Pound Cake, Complaints And Coffee – Reprise

Pound Cake, Complaints And Coffee – Reprise


*Below is a post from last year that got a lot of play. I like the story and I stick with my observation about people in LA. I should know, I was born here after all.
Watcha think?

I heard this story recently, about a woman who went home for the holidays.

Don’t twitch with anxiety, this isn’t about family hijinks – it’s about worthiness.

While she was in Ohio, Illinois or Iowa, you know – the cradle of civilization for transplanted Californians – she met with friends who were also there serving their sentence – I mean visiting family.

Inside one of those knotty pine kitchens with the avocado appliances, we all know the ones, they haven’t been touched since 1970; they all sat around the table catching up. Life it seems, had been good to this cross-section of her friends. They had kids in college, long-standing careers, minimal health issues, at least one living parent, and all their teeth; yet, the entire first hour was a bitch session.

It was as if the Complaining Olympics had come to town. She got so caught up in it, hoping to at least medal, (she could picture herself atop the podium, National Anthem playing) that she embellished her story about a car insurance claim gone south.
In actuality she had a pretty good life, would they judge her for it if she just said so?

Meanwhile, the host made a pot of coffee in a percolator, and cut up a Sara Lee pound cake to give them just the right amount of caffeine and sugar to maintain their energy – in order to keep the complaints coming.

It was the house he’d lived in since he was four, a two-story colonial, which since his mom had passed was occupied solely by his dad, who by all accounts continued to be robust and health -– but apparently clumsy as shit.

“Sorry guys, I can’t find any cups that match” he said sounding embarrassed as he laid out the cake with a selection of several random cups.

There was a mug from the local University, a flowered porcelain teacup with a tiny chip on the rim, a green Pottery Barn ceramic mug that looked as if it had once been part of a set, a plain, clear, glass cup, a tall, white, fancy looking cup that was fluted and flared at the top, and a large styrofoam cup from a stack on top of the fridge.

He, being the gracious host he was, poured his coffee into the styrofoam cup, everyone else jockeyed around, silently sizing up the remaining cups.

The one friend, a mom with five kids, took the plain glass one, handing the nice white one to her friend the attorney. “Oh, that’s too nice” her friend said, putting it back on the table, taking the dainty teacup even after she noticed the chip.

One of the guys took the college mug, after picking up the green cup from the set, and putting it back. After the other two got their cake, deferring the cup choice until everyone else had picked, one grabbed the Pottery Barn mug and the other reached up and got a styrofoam cup off the pile on the fridge.

No one chose the nice, white cup.

She was sure no one else noticed, but she did.

It was so interesting for her to observe what cups people chose.
It was like a small social experiment. Everyone left the fanciest cup for the other guy, until it stood alone, un chosen.

One of the men would rather drink from styrofoam than a fancy white cup. One of the women put it back and chose one with a chip.

What was all that about?

Worthiness. Apparently no one felt they deserved the nice cup.

Now, I’m gonna level a HUGE generalization here – that is SO Midwest.

If this little kitchen scene had taken place in LA – people would have pushed each other down to get the nicest cup; the chipped teacup would have been thrown in the trash, “That’s just dangerous” –– and NO ONE would have dared drink a hot beverage from styrofoam! “Studies have shown styrofoam to be carcinogenic and bad for the environment,” I can hear the attorney saying, citing a current class action suit that’s pending.

So, two questions: do you find yourself competing in a bitchfest when you reconnect with old friends, not being able to admit that you’re actually…happy? AND which cup would you have picked and why?

Don’t say you don’t drink coffee, this story works for you tea drinkers as well.


  • Valeria says:

    From the description, the chipped one sounded the prettiest and most interesting, like it probably has a story.. I probably would go for that one so I could look at it as I am probably the more quiet one… I would complain if I thought there was something funny about it and why are we like that…though if I was the last to pick up the coffee, I would have taken the white one and thought being the tortoise sometimes is the way to go… 🙂
    This story reminds me of a short story written by Mishima, modern Japanese author, called The Pearl, there is a social setting, and the hostess ends up missing a pearl and many of the guests respond with more responsibility than necessary with the hostess receiving a bunch of pearls as each one creates a story to explain how it got ‘missing’ …. maybe the Midwest is the Japan of America… 🙂

    • jbertolus says:

      OMG Valeria! I think that has to be my all time favorite comment EVER! So thoughtful, smart and funny! I hope you’re a regular reader so I can see more insights from you.
      Thank you,

My version of life. My stories. Told in my own words.

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