Coffee, Chi & Me


Coffee, Chi & Me

 I, err, sometimes have free time at work. Recently, my boss went to Florida for a week to help her mother set up there for the winter and to also try to recuperate from a nasty case of bronchitis. She had not given me any project in particular to keep me busy so, between periods of working on an ongoing project of adding names to our database from the Town of Hampstead telephone directory, I thought that I would check out one of Netflix’s new series: Marco Polo. It’s quite good with a heavy dose of pageantry, Mongol-style, intrigue & action, with a healthy dose of passion and violence thrown in.

In one scene, as a reluctant “guest” of the great Kublai Khan, Marco is being challenged by his martial-arts teacher who happens to be blind but who is nonetheless beating him badly in Marco’s Kung Fu training. He’s basically knocking Marco about although, in the name of a good narrative, the latter is slowly getting stronger and more capable of defending himself.

Nevertheless, as his Chinese trainer is knocking him about, ably deflecting Marco’s assaults and turning Marco’s energy against him as all good martial arts experts are able to do, despite his being blind, he is also castigating Marco for his lack of “kung fu”.

“The cleaner has kung fu,” he says, throwing an elbow into Marco’s chest (we see a cleaner rubbing the throne of the Kublai Khan). “The cook has kung fu,” he says. “You,” he says, as he plants his feet into Marco’s face, the latter not giving up on his attack and growing more and more frustrated and beaten up with each passing second, “have no kung fu.”



 To me, Kung fu, is chi, something I learned a little about when I studied Tai Chi many years ago. I remember clearly after one class how my feet seemed to float above the ground. I had kung fu. I often feel this way, totally centred and grounded, after a yoga class as well.

Which brings me to the subject of coffee.

I love coffee. You wouldn’t know it by how much I drink it, which is not too often. If I should imbibe a caffeinated coffee from 11 am or later, there’s a good chance I will be up at 2 am many hours later and stay up for an uncomfortably long time. I wake up every night anyway and feel very lucky if I’m not up too long. Drinking coffee late in the day guarantees that this will happen.

But if I go for a coffee in the morning, as I did today, well, that should be OK, right?

I have great memories of some great coffees, the one best being a certain espresso enjoyed in the central Pyrenees town of Vielha, Spain. Naomi, Elan, our son and I had just completed three very intense days of hiking in the Pyrenees. Very rocky, breathtaking scenery. Ambitious. On our first day out of the park where we had hiked, we decided to stop at the nearest town and pamper ourselves with a four-star hotel. The following day, strolling through Vielha, I discovered a “happy drink”, a small dark espresso brewed at a local café. A couple of sips and a tangible well-being flowed through me. I did worry about being up at night, a valid concern considering I had just gotten over a nasty week of jet lag; it’s not fun watching people sleeping soundly around you hour after hour in the dark.

Still, who could resist? This was really my “happy drink”!

Today, even with a delicious coffee made in our espresso machine, the beans freshly ground and mixed with ground cinnamon, my chi went nuts within a half hour of imbibing. My martial arts master would have me tied in a pretzel before I could say “Kung Fu!”

I don’t know what coffee does to my adrenals but there’s this wild energy in my limbs. I could trip over my shadow. Yes, I do move quickly and can talk a storm, but I’m about as grounded as a sparrow. Not a pleasant experience. When you have to spend the morning unpacking paintings and other works of art, as we did this morning at our new house, one must be vigilant to not drink coffee first thing.

In a new house, you try even harder to not nick anything, to not break anything, to not scar anything. Every couple of seconds I was hitting something, letting a painting drop (thank God for bubble wrap!) and generally displaying to the entire world (i.e. my wife) how Kung Fu-less I was.

So, what to do? I’m not quite sure. As already said, I love coffee.

I just don’t like its effect.



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