Empresso wins again!

Meant to post this the other day. The coffeehouse I frequent won a local prize as the best coffeehouse in the area. I believe they have won this at least one other time. Cool!

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Coffeehouse observation No. 353 – I see Jesus in my coffee

The baristas at Empresso, the coffeehouse inside The Empire Theater on the Miracle Mile in Stockton, know how to make coffee a religion.

Or, at least, they know how to put Jesus in the coffee.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud ©

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Coffeehouse observation No. 350 – Back in the coffeehouse again

Today was the first chance in a couple of weeks to be able to sit and enjoy the coffeehouse. The new job has kept me busy, which is quite the opposite from a complaint. It’s very good to be busy. It’s very good to be employed. … But it has kept me away from what was a haven for two and a half years of unemployment. … I’m comfortable here at Empresso, but I do like the idea that I’m working.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud©

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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.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud ©

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Coffeehouse observation No. 293 – Let’s reunite this bike with this barista

Reunite this bicycle with this barista.

Reunite this bicycle with this barista.

Hey there! For anyone living in Stockton – especially those living or venturing near Yosemite and Harding – please keep an eye out for this bicycle. It was stolen yesterday. The sentimental value is high and the bicycle’s owner – a barista at Empresso on the Miracle Mile in Stockton — would very much appreciate its return.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 206

I walked into Exotic Java today on a somewhat tight schedule and was disappointed to see four people in line in front of me. But they were served promptly and cleared away from the counter … where my drink was already waiting. Barista Andrew had spotted me through the drive-through window coming into the coffeehouse and had already started and finished making the drink before I arrived at the counter. I frequent empresso most often, followed by Exotic Java, with Starbucks and Peets a distant third and fourth. The baristas at both empresso and Exotic Java are excellent at what they do and are quite friendly. The owners of both coffeehouses should be proud, because often workers are a reflection of the work ethic of their bosses and a sign of the respect the hold for their bosses.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 200

I’m not a fashion maven, but some people should NOT wear those low-rise pants. I’m sitting in the empresso coffeehouse and there’s a young woman here showing the world her plumber’s crack. And I don’t think she even realizes it.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 188

The guy outside empresso is relentless. He is sitting at one of the tables out there strumming an electric guitar – no amp. And asking each attractive woman the time as they walk by and then he introduces himself. It’s as if he’s trolling and “Excuse me, do you know what time it is?” is the bait. A friend just suggested that it was nothing more than short-term memory loss. Um, I don’t think so.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 166

The educational system in this country is letting down a lot of people. A guy in empresso just now commented on my hat – Boston Red Sox cap – and I said that I had grown up in New England.

“Oh, really! I’ve heard there’s a lot of great music in the UK.”

“No, I grew up in NEW England. Not the UK.”

“What’s the difference?”

“New England. It’s made up of the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.”

“Oh …”

For crying out loud, people! New England and the Atlantic states are the R&D labs for this experiment called the United States of America. It is a hugely important part of this country.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 160

I’m at the coffeehouse and outside on the patio is a young woman – she has to be in her very late teens or early 20s. She must be a student-athlete at one of the local colleges because she appears very fit and she is wearing a T-shirt with writing on the back about teammates and how they have your back. The T-shirt sleeves are tied back like woman athletes do occasionally. Her hair is tied back, her fingernails are polished with a wild bluish color, and her lips move as she’s reading a book, almost as if it is in a foreign language and she wants to hear it as much as read it. Her right leg is pumping up and down as if she’s nervous or anxious. I know this isn’t PC, but she is a cutie.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 159

A slight bit of weirdness in the coffeehouse the past two days. Yesterday, on my semi-regular fitness walk, I tripped slightly on a cracked sidewalk and a fellow walking out of the park shared a laugh about it and said something such as “Well, I’m not the only one who is not perfect.”

He then proceeded to tell me – for at least five minutes – about the recent surge in crime in the neighborhood surrounding American Legion Park in central Stockton, Calif.

I had never seen the guy before, but I saw him again later at the coffeehouse, which is a pretty healthy walk from American Legion Park.

And then today I went to the bank to deposit a check and spotted a guy in line. I envied him for the nice green tropical shirt he was wearing.

Later in the morning he happened to come into espresso for a beverage.

Just weird that sort of thing happened two days running. I wonder who I might see for the first – and second – time tomorrow.

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 157

“Burn, burn, burn, that ring of fire, that ring of fire. …” The baristas at empresso are playing a little Johnny Cash for background music. Cool.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 138

From my perch at empresso, the Miracle Mile coffeehouse I frequent, I can see several laptops open and Facebook on the screen, several other people texting on cellphones, some talking on cellphones, a professorly gentleman wearing suspenders and smoking a pipe, several people reading books – yes, books – a group chatting, and a fellow strumming a guitar. It’s a coffeehouse, all right.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 134

I just spotted a woman crossing the street near empresso and she was wearing a sombrero. … A very large and very colorful sombrero. Go figure!

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Coffeehouse observation No. 133

There’s a guy sitting on the empresso patio and he’s rockin’ out. Big time. Except, there is no music. None. He’s either hyped way, way up on something or … yeah, he’s hyped up on somethin’. … Oh, Stockton, you never fail to entertain.

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 128

In an apparent salute to past technology, a guy on the empresso patio is playing Pacman on a laptop. What next? iPong?

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Coffeehouse observation No. 127


The hat I was wearing that day is the one on the left. The one on the right is another Maine item in my California apartment, a hat from L.L. Bean of Freeport, Maine. By the way, nephew Max and niece Sophie picked out the moose hat and very possibly had something to do with picking out the L.L. Bean hat.

I am at the coffeehouse and am wearing a cap that has a moose on the front. The antlers spell out “Cool Moose.” And I am not at all embarrassed. … Well, perhaps a little.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 122

The music from the church service in the Empire Theater is so loud I had to use headphones in order to hear some music. U2 earlier; “Juno” soundtrack now.

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Oh, to be in search of a job – still

But I think things are looking up – at least, I think they are

 Not a particularly great week for the job search. I was only able to get three resume packages out – one on Monday and two on Tuesday – and had only a view or two on resumes posted on various job websites.

But it was much better than a few very slow weeks that I have had during this search and my online portfolio has received more visits in the past couple of weeks than it has in months, so I remain upbeat that I will find employment.

I had a couple of days this week during which technical problems bogged me down. I use an HP laptop at empresso, the Stockton coffeehouse I frequent most often. And when certain other people are there running HP or Compaq laptops my WiFi seems to turn to mush and I can barely load even the best websites. There was a woman there Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and I could barely get anything done online when she was there.

(And on Thursday she spent most of her time there talking loudly on her cellular telephone. She wasn’t even working online that very much, she just had the laptop on and connected. I felt a mild urge to ask her: “Do you realize how very loud you are?!” But I’m not that confrontational.)

I also have a problem sometimes when nearby laptop user is using a similar wireless mouse to the Microsoft mouse I use. I’m guessing in both cases it is a matter of similar frequencies crossing over. (I’m not technically endowed so please forgive if does not make perfect technical sense. It does to me.)

When either problem happens I simply disconnect the wireless connection and work on something on my desktop. I’ve starting putting aside work that I can do in such instances. That helps keep the blood pressure down a bit.

Yesterday was sort of a throw-away day, too. I received a phone message late Thursday from the publisher of an East Coast newspaper. I had emailed them a resume package last week for an opening there.

Unfortunately, I did not notice the message until it was after 6 p.m. or so EST so I emailed her that I would return the call the following morning, which I did. I waited for a few hours yesterday for a return call and headed out to empresso when it got to be about 4:30 p.m. EST. Perhaps she’ll call on Monday.

Or not.

I make it a point not to let that sort of thing bother me too much. It would have been nice to get some job searching done yesterday, but that’s the way it goes.

I truly wish my portfolio was better, more stunning, more compelling. Much of my writing is not easily accessible online. Much of my carry involved moving pages, writing editorial, directing news coverage and reporters, for which there are no bylines. Anyway …

Next week I’ll get down to it again. Perhaps I can double the number of resume packages.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 115: Hey, it’s Joey Casanova – what an oaf

There’s this fella I see at empresso every so often and also at the library branch I frequent. Let’s call him Joey Casanova. The reasons will become clear in a bit.

By the way, if you’ve forgotten, empresso is the coffeehouse I patronize most frequently. It’s located in the Empire Theater on the Miracle Mile in Stockton. Students from the University of the Pacific, CSU-Stanislaus satellite campus, San Joaquin Delta College, and the nearby adult school keep the place pretty busy, which is great for the owners what with this economy the way it is.

Anyway, in the two or so years that I’ve been going to empresso, Joey Casanova has had at least three or four different girlfriends. He swaggers in with the woman on his arm, they grab a beverage, and then they usually sit in the patio area at the front of the theater. He sometimes lights up a really cheap cigar or pulls a book from a cheap canvas book bag and begins to thumb through the book.

Whether he’s with a woman or not, he carries himself with a swagger and air of self-assuredness that is somehow, well, revolting. He carries himself as if he believes he is God’s gift to women.

But the thing is he’s not that much to look at. He’s about 6-2 or so, 275 to 300 pounds – soft pounds, too, not much muscle bulk – dark hair that’s always nicely trimmed, but nothing special to look at. He usually wears a T-shirt and black jeans or black shorts, which contrasts with his somewhat pasty white skin. He often wears sandals and sometimes he wears a fedora.

I’ve heard the guy speak; nothing special there either. He doesn’t come across nearly as intelligent as he seems to believe he is and I’ve even heard him make a couple of borderline inappropriate comments.

I think it is the swagger that grates at me most. And the way he seems to view women. If a woman is sitting alone in the coffeehouse, Joey Casanova frequently goes up to them and strikes up a conversation as if it is expected that they respond to him positively. And they often do just that. The thing is, the very next day he might show up with the girlfriend du jour. And his swagger.

Yeah, I suppose it could be just coffeehouse confidence, but I don’t think so. I mean, sometimes he simply ogles women. I suppose it might be a touch of jealousy since I haven’t had much luck dating lately. Besides, I’d rather think of Joey Casanova as an oaf, lout and a boor.

Here’s another thing that contributes to my distaste of Joey Casanova. As people are gathering at the front door of the library branch, he’ll swagger up, move directly to the front of the pack, and very typically attempt to strike up a conversation with the most attractive woman there. It doesn’t matter if she’s in her teens or her 70s, he’ll attempt to win them over with a cliché or two and what I suspect he believes is a charming grin that comes across as smarmy.

Once the doors open, however, Joey Casanova bolts for the computers provided by the library for internet access. He pecks in his library card number and does whatever it is Joey Casanova does online, which is a scary thought.

Here is a typical Joey Casanova move: The other day I was sitting in the library where there are tables set aside for WiFi users and a pretty black woman sat down across from me. Her top revealed a bit of cleavage.

As soon as Joey Casanova’s hour was up on the computer – you get an hour each day on the library computers – he swaggered by and I’m pretty sure he did so simply to look down the woman’s shirt. See, an oaf, lout, and boor.

And women don’t seem to see that. How do the Joey Casanova’s of the world do it? Ah, well, at least he’s not in the coffeehouse today.

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