Coffee 10/29-11/14

The day after I got back from New Mexico (where I had a cup of coffee with my coworkers) I headed east to visit family and friends in Missouri. It’s a long drive, over fifteen hours east of Colorado, through the expansive plains and wheat fields of Kansas, all the way through the gentle hills and forests of Missouri. Turn south at St. Louis, and an hour later you’re there. A lot happened, but I’ve been tasked with writing about the coffee.

My parents’ coffeemaker is the same one they had when I was in high school. On my first morning back, I tried to brew a full pot. I filled the machine to the top line with water, but the machine sat silent when I hit the power button. Eventually it gurgled. The coffeemaker’s inner tubing had calcified so much that the coffee shot out in slow, arrhythmic bursts. I watched for a few minutes and then walked away. I came back ten minutes later, and the carafe was still mostly empty. There’s a plastic window into the water receptacle so you can see how much has yet to be brewed, and it didn’t look right: it looked like half the water was already gone. There must have been something wrong with the heating element. Just under an hour after I turned it on, the machine beeped that the coffee was ready. There was enough for one and a half cups.

I offered to buy my parents a new coffeemaker, but they declined.

So I made several trips to coffee shops on that trip. My favorite was a shop on Main Street. It’s run by a guy I went to high school with. The owner is a pretty good guitarist and sometimes had to step away from the espresso machine for an hour to give lessons downstairs. His shop is brand new, and he’s still trying to figure out which coffee distributor he wants to work with. I was a fan of the coffee from Breve Roasters, a distributor from the next town over, but the owner was leaning toward one of the St. Louis city roasters. I tried their coffee; it was good too. While I was back in the area, the father of one of my good friends passed away unexpectedly. My friend and I went to this coffee shop the morning of the wake. We visited for a while and then he had to leave to prepare, and I had to find a suit.

The town also has a place called St. Louis Bread Company. It’s a part of the larger Panera Bread chain, which sells soups, sandwiches, and pastries nationwide. Panera Bread actually started as St. Louis Bread Company, but I guess that “St. Louis” doesn’t play too well nationally so they rebranded all the shops outside the metro area. I ended up there a few times, mostly when the other shop was closed or when the owner was teaching music lessons. I was always tempted to grab a danish or a bagel, but I’m trying to watch my weight so I stuck with coffee.

I also ended up at a Starbucks in Effingham, Illinois. If you’ve ever travelled through Central Illinois, you’ve undoubtedly seen Effingham’s most notable landmark: a 200-foot tall cross made of what appears to be aluminum siding. I was on my way to visit my grandmother, who is nearly 100 and in poor health. But that’s outside the purview of this post. I’m just talking about coffee.

There’s a coffee place in downtown St. Louis I’d heard some good things about. I was in the city for the day so I thought I’d check it out. Unlike the places I’ve lived out West, St. Louis doesn’t have any natural mountains or mesas to orient me to my place in the city, and its grid is based on the curvature of the Mississippi River. I got hopelessly turned around. I ended up at another coffee shop (which was maybe a half-mile from my original destination, according to a subsequent Google search.) The walls of this particular coffee shop were covered with erotica from the 1950s-1970s. They had a poster of an unclad Betty Page, some laminated Playboy centerfolds, some steamy still photographs from old nudie films. I’m sure the pictures were shocking and scandalous at the time they were taken, but today it didn’t look that much different than something you could find on adult-oriented cable television. I couldn’t tell if the decor was supposed to be shocking or playful. I ordered an Americano and it was good, but I suppose the quality of the coffee was beside the point.

I got back to Denver a couple days ago, and the coffee maker here works just fine. The temperature has dropped well below the freezing point, so it’s nice to be able to stay in and enjoy a cup from the quiet of my couch.

Coffee 10/24

I’ve been away from blogging for a few days, but I have a good reason. I took a trip to New Mexico last week! My dad was going to a conference in Santa Fe, which is close enough to Denver that it was worth a trip down.

His conference lasted all morning, which left me a couple of free hours each day. On Friday, I decided it would be fun to visit my old office and drink coffee with them. My old office is down in Albuquerque, only an hour away from Santa Fe. We had donuts! I ate too many: I thought about stopping after the Butterfinger-topped donut, but the apple fritter looked too tempting to pass up. We caught up on old times; my coworkers talked about who quit and introduced me to the people who started up after I left; people wanted to hear about my experience on the set of Better Call Saul. I wanted to tell more but I kept all the details under wraps: instead, I told them about the drive down, and how I slept at a rest stop, and how I changed into my costume at a park in the morning.

I drank too much coffee and had the jitters by the time people needed to get back to work.

Coffee 10/17/14

This is my morning coffee post. I just steeped a cup and a half in the French press. After a few days of using the drip machine, it tastes especially robust.

Some strangers have gone above and beyond to help me out recently, and I want to return the favor. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m a jerk and that I don’t do nice things for people. I’ll open doors, offer help when I should, etc. It’s just that these three people did things that were especially nice, and I want to go above and beyond my baseline agreeableness to spread the love.

Last month, I was driving down to Albuquerque for that Better Call Saul shoot. It was later in the evening, after 9 pm, and my car was almost out of gas. I stopped at the first station I saw in Colorado Springs. It ends up, the station I stopped at was “Members Only”, and you have to scan your membership card for the pump to activate. I’d never heard of anything like that before, but apparently it’s a thing. It was dark, I didn’t see any other stations on the horizon (not that I would have been able to drive that far anyway), and nobody was around to sell memberships. A car drove past. I caught the driver’s eye and he looped around alongside me. “Not a member?” he asked. I offered to pay for a top off for him if he’d scan his card, but he just scanned the card and drove away.

The night Spandy died, we wanted candy. It didn’t have to be good. Just sugary and fatty. It was the start of Halloween season, so the store had buckets of chocolate lying around. We picked up a bit, no more than a dollar’s worth. When we went to check out, the register wouldn’t scan the candy’s price. The checkout man tried a couple of times and then handed me the candy. “Free,” he said.

Then last Friday, I was going to a friend’s house later, so I’d shaved and put on nice clothes. Until it came time to head out, I was looking for used books. I’ve decided to write a book myself, and I figured I should do some inexpensive research. I was going to hit up all the thrift stores within 3-4 miles of my house. The first thrift shop was a Catholic-run secondhand store. They had a big book selection, but not a lot to choose from of the type of book I was looking for. I found one, which would’ve run about $0.75. I went to pay, but the cashier couldn’t make change for the bill I had. I offered to put it back or make a donation, but she just gave it to me.

All told, these three people probably gave me less than 2 minutes of their time and $1.50 worth of goods. But each of them stuck with me. The stranger at the membership gas station didn’t have to stop, but he helped me make it to my job with an hour to spare. The cashier who gave the candy on the night that Spandy died couldn’t have known how much it meant. And the cashier who gave me the book had no idea that this was the first book I was picking up to use as research for my own.

So these stuck with me, and I want to return the favor somehow. Ideas?

Drinking Coffee in Hollywood

coffee

All this blogging about coffee reminded me of this picture. Me, drinking coffee in Hollywood. This was the last morning of my most recent trip, the one where I won a giant toy on the Santa Monica pier and had ideal seats for The Price Is Right. It was a fun vacation and the coffee was good, but you might not be able to tell that I was enjoying myself from the look on my face. It takes a few sips for my brain to catch up to its surroundings.

What I Thought About While Drinking Coffee This Morning: 10/14/14

After my recent uptick in coffee consumption, the jitters were starting to take over too much of my day. So I tried to cut back and only poured one cup today. It was a good brew, strong but not overpowering. I tried to savor it as much as I could but it was gone quickly. I’m used to a long morning coffee routine, waking up sip by sip, and it just felt rushed and over too soon. Rather than obsess over a second cup, I decided to take the dog for a long walk. The day was sunny but cool. I thought a lot about how alert I didn’t feel and how nice it would be to drink another cup. I made it back home and there was just enough left in the carafe for a three-quarters cup. I suppose I cut back a bit from the day before, but it wasn’t til that second cup that my morning felt complete.

What I Thought About While Making Coffee This Morning: 10/13/14

I’ve been drinking too much coffee recently! I stayed up late on Friday to go to the War on Drugs concert, which was great, so I had an extra cup or two (or three…more likely three) to help me wake up on Saturday. And yesterday was cold and rainy, which is perfect coffee weather if you ask me. I finished my last cup at 3 pm. I had a more reasonable amount this morning. Last night I started a rough outline of the direction I want to take my book in, and I thought about that. I’m optimistic and excited. But the coffee was strong enough that I’m jittery even 90 minutes later. Anyway, I suspect that I’ll need to change my morning routine soon. I’ll probably try to switch up my routine so I’m jogging before I have any caffeine, and I’ll probably switch from coffee to hot tea for a couple weeks. It will be a strong tea, no doubt, but not as intense as the coffee I’ve been making. That means that this coffee mindfulness exercise might be nearing an end. It’s a pity because I’ve been enjoying the very short cycle of activity and reflection. But all things must pass.

What I Thought About While Making Coffee This Morning: 10/10/14

It looks like it’s going to rain all day today so I took the dog for a walk before I made my coffee. I was feeling a little more alert than usual. I didn’t lose count of scoops.

My birthday was back in July, but my birthday present arrives today. The War on Drugs come to town tonight, and I got tickets. I saw them play in Salt Lake City when their first album came out. They were opening for The Hold Steady, who were alright but War on Drugs stole the show. Since then, they’ve put out two of my favorite albums, Slave Ambient and Lost in the Dream. I’m pretty excited. They’ve made indie rock news this week…fellow musician Mark Kozelek seems like he’s trying to manufacture a feud with the band.(Link has NSFW language.) I’m half-hoping he shows up tonight.

I’ve been a little worried about my dog. After Spandy died, he’s been more excited to see me when I get home, which is endearing but also a sign of separation anxiety. He doesn’t seem to be enjoying his chew toys as much anymore. Yesterday, I noticed a sore spot on one of his front legs. It looks like he’s licked it raw. I’m trying to figure out how to help keep his brain occupied. We’ve been going on longer walks and spending more time at the off-leash dog park. Normally I don’t let him sit on the couch with me but I let him this morning. He had his head in my lap while the coffee was steeping.