sleep is what you should

November 1, 2007

Jeepers, kids, it’s been a while.

October has been a busy month for us here at La Prima. Without getting into the gritty details, let’s just say it has involved quite a bit of overtime for this guy right here. I expect more of the same in the coming months, but we did hire BRUCE, who is pretty fantastic. I haven’t had much time to think about coffee and its larger purpose or destiny, but I have been learning about purchasing green coffee, contracts thereof, and a couple lessons about knowing my limits.

I’m just catching up with autumn now, which makes me feel very good. I’m worried that it’ll rush on by and head straight into winter. But we’ve still got some green leaves on some trees, so there’s at least two more weeks left. Now if I could only get a day off of work…


I was talking to Lucas today at 21st Street about the Panama Esmeralda they were going to get from Intelligentsia and I was able to say the thing that I’ve been thinking and saying for the last couple of months:

The more consumers drink directly traded coffee, the more the market for directly traded coffee will grow; the direct trade model will then have the power to bring more farms or cooperatives under its umbrella, which is better for everybody. So more of that.

Lucas, however, brought up an interesting point regarding the fairness of award-winning coffee farms, farms with money and tools: they are almost bound to have better quality coffee because they have the tools to continue to make better quality coffee. This is not necessarily bad, as long as more farmers are given tools to sustain an excellent product from year to year.

The ant

September 19, 2007

I was walking to the bus stop at 21st and Liberty this afternoon to catch the 54C to the Northside, and just as I walked up to Liberty, the bus blew right past. I swore, loudly, because that’s the kind of guy I am. So I sat down, cleared my thoughts, and realized I wasn’t the most important person in the world. So about ten minutes later, here comes another 54C, stopping to take me back home. I get on, pull out my Wendell Berry poems and think about my place in the world again, how I am small and transient in the world. It feels good.

And then, on East Ohio, an ant climbs onto my hand from the book. Whether it came from the book or from the bus, I’m not sure, but in either case, I let it walk around on my hands for the remaining ten minutes of the bus ride home. I thought about the Buddhist vow to save all sentient creatures, and as I got off the bus in West Park, I gave him into the care of the world, which will take much better care of him than I ever could.

In every way, my day was improved.

More as time warrants.

September 12, 2007

And it is not 1:37 in the morning.

Let’s all stop talking about ideas and feelings and attitudes and start talking about practical solutions. Let’s all do some things. Let’s all be more engaging with more people.

Let’s be coffee evangelists.

Waiting, musing, nonsense

September 6, 2007

For the weather to break. Years ago I told myself to stop waiting to do things I really wanted to do, but I’m not sure it really took. Hopefully this will be the last week of 80+ degree weather. One, I miss wearing jeans and jackets and hats and long-sleeved shirts. Two, I’m anxious to see if I can find my right mind again, anxious to see if I can think straight after having my noodle baked for four months in the summer heat. Maybe I’ll be able to see a little more clearly come fall. But probably not. I mean, I’m not sure I’ve ever really “thought straight” before. Makes me think of a Wendell Berry poem (“Breaking”).

Did I believe I had a clear mind?
It was like the water of a river
flowing shallow over the ice. And now
that the rising water has broken
the ice, I see that what I thought
was the light is part of the dark.

Just another reason to consistently second-guess yourself. People have been telling me to do any number of things (farming, moving, opening my own business) and none of them seem like just the right thing to do. All the more reason to eagerly await the arrival of autumn, hoping that I’ll be able to sit comfortably with a friend or myself, sort out some thoughts, maybe, with a beer and some popcorn at the Park House, or maybe on the roof. Quiet and cool. To give my mind some space.

Does it boggle your mind how many people are involved in anything? And each person has a vast mind, preoccupied with each of their own issues, some of which overlap and intersect, some of which may be purely internal. And wouldn’t it be nice to have a business model where these issues and minds and souls are able to interact, or at least be acknowledged? Ray Oldenburg promotes it with his work and calls this model a Great Good Place, or a third space.

That and more. All that and more is what we need. A more transparent economic model, maybe to get more people aware of all the issues involved in the thing that they’re doing, seeing the barista as an individual person and not just as coffee’s delivery person, seeing coffee as more than a drink or a drug.

Seeing everything for everything.

“So I had this idea: that I would try and make sense of something. For me, i think, this is a pretty lofty goal. I mean, I spend most of my time wondering if anything anywhere actually makes sense or if everyone but me is faking everything. I wonder whether people think about their actions. Do they measure themselves in judgment against their self-perceived potential? Like I do? I want answers. I want my confusion to mean something.

So with that said, I would like to treat the topic of insanity. Definition as not-sane. Definition of sane as the way everybody seems to be MORE than OK with how things seem to be going these days oh did you get your kitchen redone yes thank you i would like another and don’t forget the five hundred you owe me for the time I’m sorry I forgot about your birthday I didn’t know it meant so much to you otherwise I’ll just stay in tonight and you didn’t want to come so I figured it was in your court don’t you love this shirt would you look at those and no one will ever know that I think you’re…

That, my friends, is what I am declaring myself in opposition to. Un-sane. That is what passes for sane and don’t you think it’s time we got over ourselves and our games and meet each other for the first time REALLY I mean we have so much inside I have so much inside so how much more must you all have inside.”

November 2005. Seems a bit heavy-handed, but apparently sometimes, we just have to be heavy-handed. Please understand. I don’t have anything against casual conversation per se, but when all you have is casual, when you have little of substance, of things that are pregnant with meaning, I guess that up there is what you get. Frustration and Hope.

Pls. be well.

He asked me to write it. This is a good thing.

Three things that make me go weak in the knees.shortofbreath:
1) Honey balls from the Greek Food Festival down the street.
2) Austin, Texas’ Stars of the Lid. Latter era.
3) A Softer World. Because he says things like this:

“But I love writing notes to strangers: ‘You have the best laugh I have ever heard. The only thing I know about you is that you work with maps and you always take the second straw from the dispenser – I do that too!'”

That kind of talk makes me wonder why I’m so cold to strangers sometimes. “I never imagined myself this way,” everyone says, but here we are, all being cold to one another more often than not. Knowingly leaving each other outside, and nobody’s knocking because being rejected is worse than standing by yourself, hoping someone will open the door. Two people came into work today, two! And I wasn’t very friendly, and I didn’t ask them how they liked the coffee and I didn’t ask how they were, what they really, really deep down wanted to do. Or what they wanted to do most of all while drinking this coffee. Did they want to be in a cabin, with their cat on their knees? Did they want to be making coffee for their grandmother? It’s like during the day I forget how to dream beyond my social role. Seems like night time, when I’m alone, listening to records, that’s when I remember I’m supposed to bring that magic insanity into the day.

Moving on.

Was e-dialoguing with an industry compatriot (compatriot? we met through this modern wonder called “intar-webs”) about several things, and he mentioned something that I’ve been sort of obsessed with lately: making sure you’re doing all you can where you are. Because it’s so easy to just assume that people aren’t helping you be full or pushing you to fullness, but in reality, we all know 73.6% of the problem is that we are not doing enough for God knows why. Not to say that leaving where you are is not a viable option, even if only for a time, but let’s all be sure to give our lives and what we are doing more than the old college try, eh? Isn’t life’s viscera about odd coincidences and things that are juxtaposed and pushing yourself and pushing your friends and being a little crazy? I once wrote something in which I declared myself in opposition to the world’s sanity, because that sanity seemed false and hollow. When I find it, I will post it.

How to remind ourselves to live even just a little bit more fully? How to embrace paradoxes without losing our minds? Is losing one’s mind really all that bad?

Thinking about life changes and being 25 and not being married or owning a home. Thinking about Portland and Minnesota, coffee and farming, guitar loops and drums and nap parties where I will be DJ Lullaby. Thinking about work and flexibility, commitment and freedom. These are things I need help with.

Catastrophe and the Cure

August 27, 2007

OK, not quite catastrophe, but still. You remember Toby. Well, he had a few problems, some of which we’ve taken care of. We’ll start with the actual problem. There’s a pressure sensor in the roaster that gauges the air flow, sort of like your nerves on your GI tract telling you something has to go. And if something is wrong

then the pilot light shuts off. Thank God for Sherman, otherwise I might not have any eyebrows. That thing up there is the lid for our chimney, and all those little holes are not supposed to be filled with chaff. Since the air couldn’t really get out, the pilot light shut off, thereby preventing me from roasting on two roasters (which turned into an eleven hour day, which was awesome). The object lesson being, KEEP A MAINTENANCE LOG AND HAVE ROUTINE MAINTENANCE OR YOUR THINGS WILL NO LONGER FUNCTION PROPERLY.

But. Having Toby’s guts out let me see something up close and personal that I had only suspected before. Rumor had it that our old roaster-in-charge type person had become frustrated by Toby’s relative “slowness” and had decided to take some decisive action by increasing the size of the holes in the burners where the fire comes out. Which means this now happens:

Which is bad. See all those big orange flames? Well, they don’t play nice. They make certain parts of the drum get hotter, which leads to uneven roasts and beans that have burn spots. Which is bad.

We have burners on order.

Aaaaaaaand, one last gratuitous self-portrait from the ride back to Pittsburgh from Detroit on Sunday, where I had some very bad espresso in Royal Oak. Why do I keep ordering espresso when I’m almost sure it’s going to be really, really bad? Do I just have to make sure? Does anybody else just want to walk behind espresso bars and grab the portafilter and just demonstrate how to make espresso? Is that so wrong? Sure, maybe it violates health code or employee safety or breaks any number of social mores, but mightn’t it be better for everyone? Let me know, because I’m more and more tempted to do it.

I picked this picture because the way my tongue sticks out is very becoming. And proper. Here you go.

Oh, Toby.

August 23, 2007

Why you gotta go and break my heart? 9:46 ante meridian on a Thursday morning, and I should be five batches deep by now. But we got a pilot light issue. Won’t stay lit, you see. So I gots to let it cool down so I can my hands all up in his guts.

We here at La Prima use two San Franciscan 25lb drum roasters, gas-fired. The newer one, Abby, is on the left, see, and she’s got a fiery temper (but I know how to sweet-talk her). But the old boy, Toby… I thought we went way back. I thought we were friends. Toby, Toby, Toby.

Why can’t you be like your little sister Abby? I mean, I know she’s newer, but don’t let that get you down. You know I like you more. You know I save all the best coffees for you. So why you gotta go and break my heart? Thank God Toni Braxton already said it for me, otherwise, I don’t know how I’d ever make it through the morning.

Hopefully, you’ll come back to me soon. and we can do some more of this. You know, for old times’ sake.

a deliciously rainy monday

August 20, 2007

It’s going to be great when I get home and listen to this

and maybe this