Firehouse coffee

I’ve never overslept for a bike ride.

“Wanna come over to the firehouse and have a cup of coffee?” Fireman texted me.

“Sure,” I texted him back.

Fireman now works around the corner from my apartment. Unlike the Inglewood station, where he made 20 runs in a 24-hour shift, up here on the Old Folks Peninsula he makes about one, and it’s usually to get a cat out of a tree or help someone find her bifocals.

I hopped on my bike and rode over but showed up at kind of the wrong time, which was dinnertime. The firemen were all seated around a big communal table eating the most delicious pot of Mexican meatball stew that one of the guys had made.

“Help yourself,” one of the firemen said, kindly shoving a big bowl over towards me.

“Thanks but I have dinner waiting at home and probably can’t go home full.”

One of the guys shrugged. “Have two dinners then.”

I looked at their broad shoulders, thick forearms, and powerful hands and realized that this wasn’t a manorexic dinnertime with cyclists munching a lettuce sandwich and half a glass of water. It was dinnertime with a bunch of men.

My buddy Fireman came to the rescue. “He was just swinging by for a cup of coffee.”

Everyone stopped eating and looked at me. One of the guys casually said, “There’s still a cup or two left.” Something was happening but I didn’t know what. “If you want it.”

“Sure,” I said before glancing over to the counter. The coffee, and there wasn’t much of it, was in a beaker with millimeter gradations. Everyone watched.

“It’s pretty strong,” said the guy.

Everyone watched.

I shrugged. “I like my coffee strong. Is this coffee special?” Stupid question. Of course it was. It was made in a fucking beaker. And what was the first thing they taught you in science class? Don’t ever, ever, ever drink anything out of a fucking beaker.

“It’s my firehouse espresso,” said the guy. “It might keep you up.”

A couple of the guys cracked slight smiles behind their concrete veneers. “Just a little,” one fireman said.

“Yeah,” said another. “You might be extra alert for a little bit.”

“What they’re saying,” said the captain, “is that you’ll be hearing hummingbird farts on the other side of the hill.”

Now it was a flat out dare. “Shoot,” I said. “I’ve had plenty of strong coffee. I can drink two or three espressos and go straight to sleep, no problem.”

“Well then, let me pour you a cup.” The blue-clad barista picked up the beaker, sloshed it once for a stir, and poured out two thimblefuls in a tiny, tiny cup, which he then microwaved for a few seconds.

“That’s a pretty small cup,” I said.

“There’s enough for seconds,” he said.

Everybody pretended to go back to dinner as I threw down my coffee in a gulp. “Man,” I said, “that’s good stuff.”

“Let me pour you another,” said the fireman, and he did, and I drank that, too.

“How do you make this?” I asked.

“Oh,” said the fireman, “I don’t really ‘make’ it. It’s more of a process.”

I nodded. After a while Fireman finished eating and we went outside. “Dude,” he said, “you won’t be sleeping tonight. Or tomorrow.”

“It does feel kind of strong.” I reflected for a moment that I’d just downed two of something that alert, professional, large dudes who do dangerous shit for a living and who stay up for days at a time drink in order to stay awake, and that when they drink it, they only drink single servings.

I went home feeling kind of antsy. Bedtime rolled around at ten and I still felt antsy. Everything seemed really loud. I opened my Chinese book and memorized fifty kanji in about ten minutes. Then I cleaned out Mrs. WM’s desk and my bike and wrote a blog. It was only 10:30.

By eleven, a time of day when I can’t stay awake under any circumstances, I crawled into bed. I could hear the neighbors talking three units over. At twelve I got up and worked for an hour, completing a day’s work in sixty minutes. At one I lay back down and listened to the sounds from another neighbor’s video game. At 1:30 I got back up and read two magazines cover to cover. At two I ate an apple and red fifty pages of Ulysses. At three I went to bed again, and at four I went to sleep.

Note to reader: I have stayed up an entire night only once in my life. Now, twice.

My alarm went off at five but I didn’t, and I missed the Thursday Flog Ride. First time for everything.



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18 thoughts on “Firehouse coffee”

  1. Three rules that pretty much cover this shitshow we call life:
    1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
    2. If it’s wer and it ain’t yours, don’t touch it.
    3. Never eat or drink anything that was made in a beaker.
    Great read Sethi 😊

  2. Fireman? A few years back, in between medical, fire and cat in the tree runs, the city admin sent a rep over to our station. In the next hour or so she, Oops, I mean the city rep informed us, in a very assertive and politically correct manner, that we were no longer permitted to refer to ourselves as fireMAN. We were now officially firefighters. If we failed to comply, for whatever reason, sensitivity training would be made available. None of the men (or woman) in our department gave a rat’s fart what the city wanted to call us, just don’t call us late for meatball stew and espresso!

    1. Next time I will refer to the occupation as firefighter. But can I still call my buddy Fireman? Even though compared to those other dudes, with his narrow cyclist ass he looked like Firewoman …

  3. Ha, love it Seth. I actually hope you continue to refer to your friend and his co-workers as you always have. I just wanted to warn you that if any anal SoCal PC officials read this you may get hauled away in the middle of the night for sensitivity reprograming.

  4. I’ve dated a few women who could be righteously be called “Firewoman”.

    In retrospect, around midnight you shoulda gotten out on the bike and done 10 laps up Crownview then gone home to bed.

    I know someone who is a retired fire fighter, told me one day when he was thrashed from a big ride the previous day, the paramedic at the station give him an IV infusion of electrolytes. Don’t know if that qualifies as EPO, but it did wonders for instant recovery. If your friend Fireman the firefighter shows miraculous recovery after rides………….

    1. Now that he works up at the Old Folks and Lost Cats Station, he’s certainly more rested.

      1. If you thought your credit score was low before, you ain’t seen nothing yet!!

  5. After you drank out of the fear the monkey beaker I bet you heard, “And Liftoff of the space shuttle Davidson!”

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