I’m overdue for a post and some alone time with my computer and photos. In the last 3 months, Mike and I traveled from Seattle to Delaware, Baltimore, Washington DC, Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia Atlanta, Ashville NC, Smokey Mountains, New Orleans, New York, and finally settled down in Dublin, Ireland. It had been a difficult and long process. We found ourselves in low times, high times, sick times, and finally happy times. We grew closer to each other with not a single doubt that we’d stick through it all. Dublin turns out to be a strange place to be. It’s like a bastard child of European Nations. There are some things I absolutely love about it, like its butter, cheese, meats products and the international communities here. There are things that are surprisingly terrible like its inefficiencies, especially the infamous recent ulster bank glitches. All in all, we dealt with it and moved on. We found an apartment in the city center, in which I enjoy making delicious new dishes in the modern kitchen. The latest is a Guinness beef ragu over home-made noodles. Irish butter makes my scones irresistible. We frequent the Saturday farmers market in temple bar where I forage for fresh local produce and authentic Italian buffalo cheese. Life is finally coming together. Even going to work at my new job contributes a tremendous amount of satisfaction. Months of boredom is finally way gone in the past.
Here is a photo of my favorite bridge near our apartment in the newer part of town. The bridge is called Samuel Beckett, named after the famous author. It’s shaped like a lying down harp. I just learned recently that the harp is the national symbol of Ireland, which used to be on the old flag before it became the republic. If you look carefully, this bridge is actually a draw bridge. What a brilliant design.
By the perkiness of her whiskers, I knew she wanted to sniff the big lens in front of her. That’s how she explores the world. I believe that is because it’s utmost important to Gizmo to identify all delicious ingestible matter. Whenever I feel sad, all I have to do is to run my fingers through Gizmo’s soft fur. Her innocent glittery lazy eyes seem to tell me “all is good.” And by that, it means there are still plenty of kibbles in her bowl.
Three years ago, I took a coffee tour in NYC. Last month, I did just that in SF and visited some of the major popular artisan coffee shops. I don’t know a lot about coffee like the experts but I do know when I get a good cup in my hand.
My first stop on the tour was Blue Bottle in the Mint Building. On a mid Saturday afternoon, tucked in a quiet street in the financial district, this shop was buzzing with patrons and a line that went out of the door. The line went super fast without a fuss. We also surprisingly quickly found some seats in the shop, which was filled with light pouring from the large cut out windows looking out to the backside of the Mint building. I was impressed with the barista’s efficiency. The opposite of snobbery was also refreshing. My macchiato was alright, but not too bad. I walked away with hope that there might be some good coffee in this town to look forward to.
My second stop is Jane on Fillmore, visiting an old friend Matt. Mike had known Matt for years working in the Seattle coffee business. Matt had moved down to SF to manage this new bakery/coffee shop. The decor in Jane is whimsical and charming, completed with stylized staff wardrobe with a personality. They serve coffee made with beans roasted at Four Barrel. Matt made me a delicious shot of espresso despite of the fact that he said he hasn’t been on the machine all day. Although in the back of my mind,I thought I have had much better from Matt when he was in Seattle.
Third stop was Sight Glass, which happened to be right next to our hotel on Market Street. The open warehouse look of Sight Glass put an emphasized the fact that it’s a roaster. An old beginning of the century roasting machine sits front and center to the shop, albeit surrounded by railings. We would order our coffee at the cashier along with pastries before walking over to the side where the barista would whip up our drinks. Perhaps our barista was really serious about his work. I shrugged off his aloofness and took my macchiato to the side. Upon first sip, I felt disappointed: so much grandeur and pretentiousness for such a crappy cup of coffee. The sight of a small group of “expert” looking people cupping next to the roaster turned me off.
With a glimpse of hope from Jane, I decided to visit Four Barrel itself in the Mission. Rumor says that Stumptown from Portland had helped this SF local roaster at its start. Does it mean it would at least roast decent coffee? Unlike Sight Glass, the store has a rustic feel to it. The roasting machine, also an antique, sat in the back of the warehouse sized store. A friendly cashier took my order and a grumpy looking barista made my macchiato. The taste of of the coffee finally convinced me that SF is far from producing a good cup of coffee. There is a lot of money poured into creation of the shops but the scene has yet to mature if people could give up that pretentiousness.
The trip wouldn’t be complete without a final stop at the local favorite Philz Coffee in Castro. Philz makes drip coffee of your choosing from some 15 blends. I chose the classic blend and got a free cup which was made per the prior homeless customer who couldn’t afford it. Mike asked why they would rather give the cup to me instead of just giving the cup to the homeless guy. Sadly, the coffee was so bad that I almost threw up. Mike and I walked for blocks with our coffee in hand without drinking any. We finally found the homeless guy that was desperately looking for coffee in some trash can and gave our coffee to him.
Well, this concludes my little coffee adventure in SF. I might return to Blue Bottle or Jane for a decent (but not great) cup and a good experience. This foodie-filled city has a long ways to go in coffee. It would certainly never fly on its hipster altitude.
A little fuzzy beast taking an afternoon nap on a fuzzy blanket is a sighting of happiness. It has been almost four months since my immediate family tripled in size. We went from getting freaked out, to getting acclimated. From aimless to finding a direction. Regardless of what the situation was, we start the day with a cup of delicious coffee at the table. I learned that real love is loving that person even if he wasn’t perfect. Life is not perfect and that is real. I learned that happiness is growing together by going through difficult conversations, even if it means saying or hearing things that weren’t meant to be said. And I learned that time flies when we are happy, only to be seized by a sighting like this.
I have never thought that I’d go to Burning Man, let alone enjoying the whole experience. It’s one of those experiences that could change a person’s outlook in life. I went to BM this year with two of my friends. We constructed a hexa-hurt in the desert. We camped in the French Quarters with a group called the Sunset Supper Club. We volunteered and delivered playa news papers one day. We biked into the deep playa to look at art sculptures. For the most part, we wandered with no agenda and let whatever that interested us on a whim take us on to a new adventure. We found a mid-night movie shown in a secret movie theater in deep playa, ran into a wine and cheese party at a sculpture, a sunset Russian tea party, my most absolutely favorite bloody mary, out-of-the-world delicious crawfish boil at 3am in the morning, talked with artists that created some of the sculptures… the list goes on. Everyday was a different experience. I cannot forget, nor can I begin to enumerate all of the stories that took place, or the people that I met. It was then did I understand that one cannot define or describe Burning Man. “You get what you want out of it.”
The only one regret I had was not being to take as many pictures as I would have liked due to dust. I only managed to wake up one morning to shoot sunrise while my camp mates were snoozing in the yurt. To give them the credit, they did both try very hard to wake me. It was Wednesday morning. The air on the playa was clean and crisp. I hopped on my bike before I could see anything in a state of sleep walk. I passed many people dressed in all white walking towards the temple; they must have been part of the white concession. Some of the people had stayed up all night long.
The sky was already bright but the sun hasn’t risen yet. A sea of people have already gathered around the temple. I took time to shoot around this small group of temples that looked middle eastern but they were built out of cheap particle boards.
And finally, when the sun peaked out of the horizon, cheers and prayers rang through the desert. I rushed quickly towards the temple and captured the ray of sun light flooding through the gates of the temple. Bikes were abandoned everywhere. I had already done the same and gotten on foot. People were hugging, kissing each other, and dancing all around. The dragon art car drove into the sun filled with people dancing. I saw the long chain of balloons hanging across the sky over the playa. I was immediate overcome with the feelings of joy and hope. Perhaps this was what Burning Man is all about, I thought, without actual words.