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A sad week for Hammerheads

October 16, 2009
By Bob Seidenstein,

A popular sport among people my age is called "Place the Blame."

Place the blame for what, you ask? For everything you feel has gone wrong with your life, that's what.

For instance, you're in debt up the waz for buying all kinds of dreck you never needed; you blame the credit card companies for allowing you to run amok online, in Walmart and everywhere else.

Or if you bought something you saw on an infomercial and it turns out to be total junk, unlike what the ad promised, you blame the infomercial's con artist, rather than your own gullibility.

And best of all, if you suffer any misery or malfunction, you blame your parents. It's only logical. For example, if you go to work late, sneak out early, call in sick all the time, and then get fired for it, it's because your father was too strict.

Or if you treat everyone like they're your indentured servant, it's because your mother was distant and cold.

Or maybe you've spent your entire adulthood sitting in front of the boob tube, wolfing down tons of potato chips, pretzels, Mars bars and the rest? It's because your parents forced you to go out and play and fed you only healthy fare.

And so on, ad nauseum.


A victim of Mom's home brew

I don't blame anyone for my character defects, probably because I've got too many of them, but I've got one weakness that my mother is responsible for - my caff-a-holism.

It started as it often does - a cup here, a cup there, no big deal. But then, before I knew it, either I was pounding her coffee or reality was pounding me. I just couldn't function without it.

Then again, her coffee was unlike any I've ever had. It was thick and strong, and as black as a highwayman's heart, but never bitter or acidic. And I never figured out how she made it. She used regular coffee (maybe Bokar or Eight o' Clock, maybe Maxwell House or Chock Full of Nuts - I can't remember) and she made it in an ancient aluminum drip maker.

Efforts to duplicate her brew with the same coffee and maker always failed. When my sister-in-law made it, it resulted in something so downright evil looking, a sip or two was all I could venture before visions of lycanthropy floated before my eyes. But when I made it, it was as weak and insipid as a politician's promise.

But the damage had already been done. Coffee became a staple during my adolescence and has stayed one ever since.

The navy certainly reinforced my habit (and probably that of ten million other lads). In the navy, coffee was less a beverage than a requirement, as much a part of our outfit as white hats and bell bottoms. I can't say everyone drank it all the time, but it sure seemed that way. The stuff was always strong, and though you might not believe it, a 30-cup-a-day habit wasn't considered excessive, let alone unusual. Decaf, on the other hand, was unheard of.

But while I've been a coffee addict for 45 years, nonstop, I've never become a gourmet. I don't like bad coffee, burned coffee or weak coffee, but that's about it. If it's fresh and strong and does the trick, that's good enough for me.


Hammer time!

Until it closed, Alice's Restaurant did a great job of keeping my coffee jones at bay. Every day their coffee (La Touraine's extra-high-octane grade) kick-started my psyche and sent me on my merry way, wired to the eye teeth, grinning like a jackass eatin' stickers.

But when Alice's closed (R.I.P.), so did the chapter of my life entitled, "Dope Springs Eternal." Quite simply, no other coffee took care of either my taste buds or my lethargy.

I kept drinking it, for sure, and it was OK but it just didn't launch me into orbit on Spaceship Dope. That is, until last year, when I got hit with Hammer.

Note, I said, "hit with Hammer," not "with a hammer," because Hammer is a brand name. It's the Big Kahuna at Dan and Debbie Stoorza's rescue mission for the caffeine-deprived - Adirondack Bean-to. It's also responsible for me being able to face the day, as it's got taste, flavor and POW! Which, when it comes to me and coffee, is everything.

I'm not a morning person and never have been. But as long as there's Hammer in my larder, there's a song in my heart. And to keep my heart singing, I'm sure to fill the larder when it reads near E. Or at least I was sure till two weeks ago, when I was betrayed by the Stoorzas.

My Hammer stash almost gone, I went to the Bean-to to cop some more. Walked in, bade a cheery g'day to Chris behind the counter and asked for a pound of the Dark Savior.

"Sorry," she said, far too merrily for my tastes. "We don't have any."

"Whattaya mean you don't have any?" I asked.

"Just that," she said.

"You don't have any at all?"

"Well, we do," she said. "But we don't have it in bulk. I can make you a cup, but that's it."

"Cup, shmup," I sneered. "What good would a cup do me?"

She shrugged, as if saying, "Take it or leave it."

"And what's the cause of this outrage?" I asked.

"Well, Debbie and Dan went to Colorado to visit their sons, and they didn't roast enough to last while they're gone."

"Oh?" I said. "So while they're traipsing around in a geriatric Rocky Mountain High, the only high we're getting is high and dry?"

She shrugged again, this time signaling she'd just relegated my sad plight to the dumpster of her mind.

"It's OK," I said, not meaning it at all. Then I added, "I'll get by" - not meaning that either.

"But I'll give you fair warning," I said. "Debbie and Dan will hear about this."

"Yeah," she said, looking at her fingernails, "Other people said the same thing."

"I'm sure they did," I said. "But this time it'll be in print."

And with that, I turned on my heels and left, never giving Little Miss Shrugsalot so much as a backward glance.

I did, however, have one ace up my sleeve: Nori's Whole Foods also carries Hammer. Within minutes I stormed into Nori's and peeled over to the coffee section only to find their Hammer stash as depleted as the Bean-to's.

That left me with only one option - endure as long and well as I could till the Stoorzas finally decided to return and do the right thing for the people they'd so callously neglected.

I endured - long, but not very well. Finally, what seemed like a month later but was only a week, I heard the Stoorzas were back in town, and more importantly, Hammer was back in stock.

I immediately headed over to the Bean-to. As I walked up to the porch, I saw a figure skulking around the back of the building. It was Dan, rightfully racked with shame, avoiding me for all he was worth.

I first thought I'd chase the coward down and give him a piece of my mind. Then I realized that after a week without Hammer, when it came to my mind, there wasn't a piece left.



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