It doesn’t last long enough. The longest I can get it to last (and remain hot) is 20 minutes while Dusty T. Dog drools beside me and looks up with longing in eyes. All he gets is whatever coffee and cream have clung to the edges of my cup, but it seems to matter to him a LOT. 

Maybe it’s that he’s the ONLY dog who EVER gets to “drink” from my mug. My “mug” isn’t really a mug. It’s more like a small soup bowl or those things French people drink from when they have their cafe au lait in movies and maybe in real life. I have yet to spend a morning with a French person.

I buy my coffee in five pound bags from Solar Roast in Pueblo, Colorado. It’s the world’s FIRST (and maybe only?) solar roasting operation.

My order arrives in a big box, carefully and personally packed. Last time the package contained a whole burlap coffee sack from Guatemala and the words “You’re awesome!” written in magic marker on the inside flap of the box. 

Solar Roast has somewhat lower acid, which is a nice, and it’s very flavorful. The coffee is amazing. I never imagined giving up on Lavazza, but I did.

“Grandma, you WHAT???”

I look at old ladies a lot differently now and, yes, because I am one. It pretty much never occurred to me when I was a whippersnapper that behind the visual static of their wrinkled faces and lumpy bodies might lurk some very interesting love stories. I could be wrong, I think they just weren’t saying.

I’m thinking about this because this morning I’m drinking a marvelous cup of Guatemalan coffee. I ordered two pounds from the Solar Roast people as a birthday present to me and now I’m savoring it.

A long, long time ago in a faraway place known as Denver, Colorado, my then boss introduced me to his college friend. Let’s call him Ed. That wasn’t his name, but it’s a fine name. Ed was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen. He walked into our office with the kind of grace you never see anywhere, but maybe particularly not in a man wearing clogs. He was long-legged, had black hair, green eyes, and a beautiful, wide smile.

He noticed (who wouldn’t?) the 2″ x 3″ photo of T. E. Lawrence and Lowell Thomas that was on the top shelf of the credenza behind me, leaning against the wall.


“I’m reading Seven Pillars,” he said. “Monster book.”

I was stunned. The first love of MY life was T. E. Lawrence. I got a huge crush on him (thanks to David Lean) back when I was 10 and really NEVER got over it.

“Yeah, it is,” I said. “I read it a long time ago.” I was 12 when I read it, but why show off?

It turned out he was as attracted to me as I was to him and an epistolary and telephone love story ensued. He was, at that time, taking courses at a university in Texas so he could apply to med school. He was already 30. He’d been inspired to this decision by his recent expedition (yes) to Annapurna II. Passing through India (passing through India, got that?) he’d been touched deeply by the poverty and illness of the people. And he’d picked up TB.

It coulda’, shoulda’ worked, but as time unfolded it was clear that though we were attracted to each other and had many commonalities, we were not at the same places in life. I was recently divorced and wanted to “see the world.” He’d seen the world and was ready to settle down and start a family. But in the meantime, his career goals (climbing and treating diseases of impoverished Spanish speaking people) took him to Guatemala to study Spanish and climb. He brought back a yard of Guatemalan weaving and two pounds of unroasted coffee beans as gifts for me.

The night before my one-woman painting show in 1981, I roasted them in my oven. They lent their fragrance and flavor to that moment of my life. There’s more to the story, but as an old lady, I’m not saying.


Nothing’s Quite as Yummy as Rawhide and Coffee in the Morning

Bear and I have our treats first thing in the morning. Who knows what the day will bring, right?

After years and years of indulging my coffee tastes (for both flavor and nostalgic reasons) with Lavazza (which I love) and the ridiculously expensive Illy, I picked up a bag of this at the local IGA grocery (where, by the way, you can by immense bags of dried red chiles).


This incredibly good coffee. It’s roasted in Pueblo, Colorado, by two young guys, brothers, inventors of the world’s first solar coffee roaster. Yeah, really. It’s richly flavored (as intense as any Lavazza dark roast), very smooth, low in acid (it seems) and just generally delicious.

The rawhide has now been chewed, the coffee has been drunk. It’s time to move on to the adventures of the Schneebelis in the semi-friendly land of the Palatine dukes. Right.

Acid, Man

Once a friend said to me, “I love coffee but I can’t drink it. It plays hell with my stomach.”

I thought, “Snowflake.”

Coffee, of course, is WHY we exist. I know it. You know it. Even people who haven’t tried it suspect. Even those who dispute this fact have thought about it. I have a friend who doesn’t drink it, and sometimes I think she’s apologizing for the cold, Stevia driven, caffeinated beverage in her hand in the morning. She KNOWS.

In her soul she senses the existence of a vast network of morning-happy people whose hearts beat a little faster (literally, figuratively) after the first two sips of coffee. “I’m missing out.” She feels this on an instinctual level, “But I can’t stand the taste! Surely this aversion is temporary. I’ll grow up and WANT coffee, I know it will happen, but WHEN.” Her longing is like that of a 12 year old girl yearning for a bra, excluded from the mysterious world of mammary glands to which her friends belong.

As Dusty and I finish up our morning coffee, I have a little story to share. For years I’ve had to deal with excruciating gut pain. I’ll leave it at that. But truly, years. After visiting my cola drinking friend and her husband, who was raving and ranting about a coffee brand he’d found that DIDN’T upset his stomach, and dealing, once more, with wrenching gut pain, I thought, “Hmmmm,” and I got some low acid coffee.

I brew my coffee in a Moka Express, a stove-top espresso “machine” like most people I know in Italy use. I drink the equivalent of six tiny espresso cups every morning but in one big cup with cream. That’s it for the day, but it’s intense.



The grind isn’t right for my Bialetti (too coarse) so the brew was on the weak side, but you don’t grind beans twice. The roast was tasty. Dusty liked it and I had no wrenching gut pain.

I guess I’m a snowflake…

Cranky Prevention Elixir

I’m not a cranky person. That is partly the result of my Magic Cranky Prevention Elixir which I take every morning. I’m pretty picky about it.

For most of my young life, I couldn’t understand why anyone drank coffee and I couldn’t understand adults’ fascination with the stuff. It was gross. Never mind that my first sentence ever was, “Cuppa cuppa coffee?”

As I matured, this opinion remained until, one day, my boyfriend at the time, Peter, bought some Medaglio d’Oro Italian Roast coffee. You need to understand that in the 70s there was not this boutique coffee stuff there is today. Drip coffeemakers were state of the art.

“I’m sick of the shit they call coffee here. This costs more, but I’m worth it.” He echoed an ad for hair color and we laughed.


I bought some. This was the beginning of my Famous Writer Period and Saturdays I spent with MY Medaglio d’Oro and my typewriter.


Since those days I’ve had the chance to enjoy many kinds of coffee. In the early 80s, a friend went to Guatemala and brought me a pound of raw Guatemalan beans that I roasted in my oven. Everything about that was great — the coffee that came from them, the smell in my apartment when I roasted them, and that he (<3) thought of me when he was wandering around the jungles and mountains of Guatemala. In China, if I was lucky, I had the dark bitter coffee of Hainan Island to drink. I have drunk the green coffee brewed by Arab students and poured from a Dallah (Arab coffee pot) — a brew I liked so much that as a goodbye gift, one of my students gave me a tiny golden Dallah to wear on a chain around my neck.

I take my coffee pot and my coffee with me wherever I go — and I have two electric versions for staying in hotels. Why? All because of my worst coffee experience. I was  visiting my aunt and uncle in Montana and they didn’t tell me they’d switched to decaf. Their coffee was already awful — they were the old-school American coffee drinkers, brewing some watery brown substance that they drank all day — but decaf? I was disoriented and had horrible headaches for the first three days of my visit and didn’t know why…

I have now finished my Magic Cranky Prevention Elixir and shared the dregs with Dusty T. Dog. My blog post is finished (and an inspiring bit of prose it is, too!). That means (according to Bear who is acutely aware of the time and the proper sequence of events in this house) I must do morning chores.

Getting a Cuppa-Joe at the Cop Shop

“Stop! Stop! What are you doing? Have you lost it completely? This is a 25 mph zone and it’s RAINING hard! Can you even see anything?!”

He put is foot down even harder on the gas pedal. “Why do you do this to me? You make me do these things. If you want out, get out.” He reached around her, fumbling for the door handle. She was sure he’d push her out. She slammed down the lock and blocked the handle with her arm.

“What did I do?” she sobbed.

“Looking at that guy the way you did. I saw you. You think I didn’t see you.”

“You’re completely crazy. There’s a red light! Rico!!!!! OH MY GOD!” she closed her eyes, tight together. If they were doomed, they were doomed. Rico slammed his foot on the brake just in time to avoid colliding with a red pickup.

This is it,” she thought, and opened her door. Before he could reach across the seat to grab her arm she was out and running across the street to the fast-food noodle joint that had opened a week before where the taco shop had been. The light turned green. Horns honked at Rico. He had to go. Megan knew it was five blocks before Rico would have a chance to turn around. “Good,” she thought. “I’m going to do what I should’ve done a long time ago.” She went to the payphone in front of the noodle shop and called the police, gave them Rico’s license plate number and told them he was harassing her, threatening her with physical harm.

“Not much we can do, lady, unless we’re there when it happens. Do you have somewhere to go? Do you live with this guy?”

“No, no, I have a place of my own, but I’m afraid to go there.”

“Any friends you can stay with? A motel?”

She looked around. All there was in the area was La Petit Rouge and everyone knew what THAT was. “I don’t want to stay around here. He’ll be back. He’ll be back any minute and I’m scared.”

“Tell you what, I’m sending a squad car over to your location. They’ll take you somewhere. Will that work?”

“Oh thank you, thank you.”

“They should be there now.”

“I see them.”

“Stay safe. If you’re afraid of that guy, stay away from him. Don’t go back to him like most women do. Make tomorrow a new day, OK?”

“OK,” she had started to cry. Kindness at this moment was so sweet it hurt.

“Ma’am?” said the young, Hispanic policeman. “Are you all right?”

“I am. I’m OK.”

“Get in. He’ll be back, you said?”

“If I know him. Any minute.” She looked up and saw his black Honda coming slowly down the street. He was looking for her. “That’s him,” she said, pointing up the street, half a block away.

“All right. Hurry.”

She got in back of the squad car. The policeman drove a circuitous route ending up behind the Honda. He was checking to see if the driver had seen the girl. “He didn’t see you,” said the cop. “Good. C’mon. I’m taking you to the station. You can spend the night there. You’ll be safe, but it isn’t plush.”

“That’s OK. I don’t know where to go and I only have $3.00.”

“Tomorrow you go to family court — it’s in the same building — and you get a restraining order, OK? Then someone will drive you home.”

All the things she had known she should do but had not wanted to do she was on the verge of. “All he had to do was trust me,” she said, under her breath.

“Some guys can’t do that, miss.”

“I guess not.”

Megan spent the night on a bench in the police station. The sun was just up when she was awakened by a female police officer saying, “You want some coffee, honey?” Megan shook sleep from her mind and nodded.

“It’s a beautiful day,” said the police officer. “The rain is gone. It’s a little chilly, one of those crisp bright mornings that makes you glad to be alive. You want sugar in that?”

Bialetti! Gotta’ have it

What’s the one item in your kitchen you can’t possibly cook without? A spice, your grandma’s measuring cup, instant ramen — what’s your magic ingredient, and why?

6 Cup Moka

I would have no interest at all in my kitchen if there were no Bialetti “Moka Java” express. Along with that I need Lavazza Crema e Gusto and cream because I like hot, strong coffee in the morning.


That’s simple enough but not much of a story. It could be, but…

Milan near the Duomo. I am standing, waiting, at an espresso counter for my turn. A young Asian girl is in front of me. The barista is frustrated. He sees me standing there (“Oooooooo!”) and says, “Signora, per favore, dille che costa dieci mille lire.” Something like that. (Now you know how long ago.) I am a dark phantom on the streets of Milan, and this guy has seen me many times. I tap the girl on the shoulder and ask if she speaks English. She does. I say, “The coffee is 10,000 lire.” She bows several times thanking me and pays the barista. My turn arrives.
Tanti touristi,” he says, then blushes, suddenly remembering I am one, too.
Fa niente.”
Cosa lei piacerebbe?”
Un espresso, anque acqua minerale, con gassa.”
Fa caldo oggi, no?”
Si, troppo. Grazie!” I open my wallet.
Ma, no, no. É gratis. Buona giornatta!”

My last day in Milan that bizarre, infuriating, humiliating and heartbroken summer. I was sad to leave. I could have stayed much longer, wandering the streets, each day revealing to me more of the labyrinthine mystery of time.

“Could you tell her the coffee is 10,000 lire?” then “So many tourists.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“What would you like?”
“An espresso. And carbonated mineral water.”
“It’s hot, no?”
“Very! Thanks!”
“No, no, no. It’s ‘on the house’. Have a nice day!”

Random song allusion: