The Public Cupping

I_Espresso_Neat_Darien_Coffee_Cupping

My husband and I just spent a week in Texas, and while the experience lived up to some of my expectations of the Lone Star state (delicious Tex-mex, awesome live music, and hordes of young professionals wearing cowboy boots under their suit pants), there just wasn’t as much dust as I imagined. Also ZERO cacti, and none of the heat to breed the aforementioned dust and cacti.

In short, we were freezing.

While warming up in an Austin coffeehouse, we spotted a sign for a “Public Cupping.” What sounded like a free medical screening for men (turn your head and cough-eehouse?), was actually just a pretentious way to say a coffee tasting. The cold weather discouraged wandering around, so we had nothing better to do.

Quick background: My parents call me a coffee snob because I won’t drink their stupid Folgers– it tastes like dirty river water. While I can taste the difference between Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks (one is sour, one is burnt), I think the only real preference I have for coffee is that I like it strong.

Could I decipher the differences between coffees served inside a single coffeehouse? (Who cares?) Continue to find out….

The barista, a bearded man who probably brews beer in his bathtub, set three cups of coffee grounds before me, my husband, and two strangers. “Has anyone ever attended a cupping before?” he asked. And when we shook our heads no, he seemed as startled as if he’d asked us if we’d showered that week. “No? All novice cuppers? Well, the first step is smelling. I’m going to ask you to each take a turn sniffing the grounds. And when you sniff at a cupping, you sniff aggressively. I want to hear you smell. Stick your nose deep in the glass,” he said, demonstrating, “and huff.” At that, his nostrils flared and he snuffed the grounds with the same tenacity Superstar Mary Gallagher snuffed fingertips still warm from her armpits. He accidentally inhaled loose grounds into his nose (not surprising, since he’d basically just snorted them). After a few seconds of coughing into his fist, he managed to say, “That might have been too aggressive.”

We approached the glasses a little more timidly, beginning with a few polite sniffs. But the strangers grew brave. They dipped their schnozes deep into the glasses. I heard their smell, and I wondered how hygienic this scent-sharing was. As we rotated around, I tried to ignore the fact that I was sticking my nose into somebody else’s business.

My husband, too, became brazen. On his deep inhale, he avoided the barista’s pitfall of sucking the stuff into his sinuses. But on the exhale, he disrupted the grounds like a snow blower on a wintry mess. They shot up into his eye. This cupping was treacherous.

“What did you smell?” the barista asked us. I resisted the obvious answer (um… coffee?), knowing it’d make me a bad student. When we stared at him blankly, he prompted us with some olfactory clues. “Was one reminiscent of berries? A fireplace? Was one earthy, like raw potatoes? What smell-memories were prompted?” Smell-memories? Like: Did that coffee smell like an autumn afternoon reading the newspaper on your grandfather’s lap? Did it smell like your creepy neighbor’s tobacco pipe? Did it smell like your first solo drive? Was it reminiscent of the day your mother pulled snickerdoodle cookies from the oven and asked your father for a divorce? Did it smell like those tough cookies??

“I think that one had notes of honeydew,” one of the strangers offered. Suck up.

The barista nodded. “I could definitely see that.” Liar.

“Was that one burnt? Or maybe not burnt?” the other stranger said. Doofus.

The barista poured boiled water into the cups, set his watch timer to a minute and a half, and handed each of us a spoon. “See those grounds floating to the surface? When the time comes, we’re going to bend over, break the crust with the tips of our spoons, and sniff. The aromas will be most intense when they are initially released. Whatever you do, don’t insert the spoons too deeply. We don’t want to agitate the bottom. That will ruin the cup.”

Ruin the cup? There was so much at stake.

I broke the crust. I sniffed the once-trapped now-released bouquet at its most intense. And…

It smelled like coffee.

The barista scooped the crust off each cup and directed us to sample the coffee. “I want you to sip like you sniffed. Really slurp it up to spray it evenly across the tongue. When you’re done, rinse the spoon in this water dish before dipping it into the next cup. We don’t want to be passing colds to each other.”

Thank god for the magical powers of the shared water dish.

We spooned and slurped, spooned and slurped. And I’ve never had less to say. They all tasted exactly like coffee.

“What flavors make these cups unique?” the barista prodded. “Do you detect chocolate or caramel? Is it sour? Salty? Nutty? Does it take like freshly baked bread? A hot tire? Do you sense citrus? Herbs? A grassy knoll?” Does it taste like a work boot, a poinsettia, or a library book? Does it taste like a playground after dark, a swing swaying eerily, like in the introduction to Are You Afraid of the Dark? Does it taste like Home Depot or Lowe’s? Is this cup of coffee the elusive “beyond” in Bed, Bath, and Beyond?

“Is one more acidic than the other? More bitter? Is there an alkaline aftertaste? Is this cup more like a pat on the back or a slap across your face?

Think about the shape the coffee takes in your mouth. Is one round, reminiscent of a bouncing ball?” Is the coffee a straight line on your tongue? Or is it more like a decagon? Is it a rubix cube, rotated manically by a seven-year-old prodigy?

“Does the taste begin differently than it finishes?” Does it undergo metamorphosis, changing from an ugly caterpillar into a glorious butterfly? Or is it more like a pimply teenager who finally, after all her praying, develops breasts, enjoys her beauty for eight months, and then, after all that, gains 25 pounds in college?

“Would one cup taste better at a certain type of day? Is this one nice and complex, something to consider in the afternoon? Or is it a simpler flavor, something to enjoy in the morning, when you don’t feel like being challenged?” Would you like this cup in the rain? Would you drink this one on a train? Would you enjoy this java while a priest is ordained?

I stared at him. He stared back.

“This one tastes like honeydew,” a stranger said.

“I could definitely see that,” the barista said.

“Does this one taste burnt? Or maybe not burnt?” the doofus begged.

Coffee, folks. They all tasted like coffee.

Cut Down To Size

Happy New Year, cybersphere! I hope your last moments of 2014 were joyful.

After I shot the champagne cork across the room and emptied half the bottle on the apartment floor (apparently I don’t know how to open champagne??), I enjoyed a delicious dinner with my husband, sipped the remaining bubbly, and then joined Neil Patrick Harris on his yacht.

Just kidding.

It was Channing Tatum’s yacht.

Anyway….

Here’s a humor essay about a mean doctor who told me to lose 20 pounds, just published on The Doctor TJ Eckleburg Review.

Start 2015 with some rumination, human connection, and maybe a laugh or two.

Until next time, cheers to our health and happiness.

5 Things About Women That May Surprise Me

What-Do-Women-Want-e1399295305275

Women. You know the type. Walking into rooms, and then out of rooms. Saying things. Doing stuff. If one has short hair and you see her quickly in your peripheral vision, you might think she’s a man. But she isn’t. She’s a woman. You know?

Who are these strange creatures with their wider hips and functional nipples? What are they thinking as they sit across from you at the dinner table, their lips moving, making sounds. Do they have likes? Dislikes? Neutral feelings? What, for God’s sake, do they want?

1) Shiny objects

Women are like infants and cats. Not just because they cry and have claws, but also because they are distracted by things that sparkle. That’s why the trophy to mark their greatest achievement is a diamond ring.

Although, alternative engagement rings are beginning to trend: non-diamond, plain bands, and even finger tattoos. So maybe that ring theory has some holes in it. (Ha!) Plus, some women are shying away from marriage altogether. It’s like they don’t remember they come from male rib, and therefore belong tucked away beneath a guy’s arm.

2) Romance

The best way for a man to cover up his indiscretions is with romance. I don’t mean love or respect. Romance. I’m talking gooey Hallmark sentiment: flowers, chocolates, stuffed bears, and poems that definitively state what color certain flowers are. You may not read it in your high school biology book, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t science. Know this: women can’t resist a good wooing.

Although, I happen to be a woman (if I’m not, my gynecologist is really ripping me off), and sugar-sweet romance makes me uncomfortable. In fact, I tried to convince my husband to seal our wedding vows with our secret handshake rather than a kiss. So I guess all women don’t like romance after all.

3) Saving

If 90’s Disney taught us anything, it’s that damsels in distress are real (and that meerkats and warthogs make fast friends). Whether it’s killing a spider, reaching for that soup can that’s just too high, or reviving your gal from her glass box sleep, ladies love, and maybe even need, to be rescued.

Although, I suppose female police officers, soldiers, firefighters, doctors, etc. would argue they don’t want saving, they want to save. Damn it, why can’t women just all be the same??

4) Babies

Feet that fit into your mouth. Tiny itty bitty yawns. Cries that begin as these cute little goat bleats, and then continue on and on, expanding and sharpening as their vocal chords strengthen, screams filling your ears and drilling into your brain all night long, constant, ear piercing noise blaring and blaring until you can’t remember what silence feels like and you think you’re going insane.

5) Ice cream

….

 

Okay, yes. We definitely want ice cream.

iGirlfriend

c019c1d0-c717-41ee-aee4-a5bbc0bce833_k_iMaOm4miAiYgss6NH0cGUETHe8UI9y_SATMO_0921_Iphone_640x360

In honor of National Poetry Month’s close:

iGirlfriend

Slim. Smart.
All you need.
Hold me beneath the dinner table.
Caress me on the train,
in a pew.
i whisper in your ear,
shimmy into your pocket,
and vibrate.
Push my buttons.
Drop.
Recharge.
i light up your face.
No birthday presents,
anniversaries,
or mother in laws.
No Whys?
Whens?
How could yous?
i speak when spoken to.
No, don’t look up.
Look at me.
i take you anywhere.
You take me everywhere.
How did you live without me?
Shhh.
Don’t try to remember.

The Lonely Broken Road That Led You Straight To Me

Google-search

I’ve surpassed 2,000 followers. That’s like the population of a Manhattan apartment building! And judging by the search engine terms that brought you to my site, you guys are even edgier and more eclectic. Here are the strangest of the search terms, excluding the ones that are too strange (disturbing) to publicize. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Mouth pedicure slave: I think the phrase you’re searching for, sir, is dental hygienist.

Guy doing pedicures + slave: Now, is the guy ALSO a slave, or do you want a male to do your pedicure BESIDE your slave? Weirdo.

Stripper body odor: You’re into some strange stuff.

Adult bathing in a bucket: REALLY strange stuff.

Sexy elephant: REALLY, REALLY strange stuff.

Female without clothing: What an articulate and precise way to search for porn.

Order strippers to the Waldorf Astoria: Sounds like one classy bachelor party. Hopefully you figured out the whole stripper body odor dilemma.

What to do with my beauty: I suggest you use it for good, not for evil.

I knew I shouldn’t have shown off on the dance floor: Why?? What happened???

How to be fat and look good in a one-piece: I might be able to help you figure out the first part. The solution to the second part still eludes me.

Pee in the ocean today?: Eh, I don’t feel like it today. Maybe tomorrow.

Abandoned Warehouse: Hopefully you’re a contractor searching for a place to renovate into lofts, and not a serial killer looking for a place to dump bodies.

If buying a vibrator from Groupon, will it be in discrete packaging: Groupon will be discrete. I will not. You are outed, you fiscal pleasure seeker!

Count Munch and the Wicked Witch: What the hell kind of fairytales are you reading, and where can we find them?

Terrifying feathered dinosaurs: Yes! “Bird” is a euphemism. This is accurate.

Celebrities doing chores: I, too, would like to see this.

No pants subway ride tighty whities: Sounds like you were ready for some interesting images. I fear I disappointed you.

Authentic brawd: I’m flattered that I was the result of this search term. So flattered, maybe it’ll be the title of my next book!

_________________________________________

For you longtime followers, allow me to draw your attention to an added tab on the site: my Merchandise Shop! Here you’ll find T’s and mugs with quotes from my book. If you have a quote you’d like made into an item, feel free to submit a request!

Finding Myself On Buzzfeed

artworks-000053455663-7k37yl-original

We’ve learned so much in 2014. We learned that Russia has a city that sounds like the name of a blonde telepathic waitress and vampire lover. We learned that Patrick Stewart is gay, and then we learned he isn’t. We learned that Ron and Hermione need marriage counseling, and we’re heartbroken about it. We learned that Alec Baldwin has feelings too. But most importantly, we’ve learned about ourselves.

Take me, for example. Before 2014, I never knew I should live in West Virginia, or that if I were reincarnated as a dog, I’d be a Corgi. I never knew if I fell asleep and woke up in King’s Landing, it would be as Arya Stark. These are critical, life-altering lessons that deserve to be shared with my 508 Facebook friends, both so that they can see me for who I truly am, and so they have the opportunity to become acquainted with themselves for the very first time. The shadowy corners of my identity that before were dark, are now lit with blinding fluorescent bulbs.

Remember back when there was no clear way to determine which member of Destiny’s Child you are? (I might have Beyonce’s booty, but I have Kelly’s quiet sparkle. So, who am I? Keyonce? Belly??) Remember when you spent hours wracking your brain over which European city you should live in? When you wondered which Thanksgiving fixing best represents the essence of you? (Cranberry sauce?? Am I cranberry sauce??) Remember when nobody could tell if you most closely resemble Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler, Joey or–god forbid– Gunther?

Maybe you don’t remember. Maybe you’ve repressed the chilling realities of before Buzzfeed. Allow me to reminisce. Before, when we were met with existential questions like, “What Muppet are you?”, we couldn’t simply choose a song, a facial expression, a board game, a pizza topping, a baby’s face, and click! Answer: You’re Animal. And all doubts were quelled. No, we struggled. We conducted surveys. We receded into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. We fasted. We meditated. We climbed mountains and sought counsel with monks. It was the only choice we had. Do you think Gandhi knew which Charlie Chaplin character he was? No. He could wager a guess, ask his friends, but he’d never know for sure. You could never know for sure.

But now we know. All Buzzfeed needs are a few significant bits of information– your favorite movie, fast food joint, word, color, and weekend activity– and it can see through the screen and into your heart. It takes your uncertainty into its omniscient arms and whispers: Don’t worry, you’d win the Hunger Games.

The difficulties of self-discovery are over. You find yourself on Buzzfeed.

Now that I am equipped with this new insight, I can more accurately and more confidently enter into situations. I know that since I’m a Corgi, I couldn’t take a German Shepherd on my own, but would be fine with the help of my direwolf, although things are awkward with him since the pet I should REALLY have is a monkey, which might be a problem since I should be moving to London to be an athlete. But who am I to question the great all-powerful Buzzfeed? I’m going to be an athlete!

Here I come, Sookie!

Alena Dillon is the author of the humor collection I Thought We Agreed to Pee in the Ocean.

Satirical Commercial for Drug Now Known As Flaccidone

The-Little-Blue-Pill-A-Surprising-Weight-Loss-Tool

Erectile dysfunction is no joke. The commercials for its treatment, however, are:

You’ve reached the age when you know a thing or two. You know how to be a silver fox. Just look at you. You’re wearing a fleece, so it must be chilly out, yet somehow your skin is tanned. And your pearly white teeth match your hair. Was that intentional? It doesn’t matter—it works. You know how to stare off at the horizon, and look damn good doing it. You know how to stand in front of the Washington Monument, and now the Eiffel Tower, and now the Space Needle, and now the Old Faithful Geyser. You, obviously, know how to travel fast. You know how to wield a variety of power tools: drill, grinder, and that buzzing chainsaw. You know how to hold that baseball bat by your waist. What you don’t know, is how to get an erection.

Is it because your wife doesn’t look like she used to? Or is she just not trying anymore? Is your own biology to blame? Hard to say. What isn’t hard, is you.

Flaccidone is here to help. It’ll help you rise above Mount O-limp-us. It’ll help your Willy Wonk her. It’ll give your floppy some drive.

Five out of six doctors deny ever needing to take Flaccidone, but that’s because two out of six doctors are women, two out of six doctors are below the age of fifty, and one out of six doctors are liars.

Do not take Flaccidone if you take any other medication or if you expect you might have surgery in the next decade. Do not take Flaccidone if you’ve ever had a headache. Do not take Flaccidone if you are over the age of 85, because that’s just gross, or if you were born during any month with fewer than 31 days. Do not take it if you didn’t get at least seven hours of restful sleep the night before.

If your erection persists for more than four hours, my god, roll over and seek medical attention. But three and a half hours is normal. If one of your fantasies includes lasting through the entirety of James Cameron’s Titanic, this is good news for you (bad news for her). But if you have errands to run, you might find yourself between a rock and your hard place.

Common side effects include nausea, loss of vision, fatigue, heart attack, flatulence, breast growth, divorce, Benjamin Button syndrome, pant ripping, creepiness, and death—but you’re old and probably about to die anyway. Could there be a better way to go?

(Flaccidone is endorsed by Shawn Konnery, Jack Nickelson, Bobby Dinero, and, obviously, Clint Westwood.)