Thursday, May 9, 2024



I left you hanging with a mention of another drug that I didn’t give up after the bad trip.

That was caffeine.

(I never got into tabacco products. Nicotine had no allure for me, but that’s another story . . .)

I wasn’t a coffee snob being persnickety over the specifics of a concoction with lots of milk products, flavoring and spices. This was drug abuse. My relationship with caffeine was what allowed me to write about addiction. Again, research. 

I liked it black—what the baristas these days call “cafe Americano”—and strong. I couldn’t imagine starting a day without a few bitter cups to get my nerves jangling.

At home, I would use instant coffee, which the current generation finds shocking, but when you don’t care about esoteric taste sensations, it provides a way to bring on a buzz that has near-hallucinogenic effects.

Another perk is that it’s legal, and socially acceptable, a psychoactive drug with an entire industry devoted to making it available. Imagine an alternate universe where addicts on the street consume supercharged crack/fentanyl-like caffeine products while law-abiding citizens enjoy cigarettes and chewing gum laced with coca and opioids. There but for the grace of Xochipilli . . .

After a while, I began to notice the jitters making me sloppy, in writing, and my day job at Borders, where they provided free coffee for the employees—fiendish, huh? At my yearly doctor’s checkup my blood-pressure was always a little high.

“Did you have any coffee today?” the doc would ask.

When I said yes, he’d tell me to skip it tomorrow and come back and I would be okay.

Then my dad died.

He had high blood pressure, and heart disease got him.

I remember a high school teacher saying, “For a lot of people, their first sign of heart disease is their death.”

I made some adjustments in my diet and decided to give up caffeine. And since my wife, Emily, had decaffeinated earlier, and was sneaking more and more decaf into my (now non-instant) brew, it was easy.

It hasn’t seemed to affect my writing. Most of the stories in Guerrilla Mural of a Siren’s Song were written under the influence. The later stories are different in that I’m an older writer who has managed to learn a few things. I must admit that my first drafts aren’t quite as messy as they once were, sort of . . .

I still drink coffee, decaf, and I seem to get a placebo-effect buzz off it.

Sometimes when in an outback areas where they have religious objections to decaf, I’ll down some regular–because I believe that Puritanism is a bad idea, never say never–and it’s . . . fun!

But whatever it is, the more you use, and the older you get, it gets less fun.

George Carlin in his old age would keep one joint in his house, and when he’d get stuck writing, he’d light up, take a toke, and get back to work. That’s the way I am with caffeine these days.

Because it’s the work that’s important. And who knows what kind of “research” it may require.

Speaking of which, I have more research I need to get back to . . .

1 comment:

  1. This one and the last were extra fun reads! It's the same in NJ; no real sign of election fever.