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!

Beach Creatures

The other day my beloved was showing off his new ipad and shared a video from The New Yorker illustrating the September 7 story about Theo Jansen‘s beach creatures, or Strandbeests, wind-powered sculptures that walk on the beach. You all may be familiar with Jansen’s work, but maybe I haven’t gotten out much lately. Or, more likely, I’ve been coming across adventure and delight and beauty in other places. Here they’re all rolled into one. Take a look and enjoy!

Air Jewelry

For years, I’ve worn a cross whenever I fly. A superstitious ritual, perhaps, since I rarely wear a cross on the ground. When I fly I wear a cross to reassure myself that faith (not necessarily mine, some days) is stronger than my chronic travel anxiety.

Most recently, instead of a cross, I’ve flown wearing a necklace my new friend Nikki. made. She makes jewelry out of junk: others’ cast-off jewelry, hardware, children’s toys, and other small items. the tag line of her business is “everything is beautiful in its time, even nuts, bolts, and washers.” Every time I see Nikki, she is wearing a new creation: a pendant made of a small metal plate with a piece of a vintage earring dangling from it, a ring made from a doll’s teacup, a pair of earrings from light-catching dashboard fuses. Take a look. I’ve learned not to gush too much over Nikki’s jewelry, because she is prone to take it off and give it to me. She won’t take my money, and I know she depends on jewelry sales as a portion of her income. I keep my mouth shut so she can sell it to someone else later on.

Over coffee she told me about how she was prostituted by her mother as a child, and subsequently abused by her stepfather. In the same paragraph she talked about her life in the suburbs, her wonderful husband and two small children, and her jewelry-making, how the ability to see beauty in odd objects and discarded broken things came to her as an unexpected gift.

The necklace I wear whenever I fly these days is the one she wore that day. It’s made of nuts and washers, pieces of something else that were formerly left for dead. It has become my talisman for survival, for the triumph of life and hope over fear and death. The hex-nuts hang down like a bunch of perfectly ripe grapes and are irresistible to play with mid-flight, their satisfying weight and shape as reassuring to hold onto as any cross.

Today’s Cup: Extravagance

Today I went to my current favorite latte shop with the best barrista ever. Sometimes he makes my drink with an ornate leaf in the foam on top. Sometimes a heart. Today, a heart and a leaf. (How do they do that??) All I could think of was: what extravagance!

Extravagance is a favorite word of mine, especially in these times when scarcity is creeping into so much of our daily conversation. I use the word all the time, so I decided I better look it up. (Mostly, I was wondering where “vagance” comes from.) Lo and behold, channeling Andre the Giant, Wallace Shawn, and “inconceivable” in The Princess Bride, an initial dictionary survey showed that the word doesn’t mean what I have always thought it means. The common definitions are all about spending too much money. Spending a few extra seconds and one’s own natural talent to create latte art, destined to be destroyed in as many seconds, would not be a good example of extravagance according to Webster or many others.

It’s a great word nonetheless, and I refuse to accept the limits of all those common definitions. I finally found a dictionary that gave me the etymology I sought and taught me something new: extra, outside of (and I extrapolate beyond) plus the present perfect of the latin vagari, wandering, or vague. Wandering beyond expectations. Who knew that extravagance was about vagary?

Delirious with anticipation

In 1996 I visited the Oregon College of Art & Craft gallery because Shu-Ju Wang, a woman I’d worked with briefly, back when she was a software engineer and I was a technical writer, was having her first solo exhibit of drawings and mixed media work. My husband and I were anticipating the birth of our soon-to-be-son, and were in that strange, antsy, nesting-and-yet-not-nesting place that only someone who has been a prospective adoptive parent can understand. Going to Shu-Ju’s opening was a necessary distraction more than anything else. I don’t remember the actual work on display, except that it was eclectic and varied, something I always like. What I remember is that when I saw this print I knew I had to have it, before I even saw its apt title: Delirious with Anticipation. I may have asked someone at the gallery to set it aside for me before I even finished looking at the rest of the show.

I always say I can’t even draw a straight line on the computer, at which point my long-suffering artist friends remind me that making art has nothing to do with straight lines. There are lots of wildly creative people in my family and circle of friends, and I never count myself among them. Instead, the creative impulse grabs me from the outside and says: you, too, get to have this beautiful thing, this [fill-in-the-blank] with enough beauty and creativity inside of it to go around. Gorgeous wool from Uruguay, some magical-feeling notebook paper, a jar of glass beads from the neighborhood consignment shop, an amazing purse made by Judee Moonbeam, Shu-Ju’s print.

What about you? What beautiful thing has leapt onto your wall or into your life, unexpected and unbidden?