Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Confession, or, How An Acting Assignment Started An Addiction

I have a confession to make: I love coffee.

I know, I know. I'm weak. I'm misguided. I don't understand how terrible this DRUG really is and just what it's doing to my body. I am a lesser person than you. But I Just can't help it.

Drinking coffee has become one of those things we are supposed to be ashamed to do. Akin to watching a few hours of tv after work or eating raw cookie dough as you're baking, drinking coffee just isn't cool. You can drown yourself in seven cups of tea every day, but drinking coffee? You may as well inject yourself with heroin.

(Sidenote: I had to Google to make sure heroin was the one you injected. I am sooo out of the drug loop.)

However, even though it's taboo I'm proud to say that I love it. I don't drink coffee merely because I'm addicted (which, by the way, I totally am), but rather because I absolutely adore it. I love the smell, the taste, and the way it seems to wrap my body in a warm, wonderful blanket. Coffee is more than a drink for me. It's an experience.

Before university I had had only one or two cups of coffee in my life. Usually loaded with cream and sugar, I drank it to look cool and impress the older kids, and maybe to trick myself awake with the caffeine. When I was in first year at uni, my friend Jerome brewed coffee in his room every day and I would sit on his bed and relish the smell. I wouldn't touch the stuff, though. No thank you. Yuck.

Eventually, however, I started trying a cup here and there and found it wasn't too bad. I started to really enjoy the taste! I got a one-cup coffee maker and started making coffee part of my weekend (at this point I wasn't really into having it more than once or twice a week). It wasn't until my acting prof, Jo Jo, gave us an assignment that I truly developed a love of the drink.

Jo Jo hated bad miming. Often times it's sloppy, poorly done and forgotten about once the actor walks away. I can't blame her and, in situations that aren't improv*, I completely agree with her. She gave us an assignment that seemed simple: pretend you're drinking a hot drink. We were to go home, make a cup of something hot and really take note of how we drank it so we could mime it the next day. It was here that my love blossomed.

I made a cup of coffee (loaded it up with cream and sugar), sat on our worn old couch (that coincidentally our high school drama teacher gave us) and began my assignment. I noticed that when I held the cup, I usually put just two of my right-hand fingers through the handle. When I went to take a sip, I would rest my lip on the edge of the cup, inhale, then exhale into the cup, blowing the warm coffee-laced steam over my nose and forehead. Then, oddest of all, I would open my mouth and tap my teeth four times before taking the first sip (top right, top left, bottom right, bottom left) ... (I realize that's a little OCD and weird, and I have no idea when I started doing it, but it happens unconsciously every time i take my first sip of coffee). I would take the liquid in, let it roll over my tongue and seep slowly down my throat. Coffee wasn't just a drink. It was a full-body, multiple sensory organ experience. I loved how it tasted, how it made me warm, how it almost burned my hands and how my whole body seemed to take the small cup in. Jo Jo inadvertently opened up a new, appreciative world to me and I was hooked (I also like to think that I can mime a hot drink really well now).

Through university I stuck to coffee a few times a week and continued the tradition when I moved to Toronto. It wasn't until my first office job, though, that I really started the routine of having it every single day.

When I started working for a woman, I was in charge of making coffee for her every day. Naturally, I started drinking coffee every morning. And every afternoon. I was a two-cupper. It wasn't too bad and I never felt like I “HAD” to have my coffee in order to function, but I definitely drank it more than I ever had before. I quit that job, went to Australia and went many days in a row without my liquid gold with no ill effects. When I got back to Canada and started in on my new desk job, I got back to having a few cups a day. After a year of this, I started realizing that I wasn't able to fully wake up without my morning cup of coffee. I would be foggy and a little irritable until I had a few sips of my brew. I didn't think it was a good sign, and tried to cut coffee out, much to the dismay of my aching head. I decided to go back on the coffee, and here I am today. I can go a day or two without it, of course, but after more than that I get a terrible headache. I know it's not right and I know that I'm addicted, but I'm okay with it despite how ashamed I sometimes feel when people on soap boxes preach down on me.

I am addicted to coffee, sure, but that doesn't mean I slurp it back without enjoying it. It's not like a glass of water or a bad house wine; I really do enjoy drinking coffee and still relish the experience every morning. When I close my eyes and take my first few sips, I'm brought back to that acting assignment and back to that feeling of warm coffee-love. I appreciate going to good coffee houses where they love a good cup (Sam James Coffee Bar on Harbord being the best in the city with the owner and barista(o?) truly paying attention to every cup be makes. Divine!) and I love it all from espressos to lattes to french pressed with a hint of cinnamon. Hell, I even don't mind greasy, shitty diner coffee sometimes; it reminds me of hungover mornings at Pizzaville, the local breakfast place in university that is not to be confused with the Toronto pizza chain.

So while some may tell me I'm wrong to drink it, I try to stand tall and be proud of my liquid love. After all, there are few things better than curling up with a giant mug of coffee and an entire season of X-Files. Not that I watch more than 20 minutes of TV or anything...

*This is not to say that all miming in improv is horrible, nor is this to say that people can get away with shitty miming while onstage during improv. Scenework (miming) should be practiced and worked on as much as anything else and really shouldn't be forgotten, however, in improv its easier to let things slide as the scene jumps around a lot. This being said, we've all heard the story that Mike Myers got in to Con because he mimed a table and walked around it later in the scene. What am I trying to say here again? I dunno. Just don't sit down and pretend to be at a computer, then walk through the desk repeatedly in the scene. The audience will hate you for it and it looks unprofessional.


  1. My husband goes through two pots every day. He's cranky and miserable without it. And his brain doesn't work properly. I love the OCD thing - you weirdo! xoxo

  2. Who says you're wrong to drink coffee?

    Dandelion tea-sipping yoga-philes with ratty dreadlocks?

    Smug vegans who guzzle soy milk?

    Self-disciplined jerks who drink only water, and make you feel terrible with their very presence?

    People who don't enjoy life, that's who.