Yesterday marked for me 10 years of unbroken daily coffee consumption.
Some glimpses of my coffee pre-history:
Maxwell House, a percolator, a kitchen with yellow cabinets in an old farmhouse in rural Indiana. My mom would make a pot every morning before going out to feed the animals. I vaguely remember tasting it on a few occasions and thinking it was disgusting. It probably was.
East Village, 1992. I’d made a hangout of a place called Cafe Limbo. They served mochas in giant bowls. doesn’t really taste like coffee.
New York City. 1995-ish. Fashion week. I’m in a tent at Bryant Park backstage at a Calvin Klein show that I have no business being at. I’m standing next to Charlie Rose and Barbara Walters and attempting (probably unsuccessfully) to look nonchalant. There is an espresso bar, I think it was set up by Timothy’s Coffee. I take a cappuccino and am surprised to find I like the taste of it. I file away this dangerous tasty drug discovery, vowing to only use it when the need is extreme.
Midtown. Rat race. I’m working at a large healthcare nonprofit. I wear a tie to work. Starbucks is nearby and they have silly espresso based beverages that I indulge in only when I’m really in a crunch and need an energy boost. I regard coffee with suspicion, addiction to a stimulant seeming like a bad path.
Amsterdam. 2000. I’m in Holland for a couple weeks visiting family, smoking and bicycling and occasionally drinking coffee because ordering juice at these coffeeshops all the time starts to feel lame.
Burning Man festival. 2000. I’m there with my close friend and roommate from Brooklyn, camped among old and dear friends. I have an enormous crush on my roommate’s sister (let’s call her Joanna) who lives in Oregon and is also at Burning Man. I almost postponed my Holland trip earlier in the year to see a Bowie concert with her. I think knowing she’d be at this event was the thing that put me over the edge to attend.
I’m not sure I can encapsulate in any useful way what Burning Man is/was like if you’re unfamiliar. Transmundane. Intensity and profundity. Excess and exhaustion. Meltdowns and Epiphanies. And sometimes just a lot of dust in your lungs, general awkwardness and the all consuming desire for a shower.
A few days into the event I was having a meh Burning Man. Babysitting other people’s dramas, struggling with the construction of my elaborate personal geodesic dome which I designed in miniature to fit unassembled as checked baggage. Turns out making a dome the size of a tent (but 50x heavier) is as much effort as making a 20 foot tall dome. There is a lesson there.
But that girl Joanna. She was camped with Oregon people clear on the other side of the “city”. I kept seeing her but we rarely had a chance for more than a few words amid all the other people and chaos. I’ll leave out a full accounting of the pharmaceutical adventurings that occured, but suffice to say by the end of the week I was feeling spent. A night of general art tourism commenced and the girl and I were part of a large posse exploring the seemingly infinite expanse of theme camps and installations. For very brief moments we could break aside, hold hands, talk – before being swallowed back into the social chaos of our group. I felt like I would collapse from exhaustion before finding any game with this dame and that would be a shame.
My options for rescuing the evening seemed limited. Option number one would be to eat a tab of LSD, gambling that its stimulant effect would outweigh its consequences on my consciousness. Clearly that was a stupid idea, but it is a testament to my fatigue that I seriously considered it. The other option was to herd cats toward center camp where coffee could be obtained.
It was a 16oz cup and I was nearly in the fetal position as I was sipping it. I drank about a third of it and was feeling nothing, ready to write off the evening and head back toward my stupid metal tent. Then I felt it. A second wind.
A few hours later everyone in our posse was dropping like flies and Joanna and I were the last ones standing. We grabbed a blanket and headed out deep into the desert and kissed and watched the sun rise. I remember a lot about that sunrise.
Bookends. The center camp cafe at Burning Man where I had cup number one in my streak (L). 10 year mark, Day 3653: Finca Vista Hermosa peaberry, Huehuetenango, roasted by the producer, the incomperable Edwin Martinez (R).
I vowed I would drink coffee everyday for the rest of my life. Haven’t missed a day since. So there you have it.