Monday, November 16, 2015

Don't Be Chai About It ...

Traveling has taught me that it is essential to have anchors.  One of my anchors is coffee.  I'm not a snob about coffee, either.  But I really appreciate the way coffee is appreciated the further west i get. People out here get it.  It started for me in Milwaukee, and with Patty and Charlie, who also appreciate good coffee. I drank many delicious lattes from Collectivo and Anodyne, suggested by the two of them.

In Colorado, I was spoiled by Susan Cooper Page, who made really good coffee, served in big latte cups on her comfy king sized bed, along with great conversation.  One of the world's best hostesses, Susan drove us up to Estes Park, Colorado, where we had delicious coffee at Inkwell & Brew, a great spot with an upstairs loft seating area that is so inviting that we stayed for an hour and met a lovely couple who had been married for sixty years.

And then there was my cousin, Michele Humphrey Cook, who introduced me to the glories of Nespresso. Oh my God! I love steamed milk and the milk steamer alone is worth the $299.00 price tag.  And then there is the matter of the pods.  I have always been against pod coffee makers for environmental reasons.  I think they are wrong, and I used to be very judgmental about it.  That is, I was until I met Nespresso.

Once upon a time, i was muddling through life, drinking coffee, thinking i had a somewhat sophisticated coffee palate.  That is, until I met Nespresso.  Nespresso ruined me for mediocre coffee.

You have to send away to some magic coffee place in Europe and they send back the magic pods in two days, and you do it because it's Nespresso.  The foam on the steamed milk is like a pillow topped mattress. I drank that every morning and wondered how i had missed it until now.

One day, we went into Boulder and stopped at a coffee shop, and the coffee was good.  But my heart had been turned by Nespresso.  I got good pictures, though.  And it does not matter where I am when i am with Michele.  We have great talks everywhere.

I drove through Nebraska and Wyoming, disappointed by my lack of coffee choices. Sunday morning, on the way to Crawford, Nebraska, and all i could find was a closed espresso place that looked so cute, and a convenience store a bit further up the street selling $1 cups of coffee with powdered creamer. How the mighty had fallen.

The decision to go the northern route to California, through Seattle, was strictly based on coffee withdrawal. It was a good choice.  I got through the Tetons on caffeine, stopping at a couple of independent shops on my way to Seattle, where I made a pilgrimage to the headquarters of the gods of caffeine, Starbucks.

In Boise, Idaho, I stopped at Jim's Coffee Shop, an old time, homey place, where the servers were friendly. As i traveled through the Tetons, discombobulated by the altitude and the beauty, I found Kathy's Koffee, a cozy spot filled with sunlight and the smell of goodies baking.

I used to have nothing nice to say about Starbucks, when they were ubiquituous in DC, every three blocks, and then when they came to Vero, and tried to suck the life out of local, independent coffee roasting businesses.

And then i was in the middle of America, where there were towns without local shops.  I learned to appreciate the Starbucks at rest stops off of interstate highways, when my eyes were flitting shut from exhaustion.

In Portland, Oregon, I had great coffee.  First, I stopped at sunrise at the Bipartisan Cafe on Stark Street.  The place was everything I thought a Portland coffee shop would look like. It was located in what probably used to be a store, maybe a book store or a dress shop, with floor to ceiling windows, elevated up a couple of stairs, with a great view of the street and the shops in the neighborhood.

Later, I found Spin, an amazing laundromat with a marvelous coffee shop that served wine and beer, in addition to really good coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and salads.  I sat and relaxed while an energetic attendant monitored my laundry in the wash.
Here in Vallejo, I am so grateful that I found a great spot, Nathan's Conscious Coffee, in downtown Vallejo where i can plug in my laptop and get a really good latte.  The people are friendly and the work of local artists hang from the sunny yellow walls.  It feels like someone's apartment, the way a good coffee shop should feel.  Homey, comfortable, welcoming - this place has it all.  The place smells like cornbread waffles and maple syrup, the most amazing aroma you've ever smelled.

Danielle is the owner and chef, and has a loving hand when it comes to cooking.  He and i talked about the movie, "Like Water for Chocolate," and cooking with love for the people he loves is what he does.

I found a corner in a window at a rustic wood table that can seat at least four.  It is the perfect spot to watch people on the street, and as they come into the shop. The music they play is really good, across all genres.  I can work, but I don't feel isolated.

This morning, for breakfast, Danielle made me Huevos Rancheros that were delicious and healthy.  I met a couple of local artists named Shawn and Julia, and, even though I promised I would not butt in on their coffee date, we ended up having a nice chat about the area, kids, and life.

Julia told me about a great walking spot on Mare Island that i am going to check out later today.

The place is so comfortable that I stayed for lunch and had Danielle's amazing chicken soup, made purple by the beets he cooks in it, along with a whole organic chicken, cauliflour, garlic, onions, and all kinds of other magic ingredients that made me feel loved.

So here i sit, sorting things out.  I have applied to be a substitute teacher, which seems like the perfect way to support my travels, here in California.  Even though there is a shortage of substitute teachers, California makes it as difficult as possible someone to become a substitute teacher. I understand why.  They want to keep the riff-raff out. But they want $100 just to process my application, and $75 for my finger prints.  If i had it, I would not need to be a substitute.  Grrrr.

The upside to substituting makes it worth it, I suppose.  In the Fairfield-Suisin Unified School District, the base daily rate is $160.00.  I can work twice a week and live comfortably, traveling the rest of the the time around the state.  Or work more some weeks, and take other weeks off, to do what i want.

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