Coffeehouse observation No. 319 – Not a reflection of coffeehouse humor

The guy sitting at the next table is not nearly as funny as he thinks. Not nearly at all.

And, no, I am not sitting next to a mirror.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 318 – Intravenous coffee, please

I arrived at the coffeehouse earlier than normal and I’m feeling as if I need a coffee IV.

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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. 314 – Lunch doesn’t mean finger food or finger talk

It’s lunchtime and the guy at the next table at the coffeehouse is talking about how one of his employees had a finger amputated. … At lunch you’re taking about amputations?! And in way too much detail?! At lunch?! … Really?!

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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.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 311 – Hot, steamy coffee on a rainy day

The weather in California has been, well, to say the least, weird this year. It’s raining on the first day of June. By now we normally would have experienced a couple of 90-degree days, but I cannott recall even one so far.

It’s been gray, cloudy, rainy and windy today. It truly feels like fall or winter in Northern California.

It’s just the right weather for a hot, steamy cup of coffee enjoyed in an inviting coffeehouse. I’m sucking down the house blend at Pure Grain Café, my temporary coffeehouse headquarters for the week that I am in Vacaville cat-, house- and mansion-sitting. Nothing quite like a hot, steamy cup of coffee – or tea, in a pinch – to chase away the chill of foul weather.

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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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Coffeehouse observation No. 306 – The store is closed, folks; Really it is

The at&t store across the street from the coffeehouse has been closed for the past week or so. There are several signs reading “This AT&T location has closed.” But at least every hour someone – a current or prospective at&t customer, it can be assumed – walks up to the door, pulls on the handle, rattles the door just to make sure that it is in fact locked, and puts their hands up to their faces to shield their eyes from the glare as they peer into the closed store. Some have even grabbed the handle again and tried the door one more time before walking away with a slightly befuddled look on their faces. The store is closed, folks. Trust me.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 305 – ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ at the coffeehouse

The guy sitting in front of me at the coffeehouse looks a lot like Johnny Depp. And I think on purpose.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 303 – The smell of victory

I love the smell of coffee in the morning. … It smells like … victory!

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Coffeehouse observation No. 302 – Cigarettes to make breath minty fresh … or mints to make breath ashtray unfresh

A woman is sitting outside the coffeehouse and she just pulled a cigarette from an Altoid’s tin. Sort of like mints to make your breath smell like an ashtray.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 301 – Sweet, sweet … sweet … coffee

I just watched a guy put about six sugars in his coffee. Why bother with the coffee? … What an amateur!

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Coffeehouse observation No. 299 – I drink coffee and it must be genetic

Can’t get enough coffee? It might be in your genes | Time.com

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Coffeehouse observation No. 298 – So few people, so much annoyance

Is it bad that .00000001 percent of the world’s people annoy me 98 percent of the time? … I might be off a couple of zeroes in that first percentage.

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Coffeehouse observation No.297 – Coffee and Girl Scout cookies!

I’m drinking coffee and eating Girl Scout cookies. Yeah! That’s right!

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Coffeehouse observation No.296 – Today’s guest commentary

[Sometimes the best stuff that happens in a coffeehouse happens to my friends in coffeehouses when I’m not around. Here’s something a former colleague and Facebook connection posted to my wall and it seemed appropriate here as a guest commentary. – KM]

“I thought of you today. My daughter took me to a cafe in SF and while we were sitting there, this young woman answers her cellphone and then proceeds to have a too-loud conversation with her mother in which she complained bitterly about her father while debating whether to see him or not, then discussed ad nauseum her psychiatric condition and which of the recommended medications she should take. I just kept thinking, ‘Anyone who thinks this is a conversation that should be done in public is clearly disturbed.’”

 

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Coffeehouse observation No. 295 – Caressing those keys like a jackhammer

I read somewhere not too long ago that the average life expectancy for a laptop is about three years. After all, laptops are portable … and drop-able. The guy sitting at a nearby table is caressing the keyboard on his laptop like a jackhammer, slamming down each key in staccato fashion. I think he is affecting the curve and bringing down the life expectancy average.

By the way, I don’t get the feeling that he is angry – at the laptop or in general – but merely mindlessly abusive to the laptop.

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Coffeehouse observation No. 294 — Recycling made sexy

On the way to the coffeehouse I noticed a woman collecting cans and bottles from a trashcan and she was putting them into a Victoria’s Secret bag she was carrying. I suppose that makes recycling sexy.

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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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