I will put these two quotes together with my usual brevity, clarity and skill in just a few lines. First though I want to clarify something. I do not consider myself an artist or call my writing art. At least not in a conventional tortured artist sense. We are all artists at something We all do things with ease that others can’t. Consider parallel parking for a moment. Many people hate it. However, I am gifted at parallel parking.

I remember one time when I was living in Chicago. I did not own a car but had to parallel park the rental car of a visitor in a space on my always packed street. I grabbed the keys, took the wheel without much thought and put the car in the unforgivingly small space on the first try.  Then, I jumped out of the car quickly because the look on my visitor’s face was one of amazement. At first  I thought I had hit something. But no. I had parked the vehicle without backing once, leaving about  a foot or so of space on either side bumper. That parallel parking job was a work of art.

“Such respites allow the finished work time to find the rightful place in the artist’s (there’s that word again) heart and mind – in short, a chance to be better understood by the maker” –from Art & Fear

How well do you know yourself?

I am working though my fourth  work of long fiction. It is called Altonstreet & Philpatrick, a novel set entirely in a pre-Starbucks era coffee house. I am using a series of short stories I wrote over the years as flashbacks which allow the entire novel to be set at a coffee house. Hey, I was coffee before it was a thing so why not leverage that? Anyway, I am going to make it as fun and funny as possible. I say that because I am having a good time writing it and making it funny. Plus, I love comedy and humor. Why not leverage that?

I am getting to know myself through my art- writing, that is

The other fun part of working on Altonstreet and Philpatrick is that is I am getting to know myself better, in much the same way I did as I reworked Ironjaws, Back outta the World  and even Tripio. Thank the creator for that “insulating period” mentioned above. In looking at myself from a distance as I move through the work, I can smile at my foibles and faults as embodied by the Altonstreet character.

To be fair, I wasn’t that bad. The Altonstreet & Philpatrick stories themselves are all set in and around my collegiate years. I lived in rental double and commuted to the university. As such, it was a challenge to make new friends, especially female friends. The university in question was big enough but since it was a commuter school there was not much campus life, not many chances to meet and mingle.  But, I uncovered another valid, more personal reason for my introversion in an excerpt written around those very years that I just came across during the revising process.

Altontreet remembered an incident early last fall when he was navigating the masses in halls on his way to class. He had met eyes of a beauty who was doing the same. She wore a red sweater upon which fell a bouquet of thick black hair. For just that moment their eyes held each other’s. The rest of the students at Commuter U vanished. The next moment Altonstreet’s steps took him into the wall just next to his classroom door. He had literally walked into a wall.  Goodbye raven-haired beauty, confidence, and social life.

 

Getting to know myself a little better

There are a million directions I could take that expert. But I want to keep it focused on getting to know oneself. In my own case that excerpt gave me a chance to consider myself from a safe distance. The next line of that expert is-

Hello Philpatrick and the Trier.

In context of the novel, it helps clarify why the two aspiring but clueless wanna be writers end up spending so much time together at the coffee house (The Tasty Trier). But in real life it made me wonder if the humiliation of walking into a wall in full view a beautiful woman sent me into coffee house seclusion, into loving coffee and into an fairly introverted pastime of writing. A bit of a stretch perhaps. Maybe not. One could easily lose their way in self reflection, or even walk into the occasional emotional and spiritual wall. But as Socrates once said, “an unexamined life is not worth living.”

Be your own best friend

That may be a little harsh. Maybe he needed a little insulating period himself. In my case, the insulating period presented in my fiction allows me to look at myself less critically and seriously. I can reach back to Altonstreet and tell him “It’s OK that you embarrassed yourself in front of the beautiful young women, dumbass”. As for the work, piece, project (I’m determined to not use the word art here as I refer to my fiction), I think the insulating period gives me a chance to do something similar. I can enhance the story of A and P without the pressure and stress of the moment, which is so influential these days.

Back to “that word” to close and unify this post. I do think that there are folks who are gifted in music, painting, sculpture, and poetry in ways that others have chosen not to be. Of course these folks could be cutting lawns, balancing the company books or making bread instead. The point is that whatever we do do, no matter what we do, the most beautiful, difficult and meaningful work is to create a better you in a self-loving and ego-free way. Now that is art.

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May I help who’s next?