The Best Work

In my humble experience…

The best work is usually being done by someone with talent, who’s working hard, and who understands that the best idea is not the first idea you have, but usually is the result of sifting through many many ideas, chucking the ones that suck, and zeroing in on the good ones to find the one or two which MIGHT be great.

And then working the hell out of the GREAT ideas.

On the other hand, some of the most dangerous people I’ve met are ones who combine extreme intelligence with the notion that EVERY IDEA they have is a good idea.

Play With Fire, Part 2

Burning Man

they wore leather, and goggles, and it was the desert.
they lit fire, pushed it down the wires, and sent it up.
the explosion, when it hit us
lifted us, off the desert, and thumped our heads
and then, an oven erupting into a mittened hand
– the heat that got into us
from the ball of fire that rose above us
into the blue above the desert
where they wore leather, and goggles
and made fire come down the wires.

Play With Fire, Part 1

The Idea of Double Decaf

“Double-decaf macchiato, to go” was the one I couldn’t understand.

He was one of our first customers, every day. And that was his order. Every single day.

I didn’t get it because, first of all, why would you get up first thing in the o’dark morning to go to a coffee shop for decaf?

And second of all, why take to go a drink that’s made to be downed in four sips?

“For Here”, we’d have served it in a nice porcelain cup, made a lovely cup of coffee for him. It doesn’t take two minutes to down a macchiato for here.

“To Go” meant we made it in a 12 oz paper cup, a few drops of espresso and foam sitting sadly at the bottom of a paper cup like the dregs of someone’s latte. Cost him $2.25. Every day. I didn’t get it.



Barista, the best place in Portland (if not the world) for a macchiato. Not decaf. In a real cup.

Something made me think of the Double Decaf Man this morning. I was thinking about fall. About fire rituals. Also, I’ve spent the last few weeks with Wallace Stevens’s The Idea Of Order At Key West. Stevens is my favorite poet and his poems are like diamonds: Results of diverse, sometimes rough ideas put under enormous pressure until they’re squished into a few pithy lines and all you can say is Wow How Shiny.

The Idea Of Order At Key West has an idea that’s stuck in my head: “Oh! Blessed rage for order… [our] rage to order… ourselves and our origins.”.

Is that what the double-decaf macchiato was? A blessed rage for order? Surely taking the same thing every day, no matter how trivial, is a ritual, a crafted attempt at establishing sequence and rhythm.

The poem also talks about ‘Mastering the night and portioning out the sea’… was the double-decaf a way of mastering the morning and portioning out the commute?

Maybe I had it all wrong. Maybe there was a genius in “Double-decaf macchiato, to go” that far superseded whatever superficial pleasure the guy got from the taste or the aesthetic of the coffee. And if so, was the nonsense of the order essential to its function?

I think maybe. I mean, just thinking whimsically, it’s hard to imagine a sensible order like ‘small drip for here’ having the same ritualistic power as “Double-decaf macchiato, to go”, isn’t it?

Maybe. I’m not sure I understand it any better than I did all those years ago.

But now I’m trying.

(An aside: The Idea Of Order At Key West is an amazing poem. The amazingness of it is, after a fine poetic description of a heroine as mistress of the world around her, the poet breaks the fourth wall to address his audience “Ramon Fernandez” and asks Yes I know my poem is fine and I’ve shown this woman as master of her world, but cmon “Tell why” we all do this, I mean seriously, why Why WHY?

It reminds me of the interlude in Paranoid Android when an already damn good song suddenly starts ‘raining down’ beauty from a great height… or the scene in The Usual Suspects when Chazz Palminteri drops the cup and we realize the whole awesome story so far has simply been a figment of Kevin Spacey’s imagination.)