Always wanting to get with the program (you know me, a conformist sheep), I got my fine cast-iron Chinese teapot out of the closet in honor of Ctein's post yesterday, and brewed up a couple of pots of green tea. This morning I'm trying some "Golden Monkey" black tea, because I have some. I suspect I like black tea even less than I like green tea, though, which is saying something.
I bought the teapot in a shameful blurt of impulse buying at the mall, several years ago. I passed a place called "Teavana" on the way to another store. Even more humiliating, I will confess that what really happened was that a young tea-store clerk caught my eye and what I really wanted was to chat with her for a while. She was (and doubtless still is) very pretty. I am pathetic; this you perceive; but honest. She earned her wage from her employer that day by selling me the fancy teapot and four custom airtight cannisters of tea at no doubt heavily inflated mall prices, and I left happy to have enjoyed her attention for twenty minutes.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I did realize that the young lady's solicitous delight in my company was perfect in every way except one: it was not sincere. (This is the flaw of salespeople. Of good ones, it is their only flaw; but it is a rather large one.) But I put that thought away. And eventually I did the same thing with my dearly purchased new tea set, after trying two or three times to accommodate to tea drinking and using the cast-iron teapot to emblazon several permanent circular stains in my kitchen counter. The countertop did not look all that great anyway, even before I put dark rings on it with my new teapot. My kitchen needs remodeling, but I do not have enough years left in my life to accomplish that. It is not a priority.
I wish someone would write, or point me to, some effective articles about coffee connoisseurship. I have been drinking coffee more or less every day since I was sixteen, but I still know relatively little about it, and my sporadic efforts to improve the quality of my brew usually come to nothing—I revert to my default, which is Starbucks' "Caffè Verona," mixed half caffeinated and half decaf. I periodically try to buy "good" coffee, or to grind my own (there are several coffee grinders in the back of the closet where the teapot was), but those efforts typically come to naught.
I very much like the idea of tea connoisseurship, you see. But—alas—I do not care for tea. It is a small detail, but an insurmountable one.
Foibles and limits
I've had to face up to another of my limitations recently, and I might as well confess to that, too. You might remember my enthusiasm for the Single Use Device, a beautiful whole-plate size view camera purchased in what was apparently another fit of consumerist delusion.
I had great plans, and in fact my New Year's Resolution last year was to shoot fifty sheets of film with that camera. Unfortunately I forgot one small detail that I already knew: I am not a view camera photographer. As with the tea, it's a small detail, but an important one. What I am saying is that my 2011 resolution failed—unless, that is, I can shoot 42 sheets of film with the 6 1/2 x 8 1/2 camera between now and the end of the month.
This is not likely; I have other things going on.
There is no great conclusion to this thinking...yet. I have sixteen more days to come up with a New Year's Resolution for 2012, and I'm going to work on it. My plan this year is to come up with a resolution I can actually accomplish. I have a feeling it will have to be something that is light on ambition, and not too steeply swayed by enthusiasm—which is to say, something that is not very resolute. This is the annoying thing about middle-aged people to the young; we are always talking about our little complaints, and never dreaming big. But the good side of that equation is that I hope my new resolution can be something that shows self-awareness, and the wisdom required to pay attention to lessons I have already learned about myself. Of this, I have hopes. Sixteen more days.
I wrote an email to Ctein last night telling him that I had raised a cup of tea to his health. Meanwhile, do you know anyone who would like to buy a very nice, and little used, cast-iron Chinese teapot, at a deep, which is to say humble, discount? It comes with a nice little metal fitted coaster that has rubber feet, so they won't get rings on their countertop. If they want it, I will include some tea.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by John Camp: "I need to learn to draw better. Instead of working hard at drawing, the need seems to be satisfied, at least temporarily, by the purchase of a really expensive how-to-draw book. As a result of this, I have a large number of how-to-draw books, and I still don't draw as well as I want to.This carries over into a number of other areas, like photography. My need to do better portraits, à la Kirk Tuck, seems to be satisfied by the purchase of a fast 45mm for my Micro 4/3 cameras. Then I don't have to make the portrait, but should I ever have a need to, I have the lens all ready to go. Same with the Panny 45mm macro; it's ready to jump into action, should I ever need to make a macro shot. I haven't need to do that since about 2001, but I'm prepared. Living in the Southwest, it'd be nice to improve my Spanish. I have a box of flashcards sitting right beside my computer. I last looked at them, briefly, about a year ago....
"Art is difficult, whether it involves drawing, photography, tea or coffee, or Spanish. Fortunately, buying the really good equipment is as easy as clicking through to Amazon."
Featured Comment by Nico Burns: "Mike, you may not have intended a great conclusion, but I think you have made an important point, that people generally spend far too much time doing things they aren't actually interested in.
"That said, perhaps buying these things wasn't such a mistake? People often become interested in things by trying them out. The more you learn about something, the more potential there is to find what is fascinating about it. So you weren't interested in these particular things, well that is bound to happen, but perhaps for each of the things you tried out but no longer care for, you can also think of something that you love but would never have found out about if not for a similar speculative purchase.
"As to salespeople, I have to disagree. The best salespeople really are sincerely interested and delighted by everything. Actually, these people tend to be the ones who get on best in every field, not just sales. I still wonder about whether it is possible to simply choose to be like this."
Mike replies: Unfortunately, I believe most current research points to the conclusion that our basic temperaments are innate. We're born cheerful, or morose, or something in between, and so we remain. This seems borne out when we realize that optimistic people remain optimistic even in the face of setbacks, and pessimistic people treat even great good luck as a untrustworthy imposter. Of course we must have some ability to modify our outlooks, but it might be somewhat limited.