New York Press' Gut Instinct: Junkie Love

It is true.

I know what it takes to keep my girlfriend from going crazy.

“I don’t go crazy,” she says.

I pause. This is a critical conversational juncture. One misspoken modifier, one unclear adjective could spell doom—or, more likely, a few days when our bedroom relations are as chilly as the North Pole.

“Hon, first thing in the morning, you need coffee. Without it, you become, well…” I trail off. Sometimes words are best unspoken, especially when they rhyme with itch.

“I like my coffee,” she says, getting defensive. Like is too weak. When ranking things she loves, I would list: me, our wonder mutt Sammy and coffee, not necessarily in the order. “I go to bed excited, because I know I can drink coffee in the morning,” she says. It’s the kind of language common to alcoholics, thirsting for that lovely a.m. bloom of warming, mood-brightening booze. Whether it’s alcohol, coffee or narcotics, that first fix is always the finest.

I know I’m the last person to judge an addiction. Sweet jelly beans, I’d need every finger and toe to count the number of times last month I awoke pants-less, head like a construction site, forced to crab across the ground in search of aspirin. But damn, my girlfriend’s a java junkie.

This has created interpersonal coffee wars to rival any minor Middle East skirmish. She usually rises before me, right after dawn cracks our bedroom window, in order to sneak in a morning run or a Sammy stroll. To fuel her active lifestyle, she requires inky java.

Solving this dilemma is simple: fill our metal French press with several fat scoops of dark-roasted Gorilla coffee or, more recently, beans from Brooklyn Heights bulk-food emporium Sahadi’s. Here, amid bins of cheap nuts and dried fruit, a pound of fine coffee—as black as beaches after the BP oil spill—runs as low as five smackers. At prices like these, anybody can become a caffeine fiend! Anybody!

Anyway, the problem is not cost. It’s quantity. Our French press only makes a bit more than two mugs of coffee. In a just world, we’d split the coffee even-steven. Half for you, half for me, makes a happy family. However, my girlfriend loves to drink from enormous vessels. Her water glass is a liter beer stein she filched from Astoria’s Bohemian Beer Garden. (“They have tons. They’ll never miss a glass,” she says, like a criminal angling for a score.)

Then there’s her coffee mug. It’s so big, several goldfish could spend an afternoon swimming around and never touch tails. Filling it requires nearly a full French press, leaving me a couple inches of grounds-strewn wake-up juice. “Just make more,” she says, her glasses merrily fogging with coffee steam. I get steamed. I could make more, but that’s not the point. It’s share and share alike. I try explaining this to her, but when you’re dealing with addicts, common sense doesn’t always make sense.

However, this inferno summer has thrown a crimp in our coffee consumption. Thanks to the mercury topping triple digits, drinking hot-brewed coffee has become a kind of torture the CIA could support. The solution is iced coffee. But I’m a cheap, cheap bastard. The thought of blowing two or three dollars a day on iced coffee is as unpleasant as a proctology exam. I started researching the most cost-effective way to craft iced coffee, stumbling across a website touting the cold-water Filtron system.

“With the Filtron, you’ll see, smell and taste a cup of coffee that’s beyond compare,” the ad copy touted. More appealing: the picture of a milk bottle–size carafe containing dark, concentrated coffee, enough to make 45 or 50 normal cups of java. I saw our coffee wars dissolving like Kool-Aid in water. I bought Filtron. I followed instructions. I made cold-brewed coffee possessing an unparalleled richness, with a smooth character and nary an iota of oily acidity. In the words of the copywriter, it was beyond compare.

I tested it out on my harshest critic, giving her a full cup mixed with sugar and milk. “How is it?” I asked, watching her slurp. She slurped some more. Then she slurped even more, draining the tan potion until only droplets remained.

“It’s perfect,” she said, smiling with beige-tinted teeth. “Can I have some more?”

“Of course,” I answered, filling her cup to the brim with black love.

Read—and vote for—the original column at the Press' site.

Gut Instinct: Killer Commute

It's my habitat. It's the place where things happen at.

Lately, dear readers, I’ve suffered in unthinkable fashion: I’ve worn pants and T-shirts and worked in a Midtown office. To blame? The monetary demands of a holiday I don’t celebrate.

“What are you getting me for Christmas?” my girlfriend asked, sending me an Amazon wish list as long as the Dead Sea scrolls.

“Christ-what?” “I’ve already bought you you’re gifts.” “I don’t exchange gifts.” It’s true.

Around age 15 my family stopped pretending that Hanukkah is the Jewish Christmas.

Instead, we gorged on crisp, fluffy latkes and brisket cooked in French-onion soup.

“We’re exchanging gifts this year,” she said, with the finality of a mom ordering her son to eat his peas—or else.

In order to ably demonstrate my love via commercial goods, I rented my editing acumen to area publishing houses.This necessitates a necessary evil: commuting.

Though the recession is a royal bummer, I hoped fewer employed New Yorkers would equal an uncrowded subway. Not so. Cutbacks have made service as unpredictable as Mike Tyson, with every car crammed like a cattle train.

To soothe my commute- and work-jangled nerves, I’ve taken to treating myself with liquid luxuries. After, say, a grueling day of sorting out their versus there, I’ll head to Astor Wine & Spirits (399 Lafayette St., at E. 4th St., 212-674- 7500) and buy a bottle of bourbon. Work has allowed me to discover the pleasures of cherries-and-molasses Buffalo Trace and smoky, spicy Elmer T. Lee. Nothing flips a frown upside down quite like a double bourbon on the rocks.

Come a.m., though, I indulge in my other addiction: coffee. I’ve been a java junkie since 16. During high school, I’d spend my eves sequestered in booths at Midwestern greasy spoons such as Perkins and Waffle House. There I’d nurse my bottomless Joe till my nerves were live wires and I jabbered as speedily as a cokehead— as a drug, caffeine remains my first and undying love.

Most mornings, I’ll make do with a French press full of dark-roasted Gorilla coffee. But when commuting, I pop into Crown Heights’ bright Glass Shop (766 Classon Ave., betw. St. Johns & Sterling Pls., no phone). This is my Brooklyn hood’s first

fancy-pants caffeine depot, where bewhiskered baristas pull mean espressos made with Philadelphia’s rich La Colombe Torrefaction beans. Yuppie? You bet. My neighborhood friend Moses decried the gentrifying java, proclaiming, “Move to East New York while rent’s still cheap.” I disagree. I like actual, you know, amenities. After seven years of my best coffee option being watery bodega swill, I crave an espresso crowned with nice crema.

This brings me to last Tuesday: Americano in hand, humming, I boarded a Manhattan-bound 2 train at Eastern Parkway.

The car was a ghost town. Perhaps there were fresh Wall Street layoffs? I rested my hindquarters and read my guilty pleasure: vintage detective novels—in this case, a murderous Mickey Spillane whodunnit. It was an idyllic commute. But reader, you know my calm will quickly shatter.

At Atlantic Avenue, commuters streamed aboard. For passengers planted beside empty seats, this is a moment of terror. Will it be the corpulent lady with an iPod cranked louder than a 747 takeoff, or the stick-thin student reading his textbook? It’s a crapshoot. I rolled snake eyes. A graybeard in his mid-fifties, ambling with a cane, took the empty spot beside me. Then he spread his trunk-like legs wide—as if he were giving birth—and burped. It smelled like a fast-food menu.

I wiggled to the right, freeing my arms so I could sip coffee. My movements jostled my neighbor, who grunted like a warthog and squirmed like an earthworm. Neither baseball nor football is New Yorkers’ favorite pastime: It’s passive-aggression, the one sport where everyone’s on an equally annoying playing field. As the train shuddered beneath the East River and aimed north in Manhattan, we rubbed and we elbowed, carving out space quickly reclaimed by the other. It was a wordless battle with no winners, only two sore losers.

The train screeched into Times Square.

My stop. Passengers spewed forth. I swigged more wake-up juice, perhaps a hair too heartily. My neighbor turned to me, eyes tight with fury, and snarled, “I hope you’re enjoying your fucking coffee.”

“I was until you opened your mouth” would’ve been the correct New Yorker response. But the recent underground stabbing served as a sobering reminder of the city’s unpredictability. Life or death can boil down to something as simple as a seat. I gathered my belongings and smiled, my shit-eating grin, appropriately, stained coffee-brown.

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