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Java, Cup of Joe

I can distinctly remember my first cup of coffee.
I was 12 or 13 years old so that puts it around 1973.

Yup, it was the “olden days.”

My mother used to go down the street to Mrs. Gladden’s house for coffee and gossip.
It was summertime and I was bored one day so I went with her to hang out. Mrs. Gladden’s son wasn’t around so I sat in the living room with my mother and Mrs. Gladden and Mrs. Gladden asked if I would like a cup of coffee.

I looked at my mother and she nodded her approval and I said “yes!” It seemed to me to be so very adult to get to hang out and drink coffee. There was the first sip of black coffee which was not too pleasant and then my mother and Mrs. Gladden coached me through the process of adding non-dairy creamer and some sugar which made it much more palatable.

I was hooked from the get-go.

Keep in mind that during my adolescence and early adult years I did not drink or experiment with drugs. That’s right, while the other kids rocking round the clock, I was hoppin’ and boppin’ to a thing called the Crocodile Rock Java Jive. While many of the kids my age were extolling the glories of casual drug use by doodling marijuana leaves and pills on their notebooks I was revelling in the iconic simplicity of a steaming cup of coffee.

There were plenty of head shops during the 70’s but not so many dedicated coffee shops. Places like Jo-Jo’s, Denny’s and Kip’s Big Boy served bottomless cups of coffee, but they were restaurants first and foremost. The wait-staff frowned on teenagers coming and ordering cup after cup of coffee without purchasing a meal. I can recall Rich Davis and me wearing out out welcome at the Kettle on S. Shaver (or was it Spencer Hwy?) in Pasadena, TX any number of times.

After I got out of the Navy and returned to Pasadena my coffee addiction was in full swing and now it was 1981. Coffee shops were still a rare commodity and I was pretty much hooked on coffee. I had a percolator my parents had given me and I kept that thing going pretty steady.

In late 1983 Hurricane Alicia came along and ripped the roof off of my small apartment and this was the catalyst for moving into the city. I landed in the Montrose and before long I was working at the Half Price Books on Waugh Drive. In the process of exploring my new neighborhood I discovered Tim’s Coffee Shop. It’s now Bambolino’s Italian Kitchen but back in the day it was a cozy little coffee shop/restaurant and I was there almost every day before heading in to work, reading the paper and drinking coffee and making friends.

Tim’s Coffee Shop became the formal gathering place of the Philosopher’s Guild, a small band of friends who would meet and stay up to all hours of the night discussing anything and everything while consuming mass quantities of coffee.

Tim’s eventually closed down and Charlie’s Coffee Shop opened just down the road in what was once a topless bar called The Boobie Rock and is now the lesbian bar Chances. I sometimes wonder if the patrons know the sordid history of that little piece of real estate…

Charlie’s, for all intents and purposes, was a gay Denny’s. While it was primarily a restaurant, you could still just grab a booth and sit and drink cup after cup of coffee. I spent a lot of time in Charlie’s and was very sad when it closed.

During this time frame two things happened that were directly influenced by my love/addiction to coffee.

My first radio show of any significance was on Friday mornings from 5-8 and when I was trying to come up with a name I thought of that glorious line from the 1984 movie Suburbia, “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee” (which was also later used in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in 1986).

The third album/CD my band recorded adopted the title “Give Me Coffee” from the first song I ever wrote of the same name.

Fast forward some years and I’m in The Heights after Cynthia and I first got together. Coffee shops are starting to pop-up like crazy. Starbucks has begun to explode and coffee drinking is becoming quite the fad. I found a place called Java Java on Heights Blvd and that became my new coffee haunt.

After I finally managed to get out of working retail and on to a more steady Monday through Friday schedule working in the corporate worlds my trips to the coffee shop began to dwindle as I opted for the grab and go convenience of Stop and Go coffee.

In all the years I have been consuming coffee I rather prided myself in being quite basic about it. No lattes, no cappuccinos, no espressos or mochas or anything fancy. Just a cup of coffee with cream and sugar or black in a pinch. As Starbucks rose to power, other specialty coffee shops sprung up but I kept true to my coffee roots.

I practically swore to myself I would never patronize a Starbucks. That was until our trip to the UK. While we were in Edinburgh, Scotland we toured The Edinburgh Castle. It was cold, wet and windy. When we got to the top there was a gift shop and in that shop there was a Starbucks…

I didn’t change my coffee stripes then and there. I was a coffee addict and this had the appeal and benefit of actually being available. Still, the chip in my coffee armor was there now.

Over the years my resolve to stay away from designer coffee shops has wained.

Cynthia enjoys a “good” cup of coffee on Sundays. She’s not interested in Stop and Go coffee and suggested a few years back that we stop at Starbucks on the way to the grocery store. Her offer was to buy the coffee if I would agree to stop there. I capitulated and now it’s our Sunday tradition.

It wasn’t long before I was hooked. I can no longer drink the coffee offered at the local convenience store. Now I get a Starbucks pretty much every day on the way to work and often one in the evening.

But it’s still a matter of pride that I don’t order those designer froo froo coffee drinks.

No frappacinos, no half caff no fat grand mochachinos for me, no sir. Just a LARGE house coffee to go, thank you very much!

Musical time warp…

On almost any given Friday you can catch Molly and the Ringwalds serving up a heaping helping of 80’s standards on the main stage of the Houston Continental Club.

In the early days of my digital photography they were one of my most photographed bands. They’re fun to watch and good sports about getting their pictures taken, especially Dekan Ringwald (the lead guitar player) who is actually a bit of a cam-whore and can sense something as small as a camera phone from over 50 yards away in a dark room and strike the right pose.

The new camera yielded some excellent results last night:

From there it was off to the Big Top to catch the Light Rock Express and their stylized brand of 70’s light rock hits.

The two best pictures from that show:

This is Mitch Pauls (aka Paul Bebee)

Looks like he’s added another “L” to the light rock lexicon…lip hair.

This is Thomas Escalante, proprietor of Sig’s Lagoon and lead singer for Clouseaux.

He came in toward the end of the evening and sang a few songs, one of which was “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” by Leo Sayer. Thomas just doesn’t look like someone who should be able to hit those high notes, yet he did so flawlessly.

Comedy Workshop Reunion

I was very excited to learn that there will be a Comedy Workshop Reunion on September 14th through the 16th at the Laff Spot Comedy Cafe.

Some of my fondest memories of living in Houston, Texas surround the time in the 80’s when my best friend, Rich Davis, and I would hang out at the old Comedy Workshop. It’s gone now but it used to be where that dry cleaner is at San Felipe and Shepherd.

We would would constantly get free tickets to go see the shows there and even more free tickets to get in to the Comix Annex next door where the comedians would spend Thursday nights trying out new material.

This is the club that produced such notable names as Jeanne Garafalo, Brett Butler and Sam Kinison.

I don’t recall seeing any of them but I do recall seeing T-Sean Shannon and his brother Charlie. Both of whom I attended high school with.

Most notably, I recall watching an up and coming comedian named Bill Hicks. He was unbelievably funny. I remember going back time and time again hoping he would be there on a Thursday night trying out new material.

I was really lucky. I got to see him go from being a relatively new comedian to a superstar in a few short years.

My friend Rich recently reminded me of the time we were at a show and he was following this comedian who was a one-liner wonder. Very lame but the audience was eating it up. When Bill took the stage the crowd was not very receptive and Bill turned dark and, at one point, smashed the wall at the back of the stage with his fist so hard it drew blood.

I remember him saying “I’m bleeding for you and it’s still not enough” and he stormed off.

It was PURE Bill but disappointing because we didn’t get our fix that night.

While it’s a given that Bill won’t be at this show, I am certain the spirit of Bill will be. I expect to see Ron Shock, John Farneti, Jimmy Pineapple along with many others. I am pretty jazzed about this.

I have some pics in the gallery I took with my old film camera of a VERY young Bill Hicks at the Comix Annex as well as from the time he invited me to shoot his performance at Rockefellers when he opened for Warren Zevon.

There’s also these awesome pics of various comedians I shot at the old Comix Annex during the same time period.

Nostalgia

This upcoming Devo concert has me waxing nostalgic in a big way. I am really looking forward to it. I was going through some of my memories that I have digitized and thought I would share two of my more favorite photographic memories.

Myself (looking a little out of it), Danny Elfman and Billy Gilbert who used to host Musical Chairs Wednesday mornings on KPFT. This was taken back stage at an Oingo Boingo concert around 1988.

A rather telling photo featuring my brother John in the center, me to the right and none other than Mr. “Turn on, tune in, drop out” himself, Dr. Timothy Leary on the left. This was very late 80’s or very early 90’s when he was doing a spoken word tour.