Tripio The Novel

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

  When my sons were much younger they loved dinosaurs, specifically the animated series of movies starring a group of singing dinosaurs called The Land before Time. Now they are young men out on their own in this world holding down jobs, concomitant adult responsibility and doing a damn fine job of making their way in this land.

I watched those movies with my sons those twenty plus years ago on prehistoric format known as VHS.  At that point in my life I had just left a career at a burning fuse of a coffee company called Starbucks. Why? Well, my historical fiction novel,Tripio was written partly to explore that. For today’s post I am focusing on that very time when most of the country was watching VHS, driving with both hands on the wheel and drinking coffee from gas stations – a country I now call The Land before Starbucks”.  

   I have been blogging for just the past two years. There is a dinosaur tie- in there somewhere. Give me to end of this post, I’ll find it.

In Tripio, Jay’s prehistoric coffee landscape does share much with the one in which the modern barista roams. Tripio is three plots and narratives alongside and intertwined with each other. The Starbucks growth narrative is told from a barista’s perspective. Jay starts out as a barista and even when promoted up the chain to store manager, Jay is a barista at heart. After being promoted Jay still takes pride in his performance on the espresso bar at his current store on Diversey in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. He realizes that he must display mastery of the espresso  bar for the customers and store functionality, but mostly to”earn the respect of everyone he works with.” This was the time when Jay (me) cared about how you drank your coffee. Yet, it was not even the first time, nor even close to being the last time Jay, I mean yours truly, cared about how you drink your drip coffee, latte or mocha. Let’s see, I cared about how you took your coffee when I worked at The Oregon Street Coffee House, Boston Stoker, Starbucks, Barnes and Noble Cafe, Aramark Refreshment Services, Filterfresh Coffee, Hubbard and Cravens Coffee, Julian Coffee Roasters and Harvest Coffee Roasters. Did I miss anyone?

In any case, all my coffee extensive and varied coffee experience came before I came to know blogging. In that way consider myself a dinosaur. Yet I also consider myself a heritage barista, spiritual great uncle to thousands and thousands off baristas come and gone since the start of the first Bush presidency. I was the water of the “first wave” of the modern coffee landscape we now see manifested on street corners, malls, airports and grocery stores. And much like the singing dinosaurs, I once knew, I did go extinct. Unlike them, however, it was partially it was by choice. Now, back and blogging about coffee, I can very honestly say, I do not care how you take your coffee. You see, I’ve been there and done that for real. I once had to care about how you took your coffee because it earned me the money I had to make in order to keep food on the table, to feed my dino-loving sons. I HAD to know, memorize and prepare your coffee drinks. I did so to keep my income coming and my life going. Then, I truly cared about how you took your coffee. The flip side is that I don’t care about how you take your coffee now. So, I am not to use coffee as click bait. By that I also mean that I care about you as readers and followers of this blog too much all to tell you I care, and want to know, now, just to get a couple cheap clicks. That honesty and work ethic kept me working in coffee for all those companies for about 25 years total. I will apply those traits to my career in blogging, no matter the duration.

Stepping off my high eohippus, I have to admit that I actually enjoy responding to click bait once in a while. Just don’t expect it from me here. I am reasonably sure that dinosaurs didn’t sing. And this coffee dinosaur doesn’t have to pretend like he can.

                                      “May I help who’s next”

    To submit a query, please use the form below. Please fill out all fields. If an agent wishes to read your submission, he or she will contact you in response to your query, usually within 6-8 weeks.

    Which agent would like to submit to?

https://www.fineprintart.com/art/history-of-the-starbucks-logo

    There she is. My agent. She and I actually worked together in the early 1990’s so it may not seem entirely fair for me to call on our old relationship to help me get Tripio published. But, when I asked her directly she didn’t say no. Nor did she send a rejection email. I didn’t even have to tell her “Why I chose her to submit to”. No need for a publication history. No need to create a query letter. And since we already knew each other, I didn’t even have to submit a bio.

   I first thought of looking up her old contact information again when I was close to halfway through the “memoir” version of Tripio. I was beginning to realize that the piece I started was going to be a novel. I was noticing that if I had told anyone what I was writing then, I said I was working on a “Starbucks novel.’ I tried not to look ahead but as the writing continued I knew that the “Starbucks Novel” was how I would have to sell the book. No one would care about an unknown writer who had just finished a novel. Boring. But, someone out there, reading my query with a Starbucks in his or her hand, may just be intrigued by Tripio.

   When the time came, I did find her old contact information. I was told by her gatekeeper that she was closed to queries for at least six months. In a rare show of self-belief and conviction I insisted on at least leaving a message. I told the gatekeeper that I would be remembered because when the two of us worked together at Starbucks there were only 450 employees and it felt like everyone knew each other.

   Wouldn’t you know it, she called me back the next day. I didn’t have to wait 6-8 weeks. We hit it off again just like old times. I told her I was a lot older now but felt great. And she replied that she has gotten a little less willing “to show some skin” like she did when I first met her. I asked about the old guard. She said she doesn’t see much of them anymore but she was sure they’d love to read Tripio. It was her idea that I send blurb requests to Howard Behar and Kevin Knox. And she was right, they have both said yes.

    We caught up for a few more minutes but she had to go. A lot of Starbucks are still opening around the world and she couldn’t talk too long. She also said that Howard Schultz was writing his own book and wished me luck on mine. I hung up, regretting that I had not given her my contact information so we could stay in touch. Wait a minute- no I don’t! She had hung up without asking for a percentage.

                               “May I help who’s next?”


                  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.

 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….

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     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, did 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 in turn led to anticipation of a pot of
Columbus, Ohio’s 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. 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:

   “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. My whole weekend will be shot to hell. 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.

     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...” 

  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 down, the man was quite reasonable. For the purposes of this post the only words of interest were 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 I convinced myself were very real outcomes as I thought them up at three this morning, 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 -yes- but with observation and some slightly courageous action, we can tell some of those thoughts to take a hike, or in this case a short walk in your jammies. So, walk down the grass alley to the source of your fears- coffee optional but recommended- and call them out. You’ll sleep a whole lot better.

                                                “May I help who’s next?”

It is. But he wasn’t asking me. The young man checking me out at Von’s on the campus of Purdue University had asked his colleague if my purchase, Don Quixote, was fiction. With the category clarified, he returned to face me with an apology along the lines that he “should know”. Being who I am, I began a lengthy response intended to soothe the young man’s emotional state. It began with a rambling explanation of why I had decided to buy Don Quixote downstairs in the wonderful, cramped, used book section which is the basement of Von’s, and ended with me apologizing to him for my ever learning to read in the first place.

I steeped outside intending meet my son and his friend, who were finding food somewhere nearby, the used copy of Don Quixote in hand. I will sticky note, highlight, mark-up, toss around as well as read this very copy- next summer. Oh, I didn’t buy it for this year as I have other books to read yet, porch reading weather permitting. Don Quixote is reserved for next summer’s porch reading. It has become a tradition for me to let a “classic” or two come to me and then read them outside on my front porch where my ability to concentrate seems easier to access than indoors. Don will have to wait his turn.

My mind and my feet then headed for the venerable Rice Cafe for the rendezvous. About a half block out of Von’s they went their separate ways, as is the norm. My mind took me back to this summer’s reading. It has included lots of Oscar Wilde, Hamlet. The Shakespeare Requirement, some H.E. Bates, the Bhagavad-Gita and The Longest Road by Philip Caputo. I had taken The Longest Road and Tristam Shandy with me on my annual vacation trip to the Ohio River. This is a highlight week of the summer reading campaign. I was encamped in my delightful reading space on the deck facing the Ohio River on a almost too warm summer afternoon. The deck is raised two stories off the ground in case the Ohio River chooses to flood. I can reach out and touch branches and leaves while the river flows by me, powerfully indifferent. It is a wonderful spot to place the mind on a book.

That afternoon some clouds formed rather quickly. This happens almost daily on the river. Since the deck space has a roof covering half of it so I did not stop reading The Longest Trip. My mind on the book, on the deck on the river, I did not, at first, notice that it did start to rain this time. I heard a “smack!” about two feet in front of me at eye level. I looked up from my book. A large leaf was still shaking and a few tiny drops of water were dripping of it. The leaf had been hit by drop of rain. The sound was so clear and close that it caught my attention. The leaf waved gently up and down a few times in confirmation of what I heard. A few scattered small drops of water clung to the leaf. “That” I thought, “Is what reading is.”

Is Don Quixote fiction? Hamlet? The Gita? The Longest Trip? It don’t matter. Categories are created to help us find books in book stores. The “Best of” and “Must read” books lists can be useful but reading what is prescribed implies that it is your fault that you are sick. At the core, reading a book is simply energy meeting energy. Like drop of rain hitting a leaf.

That moment of the raindrop falling from the sky among uncountable others on its never before falling path, hitting one leaf from uncountable others from a tree on its own slower, steadier, original to it, path was, for me, my mind colliding with my book. Not just The Longest Trip, but Tristam Shandy, Hamlet, all of my summer reading, in fact all the books I have ever read. It makes perfect sense to me. If only perhaps, because I have written a novel and am rewriting another do I came to this realization. The mind is constantly moving. Easy enough to see. Yet, I think, so is a novel, or any book for that matter. I put energy into Tripio. It is held there for the reader-there a few of you out three-to take that energy into their own mind. When they meet a unique combination of energy is created. The raindrop and leaf replicated.

Where does that leave me? Still looking for the Rice Cafe. I got a little lost. I hadn’t been on Purdue’s campus for a couple years. As for Don, he will have to wait his turn. I wanted to go back to Von’s and tell the young man who checked me out that Don Quixote should be filed under “mental energy’ or “leaf meets raindrop.’ But , luckily for him, after a couple more blocks, I stumbled upon the Rice Cafe.

“May I help who’s next?”

For years now, I have had a day off during the week. My job has been one set up on a four day, ten hour weekly schedule. The ten hour days usually started at six or six thirty and often exceeded the scheduled ten hours. Draining physically and leaving nothing in the tank for the remains of the day, the four days could suck. Yet, that weekday off more than made up for it. It freed me to make appointments, clean the house, run errands, plan the calendar for the upcoming weekend and generally feel good about not going into work on a random weekday. Most importantly the day created time for me to write. To write in the morning. And I mean the ass-grabbing early mornings, often staring starting before five. I figured if I had to get up really early to trudge to work, then I could surely get up early to do something I really wanted to do.

Maximum Embellishment: VINTAGE CALENDAR JUNE 1910

I even came to understand that my physical body was not in charge. If I set the intention to write early on my day off, my mind woke me as reliably as any alarm would or could. Off I went to write. It has worked for years now, as I said. I wrote and rewrote “Back outta the World.” I wrote Tripio for the first, second and third times. I launched a blog that has just recently hit 100 followers,which took nearly 100 posts to achieve (Gratitude to you all). My output was fueled by coffee and the certainty that the mornings were, as Maya Angelou said about her writing, “the only time I felt I was any good.”

Then comes the Pandemic. Don’t get me wrong. I feel fortunate, like somehow I had a ticket on the Pandemic Express and it blew past my stop. I kept my job, no one I know well has been hospitalized and I have kept a sense of normalcy in my overall life. Except that work changed it’s schedule. Not an uncommon response for these times. This meant a disruption to my daily life, and I felt, possible disaster to my writing life.

My weekday of assured, productive writing was gone. Like that. The time I knew, I knew I could write as well as I was going to write all week was gone. The reasons for knowing that time would be productive are baked into those 100 posts I mentioned earlier. The quick and dirty being that by the time one sits down to write it may already be to late. (A tease for anyone new to this blog). Sure, I could write weekend mornings, but they have a different sort of pull to them. I have been getting up early again every morning before work but have only time to re-work Back outta the World– literally a paragraph at a time – then it’s off to the salt mines. As I write this, I have to smile to myself because this scene recalls Jay in Tripio, “bargaining with himself” for a couple more minutes of writing the same book, before he races out of his apartment to catch a bus for his shift at his Starbucks three decades ago. Whoever said, “Writing is mostly rewriting“, was not wrong.

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Inner dialogue follows below

“Just write in the evenings, dumb ass, you have the time these days

Easy for me to say. What if I suck? When I wake up, clear headed, free of the scattering five senses, I can easily access my wonderful, bountiful mind. Then and there when it is all so easily available, so effortlessly harvested. I have done this for years and know it works. Before all the rest of the day and the world find it begin to take it from me. I know it works. I’ve seen it take shape on the screen in front of me. What if I won’t be any good in the evenings or even late afternoons.??

I was left with no choice to change my tried and true method. My blogs were falling behind. Rick, T and Jay from Back outta the World were still stuck in the hills of Virginia on their way to Mexico. Yet, I was still not quite ready to commit to any new method until one recent Sunday when I found myself on a friend’s porch on a beautiful humidity free morning. We were listening to and watching a religious service being live streamed. The message of the service was simple: that we live in a world where all the answers are at our fingertips, in our phones, laptops, podcasts and you name it. And with all that it is more difficult to do anything without knowing the answer, or most of it beforehand. The catch was that all that knowledge may not help us. It can, at times, be better to for our mind, body and soul to not know the answers beforehand.

Do something which requires faith” This line came out of the laptop at me like I was the only one listening. Thinking back, I was. My friend had dashed inside to refill her coffee. And the service was being live streamed to an empty church. So, don’t dwell too much on that line. But at that moment, I knew that I had to go on faith with my writing. Do something that requires faith. I will write on faith. Any writer must, really. If it doesn’t come easily, I will work on it, find a way to access my writing mind. I will work on it while holding on to the belief and faith that I can find my wonderful, bountiful, distraction free, writing mind at a time that is not of my choosing.

‘May I help who’s next?”

 I feel like I’ve hit a wall. Not creatively. That doesn’t really happen to me. As I say repeatedly, I do most of my writing away from this keyboard. In fact, I have spent the last two days “writing”the next story for my Altonstreet & Philpatrick series. These stories are in line to be novelized in a couple years, after my coming of age novel, Ironjaws. This is all part of my glorious 5 year plan, which I just posted.  A good deal of the 5 year plan content has been written. But not all of it. I take comfort in knowing that what I will need is already there. I know where to find it. Not in the pen or in the keyboard or in the advice of others. It will be there when I need it. I will find it there when the time comes: Waiting for me in my mind, which is free and never closed.



      That being said,  I had a temporary derailment. A crisis of confidence over whether to keep all this going. This. What I am doing now. Getting up at quarter till 5, turning on the radio to classical station on low volume and writing. Why am I doing this? To what end? For approval? For sales of Tripio? Is it a hobby?  Is my writing the equivalent of art on the walls of a hospital or local coffee house? I suppose all these questions were triggered by me finishing Back outta the World. A day or two of quiet, personal celebration followed. I then began to search for an editor. Three responses and three strikes. All strikes due to reasons as random as the separate paths of falling leaves.

    I feel like I should clarify that I do not feel as if the Pandemic is primarily responsible for the stasis. In fact, I believe I am doing a damn good job of living through it, giving it  the time and attention it requires but not attaching extra worry and mental energy to it. To go further, I believe I have directed that mental energy that could be anxiety and worry to better places.

   That being said,  I was told in the search for editors  that “I can’t write fiction”. Fair enough. But In that opinion, comment, analysis I found the reason I go on writing. I write because I have to.  I simply have to write. Oh, don’t hear it as anything grand, like I was born to write or the like. I ain’t’ that pretentious.  In writing I have simply discovered a great way to use the time given me time between 5-7 am. I cannot sleep in. In these early morning hours, I have tried hating myself, my past and my future. I have tried crouching in the shower clutching  a mug of coffee and praying that a new man would step out of the shower when that mug is done. I don’t like that quite as much.

I write because it is part of something bigger. It is part of my mind exercise routine I’ve been doing nearly every morning for years now   I write also because I care about what I am writing about. It is now a constant in my life. I value my writing and it, in turn, keeps my mind, body and soul going in positive, productive directions.

Red Apron recipe below

A another positive attribute to writing that will never show up on any Amazon graph is that writing keeps one’s mind on the present! As we all know, past and future can distract, derail and even nearly destroy us. If we let it. And, is it ever easy! The focused intention on what we are doing when we write forces us to keep our mind in a productive, positive place, almost by default. What you are writing doesn’t matter much here, and it shouldn’t. You are simply taking your mind out for some cardio or resistance training. You will notice that the mind will repay you for it, just as the body does when it is exercised. You simply feel better all day.

I can’t control other people’s opinions. I can only control that I care about what I am writing. Which in the end, is the only writing worth doing. 

                                       “May I help who’s next?”

      This week was a momentous one on the journey to publish Tripio. In a previous post I detailed the final approval and legal transfer of the art from the locally grown artist who produced the original cover. A few days later, my tech support dropped by and put Tripio in line to be approved for presale by Amazon.

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    I rose this morning with the expectation of working most all the weekend on the marketing, promoting and selling of Tripio. This time last year I was  actually writing the novel. The only similarity I see in the years is that the weather is cold, grey and unappealing. It is the kind of weather that uncovers an ugly Midwestern city outside. I can find no real motivation to take part in that, hence it is a good weekend to stay in and write. No, wait, I can’t. That was last winter.

       

      Hey, I am not bitching at all. I voluntarily took on the direct publishing of Tripio myself (with the help of dozens of others). One of the benefits of direct publishing is the freedom to make all the decisions yourself. Of course, the balancing out of it is that you have to actually create the time and energy to make and implement the results of those decisions. But that is part of the challenge and fun of it all.

   Yet, I was a double espresso and regular cup of coffee into this morning and I wasn’t feeling it. I could not get going on this exciting new phase on the life of Tripio. A moment ago, I was standing in my kitchen pouring drip cup number two into my mug, when a line from the Big Lebowski popped into my head… “All the dude ever wanted was his rug back.” I stopped pouring just before the coffee overflowed. I had captured what I was feeling about the writing of Tripio. All I ever wanted was to write that book.

                                

  And indeed, I did “write” Tripio. For my blog’s raison d’etre though, I amended this line 18 months later to re-emphasize that what I really did was create the space and energy for Tripio to be accessed. Or in the Dude’s words, I abide.

I miss writing it now. As true today as it was when this post was first published. During that creative process I found strength in myself I never knew I had. With assistance from therapy, metaphysics, yoga and a lot more, I was able to unpack and discard things I no longer needed to carry. I also reached out of my vast yet tiny comfort zone, found fears there, and kicked their asses. Writing Tripio has helped me in the day to day world as well. At work, for example, I am now described as “most improved “and  “content”. That is, I believe, a byproduct of undertaking the challenge of writing Tripio.

   Nobody put a gun to my head and made me attempt to publish and sell Tripio. In fact, I may be undergoing a sort of postpartum separation period now as Tripio heads out to be a mere commodity and transaction. The Dude’s rug was no flying carpet. Yet Tripio took me places almost magically. For me the comparison holds up because, like the Dude and his rug, the writing of Tripio really tied my life together.

                                                “May I help who’s next?”

These long summer days find us making due in any way we can. Lots of adapting, adopting and refitting our summer this year to accommodate the Pandemic.

One thing all this has done for me is that it has triggered memories of times when I had to make my own fun. The long summer days like these recall my youth playing fast pitch tennis ball, shooting hoops and causing general havoc with my gang of friends. The best make shift diamond for the baseball games was a location we called Sohio Field, so named because it was an empty field that bordered property owned by the Sohio Gas Company. The field was just the right dimensions for a pick up baseball game for the half dozen or so of us, altering the Home Run Derby rules as we needed based on the number of us who made it the that day’s game. By late summer we were experienced at making our own fun. The 10 foot high chain link fence erected by the Sohio company provided the perfect outfield wall. Anyone of us would gladly give up a tennis ball to be able to blast one over that fence. Needless to say, we usually walked back with a full compliment of tennis balls.

SOHIO Metal Gas Station Pump Sign Standard Oil Ohio Boron Ad logo Mechanic Shop

On the way to Sohio Field from my friend’s house stood the lawn of Old Man Meese. His yard ran parallel to my friends, a few lawns closer to Sohio Field. On the way to the game we had enough energy to ignore the open green space, which if cut through would eliminate about 30 seconds of the trip to Sohio field and home run hitting glory. On the way back however, tired, thirsty and having to get home for dinner, it was a different story. The trip through Old Man Meese’s sedulously kept lawn was too tempting not consider cutting through.

Yet we knew old man Meese prized his thick green grass, every single blade. He spent so much time out there, we thought it possible he named each and every blade. If we ran across that sacred space we would be at reaching into my friend’s fridge for cold can of Mountain Dew a half minute sooner. So tempting. But Old Man Meese was always vigilant and would surely yell at us, heaping abuse on us as we ran across his property. Yet the lawn was sitting there, an open space to be used for our benefit. Where was the harm? Old man Meese’s blades of grass would recover and life would go on.

As I write this post, attempting to make my own fun on this long summer day, I am listening to a public radio jazz show on low volume. It has no commercials. But a PSA just came on. Now my phone just buzzed. I have received a notification from Facebook that someone somewhere did something. I have to look. Phone now in hand I checked. A FB friend posted that his pet parrot has been taught to ride their golden retriever. Fighting back tears of joy, I now feel that I have to check my email. Since interest rates are historically low, I have been considering the possibility of re- financing the house. My phone knows this and my screen is covered with tiny mortgage rate ads, embedded with even tinier “x-s”, put there to help to eliminate those ads. But I don’t want this. The little x-s are nearly impossible to use for their intended purpose- they are so small! Now pissed, I give up on the rate search. To calm down, I check the weather. I must know if it is 85 or 86 degrees right now. Wait! I catch myself. I’m sitting at my dining room window. I can see, feel and practically touch the weather!

I toss the phone down. Damn kids – stay off my lawn! No, wait. I’m back to the post. My lawn. F***. Where was I? Making my own fun. Summers past. Old Man Meese. Me. I get it now. Old Man Meese spent so much time and effort on his lawn. I’ve done the same with this blog, these posts. His lawn. My Mind. Now I get why he didn’t want us cutting across his lawn. I’ve turned into crabby Old Man Meese. Every blade of grass was sacred to him. Every thought sacred to my mind. I don’t want a stranger stepping on my thoughts. It pisses me off. Where is my intetnt it all of this? I was having such a fine time, making my own fun. Damn kids!

“May I help who’s next?”

A red apron recipe-practices to put your mind in writing shape

This year I celebrated New Year’s Day on my yoga mat in my garage. 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. But, in the case of New Year’s Day, this is not be good for advertisers, alcohol sales, and the people who make the pointy party hats. Since we are all unique and wonderful as 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 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.

Mine 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.

And 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 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 river bank 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, flyers for Tripio events, 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.

Then, on one of the days of the summer vacation when the river seems receptive I head to the shore with this years 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. I take some breathes as I review the array of glued and stapled reminders of the year. 10post it from last August with Tripio’s Amazon sales figure 9- a sticker I was given to wear declaring I had been scanned 8 -reminder card for a trip to the dentist-7-a appointment reminder card for therapy 6– quick concept sketch for cover of Back outta the World 5– flyer for a Tripio event 4- post it to remind myself to renew WordPress account 3 a card I wrote over twenty years ago to the mother of my adult kids 2– receipt from a trip to Kroger- and at 1I through it as far as I can through it! I release this year’s drift log. It take its time coming down upon the indifferent water. It splashes, settles for a second or two and begins it’s 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 Years Eve. 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. I will begin to incorporate them into my life in a few days on my yoga mat as I mentioned above.

I will follow up on this red apron recipe post in the very near future. I really prefer not to do that. I did not intend for it to become two parts. Oh well, why attach?

May I help who’s next?

     “Who would read a novel about Starbucks?” I asked the facilitator of my “Author Development” class. Her answer would be important to me. After all, I had just written one. She looked my way and made eye contact for a moment. She then looked out above my head towards the wall behind me in order to give herself a second to think.

    I have been getting a bunch of good info and intel in this class. Just to clarify a bit, this wasn’t a class on developing oneself as an actual writer. This class was directed towards creating a brand and finding an audience for one’s work. The facilitator, Darice of  www.thepowercollective.net , has been successful in building her own brand and business based upon a book she released some years ago. Granted, her title was non-fiction and Tripio is a work of fiction, set at a Starbucks in Chicago in the summer of 1992. However, the book market globally is worth $145 billion dollars. With that in mind I took this three class course hoping I could get something from her wisdom. And maybe even some of that money.

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    During the first two classes, I discovered that there are a lot of people out there who want to help get your book published. A quick click or two reveals zillions of podcasts, books on selling books, websites, seminars,  and blogs offering a dizzying variety of solutions on how to get your book placed in the right genre, at the right time, in the right place at the right price with the right cover. I wrote Tripio with none of that in mind. I was also discovering that it would have been wiser to find a genre, a category, a searchable title, a clickable cover, a banner-ed headline for that cover and lots more before taking a book to market. Possibly before even writing said book. I felt like I had a lot of catching up to do.

    Fortunately for me, Darice had spent considerable time and trouble navigating this 145 billion dollar ocean so I was all ears awaiting her response to my question. She returned her gaze from the wall to look me in the eyes to answer “Coffee drinkers.”

    Eureka!  Starbucks is a coffee company isn’t it?  I had forgotten that even in my own book, the protagonist, Jay, responds to the want ad from Starbucks because.” About the only real qualification I have is that I’m a coffee lover.” During this course, I was beginning to feel that it would have been easier to write the novel everyone else was telling me I should be writing. Easier to market, to categorize, to sell. Darice’s response was a lifeline thrown to me treading water in a vast ocean of advice, websites and SEO.

  In Tripio Jay does get the job at Starbucks partly because he loves coffee. I started Tripio partly because I love to write. Something worth reading must have come out of that combination, right? As I mentioned earlier, this was not a class on developing oneself as a writer. Darice knew her brand building. I did get lots out of the classes. However, In my case, I was relieved I did things backward. I have since come to think that once one starts chasing all this wonderful advice and data, before one sits down to write their novel, that vast, unpredictable ocean can take that work down to it’s depths- never to be seen again.

“May I help who’s next?”