Tag Archives: hot chocolate

Theories of relativity

earth

Thanks to the modern miracle of wi-fi, I’m writing this in a Starbucks, where the scents of burnt coffee blend in an orgiastic melange with subliminal jazz and the tinny patois of the three teenage girls sitting to my left, cajoling one another with tales of romantic woes with such frequent interjections of the word “like” it might as well be in, like, a completely different language.  I gather an acquaintance was at a young lad’s house overnight and the former somebody is obsessed with the latter, and another someone is totally getting engaged in Utah, omigod, make of it what you will.  Shards of October are littered across the deep sienna tile in the form of fragments of leaves hitching rides in from the street on clumsy boots, and yet, November is in full swing inside, pumpkin spice abandoned for peppermint, gingerbread and hot apple cider, menus and cups transformed to holiday red.

The espresso machine whirs and spits milk foam, and the girls are on to complaining about work now, and while to each his own, I can’t help but smile a bit at the relativity of personal problems – what seems disastrous to one person is laughable to someone else.  I guess the whole “First World Problems” meme is the perfect example of that; how dare we privileged few whine that our latte is weak when someone in the deserts of Sudan is crawling haggardly across the sand in search of a drop of water.  I read a statistic a while back that if all seven billion human beings lived at the same standard as we do in the northwestern hemisphere, we would need four earths worth of resources to sustain everyone.  I haven’t checked the star charts lately, but barring some unforeseen discovery I’m pretty sure this is it.  Kinda makes it difficult to justify getting mad at an inadequate supply of chocolate shavings on a peppermint mocha.

This week has seen some interesting developments in the political sphere, particularly as it concerns two gentlemen whose continuing success seems the embodiment of global unfairness.  First, Dick Cheney decided to cancel his trip to Toronto, where he was scheduled to give a speech to an economic forum, claiming that Canada was “too dangerous.”  This followed a report that a group of lawyers had sent a letter to the Attorney General of Ontario demanding that Cheney be arrested on war crimes charges the moment he landed.  Dodging small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades on the way to this cafe, as I often do, I wondered what on earth would possess anyone to want to go see a speech by Dick Cheney in the first place.  Really, what was he going to tell the group of too-rich-for-their-own-good muckety-mucks ponying up for the ticket – how awesome it is to be wealthy and how the only way to become more wealthy is to screw the poor into the dirt even harder?  There, I saved ol’ Six Heart Attacks the bother of the trip.  But had he chosen to tread upon these allegedly too hazardous shores, he would have found his appearance swallowed up in the news by the Rob Fordpocalypse.  The two men are truly a pair of poison kings:  unrepentant bullies who always get away with everything because karma’s apparently asleep at the wheel.  Confronted by the revelation that the Toronto police have the infamous “crack video” in their possession, and facing calls by all four major Canadian newspapers to step down and attend to his personal problems, Ford is pulling the equivalent of sticking his fingers in his ears and bleating “na-na-na-na-I-can’t-hear-you.”  We’ll see in the coming days and weeks whether he’s able to hang on to his office, but if and when he does go, it won’t be voluntarily, no matter what consequences Toronto suffers in the meantime.  The man’s CN Tower-sized ego simply won’t permit him to express those magical little words, “I was wrong and I’m sorry.”  Ultimately, that’s what the opponents of both men want.  It isn’t to see them flayed or doing the perp walk in irons (though to be fair, in Cheney’s case that image would be particularly satisfying.)  It’s wanting them to feel guilt and regret and shame and desperate wishes that they could somehow atone – you know, wanting them to be human.  Cheney is probably too far gone, but Ford may have a semblance of a soul left.  One can only live in hope that he will ultimately do the right thing, but I’m not a betting man.  (At least not if his serial-enabling brother Doug has anything to do with it.)

And yet, what happens to Rob Ford and Dick Cheney affects my life as little as what the girls at the next table decide to do about their next shift at the restaurant, or about the girl who’s apparently getting engaged in Utah, omigod – so why worry about it?  I remember an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation involving a telepathic guest character who was so overwhelmed by the emotions and thoughts of others that it drove him to near madness.  You can be paralyzed if you let all that stuff get to you.  Yes, it’s awful that Dick Cheney will probably live out the rest of his life in ease and affluence after ruining the world for everyone else, but there’s no sense in shortening our own time on this troubled planet by stressing out about it.  Nor is there much to be gained by spitting blood over the escapades of RoFo and DoFo.  They’re certainly not up late worrying about us.

At the end of Casablanca, Rick tells Ilsa that the problems of two people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this world.  Perhaps, but when you’re neck deep in beans that hill feels insurmountable – even if a stranger would look at you and scoff, wondering what the heck the big issue is.  Much as how while I might feel that what these three girls are obsessing over is utterly trivial, so too would they think I’m an idiot for wasting my hour writing about the travails of the former U.S. Vice President and the Mayor of Toronto, two men I have never met and will likely never meet.  At least they’re talking about people they know, people who matter to them, smiling and laughing and having a great time.  I’m the solitary soul typing away in dour silence about strangers.  Who’s better off?  We are all our own little universe, after all, we define the shape of that cosmos with our individual hopes and dreams and fears, and it is not anyone’s place to say that universe doesn’t matter.  That way lies the death of empathy and of compassion, of seeing others as human.

I eye the clock, drain the last of my lukewarm beverage, click save and shut down and slip the laptop back into the bag.  And as I head for the door I wonder if by some quirk of fate one of those young women ends up reading the post their conversation inspired.  Unlikely, of course, but you just never know.  Cold air touches my face, and I step onward into the street and disappear.

Remembrance of simple pleasures

WordPress is a fascinating place.  On any given day you can glide through it like the waves off Kilauea and find tales to lift your spirit, make you laugh, or inspire you to punch through your screen.  Throughout history, the human experience has been in sharing our stories with one another, and what goes on here in the virtual world is a natural progression from and extension of those drawings on cave walls and epics of heroes told around a dying fire.  Cruising through, I find myself often amazed by the level of writing talent out there or dumbstruck by how fascinating other people’s lives are when compared to mine.

Yesterday was not a day to make anyone’s history books in terms of the events that unfolded in my particular corner of the globe.  The activities undertaken were perhaps best described as the mundane pursuits of the first world – cleaning, cooking, shopping, decorating.  Yet I can seldom recall days that have felt more fulfilling or invigorating, or have led me to fall asleep at their close so contented.  I’ve spent the morning wondering why – what was it about what I did on this particular day?

The spooky fruits of yesterday's labor.

Waking up to silence in the sunshine.  Attaching Christmas lights to the eavestrough before the cold weather sets in.  Carving pumpkins for tonight’s trick-or-treaters.  Vacuuming the bedrooms.  Letting the cat fall asleep on my lap.  Drinking a sumptuously rich hot chocolate made, surprisingly, only with pure cocoa, skim milk and artificial sweetener.  Gloved fingers in mittened hand with the love of my life, taking a post-dinner stroll in crisp night to view the Halloween stylings of our neighbors’ front porches.  A simple day, but one filled with smiles, good work, vigorous exercise and the company of the most special person in the world.  What more can one ask of a single day?

Writers are accustomed to dreaming big, as we shape accounts of things that were or conceive of things that never shall be.  Compared to the worlds we concoct with our minds and fingertips, reality often seems smaller, monochrome.  Yet the true treasures of life are not to be found on a remote mountaintop or in a galaxy far, far away.  They are the diamonds we call moments, especially when shared with those most dear to us.  Moments like yesterday.  They are visceral, to be savored and relished, and lived again when they’re needed, even unexpectedly – when summoned like Marcel Proust with his madeleine.  The challenge for a writer is to find the words to share them in a way that conveys even a fragment of the true experience.  Does the most unflinchingly accurate description of a diamond ever truly capture the sheen or the lustre of a viewing of the real thing?  More to the point, does it really need to?  Maybe this is one of those times to put down the pen, look away from one’s navel and stop trying to assign a philosophical meaning to something that doesn’t need to be over-analyzed to be appreciated solely for the magnificence of what it was.

Yesterday was a great day.  A peaceful, uncomplicated, rewarding day.  And perhaps in its own peaceful, uncomplicated way, that’s more than enough.