Wednesday, January 28, 2009

[Black Magic More]

Written: 11 December 2008

Black Magic More

Tonight, I have reached a new milestone. I bought myself three sexy “jumbo” mugs for my coffee—the sort that generally holds cups of soup more often than cups of coffee. Very bohemian coffee-shopesque. I poured myself a cup of coffee and, just as I was about to douse the small amount of coffee with about a pound of Splenda, creamer, and coffee syrup, I paused. When was the last time I tried coffee—just plain coffee? Come to think of it, it’s been almost exactly four years since I have been brave enough to try the bitter blackness.

I made myself a promise at a very early age. If ever I tried a dish or a drink and did not enjoy it, I would try it again in a year. This vow has served me well over the years. While I still cannot reconcile my fickle taste buds to anything spicy, this decision has taught me to enjoy such succulent dishes as potato salad and very crispy fried chicken. Healthy, no, but it does make picnics a bit more fulfilling. I guess this is just my otherwise shy adventurous side making itself known.

So, I heated up the coffee. I sipped, wincing, expecting to gag as I had in the hotel lobby four years ago, and...

I liked it!

Now, granted, I still believe I will continue to strongly prefer a java-chip frappuccino pretty much any day over a good but bitter cup of coffee. All the same, a whole new world of caffeinated glory has opened itself up to me.

The journey of caffeine indulgence from Pepsi to black coffee has been long and, well, fun. I cannot remember a day of my life in which I have not craved caffeine. One of my first words, according to my parents, pertained to caffeine. Using a toddler’s sense of reasoning, I tried to figure out how to get more Pepsi. I liked Pepsi. Pepsi tingled my mouth. Pepsi made me happy. Following that good old toddler logic, I observed that whenever Mom offered me Pepsi, she always asked, “Do you want some more?” The wheels began to turn. I began to conclude that what I was hearing was actually, “Do you want some More?” More had to be the name of this magical cup of miracles.

“I want Mowee.” Forget milk. Forget water. Forget juice. I just want some More.

That’s right… not even two years old, and already an addict. My future was now set in stone. Give me all your More and no one will get hurt.

For a good ten years or so, the only caffeine I acknowledged came in a blue (Pepsi) or red (Coca-Cola) can. Yes, I had heard of other sodas—even tried Dr. Pepper, but I just found myself wondering what idiot gave Mr. Pepper a doctorate. Then, my sense of culinary adventure began to kick in. I tried again. Dr. Pepper began to appeal to my taste buds. Sprite and 7Up made me smile, but their lack of caffeine put me to sleep and failed to capture my undying devotion. I even discovered the motherlode: a soda that came in my favorite color—pink! Vess put out a crème soda that, even if the flavor had made me gag, I would have loved for looking like a soda Barbie would drink. My world began to grow some more.

In high school, I tried a cup of coffee for the first time. Sitting at a table with my family at the Lennon Sisters breakfast show, I took a sip.

I nearly sprayed my Uncle Chuck, who sat across the table from me chuckling (pardon the pun) at the look on my face. Sugar did nothing but make the bitter taste turn medicinal-flavored. The waitress returned.

“May I have a Pepsi instead?” She smothered a laugh and brought me my familiar comfort.

For a long time, I couldn’t even stand even a trace of coffee taste in anything. One day, Mom brought home a gallon of chocolate mocha ice cream. When I heard chocolate, I grabbed the biggest bowl in the house. “Me please!” I smiled as the scoops multiplied. I took a bite. I wrinkled my nose. “Um, Dad, do you want this?” He rolled his eyes and took the bowl. It was empty before I’d even returned to the kitchen.

In 2002, I moved into Missouri Hall at Truman State University, and I stocked my refrigerator with my new caffeinated love: Diet Mountain Dew. My soda took up almost as much room as my truckload of storage boxes. My roommate Tracy raised an eyebrow but said nothing. I smiled sheepishly.

A couple months into the semester, I found myself freezing. I had no idea that 300 miles could make such a difference as far as climate, but trust me when I say that Kirksville was a whole different playing field. My room, receiving no sunlight and—unbeknownst to me until the end of the semester—having windows that were cracked open at the top, did nothing to help warm me up at the end of the day. I could sit on the damned radiator and my bum would still be blue. I needed something that was hot and that would keep me awake. Hot cocoa, though fabulous in flavor, failed the latter test.

Then, in the dining hall, I spied the cappuccino machine. I hesitated. I stepped closer. I hesitated again. I reached for a cup, and filled it up. With great trepidation, I sipped.

I promptly grabbed two more cups and filled them up. I had found my new love. I wanted, in a word, More. But More was no longer Pepsi. More had taken on a much broader base. More was black magic—caffeine, in almost any form.

Two more years passed. I tried all the frou-frou drinks from Starbucks and Jazzman’s in the student union. I loved them all. Still, I dared not sip it straight. The smell of coffee was—and always had been—heaven to me, but the taste simply did not match the magnificent roasted fragrance. Then, I went on a cruise with my parents. On the drive down to Mobile, Alabama, we stopped in a hotel for the night. I needed caffeine after the madness of that drive, and I needed it ASAP.

In the hall, I froze in my tracks.

The soda machine was empty!

I gaped in horror. My mind could not grasp the madness of this reality. No soda? I stumbled aimlessly back in what I thought was the direction of our room, paying little mind to which direction I walked. I found myself in the lobby. Caffeine? Could there be some caffeine in here somewhere?

There it was. But it was in coffee form! Desperate, I grabbed a foam cup and filled it up, making sure to grab as many packets of sugar as I could carry. I walked it back to my room (it was still too hot to drink), and waited. Finally, it cooled enough for me to try. Ugh! Okay, let’s try the sugar. Well, that helped. I can at least drink it, even if I can’t enjoy it.

I was making progress. I knew then that I was growing accustomed to the taste. I couldn’t drink it black yet, and I knew that I would still be the one to “have a little coffee in my creamer” for a while yet, but there was hope. Someday, I might yet be able to walk into a diner and order a cup of coffee—and just drink it.

Then—tonight. It’s term paper season in graduate school, and each semester gets a little more stressful, and I get less and less sleep as the stress increases. I need More—and more of it! Tonight, I tasted black magic—straight—and Someday has finally arrived. I finally taste what I smell—roasted goodness, not bitterness. I am officially a product of my culture. I’m so proud. Should I be? Is this even something to take joy in? Probably not. But black magic has a seductive side that I never saw coming until it had taken me, heart and soul, and the transformation is complete, and all I want is More.

Oh, no… I’m out!

Please, sir, may I have some More?

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