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  • hardie karges 1:59 pm on May 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , coffee, Energy drinks, , , , ,   

    ADDICT! Confessions of an American Coffee Drinker… 

    IMG_0099.JPGHi. My name is Hardie, and I’m an addict.”

    “Give Hardie a nice welcome, group.”

    (Multiple voices in unison) “HI, HARDIE!”

    “Why don’t you tell us your story, Hardie…”


    Same in any language…

    Well, I knew I had a problem when I started carrying around a pack of Nescafe, for travel, and totally unselfconsciously, mind you, the hard stuff, too, not the 3-in-1 lady coffee, and I would mix it straight with bottled water and maybe a little sugar, if I was lucky, and happened to have some…

    At that point my habit was probably 200mg a day, though I’m sure I did 400mg many days, espresso cappucino latte’ macchiato, I’ve tried them all, including the Italian ‘ristretto‘, hard to find, like mainlining a little bit of Heaven straight to the carotid artery, pure caffeine, milk and sugar optional, add water to taste, it keeps you awake during prayers, yeah right…

    (snickers and subdued laughter, smiles on a head or two nodding)

    I got my start in the Millsaps College grill, lousiest coffee in the world but cheapest, too, ten cents a cup, and honor system, so you could just thump the cup if you were short on change, for good luck and good measure. That lasted a couple years, there and assorted mini-marts and lousy greasy spoons, Maxwell House, Folger’s, Yuban, Taster’s Choice, mother’s little helpers with a Good Housekeeping seal of approval…

    …but I saw the Promised Land in North Beach, San Francisco, 1974, espresso for a dollar or so a shot, way outta’ my budget, though, me hanging shopper ads on door knobs for less than minimum wage in nameless suburbs where the others lived, enough for a $25 a week studio pad on Washington Square, but I knew then what I wanted to be when I grew up. So it came three years later in Mexico City…

    While Lupita was doling out Burroughs his little pile of junk on anonymous street corners in DF, I was in the downtown cafeterias, real cafeterias, coffee-houses, European-style, with the good stuff, black meat, cafe’ espres’ and cafe’ cortado, just like the Beatniks in North Beach, but only a quarter dollar USD, so I could imbibe, in post-devaluation Mexico, and you get a waiter dressed-like-a-penguin to boot…

    Like Water for Nescafe…

    007 (2)…only problem was that you could get nothing of the sort outside DF, so I’m hooked by then, and stuck in Oaxaca, looking to score at 6am, and nothing open till eight, and then only Nescafe, “agua para Nescafe” infinitely preferable to whatever else might be on tap, at least they’d let you mix it yourself from a large jar with crusty rim, keeps me off the streets and out of the gutters, and somewhat normal for another twenty-four hours at least…

    But Portland, OR, sealed the deal for me, where coffee was already king in the early 80’s, and you could score for the good stuff all over town. But my favorite was macchiato, aka ‘meth’, because it had a dollop of creamy froth to neutralize the acids, but no one would mistake it for a lady drink. That’s the problem with cappucino: unless you know your local dealer, they might put cinnamon or something on it, and by then it’s too late…

    If they don’t have macchiato, then I’ll usually just order the espresso to avoid that possibility, same with latte’. But when Starbuck’s finally hit the big time, it was hard to pass on that two-dollar twenty-ounce bad boy called ‘Veinti‘, so nobody ordered it but me, because they didn’t know how to pronounce it, much less actually know what it means. I figure that monster cup had about 400 mg. of pure caffeine, maybe more if you filled it to the brim, no room for milk—ha! I know that trick…

    Then the energy drinks came along and upped the ante post-Y2K, though I’d known them for years in Thailand, where the Red Bull and many others originated. They made caffeine a party drink, speed-balling caffeine and alcohol, so that you can drink all night, because in effect, you never really get drunk. You just go out of your mind! And the American manufacturers actually improved on the taste of that medicinal-flavored retch—though it does grow on you…

    But most of all there’s now a clear equation of what one milligram of caffeine should cost, and what your choice of flavors are to go with it. Between that twenty-ounce Starbuck’s bad boy and those Monster energy drinks with 160 or 240mg frequently found for less than a buck, I refuse to pay more than five cents USD for a milligram of the drug, and I expect to have my choice of delightful flavors, coffee in the morning, lively limey citrus in the afternoon…

    IMG_0959But my conscience still nags me: isn’t there something wrong with this? I know the Islamic mullahs long ago ruled that it’s okay, but still… Then my Buddhist priest not only okayed it—he started fixing me up every morning before first light, then again in the afternoon, too. He says it helps with meditation. You got that right…

    Fast-forward to the present, and I finally decided to quit. Junk is junk. Maybe it was the betel-nut chewers in Burma or the heroin junkies in Amsterdam—I don’t know. How can I live with myself if I’m disgusted at the same time? If you want to move forward, then you’ve got to leave some things behind, that’s what I figure. Freedom starts in your own mind. If you need help getting up in the morning, then you need to make some changes in your life.” I shrug. “That’s my story.”

    Wow, Hardie! That’s some story! And I’m sure that all the others and I are glad to see you clean, straight and sober. It must feel good knowing that you’ll never have to go back to drinking that nasty stuff…”

    (space intentionally left blank)

    Wait a minute. I didn’t say that. Did I say that? No, I definitely did not say that.”




    • davekingsbury 2:20 pm on May 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      My nerves are shot to pieces after reading this graphic account … only one thing for it … brew myself a cafetiere of full-strength Kenyan Fair Trade!

  • hardie karges 1:22 am on August 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: alcohol, beer, coffee, , , ,   

    Kicking Caffeine's Butt: Living on Red Bull, Vitamin C and… 

    Caffeine could all be a thing of the past soon, and it’s kinda’ sad, I guess, even if my poor beleaguered prostate gland will love me for it. And this my last vice, too, 200 ml (or is it 200 mg?) of coursing through the veins every day, turning on switches at every turn, leaving the lights on in case of late arrival. Not that the Third World helps with the withdrawal any more, whether it be Nepal, where I am currently, or Thailand, where I was last week, or any place else, where you could barely find a cup of Nescafe twenty years ago, and now is brimming to overloaded with fresh roasted Arabian and a cute barista to boot. This is the new social medium: roasted and ground for a night on the town. Alcohol is for losers, I guess, though at $2 a pop for a can of 7% ‘extra strong’ brew, that might be worth re-considering. You gotta’ be flexible… Author’s note: If you gotta do the Red Bull thing, then go for the gold ‘Krathing Daeng’ cans for local Asian consumption, not the blue ‘Red Bull’ for tourists: same stuff, half the price (you heard it here first)…

    • Esther Fabbricante 6:10 pm on August 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I think all bad habits are for losers – I guess.

  • hardie karges 10:50 pm on July 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bike rentals, coffee, Phitsanulok, Pichit, Thai Food,   

    #Phitsanulok & #Phichit #Thailand: Rental Bikes, River-walks, Thai Food and Coffeeee… 

    And on the Seventh Day God Created Thai food

    And on the Seventh Day God Created Thai food

    Going over the imaginary line from Khon Kaen, in the Isaan region of Thailand, to Phitsanulok in the north is like visiting another country. The dialect is different, the food is different and the way of life is different—a little bit in every case. But those little bits add up. Isaan is closely related to Communist Laos, somber and serious by Thai standards while northern Thailand is quintessentially happy-go-lucky. P-loke (for short) sits at the confluence of those two AND central Thailand, something like halfway between Bangkok and Chiangmai. (More …)

    • Esther Fabbricante 12:06 am on July 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Outstanding – I should forward this to my family – especially Sherri and Tom in Nashville – who love latte from Starbucks – daily! They may even know how to make it at home, now. Your descriptions are so “descriptive.” Love it.

  • hardie karges 8:17 pm on June 28, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: coffee, espresso, , , Phichit, ,   

    #Phichit #Thailand: Caffeination of a Nation 

    Good Coffee in Phichit, Thailand

    Good Coffee in Phichit, Thailand

    Can it be true? That sleepy somnabulant boozy bamboozulant Thailand has gotten hip to high-test, coffee, that is? It’s hard to believe, I know. This is the country that has almost single-handedly kept Nescafe solvent over the years, first with the ‘classic’ blend, then the more recent 3-in-1 (blecch) offerings. I mean, the good stuff was always there, but you’d have to look hard or know certain people. Back in the old days, mid-90’s Chiang Mai, there was JJ’s at the Montri Hotel, and that was about it. And it wasn’t cheap at a buck or so (more than a street meal), but they’d top you up for no extra.


    Nescafe at the time wasn’t much more than a quarter US. When JJ’s folded, you could find some Shell gas stations with some half-way decent push-button espresso for twenty-five baht, less then a dollar. Anything hand-pulled would be at least twice that. When Starbucks finally entered the market, rack rates were something like $3-4-5 for the 12-16-20 ounce standard brews, half again American prices, and about the same as Europe. A modern standard espresso was three bucks anywhere, if you could find it.

    (More …)

  • hardie karges 3:23 am on January 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bckpackers, coffee, , , , ,   

    India the Matrix: Passing through Delhi, looking for coffee 

    Train station, India

    Train station, India

    The bus from Bikaner drops us off in Delhi, in the dark, on the side of the road, next to the pissing wall, right in the middle of a huge mud-puddle, and with little pomp or ceremony otherwise. At least the train usually takes you to a station somewhere. It’s 6 a.m., and that means it’s still dark in Delhi, in January. But that’s the trade-off, I guess: bus for train, comfort for convenience.

    The bus was certainly more comfortable. I had my own single sleeper. The other side of the bus has doubles, so I guess you and your’n could double-clutch in sync with the bus if you felt so inclined, tres kinky. No one would ever know, what with the bumping and grinding from the bus already. India is not known for its smooth roads.

      (More …)

  • hardie karges 10:41 am on December 31, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , coffee, , , , ,   

    Starbuck’s Charges Big Bucks for Intellectual Property 

    We Americans are soCopyright infringement?  You decide... spoiled, complaining about paying $2 for 20 ounces of Starbucks coffee, reminiscing about the good old days when coffee was a dime a cup, and if you were on the honor system at the Millsaps College grill, and times were hard, then you could just thump the cup and no one would know the dif. Yeah, those were the gold old days, but the coffee tasted like re-fried Shinola.


    Know what twenty ounces of the black stuff will cost you in Bangkok? About $4.50 USD, and that doesn’t count a tip for the barista, if she (or he) is cute. There are typically six of them to choose from. Those are European prices, in a country where minimum wage is $10 USD per day. At the new Terminal 21 mall on Sukhumvit, there is a waiting line. Somebody’s making a killing, but it’s not high-tech, so we don’t know his name.

    New logo for Starbucks’ nemesis


    A month or two ago, they came down heavy on a local coffee vendor selling his ‘Starbung’ coffee with a logo that looked suspiciously similar to the green lady: lawyers, court hearings, the whole schmear. Now we know why I guess. Coffee is black gold, and so is the ‘coffee experience’ in a country just moving cautiously beyond Nescafe (once in Guatemala I saw that translated as ‘Nescoffee’).


    Starbung’s finally caved, changing his name and logo. Since they’re the corporate heavy, I won’t buy Starbucks if I have a choice, and definitely not at Thailand’s prices, but it sure looks good in some Godforsaken airport with nothing else—or in Europe, where it’s the budget option. I doubt Starbung’s is very good, anyway. I will try his roti, though. He’s closed for the holidays. I’ll be back.

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