Jim Siergey: Brain Fuel

February 21st, 2021

Boy, do we love our caffeine. Many, if not most, of us depend on it.

Once we start the habit, our brains won’t let us quit. At least, not easily. We can’t blame ‘em because after all, we started it. The same with nicotine…and heroin,  I guess. My flirtation with nicotine was youthfully brief and my history with heroin non-existent.

But caffeine. That usage started early. Soda pop was the gateway.

Growing up in the 1950s all of us kids drank soda. My tastes ran more toward root beer than the colas but they entered my bloodstream as well. I never was a fan of orange and grape sodas. Brown was the color of fulfilling liquid ecstasy.

When I was little my parents owned and ran an ice cream parlor and the root beer they served was Frostie. I especially liked it for the snow-covered lettering on the label and the old man with the icy white beard and cap that also adorned it.

Later I learned to love Dad’s Old-Fashioned Root Beer with its catchy theme song that was hypnotically tribal. A & W was another popular brand and, as I mentioned, I didn’t care for orange or grape flavored sodas but Nehi brewed a tasty root beer.

When I was 9 or 10, a new cola appeared in our neck of the woods—Royal Crown Cola. It came in a 16 ounce bottle! It was an intriguing delicacy for us kids. We’d walk or more likely, being boys, run, push and rassle as well, to the neighborhood store (in my neighborhood it was Mazzone’s), stroll to the cooler in back and carry the slender bottle that seemed to be a third of our size, up to the front, plop a dime (I suppose. Candy bars cost a nickel so I guess a bottle of soda cost a dime) on the counter and, licking our lips, wait for the cashier to grab the bottle opener and pop off the cap. Then we would walk carefully down the street, hoisting the magic elixir back and forth from our lips.


Baby brain fuel…


I can’t remember the last time I drank any soda…unless there was alcohol mixed with it. I have replaced soda with coffee.

I began drinking coffee as a young adult and haven’t stopped. When I began working from home, both as a gilder and an animator, I’d go through coffee by the potful. I still have at least two or three cups each morning and then another one or two in the afternoon. I guess you could say I have a donkey on my back.  (as in Juan Valdez)

I’ve heard that people get a “rush” from coffee or get jittery if they drink too much of it. I’ve never experienced either of those conditions but I do know that I need to feed my brain with caffeine.  I found that out the hard way.

A number of years ago my wife and I were in Mexico. We were staying with relatives of friends of ours in the little village of Zacatula. From there we were going to depart and head off to another town, Patzcuaro, some hours away. We were fed breakfast but the only coffee they had was instant and it was caffeine-free Nescafe. I thought it odd that they only had that type of coffee, especially since they imbibed Coca-Cola for breakfast (and lunch and dinner).  So that was what we drank.

A few hours later, while standing in a packed bus (one of several that we had to take to reach our destination), I was suddenly walloped with one of the worst headaches I remember getting.

With apologies to Ignatz and Krazy Kat, it felt like a brick had been flung at my head where it imbedded itself. It took me a while to figure out that the cause of this was lack of caffeine.

So, friends, if you’re riding the caffeine train, be kind to your brain and don’t disembark too suddenly.

Anticipe su bajada.”


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was The Willies

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