My neighbors, the coffee farmers, are opening a cafe in Safety Harbor

Kent and Logan in front of sign

Logan and Kent Runnells outside the soon-to-be Cafe Vino Tinto

Lifelong Safety Harbor resident Logan Runnells and her father Kent are set to open their coffee shop, Cafe Vino Tinto, on Safety Harbor’s quintessential American Main Street at the end of this month. The coffee will come directly from the Runnells’ coffee farm in Costa Rica and will be micro batch roasted onsite at the cafe.

Kent, a former Safety Harbor mayor turned coffee impresario, told me, “We’re not going to be just a local coffee shop; we’re going to be a special coffee shop.” Cafe Vino Tinto joins the ranks of locally owned cafes with brew roasted onsite; it is one of, if not the only, coffee shop in the Tampa Bay area that sells coffee sourced directly from the owner’s coffee farm.

 

13 Spilling the Beans

“Spilling the Beans” – Photo courtesy Kent Runnells

For two years Kent and Logan have seduced coffee drinkers with their fresh-roasted brew at Safety Harbor’s Third Friday festival. Now they are setting up shop for good. Nestled between the Safety Harbor Arts and Music Center (SHAMc) and wine bar On the Vine, Cafe Vino Tinto comprises a small kitchen and a wrought iron-wrapped patio reminiscent of the New Orleans’ Cafe Du Monde.

Logan, who will manage the coffee shop, described a cup from the Runnells’ cafe as a simple yet memorable experience built upon the trademark “Pura Vida,” or “Pure Life” mentality of Costa Rica. At Cafe Vino Tinto the focus is plain and simple: serve quality coffee and offer locally sourced goods like pastries, jams and art.

Kent, a real estate lawyer and former mayor of Safety Harbor, had no intention of selling coffee when he bought his farm, Finca Vino Tinto, eight years ago. The farm owes its name to the waterfall it overlooks, which the town locals say “flows like red wine.” In an email Kent explained, “Occasional Spanish speaking persons think we are nuts, stupid even, because they think we have unwittingly named our coffee the red wine coffee. I wish they would just read the bag, the story is on there!”

King of the hill

Finca Vino Tinto – Photo courtesy Kent Runnells

The story goes something like this:

Kent found the farm on a hike off the beaten path in what he describes as a storybook town in a valley of Costa Rica. After having spotted a majestic waterfall, pouring forth at a proud 80’ upper fall and +100’ lower fall, Kent and his guide Rafa made their way to the bottom of the upper of the two falls. Across the valley Kent saw a silver roof and said, ‘That house has a beautiful view of the waterfall!’ and Rafa (his guide) says, ‘Well it’s not a house, it’s a shack. The people that work the coffee are called ‘collectivos’ and that’s where they stay when they’re working the coffee fields. It’s a coffee farm and it’s for sale.” Three days later Kent tracked down the seller and the rest is history.

 

The Coffee Farmer

Showcasing the beans – Photo courtesy Kent Runnells

He bought the farm because of the remarkable views: a waterfall on one side, the Pacific Ocean on the other. That he loved the coffee was a happy coincidence. He brought bags home at first for the simple pleasure of sharing, but the more he brought the more people asked for it. Finally he decided it was time to give a go at selling it. Kent and Logan set up a stand at the Third Friday festival where, Logan told me, they built a clientele base and learned the business of brewing.

“People have been asking for a shop for about a year and a half, but it’s got to be in the right location,” Kent explained. Cafe Vino Tinto is a few hundred square feet, a couple of sinks and a large outdoor patio. The coffee shop will operate in a space shared with Kent’s friends, Todd Ranquist, Kiralinda, and Heather Richardson who use to area to host artistic events under the auspices of the SHAMc.

Kent and Logan foresee future Friday night events at the cafe, where guests can enjoy live acoustic music, beer and wine, tapas, and, of course, coffee. In our interview they also discussed the possibility of eco-tours on Finca Vino Tinto, and their commitment to conducting a perpetual shoe drive for the children of the indigenous and impoverished Panamanian workers who spend their days in the coffee fields.

It’s nice to know where your coffee is coming from, and it’s even nicer when you know it’s coming from good, hardworking people who happen to be your neighbors. No one can deny that we consumers love the idea of local business. We dedicate festivals and create organizations for it. Politicians blabber about it. Tourists eat it up. The trending love for local isn’t just about economics or novelty. Thanks to Amazon and Facetime, we can execute most every human interaction without ever interacting with a human in person. Could it be that our whirring fingers and LED inundated eyes are finally fatigued? Maybe we want local because we are human and we want to share that with others. Or maybe it’s just me.

When bicyclists attack

One afternoon in Richmond I was stuck in stoplight traffic at the intersection of Harrison and Franklin Street in Richmond, minding my own business, when I was hit by a bicycle. I repeat: sitting in a stationary vehicle, I was struck by a bicycle. It was my Civic who suffered the physical blow, though the whole ordeal left me traumatized for at least an hour. Most people are dubious when I tell them I was hit by a bicycle, especially when they see the cluster of dents left, not on the side or rear, but somehow on the top of my trunk. What kind of bicycling she was doing I’ll never know because I still don’t even understand how she hit me.

I’m sitting still, waiting for the light to change when out of nowhere I feel, and hear, the THUMP. Simultaneously I witness the thump’s cause in slow-mo through the lens of my rearview mirror. A mangled mess of hair and handlebars flies up, then down. THUMP.

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 9.30.14 PM

Thank you, Google Maps, for providing this quality screenshot of the Motherland

My chest tightens and in a lifetime of a second I experience the five stages of grief for what will surely be the loss of my freedom because somehow I’ve managed to kill someone while sitting still at a stoplight. Just my luck. Thanks, Universe. Mostly I’m shocked, even mystified at how this has happened. I can’t understand how I’ve just hit a person without ever moving.

I can’t tell you how much time passed before shock gives way to terror, then confusion and then, a rush of relief when the lady in question pops into my left side mirror, running toward my front window with bulging frantic eyes calling out, “Ohmygod! I’m so sorry!” Ohthankgod. It was her fault. I’m so relieved I could peed my pants (maybe I did?). I’m too stunned to say much save for a dumb inquiry as to the state of her wellbeing. Then the light changed and off I go, still in disbelief.

Later I notice the dent marks on the top of my trunk, presumably from her handlebars. To this day I have no idea how she managed to hit me the way she did. There’s no evidence of her hitting the car from the side or the rear; somehow she just wound up on my trunk, hair, handlebars and all.

Who are the women of Cuba?

Cuban women_CharlesPietersFlickr

Photo Credit Charles Pieters of Flickr

Obama visited Cuba. So that happened. Call it good bad or indifferent – it’s a change either way and people are talking. The shift in private enterprise is a big part of that conversation, and it’s a fascinating conversation, but I’m more interested in the ones doing the talking, namely the women of Cuba.

I have so many questions.

Who are the women of Cuba? What do they do? How do they spend their days? In what ways do our lives overlap? How do they diverge? And what about the women my age – especially the ones my age.

Who are the female cuentapropistas, the entrepreneurs, and what is their life like? What kind of business do they do? How has the landscape for cuentapropistas evolved? When did it begin? Did 12/2014 do something significant to change it? In what ways?

What are their stories?

I want to find out. Of course I’ll start with the interweb, but constrained internet access in Cuba means limited access to the inside from the outside, so I’ll have to hunt and gather a lot of information the old fashioned way: reading, calling, exploring. Not having the excuse of the Internet makes this process of discovery about humans more human.

Over the next few months I’ll learn all that I can from afar. My research will encompass language, culture, history, economics – the works. But of course you never really know about people and their lives until you go where they live. So I will hoard pennies and hopefully travel to Cuba by the end of this year.
Until then…

Journalism About a Journalist, Part 2

Lo and behold it was not taken. Of course not! It’s lousy. And such a shame to be so because I wrote it about a person I admire. One of my top role models. But I think (spoiler alert) Steve Inskeep would understand. It is the first thing I’ve ever written  in call-it-straightism.

How wonderfully absurd that days, countable hours, after I decide to give my dream of journalism another stab (after giving up on it years ago) – wholehearted and head-on this time – I hear on the radio, driving across a Tampa bridge, minutes away from my new home after hours on the road, that my most favorite newsperson will be miles away in just a few days. What?! Call it a coincidence, call it a sign. Whatever it is, it only fueled my reignited fire.

Man, oh man did it live up to the hype. Part of the reason my article is kind of lousy is because I didn’t originally intend to write about his talk. I just came to listen. Then somehow I worked up the nerve to question him about something that’s itched at me for years. Basically, how does he do his job so well[!]? His response was every bit as diligent as the questions he poses in interviews. (See below for a paired down version of the answer.)

I’ve interviewed people since I’ve been here. I’m pecking away at those profiles pieces. I must write faster otherwise I won’t make it. Aware it would take me awhile to get those pieces done, I seized the opportunity after the fact to write a concise bit about Inskeep’s talk with Carson Cooper at USF Sarasota.

By the way, he signed [Great] Aunt Jim’s WHRO (the 757 NPR station) mug. How pleased she would be. Stay tuned for more info on the history of the matriarchal NPR mugs.

Inskeep mug

Following is the article in question.

“Calling It Straight: NPR’s Steve Inskeep Comes to USF Sarasota”

Steve Inskeep comes to Flahrida

Steve Inskeep at the USF Sarasota Selby Auditorium

On January 21, Steve Inskeep, host of NPR’s Morning Edition, sat down with WUSF host Carson Cooper at the University of South Florida in Sarasota. They discussed Inskeep’s newest book “Jacksonland.” 

“Jacksonland,” narrates the face-off between Andrew Jackson and Cherokee chief John Ross over land rights in the American South. Inskeep described it as a narrative of “two men battling over real estate in a democracy.”
 
Inskeep described the tools of democracy Ross and the Cherokees used to engage in acts of civil disobedience which reframed the definition of minority rights to one inclusive of racial minority rights. Members of the the nearly all-white audience murmered when Inskeep described the Founding Fathers’ Constitutional interpretation of minority as one pertaining to the minority of people with money.
 
Asked about his swift interview tactics, Inskeep shared that he often practices interviews beforehand with colleagues. In scenarios when there is no time to “game it out,” he asks himself, “what does this person actually know that they can tell me?”
 
As a journalist, Inskeep noted, “your job is to call it straight.”

 

 

 

PS: I’m the one who asked about the swift interview techniques. Shocked? I knew it.

On Community

January 17, 2016
Sunday
Life in a waterfront community is something special. Today we experienced a sunset at Howard Beach Park.
Howard Sunset

Around 5:40pm

Birdy Sunset

5:50pm-ish

Yesterday we watched the sunrise, sittin’ on the dock of the Bay.

Marina Sunrise

Safety Harbor Marina, sun breaks at 7:23am

We sunned ourselves on the white sand of Clearwater Beach in the afternoon. It was sunny and in the 70s. I got a tan. It’s January. The locals are urging one another to “stay warm” during tomorrow’s 50 degree cold front. It’s snowing in Virginia and rigid in New York. *cue Handel’s Messiah*
Last Sunday I had a most epic thrift store adventure. Gone are the days of $30 thrift shop tees. Hello, $5 Banana Republic! Living room set for $75? Yes please.
On Tuesday I enjoyed clam chowder for under $3. Two lovely men in tropical shirts gave Brenden and me all kinds of information on the area. (See my review of Mid Peninsula Seafood here.)
We’ve taken an apartment in Safety Harbor, an intimate water town atop the St. Pete peninsula. Every Friday they have an ordeal called Third Friday, wherein all 200 people who live here gather on Main Street. The street is blocked off so vendors can peddle their wares. I’ve been to many a generic street fair where fried corn, street meat, cell phones, karate lessons, knicknacks, handmade jewelry and just plain junk are peddled. This is not that.
Third Friday Sign

Welcome!

Every vendor is local and unique. Two guys behind a hot fryer deliver Disco Donuts topped with cinnamon, powdered or rainbow sugar. A lady who hates the heat and goes north every summer sells jewelry made from spoons. Two young people give information to prospective Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteers.
As you’ve noticed, the tone and purpose of this blog has taken a different direction. Dear nieces and nephews, you are the primary reason I write this blog. I want it to be interesting to you. Listening to me list off stuff I’ve done probably gets old, which is part of the reason I stopped writing. The other reason was of course Cody’s death. It is time to move forward.
I’m making some changes. Instead of just telling you what I’ve done and where I’ve been, I want to show you by sharing stories of the communities I explore. Soon I will be adding profiles of people who, in my opinion, make their community special. Make what you will of that word, community. Whether I’m writing you from VA or NY or FL or ZZ, I am always in a community.
What a packed word, community…
Everyone has a different definition of community. I’ve enjoyed living in a community, but to be a part of community is to belong. To me community means interconnectivity. Cohabitation. Contribution. To belong to a community is to add to its richness. To support it’s success. Here on a Friday night, between the coffee makers and dog treat bakers on a ten-block Main Street that terminates at a Marina on a Third Friday evening, I feel confident that I am closer to the dream of belonging to a community than ever before.
But don’t you even think my adventures are over. Honey, I’ve only just begun…
Noosa

Making friends with the Noosa lady. Noosa is the best yogurt, by the way.

#theadventurecontinues

A lot of life has happened in my almost one year hiatus. On Tuesday, January 5, Brenden and I arrived in Florida, marking the start of a new chapter in our book of shenanigans. Since leaving our home in New York I was terrified we’d made a big mistake. My dad’s goodwilled attempt to prepare me for life in the Tampa Bay area, when he advised me that the diversity of Astoria I’d grown accustomed to would surely not be a part of life in Tampa, only stoked my anxiety. Last year Brenden and I decided to leave the city we worked so hard to live and breathe in, the city we loved. We knew there would be no match for the explosive interculturality we loved in NYC, but our shared love of the beach and outdoor life carried us to buy a car, stuff it with as much as we could, and relocate to Tampa.

We have never been under any impression that the two cities are comparable. We both loved the ironic intimacy of city life and we’re pretty liberal. When we passed a Trump bumper sticker on the way into Tampa yesterday, along with all the earmarks of standard suburbia, ranch houses with ample distance between, scattered two story buildings, sprawling office complexes, low hanging billboards, the wave of fear that culture shock carries ripped through the front seat of our stuff-stuffed mini Honda.

But today we went to the beach. We touched white sand with our toes and we dipped our feet into the turquoise-tinted crystal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. We watched the water while we ate seafood on a deck in the sun. (Check out my review of Frenchy’s here.) It’s a new year and I’m still coasting on the loving energy I felt from seeing so many dear ones in such a short time on the way here. In the course of a week I saw parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and dear friends. Many of these people I’ve not seen since before I left VA for NY. These encounters were markers of time. With some time had stood still. Our last visit was seamless to this one. With others it was a meeting of strangers. While living in New York City I learned that time is like a minnow: it’s slippery, incredibly hard to catch, and it has a very short lifecycle. Every moment counts.

My Aunt Jim The Wise once told me that the greatest gift I could give was my time. That’s really stuck with me. I hope this year I will adjust to my new surroundings by spending more time communicating with my far away loved ones and finding ways to make new loved ones. I hope to godabove that I have really learned what I know I learned and that I apply that as I go forward. It’s a game changer. I don’t think I would’ve realized it so soon had it not been for New York.

It’s hard for me to meet new people and put myself out there. It’s hard for a lot of people. As I write going forward I might record my endeavors on this blog. It’s not easy being human, but it’s a lot easier when you have meaningful connections with other humans. If not now, then when?

IMG_2719

 

Beans Don’t Burn In The Kitchen

Dear kids,

Saturday, after 13 months and two different sublets, Uncle B and I moved into a new place. A place with our name on the lease, which is actually kind of an accomplishment in this city. We made it to a neighborhood that is safe, that is vibrant, vital, diverse, affordable, and absolutely lovely. Astoria is an adorable hood situated on the East River side of Queens. We worked HARD to get here. To make it in New York. After 13 months I think it is safe to say that .
Astoria Map

The new hood

Movin on up!

Movin on up!

This past year was one of the most challenging of my life. It was full of confusion and anxiety, but I have emerged renewed with the realization that it was also one of the most rewarding years, maybe even the most yet. Being in a very stratified environment of judgey 1%ers has forced me to deal with my personal disdain of bourgieness, which in turn offered a really good lesson about tolerance. Without it you will go insane. Bitterness toward everything around you is a poison that kills only you. Everyone is different, and even if you find their lifestyle disgusting you still have to coexist. To paraphrase a dear friend and wise mentor I’ve made since I moved here, it’s not bothering them – why let it bother you? Some of the soundest advice I’ve ever received. Furthermore, I’ve really had to face my own insecurities about myself. I’m learning to stop measuring myself against others. Everyone has their struggles and strengths, so I’m just trying to focus on my own instead evaluating myself in comparison to others. All of this is a process. I’m not all perky all positive all the time, but I am regaining a renewed confidence, stronger than ever.

Our new coffee spot. $1.25/cup baby

Our new coffee spot. $1.25/cup baby

#nomnom

#nomnom

Instead of going to Dubai, Dubai came to us!

Instead of going to Dubai, Dubai came to us!

With the help of my closest friends who’ve stood the test of time, and most of all with the help of my partner, my best friend, my Brenden. I don’t think I could’ve stuck it out here without him. I’m a pretty independent woman. I was raised to not need a man and I don’t. But I got one – a great one – and our friendship and relationship has taught me more about the power of Love and Faith than all the rest. I hope for the same for each of you one day.
Love always,
Aunt Cat(ie)
Panorama of the work in progress. This is the view from right by the front door.

Panorama of the work in progress. This is the view from right by the front door. Once again my board makes a cameo!