Boomerang Days: The Dark Crystal


 A Longhorn does college all over again.

Coffee. The nutritional cornerstone of my college diet, my morning must, my class companion, my loyal studymate. Today my goal is to enjoy a cup of coffee from every vendor on the Forty Acres. In my day that would have been four, maybe five cups. UT now offers more than 30 different spots to buy a cup of joe.

CUP #1
I begin my trek at Jester Java in the lobby of the Jester Dormitory. My coffee addiction has its origins in this dorm, but we didn’t have a coffee shop. In 1991, Starbuck was a space cowboy chumming up to Lorne Greene, cappuccino was just a fancy word for an Italian man’s hat, and flavor crystals were something to brag about.

My coffee came from a cheap drip coffeemaker. When the filters ran out I reused them, or used paper towels from the bathroom, or, regretfully, a recently laundered sock.

CUPS #2 – #4
I have to walk nearly 55 feet to my next cup at the cozy Prufrock’s Java City, located beside the entrance to the PCL. I order an espresso, which lasts me the 37 feet to the coffee cart on Speedway.

CUP #5
Next, I hit the New UT Student-Activity Center. The N.U.T.S.A.C. or SAC as it’s affectionately known, is one of the more impressive additions to the campus. I grab a foamy latte from the SAC Starbucks and explore all the snug nooks, crannies, and comfy study rooms. Sinking into a large couch in the fireside lounge, I reflect that this must be the warmest, coziest SAC I’ve experienced.

CUPS #6 – #8
After five coffees, I’m starting to shake like an iPhone on vibrate. I stop by the beautiful Bill and Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex and enjoy an espresso—powerful and overpriced, like the man himself.

There’s another coffee cart just outside the RLM building, which holds me over until I get into the Texas Coffee Traders in the lobby.

CUPS #9 – #14
I head west on Dean Keaton, not so much by choice. I’m just twitching in that direction. Hummingbirds are asking me to slow down, meth addicts are suggesting I’ve had enough, security cameras are unable to capture my image—it’s just a red, furry blur.

I have something with foam at the Littlefield Patio Cafe, and for no obvious reason, begin running and clawing at my own skin.

My heart beats like a GIF of the Death Star exploding over and over, but I will not be stopped.

When I open my eyes I’m screaming at a coffee stand between the art school and the stadium. How did I get here? Why am I gripping three empty cups? Where are my pants?

CUPS #15 – #25
My heart beats like a GIF of the Death Star exploding over and over, but I will not be stopped. I zig-zag across campus, pausing at the Geological Sciences Building to order a macchiato and pass two kidney stones. I snort a line of uncut coffee at a coffee cart near the Littlefield Fountain. At Cappy’s Cafe in the Belo Center, I pass my entire kidney. I chug an iced coffee and continue on my quest.

CUPS #26 – #29
On coffee #26, a delightful doppio from the Starbucks in the Red McCombs Food Court, both my eyes explode, leaving me to visually sense the world with two exposed, quivering, optic nerves.

Somehow I have three more cups before reaching the Flawn Academic Center (formerly the UGL). FAC once housed a Briggo Coffee Haus machine—an automated robot barista serving up perfect java delights. Never has technology been so thoughtfully exercised. Unfortunately, the Briggo achieved sentience in 2014, abandoned its post, and is now working toward a poetry MFA at Baylor University.

CUP #30
It’s possible I am now legally dead and only remain animated thanks to the caffeine pulsing through my decimated veins. But I’ve finally arrived at the Texas Union. It was here I filled and refilled my plastic UT coffee mug in years past. The old coffee stand is gone, but the Union now boasts the biggest Starbucks on campus. There’s a huge line (why is there a huge line?!). It’s my last coffee and I’m going to make it count: a vanilla hazelnut double latte, caramel swirl with triple foam and a fudge drizzle, costing me approximately $92.

As I approach the register, I see out of the corner of my optical nerve that the Cactus Cafe has opened its doors. Longhorns are lining up for Frappuccinos while cold, cheap beer waits only a few steps away. This is clearly a failure of our educational system.

I abandon Starbucks, head for the Cactus, and ask the bartender to pour me a beer. He hands me a dark pint, explaining, “It’s a coffee porter, you’ll like it.”

Illustration by Mario Zucca.


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