Chez Shaffner

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Drinking Tea While Blogging...

I think they are starting to wonder about me. Although there was a time I used to venture here with my laptop and sip Cabernet and Perrier (separate glasses—I’m not that weird) while working on my writing, none of the current waitstaff were employed here then. To them I'm just this guy who sits for hours, banging away at his keyboard, iPod in his ear, foot tapping beat against the bar, downing cup after cup of tea.

I’m sitting at the bar in The Trident, a coffee shop slash bookstore slash restaurant slash Internet café on Newbury Street in Boston. It’s a popular place—just try getting a table on the weekend for brunch, and you’ll see. The remainders tables are among the best around, with a great variety of high-brow lit and trash, and a liberal dose of Zen / new-age books scattered between. The magazine selection is second to none, and they don’t object if you grab a handful of magazines, bring them to your table, peruse with fingers greasy from sweet potato fries, and leave without buying.

I brought my parents here two months ago (for the first time, which is pretty astounding given that The Trident is two blocks from my apartment) and we had breakfast at two o’clock. They’re open until midnight (seven days a week) and I have to say that it’s tough to beat having Eggs Benedict at 10pm. For me, anyway… I love breakfast food, it’s the waking up at breakfast time I struggle with. The mac and cheese is pretty damn good, too, and the cobbler, crust overflowing the bowl, ice cream melting on top, kicks ass.

What brings me here, though, is the “tea high.”

Only three months ago I could say “I’ve never had hot tea” and mean it. That trivial fact was something I used to bring controversy to the table; other items in my controversy-building repertoire include the facts that I’ve never seen Titanic, watched an episode of The Brady Bunch, or worn flip-flops.

One day in April, Keryn gently urged me to give the tea a shot.

What the hell, I said. Bring me Earl Grey with milk and splenda (I’m still not ready for honey). And much to my surprise, I sorta dug it. And then I sorta felt it.

You’d think with a lifetime drinking Coke Classic on my morning commute (to school, to college, to work) I wouldn’t feel the effects of caffeine unless I crushed a box of No-Doz and snorted it through a tightly rolled Benjamin à la Tony Montana. But I was dead wrong—that buzz hit me hard. And I liked it.

So begins a nasty habit, an almost nightly trek down the street to The Trident, computer in tow. Give me a pot of black tea. Oh, let’s make it Ginger Peach today. One cup, two cups, three cups. Hit me with the Darjeeling. One cup, two cups, three cups. Never a fan of milk in my youth, I must drink a half-liter each night I’m here.

Fortunately, tea is inexpensive. I spend $10 and pump my body full with enough caffeine to kill a lab rat. And I swear it greases the gears: I crank through 2000 words each time I come here. Sure, this pesky blog consumes a healthy portion of that output, but 2K constitutes a pretty productive three hours no matter how you slice it.

Back at the bar, I have switched to Dos Equis, counting on the beer to slow me down a notch or two. I’m a stranger here, though tonight I went ahead and gave my name to the server. He has waited on me two days this weekend, ten days this month, and showed little recognition until tonight. They don’t know what I’m doing with this computer; they definitely don’t know I’m using the free wi-fi to talk about them on a blog nobody reads (yet). I’m going to order one more beer and a plate of Mac and Cheese before sneaking out, as unknown as when I came in.

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