outside the perimeter

April 21st, 2009

So I missed the plane.

I missed the plane because the first plane was pushed back and back because when weather shows up in New York it’s like they haven’t ever seen weather before, and JFK is a hairdo. The whole sky clogs up and it takes hours to figure out how to land planes again. It was okay because bonus time was what I wanted: more minutes at Six Feet Under with the lingering crew of amazing people, a little quiet time in concourse A with my favorite Canadian-San Franciscan barista while we waited for our flights. But by 7:20 she was gone, and all I knew was that I wasn’t flying for at least an hour and I’d already cleared security, so wouldn’t it only make sense to go see Scott Lucey off on his flight too?

I hunted down his gate across the airport, and just before getting to D7 (good song btw) Ian “Bigfoot” Clark hopped into my path. We all sat and watched the sun set and the boys talked tech and barista certification and about improvement and the future, so earnest and full of post-conference thinking… it was a sweet and perfect denouement to a lovely and grueling eight days far from home, just sweet enough to cause me to hear last call for my flight while I was getting back on the tiny train over to A33. Didn’t someone tell me a few hours ago not to mess up and get stuck in Atlanta? Door shut, my would-be flight already stranded on the tarmac like every other plane to New York, I was sent over on standby to another terminal for the last flight of the evening (!!) in one more hour. I was told it was full. Oversold, in fact. I had completely and totally screwed myself, all for being sentimental (and a little characteristically overambitious & optimistic in judgment.) So apparently it’s really hard to get a flight out of Atlanta to New York at night on short notice…who knew???

Forty knuckle-biting minutes and a queue of 30 other sad standers-by later, I got personally ushered onto a plane, last, for the first time in my life. I was told to take “the” empty seat (on a 767!) and hilariously and gratefully I am writing this while tracing the lines of Appalachia under a clear night sky, dry, exhausted and full only of two Delta “Biscoff” cookies for dinner…honestly it is pretty dreamlike. I have no regrets, though this is possibly because I am not sleeping on an airport floor or begging Danielle to give me a pillow and a sandwich.

Post-coffee-gathering glow, I has it.

I have been thinking a lot about the new World Champion Gwilym Davies and what it must mean to arrive so suddenly and from so relatively outside into not only a championship but a community of support, politics, love, incestuousness and amazing professional challenge. I wonder what it means to have left the grid so much in one’s home life for so long, and to end up stealing the keys to a subculture full of its own kind of outcasts, nipping at the edges of the mainstream as it innovates and grows. I don’t know why Gwilym competed and I’m not sure he sees all the sides or all the reasons yet himself, but that truest thread of passion and adventure that runs through anyone who competes anywhere for anything (grits contests, horse grooming, lumberjack shows) is the human element that for me makes coffee real, and makes its people such lovely messengers.

I’ve wanted to write cohesively about coffee community for a long long time now and I think I’m still only at the beginning of explaining it even to myself, but it’s obviously the personal connections people seek and affirm over and over again in these temporary gatherings that help convince everyone they are on the right path, that it isn’t exactly frivolous to have contests for the best coffee-making, that there might really be something to this notion of furthering an idea of beauty and craft and quality in a way that improves lives, even lives beyond those of the already so irrevocably converted. There’s so much to sift through with the politics and the silliness of rules and the necessary constraint of commercial interest and the high-school-like cliquishness that all pervade the scene. But despite all that there’s an undeniable credibility to a movement guided by such passionate people, such truly fucking smart people, who for some reason bust so much collective ass to make things happen for themselves and ideally even to share this benefit with the, uh, outside world.

Now if we can just make competitions less uniformly drab and see a non white male win the Worlds one day soon, everything will just be peachy.

Quiet list of shout-outs: how awesome was it to watch the competition with Jenni Bryant, one of my truest friends in NYC and whose good friend made it to the last lap astride my good friend. Even in coffee I think the world is truly inexplicably small. Amberfox, I love you and owe you a better birthday next year. Allenn, you won’t read this but you have no idea how much your car was needed and appreciated, a gesture I valued more each time I had to take another shitty, non-English-speaking, no-direction-knowing, price-cheating Atlanta cab. Marcus Boni and Amber Sather for being the drily hilarious roommates I almost never saw — yeah, sure you locked me out of the room on purpose that night. Gabe Boscana for throwing his phone across the floor of the Omni, to Ric, Nick and Cindy for wanting and helping me with the “work” that I do here, and Brent, Lucey, Elvin and Emoak for general high posse quality throughout, and being the kind of real friends who wait for you and text you back and stuff even around 42394320980982 other people that want to hang out. Danielle MF Glasky, where have you been all my life? You get your butt up to New York right now.

(Photo stolen from Emily Oak.)

And truly, this trip was most memorable for the time spent with the 2009 US barista team. Who knew that adequate penmanship could provide me such a swift entree into a week of truly meaningful camaraderie, reciprocal kindness and fun in the service of a common cause? Mike and Charles, I was honored to roll with you badasses, and I’m going to think of you whenever I listen to music and drink coffee at the same time. Because dude. A lot of people do that.

Oh, and MP and SL? in case you ain’t heard, #3 is the new #1.


2 Responses to “outside the perimeter”

  1. sL

    Hellz yeah 3 is the new 1. Now we only need convince judges and numbers and on and on… That’s why we have next year.

    hearts to you Lc

  2. bbrown

    Did you get escorted off the plane, too? Sounds like a good time in the airport, let alone ATL in general. I had a blast (especially M’lissa and Chris’ party) ! C u when I c u.


Leave a Reply

Extra Column

You can fill this column by editing the index.php theme file. Or by Widget support.