McKenzie Wark

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The Lost Art of the Caffeinist

01. Always choose a café that is unfashionable. It should be convenient, for the caffeinist is lazy. It should not be too noisy nor too quiet. It should be big enough to offer a few good spots to occupy, but not too big as to be anonymous. The dedicated caffeinist can pick the right kind of café instinctively.

02. Be friendly with the owner and the staff, but not too friendly. Talk about the weather, sport, local affairs, one’s children. This public discourse is itself a lost art, neither intimate nor formal but completely true to its spirit. The caffeinist spends money, like time, with resigned but generous indifference.

03. The caffeinist is always working on something, but is in no hurry. There are books to read, and to write. Correspondence to catch up on, plots to hatch. But there is also time for people watching, the newspaper, or idly smoking a cigarette. There is no real difference between these activities.

04. The caffeinist does not have a cellphone, or at the very least turns it off. One is either alone, talking to the regulars, or running into friends in the café quite by chance. One never has appointments in one’s habitual café. One has another café for that purpose.

05. The caffeinist thrives on, and against, distraction. Traffic, jack hammers, obnoxious patrons. One releases oneself into the flow of this useless sound, or one holes up in the task at hand, drawn to it as the means of escaping the chaos shimmering in the air all around.

06. The caffeinist keeps odd hours. One is ensconced in one’s favorite corner before the breakfast rush, or after the lunch crowd. One’s time ebbs and flows, with long idle stretches, punctuated by sudden bursts of attention. The most important thing is to feel time itself, as it is, passing, and do one’s best to enjoy it, to form one’s own rhythms within it.

07. The intake of caffeine and alcohol is to be managed with a light hand. It’s all in the timing. Indulgence is for the young and suicidal, who either way are living in this free time for a short while, before the death of work or the work of their own death takes them. The caffeinist is in it for the long haul.

08. A notebook is acceptable, but a laptop makes one look like an idiot or an aspiring screen writer, which is in any case much the same thing.

09. The caffeinist may read philosophy or the tabloids, but nothing in between. Fashionable novels and trade publications of any kind are not in keeping with the caffeinist style.

10. The caffeinist avoids cafes frequented by students, hipsters, artistic types. And yet the caffeinist does not slum, either. One does not look for otherness or ‘authenticity’. One looks, above all, for banality, for the ordinary. The caffeinist neither blends in nor stands out, is neither a loner or gregarious. The caffeinist merely uses the everyday as a world in which to be at odds with time.