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Schenectady
Sunday, May 19, 2024

EDITORIAL: Do You Remember When Coffee Was Just Coffee?

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There’s something comforting about sunrise; about the way it breaches the edges of night,⁢ casting warm hues of gold⁢ against the quiet town of Schenectady, and in a way, applying a‍ soft filter on all those looming shadows of technology and unnecessary complications that ⁢seem to have taken hostage of the world we’re in. Waking up every morning, I drag my feet across ‍the worn-out carpet,​ my ⁢footsteps syncopated⁣ with the creaking of the wooden floor ⁤that had seen 50 years‍ of ⁤my life.

In this rhythm, I prepare a cup of coffee – or at least, ⁤what you youngsters would ​now call ‘coffee’. ⁤See,‍ when I ⁤was growing up here, attending Lincoln Elementary where the walls held steadfast⁣ against⁤ the restless spirit of time, coffee used to be⁢ just that—coffee.

Three, was it four decades ago? My parents ran a small coffee shop, aptly titled ‘McCarthy’s​ Cup.’ A blue-collar haunt nestled in the heart of Schenectady. We had⁣ simple​ brews: two⁤ types of roasts, and if you were feeling fancy, sugar and cream. The aroma of the beans roasting ⁤was the only alarm clock we needed, the only dashboards were in‍ our cars, and a bit of conversation was the cherry on top of your ​cup.

The menu⁢ today… it might‌ as‌ well be hieroglyphics. Who knew that ordering a cup of coffee would one day require ‌a Rosetta stone? Back at‍ McCarthy’s Cup, the closest thing we had to ‌an exotic option was an ‘Irish’, which ⁣was more about adding a​ wink of whisky than any delicate measuring of foam⁢ or dash of nutmeg.

And don’t get me started on⁣ our fixation for decaf. Now, I might not be young anymore, but somebody ⁢has got to explain to me the‌ logic of coffee ​styled to not act ⁤like ⁣coffee?‍ Why would anyone spend almost three dollars on ‍practically flavored hot water?‌ It’s akin to investing in a stick shift car that doesn’t shift.

Next in line are those⁢ served in absurdly small⁣ portions. A double shot of espresso, they call it. Guess what I ​call it? A rip-off! Maybe it’s meant to compensate ⁤for⁣ the barrage of ‍oversized caffeinated monstrosities that would’ve made my dear ol’ Ma choke on⁣ her brew.

Oh, ‘Venti’ she would have said, in her warm Irish ‍brogue, Venti was large in Italian, not a guzzler that ⁣could drown a small dog.

And then there’s the Macchiato incident. ‌I remember it well; it was a dreary⁢ Tuesday, ​and full of wrong-headed optimism, I walked ⁤into one⁢ of these modern, neon-lit, over-air- conditioned⁤ coffee temples. I asked ⁤for a Macchiato, thinking it was ​just some new-fangled type of⁣ brew. The barista, a bright-eyed girl​ with more colored ‌pins ⁤in her apron than I’ve ever seen, asked me if I wanted caramel with ‌that.‌ I thought she was⁤ joking!⁢

Turns out, ​a Macchiato these days is fifty-percent caramel, ten-percent milk, thirty-percent something called ‘foam’, and topped with a ‍drizzle of confusion. I miss ‍when coffee was innocent⁤ of the crime of dessert impersonation.

When did we replace the simple ⁣joy of coffee with an ‌over-complicated, over-priced pantomime? When did we trade earnest, unadorned flavor ⁢for​ confusing concotions and nauseatingly sweet artificiality? ⁣

Maybe I’m a dinosaur, an⁤ old man ranting about how the world used to be simpler. But the thing is… well, it used⁤ to be simpler. There was joy, there was flavor, there was ​community ‍in‍ that simplicity. And all the caramel drizzle in the⁣ world can’t replace that.

So here’s to the breaking dawn, to the town ⁤of Schenectady, ‌to the lost charms of simplicity,‍ and to⁤ the comforting⁤ sensation of ‍a ‍cup ‌of good ol’ fashioned coffee, untouched ‍by needless complexities. Here’s ​to hoping that amidst our unending ⁤conquest for sophistication, we don’t⁤ lose sight of the inherent‍ charm of simple things, of the ‍beauty in a‍ ‘cup of joe’, that used to be just that—a cup of coffee.

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Brian McCarthy
Brian McCarthy
I'm Brian McCarthy! At your service to offer traditionally informed perspective on today's issues. Some call it out of touch; I call it time-honored wisdom.
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