Free Money = Best Money

The Silver Fox started my day off with an email about National Coffee Day and I was off to the races. Like I needed an excuse. But, having slept a full eight hours off just one Mellie last night, my options were dwindling as far as execution on drinking coffee at 4 pm was concerned: f&b, my normal neighborhood outlet for coffee was closing at 4 and I’m low grade mad at most of the other coffeehouses for a variety of manufactured offenses…so Nossa Familia was the only option.

An option I’m not even upset with. Somehow, they moved two blocks further from me – literally from Johnson to Lovejoy in the Alphabet District – without raising my hackles. Credit their awesome coffee and baristas that are largely either tolerably hipster, cute Portland guys or brash and sassy young women. I’m ok with all of those things.

I’d showered at 5 when I got home and then watched the disappointing Wrinkle In Time movie while my hair dried, which was a fine way to end my work day. Still, my quasi urgent need for coffee to end my melatonin induced zombie walking fog meant a courtesy brushing of the teeth and a ball hat to hide my bedhead was the maximum effort I was willing to expend in getting presentable.

Even with that minimal prep time, I arrived at the cafe three seconds after the family of three trundled in the door to Nossa. I could have not picked up that penny I saw on the street to give myself the edge, but my grandmother taught me better than that! I could have also sped up in order to beat them in the door, but I hate for my competitive streak to be obvious.

I ended up slowing down for them to complete their entry maneuvers and silently – I think – groaned.

I stood back and waited for the inevitable “expresso” as two things became immediately clear:

First, this family of three had never ordered coffee in Portland before. Triangulating the cafes location compared to any nearby hotels – the closest is probably either the Residence Inn at 9th and Overton or the Canopy At 9th and Glisan…6 or 8 blocks, respectively – I decided that these people had just gotten off the streetcar that stops outside the cafe on Lovejoy.

A Canopy guest would just inherently know how to order coffee and something told me that the ~$100/night difference in room cost between the ResInn and a hotel five blocks away, across the river and by the Convention Center was a reasonable trade off for a family from – I’m guessing – a flyover state.

Forgive me, the caffeine hasn’t fully kicked in yet – I’m only about two shots into my quad- shot mocha – and I’m still grumbly from the Kavanaugh shenanigans on Cap Hill this past week…for which flyover state folk get a lot of credit. Nonetheless, I have no problem imagining why someone casually passing by this cafe would want to come in. It’s adorable and serves great bean juice.

But these people were not casually strolling by.

The cute appropriately hipster barista was giving me some serious empathy from behind his La Marzocco as the sassy young woman taking orders tried to not be sassy to these folk who would not get it.

Second – you thought I’d forget I was enumerating, didn’t ya? – the Dad was driving this trip to the cafe because he had to take a whiz.

He ordered a 16 ounce drip and then quickly started looking around for the bathroom while his wife and son ordered. It’s upstairs and through the shared vestibule, but I wasn’t going to volunteer that information.

This was about the time the cute, appropriately hipster barista decided to recreationally fuck with these people. Dad had ordered a drip and pretty much ran off, returning and trying not to look desperate about the time mom finished ordering a decaf iced mocha for their son and starting in on her own struggle of a coffee drink, so he missed out on the being fucked with.

There’s a sign at chest level telling you the current bean offerings for drip and espresso.

Poor mom was fixated on the drink menu above and missed this detail.

She ordered a light roast latte and our bored bean slinger asked her which bean she wanted since they don’t stop at light, medium or dark roast here in Portland. Shade grown or farm altitude can affect how beans taste, so can overall region or continent on which the farm is located, then the roasting enhances – or obliterates, in the case of Charbucks – the bean’s natural flavor.

This poor thing gave up and desperately decided to just get a drip, probably mentally chastising her husband for not going before they left the motor inn. Still, there’s two drip options, so the cashier got in on the fun and asked which she wanted. And, this does make a difference, especially with drip. If I’m getting drip, I want nutty and chocolatey notes over fruity in my cup.

I imagined I could see her skull pulsating as it built up to a regular old explosion – blindly picked a bean, from the espresso assortment.

I questioned whether that penny was really worth this experience.

“That’s the decaf, do you want decaf?”, the barista clarified.

Oh, no…I’ll take the Guatemala Timoteo.

Good job, mom! You picked the “light roast” that you originally wanted on your second guess. Unfortunately…it wasn’t a drip option.

I was actually beginning to feel bad for this woman as the barista offered to make her an Americano – which she would have loved. The hubby helpfully pointed out the two drip offerings as she picked the third espresso option. When the barista – I think feeling a little guilty now – offered to make that an Americano, too, she just collapsed and said, “Just give me what he had”, utterly defeated.

While this was spiraling, the barista had gotten my 16 ounce iced quad-shot hazelnut latte order and was starting it as he presented the son’s iced decaf mocha. I decided to throw her a bone and said, “Oooh, the chocolate whipped cream here is so good!”, providing her and her son with a nice shared tasting moment to take the sting out of what had just happened.

“Do you want some on yours?”, the barista attentively asked me.

I declined, excitedly declaring that that would be like a Nutella latte while mentally warming the boy about the dangers of paying me too much attention.

I’m old, I get confused.

So, what does all this have to do with free money?

Well, while finding the penny on the way over was a net zero experience – since in my idle time watching this coffee house drama unfold I was lamenting the good old days in Shittatle when I would find random $20s blowing across the street – I was getting a free drink today. On my last visit, our appropriately hipster, cute barista had “punched me up” on my punch card for no reason, so my next – this – drink was free.

Oh, no! I accidentally made you a mocha!

Earned me this

I can re-pull the shots!

“No worries”, I told my cute little barista, “as long as it’s a quad-shot, everything else is just a delivery system!” I don’t know why I was so chipper.

Oh, yeah…a cute boy was paying me attention. That is apparently better than any number of espresso shots.

Finally tally – and the day has just begun for me: one cent, a free coffee and two tokens for free drinks in the future. It’s not a $20, but at $18.01, including tip, that’s as close as I’ve gotten in Portland. A penny is still better than nothing, right?

Somewhere on the web is a post from my original blog called Rolling Twenties detailing my lucrative wanderings in Seattle.

Good luck finding it.

Free Money = Best Money

My People

This morning while grabbing my coffee, I was reminded of a time in my life where I had “people”.  That is how I used to categorize folks who were my friends because of a bond that formed through a business relationship.

My Hair Guy.

My Barista.  Back in the dark ages of coffee when I drank SBUX.

My Nordie’s Guy.

My Doula.

My Trainer Guy.

My Bartender.

My Car Guy.  For buying.

My Car Guy.  The grease monkey one.

Obviously, it was hard for me to find common ground for a friendship with my grease monkey guy.  But, me being so awesomely me…I managed.  My Car Guy was a mechanic who worked across the street from the first gay bar I ever went into, The Silver Fox in beautiful downtown Long Beach California. silver-fox

OK, not downtown.

Man, while you’re picking your jaws up off the floor over the irony that my best friend’s blog name is also the name of the first gay bar that I went into, I’ll amuse myself with now much the exterior of this joint has changed.  It’s deco palace exterior is quite different from the vanilla So-Cal stucco basic-ness from when I was a boy.  And those windows?  They used to run across the front on both sides versus the little peek-a-boo business that’s going on now.  It’s a good thing, because even at…21 – yeah, that’s it – your dear Xtopher had a dark side, and walking in past those windows I remember thinking that they were ideal for a drive by hate crime.  It was Long Beach in the early 90s.

Yeah, I never sat by the windows.

So, anyway, I bonded with My Car Guy over comments of his like, “Why don’t you have a drink across the street instead of hanging out here for an hour?”

That hour was always better spent in the care of the lascivious Mr. John Barnes and his free pours.

Ok.  Had enough time to recover?

So, I caught myself leaving Nossa Familia this morning after a prolonged chat with one of their awesome baristas, thinking, “Man, my coffee people are the best” and remembered my old habit of referring to service industry folk as my own belongings.  Why?  She told me this great story.

I hadn’t seen her in particular there for quite some time.  Since going back to work full-time, I’ve only managed to get into the shop twice a week, at best.  I go to work at 5:00 and they don’t open until…later.  I’m actually not sure what time they actually open.  I do know that they’re just a bunch of layabouts since they aren’t at work when I need them.

Obviously.

nossa-exteriorNossa Familia is more of a roastery than a coffee shop.  Their Pearl – and I think only?  ok, only one that I care about – location is where they roast and package their beans for retail distribution.  They also have this cute little walk up coffee counter.  It’s located behind the flimsiest of doors, that happens to be a wall panel with a single door cut into it.  That panel is covering a roll up garage door and hangs on a track and can be slid to the side during the summer months.  The whole space is about 144 square feet.  Annoyingly, they also have coffee classes on Saturdays, which is the only day that I know I can always make it there.  Sometimes I am – and by “sometimes” I mean every damned Saturday, regardless of what time I go – lucky enough to be walking in to order my coffee to a room of home brewers waiting to be taken back into the roasting room for their class.

“People take up a lot of space” ~ Hitler

nossa-doorwayLike I said, this morning I got to see my favorite of their crew.  A cute little blonde woman whose sass reminds me of one of my old assistant managers.  She was also a shorty.  And, as it turns out, they both have girlfriends.  I learned that about My Barista just this morning during her story.

And all I did was ask how she survived our recent Snowpocalypse.

Ready?  Here goes…

The Snowpocalypse coincided with her day off, starting the day before her scheduled day off and extending it to a full “weekend” due to its overnight shenanigans pretty much shutting down the town on Friday.  She casually mentions that her and her girlfriend had gone to see Magical Beasts Thursday before the snow and freezing rain began – at which point she ignored the question her new co-worker (I had never seen her before) asked about how the movie was – when they came out and saw that the snow had finally decided to make a showing, they went and got a bunch of comfort food fixings and went home to wait it out.

Pretty basic couple stuff.

I was pretty jealous.

Especially after the evening of IMing and drinking I had had the night before with an old friend of mine.  It resulted in my waking up wondering if I should hold him to the commitment we had to get together when we weren’t drinking.

It also resulted in a tasty new screen saver for my phone.  <wink>

But this is hardly the time for a sidebar.

She talks about how frustrating it is to drive in the snow and ice anyway and how her car’s door lock had gotten frozen over the last time we had ice and she broke it trying to stab through that ice with her key.  I interjected that she was super-polite to make it easier for people to break into – very Portland – and reminded her that if people wanted to break in, they were going to get in.  A broken lock just minimizes the damage.

She goes on to tell me “Wait, wait…it gets better!” and described being awoken by a car alarm in the middle of the night during the ice, her girlfriend sleepily asking, “Is that our car?”  Upon deciding that it was their car’s alarm, they open the windows to see a guy cautiously running off.  The weird part, she says, is that the dude only stole the most random stuff.  She’s cataloging the personal items of hers that were in the car and not stolen:

Her golf clubs.

Her trumpet.

How did I not know this woman was a lesbian, I’m thinking to myself.

Her parking change.

The guy just stole a bunch of papers.  The car was a little neater-looking, to hear her tell it.  Also very Portland, tidying-up thieves.

“Weird…” she says.

Punctuating the end of her story by turning her head slightly toward her now butt-hurt-looking new co-worker, but cutting her eyes all the way, and saying, “It was really good, you should go see it” in a perfect deadpan.

Told you she was sassy.

Me, I’m chuckling at the passive-aggressive smack down she gave her interrupting co-worker while mentally picturing her thief running off in a snow and ice storm with a set of golf clubs and a trumpet.

I’m hoping you all know that doula thing was a joke.

 

My People