Friday, 29 June 2012

The Small-Town Latte Mission



My tongue is stinging. I look down at my latte with trepidation. I need the caffeine but my
tongue hurts. It hurts.

I’m staying at my friend Eldora’s farmhouse. It’s outside the small town where our
new house awaits. Sir Dick and I take possession in a couple of weeks so we’re on a
visitation.

The day begins with several layers of scalded tongue cells, courtesy a local “coffee
shop”.

Never trust them with your coffee.

One of the voices in my head says, “You can’t take your eye off them, not even for a
second”…this person emerges when I forget to check an expiry date, or when something
doesn’t make it into the grocery bags, or, say, when a styling assistant blow-dries my
hair and poofs the top of my head, making me look like a Real Housewife. It especially
goes into gear on culinary expeditions in small towns. I should know. I am an actor.
I have toured most small towns in this country. Trucker coffee is well known to me.
Always head to the Greek place.

My tongue hurts.

Here’s what happened:

“El, can you go in and get me a latte?”

…Guppins fast asleep in the backseat.

“No problem.”

I decide to complicate things. I roll down my window:

“Ask them to keep it a little dry...”

(Blank stare)

“It means less milk more foam.”

The second it’s out of my mouth, I regret it.

“Okay.” She gives me a look. It was subtle, but I got it. I’m a spoiled brat. (That’s the
other voice in my head.)

A colleague once told me that when acting, I should remember the two little gnomes
perched on each shoulder. One constantly whispers, “You’re shit — you really suck.”
The other one is saying, “You’re gonna fuckin’ die.”

Harsh, I know. Kinda blows the angel/devil thing out of the water, but I like it. Ramps up
the whole acting intention stuff. Anyway…

Back to Eldora and the small-town latte mission. Eldora, a former hippie, a real
knockout, a music-playing goddess, former whatever whatever of Sir Dick, was raised by
German farmers nearby and has lived here her whole life (but for some time in Toronto
educating herself to be a piano tuner, among other things). She had two kids, starting
at age eighteen. So did her daughter, and then her daughter’s son, and her daughter’s
daughter, which is why she was a great-grandmother at my age. I look at this legacy of
accidental regeneration and I worry. Is this what happens in a small town? If you don’t
keep your eye on things? Is the Guppins going to be a grandmother by the time she’s
twenty?

Eldora has done everything, every job; she is the hardest-working person I have ever
met. Her man Boogie is an antiques guy, but he doesn’t believe in selling anything and
it makes Ursula mentally insane. Still, they’ve done well. They own several properties,
and both work behind the scenes at the massive theatre company I was recently turned
down by. Eldora has few faults. But she makes weak coffee. (Sorry, El.) I like really
strong espresso, and needed a hit before visiting the new house.

She returned with the latte (seemed to take a long time), passed it through the car
window, said “Okay, meet you there,” walked off to her car, I took a sip.

I spat — I spewed —a scream caught in my throat. What was I THINKING? Never let
your guard down when it comes to coffee in a small town — NEVER LET IT DOWN! If
there is one thing I hate, it’s scalding my tongue on an over-steamed, flat, burning-hot
latte. And I know why this is done, yes I do. I know this because I once worked, eons
ago, with an espresso machine. When you don’t know what you are doing, you think
steaming milk longer will make it foam more. It doesn’t. It just burns the milk. It makes it
foam less. So my whole thing about “make it dry” likely

A) embarrassed my friend Eldora;

B) stressed out the — I can barely say it — “barista”;

C) who knew I was from Toronto and deliberately wanted to burn the shit out of my
mouth because he or she hates outsiders.

Okay, maybe C is a little bit conspiracy-minded.

The “latte” was an overly large Styrofoam container of scorched milk consisting of zero
foam and vaguely tasting of car tire. Or ash tray.

I decide to hold my tongue about it. I have to; it is practically bleeding out of my face.

“Spoiled brat!” says the voice.

I take the ice pack from the travel cooler I keep for the Guppins’s food and swab my
tongue with it. Which produces a cloud of steam and smoke that leaks out the car
windows. I’ve been branded by stupid small-town stupid coffee.

“How’s your latte?”

(It burned the shit out of my tongue. I hate it here.)

“Pretty good — a bit on the hot side.”

At this, Eldora, no dummy, gives me her best farm girl:

“Well, he was probably trying to make a lot of foam because he spent a lot of time
steaming it for you.”

For you.

Love that.

We get to the new house. It’s all different. It looks smaller. It is now clear to me that
vampires occupy it. Vines block the windows. There is no light. And one of the vampires
has decided to return after ten minutes because, she tells our agent, she has a bad
back.

She perches on the sofa in the middle of the house and chatters away. Loudly.

I avoid her. Isn’t this illegal? This wouldn’t be allowed in Toronto!

Finally I have to go into the room of Vampire Perch to measure it.

“What part of Toronto are you from?”

The west...section.

“I lived near High Park!” she screeches.

I can see, clearly, it was a brief runaway trip with a boyfriend to a methamphetamine-
type setting in Brantford, or some year at community college that didn’t pan out.

From the city. Ha. Her mother works at the local health food store. I learn this, along
with a myriad of details pertaining to her sex life, while attempting to focus on MY NEW
HOUSE.

“I know what it’s like moving from the big city. It’s a big change. Oh, by the way, we are
leaving the piano action. It’s our gift to you!”

INAPPROPRIATE! Get this woman out of here!! I can feel her life force seeping into my
pores. Oh God, please can you just not exist? Worse yet — I adore the piano action. It
hangs in the front hall, a unique piece of reclaimed art. Even Eldora was impressed by it
during the first house viewing:

“Well, wouldn’t you know, I threw one of those on the fire last week!” (Eldora)

“Oh God, I love it (I say at the time). I’ve never seen anything like that in TORONTO.”

“Don’t worry I’ve got another one in the back barn.”

Seriously. She has two piano actions. And two barns.

So, knowing Eldora has one for me in stock, I say to the little vampire with Big Sticky-
Outy Evil Elfin Ears:

“That is so [weirdly] generous of you — why don’t you want to keep it?”

(Now I’m thinking it’s haunted. The piano action is haunted and she wants to leave it in
the haunted house we just bought.)

“We-elll…” says Vampire Elf, “our new place has a lot of windows [liar], it’s practically
all windows [liar], and you see how much [godforsaken] art we have. I could give you
my email — not sure if you’re ready for phone numbers yet [never] but we live only five
minutes away [fuck] and I know what it’s like....”

Turns out she’s a big fan of Sir Dick. From one of his TV shows where he plays a father-
figure type. Undoubtedly this explains everything.

It also turns out, we are yet to discover, the house is haunted.

Buyer’s remorse.

New life, here we come.

-Drama Mama

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