From the nothing-we-can-do-about-it department comes word that our fair little burg is being invaded by foreign entities based in the Socialist territories of Seattle, a settlement on the Pacific Ocean that celebrates diversity and rampant veganism. While there is no timeline for the threatened invasion, the danger seems real, and it is making the local citizenry fret as they make their ardent pleas for a withdrawal of forces and armaments.
We’re waiting with bated breath for Joe Biden to weigh in.
Despite the imposing threat of authoritarianism, all is relatively calm. The amassing of enemy forces on three sides of the village is scary. “We must be vigilant in our class struggle,” somebody of no particular import said.
Villagers are scurrying about, stopping to pray on bended knee that Starbucks’s baristas, 1,500 of them armed with diminutive demitasse spoons and protected by cup sleeves, will retreat to the big cities where they thrive in the valleys created by glass-and-steel towers of commerce. The villagers, outpowered by the weapons of profit, are pledging their allegiance and support to the multiple, independent coffee shops and drive-thru kiosks that dot what is becoming a battlefield over caffeine—that most addictive of stimulants that few can survive without.
Cigarettes, crack, heroin…forget it. Easy-peasy compared to denying the ravages of coffee—that early morning hot brew needed to wake up, get juiced, and experience that sense of being slightly on edge to face the rigors of what any day might bring.
Actually, the battlefield in our fair village is limited to a corner nearly under the I-90 freeway that passes by the southern edge of town. It is the former location of an Arby’s that closed shop, leaving McDonald’s as the only fast-food outlet visible from the freeway. Prior to that, it was a Hardee’s that didn’t draw enough traffic to sustain its business.
Our little town depends on the revenues of visitors stopping to buy stuff on their way to Yellowstone National Park. Since we have no sales tax in the Last Best Place, it’s difficult to think that anybody other than the store owners realize that increase in profits. Our streets are pocked with potholes and the infrastructure suffers from the weight of a few million visitors who cross the overpass on their ways to Corporation Corner.
Yes, the McDonald’s, along with the hidden Subway and the pizza-by-the-slice place, provide food, sort of, for the travelers. There are also three gas stations that serve corn dogs, day-old French fries and fountain sodas (one of them even has gambling); a supermarket that sells supermarket stuff. Further south are a Domino’s, a Taco Bell, and a rustic strip mall that houses a beauty shop and a quilt store. Maybe. I’ve not gone out that way since the pandemic, so I’m not really sure what’s out there. I’m guessing somebody must be selling pot.
These attractions, it seems, grab the attention of visitors exiting the freeway for their 52-mile drive south to the north entrance of the park. If they—the visitors—were to turn north, they would discover the magic of our quirky little town. Currently, we have about 17 coffee shops, each owned by people who live here, send their kids to public schools here, support Little League and ballet classes here, and generally are down-to-earth folks who are friendly and thankful that their little businesses thrive, or at least survive.
We also have countless art galleries, bookstores, thrift shops and stores that sell knick-knacks and T-shirts. There are restaurants—one of which even offers sushi—and the number of bars match the number of churches.
So, spending an hour or two in our downtown is a great way to see how we live. One can immerse oneself into the history of a railroad town at our two museums. If one takes to time to speak to a local, you’ll get another slant on our history.
Nestled in the parking lot at Albertson’s, the supermarket referred to above, is a drive-up kiosk that sells excellent coffee drinks. The owner is named Cathy, and she works long hours to provide a good product. I don’t recall the name of the shop, just like I don’t know the street addresses of many of my friends. I just know where they live.
Cathy’s place is about the size of four phone booths. Its signage is confined to the placards on each side, just above the eaves beneath the rustic roof. There are two windows and one can order their coffee from either. The little shop is in the shadows of what will soon become Starbucks. It’s likely that few of the travelers will see past the familiar Starbucks logo and see my friend’s shop. I hope that she might relocate to attract more business. I hope her business thrives.
I’ve been to two Starbucks stores. One was in Hollywood. It was the only coffee joint near the hotel where we were staying one June weekend. The second was the original shop in Seattle, across the street from Pike Place Market. I wasn’t impressed by either of them. The coffee seemed syrupy, the plastic-wrapped pastries seemed factory made, and there was no persistent aroma of coffee.
I like our little dedicated coffee shops here. Some of the joints offer indoor seating and I’m eager to return when we all feel safe to do so. That’s a sign of our community. We care about each other.
In the meantime, I patronize a few of them. My budget doesn’t allow daily ventures to the shops. I wish it did. But whatever my budget does allow will go to my friends and neighbors who brew the real thing. I don’t need my name on a paper cup. The places I frequent know my name.
Starbucks will not even notice the petitions striving to keep the company out. Their marketing studies guarantee success at the bottom of the I-90 off-ramp. And we’ll be fine. The plethora of coffee places north of the off-ramp will continue to succeed. They depend on locals, as they’ve not ever had to depend on out-of-staters.
We’ll keep the coffee places going as we pity those who make a wrong turn and miss our little town.
Photo illustration by Courtney A. Liska
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
2 Tbs. sugar
¼ pound cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup heavy cream & 1 lightly beaten egg
3 Tbs. melted butter
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Toss dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Using your fingertips or a pastry cutter, blend butter and flour mixture together just until butter pieces are the size of peas and covered with flour. Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in cream. Mix ingredients together by hand until a shaggy dough is formed.
Turn out onto a floured surface and gently knead dough together just until smooth and all ingredients are incorporated.
Pat dough into a 3/4- to 1-inch-thick, rough rectangle shape. Use your hands if you like a nice bumpy top; for smooth tops, use a rolling pin, pressing lightly. Using a sharp knife or dough scraper, cut rectangle in half lengthwise, then cut across into 8 or 12 rectangles or squares. Place them on the baking sheet, spaced out.
Brush tops with egg wash (2 eggs beaten with 1 tablespoon water). Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons brown sugar.
Bake until light golden brown, about 22 minutes; rotate the pan front to back halfway through. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet. Serve warm or at room temperature.