Thursday, May 6, 2010

Showering with Spiders

I can’t do it. This is the third consecutive morning that I have jumped into the shower, only to find a spider has already beat me to it. I don’t want to kill him, but I am now naked and not in the mood to get out of the shower, get dressed, scoop him up on a piece of paper, walk through the house and let him outside. This is my sister Pam’s job. And she is not here. So, I have to kill him. Which is hard for me especially when I am really trying to embrace that “love all living things, all sentient beings” – but how can I love creepy spiders, who sometimes bite me, the same way I could love, oh lets say, a golden retriever puppy who only nibbles on my hand?
It is one of those things that might take me two or two hundred more lifetimes to master. I have always heard that we fear the things we don’t understand. That all we have to do is learn about this “thing”, whether it is a scary animal, insect, creature, or even another culture of lifestyle. I have tried learning about spiders, and I do admit, they are amazing. Hard little workers, always having their magical webs destroyed by us giant assassins. I’m trying hard to love you little guys.

But the beauty is that I had writer’s block until I saw that third spider this morning, he was my inspiration to write today. Up until his untimely death I really didn’t have much to say but I felt like it was time for a blog. Just the sound of the word “blog” makes me feel lethargic and empty headed. But in reality, my head is so full that it is starting to ache.

This morning the County Planning Department will present our coffee kiosk proposal at their weekly meeting. Keeping my fingers crossed. It seems as though now we at least have a few people willing to go to bat for us and with just that little bit of support the whole idea feels a bit more promising. They plan to present my written proposal to the Planning Commission along with other county agencies at the meeting today, like the Health Department, Public Works and the list goes on and on. So hopefully I will hear some good news by this afternoon and then it is on to my Friday morning meeting with the owner of the winery. We will see what the week will bring.

Another positive, I will be moving into a new apartment on the 15th. I actually had the choice of the charming apartment in St. Helena or the retro flat in Napa. I went with Napa. The location is much more central, easier to get to Marin or to I-80, and if you know me, you know that I am in my car, a lot. So it just made sense to stay in Napa. It will only have been a month and a half since I packed up all of my things and put them in storage and yet I feel so excited to unpack it all, an early Christmas!

The timing is great too – I can get all moved in and then put all of my energy and focus on Artistry Coffee. The original name was Artistry Café, but now since there is no café, I guess we will substitute the word Coffee or Espresso. My plan is still to grow out of that location and end up in some really cool spot downtown, where we can actually have a café, music, art, poetry readings, and all that goes along with a coffee house. But like a baby learning to walk, there are a lot of stumbles and falls and a lot of bumped chins on the coffee table. Patience. That’s the name of the game.

I am also working the San Francisco Art Fair in San Francisco the weekend of May 23rd. This will be an amazing event – there will be over $300 million in art,  500 artists represented from 70+ worldwide renowned galleries and the works will be available for viewing and purchase. Should be quite an experience. I’ll make sure to take lots of pictures and post them after the event. If they allow cameras.

So lots going on and and I feel a bit like the children’s nursery rhyme, “round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows.” But there is one thing I know for sure. Spiders like showers as much as the next guy.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

"You eat here because we let you" - Stepping Stone Cafe

Back from another “search and rescue” trip to Portland. Looking for that perfect coffee house only to find that perfect might not exist. At least not to my less than wabi sabi accepting mind.

The first place, the one we actually drove up to see, was in an old house in a very hip neighborhood. Maybe that is the problem. I am beginning to realize I am not hip – as much as it pains me to say it. Portland’s motto is “Keep Portland Weird.” I admire originality, creativity, standing out from the crowd, but sometimes when you are trying to keep something one way all you do is create a lot of the same. Don’t get me wrong – I love that Portland has something for everyone and that they give everyone a chance to try. You can make it in Portland I believe if you have a good product, a lot of determination and strong spirit.

But anyway, forgive my rambling, the first place needs a lot of TLC, paint, a kitchen remodel, a backyard of mud that needs to be landscaped and it looks as if the landlord of the building has no intention or desire to help out with that. Well that just makes bad business sense. I’m not going to fix up your building so that you can lease it to someone else. The owner of the actual coffee house business was sweet, but already wanting out in less than one year makes you a tad skeptical. The second place was a bit south of Portland in a strip mall. No character, no personality even though the owner has obviously tried. She tells us that she is back to year one earnings (meaning nothing) after running the place for five years. She has a family emergency and has to be out of there by June 1. So, the area was not where I’d want to be and she sure didn’t paint a pretty picture for us. The third place I actually like – I have been talking to the owner for the past year. She has a successful little coffee house, and I do mean little. It might be 300 sq ft and she wants $50k for it. The place seats 8 and there is no room for growth. So, what you see is what you get. More money than I was hoping to put out but maybe we can work something out. She is not in a hurry, she actually likes what she is doing, having a good time, and that in itself is a strong selling point for me.

So back to reality. Having just had a birthday last week and renewing my driver’s license, it was here waiting for me when I got home. My photo looks like one of those celebrity DUI mug shots, with droopy jowls and all. "OMG, is that what she really looks like?!" We ate like the people you see at a “Homestyle Buffet anywhere USA” while in Portland and now I am ready to get back on track, eat right, and with good intentions, vow to be healthier by this time next year and to smile in my next DMV photo. But one thing for sure, Portland is pure delight for your taste buds – everything you want you can find. One of my favorite places to visit is "The Tao of Tea" on Belmont.  Their 500 mile Chai is incredible, especially when you pair it with their flatbread with honey, dates and toasted coconut.  I do have to recommend a little place we went to for breakfast on my birthday. It is called the Stepping Stone Café and they were featured on the food network at one time, I think they were on “Man vs. Food”. When you first get seated and start looking around you get a little bothered by the “grunginess” of the place, but very quickly you don’t care. The people running the place are young, funny and, I have to say it, very hip. For example, the plaque outside the front door reads “Beware of Attack Waitress” while inside there is a sign that says “Chewing gum available – under tabletops and chairs” – I mean that is pretty funny! But the food – they are known for their huge mancakes ($3.50) that can feed four people. I ordered one and only got through a quarter of it. It was great. Definitely visit the place if you get a chance. And of course a trip to Portland wouldn’t be complete without a trip or two to Voodoo Doughnut. No false advertising here, when they say they have an apple fritter the size of your head, they have an apple fritter the size of your head.

Mom - thanks for the birthday card - it made me cry!!!!  Love you.  Olivia & Bryan, thanks for spending my birthday with me - I love you both!!!!