Taking Flight for Tea

Last week I celebrated an anniversary.

This week I celebrate a find: the best green tea on the planet.

After my stroke in 2012, much changed.

Coffee sickened me. I switched to green tea. In low doses, its natural properties protect the brain and fight premature aging. Emphasis on former, not the latter.

Now, roadtrips demand daily green tea. Non-debatable.

In Vienna, Austria, a tiny cafe offered a wall of overstuffed couches but no green tea (“gruner Tee”). DH knew enough Austrian German to translate chai tea latte and order two drinks.

He also picked up a single slice of Vienna’s national treasure. At first taste of the oh-my-god Sacher Torte, all tea cravings vanished.

Five years later, that single bite of dark chocolate remains a heart-stopping memory. Yes, that good. I’ve sought to replicate the experience stateside. Failed. Every. Taste.

A summer later, iced green tea called my name at Denver’s Tattered Cover bookstore.

A brief moment in time, it flooded with crisp Rocky Mountain air and mild June temperatures. An odd perfection ensued, the world dissolving between the first sting of ice-cold green tea and the opening words of a brand-new book. 

Last Labor Day, Steven Smith Teamaker of Portland, Oregon delivered a first-ever Tea Flight.

Each large porcelain bowl delivered nirvana in a two-handed grip. Four varieties of green tea ranged from bitter to sweet and heavy to light. A different galaxy came to life in each bowl. 

So unexpected was the experience, DH and I sipped and giggled amid our overwhelm—a tea flight, and every one is excellent! Who-da-thunk-it?!

The experience laid shame to all previous tasting flights involving beer, wine or mini-desserts.

For this West Coast adventure, think entirely new universe of life experience. As in the best green tea on two continents.

It changed our day, this intimate, circle-around-the-sun journey unfolding in a tiny, quiet shop, hidden deep in Portland’s warehouse district. To think we only navigated it because of an insistent bus driver.

Last week, we returned to Portland while never leaving.

At the old Waldo’s teahouse, we discovered a revamped cottage. Inside EQ in the Heights, we found new paint, new interiors, and a new menu.

On a side shelf sat our old friend: Steven Smith Teamaker.

I ordered a teapot of Jasmine Silver Tip and enjoyed, once again in a special teahouse, the world’s best green tea. 

Memories returned. I smiled, giggled, then sipped some more. 

Ah, the joy of unexpected delights. 

NOTE: I’ve never met Mr. Steven Smith. He’s not paying for this over-the-top product endorsement. I pay fully for any of the tea I buy regularly from his company. Just sayin’, friends.

Death Becomes Me.……and Her!

I’m currently reading a very interesting book. It’s called Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: and Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty. Morbid? Maybe. But interesting. So interesting that I also plan on reading another book by the same author called, From Here To Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death.

Many people who know me are aware that I have a bit of a history with the funeral industry. To begin with, back in Memphis, Tennessee, my maternal relatives owned a complicated array of businesses including a funeral home. My mother worked at this funeral home until she met and married my father who was a funeral director. Over the years I knew the people at this funeral home well enough that they gave me a part-time job when I was working on my undergraduate degree at the University of Memphis where I majored in Social Work.

No, I was not allowed anywhere near the dearly departed. I answered a PBX machine and directed phone calls wherever they needed to go. Yes, there were a few odd phone calls along the way. No, I told the nice lady who called and asked, we don’t sell used dentures.

Did I mention this was Memphis Funeral Home. You think you have never heard of it, but you have. This was the funeral home that buried Elvis Presley. My one celebrity claim to fame. No, I never met Elvis and I did not work there while his funeral service took place. Elvis died in 1977 and I worked the PBX machine in 1978.

It was an interesting place to work. The people who work in funeral services have very unique talents. They work with the dead and grieving all day long. They counsel and they listen. It takes a special person to do this.

After graduation I moved to Houston and worked for a funeral corporation. Since I had a Social Work degree and the job placed me in the Accounting Department, I only stayed there about four months.

When I was getting my Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Houston, I had an internship for two semesters with a local hospice. Part of my qualifications included the fact that I had experience with the funeral industry and would be comfortable around death.

Later as an employee for local government, I documented the history of County Poor Farms and Cemeteries. This document can still be found within the Harris County Archives and there is a historical marker in the County Cemetery.

As a Social Worker I often worked in areas that many people find uncomfortable, but I found most comfortable. Today I find all this to be very valuable experience in my new career as a Writer.

Last June when Melanie and I made the road trip to Colorado, we visited my niece who works at a Denver Bookstore. We ate lunch at a restaurant called “Linger”. This restaurant is housed in a historical building that used to be a mortuary.

We both share an affinity for Halloween. She is her own unique and interesting person and it has been wonderful to get to know her as a 20-something adult.

Imagine my surprise when Becca texted me to let me know that this fall she was going back to school to study Mortuary Science. I asked her if I had been a bad role model for her, but if I was then I was a darn proud bad role model!

Becca has two years of studies ahead of her, but she is very bright and very smart. I can’t wait to see how this next chapter in her life turns out. I will remain “a proud bad role model” and support her any way I can.

Until next week.….

Self-Care Matters

My assignment at 7 p.m. last night was to sleep for a few hours then awake and post here.

It’s 4:30 a.m.

Ahem.…that’s a little later than planned. Yet, the last 9.5 hours marked my best sleep of the past two weeks. And I’m still groggy. As in my body’s not done with its 40 winks tonight/this morning. 

There’s a message here: my body needs a major rest. Two stimulating weeks involving a 1300-mile road trip and an hyper-invigorating writing retreat will cry out for good sleep at some point. That point came last night. 

But…it’s my turn to post on RoadBroads. I promised Ellen.

I arise out of commitment, devotion, and frustration. Continued sleep will elude until the third necessary is answered.

Thus, dear reader, I offer preliminary pictures from yesterday’s Denver excursion. They provide partial explanation for the good-tired.

Tattered Cover in Denver: more stacks than any reader can count.
Take a guess: how many new books are stuffed in this one sack?
Done lingering, aunt and niece head to the ice cream stand, walking toward Denver’s handsome skyline.
Olinger mortuary become Linger restaurant when new owners blacked out the “O.”

Linger Restaurant was a must-stop for a pair of ladies with a Memphis funeral business in the family heritage. We refilled our water from brown bottles once used for organ storage and ordered drinks from an old metal patient chart. Toe tags used to mark the drinks but they were gone yesterday. Too macabre a memory for some? I missed that part of the adventure.

It’s back to bed I go, the call of duty answered, potential guilt assuaged.

The CPAP lets a snore machine sleep well.

Tomorrow — oops, make that today’s — post will focus on my learnings from a writing retreat. First is how to manage this ongoing body-mind hum.

What a time for my writing life!

Good News, Good Friends, Good Food

Late yesterday, I learned an essay I wrote is a finalist in a national Creative NonFiction Essay contest. From more than 200 submissions, 37 entries were chosen finalists. Oh yeah, friend, it’s major buzz time.

Finalist notification letter about Boulder-based essay

It gets better. Call it the woo-woo factor.

The essay in question involves an incident that occurred in Boulder, at a Max Regan writing retreat, seven years ago this week.

Add that I learned the news while in Boulder, at a Max Regan writing retreat, only one day after visiting the location where the essay unfolded. I shiver.

Imagine a traumatized golden retriever in this picture.

Do you remember the blog mention two days ago of my search at the Trident Cafe? My search centered around an abused dog, an old lady, and a coward. 

Seven years ago, cobalt blue draped everything in an eerie blanket of communal color: bands, straps, leashes, and booties engulfing Dylan the golden retriever. 

Only two days ago did I notice the cobalt blue of the awning, the Trident logo, and, in a softer blue — always, the sky. 

Besides weird timing, I’ve relearned several other things about the writing life in the past 24 hours.

One is, foremost, persistence.

I’ve worked on this essay for seven long years. It’s been through more drafts and readings than I will admit publicly. It’s been rejected by magazines (both on- and off-line) multiple times.

But I kept polishing this essay because it felt important, universal. Such bigness demands a big audience, I believed. What writers’ essays demand, I learned, is persistent effort. And patience.

Secondly, I’ve learned that what I experienced in my broadcast news days also applies to the writing life. You’ve got to start small, gain your chops, and work your way up the publishing ladder. That’s rarely the truth any writer — young, old, or in-between — wants to hear, especially in our get-it-now-or-get-lost culture. Slow down, writers, and learn your craft. And, always — be easy on yourself. Max preaches the same. Now, I’m listening. In a new way.

If nothing more develops of this particular essay — as in I end up #37 on the finalist list for this contest — I carry away the call for continued persistence and slow-small-steady progress. The simplicity of the message is sweet. And easy to pursue.

I celebrated today’s news with a dear friend, a tasty lunch, and a shopping trip to the Tennyson neighborhood of Denver. For the first time, RoadBroad’s chauffeur became a passenger — nice! 

Today became mix-it-up day. We had no retreat classes, by design. Why not try a different city, different restaurants, different bookstores — an altogether different approach? BookBar whispered, thanks to a writer friend’s recommendation. Its theme says buy a book, drink a vino.

I did neither. Instead I bought a clever set of writer notecards plus a pair of map earrings. Do you hear the RoadBroads clapping? After my purchase, I turned around and left. Leaving the writer notecards on the counter.

BookBar bookstore: for books and wine, in that order (for some of us).
Little maps of tiny towns cover quirky earrings. Perfect for a RoadBroad!

Oh, no! Guess who now must return to the BookBar? Who knows what else she can buy? Books maybe? 

Of course, she’ll be wearing her new pair of RoadBroads earrings.