Loose Beans from the Coffee Can Chronicles

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic


SO WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING?

 

As I take a few reflective sips of coffee this morning,  I'm reminded of an impending personal milestone.  For reasons which will soon become apparent, I'm tempted to change that to read 'personal MILLstone'.

 

 Next year will mark my twentieth season out of high school.  Of course you realize this means plane tickets, ill-fitting suits, complete memory loss, hotel reservations and an open bar.Guess which one will get my fullest attention.  It's not that I'm against the need for class reunions on some intellectual plane, but sometimes I question the wholesale marketing of what may be a rather painful yardstick for some.  I anticipate receiving quite a few unsolicited invitations from companies who specialize in class reunions.  I have a feeling I'm going to separating a little wheat from a boatload of chaff when January arrives.

 

At first I feared that no one from my class would even find me.  I just knew I'd end up on that collective Wanted Poster you always see in the local newspaper.  Now with the glories of the Internet in full bloom, my new fear is that EVERYONE will find me.  I can't speak for all of you, but don't you sometimes think of your former classmates as perpetual teenagers?  My last contact with 90% of my class was in the years of Reaganomics and fluorescent clothing.  I'm not sure I'm ready to meet the modern editions who will show up en masse at the one country club in my hometown.  I just know I'm going to expect parachute pants and leg warmers a-plenty, while the DJ plays Duran Duran and a Flock of Seagulls. 

 

As badly as I want to meet the accountants, teachers, housewives and small business owners of today, part of me still wants to crawl back into the 80s womb and talk about Luke and Laura's wedding all night.  Nostalgia isn't everything, but sometimes it's the thing that will keep you the warmest.

 

THE GREAT HYMNAL WAR

 

As I drink my coffee this morning, I think about my pseudo-career in music. I have always been interested in music, ever since I taught myself to play one of those wheezy Magnus chord organs when I was 4.  The Magnus people made learning a breeze with their idiosyncratic numbering system.  I still enjoy playing 5-6-5-3-5-6-5-3, and that beautiful love ballad 1-4-3-5-3-5.  Eventually I took up the clarinet and learned a little something about music theory. Little did I know how much of an impact this early musical education would have on my life.

 

When I was 12, we joined the pew-jumping, chandelier-swinging church next door to our house.  In reality it was an Apostolic Pentecostal church, but you know how rumors get started.  The pastor was a firm believer in the encouragement of 'young people', which surely included me at the time.  His wife was the church pianist, a young associate pastor was the organist, a family of country singers played guitars and yours truly became- the accordionist.  My Magnus chord organ skills payed off in spades as I dutifully plowed through any song mentioning the Blood of the Lamb.  One thing about Pentecostal music- the Blood had better be flowing, or else we're not playing it.  For the four years I played in that orchestra, I was steeped in foot-stomping, hand-clapping good old gospel music.

 

Twenty some odd years later I find myself being asked to play the organ for a small country Methodist church in Alabama.  Full of my former Pentecostal vim and vigor, I eagerly agreed to take on the challenge.  Oh ye of little research.  I found myself deeply embroiled  in what can only be called the Great Hymnal War.  The old hymnals could conceivably be divided into dirge/not dirge, while the absolute newest versions might as well have included 'Jesus is just alright with me'.  Somewhere in the middle was the accepted hymnal, which incorporated just enough of both camps to be perfectly contentious to musicians.  I'm actually enjoying the schizophrenia, as I quietly plug away on a real church organ every Sunday.  But every once in a while, I find myself wanting to strap on an old accordion and see how strong those ceiling joists really are.

 

THERE'S MUSIC IN THAT THERE COFFEE, MISTER.

 

As I settle down to my final cup of coffee for the day,  I hear the opening strains of Van Morrison's “Brown-Eyed-Girl” and realize how good life can get.  I'm not sure what the most perfect song in the world would sound like, but I think John Prine is going to write it and Van Morrison is going to sing it.  If they don't, I'm sure Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan will be on ready five status.

 

 Surprisingly enough, coffee shows up in a lot of memorable songs.  Mickey Dolenz promises time for “coffee-flavored kisses and a bit of conversation” in the Monkee's Last Train to Clarksville.  Don Williams begins his lonesome day with “coffee black, cigarette” in his country hit Some Broken Hearts Never Mend Bob Dylan lingers over One More Cup of Coffeebefore facing (The Valley Below). 

Oddly enough, I don't believe the Beatles ever mentioned coffee in their music, but one might wonder what was in the cup Paul speaks of in A Day in the Life

 

Coffee is almost always the one bit of normalcy that creeps into the songwriter's otherwise complicated verses.  We can all identify with that desperate search for the waitress, or that early morning jolt of reality only coffee can bring.

 

For a long time, I thought Van Morrison's Into the Mysticwas as close to perfection as anyone could get.  Now I'm beginning to think that we are all responsible for writing our own perfect song, one where the verses don't really matter and all our friends know the chorus by heart. 

 

YOU KNOW THAT WE ARE LIVING IN A COFFEE WORLD

 

My wife tells me that she's been drinking coffee since she was four years old, and somehow I believe her. It may be the dozen or so cans of Story House gourmet coffee strewn around the house, or it may be the fact that we are already on our third coffeemaker in six years of marriage. We can't leave the local coffeeshop/bookstore without gazing longingly at the top-end cappucino machines and French press carafes on the shelves. You know those oversized bins of whole bean coffee at the grocery store? I'm beginning to think they're actually free gumball machines for coffee fanatics.

 

My wife says she started her coffee habit by finishing off the dregs of coffee left behind by her parents. My brother started drinking coffee at our mother's funeral. He started off with equal proportions of cream, sugar and coffee, then eventually acquired a taste for the stronger stuff. Being an inveterate hot tea drinker from way back, I still prefer a little cream and sugar in mine. My first real exposure to coffee was not in a cup, but one of those chewy coffee-flavored candies. I took one bite, expecting chocolate, and received a rather abrupt introduction to the world of coffee.

 

Some say the world is divided into two groups- those who like Neil Diamond and those who don't. I say that the world can be divided in a different way- the world we knew before coffee, and the one we discovered after that first cup. 'Coffee World' is inherently different- life has a few more edges, a little more color. Like any other first experience, you can sense that an invisible border has been irreversibly crossed, but somehow you don't seem to mind the change. Coffee World can be a challenging place sometimes, but its also worth trying all the way to the dregs.

 

 

WHAT'S NEXT-- COFFEE-FLAVORED COFFEE?

 

I've been on a diet for about 6 months now, which explains why I just finished eating a bowl of coffee almond ice cream. Let he who is without carb cravings cast the first Slimfast can. Speaking of diet drinks, I believe more than a few companies have composed coffee-flavored variations on their standard liquid fare. Oh they try to be so clever by calling it 'mocha', but we see through their little ruse.

 

Over the years, there have been many attempts to blend coffee with another food or beverage. Some have proven hugely successful, while others have fallen a little short of the glory. Coffee ice cream came straight out of the vat with a halo and a large bow saying 'Buy me, I'm terrific!', while the earliest versions of cold cappucinos played cards on the shelves and said 'When you run out of every other drink in the house, you know where I live.' Times have changed, and now frozen or chilled cappucinos are among the most popular drinks in gourmet coffeehouses. Sometimes it just comes down to building the perfect beast and waiting for the right consumers to find it.

 

As appealing as it sounds, there is one coffee-enhanced beverage I'm glad hasn't made it onto store shelves-Drew Carey's infamous Buzz Beer. For those of you who missed the show, Buzz Beer came about after one of Drew's cronies started drinking coffee between taste tests. The combination proved to be marketable on the show, but I seriously doubt anyone would actually try to duplicate it in real life. Coffee has been used in a lot of strange concoctions, but beer seems to do best on its own. (At least I won't be polishing off a pint of beer pistachio ice cream any time soon). That's okay, though- it leaves more room in the fridge for my card-playing iced cappucino buddies.

 

 

THERE'S A DAY FOR THAT

 

I happen to be the proud owner of the most oxymoronic job title in the world- a professional poet. Historically, this has proven to mean I'll be long gone before the check for the pizza arrives. We poets live for April, which happens to be National Poetry Month. For a solid thirty days, poetry and poets can roam freely in the streets, without calling their parole officers or violating restraining orders.

 

April also happens to be National Coffee Month, which makes some sort of symbiotic sense to me. Coffeehouses were generally the first venues to embrace poets, so I can see sharing a month with the hands that feed us. All this talk about national months got me to thinking, though. You have to figure that for every month that makes sense (Black History Month, AIDS Awareness Month, Women in Sports Month, etc.) there must be hundreds that are best described as answers to obscure trivia questions. Creating a new 'Month' must be the bread-and-butter of legislators everywhere. It's got to be the best win/win situation of all time- instant respect for the lawmakers, and recognition of the oft-ignored blue-backed iguana owners of America.

 

I'd like to know who decides what cause deserves a national Day, Week, Month or Year. The negotiations have got to be the most delicate diplomatic operations in Washington DC: 'You know, Bill, I share your love for the little critters myself, but how about National Wombat DAY? We had to give Senator Jones “National Pantyhose Month”, so the calendar's looking a little full right now.' No matter what the occasion, I'd like to think someone is waiting for the Wombat Parade of Heroes to pass by on that special day.

 

All I know is that next April, I will be sipping my gourmet coffee and working on my next collection of poems. If you care to join me, just remember I like extra pepperoni.

 

 

COFFEE NIPS: A GATEWAY CANDY?

 

I realized the other day that my first taste of coffee didn't come from a cup, but from a little piece of penny candy called a Coffee Nip.  My dad used to take us to an indoor flea market on Saturdays, and one of the booths featured nothing but candy of every description.  If we had a quarter or two, we could easily recreate the average Halloween haul.  I fell hard for a piece of German-style chocolate called an Ice Cube.  It wasn't like your average Chunky or Hershey Bar- it was incredibly smooth and creamy with a strong hazelnut flavor.  At three cents a pop, it was the Cadillac of penny candies but I couldn't get enough of them.  Our first and only goal on Saturdays was to seek out the 'Candy Lady' and load up our small brown paper bags.

 

 On other days, we would ride our bikes up to a store called Reinker's, which was owned and operated by a sweet old German man.  Mr. Reinker ran his store old-school style, with clerks that always knew your name and the best ice cream section in town.  He would always insist on patting us on the head, which would simply offend our four year old sensibilities. 

As I grew older, I discovered that Mr. Reinker also stocked an incredible assortment of penny, nickel and dime candies.  Just behind the cashier stood the Wall of Paradise, complete with Ice Cubes and Coffee Nips. 

 

But it didn't stop there, no sir.  Reinker's carried the Holy Grail of collectibles for an eight year old kid- Wacky Packs.  These were cards featuring spoofs of well-known products, like Dunder Bread and A-Jerks Cleanser.  Each pack contained the ubiquitous stick of cardboard bubble gum, at least 5 stickers and a piece of a much larger puzzle.  It was a glorious day when I actually had enough pieces to finish the mother of all things Wacky- the big puzzle.

 

I did some checking around the other day and found a supply of Ice Cubes online.  They now go for thirty cents a piece.  The Wacky Pack manufacturers cranked out their last run sometime in the late 80s or early 90s.  The stickers I wasted as a child are now worth a fortune to serious collectors.  I could be very sad about these twists of fate, but I'd much rather get another pat on the head from Mr. Reinker as he casually slips another Ice Cube into my mother's purse.

 

 


Submitted: February 05, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Michael Pollick. All rights reserved.

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