up and at ’em

It’s four-thirty in the morning, and it’s time for some coffee, because what else are you going to do if you’re awake at four-thirty in the morning besides make coffee? Everything else in the day comes later. When it’s that early, coffee’s the only thing that matters.

Why am I out of bed at four-thirty in the morning? It was the cats again, natch. Nuff said about that.

I’m pretty sure My Darling B is lying awake in bed as I type these words. She’s much more stubborn than I am, although, if I may say so without sounding like I’m bragging, I was being pretty darned stubborn myself. It was two o’clock when I unceremoniously threw both cats out of the bedroom for violating the No Rambunctious Cats rule, and although I managed to doze off once or twice since then, I was never asleep long enough not to notice that B was tossing and turning in the darkness as well. By four o’clock I’d had enough of that — my own tossing and turning, I mean, not hers — and, grabbing the copy of Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters resting on my bedside table, I rolled out of bed and headed for the kitchen.

I’m using an old Sunbeam percolator to make coffee these days. About a week ago, while tending to my morning duties as the coffee steward of Our Humble O’Bode, I found that I’d let myself run out of paper filters for the pourover cone I customarily use. Whereas in any other house this would be a disaster, in our house it’s an opportunity for me to head for the basement vault and bring an antiquated coffee maker out of retirement.

I love antique coffee makers. Part of this passion is the neurotic result of my hoarding instinct: Humankind has devised so many various and unusual ways to make coffee, and I compulsively want to possess an example of each one of them. If I didn’t check my impulse to hoard coffee makers the way I hoard typewriters, we’d be tripping over them by now.

The biggest part of my love for coffee makers, though, comes from the sheer joy of rediscovering all those various and unusual ways of brewing a hot pot o’ joe. Whenever I end up wandering through the wreckage of a garage sale, I keep an eye open for vessels that appear to have no modern equivalent to any stove-top kitchen appliance in my experience. I don’t know how many times I’ve popped the lid off an innocent-looking jug and found plumbing inside that could only have meant it was made to brew coffee.

Finding the Sunbeam was like that, even though I had my suspicions almost from the moment I spotted what at first glance appeared to be a glass pitcher from across the room. As I closed in on it I could see that the glass body of the pitcher was mounted on a base made of Bakelite, and extricating it from the rest of the jetsam surrounding it on the shelf revealed a sleek Bakelite handle styled in space-age contours.

What seemed odd, at first, about this particular glass pitcher was that someone had incongruously left the basket of a coffee percolator inside it. It wouldn’t be out of the question, given the accumulation of detritus that crowded the shelves of that particular resale shop, to suppose that a passing customer jumbled together two so disparate kitchen items, but that turned out not to be the case. There was a hole in the bottom of the pitcher to stand the stem of the basket in, and a receptacle in the Bakelite base to plug in an electric cord. I’d never seen a glass-walled percolator before and was so wowed by it that I would’ve bought it even if it hadn’t been tagged at only five dollars. It’s almost embarrassing to admit how long I can stand beside it in the kitchen watching the coffee perk. I’ve done it before, and I did it again just this morning. What else was there to do?

With a freshly-brewed cup of mud on the armrest beside me, I curled up on the sofa and read several dozen pages of Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters, while slowly sipping. When I finally felt as though I had the energy to do it, I picked up my laptop, carefully bookmarking Salinger and setting it to one side.

Our Humble O’Bode has been internetless since Sunday morning, when I discovered that the router box was ticking like a time bomb, and that all the green status lights on its face had gone out, replaced by a single red light. I unplugged it from the wall and plugged it back in, but the classic dodge of cycling power that usually fixes other computerized junk only made this problem worse, if it’s possible to make a broken router any more broken. In this case, the slow ticking noise it had been making accelerated from a slow waltz to a crazy-fast Irish jig. The red light was still on, and it still didn’t work, so I’m not sure it was any more broken than it was before I attempted the power cycle, but it was a lot more emphatic about being broken. Just to make sure, I unplugged it again and left it unplugged for about five minutes. When I restored power this time, the ticking was a nerve-racking buzz. I didn’t want to find out what hellish noise it would make if I tried another power cycle, so when I unplugged it a third time, it stayed unplugged.

So what have we been doing without the internet? Well, I nearly finished The New York Times’ Sunday crossword puzzle, just for starters. I can’t remember the last time I had the patience, much less the time to attempt that. It took just about all Sunday afternoon, but I’m still rather proud, if only because I twigged to the theme of the puzzle, “Last Name First,” when I figured out that “Item on a steel worker’s agenda” was “Weld Tuesday.” I solved two more like that before I got stuck on “Smarmy preprandial blessing.” It ended with “grace” but I couldn’t think of anybody with a last name that might also mean “smarmy.” My Darling B was sure it must be Grace Slick, but if “slick” is a synonym for “smarmy” it’s a meaning I’ve never encountered. Neither one of us could get any of the words that crossed through “slick” to check if it fit, so it remains an wild-ass guess, as far as I’m concerned. She’s still dead certain.

I so desperately wanted to know which Grace it was that the first thing I turned to when I got the next day’s issue of the Times was the answer to the previous day’s puzzle. Only it wasn’t. It was the answers to Friday’s puzzle. This must be a new meaning to the word “previous” that I wasn’t aware of up to now. I didn’t know until I could look it up on Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle this morning that My Darling B was RIGHT! Mea Culpa, B. I will never doubt you again.

Although I began this missive at four o’clock this morning, if a text of over fifteen hundred words can be called a missive (it can: I’m giddy with pleasure at being able to google anything again), it’s eight o’clock as I finish this up in a coffee shop on Washington Avenue, where they offer free wifi and there is an electrical outlet within arm’s reach of ever table. (The battery in my laptop went to fuel cell hell many moons ago.) The date is 12/12/12, which the state legislature has officially proclaimed “Aaron Rodgers Day” because what else have our state lawmakers got to do in these times of plenty and peace, right? Oh, dammit, did I leave my soap box at home? Okay, forget I said that.

Aaron Rodgers may have an official day proclaimed by the law of the land, but was he born on the twelfth day of December, so that his birthday falls on 12/12/12 this year? Well, I don’t know. But I doubt it. I can tell you who does, though, and was relaxing at the very moment he typed these last few words in a coffee shop enjoying his day off from work on his birthday. You’ll never have that, Aaron Rodgers.

P.S. I was sitting in the car in the driveway, waiting to drive My Darling B to work and mulling over the things I could spend the day doing, when it occurred to me that Wisconsin state driver’s licenses expire on the birthday of the license holder, and when did I get that thing, anyway? Was it four or five years ago? It would be just perfect, wouldn’t it, if I had to spend an hour or two in line at the DMV waiting to get my license renewed, wouldn’t it?

I dug my license out of my wallet with no small amount of trepidation. Guess which other official document issued by the state of Wisconsin, other than the official proclamation announcing Aaron Rodgers Day, has the date 12/12/12 on it?

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