Coffeehouse observation 354 — Changing the world as we know it

Three, um, older women are having a loud conversation at the next table in the coffeehouse. They are sooo making Facebook something completely different.

Published in: on July 3, 2012 at 2:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Coffeehouse observation No. 351 – Harp music for the coffeehouse

Why, this is new. A woman is playing a harp in the coffeehouse. Not exactly the most portable instrument. … And her companion is a Chihuahua. I kid you not.

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At long last, I am going back to work

It has been a very long, winding, tumultuous two and a half years of unemployment since March 2009 when I was laid off from The Record in Stockton, Calif. It has been a very difficult time for so many people, including and especially those in the newspaper business.

But I’m starting a new job on Monday Tuesday – a 60-day trial as the editor of the Central Valley Business Journal, a monthly publication with offices in Stockton and Modesto. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and confident that this will be a good fit. I get the feeling that the Central Valley Business Journal hasn’t had true editorial leadership in some time, so even small improvements in the publication will be noticeable.

I have never been a business writer/editor before so the experience will be challenging in that respect. I haven’t been the sole editor of a publication in quite a while, so it will be challenging in that respect, as well. And I haven’t had to get up early for work in quite a while, so that will be pleasantly challenging.

I have written here in the past of the complete emotional toll unemployment takes on a person. You lose your self-worth, self-respect, and sense of self. Friends and family who haven’t been through the situation cannot truly understand what the unemployed go through, but they still offer suggestions – “You know what you really should do is …” – of actions already taken time and time again. They mean so very well and knowing that kept me from screaming just a bit. Prospective employers reject you simply for having been unemployed. And society turns an uncomfortable cold shoulder to those of us who were unemployed for so long.

My girlfriend, Brenda, has been very supportive and encouraging through the past few months. I thank her for helping me maintain my enthusiasm for, well, everything and for encouraging me at every step. She is solidly in my heart.

Long-time friends – especially Teresa, Rick, and Michele – have provided part-time work, room and board, beer and tequila, laughter, and encouragement. I do appreciate everything they have done for me in the past two and a half years. Other friends, those not so “long-time,” also have provided encouragement and even groceries from time to time. For those veggies and peppers, Kathi, I am grateful. And I thank those Facebook friends who over the years have helped me maintain my sense of humor, perspective, and sanity, who have provided encouragement, job leads, and a place to vent. Thank you.

And now a new adventure awaits! I’m excited for it to begin.

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Published in: on November 4, 2011 at 2:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Coffeehouse observation No. 349 – Pavlov would hold back the food on this one

I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure I just overheard a woman in the coffeehouse say: “It’s like Pavlov the Dog.” … No, seriously!

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Coffeehouse observation No. 348 – Tired, old pickup lines in the coffeehouse

A guy with a German Shepherd in the coffeehouse is killing time by hitting on the woman at the next table. From what I’ve been able to overhear, he’s doesn’t have a job or home – by choice, he says – and that he’s meandering his way to Tucson, Ariz., to end a relationship with a woman. He’s not looking forward to “doing the right thing” in breaking up with the Tucson woman, while he hits on the woman in the coffeehouse. Some guys have chutzpah!

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Coffeehouse observation No. 343 – Royalty in the coffeehouse

A princess just walked into the coffeehouse. … No, really, I swear! … OK, I’m not completely certain that she is true royalty. But she is wearing a lovely pink tutu and silver slippers, and carrying a Disney princess handbag. Oh, and she is about 2. So, she has to be someone’s princess, right?

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 342 – What did I do to deserve this?

Annoying people keep showing up at the coffeehouse. I’m not sure what I did to deserve this, but I take it back. Whatever it was!

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Former lovers meet in coffee shop for one last cliché | The Onion

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Former lovers meet in coffee shop for one last cliché | The Onion

Published in: on September 6, 2011 at 10:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Coffeehouse observation No. 335 – Well, they’re not a rock band

Ten or so Latino guys – all in traditional costumes and carrying musical instruments –  just came into the coffeehouse (which is attached to a theater) and one of the brighter bulbs here just asked: “You a mariachi band?” … Well, duh! They’re not a rock band, Einstein.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 334 – Paparazzi have invaded the coffeehouse!

Here I am minding my own business with my friend Brenda when the first photographic attack is launched. (Photo by Craig Sanders)

Here I am minding my own business with my friend Brenda when the first photographic attack is launched. (Photo by Craig Sanders)

There I was minding my own business when there was a commotion and camera flashes started going off in my face.

“Great!” I immediately thought to myself. “The paparazzi have tracked me down to my coffeehouse, my sanctuary! This is all I freakin’ need!”

OK, perhaps paparazzi never follow me around. I have no fame, no fortune, so why would paparazzi follow lil’ ol’ me around?

They wouldn’t.

As it turned out, the so-called commotion – which was not a commotion at all – was due to the arrival of former co-workers, Record reporter Jennifer Torres and Record photo editor Craig Sanders. They were in the coffeehouse to meet the subject of a feature story that Jennifer was writing.

So, while Jennifer chatted with the feature subject, Craig and I chatted and he snapped a couple of shots. And, of course, I mugged for the camera.

Here I am launching my counter offensive. (Photo by Craig Sanders)

Here I am launching my counter offensive. (Photo by Craig Sanders)

And here I am launching my last-ditch effort to fight back the paparazzi horde. (Photo by Craig Sanders)

And here I am launching my last-ditch effort to fight back the paparazzi horde. (Photo by Craig Sanders)

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Coffeehouse observation No. 332 – Lunch is a nice surprise at the coffeehouse

Nice surprise earlier today – lunch delivered to me at the coffeehouse. Chicken Greek wrap, fresh fruit and some Kettle chips. It was perfect.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 327 – Capt. Stubing to the Lido Deck, please …

Guy just walked into the coffeehouse wearing a white shirt with epaulettes, navy pants … and what appear to be two-tone golf shoes. Yeah, FootJoys. This guy doesn’t know whether to go to the Lido Deck or the links. … But in his defense, the epaulettes are a nice touch.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 326 – Never underestimate the power of a smile

A pretty young woman — a complete stranger — just flashed me a very big smile. That does not happen nearly often enough.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 323 – Flash: O.J. did it!

I just overheard a couple of guys in the coffeehouse talking about O.J. Simpson. Apparently, he did it, the LA cops screwed up the investigation, and some of the people involved lied. These freakin’ legal geniuses should have come forward years ago! Now we know the truth. … By the way, this was intertwined with a conversation about the mob. I’m not sure how they were connected, but there you have.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 315 – This guy is trying too hard

OK, a beret and long hair tied in a ponytail? Really? This bozo is really trying too hard to fit in at the coffeehouse.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 312 – It’s worth a conversation about, well, conversations!

I’ve hit onto something, um, different. At Empresso, the coffeehouse I frequent most often in Stockton, I’m among the older patrons. But at my temporary coffeehouse, not so much.

Sure, there are a few who are older at Empresso, no doubt. But it’s pretty obvious to those who see me that I’m graying and balding on top and a bit broader than I once was in the middle.

I’m a middle-age guy. There! I’ve admitted it! Now everyone get off my back! And while you’re at it, off my lawn!

Whew! I better cut back on the caffeine. … Ya, sure, as if that’s gonna happen!

Anyway, I’m away from Stockton for a while and I had to find a temporary port of call to satisfy my caffeine cravings. Actually, I had to re-find this particular port of call.

Pure Grain Café has been around Vacaville for years, but it wasn’t until shortly before I left for Stockton that they opened a coffeehouse in historic downtown Vacaville – coffee, pastries, sandwiches, soup and salads. It is that now-familiar morph between straight coffeehouse and luncheon deli.

It’s a sunny and bright place. The Vacaville city seal is a sun shining down brightly on the golden rolling hills around and outside the city. Pure Grain Café’s interior is painted yellow to match the sun. And many of the patrons are in their sunny golden years.

That means I’m not so much “the old guy” anymore. A couple of times so far this week, I was among the youngest patrons in the coffeehouse!

It was great to sit there enjoying a cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin, surfing the Web, and watching a few of Vacaville’s long-time residents. Like many coffeehouses, Pure Grain Café is a place where old friends wave and call out to each other and then plop down beside each other at a table to spend the next few hours talking. Just talking about this and that and the other thing. Talking about everything and simply nothing at all.

It is difficult in this electronic age where lives can change – fortunes forged, fortunes pissed away, careers made, careers decimated, friendships solidified, friendships destroyed, loves gained, loves lost – all in the click of a mouse or in the sending of a text. We seem to have lost the art of conversation. Sad. We miss so much by failing to carry out one of the most human of activities – conversation.

We all should take the time to have long, meandering conversations that seem to go nowhere and everywhere at the same time, conversations that solve the world’s problems, great and small, and conversations in which recipes for “the world’s best chili” or “the world’s best burger” are exchanged with impunity.

We should return to those conversations in which words spoken are as important as the words left unspoken. We should return to those conversations carried out under willow trees dancing in the wind, on boats with water slowly lapping against the hull, in hushed tones of conspiracy or love or both, and conversations accompanied by boisterous laughter.

Conversations should be lively, animated and meaningful. If not, why not just text the person.

I did not eavesdrop – at least, not much – but it was clear that the conversations among old friends going on at the tables in Pure Grain Café were lively, animated … and very meaningful. My table was the only one on which there was an electronic device. Those conversations – those meaningful conversations – required no email, instant messaging or texting. No electronics at all were used to carry out the actual conversations.

Don’t get me wrong! Electronics and the amazing Internet are vital to our world and they will be essential to bringing this country more economic stability. But personal conversations are just as vital.

Let’s talk about it, at least.

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 310 – Temporary coffeehouse is pure as the grain

Taking a break from musty, dusty, crusty Stockton is always great thing.

This week I am getting away from Stockton by doing a bit of house-sitting, cat-sitting, and mansion-sitting.

You read that last bit correctly – mansion-sitting.

A friend is the estate manager for a property important to the history of Vacaville, the Solano County city where I worked for more than 13 years before moving to Stockton.

She and her boyfriend – along with his guitar, his bows, her clothing, her books (to be donated to a library), her camera equipment, and a refrigerator-sized telescope – crammed into a Nissan Sentra and headed out of the Sacramento Valley, over the Sierra Nevada, and across a good portion of the state of Nevada for a vacation.

My friend, beside having a grueling workload at the mansion, has been involved in the care and morale for a couple of friends who over the past few months have been battling cancer. One of them seems to be kicking it; we buried the other a couple of weeks ago. Being there for those friends – and the subsequent death of one of them – has taken its toll on her and this is a much-needed vacation.

So I will be here to feed the four or five cats she has welcomed into her home, the boyfriend’s slightly skittish cat, two gold fish (including one who apparently has a problem digesting food), and two turtles in the fish pond that really doesn’t have any fish. I’ll be picking up mail, accepting packages from UPS and FedEx drivers, checking the exterior of the yard and mansion to make sure security is OK, being onsite to make sure security is OK, and doing pretty much what I can around the place to make sure security is OK. The mansion is fairly grand – for the city and for the time period during which it was built – and the grounds are spectacular and a joy simply to visit.

And historic downtown Vacaville is only a few blocks away – it is a perfect morning stroll for a cup of coffee.

Yes, coffee. I will be drinking coffee while here in Vacaville. Was there any doubt?

I used to live and work in Vacaville before I started working in Stockton. I’ve always liked Vacaville and wish now I could afford to live here. I’ve been out of work for so long now that soon I may not be able to afford anything but a Maytag box.

Not too long before I left, the city used redevelopment funds to spruce up things in the downtown – fantastic new buildings, new plazas, new walkway along the creek downtown, and more.

And in one of those new buildings on one of those new plazas is the expanded Pure Grain Café. The coffee is just OK, but the pastries and muffins are fantastic. They have WiFi and a lunch menu, too, complete with sandwiches, paninis, soups and salads. If I didn’t have responsibilities as a temporary assistant estate manager (actually, I don’t think I have a job title at all), I could spend quite a bit of time and money in Pure Grain Café.

I’ll be checking in from here throughout the week. This is my temporary home-away-from Empresso, the coffeehouse I most frequent in Stockton. The other is Exotic Java.

Empresso is fun because it is located in the lobby of an old movie theater, so it’s a bit quirky and on the dark side unless you sit near the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Pure Grain Café is different. It has floor-to-ceiling windows on two walls that open up to Vacaville’s Maine Street and an adjacent plaza. The interior walls are yellow and the high ceiling white, giving it a much more open, lighter feel. The display cases are crowded with cakes, pastries and muffins on one side, and luncheon offerings – sandwiches and salads – along the other side of the counter. The whole place has much more the feel of a contemporary deli than a typical coffeehouse.

It is a nice change.

Apparently, this is the place for old friends to meet, read the newspaper and catch up on the latest gossip. More than half the tables inside are filled. The outside tables have been used since I sat down, but there is a bit of a chill in the air so it is not particularly comfortable to side outside.

Beside facing Main Street and the plaza, the building in which Pure Grain Café is located is just a short walk from the local senior center, county library, a wine and gift shop, and the Ulatis Creekwalk.

OK, time to move along. I’ve gotta get back to the mansion.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 309 – Former coworker was an ‘excitable boy’

Warren Zevon's "Excitable Boy."

Warren Zevon's "Excitable Boy."

A former coworker, Brian Hamlin, died not long ago. To give you an idea of the type of unique fella Brain was, they played Warren Zevon’s “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” at his funeral. … Now I’m listening to the Zevon album at the coffeehouse and enjoying fond memories of a great journalist – and an excitable boy – gone far too soon.

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The Orion Captures Fifth Straight National Excellence Award – CSU, Chico News – CSU, Chico

The Orion Captures Fifth Straight National Excellence Award – CSU, Chico News – CSU, Chico.

[I was the editor of this paper in the late 1980s for two semesters when Dr. Richard Ek was the adviser. … Of course, that means I had absolutely nothing to do with these awards, but I’m still proud of what the current crew has done. Congratulations! — KM]

Published in: on May 20, 2011 at 9:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Coffeehouse observation No. 307 – What a weird twist of karma

A guy just walked into the coffeehouse with his combover sticking out from under his baseball cap like a tail. I mocked the combover/tail on Facebook and, in a weird twist of karma, he sat at the table directly behind me. And then started humming along with “Hey, Jude” as it played on the coffeehouse music system. I’m begged someone to simply shoot me to get me out of my misery, but I got no takers.

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