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.

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