Do you talk to yourself? Years ago, I took on an accounting position that sat vacant for eight months. My new desk languished in a sea of paper—two-hundred-forty stacks of daily accounting records waiting to be entered. Each day’s data took five to ten minutes to input unless there was a variance to research. There was always a variance to research.
I left work each evening at five o’clock and hung out with my family—we ate dinner, played games, read books. I helped get the kids into bed, and then, quite often, I went back to work for data entry. As I typed in the entries, reconciled variances, and celebrated my successes, I narrated the whole thing with a Latin American accent. Do you talk to yourself? I talk to myself… like a Latino.
I used to anyway. In time, that habit passed, and I later learned that it’s a somewhat common symptom for people with Tourette Syndrome to speak in non-native accents. I’m sad it ended, I enjoyed it immensely. Today, I plan to take things a step further: Today, I’ll interview myself—or start to, anyway—possibly with a Russian accent, but you won’t be able to hear that part.
Why? The other day while blog reading, I saw a post where a blogger linked to her recent interview with a small creative nonfiction publisher. The questions were… unusual:
- Happiness is a color: what color is it?
- If your favorite restaurant named a dish after you, what would it be?
- You live with a clone of yourself, what’s the worst thing about your roommate?
I envisioned a lazy publisher just telling the blogger to think up some odd questions, answer them, and then email in the whole mess once complete. That’s what I’d do if I was a publisher. I certainly wouldn’t ask an author those questions. I started to wonder when I might get interviewed. After eight years of blogging, it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe it never will. I decided to stop waiting. Here is the first issue of Questions with Jeff:
Wine is often described with unpleasant sounding flavors. A fruity bouquet with hints of tree bark and dirt… What food or beverage do you love that sounds equally unappealing?
My brain immediately jumps to Necco Wafers. That candy from the 1800s, reminiscent of Tums, or a piece of chalk. And by extension, those equally chalky Valentines Day hearts that say LUV U from the seventies. I recall begging my mother to buy me those when we stopped in at the Five & Dime at Grand Union Plaza. Or possibly the wax juice bottles we got from the corner store when I was six. After drinking the sugar-laden nectar from the tiny wax bottle, I popped the whole thing in my mouth and chewed it like gum. A possible marketing blurb from the label: A flavorless glob with the consistency of… wax.
I don’t love these foods, although I must have as a kid. Now I’m simply astonished that I ever ate them. For me, the beverage I love most is coffee. And sometimes while drinking coffee, I’m reminded of cat pee.
A few weeks ago, Susan, Eli and I sat in our family room planning a Saturday afternoon hike. My cat Tommy walked into the room, approached the ratty old running shoes I now wear as sneakers, and he peed on them. Or maybe he sprayed them, I’m not certain about the difference, but it only took a second. We all sat, slack-jawed, dumbfounded. Completely out of character for him—probably showing me who’s boss. I washed them twice in the washing machine, then left them outside for days to air out. They still smelled awful. This is the aroma of my coffee.
I’m not sure when I first noticed it. It’s been a couple of years at least. I drink my coffee strong. Stove top espresso, first a large pot (thirteen shots), then a small pot of decaf. Sometimes the flavor is rich and creamy—like the fresh brewed espresso we bought from a park-side stand in Puerto Rico a few years ago. But sometimes acrid, bitter and acidic.
If the coffee packaging said a bold, robust flavor with a faint aroma of cat pee, I wouldn’t buy it. But I’ve bought plenty of wines comparing themselves to moss, earth, smoke and various types of wood. Despite the similarity with cat urine, coffee remains one of my favorite flavors. The odor doesn’t transfer to taste, and I’m willing to put up with the smell for the magic of my morning cup.