I quickly came to understand that a Mr Coffee was not chic

We bought a drip coffee maker this week, a 14-cup monster. E accidentally smashed the glass of the cafetière while doing the dishes, and from this mishap we gave ourselves permission to make the investment, even though a 14-cup monster takes up a lot of counter space, and we have little. Even though a 14-cup monster coffee maker is very suburban. It’s the kind of coffee maker that makes me think of my American relatives*, who seemed to always have a pot running in their homes, especially my grandfather, who drank coffee with every meal, including dinner. Not even decaf! 

When I first moved to a city twenty years ago, I quickly came to understand that a Mr Coffee was not chic, and being chic felt important. I discovered pour-overs, espresso machines, cafetières, those Italian steel stovetop pots where the coffee boils up into the top in a little burst of joy. But now, the sound of the brew percolating in the 14-cup monster reminds me of how I felt when I heard those hot bubbles in my parents’ house and my grandfather’s condo: calm, comforted, cared for.

*

There are two genres of online discourse that I’m finding piquant right now. One is the profusion of essays by people who have left New York City for their second homes. They all write at length about how they thought it over, and they knew that they were breaking the rules, but they decided that something about their situation was exceptional and special: they had a dog, or they had to take care of their family, or they didn’t want to get coronavirus. 

What the people never write is that they are rich, but of course it’s in there, infusing every word. Each time I read one of these essays — and I read all of them, savoring the feeling of envy and loathing — I think: If I had another home I would absolutely go to it right now, and then I think But I would not tell anyone about it! 

The second genre of online discourse is by writers who are disgusted by the cowardice of people who are leaving New York. They’re not real New Yorkers, not ride-or-die, the discourse says, they’re feeble, fleeing the streets that dreams are made of. All it took was unprecedented death, and the closure of all of of the city’s cultural institutions, schools, childcare, offices and restaurants, to make these weaklings think that it might not be the greatest place in the world right now to pay thousands of dollars a year in rent to live!

Each time I read an example of this discourse I think, I guess I want to be a coward too! but then I think, I guess these people who think it is cowardly to leave do not have kids!

*

Several times a day now we refresh suburban rental listings. The limiting factor, it turns out, is that most suburban rentals are not welcoming to dogs. In New York City, it seems like everyone has a dog in their apartment; in the suburbs, it seems like dogs require mortgages. Our small dog is less feral than many spoiled children, I write in an email to a realtor. I delete it.

I refresh the listings, and I drink 14 cups of suburban coffee, and I have the same jittery conversation over and over. It’s about how I have to take care of my family. 

JHE

*My British relatives always were running their electric kettles, obviously.

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