February 24, 2011

Me the Barista

People get ideas from all sorts of places. Me, I prefer to find mine in writing, though they tend to spring up from other places too. The radio is a decent source of inspiration, cliche as it might be to cite song lyrics. The funny thing is, it’s usually the mindless pop lyrics that inspire some sort of creative blip. What if Katy Perry is right; what if someone really was a firework? That would really be unfortunate. I picture someone walking around, exploding in to a panoply of colors as a crowd of onlookers oohs and ahs; maybe there is a smattering of applause. What does paradise feel like, Britney? And when did Lady Gaga go from talking about riding disco sticks to singing after school specials about empowerment and gee golly gosh, I’m perfect the way I am?

Most of these ideas are fleeting, entertained only to be dismissed. This is all well enough, since most of them aren’t worth anything anyway. Once in a while, something might pop up that’s useful. When that happens, I makes some effort to hold on to it, then to craft it in to something worthwhile. Then, if that happens, I might write about it. Usually, I try and relate it to coffee somehow, since that’s what this blog is basically about.

I say that, but I’m not sure that’s proven to be the case. I started this blog as a means to write about coffee, but mostly it’s been an excuse for me to write whatever strikes me, to entertain whatever muse I might possess at a given moment. I’ve tried to keep coffee in the picture, however, and that’s not hard to do. I mostly always have a cup of the stuff in my hand; if not there is an empty mug sitting nearby. This is almost always the case, up until evening, when I decide I should probably lay off the caffeine, since I have a difficult time sleeping as it is. Sometimes I will seek out a cup of decaf, but not usually, since doing so invites a sort of derision, even if I’m only imagining it. There is something sacrilegious about a self proclaimed coffee geek ordering decaf, and so I don’t.

It would be more accurate to say that the blog isn’t about coffee, so much as inspired by it. Voltaire and Beethoven supposedly downed cups of the stuff daily, fueling their creative efforts. And though it would be ludicrous to put myself in their company, there is no doubt that caffeine stimulates the brain to do things it might otherwise not. The body is not unaffected as well. Without coffee, I don’t think I’d be able to keep up the fitness regimen I subject myself to. I say that like it’s some sort of torture, but truthfully, it’s the days off that are hard. My body has almost become addicted to the movement, to the the effort, and it becomes stiff and lethargic in the absence thereof. And writing too, so often derided as something you’re subjected to as a student, is something I could scarcely imagine going without, even for a day or two. And without coffee, I don’t think I’d be as good of a writer, and certainly not as active of one.

I suppose this makes me sound like something of an addict, and maybe there’s a reason for that. If I need coffee to do the basic things I like to do, perhaps I need coffee too much. A lot of people might say that, but I wouldn’t. There are a lot of things everyone needs: Food, water, air, clothes, etc. But the basics are just that, the basics, and probably aren’t sufficient for most people. Sure, everyone needs those things, at least, but most people are going to want, or need, more. For me, that’s cardio, writing, and coffee. They seem distant things, unrelated, but they aren’t to me. They are integral parts of my day, the summation of which equals my collected experience. This is not a good or bad thing, objectively, but I think it’s a good thing, because I’m pretty happy with my life as it is.

Without coffee, I don’t think I’d have this life. It sounds impossible, or if true, perhaps a bit sad. But I don’t mean to say that my palate is so stimulated by the drink so as to make my life worth living. I mean a whole lot of things besides that, though the pleasures of tasting a good cup are not excluded. I mean that I enjoy the morning ritual, delight in leaving even a comfortably warm bed on a cold morning in order to sip a warmer cup of coffee and gulp down my oatmeal. And I like the fitness and writing I’m able to do, I think, at least in part because of the coffee. I certainly couldn’t do either of them as well without it, however well it is that I do them.

I think what I owe to coffee has more to do with my time as a barista than anything else. This is a subject I’ve written about a lot before, but it deserves mention again. There was a time when I was an introvert, happier alone with a book or a video game than with any but a select few people. That hasn’t changed totally. I can still spend an entire day with no more human interaction than what I get from an author, and consider that mostly a day well spent. But it’s not how I would rather spend my time now; at least, it’s not how I like to spend most of it. Thanks to my time behind a coffee bar, I’ve developed an extroverted streak, or at least nurtured the one I already had. It’s grown, to the point where I’ve developed a reputation as something like perky, and certainly loud and ostentatious. I don’t view this as a change in persona, so much as a realization. I was always who I am now, it just had to be chiseled out from under a bit of rock first. It took some work, as things sometimes do. But it was worth doing. And without coffee, and the making of it, I never would have started that task.

I’ll land at another coffee bar soon, and I’ll keep drinking the stuff in the meantime; I’ll keep writing and running too. I’ll keep looking for ideas at the bottom of mugs, empty except for that omnipresent stain. I’ll find them, and inspiration too. If the past is any indication, I’ll probably find out more about myself as well.

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