Slack Tide: Espresso yourself!

  • By Geoff Kirsch
  • Sunday, November 29, 2015 1:01am
  • Neighbors

Nothing complements a bleak winter day like coffee (except maybe French-fries and Radiohead).

Come to think of it, coffee pairs well with everything, even weight lifting. Yes, weight lifting. Let me explain. I have what some people call an “addictive personality” — although I prefer to think of myself as “Dionysian” — and for a brief period of time, once upon a time, I was hooked on strength training. Drinking coffee during workouts supposedly boosts your power and endurance. For me this proved true. The donuts, however, were probably counter-productive.

Well, you’ll be glad to know I kicked that nasty physical fitness habit ages ago. But my coffee habit rages stronger than ever, mostly because it’s the one addiction my wife lets me keep.

I chain-drink coffee all day, every day. Aside from several hours in the evening when I’m wont to enjoy a cold beverage, I generally stick to the hot stuff. Doesn’t that mess with my sleep? Couldn’t say — I’ve been awake since 2008.

And I know I’m not the only one who bows before this dark, steamy master. Coffee ranks as the second-most consumed beverage on earth — 2.25 billion cups a day — eclipsed only by water, and that’s just because everyone’s trying to rinse out all that gross coffee breath. In the U.S., more than 150 million Americans report using — sorry, I mean “drinking” — coffee regularly. Want to start a zombie apocalypse? Shut down Starbucks.

We Alaskans, in particular, love ourselves a good cuppa. Of course, up here temptation lurks everywhere. If you think Juneau’s flooded with drive thru espresso stands, you should check out Anchorage sometime; there’s literally a pusher on every street corner (and in most parking lots).

Make no mistake, coffee is a drug. Aside from caffeine, a well-documented stimulant, scientists have recently identified other compounds in its composition known to effect body chemistry, including several mild psychotropic substances. “Psychotropic stimulant” — I’m no eighth-grade health teacher, but that sure sounds like drugs to me.

On the flip side, coffee may actually possess some health benefits. Studies show it can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and gallstones; enhance cognitive performance and possibly even help prevent Type 2 diabetes. Coffee also makes a delicious ice cream flavor, whereas crushed-up Adderall and synthetic insulin do not.

Still, one summer break during college I drove a truck for an off-site catering company, and the foreman specifically warned us not to dump returning urns down the parking lot storm drain. Why? Because coffee ate away the asphalt. Surely the same substance can’t be good for the digestive tract, which I’d imagine is quite a bit more expensive to repave.

No question some people can handle their coffee better than others. For example: unlike a Dionysian such as myself, for whom the merest taste sparks a week-long binge, my wife can limit herself to one cup and one cup only. But deprive her of that and it becomes like a scene from “Trainspotting.”

Hence, we go to great lengths forestalling this eventuality.

First, there’s the auto-drip. If that breaks — no coffee maker we’ve ever owned lives to see its second birthday — or the power fails, we fall back on a Brazilian press. Not a French press; a Brazilian press. I got it a few years ago, when Brazilians were all the rage; but now I’m thinking about going back (I hear Gwyneth Paltrow has). And then there’s all the random pieces of camping coffee equipment I’ve accumulated over the years, thank you very much REI clearance catalog.

In our house, we’ll run out of milk but never half n’ half. Sometimes I can’t even scrape together ingredients for rice n’ beans (in which case I whip up a batch of my famous beans n’ beans). But we always have enough grounds to hold us until the store opens, which, on Sundays, isn’t until 8 am. This can be as many as three hours after I’m wakened with demands for help with some 1,000-piece Lego set. Call me old-fashioned, but when I was a kid I built my own Legos.

Anyway, all this gives me pause. If I laid in the same supply of a more illicit substance, that’d be legitimately worrisome. And it only gets worse with further self-assessment:

Do you ever drink coffee alone?


Do you drink coffee first thing in the morning?

It’s the only thing that gets me out of bed. That and a tiny finger repeatedly poking me in the eye, accompanied by a squeaky little voice whining, “Daddy, Daddy, help me with my Legos. Daddy, Daddy.”

Do you stash coffee all over your house?

There’s a mug on every flat surface.

Are you worried about your coffee drinking?

Nah, not really. But I’m a staunch believer in the power of denial.

So, for now at least, with respect to my coffee addiction I think I’ll take the advice of that girl from “Frozen” and just “let it go.” Also, I won’t hold it back anymore.

And should the situation ever really deteriorate I can always call Dr. Drew from “Celebrity Rehab.” What? Who’s to say I’m not a celebrity? Worst-case scenario, I’ll pose as Axl Rose. Have you seen a photo of that dude lately? Now I don’t like labeling people as “fat” but let’s just say that if he ran for president I could totally be his body double. Of course, I’m not sure where I’d find size 3XL leather pants around here.

Speaking of which, anyone know where a guy can score some “civet” in this town? You know, that super gourmet coffee made from beans eaten, partially digested and defecated by the Asian palm civet?

In a recent moment of desperation, I tried that with our neighbor’s cat. I mean, it came out tasting okay, but it’s definitely not worth $75 a pound.

• “Slack Tide” runs every other Sunday in Neighbors. Follow Geoff’s daily Twitter feed

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