“10 Cents A Cup”

In high school, Carol and I went with other friends to the Caffe Espresso.(Turns out I had the spelling wrong yesterday.) This was the first coffee house in Portland and was, according to old newspaper articles, a hangout for “beatniks.” We didn’t think of ourselves as beatniks(though Carol did prefer black tights) but we certainly didn’t want to be seen as boring high school students. So we would walk boldly in, order our cup of espresso and listen to whatever guitarist was playing.

Up until now, I had drunk instant coffee, sometimes with milk and sometimes with evaporated milk. I stared in disbelief at this muddy stuff in a little cup, jet black with no milk. I gritted my teeth, tried my best to act normal, and sipped it. If this was what it took to be sophisticated, I would swallow the coffee with nonchalance. And it only cost a dime. The atmosphere was dark and smoky, since cigarettes were also preferred by “beatniks.” Carol joined them. I passed since at age 6 my mother’s best friend had let me take a long inhalation of her cigarette and I had promptly thrown up. It was excellent aversion therapy and I never smoked again.

I can still see me drinking coffee, listening to off key singers, surrounded by smoke. No sacrifice was too great to prove I was way too cool for school!

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