A quick refill on that last coffee email
The Ballad of Jerry Saltz's Coffee, Part Two.
Hello and welcome to REPLY ALT, the world’s only email newsletter about music. I make that joke a lot because, sure, there are technically other places online to read about music. But the joke is getting less funny since they’re all dwindling. I loathe doing this but if you’ve been enjoying this newsletter, maybe bump up to a paid subscription? I just sent out an email to paying subscribers yesterday with my tips on staying prolific and creative during this lonely and merciless time. You get access to all those and it’s only $5 a month and here look I will even reduce the price today wow…
I mention this now because, I don’t know if y’all saw, but the company that owns Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter laid off most of their staff this week. They were not alone, as many other outlets have been hit hard recently and had to lay people off or close. So, not only does that cut into my paying gig opportunities as a writer, but it cuts into your perusing options as a reader. The world of online journalism is shrinking. I feel like that has been said for as long for as I can remember, but it feels particularly dire now. So, please, please support the people who make the things you like if you have the means! Online is all we have right now!
OK now that I’ve humiliated myself by flipping my empty pockets inside-out and having a moth fly out, let’s get into today’s topic, which is actually a continuation of last week’s topic. The last email I sent, about New York art critic Jerry Saltz’s deranged habit of buying 18 individual cups of coffee from the gas station every day, ended up being the all-time most popular REPLY ALT email. Go figure. Of course it had nothing to do with music, but hey, whatever puts asses in the seats for my future ramblings about pop punk and whatnot.
So anyway, A LOT of people reacted very viscerally to this story. It was even mentioned on one of my favorite podcasts, Your Kickstarter Sucks, whose hosts called Jerry’s habit “goblin behavior.” (No argument there.) It also got a mention in this Slate interview with Jerry.
A few readers pointed out to me that shortly after my post ran, ol’ Jerry did an interview on Ezra Koenig’s podcast. There are two Ezra Ks and I get them mixed up. One of them is the Vampire Weekend guy and the other is the clueless Dem establishment vampire who founded Vox. Fuck to that guy. Fortunately Ezra Koenig is the Vampire Weekend guy who seems nice enough although I really wish musicians would stop trying to do interviews and podcasts at this time! Let’s leave that to the journalism professionals mmk? You don’t see me on Instagram butchering your songs on a ukulele wait unless…...
Anyway, I listened to the episode to see if there were any new insights that could be gleaned about this lil freek’s coffee habits. I’ve emerged from the trenches, dripping with stale coffee, to impart what I’ve learned to you.
Overall, the interview is funny because Jerry clearly wanted to talk about his book that he was supposed to be promoting but Ezra and his co-host did a commendable job of dragging the conversation back to either the coffee situation or the Grateful Dead, to the point where it was obnoxious in the best way. At one point Jerry said, “Can we stop with coffee and Jerry Garcia?” (Jerry hates the Dead, apparently. His exact words were: “Are your listeners ready to really hate on me? I loathe the Grateful Dead. I think that is such bullshit hippie crap.”)
But back to the coffee. Here’s him talking about the reaction to his Coffee Tweets:
“The artisanal people started going on and on about, like, ‘Well, you really must drink cold brew French Press drip special blend coffee beans from Malaysia.’ I was really shocked, and there was a lot of hate-tweeting about my post, saying I’m a bad man, or I deserve to get Covid-19.
OK, let’s pump the brakes here: Jerry’s coffee habit is a bizarre personality tic but it’s all good fun and obviously no one deserves to get Covid-19. Actually, that’s not true. Steve Mnuchin deserves to get Covid-19. And then when he goes to hell he should get whatever pandemic disease they have down there which is hopefully much more painful and makes your dick fall off.
But I want to circle back to the first part of that statement. I like how “artisanal people” is Jerry’s descriptor for anyone who drinks coffee that hasn’t been pooling in the cupholder of a 2007 Dodge Stratus for five months. Anything of higher quality than that to him falls in the territory of “cold brew French Press drip special blend coffee beans from Malaysia”... dude, it’s just regular coffee. My coffee comes out of a device called a Mr. Coffee which is the least sophisticated name for a beverage-maker. Might as well call it a Moron Machine.
Jerry also reiterated his inane defense of why he goes through such elaborate measures to obtain coffee, which he believes are actually efficient somehow. It’s because, you see, he is an art critic and art critics are above the laws of man:
“I’m on a daily deadline as an art critic, so that's one of the ways I don’t do things at home. Do I sound defensive? Yes, I do.”
I’m not sure why Jerry leans on deadlines as an excuse for being the most stubborn coffee-drinker alive. Most normal people have daily tasks they need to get done! It might not be handing in a bunch of words about some art gallery to an editor, but people need caffeine to work their way through their daily grind. I’m not sure why he thinks art criticism is the only profession that requires such intense focus that the act of boiling water is too big of a distraction.
I really wish Ezra and his co-host had pressed him more about how unbelievably simple it is to make coffee vs. his whole dog and pony show, but at one point, they did ask something to the effect of: Doesn’t the coffee taste, ya know, like absolute piss after sitting in the fridge for four days? To which Jerry responded:
“I’ve never noticed it changing in taste. I guess I have bad taste. I’m not drinking it for taste the way most people are. I’m doing it for the drug, man.”
Then they asked him a fairly deep question: “When you post the picture and let people know about it, is that art?” Jerry answered by going on a tangent about the idea of radical vulnerability before eventually stating:
“Yeah, I bought the coffee and yeah, I shared it, and yes, I knew there was something weird about it, but I also knew there was something me about it. And so, I shared it. Is this a podcast about food and coffee?”
Then, after he got into a fairly uplifting albeit naive tear about creating a new world post-Covid and how we’ll all need to adapt in real-time, he mentioned that only the biggest food purveyors will survive. Then he used Domino’s as an example, and how they will be fine, and said something inexcusable. Possibly worse than the coffee thing IMO:
“Domino’s pizza is pretty damn good pizza. Yeah, I’m gonna be attacked for that too now.”
You’re GODDAMN right you are. Domino’s is not pizza. Domino’s is Domino’s. No one ever says “let’s order pizza” and it’s assumed they mean Domino’s. They instead say “hey it’s 1 a.m. and everything else is closed and I’m too stoned to discriminate good flavors from bad ones so let’s order Domino’s” or “I’m faux eccentric New York art critic Jerry Saltz and I’m gonna go pick up my nightly 18 coffees from the Mobil station does anyone want Domino’s while I’m out?”
The Domino’s thing reminds me that after my last email ran, many readers pointed out that I overlooked a very batshit thing Jerry said about food in that screenshot of his now-deleted dishwasher tweet:
“We don’t cook or go out or do takeout.”
Mother fucker what do you eat???? Those are pretty much the only options available as far as food prep goes unless you’re hunting down wild raccoons and eating them raw.
Having now spent so much time in Saltz World, I’m actually fully convinced this whole thing is a bit. I think he knows he’ll get a reaction if he posts a photo of a dozen cups of coffee next to a bar of soap with a bitemark in it and comments “we don’t own forks or knives. we don’t know how to eat with our bare hands. we buy one napkin a year and share it. we don’t belong in your world.”
And oh look, as I type this, he has added to the Saltz Coffee Collection on Twitter:
One odd thing about this tweet is that he’s kiiiiind of referencing one of those old American Express “Priceless” commercials but doesn’t think to do so until the very end. This tweet is also funny because it indicates that he seems to know the origin of every Big Gulp mug he owns. I like to imagine Jerry rummaging through his cabinets (which I could hear him doing during the interview with Ezra), and holding a Big Gulp cup up to the light like a sommelier examining a 20-year-old Bordeaux. “Mmm 2016 was a fine year, indeed,” he says as he pours 48 ounces of bitter, week-old coffee into a Deadpool promotional 7-Eleven mug. “A fine year indeed.”
OK that’s it on Jerry for now. I’d say that’s it forever but probably not. Thanks for subscribing!