This morning I'm having a hard time getting going. It's like my brain is running at half speed. My cache - to borrow from the computing lexicon - is compromised. (a cache is a temporary storage area where frequently accessed data can be stored for rapid access). Mine's on the fritz.
Maybe it's the coffee. Maybe I need to start making a stronger brew. Our recent trip to Italy helped me become even more of a coffee snob than when we returned from the Pacific North West. They don't mess around in Italy.
But I do believe we're improving. I think our collective U.S. coffee consciousness is on the rise. Most Americans won't settle for mud anymore and even the fast-food chains are getting on board.
McDonalds has "premium roast" now, and when Burger king rolled out their "BK Joe", C.E.O. Gregory Brenneman told the press it was the real deal: "It's not that frou-frou stuff," he said.
It’s a smart move. Personally, I’m all about full-bodied rich coffee; I've endured too many years of weak insipid java in a variety of eateries and homes. If the brew is too strong then it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to add hot water. Weak Joe, on the other hand, is by definition beyond the reach of redemption.
I enjoy many regional flavors – Costa Rican and Jamaican are my current favorites - but I abhor the practice of spoiling an otherwise good blend by adding vanilla, almond, raspberry or some other aberration best left to ice-cream served on the side.
Coffee, I have often said, is my one true vice. And that’s really not too bad when you consider the alternatives.
Back when I was a teacher I gave up on "the community coffee pot" after my fourth consecutive week of being the only one making it, cleaning the burnt pot, and buying supplies (plus the pot was always empty when I wanted some). So I parked a pot of fresh good-to-the-last-drop right on my desk. My colleagues knew where they could find an infusion in an emergency, and the good will generated was more than worth the price of a few extra cans.
I worked with children exhibiting extreme behavioral problems, so sometimes school administrators would get nervous about my fragile glass container of scalding hot liquid. Believe me, it was never a problem. Even the most difficult kids in the community understand there are some things better left well enough alone.
Remember Jim Croce? “You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit in the wind, you don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger and you don't mess around with Jim.” Well in my classroom it was “Joe.” Nobody messed around with Joe.
Students were often confused when it came to rules such as “No fighting,” “No throwing of furniture,” “No attacking the teacher’s aid,” “No weapons,” or “No tantrums.” But one thing was perfectly clear, some rules are sacrosanct. “Do not, under any circumstance, even think about touching Mr. Maul’s coffee.” Believe me, in almost 20 years, no child ever came close.
I remember the day two large 7th graders got in a fierce fight. Books flew, chairs scattered, desks were overturned. Before I had a chance to intervene both kids tumbled across the front row and landed in a pile in front of my desk.
Suddenly the mêlée stopped as the brawling students became aware of their surroundings. "Chris" glanced around and nodded to his adversary. “Watch out,” he said, “we’re too close to Mr. Maul’s coffee pot.” With that they carefully moved toward another corner of the room and resumed their fight.
Our vacation to Washington and Oregon reminded me that some communities take their coffee more seriously than others. You can certainly find some great café con leche in West Tampa and Ybor City, but in Seattle and Portland each intersection boasts at least two serious coffee shops, sometimes three.
One week, attending worship services in the city of Olympia, we discovered a cappuccino bar in the church lobby. I thought I might have died and gone to heaven. Sure, someone usually remembers to plug in the big pot of sludge at our church every Sunday. But people, come on, I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I’m living on the wrong coast.
“A Chicken in Every Pot and a Car in Every Garage,” Herbert Hoover promised in 1928. To that I’d like to add, “And a decent cup of coffee for every American.”
Love and blessings - DEREK