Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Land of the Long Black

There’s a great moment in U2 By U2 where Bono, returning from a year or more of nonstop touring, asks a friend, “Do you have a routine I could use?” The friend, knowing that Bono hasn’t had any domestic stability in a long time, explains how he likes to get up in the morning, go to a local coffee shop, converse with the regulars, and read the newspaper. Bono is amazed by this.

I’ve been home a week now, regaining my hemispheric equilibrium, contemplating the second draft of the Viking epic, and wondering about the shape of my life. The office feels more distant than ever, a miniature corporate diorama observed through the wrong end of a telescope. I don’t remember the lights being so . . . fluorescent. My house is cluttered and leaden, full of things I don’t use or need, things I can’t carry with me. The local highways, eerily empty upon our early-morning return, confound me. How do I get from A to B?

I’ve always been a creature of structure and routine. Each day begins with The Coffee Ritual, a meticulous way of producing a simple cup of press-pot coffee, taken black. This is my preferred style, but in New Zealand I learned that it’s hard to find anything similar. There is no drip coffee, what most Americans are used to, but instead a panoply of familiar-sounding styles: long blacks, short blacks, flat whites. I tended to favor the long black, but on occasion would order the half-strength Americano. At Wellington’s celebrated Caffe L’affare this came in the form of a single shot of espresso accompanied by a cup of hot water. I had to assemble the drink myself, like tea.

Funny how something as simple as coffee can remain a constant across continents and time zones, a touchstone of familiarity and longing, something to hold onto when the world feels foreign. And now The Coffee Ritual points irrevocably back the other way to my brief sojourn in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

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Anonymous Eric said...

Ah...coffee. Some say that coffee itself sparked The Enlightenment, the industrial revolution, the technological revolution... Without coffee, we simply don't work as hard. Having a beer at lunch like they did in middle ages Europe just ain't the sort of thing that increases production a whole lot.

So, thank or blame coffee for all we have, depending on your point of view.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Ryan Rasmussen said...

It is amazing anything got done at all. The guys building Suomenlinna, the "Gibraltar of the North," got a liter of hard alcohol every day. [Random historical reference over.]

11:37 AM  
Blogger Brian Sibley said...

Even coffees that go by the same name are not guranteed as BEING the same in different parts of the world...

The same is true of tea: a cuppa in Boston, Lincolnshire wouldn't taste remotely like one in Boston, Mass... But then the American Bostonians always did drown their tea!

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Eric D. Lehman said...

Haha...I remember drinking possibly my best cuppa ever, in the cheap little tea house in Regent's Park, London. Amazed at the quality of it, I checked what tea they were using - common Twinings -which I had sipped many a day here in the US. But that was NOT the same Twinings, despite the fact that it was marketed as such.

2:50 PM  
Blogger Ryan Rasmussen said...

The Twinings green tea we had on a train in Denmark was also definitely a cut above the US version. I smell a sinister plot...

7:39 PM  
Blogger Qenny said...

There is another coffee shop in NZ, run by a guy called Mad Dave, and they do the best coffee I have ever had. His ristretto is quite heart-breakingly good.

Some NZ places do drop coffee, but I always found the tendency was generally to make it quite weak - far too much water paired up with far too little coffee grounds. The result was unpalatably anaemic.

All the same, the lifestyle there is just wonderful. Can't wait to go back.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Sounds like it was a great trip!

C u when we see you!


7:58 PM  
Blogger Ryan Rasmussen said...

Hey, Fun Joel! NZ was great.

And congrats on your assignment and making the leap! Sounds like your research is going to be a blast.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Ryan Rasmussen said...

And welcome, Qenny! I hope you get the chance to go back to NZ.

8:43 AM  

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