SMOOTH SAILIN’: Picking our moments as we prepare for battle

This will always be a troubling day in America. Today, of course, on this eleventh day of September it seems like we are fighting more against the forces of nature than terrorists. But the struggle is clear and evident. Raging forest fires and deadly tropical cyclones can not be easily dismissed. I realized it was hurricane season last week when my favorite bartender started getting tipped with flashlight batteries. Irmageddon is at hand.


We all have to be vigilant against storms. We have to pick up or tie down anything that can get caught in the wind and become a potential missile. Batten down those hatches. You know the drill.

When the loss of life, limb and real property is at hand what really matters most in our world often shines through the smoke and pounding rain. Life is made up of a series of moments and sometimes they are under our control. Other times the moments are influenced by larger events like storms and our lives are affected directly by how we react in the present moment.

So my friend Stephen and I turned off the Weather Channel for a little while last week and decided to have some fun. We both like coffee, a lot. In fact we could both be considered coffee snobs. I told Steve how embarrassed I was for two friends during a recent camping trip. This one nameless fellow and his wife were entrusted to bring the java for the sacred morning ritual around the campfire and they committed the ultimate social faux pas. When we watched them bring out a big tub of Maxwell House for the percolator there was a sense of horror. Serious coffee aficionados prefer a much better roasted bean. Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, Peet’s and even Dunkin Donuts coffee would have been fine. Maxwell House and Folgers, I submit to you, are not fit for farm animals. Stephen concurred and our morning beverage conversation continued. We went on to lampoon tea drinkers and clearly we fancied ourselves part of and elite coffee cognoscenti.

One thing you should know about Steve: He is a scientist. For some time he worked for the National Bureau of Standards. So when we got in to the discussion of what bean makes the best cup of coffee it didn’t take long until we decided to do an experiment. I had some Peets, Steve had some Starbucks. We poked around and found a generic store brand, mostly for a control to the experiment, and let the fun begin.

Ultimately, coffee is judged by taste so we decided upon a blind test. We developed a complicated numbering system and Stephen brewed six cups of coffee in the exact same manner, three for each of us. We repaired to the front porch and carefully fixed the coffee with exactly one spoonful of cream, while the Mayor, our neighborhood cat, watched carefully. We sipped slowly and soaked in the sunny morning.

I want to tell you that one of the fancy brands won the contest but it was the $3 per pound generic store brand that was the most enjoyable. Starbucks lost. So much for our discerning tastes.

What trumped the science in our silly experiment was the undeniable joy of the moment. We have absolutely no control over the past, it is all water over the bridge. The future is an unknown, worrying about storms and other threats does not help very much.

We do have control over the present, however, and the opportunity to make the absolute best of it. The results of this taste test may be challenged. But the results of this experiment, in light of all we know about the past and future are clear: It doesn’t matter what kind of coffee you drink. What matters is who you drink it with and how much you choose to enjoy that moment.

Be safe during the storm, keep your head down and if you have a chance, enjoy an affordable cup of coffee with a good friend.

Bob Tis is a former Record reporter.

Bob Tis is a former Record reporter.