Blue eyes

A young man walks by, eyes the color of walnut bitters, and the faded beach teal of his hoodie and soft baby blue denim jeans throws me back to the last time I saw that color scheme, which was one of the times I met Chuck Patton in San Diego.

For any naturally voluble person, having business dealings with a friendly, but taciturn, and abruptly busy person tends to induce a panic attack. There’s something about the swift “Yes,” “No,” and “I’ll take responsibility for that,” that is bewildering and enervating, kind of like a cold northern wind.

Chuck’s shrewd light blue eyes set in sun-stamped face, his air of having lived, learned, and conquered, as well as his status as a foundation of modern coffee impress me. Here, says my subconscious, is a man who gets things done–and as such, I seize every opportunity to tap his expertise.

We recently met at 5 am at his newest coffehouse, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in Little Italy, for a TV spot for a local news station. The occasion was Caffeine Crawl San Diego, and mammoth event my teammate Sadie and I had organized. Clutching pour overs, cappuccinos, and empty demitasses, we went through our paces for the tall, loud, and coffee-hating news announcer. In between live hits, Chuck and I talked about hiring dilemmas, the coffee culture of San Diego and how it’s shifting, and starting a business with no idea of what you’re doing.

The event was a success. Chuck spoke about direct sourcing, a topic he more than most coffee roasters is qualified to unlock, and a local chocolatier handed out cardamom truffles. I brought back a sunburn and a lot of coffee to Portland.

The boy with walnut bitters eyes has long passed by, and I’m still sitting in front of a myrtle wood table at Dapper & Wise on Division Street, a smooth cup of Colombian coffee washing me into the morning. I’m left with a hash of memories, voices, mannerisms. Portland to San Diego, dark brown eyes and pale blue, soft natural Ethiopian to sweet Colombian: Only the surface differs.


The russet sheen of this cowskin in its knifed curves against the pale, scuffed floor. The plastic sole of the lovely girl’s boots, the cinnamon glow of her hair gathered carelessly into a bun on the back of her head. The pale pink and blue glow of the sky, fingerling trees clean against it and the faint, faraway buzz of a paper-cutout airplane above. Overly lush, seductively lovely songwriting in my headphones singing something about worshiping at her shrine, and I think with sudden peace of the totality of existence and how little I manage to sink into it. Today, I sink in. I feel the pained curve of my ankle, the short breath of composition, the satisfaction of blurting forth even one rich paragraph of description, the knowledge that I deserve, I am born to this, I am a writer with every breath, and that it is time for me to continue being me, no holds barred, no need to apologize, no need to even assess, but simply to exist in fullness.

And now, it is time to thread forth a new story, a new work. Nothing matters now except creation. I leave tracks behind me. I exist.


early morning / Portland, OR / Good Coffee

What to Do When You Meet a Mirage : Karla mi Lugo

I met a mirage today. Amber face full of hope and longing, flaming red hair in coils and curls of frantic grace, slender fingers and puckered lips: Karla mi Lugo.

music, street music, portland, portland writer, portland musicianAt first, because I was busy and because I have grown impatient, I avoided her eyes. Don’t talk to me, I thought, because you are beautiful and probably crazy, and I don’t have time to get sidetracked and sucked into yet another personal labyrinth. Also, don’t ask for money because I don’t have any. At all.

portland writer, beverage writer, portland music, street musicianHer music is reflective; a wash of accordion and clear, piercing whistling, and a husky voice like an autumn evening. As I sat, carefully ignoring her, her music sidled into my consciousness with a purity that finally had my attention. I put down my work. I engaged.

beauty, accordion, pretty dressWe talked. 5 years ago I also made my living performing in the streets and hoping equally for engagement and clinking coins from passersby. I am relieved to have left that urgency, but then again: I never handled it with such grace and aplomb as Karla does. Since I cannot offer money, I pull out my camera and lovingly explore the silken planes of her face in the afternoon sun, the crisp stripes of her apron, the delicate arabesques on her instrument.

musician, beautifulKarla will be, in her words, “going on [my] musical pilgrimage to Paris” next month, and, I believe I overheard, competing in an international whistling contest. I wish her the best of luck and glorious chance meetings, and I look forward to her return to our gritty streets.

When you meet a mirage, you’d best drop your work and listen.

music, beauty, portland music

beauty, well met, portland street musicafternoon/ Alberta St. Arts District / karla mi lugo