Lately? Caffeine and Gatorade. Anything that has some electrolytes, really. Precious, precious electrolytes.
Coffee. COfFeE. COFFFEEEEE! But then I’ve pretty much cut out everything else besides milk and water, so what do you expect?
Coffee, sriracha, lime and bubbles. But don’t taste that. I just made it up.
Memory is a tricky thing, and recalling one’s own history, scraped together from the fragments of that memory is even trickier. One of the purposes of this blog has always been to collect and record my own personal history and opinions as they occur. But in this (new) series, I’m going to try to piece together some of my long-lost pre-blog memories, moments, history, ideas, and life-episodes into something of a coherent “8ack5tory“… Enjoy!
…from the late 1980s
As I arrived home from work the other day — or was that a few weeks ago now? — I noted that the neighbor kids were selling lemonade. It couldn’t help but stir up some fond memories of my sibs and I doing the same sort of thing back in the mid-to-late-1980s, parked out on the sidewalk in front of our small-town house with a folding table and a couple lawnchairs hawking some ready-mix iced beverage to passing commuters in the heat of the mid-afternoon summer sun. And it got me thinking…
See, I grew up in a small town. Though I’ve only been back to said town on a handful of occasions since we moved away, I have a fairly strong sense of the place stuck in my head. For that reason, part of me suggests that I’d call those years formative, but really… actually… I think those years all took place before the real formative times began. I was still just a kid when we lived in the Northern Alberta town of Barrhead — a tiny spot on a map north of another spot on the map, surrounded by countless trees, vast wildernesses and farmland — and I was still young enough to be selling lemonade on the street in front of our house and not be questioned for doing just such a thing. Those were the particular years that filled the time between the whisping memories before my school days began, hazed and foggy collections of emotions and faces prior to really, truly recalling my life, and the more solidly manifested years of junior high school and beyond, from where I still remember names and events and hurtful words that were exchanged between immature kids. They were the elementary years, the time between five years old and not quite a teenager. The years of carefree summers. The months of meandering through the playground with friends. The weeks of idle skateboarding around quiet streets. The days of selling lemonade to passing cars.
The funny thing about memory is that it is a bit clingy around the edges, sticky-sweet when it comes to the oddly-recalled stuff, and punctuated in pale, whisping bursts. The neighbor kids, (who were very soon joined by Claire when she arrived home, too) were out there pushing their wares for about an hour. It seemed so patient of them. It seemed so diligent. In my mind, our own efforts have no real temporal value; they just are snapshots of having done these things, having sat on the side of the road a quarter of a century ealier with an identical intent. And I suppose we had our hours of vending fun, too, all of it a lot more innocent and much lighter than I make out now with the perspective of later years resting upon it. History and memory are like that, though, caught up like the bits of snow on the inside of a ever-growing snowball rolling across some fresh fall gathering more, and more, and more, and more until it is big enough to build something out of properly. It’s tough to grab some of that snow from the inside, pull it out to examine it, and not have all the rest come along with the mess.
The other thing is that I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of “history” lately. And what I’ve noted is that most (if not all) of history-making-and-marking seems to have a point: from the historical narrative of the telling emerges a story of something worth remembering, moments in the past cobbled together that relate the tale of then to now. It seems then that any such tale I write here should have something similar included: a story thread that takes you, the reader, from then until now.
My thread here is simply… lemonade.
I think I really hated selling lemonade. Or, at least, disliked it. I think, or so I would have myself remember it, that I’ve never been a salesman. I’ve never had the proper drive to separate a passer-by from their money. I’ve never been a true capitalist. Even there, sitting on the street as an irresistable kid on a hot summer day selling cold drinks to small town folks who couldn’t help but slow, then stop, and shell out a few meager coins for a dixie cup of refreshment… even there I had my own reluctance understood. Lemonade sales was not my cup of tea. I’ve known people who are salesmen. I currently run with a guy who is not only a salesman but revels in that fact, has philosophies and introspective ideas on that fact, and has shared with many of us a variety of — let’s call them — relationship management techniques, say for remembering names, while we’ve been out for our multi-hour runs where the conversation can go (and has gone) almost anywhere. So, when I look at a guy like Clint, I know that I am definitely not a salesman and definitely could do what he does, selling widgets and wobbles and other things, not even with a cup of lemonade.
Of course, I would go on to sell a surprisingly many things as I got older. Participating in clubs, bands, groups, and everything else that comes along with being a kid in a society with inadequate public funding for programming means one thing: you are forced to be a salesman for inexpensive door-to-door products like honey, popcorn, raffle tickets, chocolate almonds, chocolate bars, chocolate treats, and probably a list of other snacks and assorted bits I dare not even recall. So, selling lemonade for no reason other than to gather a few meager dimes from the neighbors… well, even early on it didn’t suit my personality. It never did, I think. I never has and probably never will. It is just not me.
Of course, there is always the chance I am remembering it completely wrong. There is always the chance that were I to glance back in time and quietly, unobtrusively, un-interferingly observe myself and my sibs, sitting out on the sidewalk during those dog days of summer with our pitcher of lemonade, folding table, cardboard sign, and go-get-em attitudes… well, perhaps the story would be different than I recall now over twenty-five years later. In fact, I could asusme for a moment that it is different: Let’s assume I was a salesman at heart, and that pawning off lemonade by the glass was an adventure and a challenge for my single-digit-aged self. What would that mean? What would that imply? That something about selling later in my life crushed that salesman inside me? That somewhere along the line I gave up that extroverted pitchman attitude and retreated into the realm of quiet, not-so-interested-in-selling-anything dude. It’s just a thought experiment, of course, but it would be interesting to figure out exactly where between those days as a lemonade vendor and now I lost interest.
But then growing up in a small town, I suppose, it was just the sort of thing one did. Another of the countless games we played, this one earning us some operating capital along the way: Kids sat out on the side of the road and sold lemonade. It was one of those things you almost needed to do to get a bit of cash so that you could wander, parent-less, up to the Red Rooster convenience store a couple blocks away and fill your pockets with a couple days worth of nickle candies. We would have our allowance, but it was the lemonade money, or the collecting pop cans from the local ditches and trash cans, or whatever little way that some small down pre-teens could cobble together a bit of spending coin. Necessity is the mother of both invention and desperation, it would seem — or at least when it came to sugar.
That probably also explains why I seem to recall drinking most of the lemonade ourselves.
So, ultimately it comes down to this: As I arrived home from work the other day I noted that the neighbor kids were selling lemonade, and I shortly thereafter sent my own daughter to join them — support them — with a couple bucks worth of change in her pocket. She didn’t come back for nearly half-an-hour, and whether she learned some kind of epic life-lesson, built a few soon-to-be vague and whisping memories of her own, or even planted the seeds for a lifetime of avoiding sales-type jobs like her old man… well, I don’t know and I don’t care. Just so long as she got a taste of both some family history and some of that sugary lemon-based beverage.
Ah, June… Summer is at our doorstep, the days are (almost all of them) seeming to get a little bit longer, and for the second year in a row I am partaking in my daily blogging exercise, marginally focused along a theme I’ve simply called Those 30 posts in June. No planning. No writing stuff days ahead. Just this: each day a meanderingly vague prompt drives a meanderingly vague post… and today that post just happens to be:
June 15th // Something You Are Craving
I kinda hate to admit it, but having pretty much given up most (obvious) liquid calories and made a concerted effort to avoid refined sugars for the past three months, the thing I most miss — amongst the heaps of cakes, ice creams, cookies, candies, and chocolates — is a slurpee.
This has been the first summer in — well — the duration of my conscious life, when the arrival of sun, and heat, and longer days has NOT meant a wander over to the local convenience store for a litre of frozen, flavoured, sugar water known by a variety of trademarked names — slurpee, slushie, froster, squishee, etc — but generically as a delicious and thirst-quenching slush.
Insert a dejected, self-torturing, sucks-to-be-a-grown-up sigh here.
And what else can I add about that? I’m craving — craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaving — a slush right now. I mean, it’s not like they are overflowing with calories. It’s not like they are the worst thing I could be drinking. But there is a certain symbolism that bridges the perceptive gap between sugar water and fitness, and that bridge has a toll I’m not willing to pay — at least not right now and not regularly.
The problem is this: I have two stores within walking distance of my home, and to make matters worse when the other day I walked over to the downtown grocery store where I’ve been buying my apples I noticed there — across the street — a brand new 7-11 is under construction in a small business complex. Three blocks from my office will soon be copious temptation.
Sometimes life is just pesky like that.
Now, I could go on for pages about the injustice of this, but (a) this would turn me into a bit of a middle class whiner, and (b) it’s my own self-imposed pain here. Nothing is stopping me except some kind of random, willpower-based guilt. So instead this: I’m just going to state publicly, and for the record, that I’m going to provide myself with a simple struggle-versus-reward system. From now on, following any actual race I run, I’m allowing myself a reward for my efforts: a slurpee. Fair, no?
Or maybe just convoluted… whatever.
Today marks twenty-five days of no-coffee for me and, ironically enough, I’m sitting in a cafe (on my Friday off) writing a blog post about it. Do I miss it? A little. But, I cope largely because I know it’s temporary. Most mornings I’ve compensated by drinking copious quantities of tea. While that doesn’t quite have the same kick as a solid cup of joe, it has sure been nice during this two week span of not-feeling-my-tops and down-to-below peak-operations with this quasi-flu to have an excuse to jump directly to the soothing hot liquids and cut out the middle step of a biologically-required caffeine dosage.
This morning I splurged and bought myself a london fog. Have you ever had one of those? It’s like a latte, but instead of the espresso they dunk in an earl grey teabag. It transforms into sweetish milk-like beverage infused with the smokey tang of earl grey whose taste ebbs and flows as you drink it and the ratio of milk to tea to time-spent-steeping fluxes the flavour from mild to tart to bitter and back to a cool but rich organic blur as your drain the dregs from your paper cup. Fairly awesome.
I don’t drink them often. It is a treat.
I was hoping, though, that I would discover some more conclusive evidence for the value of tea over coffee, compelling my unconscious mind (who unfortunately controls the bulk of my willpower) to tip the balance more favourably. Unfortunately the illness has been a bit of a jerk and has not returned the favour of any convenience back to the coffee-free effort. By that I mean that, all things being ideal, I would have assumed after twenty-five days to have observed some minor (if only anecdotal) benefits to my sleep or general health. But, like I said, the cold has not offered any ground on this. I’m not exactly operating under ideal circumstances, so my baseline for even the crudest of comparisons is completely shot. So, if you’ve Googled this looking for “reasons to give up coffee” or “why tea is better than coffee” or even “coffee is bad for your health” you’ll find little more here than some sad musings on the state of my inconclusive observations on account of some other more overwhelming symptoms.
Being coffee-free did have some payoff on holidays, actually. More than once I saw some frantic Disneyland park-goer bobbing from churro stall to popcorn stand, wide-eyed and urgently inquiring: “Just tell me where I can get a coffee!” Old Walt must have got his morning buzz off a “would you like a Coca-Cola Product with that” and snubbed the more refined tastes of the coffee crowd as (even counting the Kurig in our hotel room) the opportunity to acquire even the simplest paper cup full of brew was only matched in impossibility by the lack of availability of alcohol. I consumed neither on vacation — it was a family trip after all — and while I did eventually spot a few hot joe vendors scattered about the park, the disturbance to our already-disturbed routine in seeking these out each morning to satisfy any daily dosage requirements would have created additional daily pain in the ass whilst on vacation.
So, what of the effort? It’s all very silly, though, isn’t it? A blip inside of the blip of my life. An inconsequential bit of over-thought nonsense: wherein some introspective-neurons inside of a bag of biological goop (ie, me) opts not to strain some other biological goop (ie, coffee) through a nutrient absorbing hose that happens to be running through the bag of goop’s bag of goop, all for the sole purpose of discovering if in not doing so fires a satisfying collection of different neurons and generates a net positive (or net negative) experience for the bag of goop’s interaction with the rest of the multiverse. We’re doing this all the time, trying to figure out odd little ways to make our lives as organic blobs slightly more satisfying. Weird, the things we do, no?
Alas… an observation and a conclusion: All in all I would say it’s been a good experience. But as I’ve tried to carefully couch leading up to that: who can really say — and who really cares, actually. It’s just me doing this thing and — in a few reflective moments in a noisy cafe — reflecting on it all. I’ve learned a few things about myself. And I’ve recorded some very much cause-and-effect data points in the relationship between my brain and caffeine. But, if none of that is important or interesting in the long game, I have definitely discovered I really do like a good london fog.