daveheinzel.com  Since 2000
by Keil Isham, November 14, 2012


i like coffee. i like to wake up at four-thirty a.m. while the rest of the world is still nestled in dreams and blackness and oceanic depths.


i make my coffee with a french press because anything else is tepid and vulgar and crass. i mean, you can make coffee that is elegant and lambent and sincere, but i just cannot. i ordered a three thousand dollar coffee maker that is guaranteed for life and returned it a week later for a full refund, including the shipping costs. i might have bought it during a mercury retrograde, which clouds my otherwise precise judgements.

and my coffee must be sumatran or el salvadorian or papua new guinean. but must never have any abominations like flavoring. hazelnut or highlander grogg or creme brulee or pumpkin spice belong with inquisitional tortures of a bygone era. please do not even make me consider them.

once i dated. and once i dated a woman who loved amaretto flavored coffee and she made this horror at my apartment. i broke up with her. i left the apartment a month later. i stopped driving down that street even though it was a convenient way to get to work.

i make my sumatra coffee in the darkness of morning, which is what four a.m. becomes when you consistently wake at this hour. the darkness of morning. night ends with dreaming and morning breaks ever so slowly at this delicate, obscure hour. i make my coffee and tinker with my bicycle, clearing the rims and wiping off any dirt from the frame. i fiddle with the braking system and then i wait for the first sign of light.

some mornings i make irish oatmeal with almond milk. it has to be irish oatmeal, as they are the only culture consistently impoverished enough to make an art of a shapeless gruel. i add honey with a quiet deliberation and watch for signs of light.

i am not sure why i wait for light, the way i ride is hardly dependent on it. i take my bike into the backyard where i have a makeshift stand set up so that i might start peddling away without having to go anywhere. i try to ride for an hour, although in the winter it is sometimes so numbingly cold i wonder why i am not inside doing this. but that would be cheating and i am certainly not a cheater. i ride my bike like it is a stationary bike from the mid 80s and listen to bands like the cure, joy division and siouxsie and the banshees. when i listen to siouxsie and the banshees i imagine the actual figure from celtic mythology giving her death-wail and it brings me great comfort.

after riding for an hour i come back in and warm my toes and do a few stretches before settling in for my morning reading regimen. the past month i have been going through the collected works of e. phillips oppenheim. just last week during a particularly inspired run i read "kingdom of the blind" and "the evil shephard" on consecutive mornings. it was rainy and i had switched to a new brand of el salvadorian coffee that gave me extra pep. also, my bike rides had been quite successful and i felt brilliantly numinous in my spleen.

but today i feel dull and sluggish and not at all that smart. my pancreas hurts and is full of metaphysical longing that i cannot quite place. i tried listening to one of my favorite cure albums on repeat, "faith" but even this has not help. but this is bound to happen when reading about too many blithe philanderings, it erodes one's moral center and is like too much sugar in the soul. plus, my ankles are cold and i cannot seem to warm them. it is grievous in a way you can never imagine until it happens to you.

for lunch i eat a piece of pumpkin pie, regardless of the season and make a protein smoothie with blue berries and frozen bananas. proper nutrition is a must, just as proper exercise is too. but one must not be a philistine about one's diet, and hence the pumpkin pie. in the afternoon i take a forty minute soak in the tub while listening to chopin or debussy. it is essential to soak in warm salt water to restore the body's equilibrium and make peace with all the briney memories that persist with the skin. after this more coffee brings a much needed pep to the tepid sluggishness that natural waits in ambush in the early stages of afternoon. then more reading.

the afternoons are not a time for the harshness of fiction. i read movie star bios or collections of essays by brilliant but playful minds. but nothing that introduces a character set into motion in some irrevocable predicament. my constitution is too fragile in the afternoons, i am not an afternoon person.

at four i allow my body a much needed half hour nap. it is like hitting a reset button and my mind washes and clears and is then ready to welcome the vicissitudes of the evenings. i make a cup of hibiscus tea and watch twenty minutes of a silent film, something with gloria swanson or directed by erich von stroheim. the brilliant and gaudy sets recalibrate my visual field while the epic scale restores my faith in the nameless codes we live by. once i tried to skip this step in my day and wound up in bed for a week with fever and migraine and prickly chills.

for my evening meals i go to a diner where the main customers are men who appear incapable of taking care of themselves. perhaps i blend in quite seamlessly amongst this milieu but i prefer to imagine otherwise. i eat a danish and soup and a large chef's salad. the same two waitresses wait on me, one bringing my danish and water upon arrival and the other bringing my soup and salad. they appear to be sisters and are quite affectionate in an endearing way i think is vanishing from this culture. but i am no cultural critic nor do i wish to be one.

after a long slow dinner, which is how i like to eat in the evenings, i take an equally long and slow walk towards to down town area. there is a historic town square like most towns in this state and beyond, there is a clock tower and on full moons it stops working properly, which no one has been able to understand or fix in over 90 years. it just is and somehow this is just fine with the people who live here. i walk until i feel a glove of sleepiness slip onto my fingers, and then i know it is time to get home before i curl up and fall asleep in the grass wherever i happen to be.

i sleep very well these days.


Keil for president! Wonderful blog, so well written, so well read you are.

Denny Deaton
Nov 14, 2012, 9:20 P.M.

Excellent essay/guest blog, maestro! A couple thoughts:

1) I hope distant civilizations read this and gain a deep appreciation for 21st Century dilettantism (I believe this to be a real word).

2) What the hell is lambent coffee?

3) Maybe you and Dave should write a "he said/he said" book with your alternating writing styles/subjects. Not romantical (possibly a real word), but bro-mantical (not a real word). I would read it.

Jessica Bursi
Nov 14, 2012, 9:21 P.M.

My Keurig coffee is just not going to taste the same tomorrow morning.

Chris Scheufele
Nov 14, 2012, 9:27 P.M.

What's wrong with a good cup of folgers instant coffee. Sometimes you need a swift kick in the face to start the day.

Nov 15, 2012, 6:11 A.M.

Welp, I used to want to be a coffee-snob, but I think relationships are a bit more important than how one takes their coffee.

Nov 15, 2012, 5:24 P.M.

Beautiful piece, Keil. Really enjoyed reading this. I hope there are more in the future.

Nov 16, 2012, 12:24 P.M.

"i make a cup of hibiscus tea and watch twenty minutes of a silent film, something with gloria swanson or directed by erich von stroheim. the brilliant and gaudy sets recalibrate my visual field while the epic scale restores my faith in the nameless codes we live by. once i tried to skip this step in my day and wound up in bed for a week with fever and migraine and prickly chills."

holy shit this cracked me up! i hope it's not too exaggerated. i want to believe this is how you live your life. so awesome.

dave rock
Nov 16, 2012, 3:38 P.M.