Café Culture – The Reminiscence


Geneva 2013 Pub

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” – Ernest Hemingway

“Paris is always a good idea.” – Audrey Hepburn

“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life.” Thomas Jefferson

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller

It’s been five years since I’ve set foot on the European continent. And I miss it more and more every second of every day. My first trip to Europe, France in 2011, was momentous, mesmerizing, and eye-opening. When I came home to the states, a friend stopped me on the street and marveled at how I’d changed. And I had. The old country of Europe had left its mark on me.

French Farmers Market

I recall marveling at the daily (or at least frequent during my visit) fresh farmers’ markets on the streets of Paris, where folks would by today’s meal. I think it’s funny how in the past decade farmer’s markets have become the “thing” here in the states. But has been a regular thing in Europe. I recall eating something in the airport when I first returned to the states, and I felt ill afterwards. Probably psychosomatic, but I felt it nonetheless. France is known for its culinary prowess, but I feel that extends beyond the “haute cuisine” restaurants, and filters into everyday people’s lives. One of the reasons for my visit to France was to visit my son, who was studying at the Université d’Orléans as part of his French degree. Whilst there he stayed with a host family, and I was privileged enough to be able to stay with them. Meeting his host family was one of the greatest events in my life. I have since remained friends with them, and look forward to visiting them again someday. But during my initial visit, one thing which struck me was the common trend of fresh foods and the “event” of the meal. Several times, we had dinner events which included the quintessential multiple courses, with drink appropriate for each course, including German beer for the sausage and kraut course. This has stayed with me ever since. And though I don’t practice this, it remains such a prominent memory.

I’m a weird cat, in more ways than one, but for each of my visits to France, I’ve focused more on the beers than the wines. Yeah, I know… a missed opportunity. Well, I look at it as a reason to return. But the beers. My beer of choice these days is Stella, and this could possibly stem from my France visits. Beer and coffee, two of my favorite drinks to enjoy as I enjoyed all the France had to offer. You may have thought I’d gotten off topic, and you’re actually right… I did digress a bit with French foods, but here we are. Sipping a nice drink outside a typical French brasserie as I watched life go by was wonderful. And knowing I had the options of delicious French foods waiting was the reason for my digression. And I will not apologize! As I’m typing this missive, I’ve had a gentle epiphany. I’m really a simple fella. I do like haute cuisine, but the basics are more than enough for me. Give me a beer and something like the common French café and brasserie treat of  “steak frites” and I’m happy.

Steak frites Paris

What is it I like about the café culture? Mostly what is missing here in the states. Though there are instances of sidewalk cafés here, they are the exception more than the rule. One exception is a cigar bar here in Murfreesboro, unbelievably they are allowed to have beer and cigars right there on the sidewalk! And I can sit there and watch the small world of Murfreesboro go by. Quite enjoyable. These exceptions here though, are the rule in France/Europe (the parts of Europe I’ve visited). And one of the main reasons I go there.

1664 in Paris

À votre santé!

Paix et aime mes amis !!

The Franklin Planner: You’re A1 baby, A1.

“… It’s not how you feel, it’s how you look. And you look marvelous.” (Fernando) Billy Crystal

I recall working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, long before gmail, and outlook on the web; and phones were anything but smart. How in the world did any of us know where to be, when this meeting was, where that meeting will be? The answer is paper. The heady days of living on paper; and Franklin Planners were the king of paper organization. You weren’t anyone unless you had the familiar Franklin Planner tucked under your arm and were heading somewhere with purpose. Actually you didn’t even need a purpose, the Franklin Planner exuded purpose. The epitome of fashion over function. You didn’t need to be organized, you only had to look organized. Okay, showing up on time was a tad important too, but that’s trivial. I finally convinced my bosses that I really needed a Franklin Planner, and they finally gave in. Quitters.

Along with the Franklin Planner, I was also able to attend a half day seminar on using the it. One thing I specifically recall from the seminar was that the Franklin Planner system had certain methods for effective organization, the primary method was to rank every entry with a two character designation. This designation was designed to communicate how important this task was, and how you should prioritize it in your day. The components of the designation were a letter, and  a number. The first character, the letter, could be: ‘A’, ‘B’, or ‘C’. The ‘A’ designation was for something extremely important; had to be completed as soon as possible, and had the most impact on your success. The ‘B’ designation was still important, but was not as earth shattering. Lastly, the ‘C’ designation was where all those things that weren’t so vitally important were relegated to languish and eventually die. The second character in the designation, the number, was used to prioritize items within the particular letter category that had been assigned. To truly prioritize things, you should have the numbers be unique; meaning there cannot be two A1 entries. However I recall no such limitation, so you could in fact have as many “1” priorities as you wanted.

A great system. On paper (pun definitely intended) it works like clockwork. Sadly, human nature creeps, very quickly I might add, into this process almost from the get go. First of all, if you are writing something down in a Franklin Planner, then it is obviously important.* Or rather… If it is part of your life, then by all that is holy it is obviously important. You do nothing trivial in your life, now do you? Sorry, rhetorical question. Of course it’s important. So when Jessica** wanted to have drinks with you, well hell that’s a ‘A’. What if Jessica sees your planner? Remember the speed dial incident? You know the one time when you stupidly wrote your speed dial list on that little paper card you stuck it in your phone handset? On second thought maybe that was a good thing, you haven’t gotten a fruit cake from your sister in how many years?! But I’m digressing here, of course Jessica is an ‘A’. But then so is your dental appointment, and that meeting with the department head, and… well you get the picture. The number part should be obvious, chronology should be one of the key elements in that decision, but alas the speed dial delimma rears its head again. So whether it really should be done first or not, you go by your gut. And what does your gut say? (see the sentence marked with a ‘*’)

Pretty soon, you have a task list littered with things all categorized as A1. Okay you might be that one person who was able to conjure up a ‘B’, or wonder of wonders and actual ‘C’, but really now, who really wants to empty the cat litter.

But man don’t you look good carrying that thing around?!

You’re all A1 to me!

Peace and love.



* The names have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and me.

Gonzo Journalism (a reprise)

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

“Fear and Loathing at the Super Bowl” (Rolling Stone #155, February 28, 1974); republished in Gonzo Papers, Vol. 1: The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time (1979), p 49

I must say that if there were one thing that I did in my childhood that was right, it was that I read. Of course it started out with comic books, a great start now that all my favorite characters are being made into CGI movie extravaganzas! But as a child I soon figured out that actually reading what was in the little dialogue bubbles made the whole story much better. At that point a dedicated reader was born. As I got older Mad Magazine, and National Lampoon crept into my library. I remember my Mom finding one of my National Lampoons after which her editorial was, “This is porn!” I suppose the Fart-man character was a bit over the top.  Ah but soon other literary classics found their way into my waiting hands, and hungry eyes. Reading assignments from school were always to my liking, except for the terrible task of writing a report. (more about that later)

Then the day came when I discovered Hunter S. Thompson! What a revelation he was. I think I may have read an article of his in Rolling Stone magazine, but no matter I was a changed man. Well a changed boy. I had seen just what the human mind can create when it is freed. The book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” was just another roadside stop in my journey to enlightenment. Oh what an impact Mr. Thompson made in my development. Forever my view of the world would be through weird-shaded glasses.  What a man he was. And no sadder a day than when he left this world on his own terms, and in his own way. I quit smoking many years ago, but I still look at pictures of him with that long cigarette holder and want to go buy one. No I won’t, but yes he is a hero to me. Not was, but is!

Then in the ’80s came a movie that though it wasn’t exactly true to the book was a milestone nonetheless. “Where the Buffalo Roam” (WtBR) starring Bill Murray as Hunter S. Thompson, and Peter Boyle as Lazlo the attorney. A great movie, and Murray was awesome as Hunter S. Thompson. Oh yes the latest adaptation with Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro directed by Terry Gilliam was the best. But WtBR will always hold a special place in my heart. The late Bruno Kirby was in WtBR, along with Rene Auberjonois as an uptight fellow who learns how to loosen up.

If just one person JUST one person sees WtBR then I have done my job. But if two people see it…  Sorry lapsing into a bit of “And that’s what it is , the Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement” there.

As you were.

Head Games

Ok. I’m dating myself here, but I remember when I was a young man there was a head shop that I would go to occasionally. Now, I don’t want to sound too naive, but I honestly didn’t know what the real reason for the headshop was! I would go for three reasons: the incense, the records, and the posters.

Now don’t get me started on the records. Man vinyl was great! Not that it sounded better, but man the Yes album covers by Roger Dean, or the Molly Hatchet covers by Frank Frazetta, and don’t even get me started on how great the inner layout of Jimmy Buffett’s Son of a Son of a Sailor album was! Yeah, vinyl rocked. So I’d go to the head shop and browse through all the albums, mostly just to admire the cover art. Oh and the dude behind the counter would always have some great music on, maybe Cat Stevens, or other great stuff.

The incense totally rocked. I loved the smells and all the little forms of incense were uber cool. Then the incense holders were works of art really!

And finally the posters. All I can say is Wow! Of course Bruce Lee was still really popular from the big surge in popularity of Kung Fu movies. Carl Douglas singing, incense burning, and looking at a really cool poster of Bruce Lee from “Enter the Dragon” Ahhhh Good times. Good times.

Oh and those funny glass flower vases were cool too.

As you were.

What this world needs is more sissy bars!

And I’m not talking about any sort of drinking establishments! No, I’m talking about all the awesome accessories that our bicycles had when I was younger. I recall the most killer bike I had was a Western Auto one with a black seat with red racing stripes, butterfly handlebars, and a big ole sissy bar on the back! Man now those were the days. You didn’t have to wear those fancy pants with the “extra” little padding in that certain area. That banana seat was built for comfort! And are you ready for the kicker? The rear tire was a “slick”. Yeah, you young kids have no idea what that means, but that was a sweet bike! Ahhhhh man I’d love to have that one back!

I grew up in the country, and used to ride my bike for miles and miles. Funny, now that would be unheard of! Oh well. Safety first!

Here’s a link to get you going:;topic=49892.0