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11/02/2006

Chicory, Take Me Away


Do you hear that? No? Well, it is sweet, slappy SILENCE! Ok, not silence, but the absence of cacophonous sound produced by maintenance men. Again.

The former personable apartment staff was recently replaced by average, tepid personnel. Do they call when our packages arrive? No way Jose. I must track packages and call the office myself. Of course I am completely capable, but I miss quirky Janice, her vivid orange hair and consistent bare feet. She called us the day our packages arrived, or slipped them right inside the front door if we happened to be out. The new overly-efficient staff is renovating our cozy brown buildings which is long overdue, but I selfishly protest - we still live here! Working at home during the day, I am forced to hear mind-numbing noise which is verifiable torture. Hammer and nails. Clanging tall, silver ladders against walls. The shouting of instructions in Spanish. And the power-cleaning machine mimicking a motorcycle directly outside our building.

Tomorrow I need to escape - write at Diedrich's or see Through the Eyes of Children: The Rwanda Project. Or I know, I could actually go to the gym instead of slacking off! Today I tended to grumpy Harley Cat, very perturbed that his all-afternoon nap in the rocking chair was disturbed. Milo was indifferent, sequestered in the bathroom, romping around his cage with a red catnip mouse and a yellow rattle-ball. Johnny escaped to teach drum lessons. Not to make light of military torture, but they say sound torture is very effective, and I'm beginning to see why. The only semi-quiet location is our bathroom, the literal center of our apartment. Caring for Milo behind closed doors provides partial relief for our ears. Milo's maturing behavior is adorable. He runs up and down the bathroom with that yellow ball in his own private soccer match. He eats off a saucer all by himself, and glory hallelujah, he uses a small litter box! One evening Johnny placed Milo in the plastic blue box and rubbed his tiny feet in the gravel. The next day Milo scratched around on his own, squatted, and did his business. Granted, he occasionally flings poop everywhere, still learning litter box etiquette, but I cannot describe how happy we are unless you know what must be done in order to make him "go." It was amazing to see Milo know what to do; Johnny tells him, "God taught you how to do that."

The best feature of these apartments, tucked into a neighborhood of houses, was peace and quiet. I moved to this complex from my studio apartment behind Empire Cafe when Johnny and I were dating. He lived in West Houston, I lived near Westheimer and Shepherd, and driving home at 1:00-2:00 am across town was not ideal or safe. I often conjured various mirages while driving utterly exhausted. I found our current apartments through friends, quirky Janice gave me a golf cart tour, and I took an upstairs apartment on the non-pet side of the street. I loved the sloped ceiling, and a 1 bedroom/1 bath was perfect. As newlyweds we moved across the street where pets roam, yet it was peaceful. The dream has ended and we wait patiently to find a house. Soon.

Other than the Lord's saving grace, coffee carries me through the chaos. I slept fitfully last night and planned to sleep in this morning until a hammer clacked a nasty wake-up call. I grumbled internally, walked to the kitchen, opened the freezer - the bright red can of French Market Coffee & Chicory is a sight to behold each morning. I listened to the comforting putter of the coffeemaker, lit a brick of cedar incense, and prepared a bowl of extra thick oats. I sat at my desk waking up with the world online, inhaling that chicory scent, incense in its own right. I do believe my Cajun blood passed to me a predisposition to enjoy chicory coffee. When necessary, I use a tablespoon per cup, making a mud-like brew. Most of the time I follow Aunt Denise's method and use half that amount which is still good, strong coffee, only more dignified.

I have a long-running love affair with coffee. Cinnabon's sickly-sweet coffee drinks at Willowbrook Mall - on a lunch break from The Body Shop. Almond Joys at Brasil. An aromatic mug of Bennigan's blend, the true beginning of my addiction. Weak IHOP coffee somehow perfect with pancakes and hash browns. Godiva vanilla coffee in the barrio apartment. Iced Vietnamese coffee at Hao Hao's in Round Rock, TX. Running late to work at Grassroots - a cup of Diedrich's dark roast of the day for the beautiful tree-lined drive down Memorial. Empire Cafe's house coffee with complimentary dunking cookies. Sipping a divine blend at Bongo Java in Nashville - Sun Kil Moon playing overhead - chatting with Kierstin the day before her lovely wedding. For a long time, I purchased Starbuck's French Roast in the grocery store - a trustworthy dark coffee. New Cajun aunts followed by a family reunion in Lafayette, LA - vibrant green Creole country - and now French Market Coffee & Chicory is a staple on my grocery list. I once used sweetener, but after a Lent when I sacrificed sugar, I still prefer black coffee or a splash of milk.

Last night I meandered around Whole Foods once again stocking up on garlic lover's hummus; lentil soups; yogurt; green and black olives seasoned with rosemary, basil, and thyme; turkey bacon; dishwasher powder; and thinking I would grab a SmartWater to-go, I discovered N.O. Brew instead. My eyes opened wide to read, "New Orleans Style Iced Coffee." With chicory! Plain or vanilla! I loved the big-chunk bottle and brick red label which matches my Mom's kitchen decor. Never mind the cost - I snatched a bottle of vanilla. When I drink chilled coffee I feel extra kinship to my West Texan Dad who lives for iced coffee. I filled a glass with equal parts N.O. Brew and organic half & half. A tad on the rich side, but delicious until I pick up fresh milk from the Stryks on Saturday.

N.O. Brew is my new evening treat, family chicory pleasing my tastebuds. Both a steaming cup in the morning or the chilled evening version takes me away to Louisiana - to family known and unknown; past and present; the stories; photographs; and a state full of color, culture, tragedy, and hopeful restoration. Maybe most importantly, chicory spirits me away from motorcyle machines, brash bangs, clangs, and hard-working Hispanics heeding Pete Seeger's cry to hammer in the morning, hammer in the evening, all over this apartment land.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Louisiana for you, Turkey for me...

We each visit a third-world country with our coffee.

March to the Sea said...

i like coffee a lot..but don't live flavored ones..or iced. It has to be hot. So bizzare.

Kimberly said...

Ok, I'm going to have to give Chickory a try... you've made a good case for trying it :~)

I for one really LOVE the Carmel Machiattos. I really, really, really love those things!!! It's probably a good thing that I don't get to Starbucks very often, otherwise we'd go broke!