Barista

Monday, March 7, 2005

The baristas know me. If you’re not a coffeehouse regular, you might now know what a barista is. A barista is the giver of vivacity, the dealer of happiness, the maker of coffee. Unlike the instant or drip variety, there is an art to making coffee, and this art involves grinding, tamping, extraction (timing is very important), steaming, and blending. I’ve thought hard about buying an espresso machine for the Castle, and I’m still of two minds. One says go for it, David. We’re talking coffee, whenever you want it without having to leave the sanctity of the castle. Think of the high-quality espresso you’ll serve with dessert during dinner parties. The other says, think of the possibilities (and likelihood) of overdoing it. Think of the expense and the cleaning responsibilities. And, for the record, you’ve never even had a dinner party.

The barista punches in my order when it’s my turn. Tall mocha with whip, she says. I hand her payment, she smiles, and I slide to the delivery deck. She starts the steamer and heats up my milk. How are you doing, I ask and divert my eyes. The thought of a conversation becomes too much. I realize I should have thought about that before speaking, but it’s out there. She answers, Good, you? She tamps the grinded coffee beans and starts the espresso machine. I decide against the conversation and stay silent.

I’m babbling incoherently, because I gobbled down a tall mocha for the first time in four days, and the sugar and caffeine took to my system too fast, overwhelming my powers to understand and write coherently.

The exterminator is drilling holes and injecting poison into the castle as I write. Poison drips along the outside walls, almost as if essential juices were leaking from the Castle. He expects the ants to die over the next three to four weeks, and you know what that means: I have another month of ant hunting. What joy! I know you’re questioning the sport involved in hunting ants, especially since the carpenter variety that infests the Castle moves slowly. I’ll outline the (substantial) challenges: (1) lugging my chosen weapon, the vacuum cleaner, up and down the stairs between the different levels of the Castle; (2) positioning the suction devices (either the hand held or under the push part) to suck up the ants when they run for the little crevices; and (3) remaining calm when a flying ant (the proto-queen) darts from nowhere and almost hits me in the head.

I spend too much time writing about silly happenings. Did you know that in Seattle, Chinese restaurants have the highest incident of cockroaches? (And here I thought nothing good would come of the carpenter ants invading the Castle.) It’s not because the Chinese restaurants are dirtier, it’s because the Chinese restaurants import their vegetables from places where there are cockroaches, such as the east coast. I wanted to convey that bit of trivia to prove a point about writing. If you’re anything like me (and I hope you’re not for everyone’s sake), you would find that fact more interesting than, say, writings about the broken aspects of my personality. Now, that fact alone is interesting but not story-worthy. Additional research and a story based on the tidbit might be interesting. (I imagine a Chinese restaurant owner trying to explain his cockroach problem to long-time customers. “Oh, no, bug-ologists come here and eat. I told bug-ologists put sign in van so customers not confused. A-okay, no problem.”)

I know research would help me write just as personal experiences help—which is why I try to experience something interesting everyday, instead of sitting around and playing with my toes. I know from experience that television and movies are bad sources. I’ve been watching them for years and except for poorly thought out plot points and characterizations, nothing has worn off on me. I once thought of actually researching using books. Do you remember long ago when I had this idea for writing a story about goblins based on the experiences of Native Americans? I went out and purchased a few books, and I haven’t touched them. The length and time I’d need to read them overwhelmed me. I’m a bad researcher.

Let me qualify that statement. It’s not that I’m a bad researcher; it’s more that I’m an indifferent, lazy researcher. I’ve been thinking of hitting the books again. What’s keeping me away is a concern: after devoting all this time to researching and planning, what happens if I sit down to write and nothing comes out, like what happened with my science-fiction story. I need to give this more thought (in other words, I’m too tired to continue writing).