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Some people liken the passage of time to sands through an hourglass. I liken it to coffee through a drip filter.

OK,, so I don't exactly measure time by how long it takes the coffee to be ready in the morning. Though I know exactly -- to the second -- how long that takes. And it would be in everyone's best interest if you didn't get between me and the coffee maker when that time has expired, thank you very much.

Ever since coffee entered my life, at a relatively early age, my relationship to it has marked milestone eras in my life.

When I was a child, coffee represented this magical potion only adults got to drink, an act I was sure was covered under some criminal statute. OK, so maybe I got coffee and beer mixed up in my head a little. Wouldn't be the last time. Literally or figuratively.

Coffee was something generated in a sacred urn. Or, a metal pot with something called a percolator top that allowed you to determine when the stuff was ready. Adults, specifically men, then poured the contents into either a beat-up mug or a Styrofoam cup and downed it with a combo squint-grimace that signified a great truth about adulthood -- a lot of things in life really had to grow on you.

My first sip was like my first paycheck, a signifier that, if I wasn't exactly an adult yet, I was at least on the runway preparing for takeoff. That the taste came across like the phrase "state and federal taxes" was a just a lesson in the hard realities of life.

In high school and college, we put the training wheels on coffee in the form of copious amounts of sugar and whipped cream and milk and just about anything else we could get our hands on that turned it into what amounts to mocha-

flavored shakes. More of that "growing on you" deal.

As young adults, coffee became the lubricant of our allegedly hipness. We had coffee dates, celebrated seasonal changes with the return of flavored concoctions and carried huge paper cups of it with the label of the chain we bought it from prominently displayed. Coffee as a badge and accessory.

And then the kids came, and we began to realize both that coffee is actually a perfectly legal addictive stimulant and why our fathers hadn't spoken a lot in the morning until after that beat-up mug and the squint-grimace deal.

The fact we had in fact grown to appreciate and enjoy the taste of coffee was nice, but very much secondary. What was most important was that it was there, the rocket fuel to propel us through our hectic morning and life. And if, for some reason it wasn't there, we'd have gladly gotten by with just chewing a handful of beans.

Coffee has taken on a new role in my post-kid/very pre-retirement world. Most mornings it's a soothing, pre-dawn drink that signals the beginning of a new day. That's if I'm lucky. Other mornings, I can almost feel it flowing to my aching knee, or the shoulder I must have slept on wrong or the eye that really doesn't seem to want to open.

And then there are the days when it's basically a liquid defibrillator.

Not sure what exactly comes next, but I do have a frame of reference from my childhood and my first real job.

Back then, I worked at a golf course among those gangs of kids who always seem to be doing something that needs to be done but that doesn't require a lot of skills, like raking traps or emptying trash cans or providing a moving target while picking up range balls in the enclosed tractor.

Another of my jobs was cleaning tables in the snack bar. And there, every noon, a group of retirees would come in between the multiple rounds would play and order hamburgers and coffee. Not soft drinks, not tea. Coffee.

Some of them had probably had their first cup of coffee with their fathers before they all headed off to the fields. Others used to drink it out of a beat-up thermos at their factory or construction job. A few acquired the taste on the deck of a pitching ship heading off for some place like Iwo Jima or Saipan or some other island they'd never heard of and would never forget.

That's the good thing about coffee. Wherever you are in life, it's there for you.

Commentary on 08/31/2018

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