Jacob: Hard to believe it’s my last day, isn’t it? We’ve had some good times together, hammering out a line of drinks for the Sunday morning church rush or relaxing with the perfect shot on a Friday evening. No matter what the challenge, you always came through, and now that I have to move on I just want to say that’s it’s been great working with you. I’m gonna miss you, man. C’mon, let me give you a hug.
Fellow barista: Um, thanks, but that’s not really necessary…
Jacob: Huh? I was talking to the Synesso.
OK, so that’s not really what happened, but yesterday was, sadly, my last official day on the Murky crew. As much as I’d like to continue as a barista there, I’m going to be traveling a lot in the coming months and allowing my lease to expire in June. I’m excited about the trips I’ll be taking (more on that later), but will certainly miss working the bar and meeting the friendly, interesting people who make serving drinks such a pleasure.
I know my fascination with coffee is seen as a bit eccentric among my libertarian and academic peers, so it’s not easy to convey how lucky I am to have spent the past six months working at Murky. Had I gone to almost any other shop I would have “mastered the craft” within a few weeks, content to use poor technique to pull mediocre shots on an imprecise espresso machine. I see baristas working at these places and think to myself, “There but by the grace of Nick go I.” Had Murky not been opening just three blocks from my apartment in the same month that I was searching for a coffee shop job, I might well be one of them. Instead, I’ve been welcomed into the burgeoning espresso community and learned an incredible amount about coffee and coffee preparation. More importantly, I’ve realized how much I don’t know. The barista learning curve slopes easily upward at first, giving it the disarming appearance of a job any teenager at Starbucks can do. But the curve does not plateau. It slopes ever upward, presenting new techniques to perfect and subtle nuances to savor.
Fortunately, I haven’t been immediately banished to the receiving side of the bar. I may fill in occasionally next month and Nick has kindly granted me visitation privileges to the machine to help ease the withdrawal symptoms. It’s possible I’ll even rejoin the crew if I move back to the area, which there’s a pretty good chance I’ll do thanks to my time as a barista. If I hadn’t enjoyed the work so much, or made so many (non-libertarian!) friends among staff and customers, or found a balance between political activism and other pursuits, I seriously doubt that I’d still consider D.C. a liveable area. Now it feels like home.
What comes next? More time for writing and magic, both of which I have admittedly neglected of late. Perhaps I’ll even restore this weblog to its former wacky but respectable glory. For now, though, it’s time to pack — I leave for Cincinnati in the morning, then on to Chicago, St. Louis, and Nashville.