what I like

I don’t know a lot about art. I haven’t studied it, I don’t often go to museums and when I do, I don’t really know what I’m looking for. And though I’m loathe to admit it, though I myself cringe when I hear other philistines say it: I know what I like. It sounds so perfectly inane, so uninformed, so ignorant. And it is. I admittedly lack the vocabulary, the study, everything else to explain why I seem to have a visceral reaction to something on the wall. Makes me want it on my own, want to look at it all the time, want to know the story behind the image.

The same is true with me with wine and coffee. I don’t know why I like something, but when it’s good, I’m going to pour myself another. The cat won’t get any leftover cream from what I’ve allotted a pot. I might feel that third glass of wine in the morning. I make my choices based on some rudimentary knowledge, a handful of mnemonics and loose associations. I’m mostly driven by instinct, and usually it pays off.

In the morning it’s Rwanda coffee. That is, coffee I pick up from Ritual on Valencia, ground for the French press I employ in the morning with the directions of a brewing guide from Stumptown in Portland. The only way I remember the coffee I like is that I know I feel oddly conflicted about it. Rwanda. There’s bad things happening there. Where does this coffee really come from? Am I somehow supporting genocide with my coffee? I go to Ritual every Sunday, remind myself that some question will go up, and I’ll remember it’s not the Kenya I like. If there was a Darfur blend available, my mnemonic would fail and I buy that one.

At night, I’ve been pouring Cotes du Rhone. I know. I know I’m supposed to list vintages and geography and everything and anything else I’m supposed to know. But I don’t know it. I can’t commit those things to memory, even though I’m damn good at Trivial Pursuit and I often have the chance to feel a palpable sense of pride when I get the final Jeopardy clue and the actual contestants on TV miss it.

I’m not sure how to start learning. I always thought I would learn by exposure, by osmosis. But it isn’t taking. For now, I’m relying on instinct, because, well, I know what I like.

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