Life, that one time

I was rooting through some boxes the other day and happened across some artifacts of a past life. Between jobs and with some extra time, I began volunteering at a large local hospital.

I want to mention to any current or past healthcare professional readers that this recount is taken from booze addled memory of several decades ago. I’m sure departments and procedures have changed in many ways since I was volunteering at a hospital.

The idea of volunteering at a hospital came up as I lived within walking distance from the place, I thought I’d meet some new folks and maybe make some job connections and new friends. When I was a kid I was a huge fan of the tv series “Emergency” where every week paramedics John Gage and Roy DeSoto would save dozens of lives with the good doctors and nurses of Rampart Hospital. I never missed an episode. I think secretly I hoped as a volunteer I might get a chance to shout out “STAT!” just like the heroes in “Emergency.”

“Volunteer Orientation” was in a conference room with several folks of all ages. Awful hot brown liquid, referred to as coffee, was served in small styrofoam cups, the type of vessel that makes that insipid irritating squeaking noise when people are nervously playing with it. Styrofoam coffee cups should be banned just for this noise alone.

It was here we had our photos taken and were presented with ID tags and some ugly beige coats/smocks to be worn at all times so we would be identified as volunteers. The ID tags and coats allowed us access to the majority of hospital spaces and highly discounted cafeteria fare. I used this perk quite a bit, even on non-volunteer days.

Pharmacy delivery! My thinking was it might be fun, that patients would be happy with the deliverance of drugs to them. I did that for awhile until I was almost stuck by a syringe.

Medical professional readers might point out to me that there were/are procedures put in place to guard against such a thing; a volunteer hospital drug mule getting stuck by a sharp! I’m sure procedures guarding against this were in place, however, there it was, a syringe needle poking through the paper bag as I was walking a hallway to my destination.

I went back to the pharmacy with this bag and they nonchalantly fixed the issue and I continued on my merry way. I did a few more weeks with Pharmacy Delivery before deciding to move into another department.

What could be better and more cheerful than wheeling people out of the hospital? I thought Patient Transport would be fun and it was. I’d show up at a discharged patient’s room with a wheel chair and wheel them out to a gratified family standing in the sunshine waiting for their loved one, complete with glowing halos all around.

Yeah. Sometimes that happened, sometimes it didn’t.

This one time, I appeared with a wheel chair at a patient’s room. This young woman had a broken leg and the cast was the full length of her leg to her toes. Typically, there’d be a nurse or an orderly to move the patient to the wheelchair. Those of us in the ugly beige smocks/coats, were not trained or allowed to physically move or touch the patients. For some reason I can’t remember I had to help this patient’s dad move her into her wheelchair because they were somewhat impatient and wanting to leave and there were no nurses at the nurses station or the hallways that were available.

In retrospect, I should have thrown down the Authority of the Beige Coat and waited for a nurse or orderly to help do this but I didn’t.

With Mom and Dad on their way to retrieve their car, this discharged patient and I began the short trip to the elevator, her leg supported out in front of us like a cow catcher on an old steam locomotive. We entered the elevator, backwards, and just as the doors were closing the patient uttered she was feeling nauseous.

Oh no you don’t, not on my discharge trip!

Faced with the aspect of vomiting in the elevator, I sprang to the door and blocked it open, got the patient out and then began to sprint the wheelchair back to the nurses station yelling that I needed a bucket as the patient was going to vomit. It’s here that I missed my opportunity to bellow “STAT!” as the trip to the elevator which was so short earlier now took an eternity.

The Beige Smock/Coat was not a well respected item around the hospital. We were the lowest of the low, viewed as a necessary irritation. As I imitated OJ Simpson in an airport for a Hertz commercial and yelled for a barf bucket, the nurses gathered around the station barely looked up or if they did, they looked at me like I was nuts.

Rounding corners as fast as my cargo would let me and not getting any response from the nurses, I spied a large vase of flowers on a cart. The wheelchair, my patient and myself came to a halt, I dumped the vase of flowers and water on the floor and placed the vase under my patients face just as she heaved the contents of her guts.

This got the nurses’ attention and they sprang to action.

I returned to the patient transport office then to the volunteer office and requested a different department, you know, because it’s a big hospital with lots of different things to do.

The Heat, The Action, The Big Stories; that’s where I wanted to be: Emergency Room Volunteer.

The ER volunteers sat at a desk in the waiting room and we would help people find their people who were being treated in the ER. First, we’d check a log book at Admissions. Then if the patient wasn’t found, we’d check a log book in the ER.

Entering the ER, for me, was always a mixed bag of emotions. Even though our beige smocks/coats gained us access, I always felt I was in the way, even while hiding in a corner trying to stay out of the way. This was the place where death always lurked, where injury and pain and blood were persistent company and the ER nurses and doctors were always so busy, unless they weren’t busy; I doubt they noticed my presence to be sure.

If the patient wasn’t found in the ER log book, I’d check a chalkboard and finally if the patient wasn’t there, I’d ask one of the nurses which might mean the patient might have just arrived and any news was too premature for me to relate to the Waiting Room People.

I think that anyone who wants to work in healthcare is amazing. To want to work as ER staff? I can’t comprehend that and those folks have my highest respect. I never did exchange words beyond pleasantries or asking where a patient was and if they could receive visitors; the ER staff didn’t need me and The Beige Coat cluttering up their day.

I enjoyed that tenure. I’d help people find their people who were being treated and put them in touch with ER staff who were doing the treating.

One day, several young women stampeded into the waiting room, obviously rattled and scared. As always I asked how I could help them, got the name of the patient and went about trying to find that person.

I found no record in Admissions. Great. The ER was damn busy that day and I didn’t want to go in there but I had to.

There was no record of this patient in the ER log book or the chalkboard which meant I had to ask someone. There was one particular nurse who was always friendly whenever I had a question. I never talked to her beyond a daily greeting or those questions.

As always happens when in an area of constant noise and activity, there will be a moment of quiet a moment of calm a moment of serenity and I don’t think these moments can ever be predicted.

I needed to find this patient for the folks in the waiting room so I asked this familiar nurse about “insert name” and if the patient could receive visitors.

That moment of calm happened just as I recited the patient’s name.

All activity in the Emergency Room stopped, all staff stopped talking and looked at me. I remember a pen dropping and it was louder than any ball point pen had a right to be when landing on a hard tile floor.

Imagine feeling the icy stares of a room full of folks who may or may not already hold the Beige Smock/Coat in mild contempt. Imagine being 6’2”, 200 pounds and wanting to shrink into the tile floor as rapidly as possible.

This nurse’s posture hardened as she proceeded to yell at me that the patient I was asking about was a baby and it had just died.

Death happens every hour/all day/all year. Death never stops. For most of us, we aren’t around death on an hourly/daily/yearly basis.

I stood there wishing for some type of noise, for someone to go about what they were doing, to get back into anonymity. At no point in Volunteer Orientation was the concept of death touched upon and we were not trained to deal with it.

This silence that lasted forever in reality probably went on for not more than a few seconds but in that silence, I calmly and boldly recited to my nurse friend, “Well then, get yourself out there and tell these people what has happened as I am a volunteer and I am not trained to deal with these situations.”

Actually, my words were not as calm, I’m sure I would be brought up on some sort of harassment charges if this happened now.

Back in the waiting room, I assured these young women that someone would be with them shortly, that I was not allowed to discuss a patient’s condition. Then I got a styrofoam cup of awful hot brown liquid and sat at the moldy old desk, nervously playing with that cup, making those insipid squeaking noises, trying to uphold a pleasant approachable smile on my face.

Before my shift ended, the nurse who yelled at me did come out and apologize. I thought it was nice and I told her than no apology was necessary. Shit, life, death; it all happens to everyone.

I didn’t last much longer as a volunteer, I got a job and had no time. I wonder if my ID card would still get me a big discount in the cafeteria.

This Week in Aging Not So Gracefully: Now see here! No, that’s not it, now Hear Hear!

This was not my first visit to the Otolaryngology Department at the hospital complex but I’d never been to this particular hallway before.

I was there to see an audiologist to have my hearing evaluated in an effort to determine why/where the causes of my dizziness/vertigo lay.

The audio doctor directed me into a small sound proof room with beige perforated walls that are dampened from outer walls. In my room was a small computer monitor, some sort of testing gadget and a big window looking into another room. I sat in a chair that faced away from the window. The audio doctor entered/exited my room through two sets of doors into the room with the window which I assumed to be some sort of control room.

This is supposed to be a sound proof room but I could hear and feel a low volume rumble. I’m assumed it’s HVAC but then I also assumed I shouldn’t have been experiencing this rumble.

The audiologist told me to follow the instructions on this first test and then shoved some rather uncomfortable ear plugs which were attached to hollow surgical type tubing into my ears and I heard the voice of a man tell me I will hear a word and I’m supposed to repeat it.

“Say the word, ‘testament’” said the man then I repeated the word.

“Say the word, ‘vehicle’”

“Say the word, (blah blah blah)”

“Say the word, ‘_____’, c’mon, dumbass, say it, just say it!”

The volume raised/lowered and both ears are tested. This recorded voice is probably decades old and I’m sure is used repeatedly throughout the day, however, I know I heard him express nothing but hostile impatience towards me.

A bone conduction “headphone” is placed on my skull behind/below my left ear and I hear the same voice and am given the same instructions, at various volumes. I was  amazed how clear the voice is considering I heard this through my thick skull bone.

Anyone ever have the Bone Fone?BoneFone

Then a series of tones/beeps were played at various frequencies and volumes. I had to press a button to signify when I heard the tones/beeps. This happened in both ears. Judging from how I heard things, I figured out I have some hearing loss and it’s a disturbing thing to have to acknowledge to myself.

Next a middle ear measuring device is used. Some hollow tubing and wires from a testing gadget near the wall were attached to a rectangular gray felt pad that was placed on my shoulder and then some earbuds were shoved in my ears. The earbud closest to the felt pad is filled my ear canal with air pressure, a tone is played and then in the opposite ears a bunch of tones/beeps/whatnot are played. I thought I may have heard some of the soundtrack from “Thief” by Tangerine Dream.

ThiefI didn’t have to respond, my job was to sit and observe what was happening to me. I equated this to the same air pressure test used on your eyeball to measure glaucoma. If you’re thinking I need to get my eyes tested, that’s already done and it seems my aging body is repairing my eyesight; my prescription could be weakened a wee bit.


Let’s dip our toes briefly into the vast ocean of human biology for minute or two. Sound is the movement of air. Of course, that is terribly simplified.

Your ears are the mechanical apparatus that translates that air movement into electrical signals that your brain can then decode as that awesome song by ABBA or your significant other/spouse/partner/whatnot passing gas in the middle of the night.

Doesn’t everyone enjoy an occasional Dutch Oven?

So that’s your outer and middle ear and then there’s your inner ear with it’s hoops and loops containing special crystals and those are your body’s built-in gyroscopes, giving your brain information about where and how your body and all it’s pieces and parts are oriented and moving through space.

All the miracles your brain performs and how much thanks does it ever get from you? I had a great uncle who had a prosthetic lower leg. His brain was continually punking him, telling him his missing foot was itching.

At various times my mind wondered and I found myself dwelling on one of my favorite movies as a kid and the soundtrack to that awful cheesy and campy 1960’s space movieMarooned_(1969_film_poster)  with Gregory Peck and David Janssen “Marooned” lodged itself in my brain.

Is that was space sounds like? How do they know? There’s no air or ears in space. Richard Crenna can act? That’s so cool…

That test concluded my appointment with the audiologist and I have some permanent hearing loss in a notch around 4K frequency. I blame my job. I probably need some custom ear plugs for my job. Screw that, I can only blame myself for continuing to put myself in that occupational hazard.

My next appointment was with an otolaryngological doctor and I was led to an examination room which I am certain I was in not but 18 months prior to endure some sort of nasal procedure/torture episode that the nose doctor felt sure would help my sinus issues.

The pain and smell of burning nasal tissue easily lend themselves to the feelings of discomfort.

There was minor chit chat and I fumbled over an explanation of my dizziness/vertigo and how it manifests itself; I found this explanation exceedingly difficult. I wonder if it’s that way for everyone. Unlike a broken bone or a ruptured spleen, something that is purely physical and can be observed as such, how much of dizziness/vertigo isn’t actually psychological and not physical?

The doctor looked in my ears with some sort of video device and I saw my ear drums on a video screen on the wall. Fascinating. And gross. All of it. There’s a reason I can’t and don’t want to see things like that.


The doctor moved my head around, moved my body around, used a tuning fork on my lower leg to test for a recently found syndrome where one might “hear” sounds via bone conduction from their lower extremities. In laymen’s terms, it depends upon if the brain has gotten lazy and is resting on some of the ear structure.

“The Eyes are the window to the soul.”

“The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.”

“Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.”

“TV is chewing gum for the eyes.”

“The Eyes have it.”  Well, maybe not so much that one.

It would appear your eyes will also tell the experienced observer what is happening in your inner ear, depending upon the position of your head. The big examination chair was flattened and at one point, I was told to twist my head all the way to the right and focus straight ahead while the doc positioned me on my back, then he observed how my eyes reacted. This was done looking left as well.

To understand why the eyes reflect imbalances within the inner ear involves a deeper biological discussion of our inner ears than I am prepared for so as I can barely tell time or perform simple arithmetic, see the cursory biology lesson above. All I can say is when the little gyroscopes of our inner ears decide to take a vacation, we experience dizziness/vertigo.

Through some discussions and observations, I don’t have the classical definitions of vertigo, but I might suffer from anxiety. Well, I have to ask, who in the hell doesn’t!?!

Next up; Videonystagmographywhosits?

MRY am I here?

That donut hole is impossibly small.

Recently I was ordered to have an MRI make images of my brain and the surrounding area. Not long ago I had a CT scan of my torso and hips. Thinking it might be similar in what is necessary for me to do – to lie there still as can be – I was not worried, except for the part about contrast dye.

Liquid gadolinium coursing through my veins. Excuse me while I shiver a bit.

When I called the MRI scheduling department I was asked 157 or so questions about possible allergies and are there metal plates in my head or metal screws holding me together. When I entered the imaging department waiting room I filled out a form asking me the same information.

Ordered to strip down to nothing save my socks, I hoped the MRI procedure would be far easier than trying to tie up the maze-like atrocity that are hospital gowns and while no patient is afforded much modesty I learned I can wear two layers of socks, one of which is hospital issued with rubber nubs on the feet, you know, to prevent slips and falls.


The super nice nurses going through prep told me there’s nothing to worry about, it’s nothing like a CT scan, the contrast dye won’t feel the same cause that CT dye is just awful and just hold still as the machine bangs and clangs.

After the gown, after the nubbly footed socks, after more prep talk, the technicians operating the imaging machine escorted me out of prep and for the 18th time in 22 minutes I recited my name and birthdate while I was wanded with a corded wand that would make any TSA officer squishy with envy, just to make sure I wasn’t lying about a metal plate in my head.

NO, this wand CANNOT and WILL NOT enter the MRI room, in bold letters on a sign above the wand.

No metal/magnetic stuff inside the MRI room. Metal/magnets = bad!

There is a space-shipey air-lockey type contraption surrounded by a thick copper doorway which leads into the MRI room. The machine resembles a giant white plastic thick donut and the room is filled with funky pebbly electronic music which may or may not have been made by the infamous Yellow Magic Orchestra.

My fat head and shoulders were about be rammed into that impossibly small donut hole; no wonder I’ve head stories of people freaking the fuck out due to claustrophobia. It was then that I was glad I took a Lorazepam tablet and saved one in reserve.

Better living through chemistry!

There is a choice I need to make: do I want ear plugs or to listen to music through comically large headphones, both of which will mask the sound of the machine while invisible magnetic waves image my brain tissue.

I wonder if the inventors of this sound deadening technology thought about bone conduction of sound. Will my own cranium and bone structure amplify the concert of magnetic waves coursing around through my brain?

Probably not, but I can’t wait for a beer.

Told to lye down on a sled, my head in a cradle, the impossibly large head phones were fit over my head which then made my noggin very tight in the cradle.

The technicians placed in my hands a rubber bulb attached to a hose to squeeze if I had an emergency. I wanted to test the system but was told not too; I’ll know when/if I need to squeeze the emergency bulb.

Last, a white plastic cage was lowered onto my face, attaching to the cradle that restricted any head movement.

I am, or at least I thought, immobile.

A far off voice in the marshmallowy large headphones told me to get ready for donut insertion and to be exceptionally still when the machine came to life. A number of scans would be made without dye and the same number with dye.

I picked music to deaden the machine sounds and like an idiot I picked “jazz” which was actually awful elevator “smooth” jazz of the likes of Kenny G, David Sanborn and company. This drek flooded my ear canals while the sled slowly rammed me into the big whiteout of the magnetic machine.

The audio experience could have been almost tolerable but these ridiculously large headphones sounded tinny and tiny. Well that makes sense, right? Sound of any sort relies upon the movement of air meeting your ear drums and those sound waves created by speakers are produced by a cone/membrane which is driven by some sort of magnet or electrical current.

Again, magnets in the MRI room = bad, very bad!!!

I will mention my loathing of the winter season. Aside from the useless cold and the irritating snow, I become intensely claustrophobic with layering layer over layer of thermal layering  layers. Entering the donut is like entering a sensory deprivation tank, except I have Yanni wannabes in my ears for company however I didn’t experience much of any claustrophobia.

Miss Lorazepam, is that you?

Taking stock of my situation in the relative silence of those few seconds, I thought that I could sleep through this or close my eyes and meditate and ignore the WNUA-type “smoooooooth jazz” that I came to regret choosing.

Sonic Youth, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, please, my kingdom for some Pixies!

Then a far off voice interrupted WNUA to tell me the first scan was about to commence. I concluded The Clash would have been more soothing and far less irritating at that time.

Padip, chirped the machine in a contra-alto tone of magnetic life. Padip. Padip. Padip then frantic padipadipadipadipadipadiping when entered a woeful tenor Derm. Derm. Derm on top of the frantic padipadipadipadip and now a step higher and frenzied dermdermdermdermdermdermdermderm and damn well remember to keep very BAM still while the machine BAM is making it’s noises BAM BAM BAM BAM on top of chirping padip and woeful unsynchronized dermdermdermderm.

If all that isn’t enough, out of some slumber the bass drummer decided he couldn’t be left out and BOOM the entire BOOM sled shook and my head found some space to BOOM rattle and BOOMpadipadipdermBOOMdermBAMBAMpadibdermpadipadipdermBAM bounce around in the cage and then I wished I’d have picked no music, just, because.

Have you ever listened to a tar boiler? I know you’ve heard one but have you taken the time to listen? Put that in your list of to-do’s before you croak.

Supposedly, the techs, in a much different room, at least I think they were, thought I was doing very well or at least I required the encouragement. I can be somewhat cynical and I suspected the techs were reading from a script, reciting the same encouragement to every passenger in their machine. The next scan would be shorter and wow someone dropped a drawer of silverware in the machine and that tom tom is far louder and emphatic.

I expected and received more wheezing, clanging, banging, drumming, tubthumping and dermdermderming like some Chitty Chitty Bang Bang of MRI machines. A cursory Google search reveals an average price of a Philips 1.5T (whatever the “T” means) MRI is between $295,000 and $900,000.

Was I riding in the jalopy of MRI machines?

All noises stopped except for Smoooooth G.Low (who the fuck?) in my ears. I’m told through the large headphones that I’ll be ejected from the machine so the contrast dye can be administered.

The only way I could sense any movement was through some very slight vibration of the sled pulling me out of the machine’s orifice. Maybe Philips needs to put some markers on the roof of their machine, like in a swimming pool, just to give the rider some sense of motion, a sense of clarity, a sense of comfort.

The dye.

This is what I’ve been dreading, completely.

The CT scan I endured required some prep work on my part. I had to drink two barium shakes spaced out at required intervals before the scan. I can’t remember the flavors I chose, although I can feel that heavy metal coating my innards. When the IV port for the dye injection was placed, I was told by the nurses that when the dye is injected I might feel a little warmth, like I wet my pants. It’s perfectly normal it will pass.

Compared to the MRI, I found the CT procedure much easier. No headphones, no wheezing, no BAMMingTOMMingPADIPDERMPADIPing. I could hear and talk to the CT technicians in the other room from a speaker/microphone right above my head. As far as medical scans went, I found it comfortable.

“We’re now going to remotely inject that dye and you’ll feel a little warming.”

No big deal, I’ve got this thing made…

Holy FuCKing…


I didn’t feel a little warming. I didn’t feel like I wet my pants. I didn’t feel comfortable.

Every blood vessel in my body felt on fire. I knew my blood was boiling and the top of my head was about to explode. I’ve never experienced anything so uncomfortable and when I made this clear to the techs, all they could do was tell me it would soon pass. What was I expecting, what could the techs do, that infernal dye was already in my bloodstream creating an internal inferno.

I don’t know if that feeling lasted 10 seconds or 10 minutes, it was, however, interesting to experience just how fast the bloodstream moves within my body.

The MRI techs were telling me the dye was to be injected and the sled moved back into the white donuty machine and here we go with more scans.


I wanted to tell that wailing, woeful Kenny Yanni and the pan flute master to STFU and get out of my headphones and did I understand that dye had been injected and I didn’t feel a thing?

I did not feel a thing with this gadolinium substance used as dye injected into my humble self. Things were looking up!

More whirring/wheezing/DERMDERMDADIPADIPing along and then there was an intense small frequency vibration and I felt the tops of my shoulders and the top of my head getting very warm. No matter, this wasn’t nearly as bad as that CT contrast dye as long as my head didn’t explode.

I closed my eyes, felt my breath, listened to whichever lame musician on the WNUA  like “music” in those white headphones – I wonder if the color white helps the machine do it’s job better – and the vibrating ceased, the whizbanging subsided and soon I was  out in the real world with techs removing the face cage and the headphones and helping me off the sled.

That spongy Yellow Music Orchestra was still playing and I asked why I couldn’t have listened to that music. It wasn’t music, it was the cooling system for the MRI machine.

Next time you run across a tar boiler, take a minute to listen to the harmonics; that boiler has a built in symphony much like a MRI machine.

I’ve since received the results of these tests and I do have a brain and it’s functioning normally, it might be useful if I use it occasionally.

Next up: Otolaryngology.

What the huh?

This Week in Coffee Dweebdom – 23 October, 2015

“Could I get a real coffee mug and a glass, please?” I asked politely.

“I’m sorry, we don’t have those here.”

For the five seconds or so of silence while my brain was compiling that obtuse information I must have looked like some gape-mouthed fool while stuttering “But, but…” as I motioned to the area where what they call breakfast is served.

I’ve been skipping around the outer reaches that is the gravitational suck of the wormhole of coffee dweebdom for decades. I bought a Chemex while in college which made that can of Chock Full of Nuts marginally better. Then I bought a whirling blade grinder because it was cheap and any type of beans I could find and grind had to be better than that can of Yuban I tried a while back in order to find any kind of coffee flavor beyond Maxwell House bad flavor.

I don’t think I’ve ever owned a more dependable device than that Braun whirling blade grinder as the thing, over 20 years later, will not quit. I’ve used this grinder with my electric drip makers, my Chemex and then when I bought a French press, I could see how it didn’t produce a uniform grind but rather a mishmash of pulverized grounds so I told myself I loved chewy coffee from the French press. I kind of actually do.

Fortunately for me, there have been artisanal coffee roasters where I live for over 30 years and I indulged in seasonal products from around the world. Tanzanian Peaberry over that can of Folgers? Hell yes, I say!

In case you’re wondering, I prefer the darker, meatier roasted Indonesian beans. Sumatra and Sulawesi beans, come to me!

Whatever your interests/hobbies may be, there are internet forums that dive into minutia on those subjects. Imagine my surprise when lurking around coffee forums and I learned of the abject horrors I’d been inflicting upon the innocent coffee bean with my whirling blade grinder.

This lead to my researched purchase of a conical burr grinder. Even the cheapest machines aren’t cheap, however, I’ll admit that the coffee from my French press tastes much better from beans ground by my Baratza Encore conical burr grinder than from my Braun blade grinder.  Hell, all the coffee I make tastes better from that burr grinder. It’s all in the uniformity of the grind, something a whirling blade grinder just cannot do.

Why do I go to all this work? I love good coffee. I love coffee with flavor but there’s no way in hell I’ll ever consume a “flavored” coffee. I like coffee in my coffee and nothing else.

I’m not one to spring out of bed and be on the go immediately, I want some time to ease into the day. I like the daily ritual of grinding some beans and thinking about how I want to brew today’s coffee. I like the aroma.

I love good coffee but there is an aspect of coffee I don’t really enjoy and that is to linger in a coffee shop. I can make coffee at home much cheaper and I’ll probably enjoy it more although I cannot make an espresso drink as I don’t have an espresso maker and good ones are very expensive.

I don’t want to spend $10 and wait 15 minutes while some waifish, pouty, tatted-up “barista” conjures up my pour-over coffee. Give it to me from that thermal urn and in that paper cup, thank you, as this isn’t coffee for me to contemplate over something/anything.

I do some mild regional traveling for my job and I’ve always packed a bit of ground coffee and various filters including a reusable Keurig basket, not knowing what sort of coffee maker may be in the rooms. Where ever I stay, if the room doesn’t have them I always ask for a real coffee mug and a glass and there’s never been a problem, if not a quizzical eye cast my way, until very recently.

“I’m sorry, sir, we don’t have those here” was uttered recently by the front desk attendant at a location of a well known chain of hotels.

This was the last fucking straw.

I’m the idiot in this situation; I need to take my own coffee rig when I travel.

Careful, dear reader, here again is a very strong wormhole of coffee-dom to get caught up in; The Coffee Travel Rig.

No, I’m not taking a portable burr grinder with me. No, I’m not taking a scale with me. No, I’m not taking a pour-over thingie with me in a custom made leather bag, although I might, if I could.

Yes, assembled traveling coffee kits for coffee dweebs like me are really a thing. Here’s one from Timbuk2, although it’s sold out currently, and another from Stumptown Coffee roasters.

I’m done with relying on hotel coffee makers and all the hard water scaling within to make my morning beverages. I’m done fabricating a filter for the cheapest of hotel room single cup makers. I’m done searching hotel websites to get a glimpse of the coffee maker from the room images. I had all the supplies necessary to make my own rig, with the exception of heated water and the interwebz, along with Sunday delivery, made that wonderfully possible.

My traveling coffee rig consists of a Bonavita electric kettle. This kettle is great, although I wish it had a separate base like it’s larger siblings. I have an Aeropress and I can’t recommend it enough. Just buy one and do yourself a favor and skip right to the “inversion” method of brewing.

You’re welcome.

I have small Mason jars that will hold enough coffee that I’ll grind the day before. I already have a suitable coffee mug and my beer glass is a Mason Jar that did hold fantastic homemade rhubarb jam from my aunt. The responsibility to carry these supplies rests upon a cooler than fuck burgundy Samsonite Series 3600 train case that has been sitting around for years, waiting for a task.

I’ll be testing this rig very soon and I can’t wait.

This Week in Bikes & Booze; 28 April 2015


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

transitive v. To annoy or pester; vex.

transitive v. To make fun of; mock playfully.

transitive v. To arouse hope, desire, or curiosity in without affording satisfaction.

transitive v. To urge persistently; coax: teasing their mother for more candy.

transitive v. To gain by persistent coaxing: “the New York editor who could tease great books from the unpromising woolly jumble of an author’s first draft” ( Ian Jack).

transitive v. To deal with or have an effect on as if by teasing.

transitive v. To cut (tissue, for example) into pieces for examination.

transitive v. To disentangle and dress the fibers of (wool, for example).

transitive v. To raise the nap of (cloth) by dressing, as with a fuller’s teasel.

transitive v. To ruffle (the hair) by combing from the ends toward the scalp for an airy, full effect.

intransitive v. To annoy or make fun of someone persistently.

n. The act of teasing.

n. The state of being teased.

n. One that teases, as:

n. One given to playful mocking.

n. A woman who behaves like a coquette.

n. A preliminary remark or act intended to whet the curiosity.

tease out: To get by or as if by untangling or releasing with a pointed tool or device: “It takes a carefully trained expert to tease out the truth” ( Arthur Green).

Everyone has most likely been subject to teasing and has probably done their fair share of teasing as they get on with their lives. There is a prominent definition of “tease” that frustrates to no end if one is the type of human being that exists in the areas of the United States known as the Mid West and the Great Plains.

Let’s settle briefly on the worst tease of all; bitchy Mother Nature.

Seasons. I am told there are four seasons at last count although in the aforementioned areas of the US it seems that spring and autumn are almost non-existent. Mother Nature blasts us hard with unrelenting frigid winter temps and snow. Coping with weeks of below zero temps takes a strong constitution, particularly if one relies upon public transportation. Imagine stumbling to a bus/train stop in the dark below-zero hours of the early morning, bundled up against the painful cold that will stab any piece of exposed skin.

Imagine a bus/train arriving where everyone in layers and layers of clothing resembles the Michelin man and moves with as much grace and mobility as a heavy weight powerlifter clad in a squat suit. The furnaces of the bus/train you’re about to embark have been running full blast for days. Now imagine trying very hard to not puke on your transit companions as your body has to accommodate the transition from frigid to tropical in a matter of seconds while you’re trying see past fogged eyeglasses. Fortunately, you can bounce off every other Michelin Man in your bus/train while you’re trying to get situated and not puke.

After months of the frigid adventures above, the amount of sunlight gets noticeably longer, temps get marginally warmer and the snow/ice sheets recede from the streets and sidewalks. You begin to relax, to realize that yes, spring is on the way and there will be a day or two when Mother Nature throws her full weight into a gorgeously warm day where windows city wide are thrown open, where the city itself breathes deeply and throws lose the shackles of down winter wear and depression.

When we’re lucky, Mother Nature will let that scenario last a few days.

No, dear reader, do not be lulled into a false sense of lasting serenity cause just as sure as she brings on the heat, she’ll slam the hammer of lasting Arctic Pain down to put you back in your place. Don’t you dare pack away your winter gear till June if you know what’s good for you.

Supreme Tease = Mother Nature.

With all this in mind, it’s long past time to get on your bikes and ride outside again if one expects to have even a moderate base of fitness for the hot weather riding season.

The weather teasing is bothersome but I find the projections and forecasts I might make to be worse. This morning for instance, looking out my window at the brilliance of the morning sun, I’m planning another ride along the lakefront. It’s gonna be cold. I just know it from previous experience as this time of year.

But wait, remember that 80 degree day last year at this time? It could happen again!

What is it the Shrub said about fooling me once and ……. won’t get fooled again?

Bundle up and suckit, sucker! If the wind is off the lake expect wind chills in the 10’s/20’s when you’re riding into the wind.

Projections suck.

Saturday is May’s installment of the Fucking Bike Club’s Full Moon Fiasco in celebration of the Full Flower Moon. The weather forecast is for dry mid-60’s during the day and a dry mid-50’s low which would mean your casual rider won’t need to bundle up in claustrophobic layers for the first time in months.

A Saturday ride means most attendees won’t have to work the next day.

I plan to attend and I’ll most likely ride the erstwhile Kona and will pack a flask of Malort – The Official Drink of the FBC. I’m not feeling like toting a cooler of suds this time around, feeling now like I might want to travel light.

Temperate weather.




Your overly pious and timid observer might assume that these elements cast together lend themselves to a fetid atmosphere of moral turpitude, an orgy to be avoided at all costs.

Your more enlightened and tolerant casual observer, such as myself, might find that these elements intersect in a Venn diagramed shit-show of fun.

Then again, it might just be a big tease.