Coffeehouse observation No. 95

A guy just jeopardized a good power cord connection for my laptop by trying to stretch the extension cord at the coffeehouse nearly across the room to plug in his cellphone charger. I’m not sure if it is that alone or the fact that he’s wearing a hideous floral shirt and a driving cap that made me not mention to him that his charger had come unplugged. … Oh, great! The coffeehouse had to listen to this guy for 45 minutes talking to someone about what has to be a real estate scheme and now he’s arguing politics with the person he tried to lure into a partnership. Um, is that really good business practices?


Coffeehouse observation No. 94

Slow day at the coffeehouse. It happens.

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

Published in: on March 31, 2010 at 2:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Coffeehouse observation No. 93

The music in the coffeehouse is a little heavy on the sax today. … Oh, wait, now it’s heavy on ax so everything is OK. … Now they’re playing “Don’t Fence Me In.” This is out of control!

Coffeehouse observation No. 92

I know that one cup o’ joe was not nearly enough today.  … I wonder if the coffeehouse delivers.

‘Lessons learned over java’ revisited

[Here’s something else that really isn’t a coffeehouse observation, but I thought I’d share it anyway since the basis for it happened during a coffeehouse conversation. And, besides, the hard copy that I’m working from to transfer this into a blog entry has a huge coffee stain on it. That should stand up in any court in the land. I was the opinion page editor of The Reporter in Vacaville back in April 2004 when I wrote this column about a conversation I had with friend Kristen Simmons — Kristy — over coffee in a Vacaville, Calif., coffeehouse. This column was published April 21, 2004. — KM]

Last week while on vacation I had the chance to have coffee with a friend and catch up, as we try to do every few months or so.

And each time we get together, we talk about education – she’s a teacher by raining – and about her niece and nephew she is helping her mother raise. We talk about politics, current events, the war in Iraq.

And nearly without fail, I walk away from these all-too-infrequent meetings feeling I have learned more about myself for having talked with her than I have about her. Perhaps it is the ability of truly natural teachers – regardless of if they ever step into a classroom in front of a herd of young minds – to have you learn without knowing that you are being taught.

Last week’s lesson was on the death penalty. My friend is against it, she says, because even with DNA testing there is still a chance of error. Human beings, after all, take the samples from the people who are being tested and human beings process the samples and human begins collect the data and human beings filed the data. And human beings are fallible.

Anywhere along the line, a sample or procedure or test result or paperwork can be botched or altered. Whatever tiny chance there is of making a mistake that costs a wrongly accused defendant their life is too much, my friends argues.

With the growing number of cases in which DNA evidence has been used to release wrongly imprisoned inmates after years behind bars, my friend has a strong point. Our system is not free of error.

That does not mean we should reduce the human element within the system that determines whether an inmate lives out his or her short days on death row. We might need more human beings in the system.

I have not completely given up on the death penalty. I still strongly believe that it can be used in certain cases where men or women have killed with an inhuman ruthlessness, coldbloodedness or cruelty, where men and women have displayed the evil that goes well beyond that which lies in the heart of an average person.

The U.S. Supreme Court this term is again taking up the issue. In one case, the court will determine if more than 100 killers should get new sentences based on a 2002 ruling that made jurors and not the judge the final arbiters of the death penalty.

Perhaps that would be a good thing, for it may be the adding of human begins – 12 on a jury – that ultimately causes us to retain capital punishment as a last resort. Or cause us to discard it once and for all.

Coffeehouse observation No. 91

Pearl Jam on headphones is a great way to drown out a blowhard in the coffeehouse.

Coffeehouse observation No. 90

Beautiful weather out and the coffeehouse is pretty full. Usually, good weather scatters to the wind even the most loyal patrons.

Coffeehouse observation No. 89

I believe it is official: I am a loon magnet. Yet another wingnut stranger just came up to me in the coffeehouse and attempted to engage me in a conversation that was neither short enough nor pleasant enough. This is the third time in about a week or so. … I need to develop a repellant for Stockton’s crazies!

Coffeehouse observation No. 88

A chocolate-filled croissant and a coffee – now that’s what I call lunch!

Working on Girl Scout cookie-augmented girth

Box of Girl Scout cookies.

Box of Girl Scout cookies.

Yesterday I received a wonderful, wonderful surprise – eight boxes of Girl Scout cookies!

This is not strictly about coffee or coffeehouses, but cookies do go well with caffeinated beverages.

First off, I’m not a big GS cookie fiend – I’m not the guy who is first in line to fill in the order sheet when someone plops one down in front of me – but it has been a while since I’ve indulged and I was due.

My sister, knowing that this past year has not been the best for me, and some of her much-appreciated helpers sent me the cookies. A box each of Thanks-A-Lot Crunchy Fudge-Coated Treats, Thin Mints, Shortbread, Lemonades Lemon Iced Shortbread Slices, Peanut Butter Sandwich, Peanut Butter Patties (I like peanut butter), Caramel deLites, and, of course, Reduced Fat Daisy Go Rounds. (That was sort of like asking for a diet soda after ordering a large meal. Ah, well …)

Thank you, sister Sheri, nephew Max, niece Sophie, and brother-in-law Mark. (I believe Sophie may be a Brownie or member of some other paramilitary outfit that wields yummies instead of weapons.)

Oh, by the way, half of my next plane ticket home may be on them because after these cookies, I may have to purchase two tickets because I will be sporting Girl Scout-augmented girth.

Boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

Boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

Coffeehouse observation No. 87

I arrived at the coffeehouse earlier than normal today and am sporting a fine caffeine buzz. But the sun is shining and calling me to go outside and play. Unfortunately, I must fight the urge. I must put out a couple of resume packages today. As much as I like the coffeehouse, I really need a real job.

Coffeehouse observation No. 86

A woman who looks a lot like Penelope Cruz – especially around the nose and mouth and hair – just came into the coffeehouse and is sitting directly behind me. I don’t want to stare, but she is quite beautiful. There should be more mirrors in coffeehouses, I think.

Coffeehouse observation No. 85

Yesterday spotted a guy roll up to the coffeehouse on a bicycle, come in, use the bathroom, come back out, ask a dude outside for a cigarette, and walk on when the dude refused. It was then that I noticed that the guy had the wrong pant leg rolled up to keep it out of the bike sprocket. I wanted to follow just a little while to see if the guy took a tumble. Is that so wrong?

Published in: on March 22, 2010 at 2:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Coffeehouse observation No. 84

This may be the worst day ever. I spilled my coffee in the coffeehouse!!!! … Fortunately, no burns.

Coffeehouse observation No. 83

A woman who is more than 6-feet tall wearing 4-inch stilettos seems a bit like overkill in the coffeehouse. … Oh, and this is a different woman wearing different stilettos than earlier this week. Really!

Remembering a friend and colleague 9 years later

Cliff Polland

Cliff Polland in a photo taken by Rick Roach.

This isn’t about coffee or coffeehouses – except that I am writing this in a caffeinated state and I happen to be in a coffeehouse. But a Facebook post reminded me that today is the ninth anniversary of the passing of a friend and former colleague – Cliff Polland.

He had been ill, but far too young to die. He left behind many family and friends who continue to miss him to this day.

I recall that day quite clearly. Cliff had failed to come in to work at The Reporter in Vacaville, Calif., where he had been a photographer for years and years. His boss and a close friend of mine, Reporter photo editor Rick Roach, was concerned. He had tried to call Cliff, but with no reply. Rick wanted me to go with him to nearby Winters where Cliff lived with a German shorthaired pointer named Lucy. They lived in a cool two-bedroom home a couple of blocks from downtown Winters.

We drove there in Rick’s pickup barely saying a word to one another. We knew that Cliff had been ill – in-and-out of the hospital ill – for a while and we knew there could be too many terrible reasons why he didn’t make it in to work or answer Rick’s calls.

We each had a key to Cliff’s house – I would house- and dog-sit when Cliff was out of town and Rick had one because they were buds and also checked on things if Cliff was away.

I still carry my key on my keychain to this day.

We arrived, knocked on the door, and Rick used a key to let us in when there was no reply. But he immediately backed out of the house.

“He’s in there. He’s dead,” I seem to recall Rick saying as he struggled to catch his breath.

I had him repeat it, because I wasn’t sure I had heard him correctly. I asked where exactly. He was in a living room chair he had crafted.

We could hear Lucy inside and we knew it would be better to get her out of the house and into Rick’s pickup before police and other officials arrived. Dogs, of course, can be protective of their people and homes and we didn’t want her to react in a way that would cause officers to pull their weapons, as we had reported upon before in other circumstances.

She wouldn’t come out the front door, the one next to where Cliff sat in his chair. So, I went around to the back to a garage door I knew would be either unlocked or rickety enough for me to bust open. I was able to call Lucy through her dog door leading to the kitchen of Cliff’s house and ran my belt through her collar to fashion a leash to lead her to the front and to Rick’s pickup.

Rick called the local police to report the death and not long afterward two officers and an ambulance arrived.

We left a short time later to begin letting the world know that Cliff was dead. Those phone calls over the next day or so were difficult and I wouldn’t wish any of it on anyone.

As the assistant news editor in charge of special sections at The Reporter at the time, I wrote about Cliff in my next column a few days later. That was not an easy thing, either, writing about the death of a friend and colleague. A few months later I wrote another column in which I mentioned Cliff’s death. Below are those columns.

(I believe I also wrote another column, one on his memorial service a few months later – Hawaiian shirts, good stories, cigars and more. It was a great way to remember Cliff. I cannot for the life me find that column. – KM)

 Never good time for this

 I hate writing these kinds of columns. I’ll never become accustom to it. Never.

I spent the better part of Monday helping in a very unpleasant task.

Longtime Reporter photographer Cliff Polland died over the weekend and I helped notify former Reporter employees and friends of the sad news.

Cliff’s obituary on Tuesday made mention of his professional achievements and gave a rundown of his career as a photographer.

But Cliff was more than a photographer.

He was restoring an old Porsche, piece by piece. Some of the parts, no longer available elsewhere, had to be sought out over the ’Net; some had to be manufactured. He was a mechanic, automobile historian and sports car restorer.

He loved music – jazz and blues – and could play guitar. He owned a couple of electric guitars and not long ago he picked up an acoustic guitar. So he was a music enthusiast and guitarist.

He loved fishing. He loved camping. There were fishing rods in nearly every corner of his Yolo County home. Camping gear in the remaining corners. So he was a fisherman and camper.

He loved making wines and beer. So he was a winemaker and brewmaster.

He liked tequila. So he was a tequila drinker, too.

He had a dog, Lucy. Lucy is energetic, to say the least, but a sweet dog.

She stayed by Cliff’s side after he died and had to be coaxed out of the house. I believe the joy he received in owning Lucy added years to his life.

He was a dog owner.

Cigars were another of his joys. Cheap ones, expensive ones. It didn’t matter much. He loved them while fishing or camping or just sitting around his home reading. So he was a cigar enthusiast.

He painted with watercolors. He painted fish – trout. So he was a painter.

He built furniture. He died sitting in a chair he made a few years ago. He was a furniture maker.

Friends gathered Monday night to reminisce. We poured Cliff a shotglass of tequila and lighted a cigar for him. We kept it burning until it was gone.

Then we lighted another. More than once during the evening, someone said Cliff was probably looking down at us shaking his head at the carryings-on.

He was modest, too.

He was more than a photographer. He was a friend.

The author, a former Vacaville resident, was the assistant news editor in charge of special sections for The Reporter when this column first appeared in The Reporter on March 21, 2001.

My ‘Gone fishin’ sign is out

 By the time most of you read this, I will be long gone.

Oh, I hear the minstrels tuning their harps and people rushing to dance in the streets.

But don’t be so quick to rejoice. I’m only on vacation; I’ll be back next week.

By the time most of you have rubbed the sleep from your eyes, have caught the first refreshing whiffs of coffee, and made your way outdoors to fetch The Reporter from the bushes, I’ll be on my way to a piece of heaven in the Sierra Nevada.

My chariot this fine day is a forest green Chevy pickup loaded with camping gear and towing a fishing boat, also loaded with camping gear. My companions this fine day are my best friend for the past decade or so – who happens to be married to another of my best friends – and a German shorthaired pointer named Lucy.

We are running point for a biannual camping excursion that dates back 12 years. Some 30 or so others will follow, but we will be the first to take in the mountain air, the first to set up camp and the first to dip our lines in the upper of two very fine trout lakes with grand, glacier-capped mountains looking down on our every move.

And at night, with all of us gathered around a roaring campfire and mesmerized by its flickering orange, red and blue dance, we’ll renew friendships, partake in camping traditions better not discussed in a family newspaper, and each of us will at some point wish that the moment would stand still for all eternity. “Strangers” come along with us on these camping trips, but leave lifelong friends. It’s the way it’s been for a dozen years or so.

The bittersweetness, however, is that for the first time in a half-decade we’ll be without our friend, Cliff Polland. Lucy is – was – his dog. Now she stays with my best friends and their family, but I think, at least a little, she belongs to all of Cliff’s friends.

Cliff’s birthday would have been on Monday. We would have celebrated while camping, giving him goofy gifts, like a camouflaged baseball batting cap with dual beer can holder mounted on top with drinking tube.

We’re brewing some beer to bring with us, using some of the equipment Cliff once used. It’ll be a fine brew for a fine camping trip.

He’ll be there in spirit, at least, and having a good ol’ time along with us.

The author, a former Vacaville resident, was the assistant news editor in charge of special sections for The Reporter when this column first appeared in The Reporter on May 23, 2001. 


Published in: on March 18, 2010 at 2:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Oakland’s Peerless Coffee brews more efficient waste management |

[Here’s a link to a story from last week. It is about two things dear to me, coffee and the environment. — KM]

Peerless Coffee Brews More Efficient Waste Management |

Coffeehouse observation No. 82

The barista at Exotic Java was wearing green today in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. I especially enjoyed the green garter. Erin Go Bragh!

Coffeehouse observation No. 81

The coffeehouse I patronized the most – empresso – sure does hire beautiful young women.

Coffeehouse observation No. 80

I’ve written this before, but good, sunny weather really cuts down attendance at the coffeehouse.