Building a Door in a Blue State

I’ve always been a little left of center, even politically.


I’m a college educated, blue collar, fortysomething, cis-gendered white male. My political leanings could end up . . . pretty much anywhere on the spectrum.

When the election “season” started, I was all over the map. At first, I was convinced I would vote red this year. I liked what Rand Paul had to say, and then he petered out early. I liked what Ben Carson had to say . . . and then he fell asleep at the wheel. And then the red right went hard right, and I retreated to the sweet blue bosom of the Democratic Party.

Bernie Sanders emerged out of nowhere and courted the Dems like an old-timey bard. I fell in line with a lot of them. Hillary Clinton just didn’t speak to me. (And, no, not just because she was a woman.) When the primaries rolled around, I felt “the Bern”. As those young kids were calling it.

Within months, it was clear he wasn’t going to win; the math simply wasn’t there. Sure, there were seedy people in the DNC that kept him from being a serious candidate. But not enough people believed in him. Hillary was their choice, and so . . . she became my choice. The alternative on the other side—the one who did take the Republican crown—was much, much worse.

As more months went by, Old and New Media fed us a steady stream of what we wanted to hear. The “Orange One” was a fascist; “The Pantsuited One” was our only hope. It was hardly even a contest.

Allegations emerged about each candidate. Scandal on top of scandal. It got ugly . . . then uglier . . . and then unbearable.

Then came the week of the general election.


I voted the Monday prior to Election Day.

Filled out my ballot and dropped it off at the nearest poll station. (In Oregon, we can do that. Yay, mail-in ballots!) All that I could do now was watch and wait.

On Tuesday, November 8th . . . I sat in the living room with my mother, my niece, and my stepdad. The results started coming in.


It was grim.

By 6PM, it was clear that everyone—and I do mean, everyone—had read this wrong.

I retreated to the safety of my tea and my tea blogger group. It was my hobby and my solace.


But even that didn’t help.

By 8PM, I bid my farewells to them and returned to watching the news. Hoping the whole time that there’d be a last-minute shred of hope. By 10PM, the Rust Belt states fell to the reds. It was over.

I didn’t sleep well that night, managing maybe three hours total. Not three hours straight, however. Thoughts of world wars, post-apocalypses, and even suicide danced maniacally through my head.

The next day at work, I looked shell-shocked. Like many Americans, I existed in a daze. I felt just as I did on 9/11—vulnerable, hopeless.


Half of my coworkers had voted for the Orange One. None of them made eye-contact with me. They knew.

After work, I took my rage out on social media. I un-friended every Trump supporter I knew. Including family members. My own brother, too. If they supported him . . . then they were irreversibly flawed, in my mind. Throughout the night, I continued to express my anger on every platform.

Around 6PM that night, I received a call from my father. My stepmother had told him I was “in pain”. And we proceeded to talk about what had happened for the next three-or-so hours. We discussed politics, religion, faith, and even nerded out on Biblical apocrypha. (It was an interest of mine.) By the end of the conversation, I had calmed down.

By Thursday, news of protests nationwide reached my ears. Portland, my hometown, made national news for having been among the first to turn into a full-blown riot. Anti-Trump demonstrators vandalized property; one even took a skateboard to the back of the head of a Trump supporter. Both sides clashed.


News and false news of hate crimes flooded the trending platforms online. Everyone on every side didn’t corroborate sources. Myself included. And as the chaos continued, all I could think about was . . . calling my brother. Someone whose views differed from my own.

During my work shift, I did so. We talked only briefly. But he wondered if I wanted to come over that night. He needed help installing a door. I said I would help.

I went over after the work day was done. My brother wasn’t home, yet.  His wife was there, though, busy tending to my infant niece. I went in to say, “Hi.” The little one beamed a Gizmo-like smile at me.

(Seriously, she smiles exactly like Gizmo.)


She asked if I could hold her, and even offered me a bottle to keep her distracted. My niece practically fell asleep with the bottle in her mouth. Hardly a care in the world.


Shortly after, my brother came in, and we got to work installing that door. Once complete, we had dinner. Politics was only scantly discussed. No more needed to be said.

Throughout the week, we all put up walls. That same week—with someone I did not see eye-to-eye with—I put up a door. I’m nowhere near accepting of the results of the election, my “wall” is still up . . . but I helped put up a door. That has to count for something, right?


Monday, November 14th, 2016 Musings 5 Comments

Tschanara, Germany’s First Tea Garden

NOTE: While I usually don’t update this blog with tea-related articles, I had to since my main tea blog was having server issues. However, if it’s working by the time you come across this article, and you require a mobile friendly version, go HERE.

Growing tea in Germany . . . of all places . . .


Blame Wikipedia for putting that fantasy in my head. I remember reading up on tea customs in European countries, and there was a sub-section on East Frisia. It was one of the few regions in Germany that even had a tea culture to speak of.

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Thursday, August 25th, 2016 Steep Stories 7 Comments

The Sasquan Signature

Back in July, I decided to get out of the house and see a movie – Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck, if I remember correctly. Unfortunately, I’d arrived at the theater an hour and a half early. This meant I had far too much time on my hands. Luckily, there was a pseudo-mall nearby with a giant bookstore attached – Powell’s, to be precise.

I went into Powell’s not expecting to buy anything . . . and that was my first mistake. Or at least, so many people have told me. One should always be prepared to buy something; it’s Powell’s. It has that effect. The place is like the cocaine brick of bookstores. But I digress . . .

When I went in, I moseyed to where I was always comfortable – the sci-fi section. From there, I bee-lined to my favorite author’s name – Mike Resnick. I’ve written about him before on this blog; heck, I even interviewed him. Ever since I was a child, I always checked his corridor in the bookstore to see if there was something new. There usually was . . . but nothing prepared me for this.

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Friday, September 25th, 2015 Musings 953 Comments

An Open Letter to Delta Airlines and Bank of America

Dear Delta Airlines and Bank of America,

I’m writing this, now, four hours after an attempt to resolve an issue to explain why. In a public fashion, no less.

On August 6th, 2015, I attempted to purchase a ticket through Delta Airlines. The reason, unfortunately, was a somber one. It was for the funeral of my grandfather, and I very much wanted to go. In order to book the ticket, though, I had to use my Bank of America credit card rather than my debit card. Little did I know, this simple act would set off a chain of events that would frustrate me to the point of wall-punching rage.

I tried twice to book the airline ticket with the credit card, but the website wouldn’t accept the security code I entered. Seething, I bit the bullet and used my debit card, instead. Ticket was purchased, and I thought all was done.

I was wrong.

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Tuesday, August 11th, 2015 Musings 17 Comments

Remembering Nelson . . .

There’s an old saying regarding manners, that if someone offers to buy you dinner, you don’t order the most expensive item on the menu. This often leads to the joke of said patron replying with, “I’ll have the lobster, then.” When I was a young(er) lad, my grandfather took my cousin and I out for dinner at a fancy restaurant. We both ordered burgers, and we were quite perplexed as to why this vexed our grandfather. It wasn’t until years later that it was made clear to us.

The one time we were expected to “order the lobster” . . . we didn’t.

And that’s the sort of person my grandfather – Nelson Francis Norman – was. He wanted the best for his children and grandchildren. He was a gentleman and a scholar. (Seriously, he had the Harvard degree to prove it.)

On Saturday, June 6th, 2015, the Norman family was dealt a tragic blow when the 97-year-old Nelson passed away. I wasn’t there to see it happen, nor was I there to witness his gradual decline. But I was assured by family in the area that he went peacefully.

Luckily, I was able to see him before he passed. In early May, I was down in California for World Tea Expo, and before flying out, my mother and I stopped by to visit with my grandparents. My grandmother was looking well, but my grandfather was quite frail. He was in and out of consciousness, quite depressed, and could barely speak. He did put up quite an effort to converse with me, though.

I may be biased but – as far as family patriarch’s go – he was the best. Of his six children, umpteen grandchildren, and burgeoning number of great-grandchildren, he somehow kept tabs of (and found time for) all of us. He also made sure to keep us updated on family happenings, and his views on world affairs . . . in the form of his Norman niche-famous “Sunday Reports”.

His Sunday Reports were a comforting constant in my life. They didn’t always make sense, but they were always topical. And he sent that group e-mail almost once a week like clockwork, for nearly two decades. I regret admitting that I didn’t read all of them, but I was always assured when those e-mails came. As his health declined, though, so did their frequency. Eventually, he needed someone else to transcribe them altogether.

Several years back, he requested a “guest-Sunday Report” from me about the origins of tea, since he’d heard I’d taken up writing about it. He wanted to inform his loyal readers what tea was all about, at least from my perspective. Alas, I never got around to writing that “report”. One of my many bouts of procrastination.

If I were to do it now, though, I think I could only manage one sentence, “Tea is about people.” And follow it up with, You were one of the best of ‘em, Pappy. Or something equally as schmaltzy.

I have yet to cry. For some reason, I can’t manage a tear. But the sadness is there, deep and burrowing. My biggest regret is that I hadn’t accomplished something truly “great” before he died. No Great American Novel badge of honor to show him. Yet I’m fairly certain he wouldn’t have cared either way, just as long as I – and the rest of the family – were happy.

Next time I see you, Grandpa, I’ll remember to order the lobster.


Thursday, June 11th, 2015 Musings 985 Comments

Knights in White Sparks

Back in April, my mother and I went to see The Moody Blues.

For men well in their 70s, they put on a great show. And as expected, they ended their surprisingly long set with their most memorable song, “Knights in White Satin”. I still don’t understand it. Sure, I’ve read the lyrics, I assume it’s a love song, but I have no clue what knights or cloth have to do with it. Maybe it has something to do with the death of chivalry?

What’s this have to do with what you (fair reader) are about to digest? Probably nothing; probably everything. But it does – albeit awkwardly – transition to what happened a week later.

Mum and I decided to travel together to Southern California. We determined that the best way for us to get around was to split a rental car while we were down there. She would get it for the first few days to do whatever, and I would have it for my “the business trip” up to Long Beach.

The car we prepaid for was this:

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Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 Musings, Steep Stories 8 Comments

Two Trips, Bootleg Botanicals, and Shorty Cigars

As some of you know by perusing this website or my tea blog, booze and botanicals are kind of my thing. Especially, when they’re combined somehow. My love of teabeers, for example, is practically synonymous with my Internet persona. Imagine my surprise when my latest discovery in this pursuit…came from an old childhood neighbor.

It had been years since I’d seen Ryan Belshee (the childhood neighbor) and his wife Melanie. The last time was by sheer accident at a house party. My contact with Ryan over Facebook was a new development. When I heard that he and his wife were starting a business after a successful Kickstarter campaign – and that it somehow involved absinthe – I’ll confess I paid it only half-attention. Not a fan of absinthe.

However, when I learned that they were opening the brick-‘n-mortar space for this new venture, I thought it high time I give it a looksee. And my jaw dropped.

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Friday, October 17th, 2014 Beverage Blog 1,027 Comments

The Road Back

The Road Trip Sextet, Part 6“The Road Back”

For Part 1, go HERE.

For Part 2, go HERE.

For Part 3, go HERE.

For Part 4, go HERE.

For Part 5, go HERE.

The June California trip – for all intents and purposes – was a success. I notched off World Tea Expo, a beach house tea party, hung out with many family members, and (most importantly) spent some quality time with my grandparents. For only a week’s worth of time allotted to this, I accomplished…well…a lot.

There was only one thing left to do – make the road trip back. In more ways than one.

I had one more thing on the docket to do – something that was decided relatively at the last minute. During the road trip, my mother/travel partner informed me that she had a breakfast to attend to with some old high school friends in Oceanside. The location was mere blocks from the street I grew up on.

Mum and I came to a compromise. She could do her breakfast meet-up unimpeded by me, and I would have a quick look-around the old homestead.

I grew up on a long cul de sac off of a busy intersection. As far as neighborhoods go, it was pretty idyllic for a kid growing up in the 80s. One could even picture a brat with a bowl-cut on a bicycle, carrying an alien in the front basket. Turning off on my old street, one thought occurred to me: The place hadn’t changed in the 26 years since I lived there.

All the houses, for the most part, looked the same. Save for new paint jobs, newer cars in driveways, and cleaner sidewalks. Nothing was all that difference. Well, except for one thing.

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Monday, July 28th, 2014 Musings 9 Comments

Moments with My Grandparents

The Road Trip Sextet, Part 5 – “Moments with my Grandparents”

For Part 1, go HERE.

For Part 2, go HERE.

For Part 3, go HERE.

For Part 4, go HERE.

These are my grandparents, Nelson and Dottie. And they are awesome.

Both are well into their 90s and are approaching their 70th wedding anniversary.

This was the primary reason for my road trip in early June. Yes, I had a tea expo to go to. Yes, I had a beach party to attend. But the one reason that tops all of those was to see my grandparents for the first time in four years. Mainly for the stories they tell. And, boy, do they have stories aplenty. For this article, I wanted to highlight a few of them that were imparted just during this one visit. In the form of vignettes.

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Monday, July 21st, 2014 Musings 19 Comments

A “Date” with “Transformers: Age of Extinction”

So, Transformers: Age of Extinction came out last week.

I saw it opening night in GXL 3D (whatever that means). I refrained from expressing any opinion for or against it. Not because I was incapable, but rather that I hadn’t exactly pieced together my thoughts into a cohesive stance. Well…a friend of mine forced my hand when he posted a link on my Facebook to an io9 article dubbed: “Transformers: Age of Extinction: The Spoiler FAQ”. It was basically a rundown for the entire plot of the movie, and a well done one at that. I could find no fault in the logic posed about the movie’s illogic.

In the byline of the posted link, this friend wrote: “Is it really this bad?”

I sat on a reply for a couple of days…and now I have the perfect reply. In the form of an analogy.


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Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 Reviews 13 Comments

I work for tea money.


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