Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Coffeehouse observation No. 310 – Temporary coffeehouse is pure as the grain

Taking a break from musty, dusty, crusty Stockton is always great thing.

This week I am getting away from Stockton by doing a bit of house-sitting, cat-sitting, and mansion-sitting.
You read that last bit correctly – mansion-sitting.

A friend is the estate manager for a property important to the history of Vacaville, the Solano County city where I worked for more than 13 years before moving to Stockton.

She and her boyfriend – along with his guitar, his bows, her clothing, her books (to be donated to a library), her camera equipment, and a refrigerator-sized telescope – crammed into a Nissan Sentra and headed out of the Sacramento Valley, over the Sierra Nevada, and across a good portion of the state of Nevada for a vacation.

My friend, beside having a grueling workload at the mansion, has been involved in the care and morale for a couple of friends who over the past few months have been battling cancer. One of them seems to be kicking it; we buried the other a couple of weeks ago. Being there for those friends – and the subsequent death of one of them – has taken its toll on her and this is a much-needed vacation.

So I will be here to feed the four or five cats she has welcomed into her home, the boyfriend’s slightly skittish cat, two gold fish (including one who apparently has a problem digesting food), and two turtles in the fish pond that really doesn’t have any fish. I’ll be picking up mail, accepting packages from UPS and FedEx drivers, checking the exterior of the yard and mansion to make sure security is OK, being onsite to make sure security is OK, and doing pretty much what I can around the place to make sure security is OK. The mansion is fairly grand – for the city and for the time period during which it was built – and the grounds are spectacular and a joy simply to visit.

And historic downtown Vacaville is only a few blocks away – it is a perfect morning stroll for a cup of coffee.

Yes, coffee. I will be drinking coffee while here in Vacaville. Was there any doubt?

I used to live and work in Vacaville before I started working in Stockton. I’ve always liked Vacaville and wish now I could afford to live here. I’ve been out of work for so long now that soon I may not be able to afford anything but a Maytag box.

Not too long before I left, the city used redevelopment funds to spruce up things in the downtown – fantastic new buildings, new plazas, new walkway along the creek downtown, and more.

And in one of those new buildings on one of those new plazas is the expanded Pure Grain Café. The coffee is just OK, but the pastries and muffins are fantastic. They have WiFi and a lunch menu, too, complete with sandwiches, paninis, soups and salads. If I didn’t have responsibilities as a temporary assistant estate manager (actually, I don’t think I have a job title at all), I could spend quite a bit of time and money in Pure Grain Café.
I’ll be checking in from here throughout the week. This is my temporary home-away-from Empresso, the coffeehouse I most frequent in Stockton. The other is Exotic Java.

Empresso is fun because it is located in the lobby of an old movie theater, so it’s a bit quirky and on the dark side unless you sit near the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Pure Grain Café is different. It has floor-to-ceiling windows on two walls that open up to Vacaville’s Maine Street and an adjacent plaza. The interior walls are yellow and the high ceiling white, giving it a much more open, lighter feel. The display cases are crowded with cakes, pastries and muffins on one side, and luncheon offerings – sandwiches and salads – along the other side of the counter. The whole place has much more the feel of a contemporary deli than a typical coffeehouse.

It is a nice change.

Apparently, this is the place for old friends to meet, read the newspaper and catch up on the latest gossip. More than half the tables inside are filled. The outside tables have been used since I sat down, but there is a bit of a chill in the air so it is not particularly comfortable to side outside.

Beside facing Main Street and the plaza, the building in which Pure Grain Café is located is just a short walk from the local senior center, county library, a wine and gift shop, and the Ulatis Creekwalk.

OK, time to move along. I’ve gotta get back to the mansion.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Vietnam veteran installs flags across hometown of Ashland | Presque Isle Star-Herald via The Bangor Daily News

Friends of Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge putting on annual fishing derby | Aroostook Republican and News via The Bangor Daily News

Maine committee seeks $250,000 for Acadian Congress | Bangor Daily News

Coffeehouse observation No. 309 – Former coworker was an ‘excitable boy’

A former coworker, Brian Hamlin, died not long ago. To give you an idea of the type of unique fella Brain was, they played Warren Zevon’s “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” at his funeral. … Now I’m listening to the Zevon album at the coffeehouse and enjoying fond memories of a great journalist – and an excitable boy – gone far too soon.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Coffeehouse observation No. 308 – Girl, you got a panda on your head

There’s a woman in the coffeehouse wearing a panda bear head-hat. … Why? Seriously, why?

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3 of 10 Mainers approve of LePage’s performance | The Associated Press via Lewiston Sun Journal

3 of 10 Mainers approve ofLePage’s performance | The Associated Press via Lewiston Sun Journal

Too early to say Mitchell failed in Mideast mission: Groundwork for peace may have been laid in past two years | Portland Press Herald

“A true patriot who has answered the call to serve time and again, George Mitchell has had an impressive career. He has served admirably through his tireless work to broker peace in the Middle East. Although he is stepping down from this role, the mission will continue, and George Mitchell's diligence, patience and intelligence will have helped pave the way toward a lasting peace. The citizens of Maine, and the world, are proud of his great work.” – Sen. Susan Collins

Those who interpret George Mitchell's stepping down as special envoy to the Middle East as a sign of his failure there overlook his diplomatic track record.

In her statement after the announcement that George Mitchell was stepping down as President Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, Sen. Susan Collins encapsuled Mitchell's amazing legacy in 77 carefully chosen, understated words.

He is a true patriot, Collins said, and she referenced his diligence, patience and intelligence.

No news there, but surely confirmation of what Mitchell's fellow Mainers have always known and the rest of the world has learned over the years: George J. Mitchell Jr. is a great American, a devoted and resourceful diplomat, a man who has honored, sustained and enhanced our state's long tradition of public service.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Coffeehouse observation No. 307 – What a weird twist of karma

A guy just walked into the coffeehouse with his combover sticking out from under his baseball cap like a tail. I mocked the combover/tail on Facebook and, in a weird twist of karma, he sat at the table directly behind me. And then started humming along with “Hey, Jude” as it played on the coffeehouse music system. I’m begged someone to simply shoot me to get me out of my misery, but I got no takers.

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Coffeehouse observation No. 306 – The store is closed, folks; Really it is

The at&t store across the street from the coffeehouse has been closed for the past week or so. There are several signs reading “This AT&T location has closed.” But at least every hour someone – a current or prospective at&t customer, it can be assumed – walks up to the door, pulls on the handle, rattles the door just to make sure that it is in fact locked, and puts their hands up to their faces to shield their eyes from the glare as they peer into the closed store. Some have even grabbed the handle again and tried the door one more time before walking away with a slightly befuddled look on their faces. The store is closed, folks. Trust me.

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Coffeehouse observation No. 305 – Pirates of the Caribbean at the coffeehouse

The guy sitting in front of me at the coffeehouse looks a lot like Johnny Depp. And I think on purpose.

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Poll on Maine governor: National spotlight a glaring concern | The Maine Sunday Telegram

Most Maine voters are unhappy
with the job Paul LePage
has done so far as governor
AUGUSTA – Most Maine voters think the national media attention that Gov. Paul LePage has drawn in his first four months in office has been bad for the state – including many people who support the work he has done.
And most believe he made the wrong decision in taking down a mural depicting Maine workers in the headquarters of the Department of Labor.
That’s according to a poll commissioned by MaineToday Media to assess how Mainers feel about the job the Republican governor has done since his inauguration on Jan. 5. LePage was elected in November with about 38 percent of the vote.
The poll was conducted from April 25 to May 2 by Pan Atlantic SMS Group, a Portland-based firm owned by Patrick and Victoria Murphy. Victoria Murphy is a former Maine Democratic Party chair. The firm does independent marketing and research.
About 56 percent of the respondents said they have an unfavorable opinion of LePage; about 39 percent said they have a favorable opinion of him. About 5 percent said they do not know.
Click for the rest of the story by Rebekah Metzler in The Maine Sunday Telegram.
Maine Sunday Telegram’s view: LePage won’t get vote of confidence from this poll

When Ed Koch was mayor of New York, he used to walk around the city asking constituents: “How’m I doin’?” We haven’t heard Gov. LePage ask that question in Maine, but we’ve decided to answer it anyway.
According to a poll commissioned by MaineToday Media, LePage is getting mixed reviews from Mainers but a majority of those polled, 56 percent, said they had an unfavorable opinion of the governor. Asked to rate LePage’s job performance, about 55 percent answered “poor” or “very poor.”

Given those basic numbers – detailed poll results are published in today’s paper – the most likely answer to the question, “How’s the governor doin’?” seems to be: “Not so good.”

When more than half the people who look to the governor for leadership don’t like what they see, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that he’s doing something wrong.