Every morning a collegiate-era KRUPS CaféExpress brews the coffee that sees me through the drive to work. There in the parking garage — or maybe at the last light before — I drink the last drops. Very few inanimate objects and even fewer electronics inspire the homiletic devotionals I’ve professed for this ochre-stained appliance. If I’m being honest most people don’t get this level of commitment from me.
Though its constancy has certainly helped enable this habit I have tried to be just as true to it. Not even my own grandma could break the bond between I and the coffee maker. And though I once, faithlessly, decided to give up coffee after a discombobulating fight with influenza and have often attempted to cut back on my consumption — I have overall remained just as faithful to the drink. If I’m being honest every attempt at distance has strengthened my commitment to this addictive drug. Hands covered in heat-irritated hives have still managed to pinch a coffee mug’s handle to lift a steaming cupful to sleep-chapped lips.
I recently got around to reading Anne Fadiman’s other book of essays, At Large and At Small. She’s one of my favorite essayists even if she does make me often feel a nincompoop. Yes, yes I know all about Edward Young’s essay. That quip about Carlos Casanova — ha, ha, ha. Of course, I also call Pope, Dryden and Pepys only by their last names because I know their work intimately instead of not at all. The rest of the time I feel inspired to get up from my comfortable reading spot and open up the dictionary app.
Though her references showcase our academic gulf the essays about ice cream and coffee and staying up late are like childhood remembrances of watching the night hawks from my suburban driveway. Which are subjects all so obviously connected even I get it.
Personally, I feel I am at my most inspired — when words scribble from a pencil or flash across a screen — at night next to a cup of coffee. This post’s first draft was written with pencil in bed at night, but typed into the computer in the morning. In the morning I could not manage to spell “screen” — failing to even understand the “m” sound I’d added — and had to look up the spelling on my handwritten notes.
Realized productivity is not the real reason I like staying up late.
I feel most awake at night. There are night owls who still stay up late, get up early, and somehow seem to navigate the day at a fairly coherent level. That’s not me. Real conversations become déjà vu dreams. With insatiable compulsiveness I consume salty or sugary snacks. Desperate for rest I go to bed early. Since starting this post a few weeks ago I’ve tried my best only to find myself climbing under the covers at 9:30 under the promise of reading that library book I’ve renewed three times but still open its plastic-coated cover to page 47.
Then again, even though I’ve upped my caffeine consumption throughout the day I also deny myself the nighttime cup o’ jo. Unless it’s coffee ice cream. Coffee ice cream was surprisingly easy to make and even my improvised Philadelphia version was just as good as most of the ones from the store. It was especially good with two splashes of Irish whiskey before bed.
Being a natural night owl isn’t the real reason why I like drinking coffee at night.
There is something intimately social about drinking coffee at night that even my introversion craves. When first learning to like coffee it was often in the company of high school friends at coffee shops.
Others share this pleasure at shared conversation over a before bed cup. A colleague recently told me how she and her husband had searched out decaf brands so they could indulge, but still function in a world of worm eating early risers. Tempting as she made it sound I’ve not yet tried this, still preferring hot herbal tea as a sort of go-to-bed alarm.
Which is about as opposite a drinking experience as left and right. My herbal tea is a soothingly solitary activity. According to a t-shirt I purchased from a nearby thrift store tea is the gentleman’s coffee. It’s such an obvious truth I wondered why it didn’t present itself sooner. I drink hot tea at night and when I’m sick. Watching Boy on DVD made me so anxiously fretful that I was ready to walk out of a friend’s house until she offered me a cup of peppermint tea. A box of that same tea has a permanent spot in my pantry. Have you ever agreed so strongly with a t-shirt?
When I’ve reached the point in the day when I’m trying to steer away from coffee, but still want that hot caffeine I might splurge on a dirty chai with almond (or soy) milk. I’m positive “The Crazy Gentleman” is the unrealized true name of this drink. I don’t allow myself to drink these at night either. If I’m being honest as kind of an expensive drink I don’t allow myself to drink these much at anytime.
There is, however — I’m positive — an easy to make, economical ice cream version of this drink. If I ever figure it out I will, perhaps, bring back the ice cream social.