I come by my love of coffee honestly.
My entry into the world of coffee started as innocently as perhaps it could in the 70s. The label was orange and brown, found in most diners and restaurants then, and the potion was called Sanka.
My father hated the substance and tried to get away from it, but the wicked decaffeinated liquid attracted my mother to it for some reason.
When I was about ten years old, I was finally allowed to have my own cup, where I learned the joy of cream and sugar.
It was a gateway liquid.
Soon I would find the real juice of the coffee bean, which would lead me into a period that revolved around life and time when I was shoved in a booth of Waffle House. I have a relationship with the chain, and at one time could name no less than 25 by store number and location. My best friend could identify all of them on Interstate 85 in both directions.
I would join the US Army and learn much more about the necessity of coffee in daily life and how to create copious amounts of it on kitchen duty.
This inadvertently led me to Alaska, where I found myself in an education on the many things that can be done to a coffee bean that I had no idea existed.
One of the first things I think the sanest folk do when relocating to a new area is to explore the surroundings and places to procure their most necessary sundries. For myself, that included the Fifth Avenue Mall.
Fifth Avenue was a relatively upscale sort of venue with all of the pretty bells and whistles one might expect in a hall of high commerce. It even came with its own obnoxious Barney the Purple Dinosaur that pranced around the corridors, following strangers silently like a cat with a rabid disease, then pouncing on them just close enough to be uncomfortable.
I dodged the haphazard critter long enough to see a shop with a well-placed menu board at the entrance.
This became more of an attraction than the nuclear lizard.
The menu board positioned in front of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf had two words that I was unfamiliar with: cappuccino and latte. That afternoon, I had nothing to do except avoid the fantasy reptile, who had relocated to torture other unwitting shoppers.
Entering the small shop, the first thing that caught my attention was the cozy lighting. After a welcome and a full acknowledgment that I couldn't pronounce the words on her board, the older lady behind the counter introduced me to an elixir that would become a decades-old mainstay.
"Well, a Caffe mocha is going to be espresso, chocolate, and frothed milk... "
"All I heard was chocolate. Let's do this."
I had a trial of all three that day and was hooked. The matron saw my excitement and told me about a coffeehouse not too far away.
"I'm sorry, my memory's slipping on me today. You can't miss it. It's on the main drag. They have that blond girl that sings pretty. I mean, she's pretty too. Can't remember her name. Those college kids will know. Something about her teeth. But she's pretty. Sings pretty. The coffee's great there and you can relax."
The incoming blur of purple reptile was growing in view as the costumed figure ran full tilt, but the speed was not nearly as fast as the short bearded man chasing it. With a diving tackle, the man lunged and brought the fumbling purple critter down like a Super Bowl quarterback sack.
The attacker straddled the prone character and began pounding it with both fists like an MMA fighter, offering no reprieve and repeatedly screaming, "You keep your f*cking hands off my daughter!"
He hit the figure so hard the costume head rotated, but the man continued to land blows until three uniformed security guards managed to pull him off.
"Well, that's gonna leave a mark," the lady at my side said bluntly in observation. "He has no idea what he's supposed to be doing."
"What is that thing supposed to be?" I asked her.
"You don't know who Barney is? You don't have kids?"
"Oh. Well, then forget you ever saw him and don't look for him when you do have 'em. I got grandkids, and if I had it to do over, I would have outlawed it. He's stupid."
After the mauling, a lady appeared to escort the recovering costumed figure to relative safety.
It wasn't dinner and a movie, but it was undoubtedly coffee and a sideshow.