Black Hole

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Writer Matt Suddain goes through the harrowing experience of giving up coffee.

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Day 0. My last cup, I savor every inky drop. Oh, black ocean of possibility with your bobbing boats of inspiration. That’s good, write that down. Feature idea: read the ten great novels of the 20th Century and write about them: Ulysses, In Search of Lost Time, Clan of the Cave Bear.

Factoid: Coffee was discovered by goats. True story. According to legend, an Abyssinian goat-herder saw his herd acting frisky after they’d eaten red cherries from a shrub. He tasted the fruit and was later spotted dancing with his goats. When challenged by local monks he said only “A man gets lonely.” Movie idea: Dances With Goats?

Day 1. Green tea to start the day. They tell me that tea has caffeine too. Where is it? The literature tells me that when caffeine intake is reduced, blood pressure drops causing the infamous withdrawal headache. Apparently, the headache can last up to five days and can be alleviated with analgesics and with caffeine. Well duh. The withdrawal subject may also become nervous, irritable, restless, lazy, dopey, sleepy, and grumpy. In technical terms, these are known as the seven dwarfs of caffeine withdrawal. In my case, the seven dwarfs have been joined by dizzy, cranky, punchy, stabby and light-sensitivity.

Day 2. A tad cranky. Some tea makes me feel better. Housemates say nine cups is cheating. Things get out of hand, tea everywhere. To do: Buy Housemates flowers. Headache persists, a dull stabbing in frontal lobe accompanied by desire to stab. Normal? Doc says yes, and that in two weeks I’ll be able to replace the effect of caffeine with a short run. Suspect he’s in the pocket of the jogging industry. Idea: get a new doctor. My neighbor plays his stereo all day. One of those hipster chumps who’s into Arcade Fire and dressing like a pirate. Mag idea: Hipstersexuals—just-too-gay-enough?

Idea: Read only five great novels. Started reading Proust’s In Search of lost Time, or, as it’s called in French, Ou Est La Femme de Chambre.

Day 3: Feeling bad. Two pots of green tea and I’m leaking like a Russian sub. Housemates confiscate my teapot. Also find reserve-teapot. More screaming. They catch me sucking the juice out of tealeaves. Have to drag me off. V. embarrassing. Synapses no longer firing. Idea: Can’t remember. Return to bed. Ah sleep; black ocean of possibility with your … boats …

Factoid: 7 million tons of beans are produced world wide, annually. Most of it is hand picked. By monkeys. (Note: fact-check this fact.)

Day 4: Feeling the hate. Told taxi driver that the reason so many immigrants come here is to ruin his day. Caffeinated lip-balm confiscated by housemates. Threw In Search of Lost Time out window. Note: call glazier.

Factoid: Originally, coffee was a food. True fact. East African tribes would grind coffee cherries together and create a paste with animal fat. Rolled into little balls, the mixture was said to give warriors energy for battle. Hell yes! The Ethiopians later concocted a type of wine from coffee berries. Sounds nice. Feature idea: History of coffee? Great coffee drinkers? Oh god.

Day 5: Hate. Pain. All will pay. Idea: torture not so bad. Idea: See indie-boy about his stereo. Kill him. TV idea: Celebrity Island. Take celebrities— Burrell, Jordan, Palmer-Tomkinson, et al—to a desert island. Leave. Never go back. TV idea: Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook, Nob Off.

Oh god I miss coffee—the ritual, the equipment. Coffee has a saucy nomenclature: crema, macchiato, extraction. Alcohol is just pornographic: Shooter, jigger. Cocktail. Coming off coffee is actually similar to being a binge drinker but with none of the glorious amnesia. I remember haranguing taxi drivers and hapless cinema attendants with a frightening clarity. I remember calling my housemate a “Trout sucking mange-troll.” I’m a monster. The recovering coffee drinker wakes up with the hangover and the memories.

Day 6: Feel a little better. Headache faded. Will to homicide diminished. Feel sad. Morning in bed. housemates bring me soup. TV idea: Take a normal family and make them live in the conditions of the great depression. “Depression House?” Finished a history of coffee. Coffee is one of the world’s most vital primary commodities. 6.7 million tons of coffee were produced in 2000, and 7 million is expected annually by 2010. The collapse of the International Coffee Agreement led to a pricing crisis from 2001 to 2004 during which many coffee farmers lost their livelihoods, or turned to illicit crops such as coca. That was just a pricing issue. Imagine the global impact if the coffee industry collapsed. Productivity would plummet, violent crime would rocket, and fragile workers, deprived of their breakfast lattes, would turn to crack. Armies would wage war over dwindling stocks leading to mass slaughter, headaches, irritability and the apocalypse.

This is critical. We may already have reached peak-coffee. Have decided that, sadly, I must resume drinking coffee. Immediately. Not for pleasure, you see, but for the economy. Sat housemates down and told them. They didn’t react too badly. They just stood without a word and left the room.

Day 7: My First cup! Like a re-birthing. Oh hot black wave of pleasure welling like a slop of warm bathwater from within. Oh cascade of burning sparks redolent with possibility. TV idea: Women vie for the hand of a millionaire. Eventually, they learn that the man has a degenerative illness and will require lifetime of care. Also, he has no money. Delicious.

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