Wonda — "Big Coffee"

by Dan Kennedy

DYDO m-f-in M (click can to enlarge)

Other Chin Music

Last of the Red Hot Poppas
Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?
Kuhaku and Other Accounts from Japan
Visit our online store.

Web hosting by ICDSoft
We've been hosting with ICD for over 3 years now with no hiccups. Super reliable, cheap and excellent tech support.

First, it should be mentioned that I don't advise anyone to go blindly accepting packages from Tokyo then locking themselves in an apartment in downtown New York and ingesting the contents of the package, no questions asked. I especially don't advise taking your quasi-assistant/credit hungry intern person into the lockdown-and-consume mode with you. In your case, this combination could be fine, but in mine we're dealing with one man whose vital organs bear the compromises of two decades of excess and sporadic sleep ... and a younger man who thinks he's going to "assistant" his way to a career in letters. So, both desperate types, both with no business being in close quarters and submitting to a large and sudden infusion of stimulants from the land of the rising sun. Regardless, I opened a package from David Cady, prepared the test environment then phoned assistant Tim Kell to please come by to ostensibly "make a FedEx run and help me out with a situation." A half-truth, a sting, a fence, a con.

When he arrived at approximately 1400 hours, I invited him in, swiftly closing and locking the door behind him.

"Never a good sign in movies."

"I'm doing it for your own safety."

"Doubt it. Anyway, I'm basically here to go to FedEx, chief. And you have to sign some stuff for me so I get credits for the last four months."

I shove a half-finished can of something called Black Boss at him and tell him to drink it. Tim smacks at me and the can like we're a swarm of gnats or horn flies. I think I’m already pretty wired and have caught him too much by surprise with sudden, erratic movements. In a flash of wherewithal, it occurs to me that I’m shoving something at him that’s stout and cylindrical, with “Black Boss” written on the side of it; he might be panicking, thinking that this is some kind of sex toy and I’ve snapped. I explain in fits and starts around the confusion of his slaps, wily ducks, and dodges that it’s coffee and that I've already consumed the first half. This seems to persuade him to grab at the can and take a big swig, almost as if it’s his only means of winning the fight. Like a last resort kind of thing.

"Yes sir! What'dya think?"

"It tastes like ... watery dirt and fire."

"Jesus, you sound like a Stevie Nicks song. Let' try this one. Quickly. Quick succession is paramount, I think."

I open a can of something called Kirin Fire and shoot half down my neck and shove the rest into Tim’s chest. In an uncharacteristic sporting gesture he grabs it fast and drinks it down, then slams the empty can to the table with a grin and says, “Pretty good. Feels like it means business. And it’s inside me now, so now I mean business. I like that feeling. The taste is kind of, coffee and, I don’t know, coffee-and-water, I guess.”

I digest what he’s said, as well as the last of the Kirin Fire still hitting my stomach and blood, “I gotta tell you, in case things go south, I’ve already had a can of something called Roots and something called Pokka and some other thing. I think I’m on the verge of a psychotic episode. This, though ... I like the Kirin Fire. I feel cheerful, and deranged. Not tangled up in melancholy guilt. Primed. Ready to act out against implicit social contracts. But for good. Like I want to steal cars for the elderly or set small fires in office trash cans.”

“But you have to make the fires in trash cans benefit people somehow.”

“Or maybe that could be the one thing I do that isn’t for good. Maybe that’s just my hobby to blow off steam.”


We quickly split a huge can of something called Tamiya Georgia Original Since 1975. I’m not sure which one of these words is the title. There are two stars on the lid, which strikes neither of us as a good rating. But it might be something lost in translation. They might be working on a two-star system in Tokyo. The can has a lid on top, like a can of spray paint. This might be spray paint, actually. For all I know this David Cady sent us a case of brake fluid and spray paint and is laughing his ass off in Japan while we sit here in New York on the verge of doubling over in abdominal pain, crawling to phones and dialing poison centers. Tim takes the first hit and leaves half the can for me.

“Okay, that’s what I’m talking about. That’s a strong horse. Kicking. This one will hunt.”

Jesus, what’s Tim talking about? Horses don’t hunt. These things are making him do bad beat poetry. I yank the can out of his hands like a father advised by public school psychologists that the only chance of saving his son is using “tough love.” I hit the can hard. Tim is staring into the plastic lid thing that came off the top, thinking God knows what. He’s right, though. This stuff is strong without having to shout about it. This is drive coffee. Highway blend. If you had to drive from Los Angeles to Seattle right now, you might want a flack vest with about a half dozen of these jammed into the pockets.

Next, in a feat that I can only describe as a cross between one of those street urchin hippy people juggling kerosene-soaked batons and bad '80s rock video editing, we manage to plow through the remaining Dydo Italatte, Suntory Boss Fine Roast Coffee, Roots Real Blend, and something that looks like a small tub of drywall spackling or tub caulking. Tim’s eyes are darting around. For no apparent reason, he blurts out that he’s hypoglycemic. I tell him I’m thinking of spending all of next summer in the Rockies. He says that when he was eight or nine years old, he fell in love with his babysitter and he used to fantasize about a life together while secretly urinating on the comforter on his bed. Simultaneously, I’m saying something about Gap commercials and how I can’t understand what’s happening in American advertising anymore. Tim looks like he’s about to weep, but is talking about committing violence against an Indian man who he’s convinced has been overcharging him for candy over the last year. I’m thinking to myself how we know the last year’s worth of work is over. And now what? We can’t just sit here in this apartment babbling in these weird amnesiac spasms of thought. Who knows what’s out there and what’s next for either of us? Feels like a whole new dawning, well, that’s the coffee maybe. It’s turning everything into morning, right? I tell Tim there’s no FedEx to go out. He knows. We turn up Kings of Leon on the stereo and start smashing all the cans. My girlfriend walks in with one of her fancy, mature friends and asks me how old we are. Tim points at me and screams, “Fucking thirty-eight on Monday!” My girlfriend stands there with shopping bags and stares. I think she’s pretty into me.

Dan Kennedy is the author of Loser Goes First (Random House/Crown). His writing is also featured in the Los Angeles Times Bestseller Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans: The Best of McSweeney's Humor Writing (Knopf). His next book is forthcoming in 2006 from Algonquin.

Discuss with other coffee lovers. (6)

Caffeinated Goods

Canned coffee is more than a drink. It's a whole fidgety, jacked-up subculture that bonds young punks, middle-aged office workers, fatigued students and even old guys in polo shirts. Enter the world, join the addiction and shop for caffeine-inspired art that would make Balzac proud.

The Coffee Journals

"In the half-lotus position I sit, typing this out and enjoying a lucid dream in which I am being carried upon the 'shoulders' of a glinting, dew-speckled mass of Fire 'Siphon Method' coffee cans."