Before we begin, I should probably answer the obvious question: what in Sam Hill are these so-called Coffee Moments™?
And to that, my reply is this: Coffee Moments™ are those special experiences, those memorable stories from our past, that will always contain the line “and as it all happened, I was drinking a cup of coffee.”
Coffee Moments™ can be thrilling, sentimental, scary and/or victorious. Maybe your favorite Coffee Moment™ was sitting in that diner with your future spouse, on your first date. Maybe it was the coffee you took with you to that interview where you finally landed your dream job. Maybe it was the coffee you drank when you finally got into the college you most wanted to get into. Perhaps it was even a cup you sipped while fixing up your first car.
Coffee Moments™ can be anything, to anyone, as long as these moments contain a cup of that wonderful caffeinated beverage.
It took a lot of thought for me to isolate the top five favorite Coffee Moments™ from my life, but I’ve finally settled on the five memories that I keep coming back to:
5. All those top secret childhood coffees
This is where it all began, back during my childhood years in the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona. The first thing that I remember loving was the smell—so alluring and unlike anything else. Then, the taste, on the occasional times when one of my parents would allow me a sip. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what started my coffee obsession was simply what drinking coffee meant. As a child, seeing all of the adults I knew holding their mugs and talking about serious things, my young mind perceived coffee as being the gateway to adulthood.
So, when I was around eleven years old, I started sneaking cups.
In the morning, before school and before anyone woke up, I began waking up earlier than anyone else and secretly concocted coffee drinks for myself, drinking them and then washing the mugs. My tastes have changed so much since those days; my first coffees were Folger’s Instant, mixed together with lots of heavy cream and lots of sugar. I never would have suspected that, all these years later, my preferred taste would be strong black coffee, but that’s life.
In any case, these mornings were where my love of coffee began.
Nicholas Conley having coffee in Reykjavik, Iceland
4. First cup in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Yep, some of you will remember this picture!
I think my nostalgia for this particular Coffee Moment™ has a lot to do with my overall affection for Reykjavik itself. As I’ve stated in prior blogs, Iceland is a startlingly beautiful country. Getting off the plane is like taking a portal to a mythological fantasy world that somehow possesses contemporary technology, with one of the friendliest populations I’ve ever met.
When my fiancée Veronica and I first landed in Iceland, it was during the so-called midnight sun—that is to say, twenty four hours of sunlight—so after getting into Reykjavik, we spent the next few hours wandering the city, marveling at the beautiful architecture and the wonderful oddness of seeing a sunlit sky in the dead of night. From there, we went down to the Bus Hostel, crashed for the night and then woke up, whereupon one of the friendly staff members prepared this incredibly tasty cup of coffee for me—or kaffi, as they call it in Iceland.
As with most of my top Coffee Moments™, although the coffee itself was amazing—strong, dark, smooth—what really made it special was the amazing experience that surrounded it.
3. Motel coffees for the road
So, let me quickly delve into some of my back story: after graduating high school in North Carolina, I took off into the heart of the USA and spent some time living on the road, traveling down the highways and exploring all of the locations I’d always wanted to see. This trip would turn out to be one of the defining experiences of my life; the sense of freedom was mesmerizing, as well as the realization that I was capable of going anywhere I wanted to go, being anyone I wanted to be, and moving from place to place as much as I wanted to. Everyday was a new experience, a new city, usually a new state…
…and, at the end of each night, a new motel.
Since what mattered to me was seeing the new places and having new experiences and insights, most of the motels I stayed at were fairly cheap, standard stuff. I would generally pick them by two factors: first was price, and second was distance to my next location. I went to a variety of different places, but there was one factor that almost all of them had in common: complimentary coffee.
Sure, the coffee itself was never much to write home about. It was quickly made, cheap and usually brewed in a drip machine. But what mattered was that it was there, it was accessible, and it was a free bonus that brightened every early morning.
Some of my favorite moments from that great road trip were all the mornings I would wake up, go to whatever new motel lobby I’d found myself in, and then pour myself a cup of hot, black complimentary coffee. With that coffee in hand, I’d then plan out my route for the coming day, and then take off to another new place that I’d never seen before.
The Cage Legacy
2. Right before I found out The Cage Legacy was going to be published
Looking back, it’s hard to believe how long ago it was. I had submitted The Cage Legacy to Post Mortem Press some months beforehand, and as I waited for a response, I’d tried to put it out of my mind. Still, my hopes, dreams and fears had continually resurfaced at least once a day. Will they accept it? Is it going to happen?
Publishing a novel with my name on it had been my life dream since childhood. I’d spent years working toward that dream, working through the rejections, publishing short stories and repeatedly coming back to the same novel I had worked on since I was 17.
And then, on one warm afternoon, I was sitting at my computer in the tiny, old-fashioned brick apartment that Veronica and I shared at the time—our first apartment together, the place where we started to build our dreams together. Veronica was out running an errand, and I was at the computer, jotting down notes. The sun was just beginning to sink into the horizon, and feeling a bit tired, I stepped to the kitchen and made some coffee in our French press.
Another day, another black coffee.
But then, when I got back onto the computer, there was something new flashing in my inbox…
1. That last North Carolina cup
This one goes without saying. I even wrote a story about it!
When I first moved out of North Carolina and embarked on my solo trip across the country, I shared a few final moments with my mother, in the house that I’d grown up in—and of course, we shared some coffee. The memory stayed with me, needless to say. The story I wrote about it, “Echoes of Leaving,” was first published in the A Word With You Press anthology, The Coffee Shop Chronicles. It can still be read in that collection, and can also be found on my blog.
While I’ve had many wonderful Coffee Moments™ before and since, there hasn’t been a single one that so clearly marked a divide between two periods of my life in such a clear fashion. I’ll never forget that moment, and I’m glad of that.
And there are my five moments. Hail to the java bean.
So hey guys, let’s hear it. You’ve read my list, and now it’s your turn: how many of you have a treasured Coffee Moment™ or two that you’d like to share?