Thursday, April 23, 2009

My name is Todd.....and I have an addiction

It seems I can’t go a day without my precious caffeine.

When I’m traveling, my drink of choice is an iced, triple-tall, hazelnut, nonfat latte from Starbucks. For those that don’t speak Starbuckanese, that’s three shots of espresso with a little hazelnut syrup and nonfat milk over ice.

My record is 13 shots of espresso in one realllllllly long day. I hope to never challenge that record again.

So it was with much reluctance that I was assigned a story on one of my biggest vices in the world: coffee.

I was shooting for the next issue of Images of Cowlitz County magazine in Longview, WA, and one of the main stories was on the plethora of coffee shops in town. They have your regular coffee shops like Guse’s which has been roasting their own coffee for over two decades. There are coffee shops in little log cabins on the side of the road. There is even a coffee shop in a caboose. It’s called the “Espresso Express.” Go figure.

There seems like there is almost a coffee shop around every corner.

Ken Guse started his brewery after retiring from the local Weyerhaeuser plant over twenty years ago. It’s literally the center of town. Everyone who is anyone stops in for a cup of Joe. On the wall, above a long table that looks like it came from City Hall’s boardroom, is a reproduction of a mural of the town’s founding fathers. Except the faces have been replaced with those that frequent the coffee shop for the daily 9am meet-up of regulars. A fitting tribute to those that have and still do direct the goings on in Longview.

Guse no longer runs the coffee shop. His daughter Georgia has taken over the reins. She still roasts coffee in the roaster her father built almost 25 years ago. The regulars still come in every morning, their personalized coffee mugs hang from a rack on the wall. And they still run the town over a couple cups of coffee from that de facto boardroom at Guse’s.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Miami Boat People

Some times the most memorable experiences are the ones not planned.

My friends Jeff and Vicky are getting married in a couple of months which means the mad dash of who can one-up the other with the traditional bachelor and bachelorette parties.

Jeff wanted to plan his bachelor party around a fishing excursion. The plan had us parachuting into Cabo San Lucas and spending a wild, long weekend fishing during the day and enjoying the local nightlife scene into the wee hours of the morning. We’d then make our getaway under the cover of darkness and return to our normal lives before the authorities could lock us up in a Mexican jail.

Then the “Economic Downturn” hit.

Our trip went from a long weekend of excesses in Cabo to a one night stand in Atlanta. Luckily Jeff was persistent in his desire to go fishing and we settled on a long weekend in Miami instead.

Jeff’s brother Mark, the cruise director for our mad-capped escapade, made all the arrangements for us. All we had to do was show up.

He hooked us up with “Mark the Shark” and his partner Tim to do a little fishing. They in turn hooked us up with our lodging. The best part is the boat was docked at the hotel which meant we merely had to step, or stumble, out of our hotel and onto the boat to go fishing.

The fishing wasn’t going to be that great on Saturday, so Tim offered to take us around by boat to a few of the area bars. We all agreed, not really sure what to expect.

What a blast! We had an awesome time.

Tim knows just about every person/bartender in Miami. The best part is he took us to places you would never go by car. They weren’t the typical places tourists go when they’re in Miami.

We’d hit South Beach the night before and this by far blew it away.

We met Tim about noon and settled onto the boat for a 30 minute cruise to our first stop.

Jimbo’s: the land of $2 beers, boccĂ©, smoked fish and the occasional model killing time between photo shoots.

Never have you seen a more eclectic group of people in your life. Story has it that Jimbo signed a low payment, long-term lease with the city of Miami to occupy a space next to a smelly water treatment plant years ago. Today the water treatment plant has been cleaned up and Jimbo’s is sitting on pristine real estate. If it weren’t for his lease with the city, the land would be one of the most coveted pieces of land in all of Miami.

After a few beers and a little boccĂ©, we hopped aboard the boat and headed to Scotty’s.

At Scotty’s we met a few more of the locals, got a round of drinks on the Bachelor’s behalf and devoured a few conch fritters.

We made a couple more stops on our adventure, Tim giving us a personalized tour as we hopped from establishment to establishment. It definitely was the highlight of our trip. 

We couldn’t have planned it any better.