Rogue Ink

August 22, 2008

About Freelancing and Caffeine: Italians Know What’s Up

Filed under: Writing — Tei @ 4:47 am
Tags: , ,

As I write this, I am cruising the wave of a triple espresso. For those of you who have never experienced this, it is basically like having a Def Leppard guitar riff directing the normally mellow tunes of your synapses. The reason I had the triple espresso is because I want to get some work done tonight, and the Italians taught me how to drink un caffè. Let us explore the virtues of espresso, because every freelancer occasionally feels the need to stay up way past a normal bedtime and crank out a few thousand words of copy.

Espresso vs. Coffee.

Here’s the difference. Espresso works. Coffee doesn’t. Allow me to expand upon that statement.

Espresso is more or less super-distilled coffee. To make coffee, you pour a lot of water through coffee grounds and that process gets the flavor of the ground-up coffee beans into the water. That’s all well and good, but espresso is when you cram as much of the coffee flavor as possible into a very, very tiny amount of water. It is the difference between a Hershey bar and a triple-cacao truffle.

Taking that metaphor and running with it like we do, you know how you could eat about five Snickers bars, not quite getting the chocolatey fix you were hoping for because the chocolate drug is spaced out too much to hit the Happy Center of your brain? Whereas if you eat the triple-cacao truffle, your eyes suddenly dilate and you begin rocking to the euphoric strains of a Swedish electronica band in your head while you start seeing the sounds manifest as colors in front of you? That is the difference between coffee and espresso.

How To Drink Espresso

I lived in Rome for a couple months in college, and I learned a few things about espresso.

First of all, never order a cappuccino unless it’s morning. Italians will mock you roundly. Milk is only for breakfast. Apparently, it is as if you are a baby in the morning and you are expected to be a full-grown man by the end of the day. Milk in the morning, strong espresso at night. If you drink milk at night, it’s basically like saying you didn’t grow up that day, you baby. Very emasculating, even if you happen to be the sort of man who has ovaries.

Secondly, if you’re in Italy, you can just order un caffe, and they will bring you espresso. Water is also for babies, and coffee, as we have established, is water and espresso. If you’re in the U.S., order a double shot. Single shots are for wussies. If you are completely insane like me, order a triple shot. You’ll be catatonic, but it’ll be worth it.

Thirdly, sugar is fantastic and should be used liberally. Apparently, though water and milk are for babies, sugar is for manly men. Everyone I saw doctoring their drink in Italy put TONS of sugar in their espresso. The ratio is about one part sugar to two parts espresso. Not an exaggeration. The level of drink in the cup should rise noticeably. Now you are hopped up on espresso drug and sugar drug. Win-win.

Fourthly, drink it fast. Espresso does not get tastier as it cools by a long shot. It has a very short period of time in which it is worth drinking, and that is about thirty seconds after you’ve stirred in your sugar. Toss it back like a shot. Espresso cools fast – you won’t burn yourself. You may put yourself into a coma, but you will not burn yourself. Take comfort in that fact.

Fifthly, and I did not learn this trick from the Italians, get thyself a lemon wedge. Remember how I just said that espresso has a short lifespan of deliciousness? You can actually taste that lifespan dwindling IN YOUR MOUTH unless you get a lemon wedge and eliminate it before it can go stale on you. If you don’t get some other flavor going on the tongue, you will quite literally TASTE the espresso DIE in your MOUTH. I hardly feel this needs saying, but that is bad for you and your taste buds, as well as your espresso-compromised sanity.

What To Do With an Espresso High

Quickly turn your attention to whatever you need your focus to be on for the next few hours. For some reason, espresso has the amazing ability to make you focus very, very hard on one single thing, but you cannot shift what that single thing is midway through your espresso high. So if you down a triple shot and get distracted by a window display of fresh fruit, I am sorry to say that your mind will be incredibly fixated on cantaloupes for the next few hours. Which is fine if you have some sort of philosophy about the cantaloupe that must be examined, but not cool if you intended to use those hours to write about, let’s say, media relations. Or monkeys. Or whatever.

So focus immediately on whatever it is you wanted to be focused on. Trust me, you will not be able to tear yourself away. Choose wisely.

Drink a TON of water. Otherwise your brain will fry and you will get jittery and twitchy and your mind will explode from the sheer force of wanting to express the culmination of its deep contemplation but your fingers will be too twitchy to write it down and you will go insane. That is all I have to say about that.

Write like a fiend. Your head will be going way faster than your hand, so I highly recommend a computer over freehand unless you have a shorthand that is actually legible. I personally do not, and I have nearly gone insane trying to keep up with my thoughts on paper. Computers, baby. Wave of the future.

If at all possible, come down from your espresso high before you turn in the assignment. Now, I’m aware that if you need the espresso late at night, you’re probably on a deadline and don’t have time to wait to turn it in. I get that. But if you can, you should, because often the espresso high makes you unaware of silly editorial mistakes like using the same verb three times in one paragraph. If you can’t wait, find a buddy with reasonable taste in prose and have them cast a weather eye over your work. Make sure they are wary of word-association substitutions. For some reason these happen a lot with espresso. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said ‘spatula’ when I meant ‘marketing associate’. Always embarrassing.

Coming Down

For me, only time will do it. I have friends who swear a good shot of whiskey’ll bring you down, but this only gives my brain a split personality. It is no fun when the whiskey side and the espresso side start having a debate about whether the brain is sleepy or super-awake. The whiskey side will put its head down on the table and the espresso side will basically bounce up and down and poke the whiskey side with a finger, all the while saying, “Let’s play let’s play let’s play don’t sleep let’s play” like a puppy on cocaine.

Time, tons of water, and the works of Karl Marx. This is my recommendation. Or you can just stay up all night and Tweet the goings-on of the wee hours. Also amusing. Last night, three college kids were chatting under my window. Which is, it should be mentioned, pretty far along the side of my house. Apparently the college kids were moseying along the street and thought, hey, the best place to hang out and chat is totally way onto this house’s property, under a window. Sidewalks and public parks (of which there are no less than four within two blocks of my place) are for losers.

Tweet: “Chased college kids out from under bedroom window by wielding swords in underwear and chanting The Second Coming. Feeling victorious.”

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