Texas Part 2 – the $300 Bird and How to Get Bob Schneider’s Attention

In my last post, I touched on some of the highlights of this last trip to Texas, which included finishing a novel, spending Thanksgiving with my bff, lunching with Bruce Hughes, and seeing a lot of Austin Hipsters.
Well, a few other things happened that were worth noting, so here’s the rest of the story.

The $300 bird
I drove from Tulsa to Roanoke, TX last Wednesday – the day before Thanksgiving. As you can imagine, there was quite a bit of traffic, and it was pretty steady all the way down. Right around dusk, I was driving along, minding my own business, in the passing lane somewhere between Norman and Ardmore, in Oklahoma. There were tons of cars on the road with me, but for some reason a VERY LARGE BIRD decided to commit suicide on my car – all of a sudden I hear a really loud SPLAT and something with lots of brown speckled feathers slams into my windshield on the left side. After a few seconds of utter shock I thought hey, maybe I should pull over and make sure it’s not stuck to my car or something (because the last time I took a road trip, I ended up driving half way home with a Scissor Tailed Flycatcher stuck to my grill). The bird was gone, but did manage to take out my left headlight before skidding up the car leaving a trail of guts…
Nothing on a Mercedes is cheap, including the headlamp assembly. $300 worth of Bird Damage. And that’s the discounted rate! Because fortunately I know a guy who can get me a good deal on parts, comp me on the labor, and still take me out to sushi afterwards.
Nonetheless, I was a bit shaken up and couldn’t help uttering one of my most-used phrases (right after “yes I’ll have a cappuccino,” “I love cookies,” and “where’s my yoga mat?”) – “But what does it MEAN??”
I’m not sure why birds want to end their lives on the front of my automobile. I love birds. If anyone has any ideas can you please enlighten me?

the $300 bird
poor Otto…

More driving
I feel like I was in the car for a week. There was a lot of rain, a lot of traffic, my fair share of dead fowl… and lots and lots of freeway overpasses.
I don’t know why, but I am fascinated by all those curvy freeway overpasses they have in Texas. There’s something about the blending of something so impersonal and cold with smooth, organic, curve lines. So sexy! One day I’m going to take a friend down there, shine up my windshield to within an inch of its life (get off all the bird guts), and have my friend drive me around so I can take photos of all the sexy overpasses. I’ve gotten a few good shots over the years – and someday I would love to have a gallery showing of all my overpass pictures…

curvy overpasses!

The Battle of the Resentments
On Sunday, after a really hellacious drive from Fort Worth to Austin, I blew into the Saxon Pub just in time to catch the Resentments. I won’t tell you how fast I drove to make that happen, OK…
If you ever get the chance to see the Resentments, DO IT. It’s the most amazing live music experience. The musicians are some of the very best around, the songs are so, so good – and as an extra bonus, those guys are FUNNY. The between song banter is always entertaining, and this night’s offerings were not disappointing.
Miles Zuniga: “What’s the difference between a musician and a pizza? The pizza feeds a family of 4”…
I’ve gone to shows where Bruce’s songs blow everyone else’s away. And I’ve been to shows where Scrappy steals the show, or Miles blows me away with his talent and songwriting abilities. But this time, Jeff Plankenhorn stole the show. His version of “Cold Turkey” was nothing short of incredible. Here’s a link to the song from a different night, but it’ll give you an idea of what it’s like. So, thanks Jeff!
This isn’t from Sunday’s show, but it’ll give you an idea of how great the song is:

How to get Bob Schneider’s attention in under 15 seconds
Then on Monday night, I had the privilege of seeing Bob Schneider play, again at the Saxon Pub. I ended up sitting with trumpet player / keyboardist / accordionist Ollie Steck’s Mom, who was visiting from either Chicago or Michigan. Or both. I don’t know, she wasn’t very clear. But I digress. The show was entertaining as always and the caliber of musicians he plays with is really phenomenal. And I’m not just saying that because Bruce Hughes plays bass. Everyone is amazing.
Bob is also a great storyteller. That night we were regaled about stories from when he lived in some sort of hippie co-op. And then there was some sort of sexual innuendo involving the act of eating ham (“There’s a saying around our house, once I eat your ham, you never want to leave the table,” or something like that. I don’t know. Better not to ask). It’s true that Bob can have, according to Ollie’s Mom, “a bit of a potty mouth” but I personally find it hilarious and all in good fun.
After the show, as I was leaving, Bob was outside, and I thought for a brief second about going over and saying hi. I’ve been going to see him for 4 years now, and have never met him. But then I thought, nah, I don’t want to wait around. Maybe next time. So I continued to walk to my car, but then looked over and Bob was also walking through the parking lot, alone. So my brain said DO IT before it had worked out WHAT TO SAY.
So the exchange went something like this.
Andrea: Hi Bob, I’m Andrea, a friend of Bruce’s.
(I am not sure why I say this. Maybe because I think being acquainted with the bass player will make me more legit.)
Andrea: It’s so great to meet you, I’ve been coming to see you for a while now.
We shake hands.
Bob: Oh, hi! He smiles.
Andrea: So I showed your Black Mountain video to my uncle, who is Francis Coppola, and he noticed that you spelled his name wrong.
Bob (wincing): I did? OH SHIT!!
Then someone else comes up to talk to him. I mumble something about thanks for all the great music, and walk away.

Great way to make an impression, yes?

Bob’s “Black Mountain” video, using footage from Francis Coppola’s “Dementia 13”

Monday night’s show

And the rest
Other trip highlights:

I was absolutely chilled to the bone for one week straight. Either it was cold and rainy or I was in a drafty place. On the bright side, I did discover that being cold all the time can help you lose weight.

I slept on futons that normally belonged to dogs. Not all of those dogs were happy about giving up their beds for me.

I was feeling particularly more introverted than usual, and ended up not meeting anyone in Austin that I’d wanted to. Hopefully that’ll be different next time.

I thought I was going to put my novel away for a little while, as I “finished” it on 11/30, but it keeps floating around in my head and is telling me that it needs a major rewrite – sooner rather than later. It’s not done.

To be continued…


The 2015 Summer Coffee Tour – Top 5 Coffee Shops

I know, I know, I’ve been back for a while and am only now getting to this… but better late than never! Because, did you really think I would come back from a vacation called “The 2015 Summer Coffee Tour” and NOT tell you what my favorite coffee shops were?!?

I was in Southern California for three weeks. That’s a lot of espresso, people. I didn’t go out for a coffee every day, but it was pretty close. Close enough that my final count came in at 22. That’s right, some days I HAD TWO.

Some places we only visited once, some places we ended up visiting multiple times. I didn’t get to all the Big Name shops like Blue Bottle, or Verve or Stumptown – but we did visit a few of those, plus a bunch of non-chain locations. We came across several surprises (some good surprises, some not so good) and definitely added a lot of knowledge to our “What We Know About Coffee” files. Like, I’m not sure why this is, but the drinks seemed to be bigger on the West Coast. Or at least the lattes were. My drink of choice is a latte, and around Oklahoma / Texas a latte is usually 8 ounces. But in California, most were 12 ounces. Too big! The next thing down was a 6-ounce cappuccino. I kind of had to learn the hard way, and readjust my tastes so that I expected and enjoyed the stronger flavor of a cappuccino. I’m telling you, variations in drink sizes is the bain of an espresso drinker’s existence. Unless you’re smart, like my friend Daniel, who simply starts off by ordering cortados everwhere he goes (a cortado is a more even ratio of milk to espresso, and they’re pretty consistent across shops. Here’s an older, yet interesting and informative article on them). By ordering cortados first, Daniel can therefore consistently judge a shop and its coffee. I guess I’m not that savvy. I want my lattuccino. So, I had to adjust. I became a happier person once I simply started ordering cappuccinos everywhere we went.

We even came up with our own rating system on the 2k15SCT:
Solid Plus

We didn’t come across any shops on the trip that rated Excellent. I believe that between the two of us, Marcus and I only have one Excellent apiece, maybe two, out of all the places we’ve ever been. That rating gets saved for the, you know, Excellent shops.

The Top 5.
While we didn’t find any excellent shops, I would say, however, that there were 5 Solid Plus shops we visited on our trip. Here’s the list:

The Tickle Tree Café
2853 Foothill Blvd, La Crescenta CA
Unexpectedly delicious! They use Four Barrel beans and milk from Strauss Family Creamery (THIS MILK IS DELICIOUS).
Right up the street from my Dad’s house, it was super convenient. It was always busy, and I’ve heard their food is great, but I never got to try it. I did have one disappointing drink there (take note: THE BARISTA MATTERS). On my way to LAX to fly home, on my very last day, I picked up a cappuccino to go, in a paper cup. Normally I can’t stand drinking coffee out of a paper cup, but OMG it was so delicious. What a great high note (or bean?) on which to leave town.

Portola Coffee Lab
3313 Hyland Ave, Costa Mesa CA
Voted 2015 Roaster of the year, by Roast Magazine – and I can see why. Their coffee was excellent. We got to go there twice, which is usually the best way to confirm consistency. It was the closest place we found to Excellent – a very Solid Plus experience. Their Costa Mesa shop is pretty slick.

portolat - voted best roaster 2015
portola – voted best roaster 2015

Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee
270 E 17th St #18, Costa Mesa CA
Oh. My. Gosh. Let me just say, this was the best donut I’ve ever had. And it was really health food, because it had carrot and zucchini in it! And flowers on top! It was sublime. They served Stumptown beans, and they only served their espresso drinks in paper cups but it didn’t matter. The cappuccino was amazingly sweet and flavorful. You must go to here.

sidecar. you must go to here.
sidecar. you must go to here.

Rose Park Roasters
3044 E 4th St, Long Beach CA
Cute little shop in an almost sketch part of LB – but great coffee. We bought some of their Mexico Nueva Linda beans to make pour overs with. I even brought some back to Tulsa with me – we have a little bit left. Tastes like Southern California. Yum.

Lord Windsor Roasters
1101 E 3rd St, Long Beach CA
Another consistently good shop in Long Beach. Who knew that the LB was such a coffee hotbed in LA? I never would have expected it. The shop was very chill (well actually it was a little warm in there) but the cappuccinos were great and we enjoyed both visits. It doesn’t hurt that they carry vegan donuts from the Caffeinated Kitchen bakery, also in LB. We ended up buying some beans from them for pour overs as well. Very delicious.

coffee n delish vegan donut at lord windsor
coffee n delish vegan donut at lord windsor

All in all, it was a successful, informative and enjoyable trip. I wish we could have visited lots more places, but there’s only so much coffee a girl can drink, and only so willing she can be to drive into the depths of Los Angeles to get it. That just means there’s lots more for us to explore next time.

The Complete Run-Down.
Here’s a list of all the places we went, their address, and how many times we were there. Oh, and my rating.

Tickle Tree Café
2853 Foothill Blvd, La Crescenta CA
Visited: 6 times
Rating: Solid Plus

55 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena CA
Visited: 1 time
Rating: Solid

Urartu Coffee
119 N Maryland Ave, Glendale CA
Visited: 1 time
Rating: Nope

Rose Park Rosters
3044 E 4th St, Long Beach CA
Visited: 4 times
Rating: Solid Plus

317 S Broadway, C-19, Los Angeles CA (inside Grand Central Market)
Visited: 1 time
Rating: Solid

Portola Coffee Lab
3313 Hyland Ave, Costa Mesa CA
Visited: 2 times
Rating: Solid Plus

Lord Windsor
1101 E 3rd St, Long Beach CA
Visited: 2 times
Rating: Solid Plus

Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee
270 E 17th St #18, Costa Mesa CA
Visited: 1 time
Rating: Solid Plus

Hopper & Burr
300 N Main St, Santa Ana CA
Visited: 1 time
Rating: Solid

56 Windward Ave, Venice CA
Visited: 1 time
Rating: Solid

Intelligentsia, Venice
1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice CA
Visited: 1 time
Rating: Nope

16821 Algonquin St Ste 104, Huntington Beach CA
Visited: 1 time
Rating: Nope

Simply Coffee
940 N Lima St, Burbank CA
Visited: 1 time
Rating: Honorable Mention Solid Plus



Summer Vacation From 32,000 feet

I just flew in from Los Angeles yesterday, and boy are my arms tired!
Ok so not really, but I did just get back from LA on Wednesday. I got in late last night, after having left my Dad’s house in La Crescenta at 9:30 a.m., getting one last delicious cappuccino for the road, and driving to the airport. Where I waited around for 3 hours before flying to Las Vegas. Where I waited around for another 3 hours before catching the last plane of the day to Tulsa.
You would think I could do a lot of reading, writing, or reflecting, on the planes or sitting for 6 hours in airports. But nope. Too distracting. $12 sandwiches! $4 water! Weird people! Slot machines! NOISE! So yeah, no. But on my flight from LAS – TUL, instead of sleeping, I did spend time thinking back on the three-week trip that was the 2015 Summer Coffee Tour. I didn’t sleep on the plane because, just FYI, it was FREEZING and I had to keep moving to prevent my toes being lost to frostbite. So I walked. And fidgeted. And reflected.

Here are some of my key take-aways from the trip:

1. Making new friends is awesome.
I got to meet new people on the trip – people I had “met” through social media, but had never met in person before. It’s so neat when they turn out as awesome as you’d hope they would! Because if you finally meet someone in person, and they’re like, a total jerk, that would kind of suck.
I also met some really great people that I didn’t know of at all before. And that’s always a pleasant surprise.

2. Catching up with old friends and family is awesome too.
Making time to catch up with old friends from school, and people who have been friends for what seems like forever, is something that I always enjoy. And reconnecting with family, some of whom I only get to see every few years, makes me feel more connected to my roots. Since I have no family here in Tulsa, I try to see everyone I can.

3. You can learn a lot about coffee when you travel around sampling different places for 3 weeks.
This deserves its own blog post for sure, but in short, I feel like every time I do this kind of thing, my palate develops more, as does my knowledge about coffee and coffee preparation. Most everyone we met was friendly and happy to share information. And I’ll take this opportunity to apologize for those of you who get tired of all the coffee photos in my social media feeds. But it’s not likely to stop anytime soon so…

4. I miss the beach.
I LOVE being by the ocean – it’s so relaxing and I’m sure there are proven health benefits (although I’m too lazy to go look right now). And more specifically, I miss Sunset Beach. This time around, I really got a sense of the family history that’s contained on the property and in the community of Sunset Beach. I’m thinking about writing a book about it…

5. Southern California is also awesome.
There is One Of Everything in Southern California. We saw ALL kinds of people. And the best part is, anything goes. While it may not seem so to some SoCal-ers, I can tell you from someone who has lived in a very different type of community for 20+ years, there’s a real sense of tolerance and acceptance in SoCal. I love that.

6. Smog is gross.
OMG how do you people LIVE with all that smog? Do you realize what you’re breathing? A few people tried to tell us that the layer of brown haze was “Marine Layer.” I know what Marine Layer is – clouds along the beach. The brown junk over LA is not “Marine Layer.”
I wonder what type of long-term health problems arise from breathing this all the time (again, too lazy to go look it up right now), but I’ll bet there are some. The climate is perfect for being outside a good part of the time. But how can you BREATHE out there?

7. Reading is important.
Usually, I feel too guilty to read a book. Because I should be doing something Important. Like checking FaceBook or Instagram. Or doing the dishes. Or watching Gilmour Girls. But with no TV or Netflix for 3 weeks, I concluded it was Safe To Read. So I did. And it was great.
A good friend reminded me recently that as a writer, reading is one of the most important things you can do. I’ll keep that in mind and continue to read as often as I can.

8. I need to make my health a priority.
Another reason I don’t read much, is because usually I would do this in the evening, and most days in the evening, I don’t feel very well. I continue to have some health issues (annoyances, really), that I guess I haven’t really made a priority. What if I made an effort, cleaned up my diet, and felt better most of the time? That would be AMAZING! I’m not sure why I haven’t done it. Lazy, I guess. But I’m sooooo tired of not feeling well. Plus, one day last week in SoCal I had a terrible migraine headache, and I felt so toxic, and so out of balance – it was terrible. So it’s time to get serious. First change: cut out sugar.

9. Always do lots of things that give you inspiration.
I always come back from SoCal feeling inspired. People are DOING and MAKING things out there. I guess they’re doing that here too, but it’s so much more palpable out there. I drove by the ABC studios. I met a very talented children’s book author. A great photographer. A talented graphic designer. A clothing line owner and creator. And more. As a creative person, it’s so inspiring to meet and spend time with other creatives. It can’t be beat.
So there you have it – summer vacation in a 9-part nutshell. I’ll be blogging more about some of these topics soon, before I forget everything that happened. Because I am good at that.

OK let’s go have a coffee!

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socal2 socal5

coffee at rose park roasters in long beach. let's go!
coffee at rose park roasters in long beach. let’s go!

2015 Summer Coffee Tour – the Friends Edition

Finding friends the analog way. Then finding them the digital way.
One of the best friends I had in high school, I met because in 10th grade we had all the same classes except for one. One of my other best friends I met when I hired her for a job, and another was my next door neighbor for a while.
We all have good friends that we’ve met because of, basically, proximity. And this is totally normal and expected. But a new form of meeting people has emerged relatively recently (and by relatively I mean maybe the last 10 years, LOLs). That’s right – I’m referring to the Interwebs.
And I’m not talking about dating sites here (although if you’ve had any luck with those, good on you – I always found them a bit depressing but maybe that’s just me) – I’m talking about Social Media, like Facebook, Instagram and back in the day, Blogging.
Meeting someone online is a little different than meeting someone at your job or at school. Maybe it could be compared to meeting someone at the library, as you both reach for the same obscure book on, say, bedazzling with snail shells. You find people when common interests or curiosity leads you to them. So I’ve ended up finding all kinds of funny, eloquent, creative, talented people online over the years, and sometimes, I’m even lucky enough to meet them in person.

I have met one of my super good friends, Ren, through blogging many years ago. We’ve emailed and collaborated together for years now, but have only met a handful of times. I’ve gotten to meet writer and all-around swell guy Will Stegemann from LA once – in MY city of residence! I’ve met Instagrammer Julie from Austin this year, I just missed IGer Andrew from Austin, haven’t yet met blogger Jodi from LA (I liked hamsters, she liked hamsters and guinea pigs – bam!), nor have I met blogger/artist Cynthia from Vancouver, even though we’re about to become business partners and she’s illustrating one of my stories. I’m sure you have similar accounts about meeting people through digital media, yes?

2015 Summer Coffee Tour / Meet & Greet
Well so far on this 2015 Summer Coffee Tour, we’ve had great coffee, yes, but there’s been another bonus – I’ve gotten to meet some more new interwebs friends.
Last week we met IGer Daniel – a freelance graphic designer who lives in Orange County but is also a great coffee aficionado and works out of various coffee shops in the LA/OC area. We happened to be around the same place around the same time and met up at Intelligentsia in Pasadena. He spoke with us about his design business, what it’s like to work from coffee shops and a co-working space, and how he manages to live in Southern California without a car (WHAT! I know, right?). He’s been so helpful in recommending coffee places, and speaks about his freelancing life with infectious passion. It’s been a pleasure to meet him and actually we hope to catch up with him again on Friday, at a new coffee place in OC…
And Wednesday, we got to meet Christina Gandolfo! You may remember her from one of my previous posts – she’s a freelance photographer in LA, and has a cat named Lucy. I wrote a story based on a photo and caption Christina posted of Lucy on Instagram last month – and Wednesday we met up for a coffee before one of her photo shoots.
It was, to sound totally cliché, totally cool!
A friendly and open person, Christina bought us some coffee and we had a nice, hour and a half chat. We talked about freelancing and she gave me some tips on how to work the freelance angle. We talked about storytelling – how you can tell a story just as intentionally with a photo, as you can with words. I hadn’t ever really thought about it that way before, being a wordsmith, and not always visually oriented. But really – all communication is storytelling. Some of us just have different areas of expertise.
We talked about comedy, and friends we had in common, and living life as an introvert or extrovert – or in her case, an ambivert. It was a wonderful afternoon, and I came away from it inspired and hopeful and ready to create. I hope we can meet up again someday soon.

What’s next?!?
And there are even more meetups in the works too. I’m actually not a very social person, but I want to make the most of this trip and to connect eye to eye with people I’ve only met a few times, or I’ve only been able to connect with pixel to pixel up till now. On Friday, Ren is coming to the beach to see us – it will be like old friends getting together, though we’ve only met in person maybe 4 times. I’m hoping to catch up with Will and his lovely wife Nina, tv writer extraordinaire (and who I haven’t gotten to meet in person yet), and I’m also hoping to finally meet Jodi – I probably won’t get meet her guinea pigs this time around, though. But we have to start somewhere.

me and christina! photo courtesy of christina, of course…

What are some of the cool ways you’ve met friends? Tell a story in the comments below!


2015 Summer Coffee Tour – Introverts Edition

Alright, so my “I’m going to blog every day of the trip” thing is off to a great start! But you know what? Sometimes life just gets in the way of Social Media.
I was going to give you a blow-by-blow of the last 4 days, but I’ll give you the 1,000 ft aerial view.
So far, we have had 6 espresso drinks at 5 different locations, been to the LA Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, hung out in the Armenian section of Glendale, and spent a wonderful afternoon with my 2 best friends from high school. Among other things.
The coffee has been pretty good – here’s how things are adding up:
Stellar: 0
Solid+: 4
Solid: 1
Nope: 1

G&B Coffee, DTLA
G&B Coffee, DTLA

Really, those numbers aren’t bad. The Boyfriend and I don’t agree entirely on this breakdown, but that’s to be expected, and generally we’re in the same ballpark. One thing’s for sure – it’s been super fun so far! My stomach has bothered me every day though, and I’m soldiering on, but I’m really thinking of going to an Integrative Medicine clinic when I get back home… Also maybe the pizza and ham/caramelized onion/cheese melt on brioche aren’t helping. But in some ways they’re SO worth it.
Yesterday my 2 best friends from high school came to the beach and we spent the afternoon together. We hadn’t been all together since 2011 so it was a real special occasion. They are such amazing people, I love them both and am so happy we’re still friends and that life seems to be great for both of them.

kim, julie, and crazy hair
kim, julie, and crazy hair

Over dinner, we were talking about being introverts, and how this affects our lives. I guess this is a big topic these days and as I read more about it I realize it explains SO MUCH about my behavior (that and my Dad. I am SO my Dad’s daughter. He is a pretty extreme introvert actually).
Are you an introvert or an extrovert, do you know? How do you re-energize, by spending time alone or by surrounding yourself with people? Have you ever thought about your behavior or your habits in terms of being introverted / extroverted? This is a topic I’ll probably explore more on this blog, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…
But anyway, here I am, sitting at the beach, no TV, no radio, no wifi. I do have my laptop, because I’ve actually been doing some work on this trip, and I have internet on my phone… but it’s very quiet this evening and the apartment is still and we feel oh so relaxed.
These days it seems that we’re so connected, all the time, that we never unplug. And it’s true that I do still have internet connection and have been posting to Facebook and Instagram, but I’ve also spent way less time in front of a screen and way more time being present to this experience.
It’s like I can breathe easier here. But it’s always been that way, even without the context of consciously unplugging. Did you know that introverts will, when in a public place, often sit on the end of an aisle or in a seat that has easy access to the exit? It’s as if we feel like we need a quick getaway, in case the social situation somehow becomes too much for us to handle. (We also don’t like to talk on the phone, which, if you’ve ever tried to call me, you’ve probably figured this out by now – but I’m sorry, and that’s another story). Being on the edge of the continent seems to be the Introvert’s Dream Come True – at least it is for me. When things get to be too much, it’s OK, because I’m at the edge of the action – I’m where things are quieter, and I’m out of the fray, on the sidelines where there is a little more space to breathe. This is one of my favorite things about staying at the beach. Room to breathe.

all the introverts, feel the love!
all the introverts, feel the love!

PS Sorry for the state of my hair in all current and future 2015 Summer Coffee Tour photos.
(Andrea’s Hair + Beach Humidity) – Hair Dryer = OMG