From the Left



Coffee, cultural shifts and sadness

Marc Munroe Dion on

Coffee is what the cigarette used to be.

In 1963, if you asked a guy, "You want a cigarette?" he said, "Yes."

Now, if you ask a fellow co-worker, "You want some coffee?" she says, "Yes."

In fact, because it is a stimulant and comes from South America, coffee is pretty close to being what cocaine used to be.

If coffee is anything like what cocaine was, then I'm probably a crack smoker.

While the country blooms with coffee shops selling fair trade flavored coffee, I'm down at a convenience store where they sell the stuff for $1 a cup. I don't buy coffee in a lot of nice neighborhoods, either. In some of the neighborhoods where I buy coffee, if they started putting crack in the coffee, half of the neighborhood's small businesses would close.


I drink it black, too. I don't do this because I think "real men" drink it black. I do it because black gets you out of the store the fastest.

These days, some of the convenience stores keep their coffee in an insulated container with a pump at the top, but a lot of them still have coffee in a pot, sitting on a kind of hot plate, grumbling to itself and waiting for me to show up.

If I hit a convenience store at 11 a.m., after the morning coffee rush is over, and the clerk hasn't made a new pot, I sometimes get the last cup, so a lot of the coffee I drink tastes like barbecue sauce and No. 2 diesel.

And I come out of the store and the bad coffee smell curdles in the air, and the junkie standing out front asks me for a cigarette, and I give her one because coffee is what cigarettes used to be except among the very poor, most of whom still need plenty of both.


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