Earth Day 2016

At 6:30am, the Black Cat on Stevens Avenue opened its doors for morning coffee service. This is one of the small handful of businesses in the Deering Center. It is the coffee shop of my eye at the moment, for they serve Bam Bam baked goods, and Speckled Ax Wood-roasted coffee: goods from two great local businesses, here in Portland. Beyond their provisions, it is a neighborhood joint that truly feels supported by - and for - the ever growing affordable neighborhood located hardly five minutes off the peninsula. The tiny free library that runs on honor system. The window seats up front, and the sizable leather couch and cache of board games in the back. Electrical outlets exist for the work hours spent fueling on subtle cafe buzz from the local roasts and delightful din of small-talk and business meetings. These details speak volumes to the charm that is often dampened nowadays. In generalities, I am talking about the “harmony” of exposed brick, beams, and Edison bulbs most places deemed “full of character” maintain. (To be fair, I love a little coffee shop, built out by the hands and spirit of the owner who operates it, when the people, beans, and space are right.)

I throw open the door to the coffee shop as first patron of the day, at 6:30am. The barista makes a straight course immediately to the audio system in the back. At this point, the only sounds are airpots filling with backup coffee, and her footsteps at this early hour. Then, suddenly, music. “Purple Rain!” proclaims a middle aged woman. Her tone is bittersweet, careful, and confident. I didn’t recognize the song, but I heard on the morning NPR program about Prince’s death the night prior.

“You look sad,” an elderly woman says to me, as she enters Lil’s cafe in Kittery, ME. She pulls up in her bright red Chevy, tiny, and plated for the handicapped spot behind the juice bar. She says this to me as she slowly ambles into the only (cool) coffee shop in town - I have to assume, given the town is 100 yards long on the main drag. I am a little embarrassed. I tell her that’s just my face while I’m concentrating. I pause. Maybe I should have a smile on while I concentrate. To which she quickly comes back and says, “Well…I guess it depends what you’re thinking about!” We share a laugh as she exits the patio and into the cafe.

“That’s what happens when you email first thing in the morning!” As she returns to her car.

She brings out a bright orange soda in a clear plastic soda cup and dumps it. She moves slowly.

She asks if I heard about Prince.

“I liked him but he wasn’t one of my favorites. But you knew the tunes!” What was your favorite tune?” This woman is talkative: I like this, so early in the morning. I think I am an able match.

Yet I was about to lie. I listened to NPR’s Morning Edition and heard a little bit of Prince cosmology from fans, scholars, experts, and the like. We heard about “When it Snows in April” being an uncharacteristic ballad in his catalogue. Or “Avalanche,” for its dark and beautiful storytelling. Or “Sister” for it being the first glimpse of how dirty the singer really was. 

So in favor of being true to myself (who was I trying to impress?) I offered honestly that I had no favorite tune, that I could maybe recognize the work, but never really delved into his catalogue. No one has ever really suggested I listen, and since I saw the Chapelle’s Show episode, I can vaguely participate in conversation, with passable quotes and laughter.

Small moments of victory. Small moments like this coat what has become my last full week in Portland, ME before putting the rest of my apartment in storage, with a hard line to return at the end of summer for another year entrenched in “the way life should be.” 

Yesterday marked the last wheel-throwing pottery class taken consecutively for 16 weeks. A day marked by other small successes: making marketing collateral for the first shipments of Avocado Boards. Enjoying a big glass of Lambrusco at Drifter’s Wife, sharing stories with the chef, Ben Jackson, as he plated offerings of cheese, malabi, coq au vin, and clams right before my mouth-watering eyes.

Drifter’s Wife has become place for which I have become a stalwart supporter. Peter and Orenda Hale opened their natural wine shop last year, and through the winter, revitalized the front half of the store with a wine-bar-cum-kitchen. They made the flee from Brooklyn not long before setting up shop in the quickly growing East Bayside neighborhood, and there is much to be said about these folks who give me a place, the knowledge, and some conversation that become cornerstone to my week, every week. 

So, being the final week of pottery, with the regular glass of wine after my three-block walk, it has been a momentous start to the weekend. It is Friday morning, and I sit outside a coffee shop in a tiny coastal town in Maine, at the New Hampshire state border. I and several others await the Creative Mornings Breakfast Lecture Series

Today I will ship the first run of Avocado Boards (10 units sold in two days last Friday/Saturday), spend some time at the Open Bench Project photographing campers finishing a week-long arcade-building camp (I will share photos eventually). Tomorrow is the 2nd Annual Makers Fair at the Portland Public Library, where I will be attempting to share the story of the Avocado wares left, before heading to New York next week.

I will return monthly to Maine to continue my vested interest in the community and people met thus far, to attend to more woodworking at Open Bench Project and Haystack School of Crafts, and a handful of weddings.

Departing this park bench with a smile on, because of the kind woman who engaged me before her morning coffee. And this day fell on Earth Day. I rarely see sunrise anymore, except on the days like today, when it really seems to count.