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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.

Being

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.

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early morning / Portland, OR / Good Coffee

Respect: Multnomah Whiskey Library

cocktail, happy, portland cocktail, multnomah whiskey libraryAt its core, a beverage experience is about respect. It’s not about looking cool, it’s not about creating the most impressive drinks, it’s not about wowing everyone who walks through your door. It’s not about finding identity, it’s not about proving you’re worth notice. It’s not about the latest spirit, the biggest gear, the fastest hands.

As I stepped through the doors of the Multnomah Whiskey Library this week, I had a unique experience and one that has forced me to re-examine the core of my thinking about beverages. I mean, they’re damn cool–of course! I love the sense of belonging that comes from actually knowing the ingredients in my cocktail, or being able to discuss the peculiar behavior of a single origin in espresso with my barista. And I’m not immune to the lure of belonging, of being part of a clique that’s so insular we scoff at the idea of being insular. Honestly, like everyone else I know, all my life I’ve yearned to be part of an inner circle, and the beverage world (with its concentric slide of connections and knowledge) is as close as I’ve come.

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But beverages are–can be–so much more than that. Long ago, in another city and another life, I took a cappuccino from the hands of a stocky barista with a red beard. We got off to a rocky start, but the beverage between us transcended our quirks and hostility and we fell into love along with the viscous drip-drip of espresso, the spit and swirl of milk. Years later, my husband and I have elevated the rituals of beverages to almost a religious status. We keep an “open coffee house”, we say, and from Sioux City to San Diego we have connected with complete strangers over coffee.

Back to my original statement. The beverage experience can’t be narrowed to one word, but for me, if respect is not inherent in the moment, I want no part of it. Respect for myself, respect for you, respect for the ingredients and processes in our hands, respect for the magical knowing that springs to life between us.

The Multnomah Whiskey Library is relatively new on the scene. It’s already known for  3-hour waits and for its 1500+ bottling spirits library, for its opulent interior and near-perfect service, and I was both intimidated and skeptical before visiting. My intimidation vanished when I saw the genuine welcome in the faces of the wonderful people who served me, and my skepticism melted through interaction with my bartender and the reception of what was truly one of the best cocktails of my life.

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It’s rare to see a beverage establishment that pulls all the disparate parts together, but the Multnomah Whiskey Library has succeeded. Succeeded not just in giving me a memorable experience, but also in bringing me back to the core of my beverage ethos, reminding me what the damn point is.

Tender me your respect and I will give you mine. Together we will create something new in this strange world. We will celebrate our beverages, we will acknowledge each other.

bartender, portland bartender, portland cocktailPortland, OR / evening / Multnomah Whiskey Library – bartender : Jordan Felix