Sunday, April 20, 2008

Air roasted

by John D Ramsey

I thought that I would miss Minnesota more than I have. Two years ago, we moved back to the Kansas City area. We have only returned to the northland once since completing our move. Our return trip was a story. I took off work on Friday. Lisa, Claire, Gabby and I left early in the morning. Claire and Gabby were eight and three respectively. Our adult son, Daniel, had stayed behind when we moved. While he had come down often to visit us, I had wanted to make an effort to see him. I did not initially realize what an effort it would be.

As we approached Cameron, Missouri, I noticed a temporary lighted highway sign. MO/DOT was kind enough to inform travelers that Iowa was closed. At this moment, my air card from Sprint seemed, for once, like a great idea. We checked the weather and discovered that blizzard conditions had made Iowa impassible. We drove from Cameron to my parent’s home a half-hour away, and we waited. Lisa used my laptop to check email along the way. She was intrigued with EV-DO until we approached the farm. The signal faded as we left the highway, and we disappeared from the Internet. The air card immediately reverted to the waste of money that it had always been.

Mom and Dad have DSL and a wireless network, so soon after arriving at their place we were browsing again. About 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the highway status in Iowa changed from “closed” to “travel not advised.” I asked myself, when is travel through Iowa actually advisable? I concluded that conditions must be close to normal. We set out again and made good time until Des Moines. From Des Moines to the Minnesota border was a wasteland of wrecked cars and snowdrifts. The roads were in poor condition, and we joined the column of brave souls crawling north toward freedom. When we finally arrived in Minnesota, MN/DOT’s fleet of snowplows was working to clear the shoulders of the highway. The highway driving lanes were in great condition.

The conditions we had faced in Iowa had been exacerbated by bureaucratic intransigence. Nevertheless, in their defense, I see this as a marketplace reality. Iowa knows that it is a drive-thru state. In contrast, Illinois, Missouri, and Minnesota are destination states. You could argue that Nebraska is also a destination state, but that would be hard to prove. Regardless, Iowa’s concept of highway safety is to post a message saying, “Travel not advised.” That is cheaper than actually mitigating the effects of bad weather. Who knows, tomorrow it might all melt. To punctuate their hospitality, Iowa also prevents tow trucks from operating during inclement weather. If you dare to journey through Iowa during a storm, and you end up in a ditch, your AAA membership will not save you.

Anyway, when we arrived at the Holiday Inn near Daniel’s place, it was after midnight. We had driven over eleven hours for a seven-hour trip and twice as much Iowa as usual. The layover at my parents’ added to the length of the day, but probably spared us from the worst of the storm. We spent a nice weekend with Daniel.

Every day when he is in Minnesota and I am in Missouri, I miss him. His every visit seems too short and they are ever too seldom. We have come to the conclusion that it is easier, and cheaper, for Daniel to drive to Kansas City, than for the rest of the family to journey to Minnesota, and so that is the way it works. He comes down when he can. While I miss Daniel while we are apart, I also miss Cara while she is in Texas. I miss my kids regardless of where they are, but I find that I do not miss Minnesota as much as I thought I would.

When we left Kansas City, we knew we would be leaving behind great BBQ (Gates, Hayward’s, and Jack Stack are among the most notable), we knew that we would leave behind City Market, the Country Club Plaza, and thousands of familiar landmarks that made us feel at home.

After seven years in Minnesota, I had wondered what I would miss upon leaving. I do not intend to offend Minnesotans. I liked living in Minnesota. I just have not missed it as I thought that I would. Lisa and I have discussed this, and we came up with a short list of things we miss from Minnesota including Tavern on Grand. If you travel to the Twin Cities, you should buy a walleye basket at Tavern on Grand. Initially, we thought that we missed Leinenkugel, too, but Lisa found it at the local Wal-Mart. We do not drink enough beer to claim realistically that we miss it, but we could understand if someone did. Besides, Leinies are brewed and bottled in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.

It is a Minnesota truism that the best things in Minnesota come from Wisconsin. It is true about the beer, it is true about the cheese, and it is true about professional football. Nevertheless, if you do travel to Minnesota, do try the Canadian walleye at Tavern on Grand.

When we first moved back to Kansas City, we did miss Dunn Bros Coffee. While living in Minnesota, Dunn Bros was an important part of our week. Every Wednesday night, we would drop Gabby and Claire at AWANA, and retreat to Dunn Bros. I would order a depth charge, Lisa would order a mocha, latte, or sometimes tea, and we would decide what variety of coffee beans to brew at home until next week.

Lisa and I have been married for almost twenty-seven years, but there are not very many bullet points regarding the secrets of our success. While we may have several habits, we do not have many rules. One rule that we do have is simply this: Do not talk about money at home. Our weekly trip to Dunn Bros became our regular “money meeting.”

We were thrilled to learn that Dunn Bros was opening a couple stores in the Kansas City area; however, the Kansas City mutations were disappointing, and we stopped making the effort. This was a bit of a crisis for Lisa; while we could talk about money anywhere, she struggled to find coffee that I liked.

Lisa is industrious, and it did not take her long to find the best coffee in Kansas City. It comes from The Roasterie, just off the Boulevard in Kansas City. Their coffee is distinctive because it is air roasted. Last summer, Daniel was down for a weekend. Cara was living at home for a few weeks after graduating from college. Lisa arranged for the family to take a tour of The Roasterie on a Saturday morning.

Cupper and master roaster, Norman, talked the small group through the history of western civilization, correlating the growth of liberty with increased coffee consumption. It would have been impolite to tell Norman that correlation does not prove causation, besides his arguments sounded as plausible as most economic theory. In reflection, coffee does exemplify the glory of economic liberty. Lisa now buys The Roasterie’s City of Fountains blend from Costco. Norman and the crew at The Roasterie could trace the route of green coffee beans from the growers on remote mountainsides overland and across oceans and overland again into one of their roasters and on to packaging and distribution. While coffee travels from the harvesters’ fingertips to the cup in my hand, my money traverses a reciprocal route. Such is the beauty of free enterprise. I think that Norman enjoys participating in global commerce almost as much as he enjoys the aroma and flavor of a great cup of coffee.

When I drink coffee, I do not think about global commerce. I think about Lisa. I can, and I sometimes do make my own coffee, but most mornings Lisa makes it for me. She makes an effort each week to make sure that we have good coffee on hand. She relies on Norman, et al, to fill the supply chain, but if Norman did not she would find good coffee somewhere. She watches our bean inventory as closely as she watched the inventory when she managed a coffee bar.

The other day, Lisa entertained several moms in our home. She noticed too late that the grinder had enough beans for only one pot of coffee. Lisa was a day away from her scheduled trip to Costco. Being resourceful, Lisa pulled a bag of The Roasterie’s decaf coffee from the freezer. She let it warm to room temperature before swapping it for the coffee in the grinder.

The women apparently raved about the coffee. One called it the perfect cup. Fortunately, no one asked Lisa how to make the “perfect” cup of coffee because the answer would have been something like this. “Buy a pound of The Roasterie’s decaf, open the package, make one or two pots for a special occasion. Reseal the packaging and store in your freezer for a year. Let the coffee beans warm to room temperature and place in grinder that most recently contained fresh beans (City of Fountains blend preferably). Leave grinder settings adjusted for a small pot, but make a full pot instead.” When Lisa told me this story, I realized that she exerted both effort and some risk for my benefit. She preserved the last pot of real coffee for me. She did not have to; she wanted to.

On some days, I drink other coffee at the office. I do drink other coffee Tuesday morning at a men’s Bible study. Occasionally, Lisa and I go to Dean & Deluca for espresso. A couple weeks ago, we went to Starbucks. Drinking other coffee is a nice reminder to me of Lisa’s efforts to give me the best. Drinking lesser coffee reminds me that I am blessed.

Perhaps the reason that I do not miss Minnesota is simply this: All the best I had in Minnesota is with me still.

Love ya, Honey.

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