Why I drink coffee, and why you should, too!

A solid cup of coffee in my old Houston Post mug. This is what it's all about.
A solid cup of coffee in my souvenir Houston Post mug, which only comes out on special occasions.

Comes a point in every man’s life when he begins to take stock of his successes and failures, and Facebook is a great tool for helping you see where you went wrong.

Like the other day when all three children descended on me like a pack of wild dogs because I love coffee and they don’t. Where did I go wrong?

Now I’m not one of those guys who’s going to sit around reading magazine articles about what the health experts are saying about coffee. Let’s face it, as soon as one quack says it’s gonna kill you, another will come along and tell you that coffee will cure cancer, and you’ll never have another ingrown toenail. Ultimately, who cares about any of that?

I’m also not one of those guys who puts a lot of stock into fancy brewing methods, the optimal grind or the most expensive coffee beans. I’m not that guy who will take a sip, swish it around and say to myself, “earthy, with floral undertones, and a hint of chocolate, cinnamon and cedar.”  When it comes to coffee, I don’t buy the best, nor do I buy the worst. In fact, I have only two rules:  Coffee must have caffeine, and it must not be flavored.

Simply put, I drink coffee because it tastes good, and because it gives my blood a swift kick in the ass whenever I need it. But believe me, those aren’t my only reasons!

Seriously, I didn’t start drinking coffee until I started my professional career, which is why I always held out hope that my own kids would eventually grow into it. But now I’m worried, because my kids aren’t kids anymore, and they’re running out of time. Certainly they’re older than I was when I finally saw the light.

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See, here’s how it went for me. I’m an old-time newspaperman, and coffee and newspapers go together like gin and tonic, brisket and sausage, or honey on a biscuit. And that’s just for readers of newspapers. For those of us who actually worked to produce them, coffee was the lubrication we needed just to make it through.

imagesNot that it’s all that relevant anymore, but let me explain something about good old-fashioned print newspapers, and in particular, the news/copy desk. There wasn’t a day in my 33 years that I didn’t arrive at the office knowing I was gonna get screwed. The only mystery was how it was going to happen this time. There are probably a million different ways an editor can get screwed, but that never stopped me from arriving early and trying to figure it out. Armed with the evening’s first cup of coffee, I could sit for a few minutes and contemplate my fate. I’d take a sip of coffee and try to get the lay of the land, hoping against hope that if I could just see which direction it was coming from, maybe I could deflect it a little, and maybe the screwing wouldn’t hurt so bad.

Every night, part of the ritual was to gather your buddies — all dead men walking — and mosey to the coffee pot before the shit started hitting the fan. Not only did we do it for camaraderie, but also because we knew we needed the caffeine so we could stay awake long enough to know we’d survived another deadline, and that it was now time to head to the bar.

My pica pole survived three decades, and I still have it today. My old coffee mug, unfortunately, did not.
My pica pole survived three decades, and I still have it today. My old coffee mug, unfortunately, did not.

Before computers squeezed every last ounce of fun out of it, the proper tools were important for copy editors. That’s why I used the same steel pica pole every night, and it’s why I drank out of the same unwashed coffee mug for many years. That pica pole ripped wire copy, sized photos, scratched my back, cut cakes, and yes, stirred my coffee for years. As for the mug, before I probably left it next to the hot wax machine in some backshop somewhere, it had built up such a thick, rich patina that you could not only taste the coffee, but also the years of bitter tears and roasted misery.

And see, that’s what kids today don’t understand. Coffee isn’t just a drink. Coffee isn’t just a caffeinated booster shot. Coffee is comfort. Coffee is tradition. Coffee is ambiance. Coffee is memories and shared experience.

Ask yourself, do you really want to go through life looking like some kind of wet-behind-the-ears rookie? Hell no! Coffee is what puts hair on your chest, figuratively speaking! Coffee is what makes you grizzled, and I don’t care what field you’re in, if you’re going to pay it forward to the next generation of suckers,  grizzling is important! If I’m starting a new job, I’m not going to look to some fruit-juice sipper for advice! Nope, I’m looking for that salty veteran, the man or woman who’s sitting there looking grim as death, the one with a chipped and dirty coffee mug nearby!

Look, kids, you’re running out of time, and dear old dad is trying to save you! Do you think you’re the first person who didn’t like the taste of coffee the first time you tried it? Hell no! Lots of people hate the taste at first, but that doesn’t mean you should quit trying! Don’t be a quitter! If your taste buds object, make the next pot stronger to kill off the weak ones!

You have to push through! You have to persevere! Drink coffee because your father loves you and wouldn’t steer you wrong! Buy something with ink that rubs off on your fingers, then sit there and read it while drinking a cup of hot coffee. Do it because it’s the right thing to do!

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33 Comments

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  1. Wonderful. I can almost taste the “years of bitter tears and roasted misery” (a phrase that really ought to be in a news blues song). I was drinking java long before I became a newspaperman, but must confess that it took me awhile to develop a taste for newsroom coffee. I couldn’t imagine anything being that strong, until I topped up my mug from a composing room urn and discovered why they called their brew “printer’s ink.” Dang. That would put hair on the INSIDE of your chest. Sorry to learn that you lost your favorite old mug, by the way. Did it sport the logo of your first paper?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I drink coffee for all the same reasons you do, and I like mine strong, black, no cream, no sugar – that’s the only to get the true flavor.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. How did your kids ever pull an all-nighter study cram without coffee?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Darn kids these days with their artificial energy drinks and paperless magazines!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. In East Texas, it’s a tradition to start kids on coffee the minute they graduate from a sippy cup or the minute they ask to sample yours, whichever comes first. What kid wouldn’t love coffee spiked with healthy proportions of milk and sugar? This same curiosity leads to them to start reading the newspaper, and before you know it, you’re fighting over the business section. Then you indoctrinate them to the hard stuff when they’re 11 or 12. Or 8. The second step proved easier in the 1990s, when Starbucks came to town and made coffee cool. Then you wonder how they possibly guzzle enough coffee to earn a Starbucks gold card, and finally, when they’re in their 20s, they treat you to a cup once in a while. You may even score a pastry on the side.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I used to drink a minimum of 3 cups of coffee a day and always had a last cup before I went to bed. I drank coffee not because it kept me awake (it doesn’t) but because I liked the taste. I drink only one cup a day now, and occasionally drink two! Also I’ve only been to Starbucks once this year and that was to get an iced tea. I’m proud of myself 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on Books, Music, Photography, & Movies and commented:
    I love coffee (and to some extent tea). Especially the non-flavored ones. Why would you corrupt the bitter taste of coffee with some vanilla or hazelnut? I cannot imagine starting a day without a cup of coffee (or tea…specifically a masala Indian chai). If I did, you better stay a mile away from me.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. NONE of your kids drink coffee?? Exchange them for new ones. I also started drinking coffee at work. A billing typist can only stay awake with coffee nearby. This was right before they computerized the process. Coffee is delish and soothing and brings tog. a community. you can solve the world’s probs with a nice chat over good coffee.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I didn’t start drinking coffee until my twenties. At first, I wasn’t sure about the taste, but I needed it to make it through the days. Then, I realized that I loved it. No morning is complete without a cup or two of coffee to slowly wake up to the world with.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ha, as an editor who loves coffee, I can truly relate! No decaf, no flavors — for pity’s sake, just make it good, and make it strong. Served piping hot from my “I’m silently correcting your grammar” mug, preferably …

    Liked by 3 people

  11. What a pleasure to read and to “hear” from you, again, Glenn! … Veronica Bucio

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I didn’t start drinking until about three years ago, but I can’t stand it black, and I certainly don’t want it so strong it would walk, LOL! However, I do agree, that coffee can get your blood pumping and the creative juices flowing. If I’m up til 1 o’clock or later in the moring, working on a research project, or writing down every new idea that floods my tired brain, I gotta have my coffee in the mornings. Here’s to a good old cup of Java!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m really enjoying your entries…and to think you never wrote much for print. This is spot on. I was a tea drinker until I went to work for newspapers (at 18) and realized you simply couldn’t get a decent cup of tea out. Plus, working the 4 p.m. – midnight shift, you needed that kick in the ass.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I just reread this after it was recalled in a Facebook post by Mike Reed, one of our partners in crime at the late, lamented Houston Post (and now a celebrated author). Your paean to the most adult of beverages still ranks as the best — and truest — thing I’ve ever encountered online.

    Liked by 1 person

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