I’d been up all night, and I stumbled off the plane so bleary I could hardly walk. There, shimmering like a mirage at the end of the jetway, in the midst of what on my last visit had been a wasteland of Pizza Huts and Burger Kings, stood a newly opened Starbucks. I know, I know. Heartless corporate giant. Monster of coast-to-coast uniformity. Killer of mom-and-pop cafes. But that’s not what I thought at the moment. I thought : I’m going to order a grande latte with whole milk. I’m going to pour in two packets of Sugar in the Raw, and stir really well so there are so undissolved crystals at the bottom. I’m going to sit down and drink it slowly. Then I’m going to drive to the hospital. As I walked toward the counter, I said to myself: I can do this.
Anne Fadiman, “Coffee”, from At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays
Recently I’ve been somewhat busy applying for PhD programmes. I feel like I’m neglecting my blog somewhat, but I will return, and soon. Working in cafés in and around Tokyo, this passage keeps running through my head. Fadiman is a brilliant writer, and this essay is possibly my favourite one in the whole collection. Here we go.
I was nervous and drank more than I ate; my father carefully dispatched his steak. Then he asked me what my plans were for the summer and in a flush of some strong emotion or other I said, more or less: it’s the beginning of summer and I’m standing in the lobby of a thousand-storey Grand Hotel, where a bank of elevators a mile long and an endless red row of monkey attendants in gold braid wait to carry me up, up, up, through the suites of moguls, of spies, and of starlets; to rush me straight to the zeppelin mooring at the art-deco summit where they keep the huge dirigible of August tied up and bobbing in the high winds. On the way to the shining needle at the top I will wear a lot of neckties, I will buy five or six works of genius on 45 rpm, and perhaps too many times I will find myself looking at the snapped spine of a lemon wedge at the bottom of a drink. I said ‘I anticipate a coming season of dilated time and of women all in disarray.’
My father told me that I was overwrought and that Claire had had an unfortunate influence on my speech, but something in his face told me that he understood.
Michael Chabon, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
Such a beautiful, florid balloon of a description, popped so perfectly. Chabon is one of my favourite authors.
…and I told Joseph, I told and told, fighting is bad, leave off these wild ideas; but then he stops talking with me, and starts hanging about with dangerous types, and there are rumours starting up about him, Father, how he’s throwing bricks at big cars apparently, and burning bottles also, he’s going crazy, Father, they say he helps to burn buses and blow up trams, and I don’t know what. What to do, Father, I tell my sister about it all. My sister Alice, a good girl really, Father. I said “That Joe, he lives near a slaughterhouse, maybe that’s the smell that got into his nose and muddled him up.”
Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children