Barry Smith: Irrelativity | AspenTimes.com
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Barry Smith: Irrelativity

Barry Smith
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

Coffee is my muse. It’s my soul mate. It completes me. It had me at “hello.”

It is also my false god. It’s my scourge. It’s what gets me up in the morning, only to get me angry in the afternoon. It inspires me to create great things, but won’t let me out of the bathroom long enough to do so.

We have issues, me and coffee. Coffee and I. Whatever.



Years ago I used to wake up, make coffee and plop myself in front of my manual typewriter (computers existed, and I had one, I was just trying to be all retro). I’d roll in a clean sheet of paper and start typing whatever came to mind, inserting random line breaks so I could call it “poetry.” I did this faithfully for a year. I revisited this stack of “poems” recently. About two-thirds of them are about coffee; the sip of coffee I just had, the sip I’m about to have, the cup I just finished, the fresh cup I’m about to make, etc. Two-thirds of my pages were about coffee.

It’s said that two-thirds of the human body is water. Well, apparently I’d removed that water from my body, used it to brew coffee, then reinserted it – leaving room for cream.




Yep. Coffee. It’s a part of me. Maybe the biggest part of me. And I never realized this until, just last week, I quit.

Oh, sure, I’ve quit in the past. Like any good addict I’ve ridden the roller coaster of coffee/no coffee for years. I’ve even hitchhiked on the decaf highway. And I’ve written columns about it along the way, oh yes I have – about quitting, about starting again, about quitting again, about how much I love it, how much I hate it.

The coffee horse is well-flogged.

But. BUT! This time is different. And yes, I intend to tell you why.

In the past whenever I’ve attempted to quit coffee I’ve relied on some type of coffee methadone program. I’d temper my withdrawals with other caffeine sources – black tea, green tea, yerba matte, the blood of Juan Valdez – there’s no shortage of beanless ways to get jacked up. But this time I’ve decided to go to the source – to free myself from the clutches of caffeine itself.

Two weeks ago I woke up with a sore throat, which quickly turned into a week-long man cold, too sick even for the precious mud. After a coffee-less week in bed I arose thinking, hmmm (because all thoughts should begin with “hmmm”), I haven’t had a caffeinated beverage in a week. Maybe this is the time …

Yes. The time. I knew this time would come. The signs have always been there. Step 1: Admit you have a problem. Easy enough. I just always went immediately to Step 2: Have some coffee.

But suddenly I was a full week without caffeine, so why not use this momentum?

Maybe making such decisions while still slightly feverish isn’t wise, because as it turns out, caffeine withdrawal symptoms are a lot like flu symptoms, only not nearly as much fun. Getting off this drug gives you the effects one often looks for in going ON other drugs. There’s the confusion, that’s pretty awesome. It feels like my head has been stuffed full of crumpled pages torn from an algebra textbook. As the caffeine goes so does your motor coordination, making merely walking across the room feel like a thrill ride. I’ve never had sleep issues before in my life, despite being made of coffee. In the past I’ve been known to fall asleep mid-sentence – yours or mine, doesn’t matter to me – but as I decaffeinate I’ve become a tossing and turning machine, too algebra-headed to understand why, too uncoordinated to get out of bed.

But it’s getting better.

It’s been over two weeks now, and I think I’ve almost got the caffeine monkey off my back. When you quit smoking you get back your sense of smell and taste. So what senses do you regain when you quit caffeine? I feel like I’m close to finding out. In fact, I can already see the light at the end of the tunnel.

A light that, if I squint hard enough, looks exactly like a Starbucks sign.


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