Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Moka Genie

My minor obsession with coffee has a lot to do with having spent the last 10 years living in Italy. Being but a thinly-veiled socialist society they long ago realized that certain staples; gas, bread, chianti, and espresso prices need to be artificially controlled to maintain social order. So, in almost all the bars in Tuscany an espresso will cost .90 cents (euro) as long as you drink it standing up at the bar. (Much more if you sit down at a table where a different "tourist" price list kicks in.)
So while I was living there, I'd drop the kids off at school and head to the bar on the corner, Bar Petrarca, just outside Porta Romana in Florence and have my morning cappuccino and a brioche. Then again, picking them up at 4pm stop in at the Bar Il Poggio for an espresso. I could have made coffee at home, but the ritual of standing at the bar, chatting with the barista and quickly reading the newspaper coupled with a 15 minute break from the house chores and farmwork was important.
So, Imagine my horror to find on my yearly return to the US that a cappuccino costs $3.00-$3.50 here and an espresso--often badly made and served in a paper cup the size of a medium popcorn at the theater often $2. So, while I loved taking coffee socially in Italy, I retreated to the kitchen and the stovetop moka or french press to make coffee that I could afford and brood about the vagaries of fate.
Fortunately, Santa Cruz has some really good coffee bars and while they are still expensive at least the quality is good. And on one foggy morning as I stopped in to the local coffee place and stared at my little espresso cup with the little spoon and sugar cube wondering about my life and life's choices out of the crema and steam rose this little genie who asked me about the ebbs and tides of my life and then (this being California and a surf capital) about the current surf conditions. Then after a bit of hemming and hawing, chatting about the weather and local politics he finally got to the point and asked what I wanted out of life and said he would grant me a wish. When I asked how come all the other genies I'd ever heard about usually offered at least three wishes he shrugged his shoulders, twisted the hairs of his yellow eyebrows and said, "Hey, I'm the espresso genie" "With me there's just one strong, dense, chocolatey, concentrated wish". Then, with a sly grin he said, "If you wanted three wishes you should have gone with the double-shot, extra-tall soy, non-fat pumpkin latte."
And then, after a pause, "So", he went on, "what's it going to be?....."

"The espresso genie grants just ONE wish..."
3.5"x"9.5" Japanese polychrome wood block print
9 blocks, 13 colors, printed on Kizuki Hanga 135g/m2 Japanese Hosho paper.
open edition/40 printed to date.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Continental Drift and coffee bars.

Wow. It's been five months since my last post. I meant to write, really I did but the the tectonic plate of economic upheaval collided with the quiet but unstable plate of marital politics to force me first off the unproductive and certainly nonprofitable farm/garden and then push me out of the studio and back into the world of American health care. When the tremors stopped and all was quiet I realized what was painfully obvious. I had to go back to work.
And since as I said in my job interview, It was just 8 years since I was working in the emergency room but almost 30 since I last waited tables it was probably better that I go back to sewing up lacerations and saving lives instead of bartending or serving food again. So I'm no longer an "ex-ER physician" but a part-time physician in a local, busy urgent care. It's been stressful going back and I've spent much of the last five months reviewing books, journals, current antibiotic usage and resistance patterns, ECG reviews, etc., etc. so that I'm current and up to speed at work. So, I'm back from Italy; the kids are in school again in Santa Cruz, I'm working again 2-3 shifts a week; reading and studying in my free time and just now beginning to drift back to the studio and to some printmaking. But as I started planning my next print, a narrow long format of 3 X 9 inches, my ambivalence about going back to work was pretty clear.
Here's the first idea:
I've been spattered with all sorts of body fluids during my past life as an ER physician and putting on the shirt and tie again after so many years brought that back. I figured the long format would be perfect for the necktie and that the colorful tie would be fun to print over the white shirt. The working title was "stain". But Alexander, looking over my shoulder was very clear, "Dad, that's the most boring thing you've ever done....why don't you do something interesting! No one would ever buy that!" So, I kept on sketching. (although I still think it was a good idea).
And lots of these kept popping up...

There were all sorts of bound and wrapped bundles in different shapes and sizes. Just looking at them all made me depressed.

So I went back to the sketchbook and while at Coffeetopia, a local coffee/espresso bar I doodled this:

And then this....and this:

Keep an eye out for the little gremlin in the bottom as he's about to become the main attraction.
I liked where this was going and tomorrow I'll post the final preliminary sketch and the keyblock.