Hyde Perk. Boise, ID.

Boise, Bison, and Recuperation.

Monday May 13th had us looking for a home base in a new city. We drove into Boise late last night and crashed at a pricelined hotel after a long drive in from Jackson WY.

We were on the fence about whether to press on to Seattle or to linger in Boise for another day but a quick drive through downtown told us that this city had a lot to offer, and in need of a more relaxing day, we decided to have a rest day here and check out the town.

Instinct lead us away from the downtown area, rife with what I’m sure are perfectly wonderful, if not utilitarian options for a coffee shop hang, and out into a local neighborhood. Instinct proved, in this case, fruitful. We found ourselves in a gorgeous neighborhood passing cute homes and schools reminiscent of Nashville, Los Angeles and a little Minneapolis thrown into the mix. There is a cute town center with some open air restaurants, a few shops and what must be the crown jewel of this neighborhood, Hyde Perk.

Immediately on walking in the atmosphere is disarmingly beautiful, and incredibly tasteful. The warehousey exposed ducts and wiring and a cement floor are complicated by wooden table tops and an incredible wood paneled wall behind the counter The art and decor (little flowers on the tables), and old fashioned circular stools at the window bar make this place feel nostalgic and lived in, as if it’s been here for decades. 3 years old to be exact. The owner, who we realized is ringing us up behind the counter is warm and inviting. She leads with “I don’t think I’ve seen you guys before… are you local?”, the barista nearby looks on warmly. We share a little about where we came from and where we’re heading and find ourselves in a pleasant conversation, with the owner of the place. I can’t emphasize enough how, in a world of increasing syndication and corporate entities striving to appear local and homegrown, it is an absolute delight to find contact with the creator so readily and immediately. This small dose of hospitality set us up for a wonderful lazy afternoon of mild organization and recovery.

The coffee- BOMB. My usual half-caff cappuccino hits me with that toasted woodsy espresso profile that I grew to love when I first started drinking it. Kara’s iced decaf americano is “So good.” She settles into checking some email on her iPad and I snap a few photos with my camera and sit to write. A groovy alt-rock upbeat playlist keeps the mood light and as bright as the sun streaming in through the giant flower-accented windows up front.

For this place, it’s the little details that add to the overall design success. Large link chain strung to the counter near the front windows, the metal siding under the front counter, a funny clock on the wall and coffee bags attached to ceiling all contribute to the creativity stimulating vibe. It’s a fantastic place to zone out and get in a work rhythm, to meet a friend for a catch-up, or sketch (like the girl to our left).

Where I’m at: Currently homeless and jobless. It’s effing fantastic. The buzz of encircled folding in on itself energy that DC funneled me into, a self-actualizing achievement vortex, is starting to release its hold. I’m starting to feel glimpses of that lost feeling that I was after in this five week…not vacation….retreat? That doesn’t feel right either. Sabbatical. I don’t need to make this about “rest is important”. We know that. I’ve found it’s been difficult even though I’ve been unemployed and vagabonding for 3 weeks now, to unwind. I’ve driven 4,000 miles since leaving DC and still don’t feel entirely released from the world I know. This time has been set up in my mind as a giant reset button for..well life. Kara and I are finally together again, and transitioning BACK to being around each other, and we’ve managed to not pay any rent for the time being (starting to make sense how I’m able to be out here as a groupie for five weeks?)

I am lucky. I’m lucky to have traversed this landscape before. It could be that. it’s not my first time out west. But as we drove out of the rockies through to the flats of Idaho yesterday, I did get a wave of that familiar feeling- I’m almost to the west coast.

Impressions- Buffalo are amazing creatures – Bison to be more exact, as we learned in the Union Pacific Train Museum (recommend) in Omaha, that Buffalo and Bison are two separate species and that BISON are the animal that we have here in the US. Side tangent: Also learned that at one time it’s estimated that 6.5 MILLION bison roamed the North American continent (one of the largest herds recorded was ~ 6-800,000) and were hunted nearly to extinction. There was a time when the species was down to nearly 325 left. What percentage is that?! One percent of 6,500,000 is 65,000 alone… so 325/6,500,000 = x/100

x = 32,500/6,500,000 x = .005 % !!!!!!!!!!!

Encountering an American Bison today is to literally encounter a MIRACLE. It’s a miracle that they are still alive. Rather than focusing on the reckless disregard we humans had for their existence, I’ll focus on the incredible efforts of our kind to protect and renew their population. Thank you whoever you nameless people are that saw a problem and impacted our world forever in bringing their numbers back up. Driving across open plains of the country is forever a different experience now, knowing these lands were once ruled by so many bison. No wonder I’ve been struck with an empty sadness from them in the past. They are empty, or rather, emptied.

Kara looked up what Bison mean or represent, a fun task we do from time to time. She found “The American buffalo or bison is a symbol of abundance and manifestation, and the lesson learned by the Lakota that day is that one does not have to struggle to survive if the right action is joined by the right prayer” (https://collegefund.org/native-american-heritage-month/the-meaning-of-the-sacred-white-buffalo/)

What an interesting thing to come across, considering the imprint they had on us, during a time when we are driving across the country with no home, wondering where our careers are going to take shape; what we’re going to do for money. How are we going to marry our separate endeavors and not be pulled into long distance beyond the point of endurence?

Who knows. But I’m encouraged. I’m glad for this time. I’m grateful for the opportunity to abscond into the American west, AND the Pacific Northwest. I’ve got a Canon DSLR at my side for the first time (something I’ve wanted for oh..nearly a decade). I’ve got a wife who – just – is the reason for waking up in the morning. I can’t believe she agreed to CAMP in Yellowstone at 6,500 ft and a low of 19° (we barely slept, it was so cold! But the stars were WORTH it.) I can’t believe she can still stand to be around me after a week in the car together.

Love this coffee shop. I couldn’t recommend it enough. The second cappuccino is just as good as the first.

SOZO Coffeehouse. Omaha, NE

I’m thrilled to offer up a stunner of a coffeehouse as the first post in this long overdue blog.

SOZO Coffeehouse in downtown Omaha is a fantastic find. Unique. Billed on the side of its giant building as Omaha’s LARGEST coffeehouse, a crowded other shop sent me looking for more. This is one of those times I’m glad I followed my dissatisfaction and found something awesome. Located in the basement of a behemoth of a building on Jones Street between 13th and 14th, I was nervous walking down the iron steps off the street level but comforted by the sight of a studious guy in the window there near the stairs. My first-timer nerves were eased immediately when I walked through the door and the barista casually called across the giant room “Welcome to SOZO!”, a helpful gesture to welcome me in. Two manicured pools tables lay before me and some high tops situated around the room reflected more of a bar than a coffee shop, but adjacent to the pool room is a larger classic hang area lit (tastefully) by Christmas lights and some sensible down lights on the enormous brick wall that spans the depth of the building. The ceilings were high enough to not make this underground establishment feel cramped and some couch areas break up the ‘study hall’ like vibe. The space, despite its concrete floors and industrial feel, manages to maintain a warmth and comfort.

Always a fan of natural light, I was nervous that I’d miss it, but as I sank into writing this post and working on some other distractions, I didn’t mind forgetting about the dreary Omaha day outside.

Kara was in the show and I had a couple of hours to kill, so aside from checking a many year goal off of my list in the creation of this blog, I really had nothing to do. The space, while large, was pretty full of mostly younger twenty-somethings on apple devices, and a (large) conference room behind the counter area/utility kitchen had some large group in it: a comforting notion. After grabbing a table, I went to the counter for the order. I brought my own mug, as I’ve been doing more frequently and was surprised to see a pretty visible sign right there at the register encouraging such with a 15% (generous) discount, which I happily accepted. The big test – “Do you have decaf espresso?” “We do!” “Can you do a half-caff cappuccino” the usual moment of stuttered thought “oh- yeah..yeah! we can do that.” Very appreciated. The girl behind the counter knew what she was doing…The guy on barista was reserved but available. I asked a little bit about whether they ever have theatre companies rent out the space or feature bands… He filled me in on the sitch, answering affirmatively to the bands, as I peered around at this immersive theatre, found-space, GOLDMINE.

The coffee was great. Exactly what I was after: a slight lift but nothing overpowering, and despite doing half decaf, its lightly browned taste was pleasant to savor over the hour and a half I stayed.

After getting my drink, on the counter-tender’s suggestion I explored more of this labyrinthian (former warehouse?) basement and discovered a rare find for a coffeehouse: the existence of PRIVATE STUDY ROOMS, each uniquely decorated as an apartment living room, that you can rent for $2 AN HOUR. I probably don’t need to emphasize what a STEAL of a resource that is. Part of me wants to recommend to them that they could probably charge more…upwards of $5 , even $10 and I’d still pay for it if I was local, but I absolutely LOVE that they keep it that cheap for the up and coming artist crowd and students on a budget in need of a second space.

I love this. I love that this coffee house’s emphasis on providing second spaces increases its sense of community. I can only imagine this makes SOZO a resource to this community. “Yeah..well…why don’t we have them meet us at SOZO..we could use their conference room!”

The light clack of pool balls in the background and a playlist of unobtrusively mild alternative rock left me in a mellow and calm yet focused work vibe. This place manages to maintain a wonderful balance of activity and calm.

The day was a huge success… Never is my desire to find a hidden gem so incredibly rewarded!

Loyalty program: yes!

The plus: pool tables! private study rooms! this makes this GIANT space capable of hosting a variety of different vibes all at the same time…full blown work sessions, next to some all out hang-out time. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think I was in a NYC tech start-up. They may have found the holy grail of mulit-use spaces akin to that of Pinewood Social in Nashville TN..the all day hang out concept- where you don’t need to leave the building, just move to another room. Also: Extra late hours during finals weeks: serving waffles for those all nighters?! C’mon..

The cons: No natural light in the main room, but like I said, it didn’t really bother me after awhile.

Proud to offer SOZO up as the first in entry in this blog. Next time you’re in Omaha- I’d say it’s worth checking out.

Coffee Shop Blog

Forever, I’ve wanted to write a coffee shop blog. I travel a ton. I love coffee shops. They’re my absolute favorite thing- hanging in, working in, discovering new spots in cities to visit. I’m thrilled by coffee houses that are unique, have a specialty, put a fun twist on the same old thing, or just have created a really great atmosphere for work and dreaming. I’m frustrated by shops that seem to be on the brink of something cool, but are held back by something seemingly simple to fix. I love that coffee houses bring strangers together, cultivate conversation, and provide ‘second spaces’ for hives of creativity.

Most of all I love that no two local coffee shops are created equal. Until they franchise…

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the availability of Starbucks (judging commence), and other chains. In the coffee game, there’s something to be said for consistency and congruence of rhetoric. (“no..I want an ACTUAL macchiato…no added sugar please..”)

This blog is for…ANYONE. Coffee-lovers, dog-walkers, travelers, entrepreneurs looking to get a sense of what people (me) are after.

As a writer, I promise to be as raw and true to self as possible. I will strive for little editing..

I’ll try to focus on the following:

Coffee: style, general quality, range of available options.
Vibe: environment, music, clientele, community
Service: style, personality, temperature (sweet/salty)
Unique offerings: any special feature of the house – study rooms, combo bike store, live music.
Location: ‘Nuff said.

I’ll also try to give an update on where I’m at in every post so that, ever in search of objectivity, you can take what I say in context…good luck to us all.

***Disclaimer(s).
1. Everything I say here is entirely my own opinion. I’m a classic over-thinker. I have trouble putting my voice forward at times. So you will find a lot of self deprecation and Libra-concessions of other sides. You will also find me (hopefully) growing in the ability to stand on my own pov, respectfully, and constructively.

2. I only drink espresso. Avoiding TMI- drip coffee has a lot of acid and that can mess up a stomach real bad. I lost the ability to drink drip coffee without massive amounts of Prilosec about five years ago. It’s a small tragedy. Though I love espresso and americanos are great, there’s nothing quite like nursing a big mug of warm drip coffee over hours; the best just as tasty when they’re room temp as when they were hot.

3. I’ve been moving more to decaf. As it turns out caffeine can contribute to anxiety. Ugh… It’s just not as good but I order a lot of half-caf and will try to sample the full caffeine espresso at places to give an accurate impression.

Happy reading. Happy Coffeeing.. Here’s to supporting local!

Michael