On Obituaries, Rainstorms and Coffee

I had to write my own obituary, once.  What better way to show someone that their life, for as much as it goes and moves, will abruptly end, than to have them write one?  To reckon with your finality and mortality is something far beyond the scope of a college kid but…there I was…writing my own.

In light of my family’s recent loss of my grandfather, my mother asked if I would like to write his obituary.  I was honored, terrified and clueless.  Given the verbose nature of things I’ve written about my grandpa, how the hell am I supposed to scrunch all that he was down into a few blocks of templated verbiage?!  After reminding myself about the typical format, the required and popular information, I decided to ditch convention and just write it as it came to me, in a style so true to myself.  Imagine how pleasantly surprised I was while piecing together the nuts and bolts, I learned even more about him than I knew before.  Teaching from an afterword of life, well-played, Grandpa. 

I tried to create something factual, classic and interesting with a touch of whimsy spoken from a heart-wrenchingly genuine voice: my voice.  As soon as it’s posted on the website, I’ll cite it here.  Hopefully it’ll serve as a glimpse at him for anyone who never met him and a reminder for those of us to loved and lost him.

Rain is a muse for a lot of people and apparently mine.  While I can push to find an idea to jot when the sun streams through my windows, something about the rain makes me cloister and collect…sit still and write.

Thunder storms in particular call into mind an unpredictable danger and I think that it lends itself to that feeling of becoming small and safe.  Like when there were tornado warnings at my house growing up and we’d all go into the basement and huddle sort of close; the breathing, beating parts of the house all bound into one, keeping each other safe, warm and comforted.  Dad comforting mom, mom comforting children, children comforting their siblings hugging their arms to their chest, wild-eyed listening for a freight train noise.

The wild things outside retreat to a hole or a canopy or a tunnel of loose foliage, they become quiet and hyper-aware, as close to each other and bound between the earth and sky while the middle flies wildly about.  When the thunder rests from its roll and the clouds stop their electric and shining waltz, the dirt begins to dry, wings unfold and dry again to be papery and crisp as the wilderness collectively shakes the wet from its fur and skin.

It’s scary and wonderful and cyclical and healing…and it makes me write.  These are good things.

This morning, as I started the water for my French-press (insert snooty “hmph” sound), I opened the bag of coffee I had ground the other day.  I don’t think the way coffee smells is indicative of its taste, all of the time.  Coffee smells have a different depth for which the taste does no justice.  Call it blasphemy, if you will.  Say it’s crazy talk and call me a heretic, but I swear it’s true.  Now, let me tell you, my French-press makes some fantastic Joe but I’m always a little disappointed that I can’t taste what the pre-brewed grounds smell like…there’s something it misses.  It’s unfortunate and, damn it all, upsetting!  WHO DID THIS TO US?!

The smell of coffee sends very strong and specific memories to the front of my brain.  It reminds me of people in a mad and hurried rush and also of a lazy Saturday morning in the arm of my couch at the same time.  It’s industrial and steely while being woolly and burlap.  It takes its time and speeds up.  Get it for a buzz or as a break.  Nutty, tangy, chocolatey, smokey, fruity, citrus…man, I feel sometimes like your coffee is an essential accessory.  People sprinting off to work, engagements, appointments, lovers relaxing over a cup and a sigh, students pounding theorems into their brains in the grass under an ancient oak tree.  Here I am at Water Street Coffee Joint in Kalamazoo weighing out beans at the taint of dawn, rubbing my eyes and stirring the oatmeal for the first day-comers, burning the absolute buhjeezus out of my hands on the espresso bar and tapping, tamping, frothing, straining and coercing that dark, bubbly brew from its husk.  You have to know that the harder, faster and hotter you tap, tamp, froth, strain and coerce, the better that shiznit tastes.

And no, seriously…f*ck you, barista job for turning me into a cursed coffee-snob.  It’s no fun being dissatisfied with everyone’s technique at pulling shots (what a waste of crema, you imbecile!) or the always-irate-worthy mispronunciation of “espresso” (EX-presso?!  What were you…born under a goddamned rock?!  You Cretan…go about your life dragging your knuckles behind you.)  I’m angry at your brews, world!  I’m upset at your disrespect for the bean!  You think you can froth milk?!  I’LL SHOW YOU HOW TO FROTH PROPERLY! 

Between my love of naps, insistence upon above-decent coffee, delight in anything in which I’m able to imbibe and my awkwardly intense love for cheese, I should probably just move to Italy.  Un bicchierè di birra, per favorè.





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