What's All This Then?

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What's All This Then?

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Consider the Lobster
by David Foster Wallace

Field-Tested by John Gruber

in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Unlike every other North American I know, until last month I had never before been to a Disney theme park. As a kid, my sister and I apparently missed the memo outlining the standard ‘bug your parents ceaselessly until they capitulate’ strategy. As an adult, I always figured I might as well wait until I had kids.

Now that we have a two-year-old, the wait is over; so off to Walt Disney World we went. And we had a blast. It may well be impossible to be even vaguely cynical or hip in the presence of a small child at Disney World. My only serious complaint during the entire experience, repeated each morning to my companions, regarded the spectacularly appalling coffee served everywhere on Disney premises. Like many of the concessions at WDW, the coffee is “sponsored,” and to the detriment of anyone with a functioning tongue, Disney's coffee concession is sponsored by Nescafé. And since we never left Disney premises, that left me with access to nothing other than appalling coffee.

Thanks to the Starbucks hegemony, and the fact that I seldom venture away from blue-state metropolises, I’ve more or less grown completely accustomed to never being more than five minutes away from what is, at worst, a pretty decent cup of coffee (and, in this caffeine junkie's opinion, cup-for-cup, Starbucks serves better-tasting coffee than your typical ‘our tables are usually occupied by anti-corporate-chain-store hipsters who shower only once or twice a week’ indie coffeehouse).

Tucked in my carry-on was Consider the Lobster, David Foster Wallace's recent collection of essays, my favorite of which being “Up, Simba,” a 78-page behind-the-scenes sort of gonzo-style take on John McCain's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, commissioned by and originally published in much-shortened form in Rolling Stone (spoiler: McCain loses).

And so there on p. 192, 36 pages into “Up, Simba,” comes this description of a McCain2000 “catered lunch” for the campaign staff and press corps:

... strange bright-red ham on Wonder Bread, Fritos, and coffee that tastes like hot water with brown crayon in it, and the pencils all bitch about the McCain2000 food and wistfully recount rumors that the Bush2000 press lunches are supposedly hot and multi-food group and served on actual plates by unctuous men with white towels over their arm.

This passage I read, serendipitously, while actually working my way through a cup of Disney's Nescafé “coffee,” and which finally provided me with an apt description to convey the depths of my suffering to my non-coffee-drinking companions.

John Gruber writes and publishes Daring Fireball, a website for Mac and web nerds. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and son.

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