Category: personal stuff

On Coffee – Or why it’s more than just a simple cup.

This weekend I was invited to think back to my high school stint as barista in one of my favorite coffee shops – Boulevard Coffee. My best friend in Kindergarten was Amber, and her parents owned the coffee shop. Cliff roasted the beans, Karen ran the shop. It was always a fun treat to go in there and help my mom pick up beans. The smells, the feel, it all seemed special.

I started drinking coffee pretty young. I remember the joy of cafe au lait, mostly milk, as my first introduction to coffee. When I was an adolescent I was allowed to drink it black, which is how I take it now. This is no doubt in part to the fact that my mom drinks it black. My dad used to use “canned cow”, or evaporated milk. That can would sit in the fridge with a weird skin on the lip. He takes milk and cream now, but that just made me more resolute for black coffee.

When I finally needed to get a job in high school working for Boulevard just made sense. They needed people, I needed a job, and it was bikeable from school and home. Working there made sense. I liked my coworkers and I loved the work. Learning about coffee from people who really cared about the beans, the roasting, the grind, the brewing was trasnformative. All of my obsessions and rituals about coffee were codified then. My parents enjoyed that I came home smelling like beans, but the discount was also good. I loved that I got to try new roasts beyond the French Roast and Seattle Starlight my parents would always buy. Tanzanian Peaberry, Aged Sumatra, Celebes… all good in their own way. Drinking different coffees and really studying them helped me appreciate the variances in roasting, the acidity of the beans. To this day, I still hold Boulevard’s beans up as a standard in good roasting. Not burnt like Peets, not overly light like Blue Bottle. There’s an actual difference between a dark roast and a light roast.

Then there was the world of espresso drinks. I was a pretty good barista and could pull really nice shots with rich crema. I could get microfoam with no trouble. (Man, I wish soy milk was better at foaming…) It was here I learned to appreciate a proper cappuccino or macchiato. People would come in, asking for one of the bastardized espresso drinks from Starbucks and we’d shrug and tell them the fanciest they’d get from us was an iced mocha. There was no blender, no ice cream, no caramel syrup.

I recognize this sounds all very parochial. I admit that I have fairly traditional views about coffee. I don’t drink fancy beer or wine, I drink good coffee. This summer we ditched the Mr. Coffee for a Chemex. Expobar espresso machine. and a Mazzer mini. Life’s too short for bad coffee. (Yes, that is the most bourgeois thing I have ever said.) Though I will do stupid things for free coffee…

So tomorrow morning when when brew up a pot of “So Good” from Philz, it is in some ways a continuation of what I learned at Boulevard, and what I saw my parents do when I was a child. It’s more than caffeine and bitterness. (Hmm… that should be my new motto.) This corner of coffee culture is very similar to collecting vinyl… which probably speaks to another character flaw of mine, but we’ll tackle that later.

Lookout Records may be dead, but I have 11 copies of Lumberjack Days. Thanks for the memories.

Friday started off a little weird. Thursday night after band practice I came home looking for a song my band in high school covered, “Ace King Queen Jack” by Herman’s Hermits. (Listen to it, it’s really good and a bit weird.) Friday morning I listened to it, and then Back From the Grave, and then settled into the complete Hi-Fives discography. I don’t go all out like that very often, but it was a great way to end the week. Just as I was finishing up Get Down!, I saw Ted Leo’s announcement that Lookout is dead popping up all over Facebook. While I had heard they were liquidating stock a few months back, and they have been effectively dead for years, it’s still a bit sad to a label that had such an influence on my upbringing really fold.

There was an interesting mix of memories on Larry’s Facebook wall. Today Grant Lawrence (of my second favourite Lookout band, The Smugglers) blogged his memories of Lookout. One thing that I find sort of remarkable is how so many people my age have similar stories of being affected by Lookout, and now it’s really just a memory. It sort of makes me feel a bit old.

That picture above was taken in 1997 outside of the Great American Music Hall. I hitched a ride down to see The Hi-Fives play with the Mr T Experience. It was my 6th Hi-Fives show, first out of Sacramento. When I saw John Denery walking in I asked for a picture and made up some line about making a website for them. I didn’t even know HTML at the time, but it didn’t stop me. I learned HTML and made the site. Who knew years later I would be making websites for a living? I didn’t, but it’s just one of those things I can credit Lookout for. All these years later I look back on high school with a fondness, mostly for feeling like I was a part of something. Seeing the Hi-Fives, the Smugglers, MTX, the Queers, the Groovie Ghoulies, was a social. I made a lot of friends at those shows, hanging out on the Com Center (remember when it was orange?), and trolling the internet. For the rest of those kids, I will put on More Bounce to the Ounce for you.

And at this moment, sitting on my couch in Berkeley, I think back to what it was like in my parents’ computer room in Carmichael, listening to the Ne’er Do Wells/Judy and the Loadies split on the computer because that was the only CD player we had in the house. At that point Gilman was a mythical place that I always wanted to go to, and this past Friday night I was there hanging out with my husband I met there years later. This is the same man who made an mp3 of the Hi-Fives’ b-side “Baby Let’s Grow Old” for me when I was living in Germany and missing that record. (I’m relatively easy to please.) I was wearing my much loved Little Type t-shirt (that Larry gave me off his own back!), which somebody recognized and we reminisced over Erika and her mail order legacy, and how’s she’s still missed by many.

I also look over to my record shelf and see my Smugglers Dance Contest Trophy, one of my possessions I’m most proud of. I used to practice in my room, waiting for the opportunity to shake it with the Smugglers. It happened in 1999 at Gilman. I don’t remember much other than being insanely giddy, having a great time, and buying all the merch I could. I think I also met one of my oldest friends that night.

And then there’s been that whole surreal thing of being in the Potatomen. Although I have to admit, there’s also something unreal about Larry’s new comp The Think That Ate Larry Livermore, due out on Adeline Records this year. The esteemed Patrick Hynes (artistic genius, guitar guru, and solid holding mid-fielder), was drawing the cover while we were in New York for the Potatomen. He said I was going to be on the cover, and I am. It’s really is some adolescent dream come true. I hate admitting that, but there you go.

So while they haven’t released anything since 2005, and I can’t recall the last release I purchased (maybe Ted Leo?), it is a bit sad Lookout is well and truly dead. I’ll put on Can of Pork and make dinner now.

Larry, thanks for getting things started. It’s weird to admit, but you’ve made my life much richer. Lots of people can probably say the same thing. I would give you a bro-shoulder-punch if I could. Patrick, same goes for you, or maybe just a sage nod. (John, Chris, Grant, you as well.)

Just another girl with a ukulele

Though I’m probably too old to say I’m a girl. Anyhow! Dr J’s brother, IvyMike, gave me this ukulele for Christmas. I never played one before. You know what? They aren’t guitars. They’re smaller and tuned weird. Despite the cognitive disconnect, I sort of wrote a song and made this video for my friend Jambina. THAT IS MY STORY.

My skewed reality.

This is a story in three parts.

Part 1: The Kinks vs. The Beatles

I may have told this one before. I was 10, almost 11, and hanging out on the playground in 5th grade. A bunch of us were talking about this “sock hop” we were going to have at the end of the week to celebrate the end of the school year. All of us started talking about the oldies bands we liked, and somebody mentioned the Beatles being “the biggest band ever”. I spoke up insisting the Kinks were the biggest band ever. It stood to reason because my parents had 20 Kinks records and 4 Beatles records, so of course the Kinks were bigger. The argument escalated, there was some harsh words, the teacher came in, and I got a citation. My mom later explained to me that the Kinks may be better than the Beatles, but in the court of popular opinion the Beatles were bigger.

This was the first time it was clear to me how much personal taste and skewed perspective can influence you. I am also sort of proud of fighting for the Kinks on the schoolyard. It’s a weird sign of devotion from such a young age.

Part 2: Cometbus vs. Green Day Fans

Abbey commented on my post about Green Day fans:

I totally agree with you that most Green Day superfans dont really give a shit what Aaron Cometbus thinks. They generally just dont like to be shit on, who does? Especially by someone that, face it, has piggybacked on Green Day’s fame for a long fucking time.

Umm… with you until that last bit. Cometbus is an institution in his own right without Green Day’s coattails. Of course though, I’m decent fan of his zine and a bigger fan of his music. I mean, he was in Sweet Baby! Nevermind Crimpshrine, Pinhead Gunpowder, Shotwell, and a whole host of other bands. Yes, this isn’t on the same level as Green Day (who are now rivals with the likes of U2 and Coldplay) but it’s like apples and oranges. I don’t expect all the Green Day fans to be Cometbus fans, but to act like he hasn’t done anything of renown is ludicrous.

But of course… I am not them. We’re into different things. There’s room for mutual respect and understanding. It’s a hard life as a super fan.

Part 3: Operation Ivy vs. Rancid

I know there’s a whole cult surrounding these bands, perhaps even more rabid and devoted than Green Day fans. Of course for the Lookout fans, these two bands were anchors of the past (whilst Screeching Weasel, the Queers and MTX were sort of anchors of the mid-late 90s, before the fall…)
Anyhow, recently I was giving my buddy Jim a hard time for liking Rancid. I was being a total jerk. He laid it all out. He wasn’t exposed to all the other East Bay stuff. Rancid found him at the right time and they’ve stuck. See, on those terms I get it. (Of course I may still be a little shit and opt for the more obscure Downfall.)

Growing up in Sacramento, the East Bay seemed almost local. It was close, it was accessible. Maybe it all goes back to my fighting for the Kinks, but I’ve always been interested in finding the small gems. This has nothing to do with the Hi-Fives. There’s nothing small about them. NOTHING. But I mean, how many people will brag about owning a Bumblescrump 7″? Not that many.

So the moral of this story is that I need to remember my story isn’t necessary typical. We all have our journeys of discovery. I can’t expect everybody to act like my anorak friends when it comes to records and bands. Hell, maybe I need to stop being the collector nerd and just enjoy some stuff.

How did I end up in the Potatomen?

potatomen outside of gilman 2000
In high school, my friend Jill once asked me if I ever listened to music with feelings. I was confused. Apparently neither the Hi-Fives nor the Smugglers had the emotional range she was looking for. When I moved off to Berkeley to go to university, I sort of got what she meant. I was depressed and lonely, and my record collection had nothing that really connected me with those emotions. What did you expect from a garage/pop-punk kid? I didn’t turn to the Smiths or Elliot Smith, I rediscovered the Potatomen like never before.

I’d had their records because I liked Larry and I was a dutiful Lookout fan. I’d listened to them, but never really connected to them, other than All My Yesterdays, mostly for the Brent’s TV cover. One night in early September 2000, I came home from my crappy job at Papyrus on College Ave, feeling utterly alone and cut off from everybody and everything, and I put on Now and it just clicked. The song just made me feel all right and I just laid in my bed, sort of zoned out listening to it on my headphones feeling lost. So for the next semester, I would mope about town listening to Now and Iceland. To this day, when I hear some of those guitar riffs to songs like “Gabe” or “Sam’s Song”, I’m transported back to that fall, wandering up and down Telegraph in a melancholic daze.

This picture was taken at a Potatomen show outside of Gilman. I think it was November 18, 2000? It was the first really cold weekend of the season and I walked all the way from campus and back. I hung out at Picante before the show with them before the set, stood on the corner and sang along, hung out a bit more, and then walked back home. I was shivering by the time I reached Shattuck, but I didn’t really mind. It was the best night I’d had since I’d moved to Berkeley. (The cheesy stix from West Coast Pizza didn’t hurt.) It’s weird how little nights like that can really stick with you.

Ten and a half years later, I’m the fifth Potatomen bass player. I was surprised and flattered when Larry and Patrick asked me to join them for a show in August (and beyond). It was weird playing songs with them at first because even though I didn’t really know how to play them, I sort of did because I had listened to them so much. That’s actually still frustrating at parts because I feel like I can’t really escape the recordings in my head, but then I can’t fully articulate them either. It’s a problem I’ve never really dealt with before. The other reason it’s a little weird for me is that they keep taking me back to those feelings I had as a lost 18 year old. Glimpses to the past that it seems I can’t fully escape. No doubt these feelings will probably fade or change as I play more, but this past weekend when we were practicing as a full band, they were definitely there. I know a lot has happened since that fall, which makes this all quite logical and perhaps expected, but if you had told me then where’d I’d be today, I wouldn’t have really believed it.

Not that my 18 year old self was all that wise or knew what she wanted, but these sorts of little reality checks are interesting. Is making a younger version of yourself happy a good thing or is it a sign that you weren’t aiming high enough? I can’t really tell, but it’s worth considering from time to time.

Shame based living – Trying hard not to be Mark Corrigan

Mark the shark, originally uploaded by Jeff Hemmer.

So this break I killed a lot of time watching Peep Show. If you haven’t seen it, you’re really missing out. Dr J and I discussed at length whether or not they would try to make a US version of the show and if it would be successful. (He says yes, I say no. I mean, I can’t imagine something so awkward really getting made here. It would be so wrong.)

The sad, scary thing is that I find myself really identifying with the character of Mark Corrigan. I will admit to be better socialized than him, but I also identify with some of his tedious quirks (like history), and how shame and embarrassment are strong motivation for him. Check out this clip from series 3 staring around 4:30. The whole living with a sham marriage for the rest of his life because of embarrassment scares me because I could see myself going down that road. (NOT WITH DR J. NOT A PROBLEM WITH DR J!)

I don’t know what is my major malfunction. It’s not that I’m shame-based, but there’s definitely something that’s keeping me down like an awkward anchor. Not that I should complain too much. Yeah, it can be annoying when people roll their eyes at my allusions to WWII history/British politics/association football, but I’ve accepted that it’s just who I am. Why fight it?

The thing is, I’m not that bad yet. I mean, I haven’t pissed in somebody’s desk drawer or anything… really, I haven’t.

bloody face, bruised ego

last night i was playing soccer with my indoor team from work, mclaughin. the name is a pun on the building we’re in – mclaughlin, but the second l is missing on one entrance. it’s great.

anyhow, i was playing left back, my normal position, and i had some good steals, a could of nice headers, and i was feeling good. then i had a bad header. actually, my header was fine. i got the ball. the other guy had a bad header and got my head instead. this was within 5 minutes of starting. we stopped, made sure we were both ok. he seemed fine, but i guess i wasn’t. there was blood, and lots of it. it pooled in my goggles which made everybody think i had an eye injury. i had to get a towel, call dr j, and pack up, all whilst holding the towel to my head to slow the bleeding. it was apparently freaky to all involved but me. seriously, it didn’t really hurt and i was just annoyed i had to leave the game early.

we went to the kaiser emergency room in oakland- my first trip ever to an emergency room. i wanted to take a picture of my bleeding head, but i figured that would be wrong. so here it is the morning after. it’s tender, but ok. no stitches or anything, just a little scab. it hurts but it’s all superficial.

the wait in the emergency room was very interesting given the health care debate. lots of people there with flu-like symptoms. is it h1n1 in oakland? or do people just not have regular care so they just have to go to the emergency room when every they get sick? here’s hoping we don’t get sick.

fabulous orange!

on the field
on the field

larry took this picture of of playing soccer at one of my games a few weeks back when he was in town. i am the rightmost orange speck in the picture. (team captain patrick is the second orange speck from right.) we won that game. actually, this team, fabulous orange, has been on a winning streak. yesterday we won 4-0, which in EBOTS is a blow out. clean sheets are very rare. of course, as a left back, i take pride in that score because it means i did an OK job. it’s weird when people compliment me on my playing, because i still feel like i’m the worst player on the field. i guess even if that’s true (which it probably is), then it’s not such a bad thing since many of the other players are really good.

i don’t want to jinx our 5 week winning streak, though i won’t be there next week (internet librarian, yo!) so i won’t have any thing to contribute. i really like playing on this team and i have to say, winning feels all right. last night at gilman, we were telling people of our awesome game that afternoon, it was clear people lose interest pretty soon. if you ever want me to tell you all about my love of the beautiful game and to tell you about my exploits in the back field, just ask. i’m not quite as good at telling people about what others should have done, but i’m getting there.

my indoor team is in the play-offs. we play tomorrow night. maybe i’ll talk about that a bit? i’m terrible at indoor though, so let’s just talk about outdoor.

words are key and stuff and communing with the dead

did you know that dr. frank, aka frank portman, wrote a new book? if you didn’t, you should check out andromeda klein. he had a book release party at cato’s this past week, which i streamed online with ustream. it was fun and packed and pretty great. i never saw so many people in cato’s at once.

now let’s look at my top 10 keyword searches for this month:

i’m surprised “erika hynes” is 2nd. numbers 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 10 are all the same theme and make me consider deleting that post. the others… odd, but whatever.
“erika hynes” was briefly in the top 10 in april, the month she passed away. i did post about her, and it’s sort of been weird how her memory and spirit seems to keep popping up. the release of andromeda klein has introduced erika to a whole new audience. (frank dedicated the book in her memory.) i wish everybody knew her and i wish she were here.

taking risks and doing stuff

hello, little neglected blog. i figured out why i’m neglecting you… it’s me, not you. i’m trying to not be such a shut in, which means i’m not tied to the laptop so much.

see, i’ve decided i need to not only get out more, but be less concerned with with what other think of me and just do stuff. it’s obvious advice, right? the sort of thing that when somebody tells you when you say, “oh, relax and just be yourself” or “everybody’s so worried about themselves, why should you be?” and of course when somebody says that you just roll your eyes and keep stressing about yourself? well… i’m trying to stop doing that. it’s been a slow process because change is hard and i don’t want to do too much and then retreat back into my cave.

so what’s happened?

graduating from school has been great. not having to worry about assignments or class participation has created a lot of free time. this wasn’t really noticeable until mid-march because of work stuff, but really, it’s nice having evenings and weekends free-ish. i’m not as stressed as i was last year.

i have my health. it’s always weird when people ask me “how’s your health?” it’s a loaded question. what they’re really asking is “you don’t have cancer or some other life threatening disease, do you?” well, the answer is i feel good! yeah i’m out of shape, but i’m not as tired all the time. the most obnoxious thing is still being weak from the mastectomy, but that’s just something that i have to deal with for the rest of my life. but i feel dandy.

so these two things have made it easier for me to just go out and do stuff. or try things. i’m knitting again. i’m actually reading books. and today i started playing soccer. see, it’s progress.

overall, i feel like i know what i’m doing. not in a huge sense with a grand plan, but i’m trying.

so long crumbly

last week my friend erika, of little type fame, passed away. larry has written a very touching eulogy for her on his blog:

But most of all, I suppose, I feel grateful for life itself, in all its rich, tawdry, shabby, wonderful, heartwarming and heartbreaking splendor, grateful to be a part of it, to be able to show up for the sorrows as well as the joys, to witness the way human beings rise to the occasion, be strong and take care of one another when logic might dictate they should be falling to pieces. Erika Hynes, my life was made better and more meaningful by your presence in it, and in the past few days, I’ve heard from dozens of people who felt the same way. What I didn’t expect was how even the manner of your leaving would touch and enrich the lives of those you left behind.

larry, i don’t think i can say it better myself.

it’s hard to think about how erika enriched my life, but i know she had a huge hand in helping me become a decent adult. before i moved to berkeley, i knew erika as the lookout packtress. when i first hung out with her, she didn’t hold it against me that i was some snot nosed kid who was obsessed with lookout bands. she was always welcoming and kind. when we became friends, she helped filled long days with amusement. i will always miss her.


Rinsing, originally uploaded by kendrak.

this is something for both my parents.
tonight i used my sinus rinse for the first time. my sinuses have been bad for a while, and i figured it was worth a shot.

did it work? sort of. one side feel great. the other side, not so much. this was my first try through. i’ll do it again in the morning. it was a weird sensation overall though – somewhere between getting water in your nose and choking on it. i think one i get used to that sensation, it’ll be easier.

oh, and this is totall an action shot. see the water? it came from my nose!


bloomin’, originally uploaded by kendrak.

again! my african violet is rocking. i am awesome.