In 1992, I spent a great deal of time cutting class and hanging out at Longbranch Coffeehouse and the late, great On the Edge Cafe in Carbondale, Ill.
My favorite pastime at Longbranch was to sit around drinking heavenly cappuccinos and shooting the bull about politics and espresso machines with a transplanted Seattle native named Tom Carpenter.
Nobody on earth can froth a cappuccino like Tom. No. Frickin’. Body. But thanks to his tutelage, I can come pretty close when the mood strikes me.
Tom eventually opened his own coffee kiosk in the food court at University Mall, back in the days when the mall didn’t suck. The mall management kicked him out when the unconscionably mediocre Gloria Jean’s came in, but before he packed up his wife and his espresso machine and headed back to Washington, he took the time to teach a 17-year-old would-be barista how to froth a cappuccino.
I thought of Tom tonight as I was breaking in a new espresso machine. It’s been at least two years since I made a cappuccino, and it’s been a good 15 years since I made coffee on anything like a regular basis, but some things never leave you, and after one test run to sort out the quirks of the machine, I turned out a decaf cappuccino with froth so dense “you could mortar a house with it,” as Tom once put it.
I have no idea where Tom is these days, but wherever he ended up, I hope he could feel the hug that went traveling across time and space tonight from the little redheaded Democrat who never forgot the man who listened to her ideas and helped her find her way around her first espresso machine.
God bless you, Tom … and thanks for being part of my memories.