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DinersDriveInsandDives_bannerI was answering KGB questions a while ago, and someone asked a very specific question about an episode of the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  Since I haven’t had cable in years, I had never heard of the show, but since Rhode Island is the home of the diner I was eager to see where all they had been.Grey's Ice Cream

At that time, the only place in Rhode Island they had visited was Grey’s Ice Cream, which is certainly not a diner, nor is it a dive, but I guess it qualifies as a drive-in since you stand outside to order.  I was seriously outraged and told everyone I could think of how stupid this show was for dissing Little Rhody (Also, the host is one of those morning radio DJ types with the shock of bleached blonde hair–I really hate that).  I mentally composed a strongly-worded email half a dozen times, but never actually wrote anything down.

Yesterday I read this, which says that one of my favorite diners will be forced to close abruptly along with 1,200 other small businesses in RI who are being levied a tax bill because the state is in trouble financially.  I wasn’t able to go support them yesterday, but this morning when Jewish Friend called me and asked if I wanted to go there for breakfast, I was eager to try to do my part (if it was still open).

Not only was it open, but there was a giant stand in front of the place that said “Read Before Entering.”  What it said was that the Food Network was inside and entering the building meant you agree to be on their show.  I wonder would have happened if the place was forced to close down yesterday…

So, Jewish Friend and I may be on an upcoming episode of the show.  We tried to sit in the dining room, but it was full of equipment, so we sat at the counter and tried to act like casual brunchers without a care in the world.  Then our meals were delivered, but we were not allowed to start eating until the photographer had gotten a good shot of the food being brought out and placed on the counter.

I ate granola and yogurt on camera, which was nerve-racking and extremely awkward; we answered some rather inane questions in a rather inane way, and sweated under massive kleig lights with me wishing all the while that I had showered.

In the five years I worked in television, I was never on television.  I even refused to tape a staff Christmas Greeting, now I’m going to (possibly) be on a cable show that I’ve been trash-talking for weeks.

When I was in High School, I went to a Rolling Stones concert in Winnipeg and was interviewed for the Winnipeg Free Press. I assume they picked me becuase I was 18 and everyone else there was 45.  When I read the article the following day, I was horrified to find that the way they quoted me made me sound like an absolute moron, and they put down that I had “giggled.”  I’m naturally apprehensive to see what a trainwreck this could become, but it is an interesting way to spend a morning.

Last January, as I blogged about previously, my dad (Wayne) and I traveled to Florida to run The Walt Disney World Marathon and Half-Marathon respectively. We flew out of Minneapolis, where neither of us lived, so we have to do the “get up early and hit the road” thing. We stopped at a Holiday station on the way so I could get a giant coffee and he could get—cookies, I guess. He bought 4 giant cookies in a variety of flavors, offered me half of one, and when I refused, ate them all.

This was strange to me, but I thought, okay, maybe this is the carb-loading that people say you should do before a big race. Maybe it’s not pasta the night before, like I always thought, but cookies, five days before. For the duration of the trip, he just kept on eating cookies. Every day. “I’m going to go get a cookie for breakfast.” He’d say. The day after my race, when I was lying in bed and praying for the sweet release of death (or actually unconciousness)—he brought me a cup full of mini-chocolate chip nibblers that I’m sure were grossly overpriced.

Fast-Forward to this Thanksgiving when the parents came out to Providence to visit me. They would get up early every morning to go for a long walk around my shady neighborhood, then complain later when I took them on walking tours. These moments were all punctuated by my dad eating cookies. There’s a Tim Horton’s down the street from me that Wayne would visit constantly. Every time we’d drive by he’d say “Tim Horton’s, I hkasjlha frequent that place.”

“You do what, Wayne? You’ve gotta frequent that place, or you kind of frequent that place?”

He’d just nod and say “yup.” This happened more than once.

I’d been living next to that Tim Horton’s for three months by that point, and had never gone in. I still haven’t gone in. I’d had Tim Horton’s before, in Canada, and it was fine, usually. There was the one time when I asked the girl for half ‘n’ half for my coffee and she demanded “Half and half what? Half of what? What are you asking me for? I don’t understand you.”

She kept getting more and more agitated, so finally, I just spluttered “Cream.” I guess they don’t do half ‘n’ half in Canada.

She indicated the end of the counter, where it was hiding behind some napkins, and gave me an amazingly dirty look.

I don’t hate Tim Horton’s based upon that experience, even if it may sound like I do, I just don’t need to go there. For coffee-on-the-go, I seek out the state religion of Rhode Island—Dunkin’ Donuts.

When mom and I were working on the finishing touches of paint in my place, Wayne hovered around like an eager puppy, asking over and over if we were hungry, finally just saying, “I’m going to run down to the Tim Horton’s, if you want anything.” We said no, we were fine, but he came back with a bag of six cookies in a variety of flavors. When we finished up, washed our hands, and actually did want a cookie; we found that Wayne had made short work of the ½ dozen. He was quick to offer to go back and get more, though.

He got more cookies, also sandwiches, and the following morning, muffins. While he was on the second cookie run of the day, I finally asked mom, “What is the deal with Wayne and all of the cookies, is he always like this?”

“No, I don’t think so anyway. I think it’s just when he’s on vacation, he thinks he needs to eat cookies all the time.”

She looked thoughtful for a bit, until I finally asked her, “Do you think it’s weird too?”

“Yes, also, it’s not very good for him.”

Then Wayne showed up with 6 more cookies in a variety of flavors, and three sandwiches.

Morning:

I now stop at coffee shops and coffee drive-thrus before I go almost every place that I go except the gym. I leave early to accomplish this. The thing that makes it so ridiculous is that I’m just getting coffee– normal coffee. I have a cupboard full of high-quality coffee as well as many very pretty travel mugs to put it in. What I do not have is half & half.

Ever since that stupid museum, I can’t get enough half & half. Its like the thing that was missing that I didn’t know was missing and now that it’s in my life, I can’t let it go. I crave it hourly. I watched MTV True Life “I’m Obese” once (okay more than once), and one of the girls carried around a bottle of ranch in her purse. Maybe she started out like this. I don’t even know what it is; half & half of what & what? I’m now drinking 3 times as much coffee as before and scheming how to get another coffee while I’m still in the middle of drinking one. It’s like crack…. I imagine.

So now that I’ve admitted that I have a problem, I should do something about it right? Well, I don’t want to. Despite the shame, I love everything about this. I love drinking a scandalous amount of coffee. For some reason, the half & half tempers the acidity of the coffee, so I get big, wide-awake eyes, and unflappable ambition without the shaking. This is what I’ve been waiting for my entire life.

Now, my dilemma is: should I save money and buy some half & half for the home so I can feed my addiction more economically? or do I keep frequenting coffee vendors to get my fix? Frugality, obviously, dictates that buying a $.75 carton of half and half is the sensible thing to do, but the idea of buying half & half is appalling to me still.

It’s horrifying that I’m spending so much time and energy thinking about/ writing about this problem, but my excessive consumption of coffee has given me way too much energy, which makes obsessing about this not really a problem at all– just pretty embarrassing. I have never been more productive– maybe more like I’ve rarely been more productive, either way, this is the most productive I’ve been in recent memory. Maybe my stupid coffee pride has been holding me back.

Afternoon:

Frugality won out as I wrote down my monthly expenses and weighed then against my monthly income. Pretty bleak. I purchased my very first carton of half & half ever today at Cashwise Grocery. I didn’t even know where to find it–dairy case, obviously– but the dairy case it a pretty big area and half & half cartons are very small. Is it next to the cream cheese? I wondered. Cream cheese being another thing I only recently purchased for the first time, and couldn’t find in the moment.

Half & half section discovered, I was faced with the overwhelming different varieties. Fat-free (scary), gourmet (what?), green carton, tan carton. I settled for good old Cass-Clay because their cottage cheese has never let me down. Now I just have to get up the courage to open the stupid thing and use it.

LeAnn and I went to the BodyWorks exhibit at the Denver Museum of Science (and Nature?) Anyway, the exhibit was awesome, but not really the point of this little story because I have only one complaint about it.

After two hours of learning, the mind tends to feel a little overwhelmed. Instead of going to appreciate the rest of the museum, we decided to go to the Deli area and have coffee. I love coffee. I drink my coffee black and strong and am proud of that. What makes me even prouder is the fact that I had to make myself like coffee. I used to hate it, and I was a little afraid of it. My Mom hates coffee so it was rarely in the house except on holidays when she would break out this 1.5 foot tall behemoth that made fascinating and intimidating noises seemingly at random. The only people that ever drank from this scary contraption were all of my old relatives who smelled a little funny and always asked me what grade I was in and why I didn’t play any sports like my brother.

When I was a sophomore in high school I decided that the only way I could succeed in college was by liking coffee. If I didn’t go to college, it would be because I was a published writer, and no writer can succeed without a coffee (or other) habit. I didn’t want to be someone who merely liked coffee, but a person who needed coffee. I have very few addictions so I was completely fascinated with the notion of needing something so much that people would understand I was someone who had needs and they’d better be met or bad things may happen.

I got a tiny four cup coffee maker and bought a bunch of (crappy) coffee. Every day after my 6am aerobics class I would come home, shower, and suck down a pot of the strongest coffee I could tolerate. It wasn’t about taste or enjoyment or savoring the moment; it was about getting it done in the hopes that I would trick myself into liking it, or forget that I didn’t.

Eventually I started getting severe stomach pains from all of my trying so I had to back off, but I came back successfully and have been obsessed with coffee ever since.

The coffee cart at the museum was inexplicably closed, but no matter because that was another coffee bar that had the self-serve pots sitting on it. One regular, one decaf, one hot water, one 2%ilk and one half-and-half. I saw the pot of half-and-half and inwardly scoffed, berating the people who need to undermine the glory that is coffee with whiteners and sweeteners and whatever else. Half-and-half has always horrified me; the notion of drinking fat is something that does not sit well with me.

I started filling a paper cup with regular coffee, and at about 1/4 full it stopped coming out. There was no other pot of regular and I will not– will never!–drink decaf. What to do? The place was severely understaffed. The coffee cart was closed and the lone cashier couldn’t be expected to abandon her post to make more coffee for two girls so selfish as we. LeAnn managed to find another little old lady hiding in the back doing dishes and told her that we were in dire straits. We then stood there for fifteen minutes waiting for the coffee to emerge from behind the counter. We peeked back at intervals and saw nothing coming out of the brewer. We had been had.

So we settled for tea and got in line to pay. Naturally, the woman came out with the coffee after we already dunked the tea bags and couldn�t not take them, so LeAnn paid for the tea and I went to get some coffee as well.

I filled two paper cups and put half-and-half in LeAnn’s. Then, as if operating independent of my actual wants and needs, I squirted a very liberal amount into my own cup. I put in so much half-and-half that my drink was cooled down sufficiently for me to chug it in an amazingly short time. Then the coffee cart opened back up. I got into line, ordered a 20oz cup and added a ridiculous amount of half-and-half. After chugging that cup I felt, a little warm, and also a clarity that has escaped my recent coffee drinking experiences. Right now, I’m going to blame the altitude for my lapse into the “slightly bitter milk” milieu, but I’m craving more of that beautifully colored, completely mild, and gloriously fattening beverage. Here come the questions: What does this mean? Have I capriciously abandoned my principles? Am I getting so old that the thought of pouring scalding hot acidic liquid directly into my stomach is unappealing?

At least it wasn’t decaf–I couldn’t live with myself.