Thoughts by Richard Bleil
There is a donut brand that you know. A few years ago, it had a sudden jump in popularity and seemed to be available in grocery stores everywhere, and they are delicious. But I had no idea at the time that this national brand donut actually has stores. I figured they were just shipped to grocery stores for sale there. Now I’m living in an area where there are actually three of these stores.
The closest one to me, however, has another donut shop right next to it. Apparently, it’s local, and a store I’ve never heard of. So, I decided to try the experiment. I mean, everybody seems to love that national brand donut, but, seriously, as delicious as those donuts are, how good does a donut shop have to be to survive right next door to one of those outlets?
We have a habit of assuming the big national brands are always the best. Phones are much like this; the “chic” phones are often far more expensive than the cheaper ones. The funny thing is that my phone was one of these “chic” phones a few years ago, but today is apparently passé. It costs a fraction of these popular phones, and actually has more features than the expensive chic one including a larger screen.
What is it that makes us pine for these more expensive status-symbol products? I bought a pressure cooker a few years ago when they were all the rage, but it wasn’t the “popular” brand. It cost about a third of the popular one, but was computerized, automated and had all of the same features. To tell the truth, I loved that pressure cooker. I made gumbo in it, and it was unbelievable. The woman I was dating at the time hated it, so there went about eighty dollars’ worth of seafood for naught, but I loved it.
I love exploring things I’d not heard of before. When I hear a song, I will actually pay for the entire album (or CD or whatever the modern version is) because I want to know if I love that song, or the band. Sometimes I discover that most of the music of the artist is not something I’m interested in, but on occasion I discover a gem. One of my favorite bands is one that I’m betting you’ve never heard of, and as much as I try not to give names like this, I’ll even tell you the band’s name is Calamine. There seems to be some confusion now as that name has been taken by another band, or album, or some such thing, but the one I mean has Julie Stepanek as the lead singer. When I was in college, the Cartoon Network had “Adult Swim” in the evenings, and one of the regular shows was “Sealab 2020”. The end theme was a song accredited to Julie, and while it was just a tiny little ditty (I wouldn’t even call it an entire song), I enjoyed her voice and the ditty so, out of curiosity, I looked up her name. That’s how I discovered Calamine, and the few (I think only two?) albums they had released, so, I bought them both.
Music matters to me. It really does. So of course, I’m curious about the songs that I like, and I’m happy to have discovered talents that a lot of people probably wouldn’t even care about. But I recommend that you find something that is a passion and explore. A very important friend of mine is a great lover of wine and the wine culture, not for the effects of being drunk but because he and his family truly enjoy wine. In the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s he used to play this game, finding wines for under a certain dollar amount, I believe that being about $18. His philosophy was that, at $40/bottle, the wine had better be amazing. But under twenty, there is a lot of junk, but there are also some gems, so his game was to seek out those shocking and amazing wines. He kept logs of his opinions and thoughts, and I must admit, one of my favorite chardonnays is Lindemann’s, one of his discoveries.
I know; my regular readers are thinking, “but you don’t drink!” Well, true. I really don’t, and it’s probably been four years since I’ve last had as much as a beer, but I enjoyed learning about wines when I lived with that family. Their attitude towards wine was healthy, and I saw it as an opportunity to learn about the culture as opposed to the effects, so I took the opportunity to learn.