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What Coffee, Alcohol and Jazz Can Teach You About Yourself

I didn’t start drinking coffee until I was about 25. Didn’t have the taste for it. Too bitter. I liked my drinks sweet, like Coca-Cola, Pepsi. Not that diet bullshit that everyone is addicted to now. The real shit. The one with all the high fructose corn syrup, the one that makes you fat. I was fat then. I didn’t give a fuck. I loved it. I’d drink a two-liter in one sitting.

Then one night, I was on deadline. An article was due in the morning. Somehow I’d made it through high school and college without a single cup of joe; suddenly though, it didn’t seem like the worst idea. If I could just stomach the taste, maybe figure out how many sugars to add without turning it into a mess. I went to a 24-hour Dunkin Donuts. I ordered. I put 4 sugars in. I tasted it. Hmm. Maybe coffee wasn’t so bad.

Not long after that, I got a job. It was much different than my old job, sitting in a recording studio until the wee hours of the morning, making music and eating Domino’s Pizza. This job required me to be in an office, be alert, have ideas. Unlike music, it required me to think, not blunt my ability to think. And so after the long bus rides into Manhattan, I’d get a cup of coffee from the breakfast cart in front of the building. “Small coffee, half and half, one sweet n’ low,” I’d say. Then I’d hand over a dollar.

Over time, I got a little more into coffee. Not much more, but a little. Everyone’s a little more into coffee now. Where it comes from. How it’s made. I’m not super into it in that way — honestly, I don’t give that much of a fuck, so long as it isn’t disgusting. There are bigger things to worry about than whether my beans are single origin or one hundred origin or if the shit was made in a giant factory or if one guy roasted it in his bathtub. I mean, I’m not judging anyone who worries about that. I’m just saying that I don’t.

I like coffee.


I took my first sip of alcohol at age 10 or 11. I’d get with my friends, walk a mile or two up Forest Ave., to a store that sold beer to minors, and buy 40 oz. bottles of Olde English or St. Ides, whatever bullshit beer they got rappers to peddle in the 90’s. I’d drink a little but didn’t drink a lot — like coffee, beer wasn’t something that got me excited. It tasted like shit and still does.

In college, I started promoting parties, doing the door at little hole in the wall bars and nightclubs. I didn’t really like going out; this was a way to do it and be useful. People whom society might deem a little unsavory were the ones who mostly patronized these establishments. More times than I can recall, I was inside when a fight erupted, shots rang out and the cops came calling. It was fun and mostly a good time, but definitely a rough scene.

I drank fruity stuff — vodka with pineapple juice, vodka with cranberry juice, Hypnotiq, Alize, other sugary garbage. I never drank too much because, as I said, you had to kind of remain on your toes. Only once or twice can I recall ever being really inebriated, and those were times when I’d come out to Manhattan and had a little bit less to worry about. I can’t say I enjoyed whatever I was drinking then; it was mostly watered-down garbage.

A few years ago, I began palling around with a girl who was a DJ. She went out every night and drank her vodka straight. I’d never really done that because alcohol was disgusting to me. But I started to drink alcohol straight and found it a lot more enjoyable. I drank slower, could actually taste the liquid. It wasn’t horrible. Not at all. I began to develop a taste for drink.

I like alcohol.


My dad played a lot of jazz music in the house when we were growing up. A lot of music, but a lot of jazz, specifically. I didn’t really like jazz. I don’t know, I guess what he was playing — all this weird, experimental shit from the 60’s and 70’s — lacked melody, harmony, rhythm. It sounded like noise. Maybe it was. Or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe I just didn’t have the ear for it.

I always liked the other music my dad played. Classic soul. Doo-Wop. Spirituals. Gospel. Real rock n’ roll, the shit that came before all the other shit they told you was rock n’ roll. There’s something about the music you hear growing up, it gets down in your soul, seeps into your bones, becomes a part of you. Everywhere you walk, those lyrics, those melodies, those intonations, those voices, they walk with you.

But jazz, yeah, jazz I just couldn’t get with. I mean, I could appreciate it. “Son, give this a listen,” my dad would say, asking me to sit with him for a bit. And I would, but then I’d have to get up. Five, maybe ten minutes — that’s all I could stomach. Not only did it sound like noise, it was also… boring. I was a kid. I had no attention span. “Don’t you see the different colors the sound makes?” my dad would ask. “Yeah, I see them,” I’d say. I didn’t see no goddamn colors.

Recently, I started listening to a lot of jazz. Not only jazz, but a lot of jazz. Much more than in the past. In truth, by my late teens and early twenties, some of what my dad was saying began to sink in, and I started seeing the colors. I mean, you go through periods where you listen to this or that, whatever speaks to your particular state of mind. For a while, I had a punk rock phase. Everyone gets into things at different points in their life. I think it’s emotional, certain senses heightened and more aware to different things, different triggers. Anyway.

I like jazz.

Get in touch paulcantor@gmail.com

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