May 1, 2017

Upside down.

There is a video of synchronized swimmers, filmed upside down inside the water, that I can not stop watching. The motions are mesmerizing, the movements foreign as if the swimmers are not bound by the same constraints as our own bodies.

I am mesmerized by this video perhaps because it feels so different, so unnatural, so foreign. It is taking something I have seen a hundred times before and showing it to me from a new perspective, a new angle, and making me think about something that once seemed familiar in a whole different way.

We need more of these things, these reminders that things are not always what they seem if we just look at them in a slightly different way, in our lives.

If you take the VIA Rail train to Toronto in the morning, you undoubtedly end up ordering the coffee. Even if you come armed with your own cup, you inevitably end up asking for the VIA Rail brew when the cart pushes by, and relish the thought of holding that black insulated paper cup as farms, factories, junkyards, and empty stretches of land rush by the window and as the sun peeks over the horizon.

I have developed an affinity for VIA Rail coffee, an affinity borne of the numerous trips to the city for work I seem to be making these days. The coffee is not bad, but nor is it gourmet. It is perfectly serviceable coffee, the kind of coffee that brings you warmth prior to sunrise as you rumble down the tracks towards the big city.

From The Case for Bad Coffee, by Keith Pandolfi:

I don’t have memories of bonding experiences taking place over a flat white at a Manhattan coffee shop or a $5 cup of nitro iced coffee at a Brooklyn cafe. High-end coffee doesn’t usually lend itself to such moments. Instead, it’s something to be fussed over and praised; you talk more about its origin and its roaster, its flavor notes and its brewing method than you talk to the person you’re enjoying it with. Bad coffee is the stuff you make a full pot of on the weekends just in case some friends stop by. It’s what you sip when you’re alone at the mechanic’s shop getting your oil change, thinking about where your life has taken you; what you nurse as you wait for a loved one to get through a tough surgery. It’s the Sanka you share with an elderly great aunt while listening to her tell stories you’ve heard a thousand times before. Bad coffee is there for you. It is bottomless. It is perfect.

The train rumbles along the tracks, the landscape sweeps by the window, and we sip our coffees and contemplate the world, the people around us, the journey we’re on, and the destination we are soon to reach.

An important reminder for anyone who struggled through the past few weeks, like I have:

The thing that few people will ever admit is that all of us are feeling for the switch in the dark every day and some days we find it and some days we don’t and some days we do but the bulb is burned out and even just the reaching and reaching is an accomplishment.

So this is just to say, if you are just barely holding it together: Good job.

April is the cruellest month; we held it together, and we emerge in May not quite fully straight up, but not upside down, either.