September 7, 2007

Random Ramblings

Category: News — Ira @ 6:59 pm


“You will recognize your own path when you come
upon it, because you will suddenly have all the
energy and imagination you will ever need.”
—Jerry Gillies

A few comments on the pony episode last week. First, I do not hate horses, even though I state that in one of the Pictures pages on this site. I just don’t like them. There is a fairly substantial difference there, between dislike and hate. At least to my way of thinking. I have seen many horses, obviously intelligent, rippling with muscles, stepping proudly, in complete tune with the rider or driver, and have marveled at the sight. But I’ve never marveled enough to want something like that for myself. And in my job, I sell horse barns to serious horse people. I’ve seen and dealt with enough of them to know that a good percentage of them are more than half-whacked, off their rocker, coo-coo looney or whatever, and inhabit a world that tempts me not at all.

Every winter, Graber Supply has a sales booth at several horse events, one in Baltimore and one in Harrisburg. Horse World Expo or some such name. Big events. And there I stand and sit for three days, talking exclusively about horses and horse barns. I am very careful, of course, not to let my true feelings emerge. At the shows, I meet all kinds of horse people, from the recently smitten to the seriously afflicted. One year, one nice middle-aged lady announced solemnly to me that she can actually speak to her horses and goats. Actually speak to them and understand them when they speak to her. After this announcement, she paused and looked at me sharply for a reaction. I smiled assuringly, as if I heard this stuff every day and she wasn’t a whacked-out loon. She then said her goat had told her that he (the goat) wants a new barn to live in. Another sharp stare. No negative reaction from me. If you say so, ma’am, I’m sure that’s what your goat said. I politely discussed some possible options with her for ten minutes or so. After she had wandered off a safe distance, I circled my forefinger around my head and whistled silently to myself. Like I said, I’ve seen them all.

Second, from some private feedback, was every single little detail of the pony story true? Probably not, but the main details were. It’s called poetic license, the writer’s prerogative to fill in some of the minor details to keep the story interesting and move it along. Did the wire really “whang” when it broke, and snake back into the field? I wasn’t close enough to hear or see it, but I was nearby other times when animals crashed through single-strand electric fences, and that’s what happened then. So I used that detail in the story. I could have told you the basic facts in about three sentences. But how interesting would that be? If I wrote like that, I expect my hits counter would be hovering around 200 instead of 20,000-plus.

The “sketch” scenes so far have been fun to write, but a lot of work. I probably have about a thousand of them in my memory; after writing one, another one crops up in my mind. I expect to post occasional sketches, although some period of time may go by from one to the next. In my wake is strewn a vast tapestry of experiences and adventures, and I have always known that one day I would write them. Hang in there with me and we’ll see how far along we get.

Labor Day (Sorry, LeRoy, I call holidays by their names. Including Christmas and Easter) was a beautiful day. And a lazy day. I slept in and putzed around in the morn-ing, then went to the gym for a workout. It was open until noon. Now that’s a gym, one that’s open on holidays. Later I mowed the yard and trimmed some tree branches. Speaking of mowing, the new mower is turning out to be a bit of a disappointment. It’s a “mulcher” mower, which means the grass it cuts has nowhere to go; it just gets mulched under the mower. It’s just a fine-sounding name for being too cheap to install an opening on the side for the grass to exit. And the yard cannot have a drop of dew or rain on it, or the mower will plug up. It does have a little door on the back that I can tie open with a tarp strap (how redneck is that?), but then the grass shoots out straight back and pelts my feet and legs. Not a good sensation. I’ve longed many times for my good old $99 Wal-Mart special and rue the day it died.

About mid-afternoon I took a trip to the mall. Mall walking is a favorite activity of mine. The mall is a safe place for me; I can observe the crowd without being part of it. I like to go Saturdays and people-watch. All kinds. Here a heavy set couple holding hands. There a mother with her teen-aged daughters. Here a group of teenagers with no adult present. There a wildly dressed youth with spiked hair and chains with his nose-or-lip-pierced girl friend. Here a couple of tattooed bikers in boots that could stomp the bleep out of anyone. Young people, old people, in between people, and people like me, watching all the freaks. I wonder who all these people are and where they live and what they do in their everyday lives. Others are probably watching me and wondering the same thing.

Another good thing about the mall; I watch the seasonal sales and load up on clothes and accessories at huge discounts. This year the fall sales were great; I ended up with several short-sleeved shirts, very good quality, for about ten bucks apiece. Less than Wal-Mart, and way better quality. Few things give me more pleasure than buying quality goods at highly discounted prices.

I always buy a cup of coffee at the “Seattle’s Best” coffee stand. Half regular and half decaf. A buck sixty-five. Sit on a bench and sip it. It’s decent, but doesn’t beat my regular morning cup. There are about as many opinions about coffee as there are people. I was arguing recently with a friend about the finer points of a good cup of Java. My coffee habits are pretty simple; I go to the Sheetz convenience store just down the road every morning on the way to work and buy a 16-ounce cup of fresh black coffee. I drink it on the way to work. I like gas station coffee because every pot is brewed fresh from a pack of ground coffee beans that brews only one pot. So every pot is truly fresh. You buy a container of coffee and open it at home; by the time the container is empty a month (or two) later, the coffee is stale. I’ve reached this conclusion after many years of taste-testing and observation. And there’s no way you can convince me otherwise.

Coffee was a constant presence in our home when I grew up. Mom always had a perculator or some other kind of pot on the kitchen stove, brewing a fresh batch. She sipped coffee constantly, morning, noon, afternoon and evening. I started drinking the bitter brew when I was about 15 years old. There was nothing like walking into the house on a cold winter day and smelling Mom’s coffee the instant you walked through the door. Years ago I always stated boldly that if you can’t drink your coffee black, then you might as well not drink it. The bloviating and cocksure folly of youth, such a statement. I now usually drink it with a bit of cream.

College football opened with great fanfare last weekend. I was watching games from Thursday through Monday night. Most of the big schools scheduled sacrificial lamb teams to come in and get slaughtered for the first game. Michigan, the fifth ranked team in the nation, got quite a surprise when the lamb they played on their home turf refused to be sacrificed, but rose up instead and actually beat them at home, 34-32. It is considered the greatest college football upset of all time. I’m not a big Michigan fan, but felt bad for the team because the Michigan quarterback, Chad Henne, is from Lancaster County.

Of course, Pro Football kicked off Thursday night (9/6) and will be in full force this weekend. In Thursday’s game the Colts demolished the N’Awlins Saints. Looks like Payton and the boys are shaping up for another run at the Super Bowl. It’s a great time of year, summer ending, the nights cooling, and football kicking off. Nothing like it. I’m optimistic, but not delusional, about the Jets this year. Their coach, Eric Mangini, is a genius, but it takes more than genius to win it all. It takes a lot of great players as well.

This is your final notice about Graber’s Open House on Saturday, Sept. 8th. There was a great bustle and stir this week as the warehouse was emptied and cleaned, the floor buffed to a shiny gleam, and tables and chairs set up. We’ll have a ton of great food, grilled pork and all the fixings. And a soft ice cream machine. And door prizes. So come one, come all, come everyone. If you attend because of the invitation on this site, let me know so I can brag about it to my boss. I’m angling for some coporate sponsorship here.





  1. Allow me to be the first to comment, I’m quite pleased to be able to do so. I’m at home, relaxing before the big day tomorrow, which I am looking forward to.

    Coffee is one of God’s best creations, after humankind, of course. Rich in antioxidants and caffeine, it fights cancer, heart disease, obesity, lethargy, languor, as well as countless other scourges and maladies. Coffee is like pizza in that it is appropriate at any time of day or night, served hot or cold, and even if somewhat mediocre, is still better than none at all. Not to say that excellence is not appreciated, or, at times demanded, when selecting a cup of joe (or a pie, for that matter). In terms of value, its hard to beat McD’s current promotion, any size coffee for $.69. They have decent coffee, and it’s an affordable luxury to have someone else brew it for you, and hand it out the serving window, into the cool comfort of your truck, extracting three quarters from you, only to give you two pennys back in change. That’s living.

    Well, enough rambling for one comment, I suppose. Thanks for another entertaining post.

    Comment by pat — September 7, 2007 @ 9:43 pm

  2. I read your latest over a cup of good black coffee. Storing your coffee in an airtight container in the freezer does keep it fresh. Better yet, use the beans, grind only what you need for this pot. Pat, I’m sure you know that if you asked for fresh coffee at McDonalds, they are supposed to make you a fresh pot then and there, unless a fresh pot is in the process of being made, and their fresh coffee is wonderful. Recently in a blind test it was rated above Starbucks and am sure Sheetz.

    Good luck to you all at the open house. I would come if I was closer.

    Comment by rachel — September 7, 2007 @ 11:00 pm

  3. Part of the experience of great coffee is drinking it from a good solid Mug of some sort. Rarely if ever do I drink it out of crushable or Micky D type cups. Heard they cause some bad disease. Lowers the I.Q. seems like. For proof of that ,just observe for a few minutes the folk entering Micky D’s…. …

    Ira, the quarterback from the little lamb team is from Greenwood S.C. Caused quite a stir here. A clear case of the lamb slaying the wolf. The wolf [Mich.] deserved what it got.

    Comment by jess from S.C. — September 8, 2007 @ 10:36 am

  4. This morn. I had a cup of fresh ground, Jamaican Blue Mt. coffee, the best!! & has to be out of a good mug! I was told recently don’t freeze the beans but keep in a zip- lock bag. She also said don’t drink decaf; it’s full of chemicals & a good coffee (fresh ground) will not keep you awake. I shall see.

    A yr. ago Steve & I were in Europe & we missed our bottomless cups of coffee like crazy! They had these tiny little cups & drank them in one slurp! It’s definitely not a slow enjoyable, somewhat social, thing like it is here. I finally started asking for American coffee then they’d give me hot water to add & watched in amazement when I added all of it…….

    Comment by wilma wagler — September 8, 2007 @ 11:14 am

  5. Wilma, I envy your Jamaican Blue – that stuff is awesome. A year or so ago between “real” jobs I found myself at a temp job in Epharta at Rebecca’s Heavenly Cakes or somesuch. Her daughter does flowers and her husband does coffee and he introduced me to Jamaican Blue, Kona Estate and many others…and Micky D’s just doesn’t cut it anymore….I’ve found 8’oclock beans to be the best value (to be honest that was Margaret’s find). Recently I was given a cup from a brand labeled “Wake the ##@!! up!!”…It certainly did the trick.

    Comment by Glo — September 8, 2007 @ 3:18 pm

  6. OK, all you coffee fanatics, I need some “coffee education”.. :). I have never been a coffee drinker, but I sincerely enjoy smelling freshly brewed coffee. (I have fond memories of Ira and Nate making their own coffee each time they came to our house.)

    I sell coffee in my gift shop & am curious if anyone has ever tasted our brand “Hemisphere” which is an arm of Rosedale Mennonite Missions from Ohio. The roaster, Paul Kurtz, is an old aquaintance of ours and actually travels all over getting coffee from these little back woods farmers and can thus trace each bag to its origin. Most are coffees from Costa Rica, Guatamala, Kenya, Jamaica & Ecuador. All the procedes go to help these farmers develop sustainable income, which is such a neat concept.

    I sell quite a bit of it, but as a non-coffee drinker, am never sure how to repond to terms such as “full bodied” etc.

    Comment by Dorothy — September 8, 2007 @ 11:24 pm

  7. Is the Sheetz coffee actually fresher, or does it simply take less effort than brewing your own coffee at home?

    Ira’s response: Both

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — September 10, 2007 @ 5:48 pm

  8. I used to work for Auntie Anne’s. A new fellow – one who used to sell us a brand of commercial coffee – joined the team. He himself went to McDonald’s for coffee! He knew they had 100% Arabica beans, the best. What’s more, McD’s was more economical than Cinnabon (and Starbucks wasn’t east yet). It is an irony that such a greasy, hormone-laden meat joint would have some of the best coffee. But by now (that was years ago) there are no doubt many more who use Arabica. It’s that guy’s word that this is the best kind of bean. I’m a novice, like in most things.

    Comment by LeRoy Whitman — September 13, 2007 @ 7:35 pm

  9. I’m late coming to this party, but I’ve always felt that it the Good Lord wanted cream and sugar in coffee, He’d have put them in the bean.

    Comment by Lady Anne — November 1, 2011 @ 2:21 pm

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