Hardscrabble 🍫

By Max Jacobson

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Un Americano re Japón y mucho cafe e ansiedad

March 12, 2011

So today on my lunch break I walk to the Stumptown cafe in the Ace Hotel on 29th street in Manhattan to buy a pound of “Hair Bender” coffee beans. I’d heard some good things, you know? It’s supposed to be really great. Ace Hotel seems like a really expensive youth hostel, or like a teen opium lounge, or like a nightclub/library hybrid with a chill bouncer or - and so I got on a serious line to buy some coffee, I was probably waiting for like ten minutes, and I hand over the bag and ask for an Americano - (which I used to be embarrassed to order because I was told it’s named that by Europeans who think we’re sissy for watering town our coffee but now I realize that’s actually how I like my coffee and it can’t be that pejorative if we’re using it all the time, like we can call each other and our drinks that and we’re sort of taking it back you know?) - and as the quiet, vested, bearded man makes it for me I realize it’s cash only and I only have two dollars and I’m going to have to go to the ATM in the lobby and I say sorry, I’ll be right back, da da da, and I go to the lobby and of course the ATM is currently being serviced and I’ll have to go find another one if I want any cash any time soon. So I start walking around and I think I remember I passed my bank on the way here and so I walk the three blocks and get some money and walk the three blocks back, and when I get back there’s, like, a gaggle of Muslims on 29th street now, like maybe fifty or sixty guys, all facing the same way - I look for a mosque and don’t see one, just a middle eastern restaurant - and preparing their prayer rugs, some on the sidewalk and some on the edge of the street, and praying as cars whiz by and the residents of stumptown gawk indifferently.

I go in and there’s another serious line - a bunch of people all facing the same way and praying you might say, and not unfairly - and I figure I should probably get back on it even though I don’t have all the time in the world, but the Vest sees me after a minute and says I should come up and pick up my things. They don’t seem to mind that I kinda ditched them for twenty minutes as I had fretted. He happily makes me another watered down pussy drink and offers me a bag for the hair bender, which I decline and (maybe) awkwardly stuff it in my coat pocket, and leave, past where all the guys had been and had somehow evacuated already.1

I’ve just done some light googling to learn more about the coffee I bought and I’m a little sorry to confess that my attentions drifted immediately to an essay by Ethan Epstein which seems aimed to splash cold water in the face of those who think they’re right to be taking certain pleasures in this endeavor of fancy coffee.

Yes, yes, it’s fun to pay an extra two dollars for them to brew it with that chemex thing you read about on the internet, and yes it’s fun to put on vests and not worry about the economic consequences of our purchases, and it is highly seductive to just take them at their word that they are in fact making the very best coffee in the world.

(Not that they actually said that, though you might feel like they didn’t need to.)

Ethan Epstein writes:

Stumptown shouldn’t be mistaken for the bohemian paradise that its owner and his legions of promoters and sycophants would have you believe. Like Starbucks, the company it professes to abhor, Stumptown provides a ready-made, generic bohemianism, one where people know exactly what to expect. Stumptown’s current strategy is essentially a retread of Starbucks’ corporate model from more than a decade ago.

That was published twenty-seven months ago, but I can report that they don’t seem to have been cowed by his criticism. There’s more to the article, and it’s certainly worth a read. But as much as I enjoyed the irascibility factor, it reminded me of another essay, one I read several months ago (via my cousin Rachel’s blog) called “Being a Hipster Is an Excellent and Wonderful Thing!”

In it, Maria Bustillos writes:

It’s easy to tell the difference between a hipster and a poseur, because while the former are mainly enjoying, the latter are mainly judging. The poseur is an aesthetic snob without aesthetic discernment; he sneers but has no understanding of standards. So instead of having fun sharing their arcane things together, the poseurs are having zero fun pretending to not like anything. As Nietzsche put it most memorably: The man who despises himself nevertheless esteems himself as one who despises. These two kinds of people really are just worlds apart, even though they may find themselves living in the same neighborhood and going to the same rock show.

It would be unfair of me to take her general criticism and pass it through a magnifying class and focus them on this relatively old piece. What I really mean to focus it on is my own weird head, because these are things I struggle with and I relate to both pieces very much, and they’re both pulling at me, and I want to be more like “Maria” but I’m afraid I’m not.

Maria continues:

So what are these alleged good reasons for praising the hipsters? There are two. One is to decrease suffering among the youngs, because there should be no shame ever surrounding the love of or identification with a place, a way of life, a band or a pair of glasses. There could be so much more happiness (and inventiveness, and liberty) if people were just free to just love what they love without having to worry about whether or not they are going to be crucified for being a hipster.

That was five months ago. It was around then that I probably first heard of the Aerobie Aeropress espressor maker, which comes from the same inventor of such “High Performance Sport Toys” as the Aerobie Pro ring, which apparently has been thrown farther than anything else has been thrown.

Lately I’ve been growing dissatisfied with my french press for a couple of reasons that the Aeropress seems to solve2 so I said “unnnnh fuck it” and bought one and tonight I used it to make some hairs bend and it was good. I think it’ll get better as I get a hang of the contraption (which looks like a penis enlarger). I enjoyed it, and I think that’s an important step toward being my inner Maria.

  1. Now I’m wondering if the Muslims were perhaps sending their prayers to Japan, and if perhaps I’m a real rube for thinking about coffee and hipster culture and anxiety while thousands of people are losing their homes and dying across the world and how I never know what to say on days like today so I either stay quiet or can’t stop talking and today I tweeted this and maybe that wasn’t that funny but it was all I could think to say. 

  2. It brews faster, is easier to clean up, and doesn’t have the sediment in the drink, without losing the taste. It had been my understanding that the main boon of french press was the lack of paper filter, which ensured that all of the oils in the coffee grounds weren’t stuck in the filter. The Aeropress does have a filter, but claims that this isn’t an issue. 

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