Tag Archives: cafes

A Brooklynite in Seattle

JFK Doodle
Doodle at the JKF airport, waiting to board my plane.

My Journey

Wasting no time after my photography class ended, I booked a flight to Seattle. Why Seattle? Rain. Brooklyn is brutal in the Summer months. My neighbor calls our top floor, The Percolator.

It’s an old Brownstone, heat rises, and I live in what was probably the attic in the 1800s. Needless to say, my summer trips have been centered around finding some place cool, temperature wise. Seattle’s rain seemed like the right idea for a nice, cool August.

Seattle’s Indian Summer

Seattle Ferris Wheel

Me: It was so cloudy this morning. I thought it would eventually rain. But, what the heck, it didn’t. Are you sure I’m in Seattle?

Delivery Guy: HA! Rain in Seattle…that’s what we tell everyone else so they won’t move here. We’re having an Indian Summer. It barely rains these days. 

Me at Pike's Place

Hot Coffee on Hot Days

I explored but I’m not going to lie. It was disappointingly hot during the day. Since I was escaping the heat from New York, I had to reconsider what I was doing in Seattle during their Indian Summer. Not the weather I was expecting! It was no cooler than Brooklyn but it had a dryer heat so, on a good note,  the shade actually worked like air conditioning.  

I told myself there would be lots to see and much coffee to be had. Yes, I belong here, I decided.  Headed for lunch at a pub called The Pike’s Brewing Company, in part, I went there because their décor outrageous and begs to be seen. I especially loved all the bikes hanging from the ceiling. Biking seemed like it would be impossible since half the roads were at 90 degree angles but, clearly, there was a bike culture lurking around here. Anyway, it was good grub after a long plane ride and it was around the corner from the alley with the gum wall. Fun touristy stuff!

The Pike Brewing Company

The good waitstaff  there recommended Seattle Coffee Works for a decent cup of coffee if you’re near Pike’s Place. They were spot on if you’re looking for strong, flavorful coffee. However, I got sucked into the biggest coffee tourist trap in the Public Market. That’s right, the first coffee location before it became an international corporate franchise. (I know all you independently owned coffee house owners are facepalming yourselves right now). The first Starbucks! Moment of shame. Don’t worry, I figure out a few things during my week long stay.

First Starbucks in Pike's Place Market; Seattle, WA
First Starbucks in Pike’s Place Market; Seattle, WA

I felt like if you’re a tourist in Seattle, it’s your job to visit Pike’s Place Market. I’ve visited here several years ago and absolutely nothing has changed. Nothing! In Brooklyn, there are buildings and stadiums being built faster than you can say, fuhgettaboutit. In Seattle, it seemed like keeping the history alive is EVERTHING. Even the original Starbucks had the same older version of it’s logo. The only thing that seemed to be changing somewhat biomorphically was the ever expanding Gum Wall, seen below. I couldn’t see this massive sponge wall of saliva idea going well with the uber health conscious former NYC Mayor Bloomberg. So yes, this had to be seen.

IMG_0258   IMG_0260

Delving into Seattle’s History


Sure, why not. Hopped on the very expensive Ride the Duck tour and got the skinny on the city. The history of Seattle’s golden age of grunge, Kurt Cobain, the Beatles, Iver’s Fish Stand, Sleepless in Seattle, Skid Row, etc. History was frantically extolled by a hyper (caffeine-induced) bus/boat driver ad nauseam as we honked our approval with loud duck whistles.

Oh no, did I really do that? A formal apology to the good people of Seattle then. I fell for yet another tourist trap. Disney could learn a thing or two from Seattle, I think. I shutter to think about the money I spent on this. Tomorrow, a new quest and less expensive.

Beyond Starbucks: Trying All the Coffee 

In an old brick railway arcade lies the Grand Central Cafe
In an old brick railway arcade lies the Grand Central Café

Okay, I didn’t really try all the coffee in Seattle or I wouldn’t be alive to write this blog. The strength of one cup of coffee in Seattle feels like 3 coffees from the diners in New York. Café au Lait (half milk) became my strategy and I was happily rewarded with a pretty steamed milk doodle of a leaf on the top of it at the Grand Central Bakery and Café. This place became my favorite place to go early in the morning.

I dug the brick, the cobblestone, the underground bookstore, and the shade of trees everywhere. The baristas were kind but not hyperactive nice which felt calming and I got a lot of drawing done. If you’re curious, feel free to check out my Seattle napkin doodles, HERE.  

Had it been my first time in Seattle, I might have done the Underground Tour again which is down the block from here. It’s a funny, historical tour of the original city of Seattle that is still partially standing underneath the current city. However, I think I felt done with historical tours.

More Coffee!!! MORE COFFEE!!! And then…

Cherry Street Coffee House Ghost Alley Expresso

…you crash.

Between Jet Lag, walking up huge hills at every corner, greasy fried fish, and too much coffee, you feel done. JUST DONE! I hadn’t drank that much coffee since I worked in a bookstore after high school. My stomach was tied in knots and I was incredibly jittery. I’m an herbal tea person so what did I expect? Even the Central Library had a cafe. Naps were needed and I suddenly felt the need to get out of touristy part of Downtown Seattle.

Gasworks Park

I rented a bike through a great company called, The Bicycle Repair Shop (across the street from the famous Iver’s Fish Stand) and followed a 16 mile trek through Olympus Park, across the Locks, zoomed passed the Botanical Gardens, passed through hipster Ballard  and Fremont nabes, gave up on finding the Fremont Troll under the bridge and finally stopped at Gasworks Park and took it all in. Perfect place to regroup before venturing across the University Bridge and up the toughest street hill ever.

Sadako Sasaki

Along the way (Peace St.), I encountered a statue of Sadako Sasaki, who inspired the book called, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. I used to run an Origami club after school hours and this story was the reason behind it. Legend had it, if you folded a thousand paper cranes, you get a wish. Sadako was 11 when she passed away from the A-bomb disease (leukemia). While she was in the hospital, she tried to fold the paper cranes in order to live. When she passed, her classmates finished her cranes and made it a wish for peace. The cranes are now called Peace Cranes.

It completed the trip but I think I started to miss home.

Back to Brooklyn

Since arriving home around midnight last Friday, I nursed a massive headache for two days from coffee withdrawal. I joined the world in my shock over Robin William’s passing and cried my eyes out over movies like Dead Poet Society. And then Lauren Bacall, the last great actress of the Golden Age passing away. It’s rained all week in New York (the irony is not lost on me).

Autumn feels closer and closer.

And yet, I feel good to be home, finally. I’ve reclaimed my people of Brooklyn, even welcomed the unexpected screams of the Japanese punk rock band who screamed ‘Shut the f* up’ to the audience at the Socrates Sculpture Park last night as I ate sushi and fed catnip to one of the park’s stray cats. The audience looked on and seemed to appreciate this impolite but passionate expressive art. It was a huge change from the polite, happy tourist scene from the week prior but, somehow, it made me feel validated as if I was suddenly part of Ginsberg’s howl. Angst needs an outlet and the boroughs of New York City seem to find modes of expression in its art. I bike rode home to Brooklyn from Queens on flat streets and it was all good again.

Back to my own art. And back to herbal teas.

Peace and Decaf,


Challenges to Our Identity

“Fighting for identity is something very much in my life.” -Ang Lee

Was thinking quite a bit about how identity is formed. Are we born with it? Is our nature predestined? Are we a product of our environment? How much do we change over the expanse of our lives? What part of us remains the core of who we are throughout our lifespans? Does the core of our being culminate into one style? As a creative human being, I would like to believe that we allow for change and experimentation. I took a chance with the zentangle style once again. Not my usual process of creating but I found it meditative for several hours. I don’t think it would have endured a napkin. Drew this in East New York, Brooklyn during my lunch break. 


This question concerning identity stems from some observations I had while walking the half mile from the subway to my current school. I am the equivalent to a substitute teacher. Some teens were walking ahead of me and greeted each other with a very intricate handshake. Sadly, this type of handshake is not a new phenomenon for me since you see a lot of things after teaching for ten years. Confirming my suspicions, a teen admitted to being part of a gang of over 200 members. I won’t go into what has been said about the violent initiation of a potential gang member but the idea of seeking out a gang made me question the whole notion of identity for several days. For what purposes might a person relinquish their personal identity for the larger identity of a group (or gang)? Survival? Belonging? Or perhaps it was an idea cultivated by family and friends, like a religious ideology or philosophy for living?

I continue to walk to my school and notice another teenage girl wearing a hijab and a long black skirt. She walks very quickly and takes a deep breath when construction workers reroute our walk to the other side of the street. That side of the street has many students who are not rushing to school, hanging out in groups, some play fighting. I turned to her, smiled and said, “We’ll get through it.” She followed me through with my belief that my identity as a teacher might act a shield. It did. I learned that some students have challenged her walk to and from school. I imagine she might think that to snitch on them (annoying word) would mean that she would have to eventually confront those who challenge her personal identity, perhaps strengthened by her religious identity. We all wear our identity armor.

I relayed the situation to an adult whom I know lives in the area. She felt the teenage girl would need to toughen up, speak up, maybe even fight back rather than attempt to stay under the radar “in this neighborhood.” Ironically, I was working as the teacher in charge of the suspension room that day. The room has the usual posters about the nature of bullying. All of them send a message to the students to not be a bully, not to fight, not to speak up and, yet, perhaps they were taught, that’s how you survive in this neighborhood, by some well meaning adult. It seemed like a Catch 22 for most teens. Fight to survive and then be incarcerated when you do! It does not seem just to me.

As I move on to my next school, I wonder about the quiet girl. I hope the construction is done and that she can continue to walk to school under the radar. As violent as I think as it may be for a person to join a gang, I think keeping your personal identity under the norms of your dysfunctional environment may be the toughest fight one may have to face. That fight would be worth it.

Going back to my napkin drawings…

Here’s a frazzled owl who endured quite a tough winter. Went for a walk up 7th Avenue in Park Slope to Lincoln Pl. and found the best French-Hungarian café called Café Dada for a late brunch this morning. I liked the name of the place. Dadaism was an avant-garde art movement that formed due to the negative reaction to WWI. Perhaps my frazzled bird is a homage to the Dadaists and dealing with my own reactions to the unspoken wars going on between some teens in Brooklyn. Peace!