Please, coffee. Magic.
I remember the time I first saw a ‘Cupacino Machine’ as we called it in the day. Tucked into this Semi-come video store, grocery store, fuel station and video game arcade. My dad would send me to ‘Nagys’ to buy his ‘Winnie Reds’, 2L of Coke, a bag of ‘Black Cat’s’ and a pack of ‘quick-eze’. I would always try and work out how much change I could get out of what was left, calculate the amount of time it would take me to sprint the distance to Nagy’s from home and virtually how much time I would have to have to play a KICKASS game of ‘Double Dragon’. By the time I got there, my lungs would be heaving and the intoxicating smell of cigarettes, old building and that weird but so unique smell that lies somewhere between the op shop and bleach with always a slight hint of urine, filled my lungs, permanently setting memories in place. After some extreme pixelated and aggressive button smashing followed by grabbing some ‘Redskins’ and a pack of ‘Fags’ from the last of the left over change, I would sprint back hoping to beat the time of expectation that I should have been back. Though I tried I never really successfully explained why it took so long……traffic was not really a thing in Maleny.
Eventually after profusely explaining my innocence to my dad and scraping other fabricated stories together to cover the fact the change had somehow gone missing. He would reluctantly be satisfied, washing down any further line of questioning with a handful of Black Cats and his now warm Coke. This would form one of those bonds that only a father and son would know. Him knowing I spent the last 47 minutes playing video games and me knowing soon he will need me for another errand as the couch was a far better place to be.
‘Luke stop sling shotting chicken pellets at your brother. It’s time for a coffee. Perplexed, mostly what I knew coffee was that mix between those brown granules (that you shouldn’t eat) some piping hot water, 4 sugars, some milk and voila! A la Barista. I had mastered that shit!
But it was back to Nagy’s where perhaps my story of misplaced change was going to be retold in front of Mrs Nagy. I feared that face. It was huge, bloated with that pluminess that I now know is associated with certain diseases. Her greeting was always curdled with coughs and choking on flem. It haunts me the way after an extra strenuous coughing fit she would then take her cough catching hand if she was feeling polite that day and covering up and reach in and grab out the 1 cent lollies. I know now I would them in the bean after that biological warfare but I just spent 15 minutes going through the couch to make up a that 37 cents worth of mixed bag of lollies. I mean come on…..Chocolate pineapple lumps.
Fortunately I was spared the humiliation of facing her and bemoaning my innocence. My father genuinely wanted a coffee (he’s from Melbourne). Which I always feel gave him some serious street cred in Queensland. He would always drop it stating in the many various ways Melbourne was better at generally everything.
We walked to the side ‘café part’ a wall lined the whole shop with videos even the ‘betamax’ had a section. No fancy little plant feature on the wall, or an anime slightly encroaching on an almost blank feature wall. Its was functionality to its peak and every cent could be found to have a place to be spent. I really can’t remember the cost of that frothy steaming cup of exaggerated peaks, dusted in chocolate with clearly a great hope to hide what boiling bitter murk lie beneath. But it was SPECTACULAR.
My hound dog eyes hung staring, willing my father to share a teaspoon of that mounded froth of deliciousness. The smell struck deep in my nostrils that acrid burnt milk, the kind your grandmother makes every time you visit. Boiling the ‘clacker’ out of the milk to make tea time extend for near on an hour due to the fact your trying to avoid severe napalm burns. I love that smell. It meant biscuits and cake. The skin of the milk clinging to the sides as a way of saying it was giving up and flying the white flag having taken so much brutal punishment. Surely this was magic, after all there was a wand that spewed hot steam, an alchemy of turning roasted beans into liquid oil and binding air, liquid and solid as one.
To be honest, it didn’t really have that effect on me but I really wanted that spoonful of froth and method acting had to take centre stage to convince that man who for some weird 80’s reasoning decided lycra was now a perfectly acceptable form of clothing if the ‘Happy Pants’ were in the wash.
This setting, this catalyst, though obscure and probably insignificant seed of thought is where it began. Caffiene caught me earlier, gripping my need for stimulation. The tuckshop at high school made a brew which took the edge of the poorly made apple cones we would have before riding to school with my ‘wish I was black’ friend. To where being Level 4 Vegan outside the Uni café, drinking soy chai lattes. And as my studies failed and the University bar took more of my study time and Austudy payments. It came to a point where my fortnightly payments became a choice between beer, weed, food or coffee. I realised through some sort of inebriation and possible mushroom induced haze I needed a job and preferably one that sorted out at least one of those needs.
HOSPITALITY…………..(at least until they legalise weed)
………………………20 years later, I’ll talk about that another time.
3 out of 4 is not bad.
And the coffee, well 20 years goes a long way toward making a coffee for someone. I’ve made every coffee there is, I’ve made every mistake there is, I even got competitive with it. I don’t get the blessing of a 9-5 job or the luxury of even sitting down somewhere in 12 hours, but I get something. Every morning I make this…….and I get to do it with this……………..MAGIC
And for whatever coffee you want, burnt, ¼, soy, ¾ full, half and half, cinnamon on top. Every other weird habitual thing you have harnessed in your power of routine to mock the world about your conquest against its simplicity. I have made.