Coffee shops of NYC List One

Fuck. Where does one begin with the elephant in the room? No, really. A fucking elephant. Could you imagine an elephant in the room? I bet the elephant would be wondering where the napkins were cause it had to clear some snot from it’s trunk.

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Betty, would you be a sweetheart and please hand Dumbo some tissues *in a British accent even though this article is geographically 7 hours away by flight.

The task [fuck, I just called it a task, like it's job and I'm going to receive money at the end] of pinning down the best coffee shops of New York City.

To be fair, in the beginning I was super excited. I was packing the essentials for New York including an iPhone armed with Instagram filters.

Coffee porn. Well, come to think of it, anytime someone calls out for a cupping session- all I think of is boobs and possibly my hands in the same frame.

Mmm… Yeah! Right, where were we? So coffee! Yeah!

I can see coffee connoisseurs go “ugh.. phew phew ugh” over my sexual innuendo *all while pressing up and from beneath the tip of their nose using an index finger.

Argh. Those snooty bastards.

[*Quick! Imagine a bald guy (shaved head on true account) dressed hipster-ish get on a plane from Toronto (visualise CN Tower and Skydome) and land in NYC (visualise Manhattan skyline). Cut to a scene of him strutting around Manhattan & Brooklyn's different coffee shops across a big city in stop motion.]

Clearly you understand my deliberate desire to procrastinate over this piece.

3 weeks in New York and I only managed a bean foreplay. Therefore, for the sake of this piece and argument I renamed the article to reflect only coffee shops I managed to visit before overdosing in a hyperbole of caffeine.

Here are the coffee shops of NYC you shouldn’t miss. Obviously I will be revisiting and adding to the list.

Birch Coffee

The owners Paul & Jeremy are two cool blokes as they were able to -architecturally- retain the immediate environment into their coffee shops.

Birch Coffee 2

Birch Coffee 3

Blue Bottle Cafe

The one at Williamsburg is where the best coffee has been had.

Blue Bottle Cafe

Gasoline Alley Coffee

A tiny little spot. Avoid taking your laptop. There’s no WiFi. Amen.

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Gasoline Alley Cafe

Gregory’s Coffee

Mr. Gregory was inspired by his father who ran diners in NYC.

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Gregorys-Cafe

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Joe The Art of Coffee

Want to become a pro barista, Joe offers classes.

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Joe The Art of Coffee

OST Cafe

Go to the one on 12th street.

OST Cafe 2

OST Cafe

Toby’s Estate Coffee

The easiest spot to make new friends. Sit at the communal table and throw abundant praise on your neighbours handwriting.

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Toby's Estate Coffee

El Beit

Love this spot. The cupping session was a fun surprise. No pun intended.

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El Beit

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No metrics were harmed in the making of this article. Ok thanks bye. *Awkward silence followed by the sound of crickets.

How I was caught shoplifting

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With nothing on the cards for a sunny Sunday afternoon, my mother announced a trip to the local mall. I was in the 3rd grade that year. A few Nintendo games aside, a toboggan [a long, light, narrow vehicle, typically on runners, used for sliding downhill over snow or ice] sitting beneath boxes of unused stuff in the attic, there wasn’t much I had on my to-do list.

*At the time, internet was in it’s nascent stages. Selfie, Facebook, Twitter and the term “social-media” didn’t exist. Neither did girls-gone-wild.

Within minutes, my mom had my sister and me in the backseat. Window-shopping, eating a Double Big Mac at McDonald’s or the skin-covered chicken at Swiss Chalet and loitering around between toy and sports aisles made for an adventurous evening with my sister and mother.

Post Sears, Wal-Mart and Loblaws, we’d head to Toy’r’us on pleading and begging [which my mom would try and avoid knowing I’d create a scene and embarrass her for not letting me have either Batman figurines or Nintendo games].

For your information, I had, in class one stolen my classmate’s pencil and on my mother’s knowledge of such behaviour received a massive thrashing. Earlier that evening, on interrogation, I had turned blue and come short of an alibi.

*Quick tip if you’re going to attempt and lie through your teeth- mother’s parental instincts can look into the depths of your soul. Tread carefully if you may.

I felt guilty and ashamed that night as if it was the end of me. The next day, I returned the stolen pencil, promising myself to never ever steal or lie again.

But today [the 5th grade], a few years later from the rare-pencil incident, I was at the mall, forgotten of any such behaviour, standing eye-to-eye with a pack of baseball cards. I wanted them so badly [in my defence, all the kids at school were showing off their collection and I badly needed to feel “in” or cool or accepted, I guess].

I had wiped the slate clean only to have it re-written this day. I inched closer towards the rack, eliminating any distance between my chest and the set of cards. I pulled a few packs down in each hand and made a b-line for the bathroom. Clearly, I hadn’t thought this through as I wasn’t a thief or a shoplifter by profession.

I closed the bathroom booth door behind me. As I sat there, with my pants down, staring back at the pack of cards, a trickle of sweat ran down my back.

This was it. The moment of truth. I was going to shoplift these packs of cards. My brain began to work in overdrive, shelling thoughts of getting caught or walking away from the whole episode scot free.

I made up my mind. On quickly unwrapping all the packs, I disposed of the covers in the bin and shoved a fist-full of cards down my underwear. On pulling my pants back on, I could feel the stiff cards poking up against my crotch.

No pain no gain, right.

With all the courage left in me, I walked out of the booth and then the bathroom. I could feel the sweat on my palms as well as an accelerated heart-beat between my chest.

By now, some sweat off my crotch had rubbed up against the cards making them soggy. I suppose a few cards were going to be sacrificed in the process but I didn’t let that worry me then.

On strolling around for a bit, I fixed my stride and found my mother between an aisle for cushion covers and sheers. I made my move and began to walk over towards her, thinking I had successfully gotten away with shoplifting baseball cards. Only a few strides later, two elderly men, in their mid-thirties, cut me off by the perfume section.

I looked up in utter dismay and shock. Fuck. I was caught. Now what? They told me they had been watching me from CCTV cameras. They requested for my parents, and upon seeing unidentified men crossing paths between her son, my mother walked over and listened to the entire episode patiently.

Disappointed by her son’s stupidity, my mom began to apologise and begged the undercover mall security personal to forgive me. She reiterated this was my first time.

*We all know how true that was.

As I watched the sequence of events unfold in dismay, I slowly pulled out the baseball cards from my underwear and handed them over to one of the men without ever raising my head once.

One of the men, closer towards me, got down on a knee, while the other continued to talk to my mom, and with one hand around my elbow told me of the consequences and the fact that I was in so-much trouble. But he was going to let me off this once because he could see that I had been humiliated and shattered forever.

Once the men were gone, my mom looked at me in a way I had never experienced before. It’s a look that I will never forget. It was of momentary-lost-faith and forgiveness and paternal-instincts factor [unable to describe exact emotions].

That evening, we had McDonald’s for dinner and the incident has never been brought up in the last 25 years.

Why smokers have great ideas

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First thing first. Yes, I’ve smoked cigarettes. Benson Lights. India Kings. Classic Milds. Gudang Garam. Marlboro Lights. I wasn’t exactly loyal to any one brand or the taste [as compulsive and habitual smokers would have amateurs believe].

Labelled -to my convenience- a social smoker, I would light one after having a couple of drinks (at a party) or at work during “creative brainstorming” sessions, held between floor 16 and 17 -out on the stairs- at the agency.

This, ability to smoke at will, gave me the reassuring feeling of being in control of my sick habit, leaving little room for feelings of addiction creeping up my throat.

It’s safe to assume that almost anyone in advertising, smokes. A sweeping generalised statement would have been “everyone in advertising smokes” but that’s clearly not the case.

Don’t believe me? Go watch an episode of Mad Men. Captured between dialogues is the foreplay of cigarettes. A smoking protagonist is so much better in dialogue delivery than a non-smoker. I bet the director agrees with my angle on the matter.

Look, all I’m saying is that people smoke. You can like it or hate it but it’s happening right now, as we speak- someone out there, working in the creative department of an advertising agency- put a lighter to a cigarette and inhaled every bit of the cancer-inducing smoke.

That said, I’ve come clean now. *Takes a deep breadth. That habit is well behind me, like bell-bottoms or a head full of hair. I’ve been shaving my head for a decade now. You do the maths. It’s my way of combing with stress [pun intended]. *Exhales.

Curious to understand how ideas and smoking work together, I chartered upon a search for answers. That said, non-smokers are also idea-capable people. Sure, they get ideas [which are not as good as the ideas people have who smoke or drink] but, hey, where credit is due, we must oblige.

Hell, I believe geniuses of tremendous creative potential such as Edisson, Picasso, Bethoven, Einstein, Jobs, Ogilvy, Landor & Morisson were all possible smokers and drinkers. They’ve ruled and led the world over decades with world-changing-ideas.

Now, let’s examine this closely. The length and breadth of a cigarette is armoured with the single most powerful concept- a bridge between your inner and outer conscious.

Hear me out. On examining creative folk closely I stumbled upon this powerful idea. During the process of discovery [the constant failures/trials before the eureka] frustration levels climb on failing [before succeeding and changing the world] and can prove difficult leading to stress.

It is during these difficult times great minds would take a timeout by either smoking a cigarette or nursing a glass of hooch. During solitude, they’re not focused on the problem but shutting off. This bridging of their subconscious and conscious mind, unleashes the most powerful answers to problems that have riddled their minds forever.

Eckhart Tole suggests a similar concept. To be enlightened, one must switch off. To shut the process of thinking entirely. To harness the power of the mind. Smoking and drinking did just that for all the great thinkers of the world. It opened the doorway of possibilities and great potential.

For a moment, let’s set aside the common variables- lung cancer, heart problems, bad breadth and the “till-death-do-us-apart” brandished on every box. Draw a comparative of these with the remarkable gifts left behind because of them aiding great men and women.

By that token, I’m not championing ideas being born from smoking or drinking are better. Their noteworthy contribution is in no way palpable to the amount of damage they may have caused over the years. But at the same time, we cannot but ignore the fact that smoking or drinking have contributed, in some ironic way, to the betterment of this world.