Monday, November 30, 2009
This is going to be a mish-mash of ideas I've had over the past week. I've discovered that the time between boarding a plane and liftoff are some of the most creative moments, and I tried to make good use of them between flying to St. Louis and flying home.

Sitting on my jet in preparation for my return flight from St. Louis and thinking back on the week I'd just spent with family, I wondered what a miracle it is that I live at this place in time, that a two month journey by foot, a month by wagon, twelve hours by car might be accomplished in just over an hour by air. Also, in just below two hours, the Concorde jet is capable of spanning the Atlantic Ocean, and the space shuttle may orbit our planet in its entirety.

How splendid, indeed.

So, I ask you, was it luck or merely coincidence that I awoke into this life? Is it not equally plausible that I might have awoken in third-world Africa, or as a Shah in Dubai? I'm not speaking of my physical form, mind you, as that could only have come from my parents. Rather, I'm speaking of the spark that gives me consciousness, that sets my heart to beating, my eyes to seeing, my mind to dreaming. Consciousness itself is a fragile and transient thing, disrupted by elation, death, dreams, and myriad other states of being that send ripples through our individual realities, distorting our continuance and rendering the validity of our perceptions null and void.

I consider this all RIGHT NOW, because the plane I'm sitting on is more than capable of extinguishing the timid flame that burns within. As we taxi out my heart begins to race. My eyes are set outside the window, a million thoughts running through my head. Passing lights of multiple colors that line the runway, the cracked tarmac in desperate need of a pave, the pilots twitchy adjustments of course, my stomach and my lungs being pushed into my seatback by ever-increasing lateral Gs. As we gain speed, the dull bass drone of the engines grows louder, louder, forcing all thoughts out of my head save that at the present moment the severe frictional strains on every nut and bolt of the craft might prove JUST TOO SEVERE, snapping the landing gear, or the wings like twigs and sending us plowing back to Earth with all deliberate speed.

I draw a breath and hold it till it burns. The adrenaline pumps into my brain, faster, faster, slowing the moment until the jet, screaming down the runway at two hundred miles per hour, may very well not be moving at all. The world outside is a muddled blur. Speed mounts. The drone of the engines is at a fever pitch, and my palms sweat.

Faster
Faster

And it is at the point when the front wheels leave the tarmac, that you feel the sickening dip as the back wheels leave and the wings catch a breeze, that time halts and the anxiety is infinite. It is at that time that I break through.

LIFTOFF.

The breath I held, I now exhale.

~

So, in other news, I found a brilliant little shop up in downtown Belleville, about fifteen minutes east of St. Louis. The shop is set in an historic building on Main Street, the interior is all light hardwood neatly varnished, with walls covered in local art and lined with bookcases filled with literature of all types. In one corner rests an acoustic guitar, beaten well. I put this to use for nearly an hour. The highlight of the shop, obviously, is the coffee bar, boasting a beautifully cared-for La Marzocco Linea, its trademark deco logo shining proudly for each and every customer. A homemade fixture showered soft light down on the machine. In front of the bar was a feeding trough stocked with fresh bags of coffee. The coffee is imported green by the owners son and roasted in the back. They had a selection of African and South American beans. The coffee I enjoyed was a Kenyan, which I was moved to purchase a bag of. It was floral, a bit fruity, light. It was a fantastic breakfast coffee. I am anxious to see how this coffee will work when run through an espresso machine.

I mentioned these notes to the owner, who was working behind the bar, and she joined me in a cozy corner to talk shop for a while. At the present, her and her husband run the only specialty coffee shop within twenty miles in any direction, capturing business from students in town and the numerous attorneys lining Main Street. I mentioned my shop in Atlanta and she immediately called her son only to state that he had been in the shop not a month ago, with a church group. I grinned ear to ear as I told her I had assisted her sons group in a scavenger hunt they were conducting. I believe I offered them dishes to wash. It's fantastic how small the world seems sometimes. We discussed competition, machinery (she procured a four-group Linea for just over $4000), and the general direction the coffee industry is taking.

I enjoyed the conversation, I enjoyed the shop, and first and foremost, i enjoyed the coffee. So, if anyone happens to be in the area and dig the cozy shop vibe, check out Oregon Trail Roasting Company, in downtown Belleville, IL.

In my next post, I'll talk about some industry-specific topics, like third-wave practices, and about the virtues of sending everyday coffees through an espresso machine just for kicks.

Later,

Dan

Daniel Stewart Mueller at 10:32 AM |

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