How do you start your day?

Published 10:12 am Friday, August 23, 2013

I don’t know about you, but I love coffee. When I wake up in the morning and fail to get my cup of coffee, the day just does not seem to go as well.

I wouldn’t call myself a coffee aficionado, by any means. You know, the type who brews his own batch from beans he directly imports from a farmer. The most coffee hipster thing I do is to get the pumpkin spice latte when it rolls through once a year.

Other than that, I can drink it black, or with cream or sugar, depending on the mood. Usually I get coffee-flavored coffee. That’s not to say I won’t try the other flavors, but there is something about a dark roast coffee-flavored coffee that just tastes better, especially if you are going to drink it black.

I remember when I first tried coffee. My mother hated the stuff until recently, and my father never kept it around. They both woke up to an ice-cold diet soda and regular soda, respectively when I was growing up.

But my grandmother and step-grandfather, both woke up to coffee. I remember building up the courage to drink it one morning, with the Saturday morning cartoons on in the background. I remember taking my sip over the sink because I had been warned by my grandmother that I would not like it. I knew my mother and father couldn’t stand the stuff. So, in that period of time, coffee never stood a chance. Even if I had liked it, I would have hated it on principle.

Of course, I did spit out my first sip of black coffee to the amusement of my grandmother. I vowed that I would never drink coffee. It was not a big proclamation, where I said it out loud, but instead it was more of an internal dialogue. I just told myself that the stuff was bad, and that would be that. I would go to my grave never taking another sip of that vile black liquid.

That didn’t happen. I also never became an astronaut or a firefighter, though I have been tempted several times to join volunteer squads, when I was at college and when I lived in Natchez, Miss. It may one day happen, but as of now, I’m batting 0-for-3 on childhood promises. I never had a pet Tyrannosaurus Rex either — childhood Cain would probably throw things at the person he would see today if he could time travel.

I almost got away with never drinking coffee again, but then I made a trip to California to visit my aunt and uncle. My aunt enjoyed coffee from the almost aforementioned chain, though I won’t give it a free plug. During this time, that chain did not exist in rural Mississippi, which was where I grew up. It still doesn’t. I don’t even think there was a local coffee shop at the time.

Regardless, they existed in California, and I figured while in Rome, do what the Romans do. So I tried one of those coffee drinks — a mocha — which admittedly is more so milk and cream with coffee flavoring hidden somewhere at the bottom, but it was good.

I went to community college shortly after that in Natchez. The librarian there appreciated coffee so much, as did the rest of the faculty, that she sold coffee in the library lobby. I braved real coffee one afternoon, as I was getting that 2:30 feeling, while trying to write an essay for one of my many English classes.

I enjoyed it so much that I would go on to drink an unhealthy amount of coffee in that library every day — it was really cheap if you brought your own mug.

Coffee became my best friend later on at Ole Miss, when we were putting out The Daily Mississippian — typically not leaving the office to go home and study until midnight. I can’t tell you how many times I stole the advertising director’s coffee. Hopefully, she doesn’t read this and send me a bill.

The newspaper was a lot of work. I don’t know how we put out a daily newspaper some days, and I don’t know how I kept a GPA near 4, with all the mornings I woke up cuddling my accounting book. It put me to sleep better than any sleeping pill would have. But perhaps there is some magic to that vile black liquid.

I’ve fallen on a bad habit of late, however — that habit of my mom and dad. Instead of waking up in time to brew coffee, most often, I grab a diet soda and hit the door.

It’s not the same. It just doesn’t transition me from eyes closed and drooling on my pillow mode, to awake, functioning and working hard mode as well as coffee does. I’ve been begging for an intern to fetch coffee, but it looks like the glory days of journalism have long since passed, and I’m going to have to learn to get my own coffee.

Cain Madden is the managing editor of The Tidewater News. He does get coffee some mornings, but the saga continues on whether it will be a permanent fixation again. He can be reached at