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A Cuppa Joe and a Jelly-Filled

Coping with the end of a Dunkin' Donuts era.

September 30, 2003|Joseph Wambaugh | Joseph Wambaugh's latest book is "Fire Lover" (Avon, 2003).

Dunkin' Donuts is adding espresso to its menu.

L.A. Times, Sept. 23, 2003


"I love the smell of napalm in the morning" was his favorite movie line, even though "Apocalypse Now" was just Hollywood's idea of the 'Nam boonies where he'd caught a chunk of shrapnel that was a body barometer to this very day.

He had one more year until retirement. The gun rack was already installed in his pickup, and he and the missus just had to stop debating whether they should live near her mother in Arizona or up in Idaho, near lots of old LAPD cronies.

Each morning after roll call, they'd drive their black-and-whites to Dunkin' Donuts, where he'd get his cuppa joe and a jelly-filled. He'd take a big whiff of that reassuring eternal brew and say, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." It always got smiles from whiskered cops but quizzical looks from the post-Gen-Xers, whose film memories didn't precede movie lines like "as if."

Then, despite sighs and eye rolls from his rookie partner, he'd do some stand-up at the kid's expense. For instance, there was the time his "little pard" coaxed him into a Starbucks, where a barista sold him a venti of something called Arabian Mocha Sanani and then lip-curled at his simple request for a glazed doughnut. Instead, he got a vanilla almond biscotti, which he blamed for an attack of acid reflux, and his little pard said, next time think about Silk soy or organic milk because it's available on request.

When he tired of ragging on the rookie, he'd often wax nostalgic about the old days, when there was a Winchell's every half-mile or so, with java so hot you could dump it on your lap, call some shyster and sue the company for 20 mil. Talk about napalm. Thank God they still had Dunkin' D to prove that the whole world was not upside down.

This was what he'd do almost every morning -- before the 30th of September 2003.

It started out like any other day. They pulled up to Dunkin' Donuts, and the other black-and-whites were there, and his little pard ran inside as usual to get his cuppa black. Suddenly the kid came flying back with a grin wider than Sunset Boulevard. "Guess what?" the young cop burbled. "Dunkin' Donuts is making a line of espresso! Cappuccino, latte, the works! And a venti is almost a buck cheaper than Starbucks'! And not only that ... "

He couldn't make out the rest of it. He felt a tightness in his chest and got a ringing in his ears and a kind of vertigo. He had to steady himself against the car and take deep breaths.

This was the apocalypse.

And the only words that came to him, that tumbled off his tongue that morning, were from the same movie -- not Robert Duvall's, but Marlon Brando's.

Without hope, he gaped at his beaming young partner and cried out in anguish: "The horror! Oh ... the horror!"

Idaho seemed an eternity away.

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