Of beans and books and possibility…

About six days a week I drive past a little shop on Main Street that specializes in providing whole coffee beans and tea leaves to the more discerning hot beverage enthusiasts in the surrounding area. About once a month I stop in and pick up a pound of really good beans and sample of whatever brew they’re serving up that day. It’s the kind of shop I like to think I’d own if I had any interest in being a shop owner or working with the public in any way.

One of the charming features of this shop in particular is that they’ve blown out a wall to open their space into the neighboring building that does business as part antique shop / part used book store. There’s something in the scent combination of several hundred pounds of coffee and tea mixed with old objects and aging paper that just appeals to me. For whatever reason, I enjoy it and the shop owners seem to enjoy taking my money so it’s a win-win for all involved.

Sometimes I find a few things worth adding to the shelf, other times not, but until my last visit it’s always been a happy experience either way. On my last stop for coffee and a good rummage through the shelves, a youngish human, female type, injected herself into my personal space and struck up a conversation – mostly about the shop, the books, and general pleasantries. It’s not the kind of activity I usually encourage, but she was brunette and pleasing to look at and didn’t “like” or “you know” her way through the English language. She showed me a few of the books cradled in her arms and then asked what I was reading.

Right there, you see, is where I should have read the question as a danger sign. Instead of offering up something blandly inoffensive or popular or even one of the old classics, I had to open my mouth and gush about the intriguing book I was currently reading about the 6th ship in the Royal Navy to carry the name HMS Warspite and its service from Jutland to the end of World War II. I clearly missed the part where her eyes glazed over, but the “uh, that’s… uh, nice” as she suddenly found renewed interest in the stacks was unmistakable. I can’t help but remark on the grand irony of being torpedoed because of my great love of British naval history.

So that’s the story of beans and books and possibly squandered because I wasn’t smart enough to disengage half my brain and approach with caution. Next time I’m just going to say I’m reading Harry Potter for the 3rd time and try to avoid any topic that might hint that I’m anything more than a redneck in a golf shirt. Go ahead and file that under lessons learned.

Valentine…

And now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for my annual tribute to Valentine and his day. Enjoy.

JEFFREYTHARP.COM

Cupid_is_CreepyAccording to the legend, Valentine was an early Christian priest who defied Imperial edict and performed illegal marriage ceremonies for Roman soldiers. The emperor forbade such marriages in order to prevent his troops from becoming too fond of home and hearth and therefore unwilling to depart its comforts for life in a far flung garrison towns on the edge of empire. By order of Claudius II, Valentine was arrested, charged, and convicted of treason. While awaiting the sentence of death to be carried out, Valentine seduced the young daughter of the jailer. For his crimes against the state, Valentine was beaten, stoned, and beheaded in 270 AD… Which means to show the love we have for one another, each year on February 14th the western world celebrates the execution of a convicted traitor and pedofile.

From all of us at jeffreytharp.com to all of you out there on the internet…

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Ashley Madison slept here or, The importance of knowing thyself…

The Ashley Madison hack resulted in 30 million or so potentially unfaithful mates having their email addresses, phone numbers, credit card, and physical address information published yesterday. I’m the very last person in America who’s going to go on a moralistic rant about the virtue or vice of infidelity. It’s not like the internet made cheating possible, but it did make it theoretically easier to do so if you were inclined to stray. Now thanks to a band of supposedly holier than thou hackers, millions of people get to wonder if their other shoe is ever going to drop.

First off, if you’re having or planning to have an affair and don’t have a throwaway cell phone and a pre-paid credit card you’re probably too stupid to get away with it. If you’re in a relationship and use your real name and home address to register for a cheating site, you probably deserve to get caught. Even so, getting jammed up in an enormous program of data theft is a pretty crummy way to get caught – especially if you never went through with the act, or it’s something from your life long past.

Ironically perhaps, as a perennially single guy, I can see some compelling advantages to dating a married or otherwise involved woman – especially if you’re not the type who’s looking for an extensive commitment. You’ve got no worries about being drug somewhere you don’t want to be for the holidays. There are no pesky in-laws. You’re not the jackass that didn’t take the trash out or who shrunk a load of laundry or who hasn’t had more than four hours of uninterrupted sleep in the last six years. You’re the guy who gets to go out and have a nice meal in and a great bottle of wine. Or the one who gets to enjoy the excitement of walking into a cheap motel room in the middle of the day. Or the one who’s there when the weekend “business trip” becomes three days of playing house in some location distant enough from home that no one would suspect anything beyond business as usual.

Anyone, married or single, who signs up for a site like Ashley Madison has their reasons. I’m not the one who’s going to cast a judgment on any of them. People have an expectation of privacy online, even when it’s a false one. All this latest story does is reinforce that there is very little in our lives that is truly private – and it’s becoming less and less private all the time. Then again that’s really only a problem if you aren’t willing to take ownership of who you are and what you do.

Know thyself and the world is your oyster.

Sunday is for soup…

Some people are domestic by nature. They seem to have a knack for cooking, cleaning, and general homemaking. And I’m not talking just about the chicks, either. Me, on the other hand, I’m domestic by necessity; because I like to eat, wear clean clothes, and not have three inches of dust covering every flat surface in the house. That last part might be more a symptom of OCD that domesticity, but that’s not my point.

A few days ago I was informed that I had a lot of “kitchen stuff”… for a guy. I’m still not exactly sure how to take that, so I’ve decided that I’ll just take it as a compliment and move on. The fact is, I like good food and that has ment that I had to learn to cook. I suspect eating out every night only has a certain charm for people that haven’t had the experience of doing it. By the time a guy has reached tentatively into his mid 30s, I don’t think it should be surprising that he has a vegetable peeler and a couple of oven mits, right? Regardless, I decided it was better for the time being to keep the food processor, vast collection of spices, and collection of cook books and recipes to myself for the time being.

If I’m in a confessional mood, I’ll tell you that I actually enjoy cooking when I have time to really do it. Savory items are really my speciality. Comfort food, if you will. It’s rarely fancy, but more often than not it turns out to be somewhere between edible and pretty tasty. With enough effort over the weekend, I can usually make it all the way to Wednesday just on leftovers. So unlike many of my Y-chromosomed brethren this morning, I’m not preparing for an afternoon of football. I’m prepping to tend to a large stockpot of soup. The perk of soup is that it’s hard to ruin and easy to fix if you do screw it up… and it gets better after sitting for a day or two. So if you’ll excuse me, I have to go give some of my abundant “kitchen stuff” a workout… and then stash it back in the dark recesses of the kitchen cabinets before all my secrets are revealed.

Goddamn wine in a box…

One of my personal favorite phrases and one that doesn’t get enough use once I left Frostburg, is the venerable “Goddamn wine in a box.” The phrase was coined when a friend blamed the consumption of, not surprisingly, a box of wine for sleeping with a girl we all affectionately called “Dumpy.” As best I can remember, she sort of looked like a bullfrog. What can I say, young adults can be a cruel lot when they’re traveling in a pack. And when the inevitable question “how could you sleep with Dumpy” was asked, I suppose the only natural response could be, “I don’t know, man… it was that goddamn wine in a box.” To this day, when I see a box of wine, I smirk and then laugh. *sighs* Thanks for the memories.

Used Car Salesman…

No, I’m not changing careers, but having the ability to talk like a used car salesman has a plethora of important uses. Among the most important of them was trolling for freshman as a junior on the 5th floor of mighty Cambridge Hall. Now you all know that I’ve never really had any game to speak of, choosing instead to rely on sheer force of will and infinite patience in pursuit of the fairer sex. Theoretically, Cambridge was reserved for upperclassmen, but the 5th and 6th floors were assigned to the Honors Program, which guaranteed an influx of freshmen every semester… We’d later learn to call this a target-rich environment.

I suppose it would have been October of 1998 and I was targeting a particular freshman with lots of attention, long talks on the back patio, romantic,lingering dinners in the dining hall, and of course, booze. After an extensive “softening up” period, I decided that a frontal assault was in order, saying simply, “I’m gonna sell this like a used car… What do I need to do to make this deal?” Well, in making a long story short, for some totally unknown reason, it worked and began a whirlwind romance that would practically end with a war between the north side of the floor and the south… That’s right, our own little version of the Civil War. Come to think of it, that was also the night I learned that no matter what you are doing, having two people in a single bed is just damned uncomfortable. So, yeah, that’s the story of How “like a used car salesman” came to be a phrase in regular use. I don’t get to use the phrase often these days, but it still crops up from time to time.