Monday, January 31, 2005

Cup 56: Get There First

empty classroom
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
When: January 31, 2005, 7:30 am
Present: me
Coffee: Maine Roaster's Capone
Mood: irritated

It was a minor victory. I decided to stick with the waking up early thing. After the previous week I'd gotten into the habit of waking up even earlier than usual, so I decided to see if I could stick with it. So I got extra early to see if I could make it to class before my students. Technically I'm under no obligation to be there before 8 am. The room is locked until I get there, however, and if I show up at 7:50 there will be a hall full of students awkwardly avoiding eye contact with each other when I get there. I don't get it. As soon as I let them in they'll hop on the computers and the first thing they'll do is check their email. They spend all their energy on people who are absent and ignore the people who are right next to them, even if they are just waiting in a darkened hallway and have nothing else to do besides stare at the wall. They seem to prefer the wall to real human contact. Go figure. But I digress. The point is, I have to get there before they do. If they find out I've been coming in at 7:30, I'm going ot have to start coming in at 7. I don't know if other teachers do this, but I find teaching goes better if you own the room. If you aren't there first, you don't have a chance. Have the music going, set the lighting, assert your authority over the environment within the room. Make the room yours and you'll have to spend a lot less energy getting your students to listen to you.

The only problem with getting there that early is that the coffee runs out too early. Fortunately this was just a workshop day, with limited lecturing. That's what takes the most energy, the lecturing. One on one I could do all day. Upper level classes are much easier to teach for that reason. The students are more self-directed and can be counted on to come to the information on their own. Lower-levels most students are still too traumatized by high-school and are just going through the motions, waiting to be told what to do, whereon they will try to do just that with as little personal investment as possible. I don't remember if I was any different at that age. I like to pretend I was, but I just don't know.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Cup 55: Phone it in

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
When: January 30, 2005, 7:00 am
Present: Dot & Dash, Jessie
Coffee: Maine Roaster's Capone
Mood: busy

You know what? I'm not even going to try to make this day interesting. The coffee and I spent the day in front of the computer trying to get caught up. Absoluely nothing interesting, whatsoever. Oh, except the coffee was really, really good. Maine Roaster's Capone. As subtle and strong as a blow to the head with a baseball bat, but oh so good!

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Cup 54: Right Where I Should Be

dot and dash
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
When: January 29, 2005, 8:00 am
Present: Dot & Dash
Coffee: Port City Capone
Mood: content

At last, I am back where I should be. For myself, all I really want is to be able to sit and drink a good cup of coffee in the morning, to ease into the day content and happy. Such days seem very rare lately.

I went downstairs to steal half & half from my mom this morning, and Dot & Dash were waiting for me on the stairs when I came back. I set the cup down so I could snap their picture and they were momentarily fascinated by it (if I set it down in front of them it must be food or a toy!)

I had no idea it was possible for me to love anything as much as these two cats!

Friday, January 28, 2005

Cup 53: Priorities

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
When: January 28, 2005, 7:00 am
Present: dozens of schoolkids
Coffee: Mountain Grown Folgers
Mood: cranky

I was at school before 7. Nobody there but me and the janitor. I made the happy discovery that at this time in the morning the coffee is quite drinkable, not tortorous at all, as it will be after it has had a few hours to bake.

I wanted to get there early so I'd have time to write. I wanted to respond to an email from Riverbend. "I wonder about democracy and just how over-rated it might be considering the people in the most democratic country in the world couldn't stop this whirlwind of stupidity from occurring." How would you respond? What can you you say about democracy to someone who has had democracy forced on them at gunpoint, dropped on them from a Patriot missile?

And then I was surrounded by 7th and 8th graders. Someone had shut off the heater in "the Pod" the mobile-home style external classroom that provides room for the middle school in Pembroke, and with temperatures lower than -10 F the night before, the Pod was very, very cold. I usually hole up in the library to get work done. Pembroke is way too small a school for its student population. Music, art, health and technology all share one room. I usually do tech stuff in the library. Sometimes classes are held in the hall, with students sitting on the floor. Much of special ed takes place in a windowless storage room. It would cost $2 million to bring the school up to where it should be. The war in Iraq has cost Maine $440 million.

These are things I think about as I sip Mountain Grown Folgers and get ready to fix ancient computers the school can't afford to replace. Hooray for democracy!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Cup 52: T28

Location: T28, Maine
When: January 27, 2005, 8:00 am
Present: just me
Coffee: Green Mountain Breakfast Blend
Mood: alive

Past the Eddington Citgo, the last outpost of civilization on Rt. 9, cheap gas, decent coffee, Maine gets different. It can be a little scary, so far away from it all, where the towns cease and places have numbers instead of names. At the same time there's such incredible beauty. You can only see it when you are really there. There's just no way to capture it on film. I can snap the picture, but the picture is nothing. Around T28, there is a little ledge where you can pull off the road. There isn't a sign saying "scenic view" or anything like that. It is almost as if the road crews thought, "This is so amazing, we just have to put this here." Pull off the road, and you're looking down across a plain, with a river winding through it. I don't think there are too many places where you can actually look down on a river, and actually see miles of it, bending and winding its way across the country, without being in an airplane. So many times on Rt. 9 I come across incredible sights and I wish there was a way to capture and share them. But I am happy that there are places in this world that can't be captured, that can only be experienced first-hand.

Cup 51: A Point on the Compass

thurs morning
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: my mother's livingroom, Orono
When: January 27, 2005, 5:45 am
Present: Ethel LeClair
Coffee: Port City India Malabar
Mood: awakening

I had to go steal half & half from my momma this morning. She was up watching TV because the paper boy hadn't come yet. She's usually up this early in the morning. Even though she doesn't need to be to work until 8:30, she usually shows up an hour or two early. She's crazy that way. I don't think anyone at the library realizes she does the work of two or three people. When she retires from there this spring, they are going to be in so much trouble! Anyway, I sat and had coffee with my mother. I used to do this regularly, but haven't for a while. It meant I'd be late to Pembroke, but I realized that I wouldn't have too many more opportunities for this. Mom's moving to Kittery in the spring, and I won't be able to just go downstairs and have coffee with her. I hear my therapists voice asking, "How does it feel to know you won't be able to just go downstairs and have coffee with your mother?"

It is hard... it feels too big to put into words. All this time I thought I couldn't wait for Mom to move to Kittery where my sister can deal with her and now... I'm scared and sad and well, she's been drinking coffee in that exact same chair every morning for the past 20-odd years. She's like a point on the compass, a constant, and without her there, that is one less thing that is certain in this world. It is like I have to let go of something, grow a little older, become a little more "adult" without her sitting in that chair...

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Cup 50: Pizza and Coffee

Wednesday evening
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: Market Café, Stillwater, Maine
When: January 26, 2005, 8:00 am
Present: Yvette, Isaac, Jessie
Coffee: Port City India Malabar
Mood: happy

Yvette is back! Yay! Yvette is another New Media dept. graduate who left the state to find work. Happily, she came back to work on her Masters, again in the New Media dept. She's one of my favorite people and was the first friend I made when I returned to Orono. When I learned she'd returned I just had to get together with her for dinner! Unfortunately, I'd forgotten to inform Jessie of these plans (I thought I had, but...) so she was a little distressed to discover two extra people at our table when we arrived at the restaurant. I really hadn't talked with Jess for days (too damned tired) but after my coffee injection at the restaurant I was able to perk up enough to talk about the previous days. So Jess was hearing things for the first time that she should have already known about. Way smooth, Matt.

But anyway... coffee and pizza? Hell yeah! Two of my favorite things in the world, with two of my favorite people (sorry Isaac, I don't know you well enough to include you in my "favorite people" category). What could be better? Well, I guess having one of those favorite people not upset with you could be better, but still, life is pretty damned good.

Cup 49: Gone

Location: Lengyl Lab, Orono, University of Maine
When: January 26, 2005, 8:00 am
Present: numerous students
Coffee: Port City India Malabar
Mood: tired & cranky

The irony is that for when you are living a life that is worth blogging about, you have no time for blogging! Here I am trying to catch up, trying to remember enough info about the past few days to write about them, but things are slipping through the cracks. Cup 49 slipped away from me. I know I must have been drinking much coffee, having pushed myself past the point of exhaustion it is the only way I could have been functioning still. That is about all I know about cup 49. I forgot to take its picture. Now it is gone, like tears in the rain...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Cup 48: Speaking Truth to Power

tues 2
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: Augusta Civic Center
When: January 25, 2005, 8:30 am
Present: Owen & Meghan and hundreds of others
Coffee: Unknown
Mood: charged

I really didn't mean to. Up there on stage, though I wanted to say one thing, but the words that kept coming out didn't have anything to do with that. Back at the conference in Augusta, this time with Owen, chair of the New Media department, and Meghan, a student in the same department. We've been asked to give a short talk about what we are doing with New Media. Unless you're majoring in engineering or computer science, the New Media dept offers what is probably the most technologically advanced education in the state. So I'm up there, coffee in hand, and I'm supposed to talk about how great we are and all that. And we are great, so that should be easy to talk about, but something has been bugging me all morning. On the trip down, Meghan told me about Renee, a former student of mine who'd graduated from the program and had to leave the state to get a job. This is what all the best students do. It is a shame, but it is true. There is nothing for them here. Our best and brightest have to leave the state if they want careers doing what they love. These are talented, highly skilled, self-motivated individuals, and their loss is a loss to Maine's future. If Maine really wants to have a future, we need to find a way to keep our best right here. When it came time for me to talk to all these people who are helping to shape Maine's future, it seemed more important to me to tell them that than anything else I'd been planning on saying. I think they heard me. A number of people came up and thanked me for saying it. You're welcome, now if you really want to thank me, do something about it!

Cup 47: Port City

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: Home, Orono
When: January 25, 2005, 6:30 am
Present: just me
Coffee: Port City Coffee Roasters Indian Malabar
Mood: exhausted, yet happy

I'd had the Port City on Monday, but it didn't really count. Then it was just self-medication, pumping it into my body in a desperate attempt to stave of sleep as I headed down I-95. Today, however, was a different story. I was still exhausted, but Owen was driving today. I'd gotten a decent night's sleep and for the first time in too many days I was able to sit and sip and enjoy.

Oh, the Port City... dear Sister, I don't feel bad about chastizing your Market Basket coffee when, not ten minutes from your house you have Port City! Call me a snob, but we just can't get coffee this good around here. It is a delight to so many senses. Just opening the bag and breathing it in is a treat. Then the beans, glossy from their own oils. The name of the coffee was Indian Malabar. I don't know much about Malabar, but the coffee itself was like those dance scenes in Bollywood cinema, where everyone is costumed and happy and bouncing. The coffee has that kind of energy, kinetic and romantic and happy. A wonderful way to start the day!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Cup 46: Movers and Shakers

monday 2
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: Augusta Civic Center
When: January 24, 2005, 8:30 am
Present: just me
Coffee: Unknown
Mood: dazed and dazzled

Maybe I was a gunslinger in a past life. Whenever I'm in a crowded room I always try to find a corner seat where walls are at my back and there are no doors out of my line of sight. I grab coffee, fruit and a danish from the "complimentary continental breakfast" and grab a corner table where I can see the whole room.

Something seems very wrong here, like maybe I'm at the wrong conference. I don't see any of the usual suspects. Having been involved in learning & technology for a while now, I start to know everyone, if by face alone, who is in the field. Maine is a mighty small state in some ways. At a conference called "Education, Technology and the Future of Maine's Economy," I expect to see lots of familiar faces, but I am surrounded by strangers. The coffee is familiar, though. It tastes the same at every conference I've ever been to, anywhere in America. I think it is the big plastic bins the caterers use to teleport the coffee in from a giant coffee vat somewhere in the midwest. In this case it was very comforting to have that familiar hot brown water because as I looked around the room, not only am I seeing nobody familiar, but the name tags have subtitles like, "Department of Education," "Department of Labor," "House of Representatives," and so on. So many bigwigs, movers and shakers!

The conference was an incredible thing, and for the first time in, well, ever I'm feeling a little hope for my poor state. Maine's entire economy has been based on four things: fishing, lumbering, textiles and tourism. The first three are dead or dying, and there is no hope that they will ever return. The fourth is totally dependent on how well the rest of the country is doing. The first keynote speaker announced, "Manufacturing is dead. Get over it!" and nobody contradicted him. The conference went on to explore how Maine might survive the death of 80% of its economy, and the best answer that anyone can come up with seems to be to create a workforce that can compete internationally in the 21st century through education. It made me proud. Mainers are fiercely independent, and try to solve every problem through "Yankee ingenuity," which is to say they have to figure things out on their own, without asking anybody else. So hearing Maine's political and economic leaders say, "We should look at other countries who've solved similar problems and see what we can learn from them," gives me hope. I think Abbie Hoffman said something like, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn professional." So it is both pleasing and unsettling when you hear legislators saying the kinds of things you've been saying all along, like 1:1 computing for all, getting rid of textbooks, learner centered teaching and so on. I've never heard so many "radical" ideas coming from such high-level people before. Maybe all our hard work won't be in vain for nothing.

Cup 45: Please Drive Safely

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: I-95 headed toward Augusta
When: January 23, 2005, 6:45 am
Present: just me
Coffee: Maine Port City Coffee Roasters Indian Malabar
Mood: gluck

There's a Chinese charm hanging from my rear-view mirror. I know that Chinese is pretty trendy right now. Not to speak, but just to have Chinese symbols around. People are getting tatooed with Chinese words without even knowing what they say. I think this is a riot. I think about where you can find all sorts of examples of the hilarious things that can happen when you use a language you don't speak just as a design element. I wonder what ludicrous graffiti people are putting on their bodies and one day their flesh will be put on on a Chinese web site where people will make fun of them. I'm not making this mistake though. The symbols on the thing hanging from my mirror say (more or less) PLEASE DRIVE SAFELY. This is the last thing that I'm doing this morning though. I am tired. I am cranky. I drove eight hours the day before, three hours the day before that, nine hours the day before. I've been up early every day. I want to sleep. I want to never be in a car again. Here I am again though, in the car for another hour and fifteen minutes when I am really too tired to be there. I've got Port City coffee, but I'm not even noticing it as I drink. I shifted into second when I was aiming for fifth. First time I've ever done that, and the Interstate is nowhere you want to make that mistake. The warning signs were flashing 45 because they still hadn't finished cleaning up from the storm, but I was going 85. I just wanted to get out of the car.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Cup 44: Oasis

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: Bethel, Maine
When: January 22, 2005, 6:45 pm
Present: Jessie Brakely
Coffee: Dunkin' Donuts whatever
Mood: tense

I love Irving. Many Mainers would consider me a traitor for saying so. Irving gas stations are owned by a Canadian. For some reason, people really resent this. I'd go out of my way to stop at an Irving station if I had to, but fortunately they are always conveniently located just where they need to be. There's one in Waterville, exactly midway between Portland and Orono making it the perfect place for a bathroom brake and a coffee refill. Irving's bathrooms are always clean, the coffee is usually pretty good, and the people who work there are always pleasant and courteous. Except for the Irving station in Pembroke. Well, at least the bathroom is clean there.

The Bethel Irving station was an oasis to us. I was so happy to find it! Jessie surprisingly had never noticed the magic that is Irving, but after coming down from the White Mountains in the remains of a snow storm it was just what I needed. I was dissappointed though. This was a weird Irvings. It had a Dunkin Donuts and a Subway inside. First time I'd ever seen that. I couldn't get MainWay, Irving's house blend. I had to get the Dunkin Donuts coffee. I also got two donuts. I wanted one donut, but as in something from a weird and stupid dream, if I bought two donuts it cost me sixty cents less than if I bought just one. Dunkin Donuts makes the Muzak of coffee. If you could somehow average together every cup of coffee in America, you'd get Dunkin Donuts coffee. It has no characteristics. There is nothing offensive about it, but also nothing interesting. It works, though, and after driving through two mountain ranges in heavily blowing snow in a front-wheel drive car without snow tires it was just what I needed.

Jessie loved the bathroom. She wanted to move in. It had flowers and hand lotion.

Cup 43: Before the Storm

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: Middlebury, VT
When: January 22, 2005, 8:45 am
Present: many, many Brakeleys
Coffee: Unknown
Mood: nervous

A blizzard hit southern New England overnight, and was still going on and it was snowing and blowing up in Vermont. We had to get back to Orono. Jessie had school and I had an important conference to attend in Augusta. About half the number who had been there the previous night showed up for breakfast. There was a lot of tension though. Some lived locally, but others had to travel to get home, so we were all trying to find out what the weather was like. Listening to the news, checking the internet, making phone calls, reading the paper. All these researchers gathering data then meeting to collate information and analyze data and make a decision to go or stay. We decided to go, but we were nervous about it. It was a six hour drive under the best conditions. This time of year six hours is a very long time. The blizzard seemed to have decided just to sit on top of New York and Boston and not come north, but that kind of thing can change in a minute. We had two mountain ranges to cross, so things had the potential to get very messy.

I was still full from the night before, so I pecked at a grapefruit and had a sticky bun with my coffee. I was suprised. Gigi usually has the best of everything and in large quantities. For gin it is Bombay Sapphire, for Scotch it is Lagavulin. She has a separate freezer for Ben and Jerry's Peace Pops and other frozen delights. Yet her coffee is just okay. I wonder why?

Cup 42: Children Starving in China

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: Middlebury VT
When: January 22, 2005, 8 pm
Present: astonishing numbers of Brakeleys
Coffee: Unknown
Mood: overwhelmed

How many Americans are overweight specifically because their mothers drilled into them, "Clean your plate, dear, there are children starving in China!" Intellectually I know better, but to this day I have this deep seated feeling that there is a direct causal relationship between me eating all the food on my plate and children dying in China. There's just so much food. I can't believe it. This is the big gathering of the Brakeleys. The matriarch, Gigi, had five sons and instead of having individual birthday parties, she has one big party for them at the average of their birth dates. Gigi is one of the landed gentry and has had a lifetime of experience putting on fantastic parties. This one was no exception! There were more caterers there than there are family members at my own family's gatherings. All totaled there were around fifty family members gathered together. This is a fairly regular occurence in this family, and they do it because they enjoy it. They like each other and have fun when they all get together like this. In my own family, we only gatther in such numbers when someone dies. And the Brakeleys are so friendly and so nice! They hug and ask questions and are interested. It all makes me insanely uncomfortable. My family gives the obligatory hug once a year or so, and we might talk about books or movies or something, but nothing personal. Honestly, I'm okay with that. I'm a very private person and don't really need anyone to know much of anything about my life. Public displays of affection make me uncomfortable. So I felt like a long tailed cat at a rocking chair convention (or however that saying goes). It is ironic, really. The whole family is trying to make me feel comfortable but none of them are doing the one thing that really would make me feel comfortable: ignore me completely.

But anyway, the food! Such exquisite food! Not only was I trying to save the life of a Chinese child, I was trying to make a moment last. It is hard to find really good food north of Portland, which is two hours away. So this was the best food I'd tasted in a very long time. Eggplant and portobello parmesan, mesclun salad, baked potato that somehow had been whipped with cream and butter and returned to its skin. And the coffee? Sadly, it wasn't going to win any Golden Cup awards, but I was too full to be drinking it anyway. But I needed something when desert came around. Chocolate mousse cake that was to die for. The Oompa Loompas had to roll me out the door. I was fat and in pain from eating too much, but at least no Chinese children were dead from my selfishness at being unwilling to clear my plate!

Cup 41: That Kind of Man

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: Portsmouth, en route to Middlebury, VT
When: January 22, 2005, 8:30 am
Present: Jessie
Coffee: Port City Coffee Roasters Capone
Mood: elated

We were running late but I lied to Jessie about Port City being right off the Interstate, and there being a gas station right there. It was more like a five minute drive, at least, and I didn't know for sure that there was a gas station anywhere near by. It turned out okay, though. I'd misremembered, and gotten us off at the wrong exit, and after a minute and a half of pretending I knew exactly where we were, there it was. Port City. And there really was a gas station nearby. So I got my coffee, and we got the gas we needed, and Jessie is none the wiser that I am the kind of man who is willing to lie to the woman he loves if it means getting what he wants.

Right then what I wanted was coffee. Not just any coffee. Port City coffee. It had been a few years since I'd had it, and didn't know if it was still as good. Results were inconclusive from the cup I had that morning because it was so cold out (-16 F) that just the walk from the shop to the car turned the coffee tepid. It was okay though. I bought two bags of coffee there, Capone and Indian Malabar. I had no doubt that they would bring joy soon. I opened the bags and breathed deeply, the wonderful smell flooding my body with deep contentedness.

Then it was on to Vermont, a long drive into the mountains. The Camry's heater just wasn't up to the task of fighting such cold, and the car never warmed up. We shivered and were cranky and swearing and fighting and being overly dramatic just to fight off the cold.

Cup 40: Store Brand

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: Kittery, Maine
When: January 22, 2005, 7:30 am
Present: Caritha, Sofia and Matthew Curti
Coffee: Market Basket Special Blend
Mood: glad

It used to be I could count on my sister for a good cup of coffee. One day she decided she really couldn't tell the difference and just started buying any old crap. Today it was Market Basket Special Blend, the local supermarket's store brand. The packaging has that unique quality that only store brands have of being designed by someone who has no idea about design. Big bright road hazard red and yellow with the words MARKET BASKET on it as large as it possibly can be without falling off the bag, and nothing on it to indicate whether it is arabica, robusta... Fortunately Caritha knew we were coming and got real half and half. Usually she just uses this dreadful hazelnut flavored nondairy "creamer" stuff that comes in a box shaped like half-and-half, but is really just an abomination.

Caritha can't quite understand why I'm taking pictures of my coffee, and asks Sofia if she thinks I have to much time on my hands. Sofia gives a "why do adults do anything they do?" shrug from behind her newspaper and keeps reading. Little Matt is a trooper though. He's up early, coughing his lungs out, insisting that he feels better than he sounds. I can tell he feels sick, though. He wants to visit with his Uncle and with Jessie for the short time we're there. He was asleep when we got there the night before (10 pm... I'd spent almost 9 hours in the car on Friday) and he'd been sick all week. Poor guy! Jessie stumbled out of bed a bit later and he cornered her for Mario 64 DS before she'd even had breakfast.

So hard to leave... Middlebury VT was another 3 hours away and we had to be there by lunchtime.

Cup 39: Driving on 9

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: Eddington, en route to Pembroke, Mark's Car
When: January 21, 2005, 6:30 am
Present: Mark
Coffee: Green Mountain Coffee French Roast
Mood: waking

We're lucky enough to live in Orono, one of the only towns in Maine that actually plows its roads. Rt. 9 is a different story. Even though it stopped snowing some time ago, it appears the plowmen have decided to let the traffic do their job for them and just let the snow get pushed out of the way. It is a mess, scary to drive on and we fear for our lives. It took two cups of coffee just to get me awake enough to hold a conversation. I ask Mark to pull over at the Eddington Citgo so I can fill up my to-go cup again, where I learn something disheartening. If you're drinking wine, you start with "the good stuff." Switching to something of less quality when you're tongue (and brain) are a little pickled is okay. Try this the other way around, though, and you'll miss the subtlety and beauty that is a good wine. Coffee, on the other hand, doesn't work this way. A good cup followed by a bad cup only makes the flaws so much more apparent, makes the bad cup so much more dissatisying. After drinking the Maine Roasters with the organic Half and Half, the Green Mountain with the "minnie moos" half and half tastes like swill. I'm not happy. But what can I do? Not only must I face the early morning, the cold, the dark but also the fact that WE COULD DIE AT ANY MOMENT!!!! Driving on snow in the trench the vehicles before us have made, logging truck hurtling toward us, maniac drivers from New Brunswick tailgaiting us... I grip my coffee like it is some protective talisman, sipping nervously. It tastes so terrible that for a moment it takes my mind off everything else. For once bad coffee is a good thing.

Cup 38: Jack Frost Nipping

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: Orono, en route to Pembroke, Mark's Car
When: January 21, 2005, 5:45 am
Present: Mark
Coffee: Maine Roasters Coffee, French Roast
Mood: guh

I imagine this is what it feels like to get your face ripped off. Right after it happens, before the screaming starts, before the pain starts registering. That split second before you realize exactly what has happened and you know something has gone horribly, horribly wrong, and the extent of this is starting to sink it. That is how cold it is out. Forget that "nipping at your nose" stuff. Jack Frost is biting off your face!

Mark's puzzlement is audible as I pause in this cold to take a picture of my coffee on top of his car. It is dark. It is cold. But I've got my coffee. Everything is going to be okay. Or is it?

Cup 37: Hectic

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: Home, Orono
When: January 21st, 2005, 5am
Present: Dot & Dash
Coffee: Maine Roasters Coffee, French Roast
Mood: stressed

This is the start of a very hectic five days. Every day I'll be travelling hundreds of miles. Thursday's school cancellation means I'll be going to Pembroke and back the same day. We leave for Kittery as soon as I get back. Today alone I'll be spending 8 hours in the car. I really hate being in cars. Fortunately for today I can carpool. The music teacher commutes from Orono as well, so I can ride with him. That'll keep me from going completely crazy! As it is I am quaffing my coffee like a drowning man gasping for air. 5 am and I'm so non-functional. The act of moving around seems dangerous and painful. And it is dark and fourteen below zero, F. I do not love the world this morning.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Cup 35 & 36: Midgets in the Mud

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Where: around the house, Orono, ME
When: Jan 20, 8:30 am, 2005
Who: Dot & Dash
Coffee: Maine Roasters
Mood: resigned

One of the worst books I've ever been forced to read was Ole Rolvaag's Giants in the Earth. I think it was for Race and Culture in Literature, or some such class, and the instructor was of Norwegian descent, so he wanted to get the Norwegian American experience into the class. I remember we called it Midgets in the Mud, we hated it so much. I've mercifully blotted out most of it, but I do remember one scene where the main character finishes his coffee before going out to commit suicide by going outside to do stuff when it was too cold. I remembered that book this morning. It was dark when I first got up. In the six hours since I'd fallen asleep over a foot of snow had fallen. I had to dig my mother's car out so she could get to school. She's considered essential personnel so she has to work no matter what the weather, even when the campus is closed. Funny that a librarian would be essential personnel while the president isn't. It is amazing how beautiful a snowstorm is at 5 am. Just me and my shovel, nobody else around, snow falling silently around me. That sense of wonder lasted until the cold seeped in. I got my mother dug out and ran back to bed and slept til the sun came up. Pretty much everything in the state was cancelled because of the weather, so I could sleep in.

I remembered the suicidal Norwegian American as I drank my coffee. I could think of nothing I wanted to do less than go back out into that cold. There was just so much snow, a foot and a half in parts. You wind up shoveling it two or three times because the piles get so high that it falls back on you. If it weren't for the coffee, starting the fire in me and keeping it burning I don't know how I could have managed it. I made extra to leave in the thermal carafe so I knew it would be waiting for me when I got back inside. It kept me going. This kind of shoveling is a test. You keep going until you're too cold and too tired, then you take a break and then go back to it. Knowing the coffee was there, I could push it. My hands were numb, my back was tired and my lungs hurting, but I could say to myself, "The coffee is waiting. The relief will be there for you the instant you go back inside. Can't you keep going five minutes more?" And I could!

In the kitchen (top window), my coffee waits.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

intermission: detritus

The student art show is going on in the Art Dept's building, Carnegie Hall. One of my former students, Nathaniel Coe did this piece, Accrued Detritus Resulting from Addiction. I had no idea he'd done the piece. We'd never talked coffee before.

Cup 34: Blood Flash

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Where: computer lab, Lengyl Gym, University of Maine, Orono
When: 8 am to 10 am, Jan 19 2005
Who: a whole bunch of college students
Coffee: Maine Roasters
Mood: awake

8 am and I'm teaching digital image editing techniques to a group of art majors. It is dense stuff. Simultaneously among the least creative and most important material of the class. The kind of techniques used by professional photo retouchers. Boring, but actually useful in getting a job, and doing it gives you a good base to work from when getting more creative. Start with a good image and everything else is more likely to fall in place. Still, I'd probably hate it if I were a college art student and it was 8 am.

With the cold snap any moisture in the air has dried out, and my throat is sore and scratchy all the time. The only way I can keep lecturing is to keep sipping the coffee. It is the only way I can make it through. I notice that none of the students have coffee with them. The fools. I should make it a class requirement.

A happy accident. The Nikon Coopix 2500 that I keep in my pocket when I don't feel like lugging my Fuji around has an annoying bug. The flash doesn't stay turned off when I restart the camera. Today I didn't feel like fiddling with it to turn it back off, so I just covered the flash with my thumb. Nicely, it flooded the lens with warm red light as the flash strobed into my blood. A neat effect!

Cup 33: Science Fictionally Cold

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Where: all around the house, Orono, ME
When: 7 am, Jan 19 2005
Who: Dot & Dash, Jessie
Coffee: Maine Roaster's French Roast
Mood: Frantic & confused

My only excuse is that it is cold. Really, really cold. So cold it really doesn't matter if the shades are pulled or not. There's so much frost on the windows it is hard to see outside. In American Gods, Neil Gaiman called this science fictionally cold. So cold the air freezes and you have to gather it in buckets and warm it up so you can breathe. He was thinking of Fritz Leiber's classic short story A Pail of Air. Today I can relate. It is supposed to snow for the next twenty-four hours, and then the temperature is really going to drop, down to minus 20 degrees fahrenheit. Once the needle hits zero, though, it really doesn't matter how much colder it gets. It just hurts. So I'm lying in bed, waiting for the sun to get brighter, only it won't because the frost is blocking it. Snuggled up so close to Jess that I'm almost pushing her out of bed. Dot & Dash are curled up on top of us. The alarm insists it is time to get up, but I just can't. That's my only excuse. So hard to get out of bed when you know that nothing in the day is going to be as pleasant as where you are right now. But I know that there's a bunch of students waiting for me to open up the class room, and I force myself up and out. Coffee is the only thing that can redeem the day, the only thing that keeps me going. I drink coffee, shower, drink coffee, start the car, drink coffee, get dressed and go, forgetting to eat breakfast but making it to class ten minutes before class time. Already a crowd waiting. What is wrong with these people?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Cup 32: It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

once a great notion
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Where: living room, Orono, ME
When: 7:30 am, Jan 18, 2005
Who: Jessie, Dot & Dash
Coffee: Maine Roasters French Roast (almost out!!!!)
Mood: content

Jessie was up early this morning, so she joined me in my morning routine. Usually I am up and about for an hour or two before she is, but she had homework to do today. She knows better than to try to engage me in conversation before I've finished my coffee, so she sat quietly on my feet (they were cold. 0° F here in the sunlight!) and we watched one of my favorite animes, Big O, that just started running again on the Cartoon Network.

The Maine Roasters is running low, and there is nowhere to get it around here. Fortunately, we're heading south this weekend, so maybe we can take a detour. The best coffee along the way is Port City Coffee Roasters coffee, out of Portsmouth, NH. They roast the coffee on premises, and actually put the roast date on the bags. It is out of the way, but worth the trip!

Ever had a good idea that you were stuck with? When I was in LA you could get Xmas trees at the Ikea. They were in a pot, still alive. If you brought the tree back, alive, you'd get your deposit back. This struck me as a great idea. It really makes me sad when I see dead Xmas trees on the side of the road the day after Xmas. The tree grows for years to get that size, then it gets chopped down, used for a couple days, then thrown away. I haven't had a tree in years, but Jessie really wanted one, so I went out behind the house and dug one up. It was really nice! A great thing about a living tree is that it doesn't drop needles the way a dead tree does. But here's the thing I didn't really think through. California is warm all year round. You can put the living tree back outside and it will be fine. Here I've brought a tree into the house and it thinks it is spring. The sap is flowing. There are buds growing on it. If I put it outside now, it'll be just as dead as any other cut Xmas tree in the garbage. So now we're stuck with this tree in our living room until spring really happens!

A great idea I'm stuck with... like it or not, like the idea of writing about every freaking cup of coffee I drink...

Monday, January 17, 2005

Cup 31: Pause and Reflect

real world real time
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Where: my office, Orono, ME
When: 10:00 am, Jan 16, 2005
Who: Dot and Dash
Coffee: Maine Roaster's French Roast
Mood: reflective

I am drinking cup 31 while I write this entry. Suprisingly, this is the first time this has happened. I've probably been avoiding it, which is wrong of me because I made th rule at the start that I wasn't going to do anything different in my life because I am doing this blog. I guess it is a good time to "Pause and Reflect." That is one of those catch phrases I use with my students. Pause and reflect. Stop what you are doing to think about what you are learning. It is an important tool. Too often we just go through the motions without stopping to think about why, and if we're actually learning anything by doing what we're doing.

So, what have I learned so far? The most suprising thing I learned is that people are actually interested in this blog! I'd made other attempts (here and here) at blogging where I really made a strong attempt to make it interesting, to provide information of value and so on. Nobody cared. Nobody commented, aside from a few friends. In 100 Cups of Coffee I am paying a lot of attention to something completely mundane and boring and people are paying attention. It is really great, and I sincerely thank all of you who have posted and taken an interest into what I'm doing, even if I haven't replied personally to you. You've really helped keep this going. That is another thing I've learned. It is much easier to motivate yourself to do something when people are paying attention to you! That makes me realize how important giving students feedback on every project is. That is something I always intend to do, but all too often I get overwhelmed with everything else, and it doesn't happen, so the only feedback students get is at the end of the semester when they get their final grade. But wait... there's something else. If I blogging is analogous to learning, it isn't just important that students get feedback from me, but from each other. Maybe even more important. Every comment I've recieved on this blog has been important from me. I've never thought, oh, this comment is coming from a woman who is married to an Elvis impersonator, so I should pay more attention to her! It all counts. Hmmm. So how can I improve the ability for students to give each other feedback? Blogging for art class, perhaps? Let me ponder that...

I've learned it is much harder to take a successful picture of the mundane than it is of something spectacular. A beautiful landscape, a stunning flower... there's something there to capture, and even if you capture only a fraction of what is there, you can still have a pretty good picture (you can see examples of this here). But trying to photograph a cup of coffee without embellishing it, without staging the shot to make it interesting, that has been a real challenge!

I've learned that I drink more coffee than I thought I did. I've also learned that "cup" is a relative term, sometimes made more relative if I was feeling lazy. For instance, the official measure of a cup of water to be used in brewing a cup of coffee is actually 6 ounces, instead of the 8 ounces we usually think of as a cup. After brewing, this constitutes about 5.3 ounces. So, what measure do I go by? Sometimes I've had several of the old-style coffee cups and referred to it as one cup, since my Uncle mug would hold at least 3 of those cups. And what of the times I've started a cup of coffee, drunk half, then refilled my cup? Without actually measuring every ounce of coffee I've drunk, how can I have an honest 100 Cups of Coffee? I can't! So this whole blog is a lie!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Cup 30: What Could Be Better?

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Where: the livingroom, Orono, ME
When: 8:30 am, Jan 16, 2005
Who: Dot and Dash
Coffee: Maine Roaster's French Roast
Mood: Content

Finally, my cold is going away, and I can taste again. It is a Sunday, and there's nowhere I need to be. Dot is lying against my feet while Dash hangs out at my knees. The TiVo has great anime waiting for me from last night's Adult Swim. What could be better?

I hadn't quite realized it before, but my coffee had been lacking something this year. Just slightly diminished, lacking the full flavor it should have. I discovered what it was. Up til this year, the local store carried Organic Valley's Organic Half and Half, which is what I always bought. For some reason, though, they'd stopped carrying it, so I just bought the local brand of half & half, not wanting to drive all the way into Bangor just to get half & half. I picked up some the other day on a shopping trip to the big city, and what a difference it makes! The coffee is more robust, with a lingering, satisfying finish. Looking at the ingredients, the "regular" half & half has preservatives and ingredients to keep it from separating, and the expiration date is a full month later than the organic. I knew that even the slightest traces of chemicals other than water in the brewing process could completely throw off a pot of coffee, but I hadn't realized the same was true of the half and half. Seek out some organic half & half and try it for yourself!

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Cup 29: Addictions

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Where: my kitchen, Orono, ME
When: 7 am, Jan 15, 2005
Who: just me
Coffee: Maine Roasters French Roast
Mood: sick

I push the plunger down on the French press and I think of Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream. I am very fortunate in that these movies (and the music of the Velvet Underground) are as close as I've ever come to real addiction. I know I'm addicted to coffee, but the consequences of that addiction are miniscule to a heroin addiction. Sometimes I wish I could be a recovered addict, just so I'd have that life perspective, but the price is just too great. This morning, though, is one of those mornings that makes me aware of my own small addiction. I don't want this cup of coffee. We're having a cold snap and it is bleak and gray outside, and I just want to be back in bed, lying under the covers. I am sick, tired, and headachey, and I know the coffee is going to taste like crap because of my head cold, no matter how good it actually is. I know if I don't drink it my headache is going to get worse and I'll stay muddled and confused as if I'd never woken up properly, and I'll be cranky and horrible to be around. So I push the plunger down and give thanks to whatever fates/good sense prevented me from ever letting this be a real syringe.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Cup 28: Frantic

infernal device
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Where: Pembroke Elementary School, Pembroke, ME
When: Jan 14th, 8:30 am
Who: lots of kids and teachers
Coffee: Folgers
Mood: frantic

So much to do. Computers to fix, kids to teach, a website to work on, a report to get out, just for starters. I wanted to get an early start on it but realized with terror that I'd forgotten to run to the Mobil station to get a cup of the only marginally decent coffee in town. There was nothing for it but to drink the school's horrifyingly bad coffee. Fortunately things were so frantic at school that I never really had time to taste the coffee. A few sips here and there, but mostly the mug was just a prop that I carried with me from room to room and set on the table nearby to keep me company. The day left a bad taste, worse than the coffee. Legally I can't get into details. Keywords are: Parents. Divorce. Custody battle. Attempted kidnapping. Cops. Kids crying. Teachers shocked. The things parents do to their children in the name of love. All this happening in the halls while I try to fix computers, while the teachers try to keep teaching their classes as though nothing at all out of the ordinary was happening. The child in the middle of all this will remember this moment for the rest of their life.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Cup 27: Long Day's Journey into Slush

snowy morning
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Where: from Orono to Pembroke, ME
When: Thursday, Jan 13, 9 am to 12:30 pm
Who: just me
Coffee: Maine Roaster's French Roast
Mood: existential
Route 9 is a giant muddy slush puddle from last night's snowstorm. I have to wash my windows continually. Even with the windows clean it didn't make a whole lot of difference because the fog didn't let me see much further than 50 feet ahead. If I'd had any idea how bad the driving was going to be I would have stayed home.

No Green Mountain Coffee at the Citgo today. I took my coffee with me from home. Still can't taste it right, though. Maybe it was a combination of having a cold and the bad driving conditions, and really having nothing to do but sit and think for hours on end, but I started thinking about something I usually don't think about: getting old. It's this cold. It makes me wonder what it is like to live with a diminished quality of life when you know it is never going to get any better. Right now I am not enjoying life. Even the best coffee tastes bad to me. I have a constant headache, so books, movies, TV and everything else isn't enjoyable. I can't taste and it hurts to swallow, so I have no appetite, so I eat just to sustain my body. Even breathing, these scratchy lungs make me aware of each breath. And this isn't even a bad cold! So what happens when you get really sick, and stay sick? Right now, if I had to live the rest of my life with this cold, I don't know that I'd want to. Is that just because I am so aware of what I'm missing? If I stayed this way, would I redefine what is "enjoyable" within the spectrum of sensation that was available to me? How do people manage it?

Cup 26: Old School

cup ??
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Again with the 8 am class. Big pot of coffee again today. Remembered the nice thing about big pots of coffee: you can use the old-school coffee cups with them. The smaller cups hold just enough to drink without it getting cold. With the French press it is just going to get cold anyway, so you might as well use a big mug, but in the big pot the coffee is staying hot. The little cups keep the coffee at optimum drinking temperature! Class went better. I remembered to bring the coffee with me. Even though I wasn't feeling much better than I was on Monday, I was able to keep the ideas flowing much easier and make it an interesting and worthwhile class.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Cup 25

Where: Livingroom, Orono, ME
When: 8 am, Jan 12, 2005
Who: just me
Coffee: New England Coffee Breakfast Blend
Mood: sick

If the cup is half full, but you really want it to be empty, does that make you an optimist or a pessimist? Spent pretty much the whole day in bed. This cold strips away the flavor from everything, leaving just the bad tastes, and today it was New England Coffee, which comes in quality somewhere between Folgers and Green Mountain, anyway. It wouldn't have made much difference. I could only finish half a cup, and that I didn't enjoy. Only had one thing to do that day, and that was to send an email. Took me until 2pm to get up the energy to do it. Fah.

Monday, January 10, 2005

cup 24

cup ??
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Where: all around the apartment, Orono ME
When: 7 am, Jan 10th 2005

First day teaching a new class. 8 am, Monday morning. And I am supposed to be able to get college students discussing digital art at that hour of the morning? I'm not even awake, then. Funny how on vacation I can be up at the same time and be wide awake and ready to go, but when I've got something to do? Forget about it. No time to sit and sip coffee today. Tired, cranky, my voice scratchy from this damned cold or whatever I've got, barely awake. Coffee giving me that little bit of extra push I need to get moving. I brewed a whole pot this morning. A cup to get me started, the rest to keep my throat lubricated and my brain working through the class. Realizing at the last minute that I'd forgotten to update the syllabus with this semester's date. Rushing. Bad form for the instructor to be late on first day, or any day, of class. Halfway to campus I realize I left my coffee sitting on the counter. Halfway through class I crash. The sick and the tired catch up to me. I let the students go early. They don't mind.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Cup 23: Coming Down with Something

cup 22
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Where: livingroom, Orono, ME
When: 7 am, January 8, 2005
Who: Dot & Dash
Coffee: Maine Roaster's French Roast
Mood: Headachey

I'd hoped it was caffiene withdrawals. I got out of bed early with a headache. This happens pretty regularly. My body needs caffiene, even if I'm asleep. I have to get up and have coffee and the headache will go away after a couple sips.

Not today. The headache stayed. Crap. That means I'm coming down with/have come down with something. Time to switch from coffee to echinacea and orange juice. Great. Just in time to start teaching tomorrow.

Cup 22: Friars Bakehouse

cup 21
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Where: The Friar's Bakehouse, Bangor, Maine
When: 12 pm, January 8, 2005
Who: Jessica Brakeley
Coffee: unknown
Mood: happy

Bangor has a real live Franciscan monastery. Or maybe the monastery is in Brewer. The monks raise money for their monastery by baking bread and running a little restaurant in downtown Bangor. It is one of my favorite places in the world. The monks wear their robes and sandals, even when they work. There is usually religious music playing in the background, although a few months ago Cubano jazz & pop were regular features, as the monks were getting in the mood for their trip. Periodically the Bakehouse closes as the monks travel to a foreign country to do missionary work. This year it was Cuba. Such times are frustrating because I like to go to the Bakehouse every week!

The food is simple fare, but it is done so well that it seems elegant. I usually get the grilled cheese sandwich. It isn't just any grilled cheese sandwich. It is the best grilled cheese sandwich I've ever tasted! And I think that every time I have it.

Cup 21: Morning Alone

cup 20
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Where: livingroom, Orono, ME
When: 9 am, January 8, 2005
Who: just me
Coffee: Maine Roaster's French Roast
Mood: Satisfied

Back home. So nice to sleep in. The cats didn't chase me this morning. They'd worn themselves out earlier that morning playing with each other. Amazing how loud six-pound cats can be when they get rowdy. So I had the place to myself while Jessie and the kitties slept. Some moments I realize that even though I work really hard to attain some lofty goal (like wealth, power, prestige) what I really want is just to be able to kick back with a good cup of coffee, a good book, a blanket, a cat or two curled up on my legs... what could be better?

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Cup 20: Coffee of the Darned

cup 20
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Where: all around Pembroke Elementary School
When: 12:30 pm, January 7th, 2005
Who: various and sundry schoolkids and teachers
Coffee: Folgers
Mood: Desparate

This is the coffee they serve in the Meadow of the Darned. It is punishment for all of us sinners who weren't quite bad enough to deserve geniune torture. It is horrible, but not quite horrible enough to be undrinkable. Start with one of those giant tubs of Folgers my mom buys at Sam's Club, only don't freeze it after it is opened, so the coffee is free to get just as old and oxidized as it possibly can. Then, the custodian makes the coffee. Not that is is a bad thing in and of itself, but I've never seen him actually drinking the stuff. You should never allow anyone who doesn't drink coffee to make coffee. It's like having someone who wants you dead pack your parachute. Also, the custodian gets to the school hours before anyone else does, and makes the coffee when he gets there, so the coffee has had a good hour or two to age before anyone starts drinking it. The coffee is made in a giant vat that holds, what, 40 cups? 60? Enough for the WHOLE DAY in one giant pot that sits and bakes all day long. It is made with Pembroke tap water. It is the worst water I've ever tasted. I shudder every time I drink it. It is suprising. Usually city water is really bad and country water makes you feel sorry for all those poor saps who have to buy drinking water. But Pembroke, well, there's something wrong here. If you let the water run long enough so it gets really cold, then drink it really fast, you can endure it, but it should never find its way into a cup of coffee.

At best, Pembroke Elementary coffee ranks among the worst I've ever tasted. By mid day it has baked into a substance that tastes something like what a cardboard box might taste like if someone chewed on it for an hour, then drooled it into your mouth.

At 12:30 I was desparate. At 1:15 I had to start teaching the 5th and 6th graders, the most hyper and unruly students of the entire school, and I was crashing. The late night I'd put in the previous evening, the early morning the day before, the lack of decent food, it all caught up to me. I was stuck in that horrible combination of wanting to kill absolutely everybody and having no energy to do it with. I needed my caffiene. I had no choice. I had to drink the school's coffee. God help me.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Cup 19: Four for a Dollar

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Where: Library, Pembroke Elementary
When: 8 am, Jan 7, 2005
Present: various and sundry schoolkids and teachers
Coffee: unknown
Mood: exhausted

The Mobil station in Pembroke serves the closest thing to palatable coffee in this town. This isn't to say it is actually good, but it is caffienated and it doesn't make me wretch. Not sure what kind it is, but it sure isn't Green Mountain. Some kind of robusta, that's for sure. At least the extra caffiene sort of makes up for the lack of flavor. Enough half-and-half and it passes. This has become my routine in Pembroke. I leave my room at the Rainbow Motel ($25 a night, and the blankets have rainbows on them!) and go to the Mobil station to get a cup of coffee and some breakfast. Breakfast consists of four Little Debbie Granola Bars. Four for a dollar at the Mobil station. I am well aware that Little Debbie products are officially the least healthy brand of snack food you can get in the USA and I am sure the granola bars are no exception. But they stave off hunger until school lunch. Free salad bar on Fridays! Of course what doesn't get eaten off the salad bar goes to the pigs after friday, so the veggies and what not that they've been serving all week are looking pretty sad, but I'm usually too busy to really notice what I'm eating on Friday.

Bad coffee and Little Debbies do the trick, and get me to a point where I am awake enough and not hungry, so I can focus on what I need to accomplish. I am exhausted, though. The night before I was at school til 10 pm, installing software on the laptops. It was a snowy, and creepy night and I hadn't slept well because when I made it back to the hotel I'd realized that I'd forgotten both to lock the gate and lock up the laptops, and hadn't double-checked the doors when I left. But I wasn't about to go back out into the storm and brave Pembrokes unplowed roads in order to remedy the situation. I hoped the laptop thieves would have the same attitude.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Cup 18: End of Civilization

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: Route 9, Eddington, ME & points east
When: January 6th, 2005, 7:30AM,
Present: just me
Coffee: Green Mountain Breakfast Blend
Mood: waking

There's a Citgo on Rt. 9 that is marks the end of civilization. It is a stopping point for me on the way to Pembroke where I work as an educational technology consultant. The Citgo station is about half an hour into my drive. Two hours more to go before reaching Pembroke, if I drive the speed limit. It has two things going for it. First, gas is about ten cents a gallon cheaper than it is in Orono. This day it was $1.73 a gallon. Prices steadily rise at the few remaining filling stations between here and the end of the USA until in Pembroke they'll be at least 20 cents more a gallon. So I always stop and fill 'er up at that station. The other plus is the place has Green Mountain Coffee. I have a nostalgic fondness for Green Mountain Coffee. It was the first gourmet coffee to hit Maine. Before then it was the wretched Mountain Grown Folgers, and that Heavenly coffee, Chock Full O' Nuts. Back when I was in high school, Green Mountain Coffee was mythical. Down in Portland there was a Green Mountain Coffee Roasters coffee shop that was the only place you could get the stuff. Kids would come back from their trip to the Big City with tales of it. "It was coffee, but it tasted good. You could drink it!" and then they'd try to explain the whole idea of a place that just sold coffee and things to eat while drinking coffee. But you really had to go there to understand. And then some adventurous friend would drive us down there and we'd feel oh so grown up drinking our hazelnut coffee with lots and lots of cream, without our parents around. Then Green Mountain Coffee started distributing their coffee all over the state and it was a big deal. Filling stations would put up big signs saying, "Proudly Serving Green Mountain Coffee," when they started carrying it. Now it is ubiquitous, and the coffee shop in Portland is gone. Green Mountain is the baseline for palatability now that there are so many better coffees available here. I still have a fondness for "back in the day" when Green Mountain seemed so good!

Today it revived me enough to keep moving, and make it through the remainder of the long drive to Pembroke. After that Citgo it is half an hour to an hour between filling stations, and every once in a while it dawns on you how long it has been since last you saw a house or a vehicle, that wasn't a logging truck and how totally screwed you'd be if you broke down. There are areas that have numbers and letters for names, like T-28 because there aren't enough people who live there to warrant giving it a real name. And there is a stretch called (I'm not making this up) The Unorganized Territories. I want to move there. Many people in Pembroke avoid Rt. 9 altogether when they travel to their big city, Bangor. Not enough population. Too many logging trucks. No police. It feels dangerous. So they spend the extra hour it takes to go on Rt. 1. I don't mind it though, but I do try to make that final cup of coffee last the whole trip. Until I return home, it will be the last decent cup of coffee I drink.

Cup 17: Rush

cup 17
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Location: Kitchen, Orono, ME
When: January 6rd, 2005, 6 am,
Present: Dot & Dash
Coffee: Maine Roaster's French Roast
Mood: urghhhhh

This cup was the antithesis of the coffee I'd been drinking. No pleasure in it, no relaxing, easing into the day. This was just quaffing the coffee as quickly as the hot pain would allow in a desperate attempt to wake up. I had to be in Pembroke by 8:30. It is a two and a half hour drive, and I should have already been on the road. I should have gotten up when the alarm went off at 5am, but it was dark and oh so cold out and Jessie and the two kitties were so snuggly and warm around me and I just couldn't pull myself out of bed.

Cup 16: Lost Cup

Location: Living Room, Orono, ME
When: January 5th, 2005, 8 am,
Present: Dot & Dash
Coffee: Maine Roaster's French Roast
Mood: absent

Did I drink this cup of coffee? I know I did, but I was completely unaware of it. Caffiene withdrawal headache will force me out of bed if I sleep too late, and I remember that is what woke me up. Before I'd even gotten into my bathrobe I'd picked The Subtle Knife off the floor where I'd dropped when I couldn't stay awake reading it anymore the night before. I started reading it while the water boiled, and I was so into it that I didn't even notice the coffee I was drinking. I even forgot to take a picture of it. The sequel to The Golden Compass is so much better than the first book, and that one was a pretty good book. The book is about as pleasant as getting kicked in the stomach. I don't want to give anything away, but I will say that I can't think of another "young adult" book that is so daring & so willing to break the rules. I have no idea how Pullman is going to pull the third book off successfully though. With what he set up in the second book I don't see how it can be anything more than anticlimactic. Guess I have to go back to Borders this weekend...mmmmm.... Starbucks.....

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Cup 15: Changes

cup 15
Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
where: Memorial Union, University of Maine, Orono, Maine
when: 2 pm, Jan 4, 2005
what: Starbuck's French Roast
with: Sheridan Kelley, Owen Smith

I got a sad reaffirmation of something I'd been suspecting today. A decade ago I idolized my friend Andrew J. Hathaway. Andrew was the first professional photographer I'd met. My first understanding of the differences between a pro and an amatuer photographer came one day when Andrew and I were at an outdoor bar in Camden, Maine with a group of others. Andrew was taking pictures of us. I was the only one who noticed, and only then because I was really paying attention. The camera was an extension of his body. The camera was out, the picture taken, the camera put away in such a fluid, natural motion before anyone even realized that he'd taken their picture. Maybe a good photographer knows how to make their subject comfortable, but with a great photographer the subject never thinks to be uncomfortable in the first place. It was a talent I tried unsuccessfully to master. Now I fear it is a moot point.

Today I met Owen and Sheridan for lunch. I had the camera out and was snapping pictures of them (and my coffee) and they didn't react at all. I hadn't informed them of the project I'm doing, either. I think this is a sign of the times. We are under such constant surveilance now whenever we leave the house that I think that people just take it for granted now when their picture is taken. It used to be a big deal. Not long ago people would get very uncomforatable if the camera was out, and candid shots were all but impossible. Now people just don't care.

Anyhow, cup 15 was at the Memorial Union, meeting with Sheridan Kelley, who also teaches for the New Media dept., and Owen Smith, our boss, to discuss classes next semester and in the future. Next semester I'm teaching just one class, Intro to Digital Art, which will be a welcome break since I'm so buried in other projects. Today I got the welcome news that we got the go-ahead for developing the completely on-line version of the class. I'm very excited about this since such educational opportunities are very limited in this state, and being able to take the class online will open it up to a whole lot of people who couldn't take it otherwise.

The Memorial Union was once the hub for student activity on campus, until the University administration stepped in. Now there is a Starbucks at the heart of the University. Is this a trend at all Universities, or is UMO substandard? The Union used to have study lounges, meeting rooms, and two spaces where students could actually put on live entertainment, and all the food was done by campus dining services. All these things have been done away with. It was a big deal when they were redoing the Union. They formed a committee of faculty and students to decide how best to revamp the Student Union. They came up with a great plan that the administration took and said, thanks, but we've already hired someone else to do a plan. It was some guy out of Texas who designs airport food courts who'd never set foot on campus, and never bothered to ask what students wanted or needed. Now there is no place to study, no place for shows, no place to gather comfortably in groups larger than four. And it is Taco Bell, Starbucks, crap like that, all with the harsh unpleasant atmosphere of an airport food court.

And yes, the Starbucks coffee tasted exactly like every other cup of Starbucks coffee. If I closed my eyes, I could have been at any airport, any mall food court in the USA. Today, though, I learned a better word for that vaguely like the bottom of an ashtray yet not quite unpleasant taste of Starbucks coffee: carbony.