Monday, July 18, 2011

Uncle Fester Latte

A word on coffee.

Several. Several words on coffee. Several. I like the sound of that better, It has a ring to it, yes, a ring.. And yes I’ve had a bit already.

The brain and body need water and oxygen in order to work properly. (According to doctors-but they’re always really busy, so it would be wise to just run that by WebMD as well.) Yogis rely on breath. Apple will tell you that you can’t get through the day without the Lilliputian electronics that manage your life and play kicky shuffled tunes while doing it. (Thanks to you iPhone, now instead of checking my e-mail obsessively every hour, I check my e-mail obsessively every three minutes. Which makes the regularly appearing spam e-mail from that one place I had T-shirts printed up that ONE TIME a real let-down.)

All of these are partially true, but my sun rises and sets on something a little more stakeout-worthy than water or breath. Coffee.

Sadly but tastily, my life can be chronicled the coffee I have drunk. Drank? Drunken?

I’m furious, that should have been easier. For example, while in college in New Orleans my heat-beater and sweet-tooth accommodator was an iced caramel macchiato with extra caramel. Good for countering the crushing humidity as well as producing blue ribbon cavities, this was really the gateway drug that brought coffee into my life. As I wish all things entered my life: covered in caramel, and with my name written on it in Sharpie so there’s no confusion that it’s mine.

During the summer I interned in Washington, my heart grew three sizes for the Milky Way lattes served in the Senate cafeteria coffee bar underground. Once again, dessert in a cup. I would click down the cool marble underground passageways in my “Corridors of Power Kitten Heels,” and “Primary Colors Pencil Skirt,” my Senate ID swinging impressively from a loudly printed lanyard that threw the whole thing off, and featured a photo taken of exactly the middle of my face.

It is unknown whether my whole head actually couldn’t fit in the allotted box, or if I was having a bad hair day and an executive decision was made by the drunk-with-power photo cropper to simply leave it all out. But the whole thing really screwed up the sleek intern/covert agent look I was going for by graphically counter-identifying me as Uncle Fester.

My roommate in DC was a (gasp) vegetarian, who trended towards simple, natural, healthy things. Needless to say, it was not a great match. Nothing personal. Nice girl, liked sugar-free vanilla lattes. So I did the honorable thing and told her, “Me Too!,” while downing liquefied Milky Way bars with a coffee topper when I was at work. Some people drink red-eyes. Some people, like Sean Penn in that one movie that one time, drink black-eyes. I was going for wild-eyed.

Chicago was all about pretty much not freezing to death. You know those mountain climbers that lose digits “up on the slope,” and are rewarded for their ambition with a couple of empty finger tubes in their gloves? Ok, that can happen to you walking to lunch in Chicago. Coffee becomes less about social convention and sugar intake than about literally bringing your blood to room temp. It’s the boiling water down your wetsuit, the HotHands for your liver, spleen, and heart.

Enter the Seasonal Coffee. Pumpkin Spice Latte! Gingerbread Latte! Peppermint Mocha! I’m not just drinking coffee, I’m drinking a whole SEASON! This tastes like fall, and that one tastes like Christmas! A drinkable calendar to distract you from the fact that you are still absolutely freaking freezing.

These days it’s cappuccinos, and it’s both fantastic and miserable. They make me so happy, and I eat them with a spoon like ice cream sometimes. And occasionally you accidentally breathe on the cinnamon and get a face full of it, which gives you that nice chimney sweep look that’s really taking off these days. But who wants to get addicted to something so bow-tie fancy? Expensive? And something that you absolutely positively could not reproduce if you were to be thrown into a Castaway situation. HELP is so much easier to spell out on the beach  with sticks than CAPPUCCINO. Plus, you'll be dehydrated by then so you'll lose precious time second-guessing yourself as to whether it's two C's or two N's, as though it matters.

The day that I found out that the Sweets Truck was featuring an “Almond Joy Latte” as their special for the day-I will be honest with you, I was not feeling well. I was installed on the couch under blankets, the Netflixing in full swing. NOT feeling good. NOT looking good. And definitely NOT missing an Almond Joy latte, you guys. I willed myself into ambulatory status, and drove my Claire Danes Little Women death-scene self to that mothertrucker.

Ok, SO: espresso, almond syrup, chocolate syrup, warm milk. Take 1 of these and text me in the morning. Or Facebook me. No, wait-everyone sees that. Twitter. Nope, same problem. Foursquare check-in? Neg-I don’t know how to do that. And I don’t want to. Yeah, just text. Ok good, that’s settled.

Yep, had a bit more coffee while that picture was loading.

I flashed back to my “Intern Confidential: The Uncle Fester Files” days as I medicated myself. A molten drinkable candy bar, with a caffeine chaser. Literally tasted EXACTLY like an Almond Joy. So I needed a pumpkin white chocolate bar to wash that all down with. Unbelievable. Everything you love about pumpkin pie, with the creamy luxury of white chocolate to bring it all full circle. And with the lovely buttery pie crusty-crust we have come to expect from pp.

Needless to say, I felt much better. I’m not saying this combo healed me-I’m saying the sheer sugar gram count masked any and all symptoms and kept me up for days. 2 brilliant, manic, shooting star, I am a golden god, glassy-eyed days.

And when that ordeal was all over, I really needed a cup of coffee.


  1. cute story - the chronicles of a life in the history of caffeinated beverages :-). wonder what it says about me that i have always been drinking plain old filter coffee?

  2. wait, what?? Milky Way latte?? Where do I get one? Better question - how do I make one at home, every day, for the rest of my life? That sounds so. good.

  3. You make me laugh.

  4. Love the food truck trend and I love the idea of taste testing your way through them. Makes me wish I lived in an area that had the little mobile gourmet gems!

  5. Good read, enjoyed. Good for you that you pulled yourself off of the sick couch.

  6. I hope your articles encourage other cities to get "on the wagon" (or truck, as it were). Your are a very entertaining writer. C'mon, Burlington, Vermont..TAKE A HINT!!!

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