Two things before I begin:
I am often guilty of steadfastly refusing to buy anything without a red clearance sticker on it, or, if it’s online shopping, without the benefit of a discount code. Second, my husband owns a small business (which gives me the mindset of a small business owner). These two things are often at odds with each other inasmuch that as a bargain shopper I’ll go to Target or Sierra Trading Post , but as a small business owner I feel strongly that people should buy local as often as they can.

So on a recent trip to Lake Placid I tried to be the happy go lucky out of towner popping into the local coffee shop for a cup of coffee. We drove through the small town that we stayed in, but found no coffee shop. I don’t like to think of myself as an addict, it’s such an unsavory word, and yet it really fits in this area. I need my coffee. I can function and be cheerful without it (to many I am a cruel form of torture in the morning thanks to a preternatural need to chat…not many overnight house guests anymore, hmmm.) but I would prefer to pass my mornings with the benefit of a good cup of joe.

Actually, turns out I am a bit of a coffee snob and probably not worthy of using as casual a phrase as cup of joe… After 2 hours of being awake from a night of many intervals of awakeness at the hands of our diabolically sleepless when traveling toddler, my husband spotted a Dunkin Donuts and suggested we go in. I struggled. I’m all for John Goodman, but he’s not the voice I hear for my lifestyle. I do not want to be a member of a world that runs on Dunkin. But hot and caffeinated was beginning to sound crucial to my ability to function. We hit the drive thru (Does anyone actually bother to get out for “Dunkin”?)

“Could we get 2 medium coffees?”

“How would you like those?”

“Do you have Splenda?”


“Ok, a little cream and Splenda in one. Cream and sugar in the other. And a low fat blueberry muffin.”

The 64 ounce styrofoam torpedo that Sean passed me was the color of meringue, you know the little bits on top that get the tiniest bit carmelized? This liquid was so far removed from being coffee with cream…and then the taste. The pure Splendaness of it….my best guess is one packet per ounce-
24oz coffee
24 packets Splenda
16 oz of transfat loaded milk-like creamer with a shelf life of 72.9 years.

By the looks of Sean I could tell he hadn’t fared much better by opting for sugar. I would have pitched the stuff out the window, but then I wouldn’t be able to talk about vandalizing the parking lot of our next disappointing stop in our upstate NY coffee gauntlet. And let’s just say the muffin weighed 2 pounds and made up for its lack of fat (I have my doubts about that) with boulder sized granules of sugar on the top.

We stopped at a little cafe that I had disliked the last time we were in town (Oh my god I sound like a cross between Shelly Long in Troop Beverly Hills and Goldie Hawn in Overboard.) Sean stayed in the car while I went in and bought 2 unsurprisingly lukewarm cups of weak coffee and a stale, baked something or other with a mystery berry. To make room for the weak coffees I opened my door and poured out our first cups. Not half way through the first one and the parking lot started to flood, as the muddy river water looking liquid still remarkably hot, spread across the blacktop.

“Jesus Manda!”

“Well what would you do?”

“I don’t know, but god!”

“Well quit your blaspheming and move it. Gawd!”

So we pulled out of the lot and I tried to sip some of the coffee, but it was more than just cold and weak. It was bad.

Sean piped up,” Isn’t there a Starbucks somewhere in town? I mean look, those people have a Starbucks cup.”

The girls were beginning to wake up.

“I don’t know honey, but now we are those people.”

He gave me the “Huh?” look.

“Those people, the ones that come from out of town and nothing in town is good enough..?”

“Ya, but this is different, this coffee is bad!”

We rounded a corner and saw a cafe with a cute name. I really didn’t want to go in. I just knew that at this point anything but the wavy haired goddess of coffee was going to be crap. He parked out front and I dutifully got out of the car with a sigh. Another $10 in hand. The jolly round European owner was chatting with a woman as I walked over to the coffee pumps (that always means lukewarm and sucky, it’s a fact). The two kept talking as I doctored the steamless cups of coffee. I figured they were village chums.

I was wrong.

The jolly round owner was a talker. We talked politics- he said “Spitzer von’t oh-ccomplish anyzeeng, he ees a boolldog” (huh?) we talked economic development- but WHY eez Glens Falls zo expensive, eet’z not like eet’z ~sniff~ Saratoga (Enough with the Saratoga!), we talked real estate- “Zey are all zecond homes.” (Bet you have one too Mr. Uppity European cafe owner.)

I got to the car and handed Sean the coffee. He was annoyed. He almost said something, but somehow intuited that perhaps I might have experienced something annoying inside. Smart man.

“So?” he asked.

“It’s shit.”


“It’s shit. I promise. Damn near 30 bucks of piss poor coffee and trashtastic pastries.”

He gave me an exasperated look, took a sip and tried to hide the way his nostrils flared in offense as the “coffee” hit.

Cue babies. Both girls, wide awake and demanding.

“Let’s just park and walk somewhere,” he said.

“Ok.” I was ready for a beer. Oops, not yet 10am.

We got the car set and the girls ready to go. Sean came back from tossing the cups and had a super shit eating grin on his face.

“I am the best. You know why I am the best? C’mon, why am I the best?”

This is the point in the movie when the drug fiend would go over to her pimp, rub herself all over him and say,”C’mon baby…and then slip into a fiercely gutteral scream and spit, “Quit messing with me and give me the goddamned shit.”

I know that was harsh, but please understand, we were up most of the night with a 2 year old, and we’d been through much bad coffee and had not had the luxury of a shower. There are simply not words to describe what that is like. It takes you to another place, and it’s a bad place. After you come back you need coffee, the freedom to swear and the latitude to use incredibly harsh analogies metaphors similies ways of illustrating your pain.

Let’s cut to the chase shall we:

2 Venti Nonfat Lattes
1 organic Vanilla Milk
2 Reduced fat apple coffee cake slices
2 Starbucks Holiday CDs

Fucking Coffee Nirvana