On Renovations, Both Home and Human

It’s a hell of a thing to rip up your flooring to find a sizable joist cracked right in half.

Late in the COVID-19 quarantine, my wife and I decided to start a much-needed home renovation, planning to do the work ourselves with some help from my dad, who’s a lifelong carpenter. After eight weeks of doing as little as we could manage, we opted to begin repairing and replacing the floor in our kitchen, living room, and hallway. Right around the same time, my boss at the coffee shop called me and asked if I’d like to return to work, seeing as the air started to clear and Tennessee began to reopen. Because I love my job, and because I was starting to get fatigued from reading sci-fi books all day, I said yes. Suddenly, and in stark contrast to the week before, I found myself with much to do.

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On Why Coffee Doesn’t Taste Like Coffee Anymore

It’s funny how the arbitrary decisions a person makes can have life-altering effects.

One of my first jobs was working for a certain green mermaid (she’s actually a siren), making coffee. A friend off-handedly said that she really enjoyed working there. Needing funds for my newfound freedom after getting my first car, I decided to apply. I was hired on the spot and soon after began learning how to make coffee, a drink I didn’t even like at the time.

Part of my training was to learn how to spot the subtleties and nuances in coffees coming from various regions around the world. Much like wine, there are several factors which all have a drastic effect on the final product—from the particular varietal of coffee, to the terroir, to the way it goes from fruit on a tree to a little brown bean in a bag. In very general terms, African coffees are often citrusy and bright, while Latin American coffees are nuttier with red fruit or stone fruit qualities. Coffees from Indonesia are earthy and herbal. There’s so much to it all, and all, and it was a lot to take in, being a kid who never even drank the stuff. And yet, after scowling over the taste of my sixth french press that day, I began to see those hints of lemon my manager was telling me I would find in the Kenyan.

Fast forward a full decade. I’m now the lead barista at the longest-operating coffee shop in Knoxville, a place I’m proud to call home. I quit my desk job at a doctor’s office to work here, and I have never once looked back. The coffee I make is substantially better, but in a weird way I enjoy it less—and also way more.

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On Starting from Scratch

I spent a lot of time when I was younger wishing that I could do certain things. My older brother is an artist who works primarily with metal via blacksmithing. My dad is a lifelong commercial carpenter who, in my mind, can build just about anything. To see them create things with their hands was, and is, incredibly inspiring. The idea of creating something, anything, whether practical or artistic, has been deeply imbedded in me from birth.

What was also imbued in me from birth was a wonderful sense of self-defeatism.

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