If you’re just joining us….I made a commitment for the month of January, via the Fun-a-Day project, to visit a different coffee shop each day for thirty-one days. Guess what? I’ve already broken my promise, due to a fun-filled Saturday replete with unexpected side trips, none of which included a coffee shop, familiar or otherwise.

But Sunday is a weekly exception to the thirty-one cafes in thirty-one days. Sunday is a day for ritual and nothing, not even #fadpdx3, will induce me to change mine. Sunday I get my coffee at little t american baker at SE 26th & Division in Portland, no matter what. Sundays are exempt from my January project the way Sundays in Lent don’t count as part of the forty days.) If you’ve never gone there for baked goods or a turkey sandwich, you’re missing out. Sundays I get there around 8:30 to precede the brisk breakfast crowd. Most of the staff knows what I like to drink, and the Sunday morning line guy knows I like a toasted spelt roll with a shade of butter. (Their scones are also to die for. Maybe next January I’ll survey baked goods.) Some people don’t like little t’s stark, shiny, boomy decor, but it works for me.

This morning was a first. I paid for my drink and was fumbling around for my coffee punch card, you know the kind that our wallets are full of, buy ten espresso drinks and the next one’s free….I was fumbling around and the guy behind the counter asks: “Are you all caught up on your card?”  Really?? He said “yeah, why not?” I liked that. Made my day.

Back to Sundays. Do you have a Sunday ritual? I’m always inventing new ones for my imagined self: a walk in the park, a nap on the couch surrounded by the New York Times, a weekly potluck with friends, brunch out, an internet sabbath….Seems like after that first coffee and spelt roll at little t, though, anything goes. My best Sundays are the ones I get to make up as a I go along.

What is it about Seattle?

Almost twenty years ago I was at the east coast wedding of my dearest college friend. The family of her husband-to-be hosted a casually festive backyard barbecue, full of loads of cousins running around, generations of people I’d never met before. The groom’s brother-in-law had brought all the bread for the dinner across the country from Grand Central Bakery in Seattle. This was a nice touch that got through my jet-lag to warm my heart. And it gave me something to talk about in this extended family setting where I didn’t really know anyone. Our conversation went something like this:

Me:  Yum, I love Grand Central! I go there all the time in Portland.

Brother-in-law:  It’s from Seattle.

Me:  I know, but there’s lots of them in Portland.

Brother-in-law: They started in Seattle.

Me:  The turkey-and-chutney-on-como is my favorite. And the ginger molasses cookies.

Brother-in-law: This bread is from the original store in Seattle. I go there every week.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this was a nice guy. And he’d gone to some trouble to bring a lot of this really great bread. I have the same kind of conversations with my Seattle cousins do the same thing. And I always go visit them, they never come visit me. It’s like the drive from Portland to Seattle is shorter and easier than the drive from Seattle to Portland. But what is it about Seattle and Portland? It’s a thing, a Portland-Seattle thing. Not a rivalry, exactly, but something. What do you think it is?

Day 5: Rituals of the Road

I periodically drive the 45 miles down I-5 from Portland to Salem and back again. Today was one of those days and I found myself cataloging all the things that make the trip better: a coffee to go, a bottle of water, music (Handel’s Messiah, for the 12th Day of Christmas), and a snack to look forward to on the way back. It turned out to be a long, long day, with not much more to say at the end than “and to all a good night,” but I’m curious: What are your rituals of the road?

Day 4: Caffe Pallino

This morning I had coffee with my wonderful friend Ashley Henry and we had, as always, a wide-ranging conversation, touching on all the things that come up for each of us this time of year. When we meet – not often enough – we meet at Caffe Pallino because it is right near her house and my office.

There are lots of things I like about Pallino. For one thing, it’s one of the few good cafes that stays open well into the evening. And the baker occasionally puts out a sample plate right next to the register of big huge chunks of house-made coffee cake, scones, muffins, and cinnamon rolls. They make great breakfasts, don’t get crowded for Sunday brunch, and have fabulous gelato.

Like a lot of coffee shops, the place doubles as an art gallery. Unlike a lot of coffee shops, the art they hang is really good. The bright, open decor (which another friend of mine doesn’t like because she says it’s too “shiny”) doesn’t hurt. The art here consistently says to me: take me home. Someday I will. Today I’m just happy to have had a chance to let my eyes wander the walls and be grateful to this artist, whose name I don’t even know, for putting together lines and oil and string in the colors of night and light and earth, just right for this light-and-dark earthy time of year.

A brief interlude: small-e epiphany poetry

Do you have an epiphany poem or story? A small-e-epiphany poem? Or a story about an illuminating discovery? What the heck is an epiphany? you might ask. I like what Merriam-Webster has to say:

  1. a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something
  2. an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking
  3. an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
  4. a revealing scene or moment

With some friends I’m hosting a twelfth night party and we want to share non-scriptural stories and poems about epiphany. If you’ld leave yours as a comment here, I’d be most grateful.  

Day 3: Cellar Door Coffee

Today’s post is brought to you by Cellar Door Coffee Roasters, housed in a nice corner shop at SE 11th and Harrison, with a growing restaurant upstairs. The place is off my personal beaten path and I don’t get here regularly, but I’ve got friends and colleagues for whom this cozy roastery is their home away from home. A 15-second scan of the cluttered bulletin board, newspaper rack, and multiple blackboards lets me know this place is all about coffee and community.

And the coffee? It was a little cooler than I like, and the Cellar Door espresso roastlacks the Stumptown bite I’m used to, but it was delicious nonetheless. Besides, I’m such a sucker for a double heart, what can I say?

I can say that I really like Cellar Door because they have a strong Twitter presence, and have managed to strike that important balance between promoting their own stuff (mostly announcements of yummy-sounding small plates and soup being served upstairs), and community information their followers will want to know about. Their resident tweeter was particularly active when Occupy Portland first began. It’s great when a neighborhood business is willing to take a stand and possibly offend some of their neighbors. Sometimes I wish more businesses and other organizations (ahem….you know, like neighborhood churches?) might have similar courage.

How do you use Twitter to let followers know more about you than what’s for sale?

Day 2: Coffee Division

Okay, anyone who knows my routine has probably already figured out that I’m starting off this January project by visiting my regular coffee haunts. (Any day now, I’ll branch out. Stay tuned.) It just so happens that today, being the last day of vacation, is an odd day, and I’m not yet into my January schedule. I’ve just ventured out into a chilly-damp afternoon, on foot, to the closest good coffee to my house, Coffee Division. Coffee Division has been open for about a year, but this sunny corner has housed a cafe of some kind since about 2002. The current incarnation is my favorite. It’s light and air, lots of sun when the sun makes an appearance at all, and there is lots of room for people to spread out and do their work, which seems to be what most people come here for.

I wonder how many people are in here living out a New Year’s resolution. Perhaps the person who ordered a decaf latte did so for the first time in a long time. Perhaps the guy sketching is starting his new graphic novel. Perhaps the woman teaching herself Photoshop is launching a new business. Perhaps the guy in the corner with the noise-canceling headphones is determined to finish his book this year no matter what. Perhaps the woman with the pretty braids sewing beads on to a velvet bag is determined to do a little bit of creative work every day. Maybe the trying-not-to-be-so-sullen young woman with an eccentric old lady has resolved to be nicer to her grandmother and take her out for hot chocolate regularly.

I spent the weekend with some of my very best friends and our loud, happy crew of teenagers. Over dinner someone asked what we were going to do this year to make the world a better place. I think we all felt we could do more, or weren’t where we wanted to be on the saving-the-world spectrum, but as I reflect on what people said, I think we’re doing pretty well. One person is about to publish a book on cancer treatment, and hopes it will help people. Another is expanding her efforts to educate her community about climate change. Another is putting in the effort to employ a valuable but challenging staff-person who would probably not be able to find another job. A couple who are in business together talked about looking forward to the day when they can invest some of their time and their business profits into Habitat for Humanity. One person joked about not killing his kid this year. But my favorite thing was this:

“How ’bout we all just keep doing what we’re doing: being good parents, caring for our kids and others’ kids, and doing our work?”

I’ve been reading a lot of about New Year’s resolutions these past few days. My favorites involve just the right balance of creativity and realism, hope and experience. Examples? Check out The Instant Librarian or Let’s Talk About Writing.

And my resolutions? For me they are like Christmas cards: some years I write them, some years I don’t….Some years I make New Year’s resolutions and keep them, other years I make them and break them as quickly as I can, and other years I refuse to even consider the subject. This year I’ve enjoyed using this season as an opportunity to commit to a couple of important personal practices, such as taking vitamins, growing my hair, spending more time with friends, and a couple of goals, such as getting my writing life a little more organized.

Day 1: The Fresh Pot

Welcome to my FADPDX3 project. This year’s project is a stretch in a couple of different directions. 1) Blog every day and 2) Visit a different coffee shop every day. This is a stretch because I am such a creature of habit it’s remarkable I’m not a nun. Stay tuned, and if you know a coffee shop I should visit, leave a comment to let me know.  

I wrote this on Day 0, because on Day 1 I’m on Mt. Hood not thinking about coffee or blogging.

The main thing about The Fresh Pot is that their baristas, all of them, make the very best latte I’ve had in Portland. I like the location – I frequent the one adjacent to the Hawthorne Powell’s – and the time I go is in the hour or two before Powell’s and the other stores open, so there’s always a parking space along with an easy getting-into-the-day feel as things begin to open up and fill up. The Fresh Pot crowd is fairly diverse as cafe-goers go: young, old, couples, singles, laptops, paper. The cafe curates a monthly show of only the freshest local art, sometime by its own staff. The only thing I don’t always love about the Fresh Pot is the music, which often too loud and techno for me. But that’s me.

This project means I won’t be back here for about a month. Good by, Fresh Pot!