Someone very funny once noted that the further you get from a major urban center, the more likely merchants and service providers are to replace Cs with Ks in their businesses’ names in hopes of standing out and luring customers. You know, Kustom Kounters, Kwickie Kuts, and so on. (If anyone remembers who first made that observation, please remind me!) I would take that concept one more step up (down?) the logic ladder, and say the more misplaced Ks in a phrase, the trashier and more absurd anything associated with it becomes.

In that spirit, today’s Formerly Hot moment was brought to you by the the letter K, as in the Kup of Koffee I picked up at the uberKool Kafe on the Korner of my Kids’ Kindergarten block after I dropped them off.

As I was waiting to order, Back in the New York Groove came on (click to hear). Naturally, I started rockin’ out. It was instinctual. I was 11 when the song came out, and the boys in my school were KISS fanatics, even coming in for Halloween in full glam rock makeup and regalia. I am pretty sure I acted as if I liked KISS, thus beginning several decades pretending to hold opinions I did not for the sake of boys’ attention. That said, Back in the New York Groove is actually a good song, in its poppy way, one an 11-year-old girl (whose tastes ran more to the inoffensive, almost feminine Shaun Cassidy than nasty-ass mutant-tongued Gene Simmons) could wrap her prepubescent groove around.

So I’m humming to myself while they made my coffee, and the teeny, assless, American Apparel wearing 21-year-old behind me asked the baristo (23, tops) what was coming out over the speaker. He said he didn’t know. “Some ’70s stuff,” he shrugged. She giggled. He tossed his ’70s-style bangs out of his cornflower blue eyes and rolled them skyward as he plopped my drink on the counter.

With that, two poreless hipsters who weren’t born until Reagan’s second term dismissed an entire decade of popular culture as so much ironic background noise. Yes, the music was arguably atrocious (Afternoon Delight, anyone?), but it nonetheless meant a lot to 11-year-olds at the time, who owned only AM radios with those little white earpieces.

“KISS,” I said.

“Pardon?” the coffee dude asked. Despite the hipster hairdo, he was scrubbed and wholesome,  and appeared to have been well-loved by two parents who thought it wiser to raise children someplace Ks are substituted for Cs with reckless abandon. I could tell by his glance that this was the first moment he really looked at me. That phenom of being looked at but not seen has become increasingly frequent now that I’m 41 and have children and visible pores.

“KISS,” I said. “Back in the New York Groove. That was KISS.”***

“Oh, okay,” the Kute Koffee Koordinator nodded. “NEXT!” He gave not one single shit.

But that was OK. I felt pretty hip myself, in a way that doesn’t make much sense, considering knowing who sang Back in the New York Groove isn’t exactly a precious gem in a treasure trove of accumulated wisdom. In fact, the only thing it says about me is that I’m old. Still, as I sipped my coffee (those hipsters do make good coffee!) and listened to the rest of the song, I felt glad that I know a thing or two, about myself and about the life cycle of coffee houses in New York City and the people who man them, and that when I rock out to KISS, nowadays I do so sincerely and without ulterior motive.


***I have since been corrected; the song was on Ace Frehley’s solo album, but performed by KISS often enough that it’s all one big blur of pyrotechnics and platform boots and greasepaint. Matt and James, who set me straight, are officially cooler than I am.

Photo by: Eric, CC Licensed