My senior year in college, I worked as a barista/coffee slinger at Peet’s Coffee & Tea on Solano Avenue in Berkeley. If I had class after a shift, I wafted into the room like a hot cup of joe. Every shower I took smelled like a fresh brew. Ironically, I didn’t drink coffee regularly back then, but I do think I was constantly high on the fumes.
But that’s not the point. The point is that with my employee discount, I purchased a slim, elegant, and expensive Nissan stainless coffee thermos. Why, you correctly ask, did I buy this coffee accoutrement when I didn’t even drink the stuff? Well, for the same reason I bought most stuff at twenty: It was cool. And as an aspiring writer, I convinced myself that I needed something to keep hot all the caffeine that was going to get me through all those late nights with the novel I was going to start writing just as soon as I finished my thesis.
Never happened. Well, the novel happened a year or two later. But not while I was drinking coffee. In fact, I rarely used that thermos over the next fifteen years. When I did finally start drinking coffee regularly in grad school, I rediscovered the thermos and used it to transport coffee from Brooklyn to Columbia in my rolling backpack. Then in class, usually two hours or more after actually making and milking the coffee back in my kitchen, I would open the lid and pour myself a steaming, delicious cup, and sip it while discussing Chekhov.
Yes, for a while there, my life really was that idyllic. In the classroom, anyway. Outside the classroom was another story.
But back to the thermos. After that brief period, the thermos was again forgotten. Until last week, when I pulled it down from a high shelf in my kitchen and rediscovered how darn hot it keeps coffee. I mean, I poured coffee twenty-freaking-four hours later and saw steam float off the black stream.
Now I’m using it in the early hours of the morning for the precise purpose for which I bought it all those years ago: To keep the good stuff hot, so I can stay properly caffeinated while I write.
As you might have guessed from the title of this blog, the moral of this story is not that I am writing in the morning, or that a good thermos stands the test of time.
But what DOES all of this have to do with writing? What is the meaning of the “Parable of the Coffee Thermos,” to writers everywhere? Well, I have some ideas, but I’d MUCH rather hear yours….Post a comment below. Or on FB. Or Twitter.
Can’t wait to hear from you.