Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Coffee-drinking, art-loving, word-smithing & SNOWBOUND





Have you ever been so distracted by the pursuit of coffee that you lost track of time---and then found out that all the while you were coffee-klatching, a potential disaster was unfolding? That was me on Thursday, November 15---the day of the nor’easter that we all underreacted to until we were stuck in Penn Station, and our children were stuck on buses, while thousands of people were stuck in gridlock that lasted up to 12 to 14 hours, forcing them to deal with their biologic needs the best they could.

Newsbar @ 13th & University



After a full morning of working alone, I met up with two of my colleagues (2 amazing women-editors), at News Bar Café near Union Square, to work on a project and drink endless cups of coffee, while enjoying various soups, breads and sweets. News Bar has a traditional wooden exterior, and a café-pub-like feel, with large plate glass windows at the front of the café.  
Teresa, Jess and Nicole drinnking coffee @ Newsbar

The best way to describe the feeling of being in News Bar at midday as the snow innocently swirled around outside is ‘fika’---a Scandinavian term meaning ‘cozy happiness,’ which usually includes drinking hot drinks in warm settings, against the backdrop of cold, often wintry weather, outdoors.

We accomplished what we came to accomplish, and determined that we had worked so hard and so long that it was time for a break. 

Picasso’s unintentional ode to coffee
Like almost everyone else in NYC and New Jersey, we were clueless about the magnitude of the growing storm. So we went to MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art) in midtown. We ubered, and it took 45 minutes to get from 13th Street to 53rd Street---on the east side (a long time for a non-rush-hour trip, even in NYC). Still, we ambled forward like art-hungry foragers looking for soup cans, green helicopters, a starry night, and screaming aliens. Although we found out that Warhol’s soup cans were loaned out, and Munch’s Scream was no longer there (it had actually been loaned in from a private collector for years, but was now gone), each of us found something to get really excited about— works by Kandinsky (Teresa), Rousseau (Jess), and Picasso (Picasso’s Repose, from spring 1908, was my favorite that day).

Repose by Picasso (@MOMA)

When I walked into the room where Repose hangs, I saw it and immediately felt a sense of calmness and well-being. My friend/colleague, Jess, suggested that the reason I love it so much is because its palette is so coffee-esque. Looking at Repose is the visual equivalent of walking into a coffee shop where many different types of coffee are brewing at the same time. Repose is a lady-in-waiting, waiting on a cup of coffee. She sits dreaming of hazelnut-, mocha-, Sumatra-, and Kona-infused coffees.


Snow globe magic meets nor’easter reality
After seeing this painting, we decided to head to the café on the second floor to actually drink coffee---one of my favorite things to do at MOMA. The staff was characteristically polite, and the coffee and espresso drinks were hot, bold, and well-brewed. Best of all was sitting and looking down out of the café’s large window facing 53rd Street. The snow swirled around like a scene from a snow globe. It was all magical and festive---until I got the call from my oldest daughter that my youngest daughter (aged 7), had been stuck on her school bus for more than 2 hours.

Of course, I totally freaked out, and decided to go straight to Penn to try to get home and manage the situation from there. But when we walked out of MOMA, it was clear to me that this was not a ‘manageable’ situation. The snow that looked magical had suddenly become menacing (at least in terms of transportation), and the streets of NYC were absolute chaos, though of course, as I approached Times Square on foot (heading to Penn with Teresa), much gaiety ensued (e.g., fully grown adults in Santa hats scaring small children).

Watching the snow & drinking amazing cofee

After many phone calls, and trains that were stuck in tunnels or packed to the gills at Penn Station, I made it onto a train and finally home, where I discovered two daughters---one who had been stuck on a bus for 4 hours and another who had waited for her outside almost 3 hours. All told, it was challenging, but they are none the worse for the wear.
Penn Station 11-15-18


Giving thanks ahead of Thanksgiving
In the spirit of gratitude, I was blissed out that we all made it home, though I was up late (drinking home-brewed Dunkin’ Donuts hazelnut coffee) following the various pilgrimages of friends trekking home from all over the tristate area. Eventually, everyone made it home---but some people ended up not getting there until the wee hours of the next day---just in time to go to bed for a few hours, wake up, drink lots of coffee, and do it all over again. 


Frolicking in snow showers



Sunday, November 11, 2018

Raise your cup to Veterans---coffee-fueled heroism has always been a ‘thing’


In honor of Veteran’s Day, many coffee chains, including Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, have been giving free coffee and coffee drinks to Veterans. This is just one way to show respect to these hard-working individuals, who have served our country faithfully. It may seem like a small gesture, but ask any military man or woman about coffee, and they will tell you that coffee is a HUGE deal when it comes being in the service---whether you’re on the battlefield, or in a supportive role. 

Coffee is the lifeblood for most demanding professions, from doctors, to traders, teachers, and construction crews---the day cannot start properly without a strong infusion of coffee.  Add to this list, soldiers and other military professionals, who drink coffee, frequently, in large amounts.



Coffee-obsessed Soldiers

 NPR aired a segment in 2016, which revealed that coffee was an obsession during the Civil War. In fact, according to Smithsonian curator, Jim Grinspin, during the Civil War, letters from soldiers mentioned coffee more than slavery, guns, or President Lincoln.  They droned on and on about the coffee they would have for breakfast.  Union men depended on it for every aspect of combat.

Confederate soldiers weren’t as lucky. When the war started, Union soldiers closed southern ports, meaning nothing could come in---not even coffee.  Indeed, coffee was a major competitive advantage for Union soldiers.

From one century to the next, coffee is front and center

Fast forward to the major wars of the 20th century---WW1 and WW2---and reliance on coffee only increased. During WW1 each soldier got 36 pounds of coffee, which they brewed with any water they could get---fresh water ideally, as well as brackish water, rain run-off, and even water from puddles.

And how about the 21st century? Coffee has been elevated even more in military life. In June, the U.S. Army did an analysis involving soldiers and coffee-drinking (caffeinated coffee), with the goal of determining the optimal amount of caffeine for a soldier. The article was published in the Journal of Sleep Research. The upshot: Researchers found that consuming an optimal amount of coffee/caffeine can increase soldiers’ level of alertness by 64%.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were no more wars, where there would be soldiers craving coffee. That vision, however, is not grounded in reality. War is a persistent part of the human experience, unfortunately.  So given that reality, let’s hope that soldiers are getting the coffee they need, and enjoying every drop of it.