A curmudgeon heads to the islands

Silly me to think that flying to Hawaii on December 28 would be easy:  I assumed everyone would have flown where they were going for Christmas, and wouldn’t return until New Years Day at the earliest. Not true! O’Hare is as crowded as I’ve ever seen it: although I had a boarding pass and a seat assignment before I arrived, I had to wait in a long line just to check my bag (I have a lot of goodies) and then another long line for TSA PreCheck.

The good news: I didn’t get groped. My buttocks remain unpalpated.

But I made it with time to spare, and have two hours until boarding. In the meantime, I queued up for another 25 minutes just to get coffee at Starbucks. And this is the drink menu. LOOK AT IT!

This isn’t coffee: it’s candy! On the left side, you have to go down about 12 items to get anything recognizable as coffee, while on the right there is just hazarai. And where is the regular coffee? If you can find it, you’re better than I. I had a latte, but it was upwards of six bucks with tax. That, like most toothpaste, is a ripoff, even for an airport.

As I predicted long ago, all popular foods in America eventually asymptote at “candy”. It happened with bottled water, which acquired fruit flavors, then a wee bit of sugar, and now are creeping inexorably towards soda. It happened with granola bars, which began as a tasteless but healthy mixture of grain and rat droppings, and then acquired a covering of chocolate, and then chocolate chips and caramel, and now are very close to being Snickers bars.

And so it is with coffee. Is it any wonder that America faces an obesity epidemic?

Enough; it is early and the caffeine hasn’t yet taken hold. Here are some pictures to cheer us (or at least me) up.

Jerry at about age 5, natty in a coat and bowtie. Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me. . .

If you don’t know this mallard hen, you’re at the wrong place. These are her four offspring from the summer of 2017:

And some discarded rose petals at a flower store in Paris:

I’ll be in touch from our most remote state.


  1. Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Jerry, when you travel, one of my greatest anticipations is reading about how your bottom was palpated. That gave me a reason to live; however, what am I to do now? Have a lovely holiday 😹

    • Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      I’m sorry to disappoint you. There was a huge crowd and so they apparently didn’t have time to fondle my bum.

      • notsecurelyanchored
        Posted December 28, 2018 at 9:33 am | Permalink

        Also, TSA is not getting paid to palpate?

      • Posted December 28, 2018 at 10:19 am | Permalink


        • Heather Hastie
          Posted December 28, 2018 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

          This must be why we get on – the palpitation news is also something I greatly anticipate!

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted December 29, 2018 at 3:20 am | Permalink

            Errm, palpation.

            The TSA does the palpating, their victim does the palpitating.



            • Heather Hastie
              Posted December 29, 2018 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

              Quite right. My typing rather let me down. Again. It does so every time I try and type something. It’s actually one of the reasons it takes me a while to do posts. I usually check everything before clicking the button because I’m so bad, but I missed this one. At least it’s spelled right though!

          • Posted December 29, 2018 at 4:50 am | Permalink

            It completes a part of my life xx

  2. tubby
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Yes, there’s a ton of candy, but they will provide a latte with no complaint and no added sweeteners. Some places will make a little show of pouring the steamed milk for you too, which I enjoy.

    • tubby
      Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      And freshly brewed coffee is listed right under the hot chocolate. I’d miss it too in a crowd and rush.

      • enl
        Posted December 28, 2018 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        The secret: look at the calorie column.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    speaking of flowers, the tradition is that you get a lei upon arrival. It is a big business at the airport in Honolulu. I hope you know not to take any foods like oranges or apples, etc. Customs will ask and take everything.

    • Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      Nope, I’m aware of the regulations. But did you know that Hawaii is the only state where you can’t bring in Bengal cats. Although they’re a domestic breed, they worry that they’ll get loose and decimate the wildlife

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:58 am | Permalink

        Primitive regulations. They may still have a 4 month quaranteen on all animals. The big fear is rabies.

    • XCellKen
      Posted December 28, 2018 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Why would somebody traveling entirely within the US have to go thru customs ?

      • lkr
        Posted December 28, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        State agricultural inspection. Same as roads into California.

        And a damn good idea for HI

        • XCellKen
          Posted December 28, 2018 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

          i have driven thru twenty eight states. Never had to pass thru a state agricultural inspection. Of course, I’ve never driven thru California. Or Hawaii, obviously lol

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted December 28, 2018 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

            The first 2,500 miles of that CA-HI drive can be a real bitch. 🙂

            • XCellKen
              Posted December 28, 2018 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

              I heard a guy tried it once. Went thru a dozen pairs of windshield wipers

    • Mike Cracraft
      Posted December 28, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      As an aside, those leis are usually made with plumeria flowers from a tropical tree that is not native to Hawaii but comes from central America. You won’t find the plumeria in any reputable Hawaiian flora. Despite this they do spectacularly well in the volcanic soil there.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 28, 2018 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        Frangipani (only ‘muricans call it ‘plumeria’) is common all over the Pacific. Frangipani leis are unrivalled for their look and scent – in my view.

        But surely all the Hawaiian flora is introduced from somewhere at some time. The plumeria is just a more recent arrival.


    • Posted December 28, 2018 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      The USDA doesn’t let you take many fruits and vegetables OUT of Hawaii either, including your fresh flower lei. Enjoy it on the islands.

  4. mikeyc
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    I feel your pain. I’m a black coffee drinker. Espresso is best, but for morning sipping ritual nothing beats a dark roast, black (no sugar) coffee – french press or drip, I don’t care. No lattes, cappuccinos, frappes or any nonsense like that. Can’t abide them. I usually avoid Americanos (ruined espressos) but sometimes there is no choice – some cafes don’t even offer black coffee.

    Enjoy Hawaii, Dr PCC(e)

  5. Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    I see they only list the prices for the large version of each coffee. Could you have had a smaller version at a reduced price?

    By the way, if you do visit Britain in 2019, I’d advise you not to drink coffee in Starbucks unless there is no alternative. I usually have a latte but the ones in Starbucks here taste like they forgot to put the coffee in.

    • alexander
      Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:55 am | Permalink

      Starbucks, at least in Belgium, offers an “American coffee.” It is quite decent actually, but the only one that is drinkable.

      • Posted December 28, 2018 at 10:58 am | Permalink

        Yes, I used to order an extra shot in Starbucks and then the coffee tastes OK, but then I thought “why am I paying Starbucks extra to have my coffee taste like it has coffee in it?”

  6. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    you have to go down about 12 items to get anything recognizable as coffee, while on the right there is just hazarai. And where is the regular coffee?

    “Regular Coffee” has been expunged in favour of something with a higher profit margin. Which is probably the reason for the candification you discuss.
    Yesterday I broke my tin opener. So I’m off to the shops to get a new one. I’m on the third shop before I found a manual tin opener (for £2), but the previous two had electric tin openers for prices in the mid-20s of £. Clearly, the possible profits on something sold for £2 are smaller than for something sold for £25.

    These are her four offspring from the summer of 2017:

    Ummm, checks calendar. Scratches head.

    Silly me to think that flying to Hawaii

    While channel-hopping this morning I flicked into “Tora! Tora! Tora!” (a war movie about the Pearl Harbor attacks) … then froze the movie … because there was something *wrong* about the map where the Japanese navigator was plotting the fleet’s attack approach run. I could not get the map and my mental geography to line up.
    Normally, my geography is pretty good. Comes with using and even making maps. But for many decades I’ve been mentally conflating Hilo and Honolulu as being the same place.
    Oh well, live and learn.

    • Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      In the 1990’s I went on a holiday to the island of Kos with a friend of mine. Each morning after a night of carousing Greek style, we’d go to the same café for the Greek interpretation of an English breakfast.

      One morning we woke up to the entire town of Kos being without electrical power. Breakfast’s off, we thought. But no, when we got to the café the proprietor said we could have everything we normally would have, except baked beans. “Do you know why?” he said. “The tin opener is electric.”

      • rickflick
        Posted December 28, 2018 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        We call them can openers in the States. Wasn’t tin phased out in the 1860s?

        • Posted December 28, 2018 at 10:55 am | Permalink

          They are traditionally tin openers in Britain because you use them to open tins. Cans are for putting fizzy drinks and beer in.

          So we have a tin of beans but a can of Coke.

          • XCellKen
            Posted December 28, 2018 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

            Until self opening beer cans became common in the mid 60s, a can opener was needed to extricate the golden ambrosia from the can. In the US , the slang term for these openers was “Church Keys”

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted December 28, 2018 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

              *Self opening* beer cans? Sounds alarming. But the possibilities are fascinating.

              (I think you mean the ones with the tear tabs 😉

              Prior to tear tab cans, each carton of beer cans would have a can opener included, made from stamped steel strip about 3″ long. The other end of the can opener would incorporate a bottle opener and this was the most efficient type of bottle opener I have ever managed to find. I wish they were still made, I’d even pay for one.


              • XCellKen
                Posted December 29, 2018 at 3:43 am | Permalink

                I know a few collectors that would gladly sell you a few. Of all the brewery related items, church keys are by far the cheapest. Usually only a couple dollar each.

                And the industry term is “pull tab”. Several years after they first appeared, the tab was replaced with a ring in which you placed your finger when you pulled it. This type of opener was called “ring tab”.

                If you really are interested in obtaining one or more openers, please let me know. kenk2260@earthlink.net

        • XCellKen
          Posted December 28, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

          Tin plated Steel beer cans first hit the market in 1935, Not sure how long they continued to be tin plated, but steel cans were phased out in the mid 80s in favor of aluminum

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted December 28, 2018 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

            Used to be a good party trick with steel beer cans. After first emptying it in the usual way, you place your left hand against the table edge with long finger extended flat on the table, grip empty can sideways in right hand and slam it down as hard as you can on your finger. Result is a loud bang as the ends of the can hit the table and an impressive dent in the side of the can. It doesn’t hurt your finger so long as you remembered to make sure the seam of the can was uppermost. (The can is just soft enough that it folds around your finger easily).

            One guy flatly refused to believe his eyes and kept insisting I’d taken my finger away before impact, even after several demonstrations.

            Sadly, aluminium cans don’t have the rim on the bottom and they’re so soft nobody is impressed anyway.


            • rickflick
              Posted December 28, 2018 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

              Can you be booked for events? 😎

            • XCellKen
              Posted December 29, 2018 at 3:46 am | Permalink

              Never heard of that trick.

              When I was a kid, the big kids made “cannons” out of several steel beer cans glued together. They would place a tennis ball inside, pour lighter fluid in the bottom, light it, and then watch the tennis ball fly thru the air

  7. Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    And where is the regular coffee? If you can find it, you’re better than I

    One up from the bottom on the left hand side between hot chocolate and “caramel apple spice” (wtf).

  8. Blue
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    O ! O ! when a day or so ago, there was
    the hint of a forthcoming UGLIEST animal – contest,
    I immediately then knew what it is.
    What it is Worldwide that is THE ugliest one.

    Within this post, Dr Coyne, .it. is stated !

    Oooophtah ! It is THE ugliest ! E V E R ! And of the H U G E S T harm to humankind as well ! ( also alluded to within this, your post, Dr Coyne ! )

    As thus deemed … … by a true animal lover, however,

  9. Christopher
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Starbucks is very much the place to get coffee if you don’t actually like the taste of coffee. Same with most bars, which is why the phrase “I can’t even taste the alcohol” is so commonly uttered. Most people don’t like coffee or alcohol, they like sugar.

    Of course, one can find decent coffee beans at Starbucks, but I thinks that’s a holdover from the days when they were an actual coffee shop and people still knew how to make their own coffee at home.

    • XCellKen
      Posted December 28, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      I drink my liquor straight up. No mixers, and no ice

      • Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

        I get my alcohol from Sigma Aldritch.

        Just kidding. I don’t drink.


  10. Posted December 28, 2018 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Happy travels! Hope you see cool bugs. Each to our own obsessions…

  11. Linda Calhoun
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    I am quite enjoying all the snark and negative comments about Starbucks and coffee.

    Our little cafe, here in the middle of nowhere, serves it all, at much lower prices. We can make all the gooey sweet stuff, but we also have self-serve coffee, both dark and medium roast, black, with sugar and/or real cream if that’s the way you want it. Decaf, too, if that’s your style. Espresso, plain or in various drinks. Our baristas do it all.

    Plus, we have great food, and house made baked goods (provided by, ahem,me).

    So there.


    PS: Our coffees are custom blended for us by a roaster in AZ.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 28, 2018 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      Sounds inviting. I’m sure there are many places like that. You just have to know where they are. Travelers at airports, unfortunately, are prisoners of the expeditious.

    • Christopher
      Posted December 28, 2018 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      I honestly don’t think that Starbucks is the problem; the customers are. I mean, they’re just giving the majority what they want. If most people wanted high quality, small farm, fair trade, organic coffee properly roasted and brewed, that’s what they would sell. But, to each their own. What’s great, and probably in some way due to the popularity of Starbucks, is that there are so many great local coffee shops, at least in places where there is, without meaning to sound snotty, an educated culture. In the small town where I live it’s the basic brown water coffee of Folgers or Maxwell House, but twenty miles away, they have Starbucks, which is a step up from the gas station cappuccino of my youth (we called it crappuccino), and forty miles further, and you’ve got loads of small, local, high quality choices. Live long enough in rural Redneckistan like I do and Starbucks starts to seem like haute cuisine.

      • Linda Calhoun
        Posted December 28, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        We have plenty of customers who wouldn’t know a drink from the espresso bar from a mai tai, and just drink the coffee from the self-serve, but they know it tastes better than what they get at the gas station.

        Plus, they can get a muffin or a brownies or a slice of coffee cake.

        We have a range of levels of “education”, but they all know good food and coffee when they taste them.


        • Christopher
          Posted December 28, 2018 at 11:35 am | Permalink

          Well nothing beats the bad vending machine coffee I frequently imbibed while attending evening classes in the early 2000’s. I’m not sure but I think it was made from burnt upopped popcorn kernels. I’d be willing to bet the paper cup it came in tasted better.

          But to give an idea of the people I live around, my step father once offered a neighbor a Boulevard beer from his kegerator. The man turned it down because he only drank Busch light.

        • XCellKen
          Posted December 28, 2018 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

          I drive for a living. I could tell y’all horror stories about gas station coffee LOL

          Rule to live by: The cheaper the gas, the longer they leave the coffee on the burner. Some will leave it on for six to eight hours. usually if I complain, the cashier will give me the past its prime coffee for free. And what a jolt it gives you !!!

      • rickflick
        Posted December 28, 2018 at 10:32 am | Permalink

        One nation, divided by access to good coffee.

    • Andy Lowry
      Posted December 28, 2018 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Having a roastery in AZ is cheating. All you have to do is put the beans outside for an hour or two. It’s like having an ice cream store in the Yukon.

      • Linda Calhoun
        Posted December 28, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        We inherited them from the previous owners. We liked their products and their prices, and saw no reason to change.


  12. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    It’s been 9 years since I’ve travelled or had a real vacation other than a week off here & there to get things done. I really miss Hawaii.

    As for Starbucks – yuck. I don’t like their coffee at all as it seems burnt/strong and gives me heart palpatations.

  13. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I hope you pop by the north shore of Oahu and see how big the waves are. Each time I’ve been in Hawaii, I’ve been in Oahu during December when the waves are big along the north shore. The last time I was there, they had tape to prevent people from going too close to the waves and were considering evacuation of the homes and businesses nearby. Of course, some people ignored the tape and I have a video of two people who turned their backs on the ocean and were completely overwhelmed by a big wave. They are lucky they weren’t dragged out into the ocean & drowned in the undertow.

  14. notsecurelyanchored
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I am going to have to swipe your comment about American foods and beverages ending up as candy. And just try to order an iced coffee without getting it arriving sweetened.

  15. Posted December 28, 2018 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Have safe travels and a wonderful stay. May I recommend Spam® musubi and chicken long rice for your upcoming repasts? I found both to be exquisite, depending on the time of the day when I was stationed Kaua’i.

  16. Jenny Haniver
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    The best flight I ever had was when I flew to Israel on a day when Easter and Passover coincided. I don’t think that there were more than 10 passengers on the huge jet. We had the entire cabin to ourselves. When I wanted to sleep, I simply put down the armrests for one row of seats and stretched out. It was a great trip.

    • alexander
      Posted December 29, 2018 at 4:23 am | Permalink

      I once was a single passenger on a Jumbo jet! I had booked a cheap return flight New York-London. I was in Paris when I noticed that there was a flight Paris-New York with the same flight number as the return flight I had booked from London. So I asked the airline if I could board that return flight from Paris. I got a categorical NO, it was not the same flight, etc. So I took the train and ferry to London, boarded the plane, and found that I was the only passenger, they didn’t bother to switch on the cabin lights. When the plane took off, you can guess where it went: Paris.

  17. Roo
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Hawaii?!?! This is discrimination. I have clearly stated that I identify as Jerry Coyne, especially ‘traveling Jerry Coyne’, and as someone who is trans-Jerry-Coyne I need appropriate accommodations to go to Hawaii as well. Where the heck is my stipend?

    (An aside – I am being silly about the times when identity politics goes awry, but I am fully supportive of transgender people, since I did use the word ‘trans’. I feel one must walk on a few eggshells when talking about such topics these days and specify that.)

    Now. Seriously. Reasonable accommodations. Imma need my plane ticket and hotel reservation now.

  18. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me. . .

    Nice to see you waxing Dylan Thomas-esque, despite the dark mood befitting a Welsh poet, boss. Do not go gentle into that 25-minute Starbucks’ wait. 🙂

  19. Mark R.
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Have a great time on Oahu (how can one not?). Great restaurants there, especially if you like fish and/or sushi. I’ve been to two luaus…the food is overrated imo, but a novel experience.

    Can’t wait for your travel posts.

  20. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    You look like a budding Jerry Lewis dressed in that outfit in the pic, Perfesser — a regular Catskills’ tummler-in-waiting. 🙂

  21. Posted December 28, 2018 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    …and rat droppings… ! LOL! 😀

    Enjoy your stay in Hawaii, you lucky man!

  22. Barbara Radcliffe
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Regarding airports and bottled water— there used to be a snack bar at Adelaide Airport that offered, among other things, ‘organic water’! I object to the term organic generally except in the context of organic chemistry, but this one took top prize. My hypothesis, which I did not test, was that the water was contaminated with, say faecal matter, and full of Escherica coli.
    Unfortunately, this stall disappeared before I managed to take a photo of it!

    • rickflick
      Posted December 28, 2018 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      You might be right about E. Coli. Apparently, NYC’s chlorinated tap water is more contamination free than bottled water. It comes from reservoirs 80 miles up the Hudson River. The reservoirs are fed by streams from the Catskill Mountains where defecation and micturition is expected to be rare.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 28, 2018 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

        Other than by wild animals.

        Though most of their pollution is filtered by natural vegetation before it reaches the stream/lake.

        (Water birds are probably by the worst polluters, especially PCC’s favourite – ducks. The e-coli counts in natural marshes is off the clock. Fish, I’m not sure about.)

        But the water from upland reservoirs is usually pretty good, it just needs filtration to take out most sediment and chlorination to kill any remaining greeblies.

        There is, however, probably no drinking water completely and absolutely free of contamination. It will have picked up some from the drinking glass, for example. Just that it’s usually (in developed countries) sufficiently small that your natural antibodies take care of it as a matter of course.


        • rickflick
          Posted December 28, 2018 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

          Cleanliness can be taken too far. Trying to raise infants in a germ-free household is said to do more harm than good. There’s a reason we older folks were consuming occasional handfuls of dirt from the lawn. Resistance is built up to last a lifetime.

      • alexander
        Posted December 29, 2018 at 4:38 am | Permalink

        When lived in New York, water was supplied to the city from that reservoir by a single 8-meter wide tube. This was then viewed as a dangerous situation. Is this still the case?

        • rickflick
          Posted December 29, 2018 at 5:58 am | Permalink

          I toured a part of the old duct which was just big enough to walk through. It was made of brick and no longer in use(thus, the walk through). The current tube runs from the mountains under the Hudson River and south to Manhattan. The only danger I know of is the risk a terrorist would add something inappropriate to the water. When flying near the Ashokan Reservoir in my Cessna I was warned not to linger over the water in a suspicious way. Presumably some jets might scramble.

  23. John Dentinger
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    I acknowledge that Starbucks is overpriced–no argument there. However, that’s one of the few places (actually only) in my area where I can get a decent Flat White. I can’t make that at home, so I get it at Starbucks. Sorry, Starbucks disparagers.

  24. David Redfrost
    Posted December 29, 2018 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    On the Starbuck menu, “Freshly Brewed Coffee,”
    well hidden, is 2d up from the bottom on the left column. I’m sure you saw this, right? $2.60 for the “grande” which just a regular sized coffee cup. Why they call it a “grande” is beyond me. You’re right, the rest of the menu is sugar. Ugh!

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