Saturday, July 31, 2010


For the last 3 1/2 years, my morning routine has been the same. Up at 5 a.m. Take dog out for a quick pee. Feed the cat. Off to the gym for an hour of torture. Then the reward: a stop on the way back home at the neighborhood coffee shop for a lovely hot latte.

But as of Monday, my routine will be disrupted, because my coffee shop is closing.

It's not a surprise, really. The proprietor and her barista son operated it on their own, offering really good coffee and delectable treats baked fresh every morning. It's a labor-intensive endeavor, and even at $3.50 a latte and $2 a muffin, it would be tough to generate the volume to make the numbers work. Which apparently they didn't.

It's hard to watch someone's dream dismantle, and their routines are clearly far more disrupted than mine.

But still.

I'll miss more than the latte. I'll miss the fact that I never needed to remember "tall skinny grande" whatever. All I had to do was show up and my order was placed. No thinking required.

I'll miss the fellow coffee shop congregants, about whom I know both very little and a whole lot. Jeannie, who has a bulldog named Louie, a husband named Randy, a mother with health issues and a left-of-center take on political issues. Eric, principal of an elementary school, and his wife, Marie, who likes her bagel with cream cheese. Susie, who walks for 45 minutes before her daily caffeine fix. Philomena from Ireland.

I don't even know the last names of any of these people but I know intimate details of their lives from the pre-dawn snippets they share as they, too, have made this place part of their daily routines.

Mostly I'll miss the fact that I could count on all of this to be there every day to anchor my morning.

All the coffee shop patrons were there today, the final day of operation, getting one last brew and freshly baked scone or cinnamon roll. Bidding farewell not just to the coffee shop owner and her son, but also to the fleeting yet intimate relationships they, too, have formed over their daily ritual.

How attached we get to people and things that play even a small, but daily, supporting role in our lives. And how disquieting it is when something beyond our control upsets the routine we have come to depend on.

There are other coffee shops in the neighborhood, none so convenient or (in my opinion) to my particular taste. But after awhile, I'll form a new routine, meet a new cast of characters and find comfort in something else I can count on. Until I can't.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Apparently, I'm Not Getting Better

So it's just after 6 a.m. I'm taking Otis for a walk, hoping to get a good 20 minutes in before the sidewalk gets hot enough to fry the soles of my shoes. Walking the dog is always a time to think about the day ahead, notice what's around me and enjoy the moment I'm living.

And what moment is that this morning?

"Hmmm," I say to myself, noticing the sun's not completely up yet, evidence that we're on the far side of the day-lengthening curve. "The days are getting shorter. I'd better start thinking about the theme of this year's Christmas letter."

Wait. This year's Christmas letter?

It's July. There's still 14+ hours of daylight. Today's heat index is predicted to top 100. It's 161 days until Christmas. A Christmas letter theme is not a pressing issue today.

Except to me, perpetually living in any time other than the moment and clearly making no discernable progress toward change.

Now, to be fair (I believe this is called rationalization) I give great thought to the theme of my annual Christmas letter. I know Christmas letters are generally the source of derision, as welcomed at the holidays as fruitcake. But I will not send a Christmas card without a personal note, and I don't have time to think up and hand-write personal notes to all those people. So several years ago I acquiesced to the photocopied personal note aka a Christmas letter.

But mine are not fruitcakes. My Christmas letters are illuminating. Funny on purpose. People eagerly await them. (More rationalization? No. That's delusional....)

Await they do, because I never get it out on time. Illuminating, not so much, but when you don't really have anything new to say from one year to the next, a clever theme is all that stands between my Christmas letter and the recycling bin. Thus, my intense focus on a theme.

Last year with all the hoo-rah about Twitter, I sought to showcase my social media savvy and served up my year in tweets. A Christmas Twetter is a hard act to follow, upping the ante for 2010.

Which is why at 6 a.m. on a sweltering morning in July I'm walking my dog, worrying about a Christmas letter that frankly, doesn't need to occur at all, much less be worried about today.

Otis is not the seize-the-moment force Mr. James is. But stopping to do his business, he did bring me back to the present, at which point I made a conscious choice to stop thinking about the Christmas letter, and pay attention to the pretty blue sky instead.

Besides, I'd already come up with my theme.