May 29, 2012

Coffee and Stories

This is going to be an explanatory post, of sorts, but will take a while to get to anything like a point. Mostly, it's about how working in coffee is pretty great.

As my tendency towards verbosity probably suggests, I like words. I like mine enough, but I like others' better. They take me places I'll never go and teach me things I'd never hear about otherwise. So yes, maybe those trips to the library in grade school worked, maybe Reading Rainbow influenced me that substantially. Or maybe there is something enduring about books - or more accurately, about stories.

The truth is, I'm not sure the medium matters too much. Though I read a lot, the majority of my consumption is via the internet, an endless bounty of words written about anything, and yes, everything. There are coffee blogs and running blogs, and it comes as no surprise that I like both. But there are others as well, and I like those too. These are blogs that deal with books - quite the mind-bender. It is writing about writing, and it's good. It helps me hone whatever skill I have, and more importantly, makes me aware of things with which to occupy my time.

That's because, for all the free words the internet offers, I still buy books - a lot of them. I enjoy books about things - anything, really. I'll read about climbing deaths on K2 and Wave Theory, and yes, I'll read about coffee and running. But as often, I like books that aren't about anything - except entertainment, or perhaps escapism.

This is not new to me. My earliest memories concern Batman action figures, Hobbits, and Han Solo. In that, I suppose I'm not unique. But that didn't change much, which maybe is slightly outside the norm. As I grew up, in some ways, I didn't. I still read Star Wars novels, and found other venues for "speculative fiction". (This is, if you've not heard, the PC name for nerdy things people make up. Apparently sci-fi and fantasy weren't cutting it.) I watched Cowoy Bebop until I could recite every episode title, in order, and was that kid, crouched down by the shelf, reading a pile of manga.

But again, I got older, and you're supposed to forget about these things, maybe, or at least hide it a little bit. Instead, I majored in English, and kept reading books about epic quests and orcs, kept wearing my Cowboy Bebop shirt to class. I made the requisite room for the authors you're supposed to read, but not too much, and certainly not enough to take Joe Abercrombie out of my life. Not enough, even, to keep me out of conventions filled with fat people with odd hair colors and cat ears.

Of course, nerdy things are somewhat chic, at the moment. The Avengers movie just made a billion dollars, and there's a new Batman movie on the horizon, which will probably do the same. But those people who spent Saturday night watching superheroes probably didn't watch 8-year-old episodes of Teen Titans, and then follow that up with Jupiter Jazz, part 1 and 2, my favorite Cowboy Bebop episode. (If, of course, I'm allowed to count a two-parter as one episode. I'm deciding to allow it.)

So, though I'm older now than I've ever been (funny how that always seems to be the case), nothing seems to have changed much. I like words, and I like stories.

And here we are, finally, at something like a point. Working behind a bar gives you an endless supply of both words and stories, people living out their lives, one day at a time, right across the counter. You know their drinks, and frequently, their life stories. But it's not even quite that simple. As often as the profound things stick with you, so do the absurd. And more often even than that, it's the mundane. We are social creatures, humans, and our shared identity is woven with these threads of interpersonal communication, of that one time your dog got out, or how you really liked a certain breakfast cereal. And yes, sometimes it is more obvious than that. Sometimes the conversations turn to physics, fiction, or the intersection of the two.

But there are stories, and there are people, making up my own dramatis personae. And there is espresso, without which I'd not have a cast half as dynamic. This isn't exactly the same as all of those books - it might even be better. Because this isn't escapism, and it doesn't end after 30 minutes with one final saxophone whine and a "See you, space cowboy".


  1. Am 26 and still have my favorite Spike t-shirt from high school.

    Seen Bebop more times than I can count with my fingers and still want to watch it again.

    A cafe is only as good as it's macchiato. (IMO)

    1. That's not a bad metric, if you had to pick one. A macchiato gives the barista a chance to showcase their milk texturing, while still letting the espresso be the focus. Also, if they ask you if you meant a "caramel mockiato", you know to run away.