I’ll be back in my hometown December 25-29. Obviously I want to stop in at Anvil, where bartender Bobby Heugel is serving up creative cocktails. And word is David Buehrer has finally brought great coffee to Houston with his Tuscany Coffee. Good Tex-Mex is a must and easy to find. I’d usually consider barbecue essential, but Podnah’s Pit in Portland is such a good fix that I might do without. Where else should I visit?
Ortlieb office bag — Early this year my trusty backpack finally wore out and I replaced it with a pannier bag. Taking my laptop off of my back and onto my bike has made cycling much more enjoyable. The bag is waterproof, which is a must in Portland. The weight isn’t much of an issue while riding, though it does make the bike a little unwieldy while walking it. The bag itself isn’t cheap and I needed to buy a rack and laptop sleeve too (with corduroy lining!), but the added time I’ve spent biking has been well worth it.
Rice cooker — I’m not one to stock up on excessive kitchen appliances, but when even Fuschia Dunlop wrote, “If I could have only one modern gadget in my kitchen, it would have to be an electric rice cooker” I thought it might be a tool worth having. And it has been, mainly for the benefits of consistency and not having to coordinate rice preparation too closely with the rest of a meal. Most of my cooking interests lean Asian anyway, so the ease of this tool has me in the kitchen more than I otherwise would be.
An unnamed magic pamphlet — I’ve spent thousands of dollars on magic books and videos over the past decade, but very few of those sources have been as useful as one $10 dollar pamphlet detailing a single card sleight that I came across this year. No, I’m not going to link to it. That would defeat the purpose.
I’m headed there now. Links will post in the morning but I expect to be disconnected from phone and internet for most of the next day, back on Monday night.
[Photo from Flickr user Sacred Destinations.]
As some of you know, I don’t actually write the morning links posts in the morning. I usually write them late at night and post them before going to bed so that they’re available for the East Coast readers waking up 3 hours ahead of me. This isn’t usually a problem, but on Wednesday night I found myself unexpectedly skipping dinner and having a few too many drinks. This didn’t stop me from blogging, so when I got up on Thursday I figured I should check the post to make sure I’d correctly placed it on the sidebar. To my credit, I did. The rest of the post, however, was complete nonsense.
I immediately took it down and corrected it, but then neglected the step necessary to republish it (while sober!). So today you’ve got a double dose of links, the ones currently on the sidebar and the ones that should have been posted yesterday. More importantly, I’m also republishing the original drunken post. This could be my best writing ever and I’d hate to see it lost to posterity. Consider the opening sentence, “What if ccalhochol really does produse outocoems similar to War;”. Really makes you think. Or the final link with its totally off-topic description: “Inside hobos”. Now that’s a compelling headline.
I’m surprised no one called me out on this. You all are quick to argue with the controversial posts, but I ask about ccalhochol produsing outocoems similar to War and not a single one of you comments or emails to tell me I might have been completely wasted when I wrote that? Come on, people, I need you to let me know these things!
Yesterday’s fantastic morning links below the break…
I can still remember my first encounter with the coffee shop at 3211 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington, VA, which is surprising since I didn’t actually go into it. I was visiting DC on college spring break — in those days that seemed to me a fun destination — and meeting a friend from the Institute for Humane Studies for dinner in Clarendon to talk about policy jobs in DC. He wasn’t a coffee drinker and so the place barely merited a mention from him as we walked briskly by, yet I felt an almost gravitational attraction to it. It was, I thought, the kind of shop where I could happily spend a lot of time.
It turns out I was very, very wrong for thinking I would enjoy working in public policy, but the coffee shop became more significant to me than I’d ever imagined. Back then it was called Common Grounds and when I returned to DC for my first internship a few months later I immediately sought it out. It became my escape from the depressing realization that I had no real interest in the career I’d been working towards. Nearly every night I’d come home, change out of my business attire, and walk the two miles uphill to relax with coffee and a couple of books. Though I was rarely joined by anyone I knew, I enjoyed the sense of community one feels in a busy cafe even when alone.
I returned to Virginia following college graduation for lack of any better plan, my new apartment just three blocks from Common Grounds. I applied for a job there following one more failed attempt at enjoying public policy. When I checked in a few weeks later, the manager admitted that they’d lost my application. This turned out to be a moot point, for the shop was about to be sold to Nick Cho of Murky Coffee. For some reason Nick hired me.
Nick has an intense passion for coffee and he passed that on to me on my first day of training at his existing Capitol Hill location. He gave us new employees twenty bucks and sent us down the street to Starbucks to order whatever we liked. Then we came back to experience the same drinks the Murky way. I’d consumed thousands of coffee beverages and spent countless nights in coffee shops, but I’d never paid close attention to what was in the cups. This all changed when I watched Nick deftly pour perfectly textured milk into espresso, a lovely rosetta forming on the surface of the cappuccino as if by magic. I’d never seen or tasted anything like it. To this day the memory informs my work as a barista and bartender; the best gift I can give new customers is recreating that feeling of astonishment that comes from witnessing a mundane drink transformed into something wonderful.
I spent only eight months working at Murky but I continued as a customer far longer. The friendships and relationships that bloomed there are the reason I stayed in Virginia for as long as I did. Our cast of characters — a Pilates instructor, an opera singer, and a medical consultant, among others — formed a welcome community outside the cocooned world of politics. Every Sunday we gathered for coffee and a late lunch. This ritual was so valuable to me that for the year following when I worked at Open City my only requirement was that I claim the painfully early Sunday morning 5:30 am barista shift; I felt it necessary to get off in time to meet for coffee at Murky, despite spending the entire morning working the same model espresso machine and serving exactly the same blend.
I wrote above that I felt a gravitational pull to the shop. Looking back at the five apartments I lived in during my time in Virginia, I realize I was literally in orbit around it. Murky is in red, my various apartments in blue.
That’s no coincidence. Though I moved frequently and made many compromises, always being within a short walk or bike ride from my favorite coffee shop was an essential amenity.
Many people drifted in and out of our circle of regulars over the years. By the time I packed for Oregon just two of our original crew were left, meeting every Sunday to drink coffee and smoke cigars at the green light pole. Like many things at Murky, the pole was weathered and useless, existing mostly to annoy people trying to park their cars around it. Yet it was charming in its way and was the perfect place to prop up our feet and light a couple stogies in the breeze.
If I could be there today, that’s exactly what I’d be doing. This Sunday was Murky’s last day open for business. Nick and his staff are opening a new shop, Wrecking Ball Coffee, in downtown DC. The space at 3211 Wilson Blvd. will soon become a bakery, the newest sleek addition to Clarendon’s redevelopment. Murky’s end removes one more of my tethers to the city. The thought of moving back to Arlington is now less tempting.
I could go on, but the important thing for me is saying thanks to Nick and the Murky community. Thanks for teaching me how to taste, for showing me the beauty in craft, and for giving me a place to call home in Virginia. You’ll be missed, and I wish you the best of luck in your new venture.
I’ve been waiting until things are official to post the good news, but I’m happy to report that my job search here in Portland is finally at an end. I’ve been lucky so far to pick up a couple shifts a week behind the nicely stocked bar at the Carlyle. I got even luckier last week when Neil Kopplin, our talented bar manager, decided to move on to a new job. I’ll be stepping into his shoes starting tomorrow. To go from underemployed cocktail blogger to lead bartender at a place like Carlyle is a fantastic opportunity and I’m excited to start leaving my mark on the place.
I’m inheriting a good cocktail program, so I don’t need to come in and make drastic changes. I’ll be gradually adding new cocktails to the menu over the next few weeks. If you’re in Portland, I hope you’ll drop in sometime to try them out. (If you’re in the industry we’ve got an added bonus for you: 20% off food orders for bartenders, baristas, and servers, happy hour excluded.)
Neil’s new home is behind the bar at Clyde Common with Jeffrey Morgenthaler. Clyde’s already one of my favorite spots in town and I look forward to seeing my two friends there. They’re open later than Carlyle, so I’ll be a frequent visitor for those oh so necessary post-shift drinks.
We’re celebrating Neil’s last shift with House Spirits’ Recession Proof Mixology event. Stop in today from 4-7 for a menu of $5 Aviation gin cocktails and stay even later for what’s sure to be a memorable night.
2008 has been good year for this blog. Due to more frequent posting, the popular morning links feature I added in January, guest blogging at The Agitator, and various publications elsewhere, traffic has nearly doubled from this time last year. In personal life I finally escaped the East Coast and moved west to Portland. Though I’m not completely settled here yet — a regular income would sure be nice — things are off to a great start, thanks in large part to the friends I’ve made through writing and tending bar.
Looking back at the end of a year, I’m always amazed at the many random things that have happened. Here’s the annual highlight reel:
June — NYC pushes fruit carts, Paul Roberts and I have a friendly debate in the LA Times, my friend Amy’s mom gets a cocktail named after her, I go on a rant about cocktail shakers, and a discussion of menthol racism.
July — Why McCain’s health plan would be good for service industry workers, Flash websites bad for restaurants, precious coffee policies, I make a Hothouse Fizz with the new Plymouth sloe gin, and sampling miracle fruit tablets.
October — The McCain that could have been, Oregon neglects the pipe smokers, LEED hates tobacco, everybody loves an Irish car bomb, Rocky Mountain oysters get eaten, and my trip west comes to an end in Portland.
December — Hello to my new Oregon neighbors, an Oregon smoking ban prediction, stocking your home bar parts one and two, smoking ban stupidity, an ode to Repeal Day in the American Spectator, Doublethinking about Starbucks, and my most missed places in DC.
I’m hoping to keep the momentum going to make 2009 even better. Tonight I’ll be celebrating with my last legal cigar at my favorite pub in Portland, the legendary Horse Brass. Thanks for reading, and have a happy new year!
Sorry for the light posting. My internet access has been limited this trip and I’ve spent the past couple days orchestrating a last minute move of all my things that were still in storage in Virginia. Amazingly it’s worked out very well, given that I didn’t even have bids from movers until yesterday morning. It’s all on a truck now, so in a few weeks I’ll no longer be living with just two bar stools and a mattress. A couch, bed, assorted furniture, books, glassware, and several cases of liquor will be arriving soon. You can guess which items I’m most looking forward to receiving.
My flight leaves at 3:30 today, getting me back to Portland late at night. Regular blogging will resume in the morning.
A few months ago I was fighting for liberty at the Cato Institute. Tonight I’ll be tending bar for the Oregon Democratic Party’s election celebration. Oh, how far I have fallen. If IHS finds out I’ll never be invited to another seminar.
Will tonight’s crowd be filled with tears of joy or disillusionment? Meh, I don’t really care anymore. As long as the ruling party falls short of a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and Prop. 8 fails in California, that’ll be good enough for me. As you revel or mourn, just remember to tip your bartender. His drinks may be less intoxicating than an Obama rally, but he’s honest and he delivers. We’ll see if we can say the same about the president in four years.
I’ll be back tomorrow at the dawn of a new age of hope and change and ponies. Enjoy the evening, and come the morning let’s tear down the posters and start showing a little skepticism toward the guy you just made the most powerful man in the world, ok?
I’m sitting in a typically Obama-friendly Portland coffee shop trying to fill out my Virginia absentee ballot. I need a No. 2 pencil do so. I could get up and ask if anyone can loan me one so I can vote for Bob Barr in a swing state, but I don’t expect that will inspire anyone to help.
My lease in Arlington expired on July 31. Since that time I’ve been traveling the country, staying with friends and family throughout the US. Thanks to their incredible generosity I had to spend only two nights in hotels during the entire trip, in Kansas City and Las Vegas. I’m extremely grateful for their hospitality.
Thanks to the housing bust and the glut of new condos being converted into apartments here, it’s a good time to rent. Yesterday I signed a new lease at The Merrick. It’s in the NE quadrant, right next to the Rose Garden (meaning the basketball arena, not the actual rose garden Portland is famous for). As with most stadium areas, it’s a rather soulless neighborhood. Nearby are just a Starbucks, two fast food burger joints, a Subway, and a few other chain restaurants; it’s no comparison to my previous proximity to Murky Coffee, glorious Peruvian chicken, and all that Clarendon has to offer.
But on the upside, my rent is 30% less than what I was paying before and the location is nicely accessible to the rest of the city. It’s right across the bridge from downtown and the Pearl and within the no-fare zone on the train line. Groceries and restaurants are in the nearby Lloyd Center. And most importantly, it’s located within easy biking distance of the three coffee shops where I’ve been spending the most time: the wonderful Albina Press, the Stumptown on Belmont, and the Ristretto Roasters on Williams. In short, it’s going to be a great place for getting to know the city, and definitely good enough for a first year’s stay.
Hypothesis confirmed after driving 4,700 miles, visiting more than a dozen cities, and spending 71 days on the road.
I’ve finally arrived in Portland, having arrived last night after a brief stop for fantastic drinks from Jeff Morgenthaler in Eugene. This week I’ll be looking for apartments and jobs while getting back to regular, hopefully more substantive updates.
There’s lots to write about at the moment, but I’m leaving Denver in the morning and traveling on to Los Angeles. This morning’s links are already up; whether we have some on Friday depends on my internet access.
This is my first time in L.A. I want to stop by the newish Intelligentsia and Lamill Coffee, but otherwise have no plans for where to go. Anyone have suggestions for what to do there?
Catherine Rampell writes:
What is the relationship between economic downturns and the traditional vices? … A quick (and by no means comprehensive) search of economic studies suggests that recessions generally promote healthier behavior. Economic downturns typically…
…reduce both drinking and drunken-driving. According to one paper: “A one percentage point increase in the state unemployment rate lowers the predicted consumption of spirits by over 1.1 percent, compared to just 0.4 percent for beer or wine.”
Aw, man, I thought tending bar was a counter-cyclical career. This may not have been the best summer to quit my job, drive cross country, and hope to find a new one two months later.
My friend Dan Rothschild has been live-blogging Hurricane Ike from Houston and today he has his first impressions of the recovery effort in today’s New York Sun. He directs the Gulf Coast Recovery Project at the Mercatus Center and reports that Houston, so far, is avoiding the top-down errors that plagued the Katrina recovery:
Because city and county governments are doing what they should do — enforcing the law, sharing critical information, and making honest assessments of the status and future of public services — they have cleared the way for the private sector to respond effectively. By yesterday morning, all local grocery chains had reopened at least some of their locations, and their trucks had made it into town and were busy resupplying. This would have been impossible if the city had been locked down, or if employees had been prohibited from coming to work.
Stressing that people should use their judgment rather than trying to freeze movement, officials have created space for what reports indicate is an incredible — and uncoordinated — response by people clearing streets and storm drains. The official attitude that recovery is a grassroots effort, of which government is just one sector that plays a supporting role, means that recovery is already underway, and people don’t have to wait for officials to draw up (and eventually fumble) a complex, top-down plan.
The private sector is playing a crucial role in sharing information. Citizen journalists have been liveblogging events as they unfold, the television and radio stations are sharing information called in by normal folks about grocery stores, gas stations, and hardware stores that are open. Indeed, the press has been a vital conduit of information throughout the process, as they were after Katrina when New Orleans radio host Garland Robinette famously stayed on the air throughout the storm serving as the only instrument of fact over a cacophony of official fiction.
Dan’s just a few miles away from my parents, who are currently without power or running water. They ran out of fresh food this morning and will be on to peanut butter and canned goods from now on unless they find a local fast food spot open for business. Luckily the house survived without major damage, but they say they’ve carried about 30 trash cans of debris from the yard already. They’re flying out to Little Rock for a pre-arranged trip on Friday.
Traveling to the Michigan Upper Peninsula is a vacation I look forward to every summer. But given that I’d just quit all three of my jobs this year, I wasn’t really taking a vacation from anything. Maybe from over-priced beers at endless summer libertarian happy hours, but that doesn’t really count.
So what to take a break from? How about shaving? Surrounded by water, woods, and retirees, it was as good a time as any to go without. Master beard blogger Jon Dyers, founder of Macho Beard Growing Month (MaBeGroMo) and documented achiever of 25 different facial hair styles, makes the case. As Jon says, “A beard is one thing, that even though it might look crappy, is appreciably manly. It’s inexplicable, and may be macho bullshit, but growing a beard makes you want to hammer things and wear flannel. You may not have any more reason than that beard to feel like a man, but it will make you feel like a man. And you deserve that for 30 days, Nancy.”
Every man ought to grow out his beard once in his life. And some men ought to do it only once.
And because Dan R. asked for it:
Fear not, it’s all gone now. But what am I going to do with all this flannel?