Yellow Coat: Two Coffee Paintings Tell a Short Story
The tattered yellow coat still keeps me warm in the winter. Maybe it's not the coat...but the fresh brewed coffee that provides the warmth. Or perhaps the memories.
For a half century this coat, now draped heavily on my shoulders, has embraced me.
The poster Victoria Arduino by Leonetto Cappiello (1922)
In the early days, after the Great War, the coat tails flew wildly in the wind as I dashed hither and thither trying to get my business going. I, a dapper young man, full of vigor with little time to spare. There was a world to conquer.
My arms flung out wide, as if to take the world in. Spinning, lashing, grinding the chilly air - alive.
My coat, flying open: A splash of color-bright and blatant-not to be missed. As sharp and poignant as my recently downed espresso.
The Stazione Centrale in Milano was my second home...and the trains I hopped were my life line. The rumbling of the train, the sound of the steam powered engines, the rush I felt at each voyage: they were the fuel that kept me going.
Up in the morning and on my way...a quick cup of coffee (coffee is espresso, nothing else) down the hatch. My fuel, just like the train needed its to plow its way through the Po Valley.
Nothing like it! The marvelously designed Victoria Arduino espresso machine sitting at the Station. A looming hunk of polished metal, eagle topped-with wings spread wide and a face filled with determination.
Here was the essence of modern urban life: motion, change, strength and intensity. Forward-onward. Cup after cup...we were young busy men with no time to spare.
Now, 50 years later, I sit stolidly, solidly in my small room preparing a different cup. Alone with my few utensils, I sit and slowly grind the beans - freshly roasted. The same beans but a different brew, no longer spurting out of the fantasmographic espresso machine.
The painting Coffee Grinder by Jaggu Prasad (born 1963)
Now, slowly and delicately the bean and I go through the process...
roasted in the flat iron pan..
room fills with smoke and heaviness
from green to brown
intense aromas fill my nose.
Grinder held firmly between my knees, my large heavy hands slowly turning with the turning of time. Each bean cracks and turns to small particles plummeting into the wooden drawer.
I turn into myself and appreciate the nuances: shades of brown, aromas and the feel of the beans breaking down between the burrs of the grinder.
The space between my arms, my knees, my body-a cubic void, a gut of space, like the innards of the grinder itself.
A pot on the fire gently brewing the coffee. filling the room with new sensations that I absorb.
Sitting on my low chair.
Slowly ingesting the brew...cherishing each slurp that slides down my throat.
Here too is a journey, intense movement.
I am going nowhere special...just inward, wrapped in my yellow coat.
Published: January 2005, Last Modified: April 2013