As those of you who have been reading this blog for years know, I tend to make a big deal of my birthday anniversary. Having been born on the Ides of March, I suppose some of the pomp and circumstance is inevitable, but I’ve always liked the idea of a holiday that was special to me and not shared by everyone else, so during my adult life I’ve made it special by it being the one day of the year I don’t sit in front of a computer.
Of course, this was much easier when I started it in the early 1980’s, since a computer was something you could easily point to…something that once connected to a television set would display characters, either those generated by the user, by a program, or coming down the telephone line through a 300-baud modem. It was simple…for one day, I didn’t sit in front of the large box with a keyboard, and could say I was not using a computer for the day.
Now, it isn’t so simple. My phone is a computer, the set-top boxes connected to the wide-screens are computers, the frelling microwave is a computer. So instead of trying to avoid all computers, I’ve made some uneasy and sometimes silly decisions about what I will and will not do. For example, it’s ok to send a text message on my phone, but it’s not ok to send a tweet to the Internet. I can check my voice mail, but not my email. I can use my tablet to read a book, but not to browse the web.
I know, I know, it’s all pretty arbitrary, but I’ve found it works for me. The whole goal is to make the Ides of March a day where I do things differently, where the day is forced to be something special, living a way I don’t live any other day of the year.
This year, my wife and daughter helped by taking me to Hanover, PA in the morning to pick up pounds of my favorite coffee blend, Thor’s Hammer, from Merlin’s Coffee on Franklin Street, a block off the square. I have no idea what Eric does to roast that coffee, and frankly I don’t care; it is awesome java whether course-ground for a drip coffee maker, or as is my usual, dropped into my espresso maker for cappuccino all day, every day. He even gave me a birthday present, although he didn’t know it – a delightful carry bag with a new motto: “It’s the Cat’s Meow.” (I know most of you will think of either a Norse God or a Comic Book Hero, but the blend was named, as all his blends are, after a cat he once owned.)
Since I do bring five pounds of the stuff away with me when I drive down there, I call ahead in the beginning of the week. That way, he knows to roast extra so I don’t clean him out annoying his local customers. He roasts it Thursday or Friday, packs it up, and has it ready for me on Saturday. After dropping it off in the car (you simply cannot imagine how wonderful the car smells with all that fresh-roasted coffee sitting in the trunk), we wander the downtown area. Sometimes we stop at one of the three diners for breakfast, other times walk a few blocks to the library, or if we get there early enough, stop in the farmer’s market usually picking up some apples or other fruits. Most trips I have electronic recycling I drop off on the way into town, and while the downtown area is suffering the same issues as most other small towns in Pennsylvania, it’s always a delightful little trip.
After returning, we almost immediately set out for Lancaster County, and Shady Maple Smorgasbord. Understand, calling this a buffet is like calling the Saturn V a firecracker…this is an amazing place with Pennsylvania Dutch cooking married to pretty much anything they think their customers will enjoy, and a gift shop that always costs us more money on the way out.
Side note here; this is a really busy place, especially on a Saturday night. Register lines lead quite literally outside summer and winter, and while the lines move reasonably, if you go there in the evening you will wait for a table. What frustrates me about it is hearing the constant whining of those who believe they should be entitled to an immediate table, disgusted with the wait, constantly complaining. This happens every time we go, and I always get frustrated…I mean, if you’re in a hurry, go to McDonalds. If you want extraordinary food, shut the heck up and wait a little. It is always worth the line, the employees are unfailingly polite and efficient, the food is plentiful and varied, and…oh, you get the idea. If you’re ever in the area go…just don’t whine when you have to wait a bit for a table to open up.
(Um, did I mention that anyone who can show identification will, on their birthday anniversary, receive a complimentary meal? That’s right, they cheerfully fed me buttered noodles, strip steak, shrimp, et al at no cost. Don’t worry, next time I go I’ll pay full price, and will enjoy it every bit as much.)
By the time we got home, there was barely time for a glass of Newcastle to end a perfectly satisfying, computer-less (sorta) day. When I got up this morning, and checked my email, my tweets, my server connections, and all the other things I do every other morning of my life, I have to admit I was already starting to look forward to next year’s Ides of March, when for one amazing day out of the year I take a perfect vacation.