Thursday, May 22, 2003

Living With A Wonderous Drug


I've had a long and storied past when it comes to caffeine. I've worshipped this drug in its various forms but never quite got the pill version it. My first official cup of coffee was taken at La Dolce Vita, a little Italian cafe in Irondequoit, NY at the age of 11 or 12. They used to have a Friday special where you got Lasagna, salad, coffee, and dessert for a very low price ($5.95 I believe). The lasagna was decent, the coffee smooth, and the desserts to die for. I used to spoon bites of my zuppa inglesia or cappuccino gelato into my coffee, watching the cream float on top. It was a sad day when this place closed.

I don't recall when a hot cuppa tea became a must with my breakfast cereal, but dim memories seem to suggest junior high. Sometime in here, my mom and I found this cute tea shop called Lavender Blue in the town of Greece. They served afternoon tea complete with hot scones with jam and whipped cream, cucumber sandwiches, tarts, and apricots dipped in chocolate. It was one of the first times I tried Earl Grey tea and decided that yes, it was quite fragrant and lovely.

When I started high school, I had a pen pal who used to write of drinking mass quantities of Mountain Dew and taking Vivarin to stay awake in class after cavorting about town into the late hours of the night before. My parents were more Coke and Pepsi folk, preferably without caffeine, so I had to take it upon myself to find this Mountain Dew, which wasn't very popular at the time. I was able to buy cans of the sugar-shocked beverage at the little convenience store in the basement of the Eastman School of Music before my violin lessons. While I waited for my lesson to begin, I would quickly down the soda or I would hide it in my bookbag for consumption in my bedroom later on. The mystique of Mountain Dew wore down that summer after a trip to New England where apparently Mountain Dew was a little more popular.

At the same time I was starting lessons at Eastman School of Music, a little coffee shop opened on the same street called Java Joe's. My mom liked to sit in there and have a cup of coffee while she waited for me. They had this ultra-smooth coffee called Jungle Blend. It was absolutely stupendous and the only coffee I've had since that compares is Blue Mountain coffee from Jamaica. Alas, I haven't seen it carried since that one year. As I got older and started going to see movies at the Little, an independent movie theatre down the street, I started frequenting Java Joe's even more. Countless cups of coffee and a few cups of tea were downed there. When summer came, ice was thrown in the coffee along with generous amounts of cream and sugar. Many nights were spent feeling the caffeine course through my body while I frantically scrawled out journal entries, trying to keep up with the words in my head.

And now.. I still find supreme pleasure in drinking a hot cup of tea. To tilt the mug toward my face so that I can feel the steam moisten my skin. The thrill of the hot liquid pouring over my tongue and down my throat. The shiver of happiness as the warmth fills me. Some wonder why I don't drink that much alcohol. I say, why drink a depressant when I can drink something that can be almost as good as sex? Thus my on going relationship with caffeine.

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