It's all about people, places, coffee, music, photography, and the stories that make life rich and beautiful.
The Gift of a Custom-tailored Cup of Coffee
My kids are the pride of my life. All three are smart, creative, kind, and generous - right to the core. For my last birthday, each one took extra care in making it a special day - despite the social distancing. Aside from their generous birthday gifts, I hope they all realize they themselves are the best gift any father can receive. That said, I want to talk about one gift that fits right in with the reoccurring theme of coffee.
My oldest son conspired with the owner of Capitola Coffee - a boutique coffee shop and roaster in Portland, OR. After discussing my favorite coffee flavor notes and characteristics - they set out to create the perfect cup - custom tailored just for me. First, they had to choose a bean. They settled on Limmu Kossa Natural, from Ethiopia. Next, a custom roast process was devised to get the desired results. A custom roast! How cool is that?
When it finally arrived, I opened the bag and I could tell right away this was no ordinary coffee. The first cup was a French Press - another gift (these kids know their father well). After the first sip, I can honestly say this might be the best cup I’ve had to date. As I sit here typing away, I’m enjoying yet another French Press and the earthy, citrus, and floral notes are coming in and out like a symphony of flavors.
A big “thank you” to my kids for making this birthday a great one. The joy they give is immeasurable. And a special thank you to Capitola Coffee for doing what they do best and going one step further. For more information about Capitola Coffee, visit their website:
It will come as no surprise to many of you that I love the City of Cambridge, MA. If there was ever a home-away-from-home for me, Cambridge is it. It’s a place where contrast balances with composite. It’s a playground for tradition, trend, old, and new. The city has always felt alive to me - and has served as a place of artistic and spiritual inspiration for decades.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cambridge, like many other cities, took on a new look and feel. The shell was still there, but the historically bustling streets were mostly barren and silent. Like veins without blood. Like a breath without oxygen. This made me reflect on a few characteristics of the city. Cambridge, especially the more urban sections, has a rather highly-populated yet somewhat socially isolated feel to it. It’s not a place where everyone says “hello” and wants to talk about the weather. Instead, we’ve mastered the art of straight-ahead-only vision, affording passersby the security and privacy of anonymity. However, there is a comfort of presence that parallels being in the room with someone while you’re both reading. We’re jammed together in our small universe of separate orbits - sometimes resembling a coffee shop table. Once in a great while, we might boldly break the fourth wall to ask “is anyone sitting there?” An exchange that feels far too intimate to push any further. Separate, but together - like a network of firing neurons. But even that family of strangers who move in and out of our peripheral vision have been few and far between. And my own desire to do my part to contain this virus and protect others has made my presence a rare occasion.
Lyn and I have attempted to capture some of the magic by driving through the City, sometimes grabbing takeout and eating in the car. But it hasn’t been the same. One day, we decided to take a masked walk through the sleeping city. We ended up in Harvard Square and noticed that Charlie’s Kitchen was open. Since the streets were quiet, we decided to sit outside and have a quick dinner. Our waiter was warm, inviting, and genuinely happy to see us. I could sense a social being that had been trapped in isolation for months - looking for that human contact.
As we waited for dinner to arrive, we noticed others around us. They were not exhibiting a typical distant presence - it was something deeper. Still distant, but with a different kind of awareness. People were securing their masks as they walked past others, giving them space, and taking more space for themselves. Even those relegated to the periphery were doing their part. At that moment, the bricks, pavement, and traffic lights were once again animated by the lifeblood of this city. As I was taking it all in, I realized I was more relaxed than I’ve been in a while. My city was back. It felt like we were in the right place - like actors on a stage who are connecting with their audience. For that small moment - Cambridge felt a little more alive . . . and so did I.
Miles Davis had a huge impact on me - that impact continues to this day. His music ushered in so many different eras of jazz, fusion, and even crossed over into funk, rock, and pop. There was a lot there to discover and influence a (then) young musician.
He also had a reputation for being brutally honest, sometimes abrasive, and clearly not willing to suffer fools. But his softer and more philosophical side could also shine through - making his interviews both entertaining and insightful.
Even as a successful black musician/personality - he encountered countless acts of racism throughout the US, including harassment by police. His accounts were delivered with a sense of disbelief and lingering anger. They were painful to hear, but provided me with additional insight regarding racism. Here’s a black man with wealth and fame and he STILL cannot escape prejudice due to the color of his skin. Racism was absurd and disgusting to me then . . . and it remains so today.
On the day he died, I drew this portrait of him while listening to his music. It was basically my rendering of a Musician Magazine cover. It was drawn using charcoal on newsprint paper. The drawing became damaged when a basement water pipe broke - but I kept it and it remains in my studio today.
So thank you Miles for the music, your experiences, and for reminding us that many of yesterday's problems are still here today. We have lots of work to do.
Next Stop . . . Ipswich
With all that was going on in the world, it was time to go to the ocean for calm, inspiration, and some salt-filled air. It was time for "sweeping cobwebs from the edges of my mind. Had to get away to see what we could find." Would the weather co-operate? We'll soon find out. But first things first . . . coffee.
Lyn and I stumbled across Zumis and opted for a cup of Marrakesh Express. A complex dark roast with a nod to CS&N? I'm in! Zumis is a cool little boutique coffee shop. The baristas were friendly, knowledgeable, and demonstrated a kind tolerance for my puns and off-center sense of humor. They were brewing coffee from Dean's Beans, an Orange, MA roaster who combines a love of high quality coffee with a strong sense of environmental responsibility and social conscience. My cup was brewed to perfection. The clouds were rolling in fast.
Next up, breakfast. We walked across and down the street, landing at Heart and Soul Cafe. After talking with them for what amounted to less than five minutes, I felt like we made another set of friends. And the food was fantastic! Their delivery van was an old VW bus . . . and somehow that made me like them even more! As we sat on a curb, enjoying our breakfast, the first drops of rain found us.
At an intersection nearby, there was a small but passionate band of BLM protestors. It seemed that every car passing was honking their horn in solidarity. It was a beautiful site . . . a diverse group of age and ethnicity with a common goal. And with every affirmative horn I heard, my trust in humanity grew . . . and my heart swelled with gratitude. I hoped they wouldn't get caught in a down-pour . . . but quickly realized rain would not dampen their spirits and passion for the cause.
As we made our way to the ocean, it dawned on me that the calm and inspiration we were looking for had already been found. It wasn't at the ocean, it was in the human spirit of those we encountered. Good thing, because by now it was pouring! But nevertheless, we kept going east. When we arrived at the ocean, the rain let up long enough for us to get out of our cars, take in the sights and finally breathe in the salt air. And although there is an undeniable magic there, it was once again upstaged . . . this time by the luminous spirit of a special woman.
"All aboard the train . . . "
It's Not Political . . . it's Human
Enough is enough. It’s time to stop the political posturing. I get it, some of you are Democrats, some of you are Republicans, etc., etc. Let’s stop hiding behind political and economic ideology when we’re faced with social and human issues.
Today, this country is suffering. Maybe you’re OK, and for that I’m grateful. But for others, that is not the case. I was born white into a middle class family, I have never been denied anything I’ve set out to do or accomplish solely due to the color of my skin. Although this is my direct experience, I am troubled to my core that others still experience racism every day. I challenge you with a call to action. Take a moment today and step outside of your own experiences and try to imagine what others are experiencing . . . and feeling. Better yet, ask someone who’s Jewish how it feels to be the target of antisemitism. Ask a woman how it feels to be sexually harassed or assaulted. Ask a black person how they feel about the institutional racism that affects them daily. And don’t stop there. Let their answers educate you and affect you. Let that be your truth. And let kindness, empathy, and a responsibility to fellow humans be the motivation to act on their behalf.
And today, let’s promise our long suffering black bothers and sisters that we hear them and stand with them. Let’s assure them that Black Lives Matter because this country has a history of sometimes suggesting otherwise. Let’s say to each other that Black Lives Matter . . . because they do.
The Mystery of the Painted Rocks
Lyn and I found ourselves on another adventure. We happened upon the Reuben Hoar Public Library in Littleton, MA. It looked like a nice place to take a walk. Behind the building is a wooded area and a trail, so that seemed like a good direction to take.
Along the way, we came across a brightly colored stone, with the words “peace” painted on it. It completely refocused our attention and had us wondering who had painted and left this stone for us to find. Lyn noticed more nestled in the trunk of a tree.
During these days of COVID-19, it’s so easy to be overwhelmed and focused on fear, loss, and the ways social distancing is affecting us all. These are real issues and do require our attention, empathy, and action. But sometimes it’s a small thing that reminds us of the hearts and gifts of humanity. And that also deserves our attention. A tiny blue stone . . . delivering a single word . . . was enough to cut through the noise right at that moment, and change the way we were feeling.
I truly believe that the best adventures are when we discover each other. But in these times when we are not crossing paths as much, we can still find ways to share ourselves and discover others. And sometimes the smallest of things can have the most wonderful impact.
Broken Strings and Meandering Trees
Last weekend, with face masks in place, Lyn and I set out for an adventure in Groton and Westford. We were particularly taken by the meandering shapes and character of several trees we encountered. We grabbed coffee at Muffins on Main - a great little shop in Westford we discovered that day. At one point, I sat down with my mandolin for a little improvisation, which Lyn captured on video. On this Mother's Day, this video is dedicated to our loving Mothers.
Watch the Video Here
If you look closely, you'll notice that the bridge cover is missing. Well, the night before, I was adjusting the action . . . and while retuning, one of the string snapped. Since there are no local music stores open at the moment (closed due to COVID-19), I had to be creative. I found a guitar string of the same gauge and created a loop by feeding the string back through the ball end. I then carefully attached it to the bridge. It was fairly unstable while the hacked assembly was settling in, but it did end up working and I was able to bring that string up to pitch. Problem solved for now. However, the bridge cover wouldn't clear that aforementioned hack assembly, so I left if off. A shipment of new strings arrives tomorrow. lol
You Can't Stop Art or Love . . .
If you are like me and doing your part to slow down COVID-19, adventures may feel a little limited at the moment. Although trips to the refrigerator can be temporarily rewarding, social distancing has really cut into the most important part of adventure - the human part. But there's more to the discovery of human spirit than the distance between us right now. There are so many acts of kindness and sacrifice around us every day. Whether they are doctors, nurses, EMTs, or those in the food industry - we see people putting their own health at risk for others. Caring is love. And from those closest to us, their smiles can penetrate through a protective face mask, their video hugs can bring us warmth, and their words can lift our hearts. Love wins - always.
There are also so many artists sharing what they do to bring joy, hope, and maybe a little bit of distraction from the barrage of news that has relentlessly focused on infection and death counts. Art stimulates and soothes our minds. Whether it comes through a lens, a pen, a microphone, a brush, a dance, or a musical instrument - it feeds our souls.
Art and love are unstoppable. Even through what seems like the worst of times, art and love proves it can sustain and elevate us. If we take the time to look, we can see evidence of it. That is an adventure of human discovery we can experience today. Stay safe and healthy.