Jacob Eichengreen ’13 is a trendsetter. “I started out thinking, what’s the dumbest thing I could possibly do?” he tells me. The answer: “Frosted tips. And then a week later, all these hipsters started bleaching their hair. I think it’s fairly obvious what happened there.” Here at The Argus, we’re not fond of confusing correlation and causation, but his logic is pretty damn convincing. Wesleyan’s merriest prankster and resident coffee guru sat down with The Argus to talk about the few things he could make public in print, as well as talking about sex on YouTube, cougars, and flesh-eating parasites.
The Argus: So why do you think you’re a WesCeleb?
Jacob Eichengreen: One time I made a video. One time I ran a café. Ummm… I’m a bouncer at Burlesque. That’s why I’m a WesCeleb. Absolutely.
A: Fair enough. What’s this video you’re talking about?
JE: Basically, I told a bunch of people that I had sex on YouTube. I wasn’t alone! Two years ago, a few friends and I made a video protesting cuts in funding to Planned Parenthood. We filmed a whole bunch of people holding up signs and talking candidly about having sex. We put it up, and it kinda snowballed. Today, we’ve got something like 400,000 views, and a whole bunch of kids from other schools made their own videos. It’s stuck with me ever since. It’s hilarious—I went to the Career Center, and they’re looking over my résumé. And the guy says “Oh, you made that video?” I answer yes, and he’s like, “That’s my favorite thing to come out of Wesleyan in a long time.” I say, “Great, how does my résumé look?” He replies, “You got to switch your periods around.” Fucking periods. I’m also a celebrity because I have a well-formatted résumé.
A: What advice do you have for the perfect résumé?
JE: First piece of advice, don’t fuck up. Second piece of advice, don’t make stuff up. Third, use Comic Sans. Always.
A: Golden. So, you mentioned cafés—you’re the manager of Espwesso. Tell me about it.
JE: Well, I’ve been there since the beginning. I was hired as one of the first baristas when we opened in 2010 and started training to be manager that spring. I’ve run it ever since, with help of course. The second manager last year was Sophie [Levan ’12] and this year it’s Hannah [Cressy ’13]. They’ve both been awesome. It’s been my thing! A culmination of seven years in the café business.
A: So you must really like coffee.
JE: I love coffee, and I love working with it, but I don’t really drink it that regularly. I drink it as a treat or when I’m working at Espwesso. I know how to fiddle around with the taste with what I do as a barista, and I can try coffee and use a bunch of words to describe it. But either I like it, or I don’t. I’m not very good at saying, “This is an objectively fantastic cup of coffee.” The way we choose the coffee we serve at Espwesso is kind of a bunch of bullshit. Basically, you taste the coffee, and you put a bunch of adjectives in front of it, like, “This coffee tastes pensive. This coffee tastes like lust. Or metal. Or shit.” And the one with the most positive ones wins.
A: So as a veteran barista, what’s the most difficult thing someone’s asked you to do behind the counter?
JE: The coffee shop I used to work at before I came to Wesleyan was also a wine bar, and I always worked the weekend shift at night. That’s when the cougars came out. There were only four seats at the bar. One night, back when I was 15 or 16, there’s this one lady sitting at the bar. She’s not drinking coffee. Very directly, she propositions me and my 35-year-old manager to have a threesome with her that night. I asked my manager if I could go wash dish[es] ,and she said, “Yes, yes, get out of here.” That lady was a regular. I knew her well. Honestly, she was truly terrifying. People being unfortunately forward—maybe brilliantly forward—has been a common thing at coffee shops.
A: Is this a common occurrence at Espwesso?
JE: Cougars, yes. All the time. In seriousness, it’s just how much students care about it. I like to talk, and whenever someone asks me a question about what goes on there, I’ll give them an answer that’s far longer than they were ever interested in. But everyone’s interested in what goes on there. The staff is really passionate about the café and about coffee. Usually, they learn something because we do a lot of things very differently from most cafés, so it’s kind of neat to see how engaged people get. It’s just a great, open community.
A: You just finished up your thesis on microfinance in Africa, and you’ve been there a couple of times. Tell me a little more about that.
JE: Well I had been to Rwanda and Uganda once before, so I wanted to structure my thesis around the issues I encountered there. I wanted to go back, so I designed my project around getting some grant money to go back. That was kind of the ulterior motive, to do the things I hadn’t got a chance to do yet and people I’d yet to talk to. It was a chance to see the friends I had made there again. I went last summer and came back with a whole bunch of great research about business development and a parasite. I guess that’s another reason why I’m a WesCeleb. One time I went to Africa and got eaten from the inside out.
A: How did you manage to do that?
JE: I ate some shit, probably. Something contaminated, probably the water, probably not the bugs. I brought it back in my intestine and named it Hugo. He’s gone now, but I miss him every now and then. He was a great companion. He was always there for me whenever I needed a reminder of how terrible the world could be. There’s always something worse than an academic problem. They didn’t have what you wanted at Usdan, or you don’t get a paper in on time? Someone somewhere has a flesh-eating parasite.
A: So you’ve been involved in the Wesleyan music scene for some time now.
JE: Well, I dabble. My crowning achievement only came last year, when I helped found Wesleyan’s best and only Creed cover band. You may have heard of Creed before. They’re not very big. They had a few hits in Brazil and other parts of Latin America—if any readers get the chance, they should ask Anike Arni ’13 about them. In one last breath, let me say the appeal of Creed transcends words. The music…just lifts you higher, honestly, to a place where blind men see. You have to make that leap. You have to embrace it with arms wide open. I once took a class with Professor Mary Jane Rubenstein called “Reason and Revelation.” Creed defies reason and can only be understood through divine revelation. The abandonment of reason is my sacrifice.
A: We might be six feet from the edge of acceptability here.
JE: But that’s not so far down.