Relay: Too Much Coffee Man

A return to a time when you could more or less wing it with health concerns.

They never should have done it. They never should have released the news that coffee wasn’t bad for you, was in fact good for you, so you might as well drink till your chromosomes start crackling. Because I have, will, and continue to. 

It was yet one more of those reversals of conventional wisdom that turn back the clock to a time when you could more or less wing it with health concerns — knock back that red wine or beer, even the smallest and weakest of chest-centered organs will pump with newfound vigor. While you’re at it, go ahead, stuff nuts in your mouth, squirrel-like, they’ll do nothing more than help blow that built-up plaque out of your arterial pipes like oil-mist from a Harley’s exhaust system. 

Salt? Never mind the coy thumb and forefinger pinch, break out the ladle — turns out too little will lay you low with a stroke. And why not lard up with proteins to stoke your body’s fires? Don’t worry about that panniculus of jiggling flesh at midriff, carry it proudly as a signifier of your wise all-things-in-moderation judgment.

All things considered, though, coffee is the best, as articulated seemingly semimonthly in the pages of what is surely the nation’s most informative, even indispensable, periodical, Bottom Line. Unfailingly devoid of advertising, each issue comes chockablock with fascinating factoids (“Did you know that medical error is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S.?”), mother-knows-best tips (“Nail polish stops window-screen tears”), and occasionally hair-raising reportage (“Can Your Cell Phone Cause Cancer? The Answer Just Changed From ‘Possibly’ to ‘Probably’”), all courtesy of a dozen or sometimes upward of a score of contributors and clearly laid out across 16 succinct pages. 

“Liver Disease Is Rampant” declares one recent headline, but turn the page and you have your near-cure under a one-word subheading: coffee. It’s good for reducing inflammation — cancer, too — and not only that, two extra cups of joe a day will cut the risk of cirrhosis by almost half (for you two-fisted drinkers out there). Worried about Parkinson’s? A family history of Alzheimer’s? Spark up the percolator.

But I could’ve told you this, or something like it, more than two decades ago, when I was still new to the pleasures of the beverage and a friend showed me a yellowing used bookstore find detailing how some sultan of yore once tested the physiological consequences of coffee by confining two sad-sack prisoners to a tower to drink nothing but cup after cup of the strong Turkish stuff. The ill effects were none, however; the captives simply sat around, talked, and drank in peace.

In my case, I must say it’s become a crutch. Got a writing assignment? As a matter of fact I do, and it’s now 11:15 at night as I type these words into a Google Doc, my left leg still hammering like a woodpecker’s beak from the Starbucks venti I drained hours ago. 

Most runners know of the benefits of drinking a cup of coffee before pounding the pavement — the blood flow, the alertness, the, uh, placebo effect. On my way to engage in my midlife crisis regimen of postwork 5K-ish runs, as I pass Sag Harbor’s most relentlessly frequented business, I think, “Boy, I should stop in for a quick cup of 7-Eleven coffee; I’ll sip it as I drive.” 

Hey, I’ve been reading on a computer screen all day while failing to keep up with the usual leaking-faucet drip of emails, what could be the harm?

Then in the mail the other day came a Bottom Line with this teaser on the cover: “Hot drinks linked to cancer; page 10.”

Just keep it under 149 degrees. You might be okay.


Baylis Greene is an associate editor at The Star.