Friday, January 15, 2010
It’s quarter to nine and it’s still pitch black along the Pacific Northwest coastline. Part of this has to do with the landscape’s position in relation to the rising sun and part of it has to do waterlogged clouds that hog the sky. The wind whips my face. This isn’t rain but some sordid combo of hail and wet BBs. Oregon rain blows sideways hitting me off the cheeks and chin. The beach sand skitters by thick as desert sidewinders. Sometimes it wafts off the ground as if smoke or the healing spirit dust shaman blow out of conch shells.
I pass the aquarium and wave to Monsieur Bones, the dead whale suspended from its ceiling cables, and the Coke machine guarding the building’s façade. The Martian glow of the Coke machine is the only nearby light. The rest of the promenade is veiled in midnight shadow. Not a flicker within the bed and breakfasts, Shilohs, or any of the other shops. The Lewis and Clarke statue peers off ambivalent to morning’s tardiness. The general store, the gourmet coffee house, and the rows of kitsch shops fade into one long blur. The door to Pig and Pancake is set ajar and I see a few lone pokes perusing menus in flashlight. I truck on. Cross the street to Dundee’s Donuts where I hope to grab a fresh one and a cup of joe. Their sign says open daily from 7 to 7. My watch reads 9:01AM. So I pull open the door and as if I put my head into a giant beluga. Somebody mumbles. Sounds like the Wizard of Oz slowspeed.
“Donut.” It’s the only thing I can think of and he throws me a donut back, but his sounds more like a question. My eyes begin to adjust. I can make the feint traces of a booth. Chipped corners betray the once unmarred wood. I can now smell the barista’s breath, redolent of clam chowder and Ricola. He flicks on his lighter. The wisping flame reveals a naked lady in red cowboy boots. The barista’s thumbnail has a thin gash and he points to cellophane-wrapped paper plates sporting day old glazed. I’m desperate. I’d eat through cellophane if I couldn’t shear it off, but this barista is chummy and hellbent on sharing his humblest apologies why he cannot offer me fresh-made frosties and Boston cremes. I nod not knowing what else to do. Can’t this guy hear my stomach growling? He knows I don’t come from around here. I lie and say I’m from Kansas City.
“Funny you don’t like you’re from Kansas City,” he says.
“I move around a lot,”
As I close in on the coffee pot he invites me to the other shop’s side. Dundees is also a bar and connects to the donut shop and I admit this makes me snicker in a puerile way. I’m craving my first lick of caffeine. My eyes have adjusted again and now I can see that there are ketchup packets and crayons in each little basket on each table booth. The Best Western I’m staying at also serves baskets of crayons, but no bread. I’m dying for a chocoholic bite of readymade frosting. And just then my barista’s cell phone goes off— “I’ve got two tickets to paradise.” I’ll take just one. The barista walks to the bar side leaving me to fend for myself and course there are no cups. He is gone for two minutes too long and I test drip the coffee. It’s really not that hot— a paltry few degrees above lukewarm— so I decide, against better judgment, to bend my head under the spout. The first spritz smarts my tongue. All these hot showers I’ve been taking haven’t prepped me for this moment nor have the super-nuked hot pockets I’ve scarfed down. It’s not that I’ve never burnt my tongue or the roof of my mouth. Everything tastes like a potato for days, but this is different. I am strangely drawn to this ungodly scalding as if to kill all the nips of bacteria glommed to the bumps of my tongue. Not my brightest hour. Big fat watermelon-sized coffee beans shoot off. My synapses go from zero to seventy in eight seconds flat.
I don’t hang around for the barista, but I leave behind two dollars for less than a Dixie’s cup worth of java juice.
Nine-fifteen and the first crack of light stirs in the sky.