the coffee chronicles

I wrote last April about my ill-fated encounter with coffee. Still, I never totally abandoned the thought that I might in some way want to enjoy a little coffee now and again.

MelittaSome weeks back I bought the smallest jar of instant coffee I could find to see if that were the case. I found I was enjoying my instant coffee, and I knew that I would enjoy drip ground coffee even more. One of my problems last time around was that I had difficulty finding a single-cup cone locally. This time I did the simple thing: I ordered it from Amazon. It showed up right away. I also ordered a reusable filter. At the store I made sure the coffee I bought was ground and not whole beans (another mistake from last time around) along with a supply of filters that held me until the reusable one showed up from an Amazon third-party vendor.

I bought a coffee measure at our local Kitchen Collection store, making sure that I had my blinders on, locating what I needed and getting out of the store as quickly as possible (after paying, of course).

I’ve figured out the right level of coffee to scoop into the measure and am now enjoying a cup or two of coffee each weekday morning.

reading a physical book?

On Friday I brought home a physical book from the library to read. Really?

Really. It’s true.

You know that I have long been a reader of eBooks, especially Amazon Kindle books. You also know that I have become a big fan of the public library, and I have checked out a number of eBooks since I got my card in September. But now I’ve actually walked into the library and checked out a paper book.

LastoftheWineI read a glowing review of the new book The Just City on the NPR Web site, and the reviewer suggested that the classic novel by Mary Renault, The Last of the Wine, was good background before launching into the new book. My library doesn’t have an eBook copy of The Last of the Wine, and the Amazon price is $9.99 for the Kindle edition, which seemed a bit much for a book that was first published in 1956 and which I would be reading as background for another book. (I have to admit that the Kindle price for the trade paperback is $13.13, although a used copy can be had for far less.)

I opened up the library’s iPad app and quickly saw that my local branch of the county library system had a copy on the shelf. I added the library to my list of errand stops on Friday and picked it up.

That works.

ocean time

I don’t understand why Terry and I take the time to go to the ocean so infrequently. Sunset State Beach, the closest beach to us, is less than an hour away, is relatively uncrowded, and parking is free because of the pass that came with our California State Parks Foundation membership. We don’t give ourselves that anywhere near often enough.

Yesterday we did, and it was a relaxing, soothing, healing time.

To more afternoons like that.


photo credit: Terry Cobb

Sacred Music Friday: Hail, Gladdening Light

Hail, Gladdening Light – Brisbane Concert Choir. The video isn’t great, but the music is marvelous.

two by Barbara Brown Taylor

AltarintheWorldAn Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
Barbara Brown Taylor
HarperCollins e-books; Reprint edition (October 6, 2009), 244 pages
Kindle Edition $1.99, Amazon paperback $11.90



LearningtoWalkintheDarkLearning to Walk in the Dark
Barbara Brown Taylor
HarperOne (April 8, 2014), 213 pages
Kindle Edition $14.99, Amazon Hardcover $21.06
Kindle edition purchased during a HarperOne sale for $1.99

I have long been a big fan of Barbara Brown Taylor. I have been reading her books since I first became part of the Episcopal Church. She was for many years an Episcopal priest in a small town in Georgia. She was particularly known for her preaching. Her first several books were collections of her sermons, and they were all very useful to me as I became part of the liturgical tradition. Eventually she left the priesthood to become a professor in a small college in Georgia. She documents her journey in Leaving Church. One of the many factors that caused her to leave was the fact that her preaching was so renowned that busloads of homiletic aficionados crowded out members of her congregation on Sunday mornings.

An Altar in the World and Learning to Walk in the Dark follow Leaving Church. Taylor’s earlier books revolve around Biblical themes and images. This is to be expected, since Episcopal sermons are based on the lectionary, the assigned scripture readings for the week. These two books are very much autobiographical.

An Altar in the World focuses on finding God outside the four walls of the church. Several passages in the book fall into the category of TMI – too much information. I did not need to read all of the details about her horse riding accident or the death of her father. Still there is much in this book that resonates with me. Taylor writes:

quoteIn my life so far, I have been a babysitter, an Avon lady, a cashier, a cheese-packer, a horseback riding instructor, a nursing unit clerk, a cocktail waitress, a secretary, a newspaper reporter, an editor, a fund-raiser, a special events coordinator, a teacher of creative writing, a hospital chaplain, a pastor, a preacher, and a college professor—and those are just the jobs that I have been paid for.

That makes me feel better about my varied work career as an adult. Taylor admits that she is not terribly good at prayer, something I totally understand. She also spends a good deal of time discussing the modern Jewish practice of Sabbath. She writes, “One thing I wish were mine is a proper Friday evening Shabbat service, beginning with the lighting of two candles when three stars can be counted in the darkening sky.” I relate big time. But that’s a topic for another blog entry.

Learning to Walk in the Dark is about what the title suggests. The darkness, as you might surmise, is both physical and metaphorical. Taylor writes about how darkness is almost universally portrayed as a negative. She points out that this negative perspective applies to every single reference to darkness in the Bible. She tells us that there is much to learn from the dark. She writes that the night is more nuanced than the day in that the sun is the sun, but the moon has phases. Each chapter in the book is based on one of the phases of the moon.

With these two books my appreciation for Barbara Brown Taylor continues.

Early Bird Books

The ads on Facebook are not completely useless. Every once in a long while you see something worthwhile. Some months back an ad appeared on my news feed for Early Bird Books. It promised discounts on eBooks. I clicked the link and was taken to a simple, spare Web page where there was a field to enter my email address and the promise of a daily email with eBook special pricing.

earlybirdbooksIt’s all legit. I signed up and each Monday through Friday I get an email for discounted eBooks. As you might expect there are no new titles here, but there’s a wide variety of backlist titles. There will be four or five books at $1.99 or $2.99, and usually one book, generally a classic in the public domain, for free.

Most of the prices expire the same day the newsletter is issued. I didn’t take that seriously, but one day they listed the Erica Jong novel Sappho’s Leap on sale for $1.99. I went back to Amazon a day or two later and it was back to $7.99.

I have acquired a couple of books via Early Bird. I got Michael Chabon’s book of essays, Maps and Legends for $1.99, and I got the Tolkien precursor, The Worm Ouroboros by E. R. Eddison, for free.

Not a bad deal. One small email delivered to your In box five days a week, and you never know what you might uncover.

all our yesterdays

An Olive Street recollection.

I started a new novel on Friday evening. The title is All Our Yesterdays. It’s the story of a group of friends over the years starting in 1968 in Berkley. The story opens with the narrator talking about the party he and his roommate held in their small, grungy apartment off campus at the beginning of their sophomore year. A review will no doubt be forthcoming, but what I have to write about today is the memories that the initial scene evoked.

These are thoughts that I have shared before, but I haven’t gone there is a while. When I graduated from Pitzer College in Claremont in 1975 I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving Claremont. I stayed in town becoming what we called a Claremont cockroach. I shared an apartment on Olive Street with my friend George. And it’s that place that the opening pages of All Our Yesterdays evoked.

George was the consummate computer nerd in a day when that meant working at a remote time-sharing terminal connected to a mainframe. Though George was one of those rare few who had access to the sacred Computer Room. I became well acquainted Alison, his girlfriend, since George was often off writing a program when he was supposed to be spending time with her. Alison and I became the best of friends. There was Anne, the butch dyke and Ann her willowy femme lover. There was Julie who lived in an apartment upstairs on whom I had a terrible crush. Eric and Jim lived across the hall. After George moved to Westwood my roommate for a while was another Jim, about whom the less said the better. I then shared the apartment with Beth, a Scripps College sophomore.

There was my job at the B. Dalton/Pickwick bookstore in Montclair Plaza. There was the strip shopping center right across the road from the apartment. It contained a somewhat run-down Safeway where we did a lot of our grocery shopping. It also had an old-fashioned newsstand which carried pretty much every magazine, including titles such as the The Village Voice and the New York Review of Books. It housed the laundromat where we did all of our laundry.

Such, such were the joys. Though that and $3.25 will get you a grande decaf cappuccino, dry. (With apologies to George Orwell and Boston Pobble.)