Classical Conditioning Dodge Ball Style. Pavlov’s Dogs Had It Easy.

Weight control is hard. I wonder where you get one of these…

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The Mocha Latte Saga Continues…

It has been nearly a month now since I discovered that new coffee drink vice the Mocha Latte. There have been very few mornings over that time that have not started with the heavenly sweetness of chocolate, espresso, milk, and whipped cream. The good news is I have continued to replace food with Latte and there has yet to be any real adverse effects to my weight. I have dropped off about another pound and a half despite pounding 400+ calories of liquid bliss down my throat every morning.

The search for a descent drink is winding down as I have simply run out of options. It just doesn’t strike me as hard to make one of these things, in particular with the automated machines they are using. Honestly I think the challenge I have faced is more a reflection on the quality of the help at these places than a particular recipe. I have found the most consistency at McDonalds, which still leaves me shaking my head with wonder, but even they have their moments. A couple weekends ago my wife and I pulled through the drive up and each ordered what McDonalds calls a Café Mocha. Imagine our surprise when a couple sips from each cup revealed they had forgotten a key ingredient. I know that right now you are thinking “Oh I hate it when they leave the whipped cream off”, and your right it sucks when that happens, but how about paying $2 a cup for a product called the Café Mocha and with your first sip discovering you just got a Café! I couldn’t believe anybody capable of getting themselves dressed in the morning could be that incompetent so I pulled a straw out of the glove compartment to stir in the syrup that I figured HAD to be on the bottom of the cup. Nope. Its like leaving the chocolate out of chocolate milk, I mean how the hell does that happen?

While we are talking about whipped cream I have also discovered that you can tell if the person making your drink has actually had one or not by the amount of whipped cream on the top of the cup. At most of these McDonalds you can look through the drive up window and watch them make your drink. I keep seeing these old ladies applying whip cream to the top of the cup like it is coming out of their paychecks. More than once it hasn’t even covered the top of the cup. On the other hand from time to time I get one that is so full it forces the cream up through the drinking spout on the plastic cover. Those drinks are obviously made by somebody vicariously drinking every cup they pass through the window.

Summer is beginning to make its presence known here in the Northeast which has meant a couple things to my coffee quest. First our tourist based economy is starting to ramp up and I have noticed that some of the swankier little tourist trap towns have coffee shops opening up. It is a sure bet that the coffee in these joints will be targeted to the “from away” crowd and if I am lucky maybe I can find the occasional alternative the McDonalds Café Mocha.

The other change is obviously the temperature. When I first started documenting this I pointed out that I had been pretty much off all coffee for a good ten years. During that time I have watched with a certain amount of amusement the growth of the iced coffee phenomenon. I never really got it. I have had cold coffee either from a cup that sat too long or because somebody turned the pot off and I know from experience that it tastes like shit. I couldn’t imagine paying money on purpose for coffee that had been allowed to get cold. Whoever first marketed this to the masses in a way to make it trendy is a fucking genius, but all the marketing it the world doesn’t change the fact that cold coffee tastes like old ass.

Whoever decided they could market cold coffee is a twisted genius

With the above rant on the record I will admit that yesterday afternoon it was very warm around here, and I was feeling like a pick me up. I had been thinking about my stated position on iced coffee; in particular the point about all the marketing in the world not changing the fact that cold coffee sucks. If that were true I figured that this trend would have died out long ago. I convinced myself they must do something different to the coffee they “ice”. I swung through the McDonalds on the way home and ordered myself an Iced Café Mocha. I didn’t make it out of the parking lot. After two sips I pulled off to the side, ate the whipped cream off the top (of course), and dumped it. Maybe when the addiction really settles in I will understand, but for now I will continue to marvel at what people will do for image.

***UPDATE***

This morning directly after posting this I left the house and got myself a McD’s Cafe Mocha. The kid at the window asked me if I wanted whipped cream, clearly not a Mocha Latte drinker, and I watched him stir it before adding the cream. Imagine my surprise and then laughter when I took a sip and there wasn’t the faintest hint of chocolate flavor. I pulled around and parked to walk in to get what I ordered. The same kid who made it asked me what I needed and when told of the missing ingredient he asked “There is supposed to be chocolate in it? I thought it was just drizzled over the whip cream” Really?

The Search For A Good Backwoods Latte

Years and years ago I used to drink a lot of coffee. I liked it a lot. I sat at a desk all day and drank it. I liked it straight up; black, no sugar or cream, just the sharp taste of the coffee. Green Mountain was my favorite, but I would drink whatever I could get my hands on. Sadly as much as liked coffee it didn’t like me. I used to joke with a coworker that I had stumbled across the perfect diet. Skip breakfast and drink a ton of coffee. If you give it enough time your stomach and intestines will see to it that you lose some weight. Of course the joke was just to cover for the obvious; I was going to have to give up coffee. I tried adding breakfast to my routine, but it was too late. I was ruined. Coffee ceased to be a part of my life nearly ten years ago.

From time to time I will still have a cup, generally on the coldest and wettest of those cold and wet winter and early spring days, but I nearly always paid the price. I discovered the latte several years ago, but they just didn’t seem to do the trick and they weren’t easy to get up here in the backwoods.

About two weeks ago I found myself nearer to the center of East Coast civilization (read New York City) than I had been in a long time. I was staying with family celebrating the arrival of my first nephew. This particular branch of the family tree has a Sunday tradition of going out for breakfast sandwiches and Starbucks. I put in a request for the standard Mocha Latte. I ordered it mostly just to be part of the group, but with the first sip I felt a switch turn in my head. Jesus did that thing taste good. I sipped it and savored it right down to the bottom of that Grande paper cup. I am not sure I was hooked at that point, but later on the looong car ride home while waiting not so patiently for my two year old to eat his nuggets at an Interstate rest stop, I wondered over to the McDonald’s Café. I was trying to order one of those slushy coffee flavored milk shake thingies, but I didn’t know what the hell to ask for and quite by accident I ended up with the McDonalds version of the same drink I had had that morning. As luck would have it, and just how lucky I was has become apparent over the past couple weeks, the girl who made the drink knew what she was doing, or she got lucky too, and she made me a drink that may have been better than the Starbucks version. I quickly noted that not only did these drinks taste amazing they also did not seem to upset my stomach. It was now official… I was hooked.

Now one wouldn’t think this should be a big deal. In fact I should be celebrating that fact that I found a coffee drink my constitution can handle right?  Well as I have mentioned I am from the woods. I live in the part of the Northeast that puts the north in the name. There are Starbucks around, but the nearest to my home is about 35 minutes away. The next closest is about an hour and a half, and the third closest is almost three hours from my home. To further illustrate my problem I drive for a living. I total between 800 and 1000 miles of driving in any given week, and that Starbucks that is 35 minutes from my house is the closest I ever get to one in all that traveling. Of course there are other places to get

Dunkin Donuts logo

You cant swing dead cat around here without hitting a DD

lattes and we have no shortage of coffee shops around here. You could stop in about any town around here, pick up a rock, spin yourself around until dizzy and then throw the rock with your eyes closed and be assured of hitting a Dunkin Donuts. We also have a growing number of the Canadian brand Tim Horton’s coffee shops, and of course the afore mentioned McDonalds Café. I didn’t even know until two weeks ago that Dunkies and Time Horton’s offered Latte’s. I was vaguely aware that McDonalds was doing something with coffee, but who equates McDonalds with coffee?

During the first work week back from the big city I had three Mocha’s from two different Dunkin Donuts, one from a Tim Horton’s, and one from McDonalds. Of the five drinks I had one good one from Dunkies, and one good one from McDonalds. The one from Tim Horton’s was okay, but something about it wasn’t quite right. The other two Dunkies versions flat sucked. This was a frustrating time in my evolution as a fancy coffee drinker. First I learned that apparently these things are not easy to make. Secondly you better know what the christ you are asking for because with today’s customer service standards sure as hell no one is going to ask you. I was getting them with skim, whole milk, whip cream, no whip cream (who drinks these without whip cream anyway? Isn’t that at least half the point?) all while ordering the same way each time. I have learned by now to be specific when I order, but I still can’t get a consistently good drink. I had settled on McDonalds as best place to get one, mostly because they have the best whip cream, but when I got one there this past Monday I was getting mouthfuls of grit when I got near the bottom. I opened the top and there were grounds all around the side of the cup. I don’t know what I expected when the best latte place around is fucking McDonalds.

“Fucking Seriously?!”

Those who have followed me know that I have recently lost a lot of weight, and the biggest change I made was to stop drinking my calories. Those same people may be wondering how drinking at least one 400 calorie coffee drink a day is figuring in to my calorie counting. To that I say not to worry. Like any good addict I have pretty much replaced the necessities of life with with my drug. Basically if I have to choose between my latte and food I will take the latte.

We have enough well to do little towns around here that I am sure there are some decent little coffee shops tucked away, but my driving route steers me pretty clear of these places so for now it appears that I will be forced to continue to roll the dice with these blue collar coffee shops and drink whatever mixture of milk, coffee, whip cream, and chocolate they manage to throw together.

The Gathering Darkness

Commercial Fishing Dock by Taku Smokeries

Image by gillfoto via Flickr

When I first started this blog I was just back from spending a week or so living in the darker places of my mind. I am pretty sure I know why, but that may or may not be a topic for another day. The point is I have been spending way too much time near the edge.

Yesterday was not a good day. When I was a young adult I had the privilege of being involved in some commercial fishing. The license structure allowing entry to this fishery has changed a great deal, and due to some decisions made when I was fighting some of the darkest days of my life I am no longer allowed access to the fishery. Of course that is all I really want to be doing and there are some unique circumstances surrounding my license that have nothing to do with depression. I have always thought that if I could speak to the man in charge of the fishery and lay out these circumstances I would be allowed back in, but getting that meeting is nearly impossible. Well after nearly a decade of trying I got the meeting I was looking for and it was yesterday. Turns out I was wrong. I was sent home being told that while he empathized with the situation I was “screwed”. Yes the quotes are there because it is the actual word this government official used. I don’t really blame him for his word choice as it is probably the best descriptor for my circumstances.

Today a large part of me wishes I had not had the meeting. I had been living with hope and now it’s gone. I have felt lost for years with only a vague idea of where I wanted to be. I was able to spend the summer working in this fishery at the very bottom of the food chain, and it refocused me on how badly I wanted to be doing it, just in time to be officially shut out. There is a government commission looking into the licensing structure, and a little over a year from now they are due to report and make recommendations for changes, but when you need to make changes in your life sooner rather than later a year is a very long time to live with uncertainty.

The timing on this news could not have been worse. Here in the north winter is fast approaching and with it is coming darkness in both a literal and figurative sense. I used to like the winter, but since depression became a part of my life I dread it. I hate the darkness. The short days really bother me, and those stupid fucking light bulbs do nothing to change that. As this winter approaches I have already slipped once, and all the feelings that led me down that path are still in place and now compounded by further feeling of loss, and being lost. I am scared. I have been down this road too many times, and I can see it coming. It is going to be a long winter.

As I write this I wonder if this is what it feels like to be an addict. I can see the path I am headed down. I know that like drugs the thoughts in my head are dangerous. I know that if I let them creep in it will more than likely spiral out of control, but I can’t seem to stop it. I know I shouldn’t do it, but I do it anyway and feel powerless to stop it. I don’t want to feel like shit, but my body reacts the way it reacts. Am I making excuses for myself here? Rationalizing? Probably, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is how it seems to work.

I hoped to fill this blog with insightful reflection on my experience with depression and anxiety. I wanted to avoid the pity party, but the truth is I am still living day to day and I don’t always feel smart and insightful. Some days I just feel like shit. The goal is to limit these days and I hope that expressing myself here will help me see the dangerous thought patterns developing. God knows I can see them here, now I just need to find the energy and the strength to do something about it. Wish me luck.

Why I Am Here

In the past I have failed miserably as a blogger. The reality of time, specifically the lack thereof, has simply been too much. It hampers my ability to read and research, or with a little help from the topic of this blog, conspires to snuff out my creative fires. This is a topic that I should be able to write about whether I am feeling creative or not. It will require time and therefore I cannot guarantee the frequency of my postings, but the writing will come straight out my experiences from over decade of struggling with depression and anxiety.

The thought has crossed my mind to attempt this topic in the past, but I have been fearful that it would devolve into a simple recording of me feeling sorry for myself. It was recently pointed out to me that there is much to be learned from talking about how people struggle and cope with their internal demons. Whether one deals with some sort of mental illness, post traumatic stress, or addiction the struggles are deeply personal yet the experience is somehow common. When you come in contact with another who has struggled mightily you don’t know what they have been through, but still you understand. It is in this commonality of the struggle that we can share what we have learned, and what we have yet to learn. I don’t really have any hope that I will someday stand atop the mountain having conquered the demons that follow me around seeking every opportunity to sabotage my happiness. I do hope that I can somehow learn to keep them at bay. To recognize when they have crept too close and learn how to minimize the damage they cause to me and my relationships.

I hope to share what I have been through and what I am going through. Eleven years is a long time, and I have been through much in that time. When this all started it seemed rather sudden and I fell far. I don’t really remember the bottom specifically, and I am actually somewhat fearful that writing about it will bring back more of it than I care to recall, but I guess we will cross that bridge when we come to it. I do remember the irrationality of the experience and some of that will share along the way.

Since my first trip up from the bottom I have fallen and picked myself up many times. The title of this blog comes from the constant feeling of living near the edge of something terrible. I don’t want to fall in and the terrain under my feet is unsteady, but for reasons I can’t explain I can’t seem to keep a safe distance either. It’s not from lack of want, it has simply never seemed possible for any significant amount of time. It is my sincere hope that this blog will help some who may be climbing out of the darkness find their way. It is also my hope that through this blog I will find my own way to a more permanent place on safer ground.