Questions with Jeff

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.

33 thoughts on “Questions with Jeff

  1. Cat pee? I like super strong coffee too, but I’ve never associated it with cat pee.

    The more I learn about you, the more I want to know. You crack me up. I love that you’re interviewing yourself with a Russian accent. (I imagined Boris Bandenoff voice)

    I never chewed the wax bottles, but I drank the whatever inside them. I always liked the chocolate neccos. I threw the black ones away cuz yuck, licorice… green was pretty good too 😂

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    • See, I like licorice anything. Although I doubt I’d like licorice Neccos if they still made them. I find it incredible that those candies lasted so long with so many better options available. I’m sure Sour Patch Kids most have been the Necco Death Nell. Those Sour Patch Kids are my all time favorite

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  2. Ha! Our mind’s associations with various foods and drinks are so…odd! While I don’t drink coffee, I have a neighbor who once told me that the smell of dead skunk on the road smells like coffee to him. Ever since then, I’ve paid closer attention and…I think he’d right, based on my memories of spending time with a boyfriend in a Starbucks reading the Sunday paper while he enjoyed his coffee. But please, don’t tell mere there’s a hint of skunk in wine, as I really, really like wine.

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  3. Oh man I forgot about Necco! I loved those as a kid. Now, they’d probably break my teeth.

    Any chance the coffee is being burned? I loooove coffee too, and sometimes change the flavour by using different types of milk. But burned coffee smells like poo and the taste is not far off (or so I imagine. I’ve never knowingly ate poo before). Yuck. Anyway, happy Saturday, hope you enjoy a great hike and good not-burned coffee.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure the coffee could be burned. It’s a stove top percolator and I don’t have the patience for a slow brew. I immediately boil the water and by the time it’s done, it’s bubbling in the pot. Maybe I should try a slow cook once to see if it tastes different.

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      • What kind of coffee is cooked over the stove top? You ought to get a fancy coffee maker, seems like it would be a worthwhile purchase. We just use an electric kettle and instant coffee powder, takes 2 minutes to make, just gotta find a good brand of instant you like. We like Nescafe finely ground.

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      • Oh I’ve just looked up a photo of the percolator, am sure I’ve seen them around at some point. It is called the hob over here yes.

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  4. I go country or British. The older kids and I do the British thing, actually. Bobby had a British soccer coach for a couple of years that relished in calling a player who made a mistake “You donut!” Try it. It’s fun to say. Catelyn creates all these characters to act out too. There are days she is “Sofifa, a Russian spy.” She is a clever one.
    I battle tuna. I’d like to eat it more often but I gag and associate it with wet cat food. Yuck. And I think grapefruits and olives are just gross. No associations with those. They’re just gross.

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    • When Sophie was a young teen, she went to a week long sleep away camp that was staffed by a bunch of older British girls. It took Sophie weeks to lose the accent she picked up that week. I’m surprised I don’t eat wet cat food. I love the smell.

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  5. it is strange how wine is described; I’m glad I never got into drinking wine. Budweiser is fine for me…

    and that is so interesting about talking in different accents; I think I heard traces of a Russian in your interview..

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  6. Ha!! I love it. “bold, robust flavor with a faint aroma of cat pee” 😂 Also, I totally talk to myself in non-native-to-me accents, so we share that oddity. One of them is Inigo Montoyas, though rarely…
    I love those creative nonfiction questions. Thought provoking!

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    • So it occurred to me while reading those questions that I think I could go off on a satisfying tangent (for me) on pretty much any question asked. It’s why I thought it might be a good idea to ask my own.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That makes a lot of sense Jeff. I have the same issue with tangents too haha. And with my current analysis of coffee being an odd one to love as well, though I am still addicted to it ;)). Re: cat spray, I discovered the same thing. When we visited a relative’s, her boy cat sprayed in all the boys’ shoes, it was awful, in spite of all efforts as you described, the smell did not go away, and I ended up leaving them beside a public garbage bin somewhere. Quite an expensive visit all in all. But still worth it! :))

        Liked by 1 person

  7. That’s something you don’t read every day! I love that photo you chose and the reference to those same waxy bottles. I used to swallow them too, gross. I like tommy the cat peeing on your sneakers. That’s awesome in so many ways. Thanks for this gem Jeff.

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  8. Yup, cat pee associations here too! I don’t like sour coffees, the ones usually described as having “bright” notes…
    And love that you talked to yourself like a Latino! I do accents too, English and Polish 🤷🏻‍♀️, but mostly, just me.. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susan’s grandfather spoke with a really strong polish accent. Even though I heard it for years, I can’t remember what it sounded like. In truth, I’m having a hard time ‘hearing’ any accents right now. That’s what happens when you live in a monoculture.

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  9. I’m torn between admiration and being astounded that you drink something reminiscent of cat pee. I don’t care how great it tastes, if my tea smelled like cat piss, I would pour it down the drain and throw out the remaining leaves.

    I kind of liked the randomness of the questions:

    Without a doubt, happiness is a turquoise shade of blue.
    A restaurant would name a dish “Chronically late/overpriced chicken.”
    And I would hate my roommate intensely for doing everything better than I do. I just know that’s the kind of clone I would produce.

    And, to end my comments, I vill use extensive knowledge of Russian mother tongue to say good bye.

    Das Vi Danya, Tovarish!

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  10. Jeff, I am literally LOL-ing (I don’t think that’s a thing, but still…) at your comparison of coffee to cat pee. Bill and I are driving and I read the whole thing to him too. Thanks for making our drive a lot more fun!

    Oh, and remember those wax lips? I used to chew them like gum too. Yuck!

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    • I’m really shocked to see that they still sell those wax bottles. I’m tempted to get them just to see how gross they are. We’ve got a cool little candy shop in town that stocks most of the odd sweets from the 60s and 70s. My absolute favorite are watermelon Zots. Have been since I was 10.

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  11. Laughing as usual. As soon as as saw the photo of the wax bottles I was on memory lane. Remember the candy dots glued to paper? I wonder what kind of glue they used.

    I’m a tea drinker. Not the fruity peach, raspberry, etc. Black tea. One I occassionally enjoy is lapsang suchong which smells and tastes like a wood fire smells.

    Interesting tidbit about Tourettes in there!

    I could write a post about talking to myself. I might even get my husband to contribute. LOL.

    As soon as I read, “I started to wonder when I might get interviewed,” I decided it would be fun to create some interview questions for you. I’m not a professional interviewer and have always hated questions like those posed in your post so I’m not sure what kind of questions I will come up with. Hmm.

    Liked by 1 person

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