I once had a friend named Marcus, who taught me how to put words together into business concepts, how to take ordinary circumstances and find opportunity. Genius thinker, lawyer, personal trainer, mysterious friend. He grew up in Zimbabwe from British and Dutch stock; grew up with money and a cook and a gardener and a boy to carry his backpack when he'd hike; a private-schooled lad in the lap of African luxury. And then the civil war began as he graduated high school. He became a soldier at 16. A commander. Leading a troop of black men in bloody battle that held no prisoners. Surrender, but no prison. And Marcus, the field commander led his men in executing any and all captives. And a bull once, for a feast with a nobleman.
Marcus, in his quiet anguish all those years later knew the simplicity of rooibos tea after a run, the nourishment of butternut squash soup on a cold Colorado day, the excitement of a cougar scream, the challenge of openness for fear of judgment.
I grew up with broomstick rifles and tree branch pistols, jig-sawed, clothes-pinned rubber band guns, soda can grenades, trip wire twine in the trees setting off a promenade of waving, chattering, dancing leaves on limbs. We buried empty coffee cans, our childhood dirt safes, built platforms in the trees, lean-to shelters, stick-and-cornstalk bomas. We split up into teams and nervously trod through acres of wooded, pond-spackled, barbed-wire fenced fields, peering out from creek beds and hill crests, hiding behind tractors and trees and inside hay-filled barns. We would divide and sneak, spying and listening, guessing where the enemy lay. And then surprise and anxious happenstance, and furious gun battles, sighting down the long, straight barrel of a dowel, verbal shots firing in rapid succession from both sides. Who got who? Lay down, count to 100, and resume. We didn't take prisoners either. But the war would usually end in an all-out assault or we would tire of looking for each other and head in.
Marcus was fascinated by war stories of small African tribes outsmarting the British army and by Peter Beard and by really interesting, hand-crafted lamps. We became the best of friends in an instant, and it lasted for a season despite the immense disparity in our experiences. I still think about Marcus now and then, his influence during a particularly influential time of my life, how I hung on every word and every photograph and every porcupine quill, how I longed to be more like him, even though he withheld so much.
I tasted a coffee last night that reminded me so much of Marcus. It was ethereal. It was one of those moments where Dr. Livingstone's search for the source of the Nile felt real. Where the black-and-white image of Marcus sitting in a dusty safari camp came to mind. Stories of his treks with anti-poaching units in Kenya washed over my palate with foreign soil. Peter Beard's famous journals, filled with game hair and blood, photographs of beautiful, half-naked African nymphs, mud and fingerprints and stories of famous hunters and his friend Karen Blixen. It was tea, not red but black. And sweet with a fluidity of body that swept me down that storied Nile to Tanganyika, where elephants walk on crushed grasses. Lemongrass. Tea with lemongrass. Natural sweetness, cleanliness, deliciousness, and the aftertaste sublime. I smiled. I was lost in the small, gourd-shaped cup, aromatics, sensations, memories. I swished and slurped and held that last sip in my mouth, refusing to swallow it, shaking my head, no no no, I won't; I don't want to let it go. Don't want it to end. I want to hear more stories of Africa and what it's like to jump up and down next to Maasai warriors and touch the footprint of a lion in the soft earth. But it's ended.
I'm looking for another. Another like it. Because I want you to know it too. I feel good. I'll find something soon. Just for you.
(Look out for a new washed Yirg or Sidamo soon.)
I'll be roasting the Nekisse again on Monday. If you want some for Thanksgiving, pick it up Tuesday or Wednesday.
New DoubleShot Carbon Credit Travel Cups just came in today. They look good. $10 each.
The Route 66 Marathon is surrounding us Sunday 11/21. Here is the course map.
You can still get here by exiting the BA at Denver, turn left to Boston, turn right on 14th, and left again on Baltimore to the back of the store. Here's a map.