Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Hole Truth

These days it's fashionable to make a clean breast of things. At last count, 102 U.S. Senators have admitted to extramarital, and often extra-weird, dalliances. (For those of you who are keeping score, 96 Senators revealed affairs with members of the opposite sex, two with the same sex, one with somebody or something in a dark broom closet, and one didn't ask and wasn't told.)

For those of you who are paying attention, the big story is that there are actually two more Senators than previously thought - and that's after Pluto was downgraded to debris - which may explain why the Democrats are having such a hard time getting anything done. (We'd be better off if Harry Reid were downgraded to debris, but that is another story.)

But I digress; only a grand master digresser digresses before he establishes from what he's digressing, so kudos to me for that.

The point is, in the spirit of the times, I am going to come clean, too.

Have I slept with members of my late-night TV show staff?

Have I bolted from my wife, eight kids and reality show?

Have I enjoyed illicit encounters in the men's room at the Boise airport?

No, no, and hell no.

I am addicted to bagels.

"Well," you might say, "There are worse things than being addicted to bagels."

To which I would respond, "Yeah - being addicted to WASP bagels."


During the years I spent in New York, I enjoyed the finest bagels that city could offer, from Daniels to Zabar's and everything in between (including H&H and my personal favorite, Murray's).

But while in the deli-starved wasteland of Iowa, I discovered one of the best bagel shops ever. In Iowa City, Iowa. A place called Bruegger’s, the flagship of a chain started by a WASP from upstate New York who found himself attending Grinnell College in Iowa. A guy named Nordahl Brue, if you must know – a name that veritably pegs the WASP-O-Meter.

God knows why a guy from upstate New York would brave the trek to Iowa. I know lots of reasons not to, starting with weather and culture, unless they have a shorter tractor-pull season in upstate New York.

Anyway, it was in Iowa that I first developed my bagel addiction, buying dozens and dozens of the little doorstops, freezing them and enjoying them toasted.

At this point any self-respecting bagel nosher will cry “Foul!” (or, more likely, “WASP!”) because any self-respecting bagel nosher knows that it is heresy to toast a bagel, much less a frozen one.

I plead guilty with an explanation, your honor. When I lived in Iowa, the nearest Bruegger’s was over an hour way – or, as we Southern Californians say, “just down the block.” Rather than braving the elements – and you don’t know elements until you’ve lived in Iowa – I resorted to a once-a-week fresh bagel (with schmear, thank you very much) and a week of toasted frozen ones.


But I discovered a secret weapon that hopefully will save me from nosh Purgatory (or, as Dante would put it, “The second bagel of Hell”): the Cuisinart CPT-180 toaster, which has settings for both “Defrost” and “Bagel.” And unlike many Cuisinart products, this one is not a steaming pile of bat excrement in the shape of an appliance.

So now, although we live a mere stone’s throw from the neighborhood Bruegger’s, the once-a-week dozen-plus-one-with-schmear habit persists, thanks to our trusty CPT-180.

Self-respecting bagel noshers are even more pissed, I’m sure. But for them I have a simple response:

I’m a WASP. So sue me.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Vene, Vici, Via

As most of the civilized world – which recently imposed a Time Out on the U.S. Congress, but that is another story – is aware, the venerable but vulnerable Starbucks chain has unveiled the latest brainstorm from its Seattle brain trust.

A microwave oven that doesn’t ooze odors that harsh the caffeine mellow?

An espresso machine that rocks an Americano in record time?

Bathrooms that clean themselves after an ex-Smith Barney rep leaves his makeshift home for the day?

No, no, and Hell no. It’s instant coffee.


The Starbucks people are understandably defensive about Via, as it is called – or in marketing parlance, “a solution in search of a problem.” But I never for a moment thought they needed to be. Even before I participated in their little taste test, I trusted that the product would live up to the hype. And it does.

I guessed correctly which was the instant, not because I could tell, but because it was prepared stronger, which I rightly assumed to be a strategy for throwing us off.

This is the same strategy Starbucks is using in announcing the opening of its so-called stealth stores – Starbucks cafes without Starbuck branding. They assume, probably rightly in this age of Sarah Palin and John Boehner, that we’ll forget they even mentioned it.

Let’s hope the D.O.D. doesn’t get wind of this, or they’ll string Christmas lights on all their stealth bombers.

Anyway, the Starbucks people are proud of developing an instant coffee that tastes – and, at a dollar a serving, is relatively priced – like the real thing. The Starbucks of instant coffees, if you will.

Did anybody do market research on this? Did they discover a huge Folgers Crystals contingent who wanted to pay four times as much? Or a Starbucks regular who wanted a Folgers experience?

Methinks instead of creating the instant coffee of Starbucks, they’ve ended up with the Starbucks of instant coffees. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I’ve brewed up a plan – see how I did that, choosing from among all available lame idioms the most predictable of all? Comedy gold, my brothers and sisters – to bring the Seattle bean-brains to their knees:

When you take the Via taste test, you are given a coupon for a free cup of coffee. During the three days of the campaign, if I visit all 6500 Starbucks outlets in the U.S., I’ll be able to rack up enough free beverages to enjoy a cup a day until the year 2028.

But there are three minor details to work out:

  1. I’ll have to hit 181 stores an hour, which means each taste test has to last just under 20 seconds, not counting travel time.
  2. Second, the coupons expire at the end of the year, so I’ll have to enjoy – or perhaps a better word is endure – 72 cups of coffee a day.
  3. The fine print on the coupon says “one per store per day,” so I have to redeem the coupons at four different stores every hour, 18 hours a day.

The good news is, If I can nail #1, #3 is a piece of cake.

But the only guy in the world who can help, won’t: Santa Claus isn’t returning my calls.

High Time

It’s been two weeks since I reported the acquisition of my Keurig single-cup coffee maker, or as we like to call it, The Second Coming of Dr. Kevorkian.

jay-crazy My prediction of burning through all 72 included so-called K-cups (insert your own breast joke here) in two weeks has not come true. Although there have been days when I’ve enjoyed several large beverages made with two units, there have been other days when …

  • I was in a coma and able neither to push the “Brew” button myself, nor communicate those instructions to loved ones. (Not that it would matter: my spousal loved one is not sympathetic to the cause, applying to it words best reserved for particularly bad days at military installations; and my canine loved one has trouble following even the simplest of commands, so the process of preparing a cuppa may well be beyond her capabilities, awesome as they are. Especially since, like most of us, she ignores the manual and tries to figure it out for herself.)
  • I was engaged in Plan Via, about which I write in another hilarious posting.
  • I crashed so completely from the previous day’s overindulgence that nothing could move me to action. (Although this was not fully tested: Angelina Jolie did not appear on my doorstep, tearful and vulnerable after being dumped by Brad and the kids.)

But I soldier on, getting in at least three cups a day, leaving me in a more less permanent state of buzziness. In the process, I have discovered some useful things:

  • The neighborhood kids do stop screaming – from 2:00 to 2:07 am.
  • It is easy to make shaken beverages if you don’t have a blender.
  • It is not that hard to mimic the symptoms of St. Vitus’ Dance.
  • Adding a spare room all by yourself takes no time at all.