Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Leisure time in general

Having no obligations and nothing you really should be doing is pretty cool sometimes. In fact, sometimes it's just plain awesome. But not always. Sometimes having the complete unquestioned authority over what to do with your time, and then exercising that authority, can lead to pretty disappointing results. Example: I have nothing to do for a while, so I figure I'll watch a DVD. Sounds reasonable. What DVD? I'd like to think that every one I own is decent -- can't really go wrong, right? In theory any of these should provide more than enough entertainment to fill a couple of hours. Which is true, to a point. By which I mean, as long as you don't overanalyze the situation too much. Naturally, that's exactly what I end up doing. I get about 30-45 minutes into the movie (really doesn't matter what movie it is) and I start thinking, "This is it? This is what I'm choosing to entertain myself with? Of all the basically limitless fun-producing options available to me, I really thought this was the best possible way to go? As good a movie as Adaptation is, does it really trump every single other activity I could have involved myself in right now? Should I have watched something else? Would that have made any difference? Isn't sitting on the couch watching a movie a pretty lame activity anyway?"

And so forth. I mean, I'm sure if you took all my leisure time away I'd go crazy in no time. But I'm not sure having it really keeps you from going crazy, either.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

They said it couldn't be done... or was that "shouldn't"?

I think it's time for another detox week. This decision doesn't come as the result of a whole lot of soul-searching and reading of philosophical texts or anything, but mainly from two points:

Point the first: Caffeine isn't providing me with the thrilling rush that it used to. I don't even know if it's doing anything at this point except taking money from my wallet.

Point the second: As not-that-much-fun as my last detox week was, it had one huge upside. Once it was over, every iced latte from Starbucks was like some kind of spectacular wonder-drug -- I'm talking borderline-psychedelic levels of euphoria. If I can get back to that point, and save money in the process, why not?

I'll probably start on Saturday morning.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Upping the dosage

I don't know if self-medicating has lost its sheen or if I just haven't been getting enough sleep. I feel fine, but the "zing" factor is somewhat diminished. Today I've had:

1 fairly concentrated cup of Manhattan Mud coffee from Urth
1 grande nonfat iced latte from you-know-where
1 20 ounce Diet Pepsi

Maybe getting hit by that series of tranq darts earlier had more of an effect than I realized. I guess next time I should pick some place to go jogging where they're not trying to capture a rabid wolf. Speaking of which, those things are totally not as cuddly as they look. You can't even play "got your nose" with them! No sense of humor whatsoever. And now I can't even swallow water.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Me: 1, Addiction: 0

Sure, I like to throw around fun phrases like "caffeine addiction" and "chemical dependency" and "3 AM trip to the methodone clinic" but as it turns out, I don't think I'm quite there yet. Right now caffeine and I have more of a friends-with-benefits thing than an actual committed relationship. Okay, sometimes it's friends with a lot of benefits, but be that as it may, I consumed zero caffeine for my first 8 hours of wakefulness on Sunday and even then only had an Ultimate Ice Blended from Coffee Bean -- and that was it for the day. Yes, I have the coffeemaker in my house and it would have been incredibly easy to brew up a cup with the usual near-lethal dosage of Sumatra Dark grounds when I got up, but I chose not to.

Did I get a headache? Did my body twitch relentlessly? Did my brain become hopelessly muddled, incapable of making any decisions more complex than whether or not to pee? Well, in the words of Modernist poet William Carlos Williams, hell to the no!

So I really don't think there's much to worry about. I guess growing up in New England automatically instills you with some of those everything-good-is-bad-for-you values, which is why I might be inclined to think that something horrendous is going to come out of all this, but clearly that just ain't the case.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Mr. Coffee could be a medical doctor in England, because they still call them Mr. there

But it's still only brewing about 1/4 the amount of coffee it's pretending to. Where does the rest of the water go? I never have any extra to pour out. I think my coffeemaker has a dehydrating parasite -- well, it was made in China, and you never know what it could have picked up there. Either that, or there's a very small, very thirsty person living inside the coffee reservoir.

I'll give it some more practice this weekend and get it into shape. If anything, the coffee seemed a little weaker today than yesterday. I'm a stickler but I can't help it. I want my coffee so fucking black that the room gets a little dimmer when you pour it, and when I taste it I want to forget that water is even a component of it. (1 sentence essay, "What Coffee Means To Me," copyright NJR 2005.)

In lieu of the Diet Pepsi today, I had a Matcha Green Tea Boost in my Protein Berry Pizazz from Jamba Juice (fuck, that's a lot of silly product names for one sentence). I don't know if it gave me the same level of kick, but seeing as how my trip to the dentist only afforded enough time to drink my lunch with a straw, I thought I might as well use one $5 stone to kill two birds, one of hunger and the other of addiction. Tomorrow I'll get back to the mystical 20 ounces of aspartame and artificial color that I love so much.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Behind caffeinated doors

I wasn't just whistling dixie last week; I actually brought home a coffeemaker last night. It's a Mr. Coffee model, which I'm still not sure how they ever got away with such a generic name for a product (Mr. Car? Mr. Stapler? Mr. Supercolliding Semiconductor? I don't think any of those would fly) but I don't really care because it seems to at least partially work. I mean "partially" quite literally there. I set it up overnight to brew me 2 cups in the morning (yeah, it's got the fancy programmed-delay thingy) and when I woke up, it had brewed (or is that brewn?) a grand total of half a cup. Maybe that was my fault for actually going by the printed numbers on the side of the coffeemaker that show you how much water to put in. After that, I put in enough for about 3-4 cups and it brewed me about a cup. So I did at least get a cup and a half in all. That whole situation does call into question the validity of referring to it as a 12-cup coffeemaker, since if you extrapolate the above quantities, you'd have to put in the full 12 cups worth of water to make about 3 actual cups. Or maybe in the coffeemaker world, just putting the number "12" on the water level meter gives you sufficient license to market the product as such. I'm not too familiar with the ethical standards of the hot beverage industry.

Anyway, the coffee I chose for my first brewing was Sumatra Dark from Coffee Bean. I don't have a grinder yet, because has mindfucked me into a formless oblivion about all the different types of grinders and their various pros and cons, so I had the Coffee Bean guy grind the beans on the (presumably) fancy Coffee Bean machine. I realize this means they won't last very long, but so be it. The coffee tasted pretty good and I'm sure will get better once I really turn the coffeemaker into my bitch, rather than standing by timidly as it does whatever the fuck it feels like.

Monday, August 15, 2005

It's over!

Oh yeah, I'm so far off the wagon that it's a tiny speck in the distance. But I did my week and now, thank god, it's over. If I had it to do all over again, I think what I'd first change is the part about not drinking caffeine for a week. Because caffeine is awesome, and that's just stupid. But the other main thing I'd change is the way I broke my fast. Did I wake up Sunday morning a little groggy and head out for a nice tall iced latte from Coffee Bean? Um, no. I grabbed a handful of dark chocolate espresso beans at 12:30 A.M. and chowed down. Consumption of plenty of booze prior to/after that enabled me to fall into a blissful sleep at about 3 AM, but the catch was that I bolted awake 3 hours later; the alcohol was fully digested by then, leaving those concentrated caffeine nuggets to hop in their El Camino and go cruising through my blood/brain barrier. I got a couple more scattered hours of sleep and spent Sunday mostly in a haze. Thus, ironically, the relapse was more difficult than the detox. How about that?

Today was totally different, though. Got a good night's sleep, felt pretty much awake the first couple hours of the day, felt, in fact, like I didn't really need to go to Starbucks. I just went because I could. And holy fucking shit, did I ever feel great after that. Even 2 hours later, as I was walking back to my car to go home for lunch, I actually said to myself, "Damn, I feel fucking great."

I've never done any recreational stimulant drugs, but I don't see how they could be any better than caffeine. Plus, as I understand it, they're expensive. Caffeine = cheap and comes inside a tasty drink (as in the case of an iced latte or diet Pepsi, both of which I've had today) or a delicious snack (as in the case of Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered espresso beans, which I've also had).

So in conclusion, no, I'm not a caffeine addict. I could quit at any time, and I even proved it. But I don't plan on doing it again anytime soon.

Friday, August 12, 2005

When all is said and done, this may be proven stupid

But so what? That's how a lot of things in my life end up. I just make sure that enough things are proven smart so that I end up being seen as relatively intelligent. I won't bore you with the whole process.

Yeah, so I'm pretty sure that once I'm done with this caffeine fast I'm really going to dive even farther into the habit. Nothing's off limits anymore. I'll get my coffeemaker and grinder and fancy-ass coffee beans, and maybe I'll even have a cup in the morning IN ADDITION to a Starbucks trip around 10:00. And then a Diet Pepsi later. And right before I go to bed, I'll brew a double espresso and snort the leftover grounds after I drink it. Why not? Coffee and caffeine are everywhere. We're obviously supposed to consume as much of them as possible. Is there anywhere you buy food of any kind that you can't get a cup of coffee? Is there any square block in America that doesn't have at least one Coke or Pepsi machine? Someone once told me that at most Hollywood industry parties, it's easier to get a line of coke than a glass of water. I think the same is true of capital-c Coke everywhere else.

So let's embrace the poison, people. We'll run out of fossil fuels, we'll destroy the ozone layer, and we'll cut down all the trees in all the forests in the world, but the caffeine rush will remain even when cockroaches and Janice Dickinson's face are the only ones around to appreciate it.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

In the home stretch, sorta

I had a dream last night where I was pouring myself some coffee from two different containers and mixing it together and drinking it. Then a few sips in I realized that I wasn't supposed to, that I was breaking my vow. But I looked at one of the containers and it was decaf. Saved! And the other one... at first I thought it said decaf, but then I saw that it wasn't. And I said, goddamnit, I only made it to Thursday. That's really pathetic. Barely half the week.

So is this rock bottom yet? Having dreams about sort of accidentally drinking coffee and then feeling crappy about it? At least, since it was a dream, I could have just gone nuts and sucked down an Extreme Ice Blended from Coffee Bean chased with a double espresso and a handful of Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate-Covered Espresso Beans (watch out for those on Saturday, people).

Time for another non-caffeinated beverage. Joyful, joyful, we fucking adore thee.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Caffeine-less for a fourth

I don't have headaches or nausea or hallucinations. Thankfully. Except for the last one -- hallucinations would be kind of fun. But I do want my goddamn caffeine back. I really, really do. Honestly, I'm not sure how caffeine has escaped being classified as a recreational drug and criminalized. But let's not talk about that anymore.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Still no caffeine, still not dead

Drinking a venti passion iced tea with lemonade (as I just did) might turn me into a girl, but at least it's not violating the rules. It's also not doing much to spike my neural activity. That's why I'm pretty much stuck after writing 2 sentences.

Where was I again?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Day 2

I assume that by now there is no caffeine in my system (as you may recall, yesterday was my first caffeine-free day). Surprisingly enough, I don't feel like crap. I'm having a caffeine-free passion iced tea from Starbucks right now, because it would be fairly selfish of me to allow their business to cave in just for the sake of my silly experiment.

On the plus side: grande iced latte = $3.15 whereas grande iced tea = $1.70. That's a whopping $1.45 left over to spend on hookers and 8-balls.

I don't think this is going to be all that difficult, really. If I had to give up booze for any length of time, that would be much harder. Especially mojitos prepared by certain people. I think those are just about the pinnacle of anything that can be served in a glass. Or bowl, trough, or cupped hand; I'm not picky.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Caffeino Ultimo

This is it, my last day of caffeine consumption for the week. Um... last weekday caffeine consumption for the week. Can I still drink it tomorrow? I guess so, but then I'd have to go Sunday through Saturday, whereas if I stop at the end of today I can start again next Saturday and -- yeah, see, this is the whole reason for the detox in the first place. That sentence was just the Diet Vanilla Pepsi taking the reins on my neural activity.

So. Caffeine tomorrow, then none Sunday through Saturday. There's the plan. And as an extra added sign that it's time to take a break, the Starbucks girl actually fucked up my order this morning, putting me down for a decaf iced latte with whole milk when I wanted a nonfat with caffeine. I can't remember that ever happening before. Sure, they're known the world over for screwing up people's names on the cups, but at least they usually get the beverages right.

And it seems McSweeney's has rejected my work again, so it's once again time for a bit of self-publishing. I submitted this to the Reviews of New Food section, which I don't read religiously but can be entertaining. I tried the Trader Joe's brand of vegetarian sausage patties a couple months ago and felt something needed to be said on the subject.


There they are, side-by-side in the freezer case: Morningstar Breakfast Patties and Trader Joe's Breakfast Patties, competing for your hard-earned fake sausage dollar. "Sure," Trader Joe's subliminally imparts to you, "the Morningstar package is flashier and prettier, but look here: with our product, you get more patties to the box for almost a dollar less. You know you ridicule your friends who shop at Whole Foods because they pay significantly more for essentially the same products. Do you really want to turn into one of them?"

Shamed, you immediately grab a box (or even two) of the Trader Joe's patties lest your mere hesitation turn you into one of those yuppie Whole Foods sheep with a Prius parked next to a Hummer in their air-conditioned garage. And why not? Aren't Trader Joe's-branded products inevitably just as good as, if not better than, those of any competitor? Did you even bat an eyelash when they switched from Crystal Geyser to Trader Joe's Mountain Spring Water?

But once you've gotten the patties home and into the microwave, the triumphant mood takes a drastic turn. What's that smell coming from the kitchen? It sure as hell isn't the Morningstar smell, the one so convincingly meaty that nobody walking into the room would ever believe you were a vegetarian. It's some very different kind of odor, bad enough to make you hope that it's coming from somewhere else. Sadly, one bite of the finished product confirms your worst fears. This is not an acceptable substitute for a Morningstar Breakfast Patty. This is not even an acceptable substitute for some kind of freeze-dried high-protein nutritional supplement for soldiers or astronauts. It may, in fact, be the worst thing you've ever tasted, ever.

The next day, you actually take Trader Joe's up on their famous "return it if you don't like it" policy, the policy you always found endearing but never thought you'd take advantage of. A few weeks later, the Morningstar Breakfast Patty once again rules the freezer case unchallenged, and you and Trader Joe's try to put the whole unpleasant incident behind you.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Caffeine the Penultimate

I don't think the caramel macchiato was a drink meant to be iced. I had one a few minutes ago and the caramel ended up in 3 places: (1) in a glop at the bottom that I sucked down with the first sip, (2) stuck to the inside of the lid, and (3) running down the outside of the cup, where it was wiped off by a helpful barista. (Then again, the same barista didn't see anything wrong with handing me the drink completely un-mixed, with the top half of the cup completely brown and the bottom half completely white. I had to shake it myself. What would Gordon Ramsay say?) So it ended up being effectively an iced latte with a few random instances of goop.

Anyway, I decided after this week I'm going caffeine-free for a week. Sure, I may have waxed poetic before about developing a caffeine addiction, but I don't really want one. I'd rather be addicted to something more interesting, like cardamum or soybean oil or challenging squirrels to staring contests. Hopefully my blogging won't suffer, and it may actually become more interesting once I start hallucinating. (Sample sentence: "Don't you hate those purple-skinned demons that keep running past your desk and singing unreleased Fiona Apple songs?")

But as committed as I am to the Week of No Caffeine, I'm also looking beyond that week to the day I finally get myself a coffeemaker of my very own -- the kind with a built-in grinder, so I can seek out the strongest, darkest coffeebeans known to humankind and home-brew them at double strength. What kind of twisted thoughts will emerge from my hyperstimulated brain? I don't know, but I'll try not to die.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Caffeine 6: The Franchise Lives On

I don't feel much different than I did 20 minutes ago, so that caffeine addiction wish might have come true after all. Either that, or they spiked my grande iced latte with some sort of anti-caffeine -- like vodka, or the SAG Awards.

There was another thing from the weekend I wanted to share, not involving bears getting pipes shoved up their asses, but still featuring a reasonable level of creepiness. Saturday morning I went down to the Manhattan Beach mall with Rossanna, Tiago, and Tita to see what kind of free stuff we could get at the opening of the new Apple Store there. (Answer: a lame t-shirt.) After that Rossanna wanted to get some perfume at Macy's, so the rest of us followed her up to the Chanel counter. Creepiness begins: now. The woman behind the counter was, to put it mildly, not quite right. I mean, most girls behind counters in L.A. don't weigh enough. That's just the way it is here. But clearly the lack of mass was having a very negative effect on this one. She was blonde and I guess sort of "pretty" in a very conventional sense, but also just very unhealthy looking. And she really seemed to be having difficulty making any kind of sound come out of her mouth. Tiago first said, "She really needs a Jamba Juice," then later added "I think we went to the undead counter by accident." Then once we were outside, I made the final assessment: "I think she already threw up her breakfast but didn't have her line of coke yet." (Because we all know a grande iced latte isn't enough of a boost.)

Monday, August 01, 2005

affeine-Cay ive-Fay

Today it was a watery iced Americano and I'm not even sure it was caffeinated. Starbucks can take over the world and sell the shit out of Ray Charles CDs, but they're not all that reliable in their ability to turn me from Eeyore into the MicroMachines Man. I think $1.75 worth of cocaine, which I'm guessing is like one granule, would have done a better job.

But cocaine is downright harmless compared to the Build-a-Bear Workshop, which is probably the creepiest fucking place on earth. I went in there yesterday for the first time ever, because Tita wanted to and I'm all for giving her the opportunity to soak up as much crass American consumerism as possible before she goes back to Brazil. My only experience with it before consisted of walking by it a bunch of times and muttering a little internal "wtf?" before continuing on. It's worse than I could have imagined. We're definitely talking a "Come and play with us Danny, forever and ever" level of fucked-upitude. First off, when you go in there you pick out a bear -- but not a real bear yet; it's just the shell of a bear at this point. Remember in Men in Black when the alien sucks out Vincent D'Onofrio's insides and leaves his skin as a suit? It's the teddy bear equivalent of that. You can't play with it yet because it has no stuffing and, more importantly, it has no heart. It's just this strange little hollow thing, but it still costs fifteen to twenty bucks. So you pick that up, your little hollowed-out yet-to-be-reanimated bear carcass, and drag it over to the stuffing machine. I don't understand how any kid makes it past this point. Wanting to actually see your bear stuffed is about as sensible as wanting to see your Big Mac slaughtered. Maybe worse. You know how they do it? They have the stuffing machine there, with all the cotton or whatever it is flying around in this giant clear plastic box, and a pipe comes out of the box to dispense the stuffing. You hand them your bear shell, and they STICK THE PIPE UP THE BEAR'S ASS to get the stuffing in. No, really. I'm stuck with that disturbing image the rest of my life. After the bear's stuffed to your liking, they take the pipe out of its ass and give you a little fuzzy heart to put inside the bear. You're supposed to kiss the heart before they put it in. This is, apparently, the moment that the bear turns from a lifeless object into a sentient fuzzy being. I guess birth certificates for Cabbage Patch Kids weren't creating enough of a God complex in kids, so the Committee for Excessive Toy Personification got together and figured out how to take things to the next level. Anyway, the bear technician takes the heart and shoves that, too, up the bear's ass, which is then sewn shut. Then you take the bear to the "bathtub" to "clean" it. There's no water in the bathtub, though, just a plastic surface and some hot-air blowers. I'm not sure what any of that is supposed to accomplish. Now that the bear is "clean" you spend another $50 or so on clothes and glasses and shoes and stuff to dress it up, and then the au pair hands over mom's AmEx card to seal the deal. Except first you're supposed to take the Build-a-Bear Oath, because every teddy bear purchasing experience needs a pinch of totalitarian discipline to be truly complete.

Then there was the saleswoman outside offering free "Save Elmo" stickers with every Elmo doll purchase. But I think I've caused enough people to throw up in their mouths for one day.