First draft manuscripts of The Napoleon Bloom are currently being printed and will be delivered to my beta-readers within days. Who are my beta readers? One is a local journalist who specializes in the deep investigative journalism of a bizarre small town (Who is stealing the ducks from the pond?) and she’s also arts editor of a big local magazine and writes romances and travel books and apparently has way more time than I do.
Beta reader #2 is an architect with an IQ of 428 and one of the most deadpanned honest people you’ll run in to. She’s incapable of sugar-coating her thoughts, but in a way that doesn’t (typically) leave me in tears.
Beta reader #3 is a local attorney who I met via Facebook (and a pediatrician’s waiting room) – with a sense of humor that rivals only my own (humbly speaking, of course.)
Jon Talk Chai. Jon Talk Chai Very Well
I have to correct a wrong. Last month I was unfair to chai tea. First, that sentence is redundant because “chai” means tea in Hindi. I had just finished reading Gregory David Roberts’ brilliant The Mountain Shadow (the follow-up to his even more brilliant Shantaram), and I commented on how the characters were constantly drinking chai. It’s set in India, so it’s basically the equivalent of having coffee in New York, but it stood out to me and I had to find out what the fuss was all about. I’m not talking about old ladies having tea. These were gangsters, drug runners, murderers and gun dealers, taking their chai very seriously. So I bought some really cheap “Chai Green Tea” from the supermarket shelf, next to the Earl Grays and chamomiles. This was the chai equivalent of calling Miller High Life “craft beer.”
As luck would have it, a meeting of local literary minds was called to be held in a new tea shop in St. Petersburg called The Station House, featuring tea from a locally successful tea empire called TeBella. (Locals, even if you don’t drink tea, grab a cup of coffee in what has to be the nicest tea/coffee lounge within a thousand miles. It’s Versailles.) In my original blog post, I decided that an adequately tattooed and pierced barista would need to prepare a proper chai tea. Well this one came with dreadlocks too, and she guided me perfectly through the ordering process.
We’ve Created a Chai Drinking Monster
Now my wife is tired of hearing me talk about chai. Afternoon coffee no more – I go for the less caffeinated, nerve soothing, soul purifying, and oxford comma loving chai latte. Not too sweet. Thank you, lovely barista, for the life-altering cup of goodness. Since that maiden cup of chai, I’ve tested a few other versions. Kawah coffee – good – also uses TeBella tea. Starbucks, very tasty – but a bit sweet, and I learned that it has as much sugar as a Snickers bar, which sort of destroys the Zen aspect of the experience.
At home, things have improved in my chai brewing skills. I found a better brand of black tea chai. I learned to heat the milk and quickly give it a little whip while the water boils, and I sweeten it with a little honey. Before my friends start calling into question my masculinity, I saw that peppermint-gingerbread-bliss K-Cup in your Keurig rack (you know who you are – and you drank it.) If it’s good enough for a fictional money laundering Australian escaped convict and his Mujahideen friends, it’s good enough for me.
The book I’m reading now also has quite a bit of tea drinking going on. I’m sinking my teeth into Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. So far, the main character is served lots of tea that has been brewed from already steeped-once tea leaves and he has a tendency to run around the streets of (that other) St. Petersburg in a state of delirium, barking insanely at people. It’s a change of pace and I’m enjoying it.