Coffee is one of those things that separate the men from the boys. The tastemakers from the taste-less and the mundane, rich from the starving artists.
I’m pretty sure we all know by now, that most starving artists aren’t actually starving for more than a stage to exploit their art by their own rules.
I remember my exciting days of calling myself this hip-cliché term in college. I’d have my mom’s 50-dollar bill in one pocket and a bus token in the other. It was this clever juxtaposition of very dirty converse and 80-dollar Abercrombie & Fitch cargos, when matched with a pawned guitar, and a sad song lyric sung on a sidewalk, the starving artist title was my pretentious identitiy.
These lyrics could only be conjured up by the tasting of one coffee and one coffee alone. At the time, that coffee was Starbucks.
Coffee was this magical elixir. We students would drink it in the library to study for finals and receive all sorts of revelations on Handel’s Water Music. We’d suddenly receive perfect pitch. And if we had a Venti anything we could guarantee the perfect cadence for our class composition. You had to carry your Starbucks. It carried the same degree of excellence as a mechanical pencil to mark your sheet music. We were starving artists.
Then there was Professor Lipton. Contrary to his last name, coffee was his beverage of choice. The much-adored stickler had a knack for getting on my nerves and heartstrings at the same dang time. He was really cute with black and gray hair, fitted black slacks and a jersey knit or cashmere long sleeve top. Yes. Everyday. Like a character. Clean cut. I loved him because of his passion for execution. He just did one thing wrong that really made me un-comfortable. He would often have the courage to walk into a class with a cup of 7 11 coffee and his head held high. A mockery. That’s what it was. How could he be so brave as to hold a baton and expect me to vocalize when a morbidly orange and green sign was emblazoned on a white cup and seated on the poor Yamaha piano behind him? My ADD would go into a downward spiral. I’d loose my notes midway thru a tune. Get that imposter beverage out of here! God bless Professor Lipton. I will always remember him lovingly. I’m sure he meant no harm… but that was harmful.
You see friends; coffee for an artist is like is like blenders for a chef. You will never see a real chef mix a smoothie in an OSTERIZER. Vitamix is the ONLY option. By the way, I still have my un-chefly Osterizer and love it to pieces. But much like that college 50-dollar bill, mom got me a Vitamix for Christmas and I lovingly cradle my Osterizer for the nostalgia.
This is how I feel about Starbucks. Yep I said it. I am a coffee snob. Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Le Pain Qo’tidien (ummm, somebody check the spelling on that) are the ONLY acceptable options for my palette. Now, before you hiss about how bougie I am, please note that these are the same sentiments I owned while working part time at junior high schools as a dance instructor to pay my college bills. Oh yes, my 20 bux a day was big money. At about 5 bux a pop, with 20 dollars, 4 cups of coffee could get me almost through an entire week. If I was lucky a barista would make a mistake and prepare the wrong drink for someone, and guess what chubby college kid was ready right away to take that free, black gold off their hands? Me. Chrisette Michele Payne. The coffee hoe.
Memory: Sitting with Bevy Smith at Bryant Parks Le Pain Quotidien during New York’s fashion week in between shows wearing a black top hat I’d purchased in London.