Day 27: a cup of coffee & a dose of reality.

today was weird. at first i was excited about my fika visit. for once, i knew where i was going. and i was really looking forward to it. not that i had any real major expectations or anything, but i had passed this particular cafe numerous times and knew that one day soon i’d visit. and, hey, i was in west asheville. and, if you’re following me during my 40 days, you know by now that i seriously dig west asheville and haywood road.

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i wandered around haywood road for a while, enjoying the cool breeze, the warm sun, and the autumn-like feel in the air. people were out and about. it was busy – not in a busy, annoying kind of way; but in a “people are enjoying life, moving about” kind of way. everything felt alive. and that felt good.

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i finally entered the cafe, which i immediately noticed was not really a small, cozy cafe. instead, it was wide open with tables and chair filling the entire place. very stylish, and keeping with the industrial-ish design of many other places. but, a bit more modern and updated than funky. i think i would refer to it as a bakery & cafe, rather than a coffeehouse. well, it’s name is west end bakery. i suppose that is what it is. it was a little bit more starbucksy than some of the other places i’ve been to. which is totally fine. just different. bigger. and it didn’t really have that intimate feel to it.

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and it was filled with people. lots of people. clearly this was a popular place for sandwiches, pastries, and bread. i stepped up to the counter, ordered a pumpkin spice latte and found an empty table – not an easy feat, mind you. unfortunately, my table was right in front of the door and in the middle of everything. no chance of being inconspicuous at all today. but, perhaps i was due for a change.

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i got my latte and began sipping and people-watching, my main activity during my time there. there were just so many people to watch. people were sitting very close to me, so i couldn’t help but overhear conversations… which was cool, i admit.

so, today, instead of burying my head in a book or working on my computer, i just observed. i didn’t even talk to anyone – not that there was anyone who i could have really talked to. everyone was so busy and in their own little worlds. but, i listened. and watched. it was a room filled with real people discussing real life. there was a girl one table over from me who was talking with a woman. the girl mentioned her major and her first job. i could tell they didn’t really know each other, and i was so curious about both of their stories. and then, there was the table of three ladies sitting behind my table discussing their children. one lady was concerned and upset because her child didn’t want to go to church anymore. finally, there was a table of three people having a pretty serious meeting – they were talking about funding a local, no-kill animal shelter. of course there were also a few lone rebels like myself scattered throughout the bakery, all of them reading or working on a computer – which is what you do when you are fika-ing alone.

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perhaps it wasn’t the most exciting of fika moments i’ve had in these past 26 days… but, it was real. and it gave me a chance to think again about how we are all connected. how we all have our own things going on in life, but really we are all the same deep within. our traditions, beliefs, customs, and even looks, may be completely different, but that is what makes this world beautiful. the diversity on the outside, and the inside, spiritual connectedness that binds us all together as humans.

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today’s fika may not have been the crazy, wild adventure that it has been most days. what it was, though, was a chance to sip yummy coffee and observe the world around me. it was a chance be content with the simplicity and regular-ness of a place. it’s so easy to get bored, isn’t it? especially bored with regular life. what’s not so easy is to turn boredom into acceptance, and learning to love the present moment – no matter what comes our way.

yes, one little fika can teach me all of that. it’s amazing what comes from a cup of coffee, isn’t it?

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namaste. /liz

west end bakery . 757 haywood road. asheville, nc . www.westendbakery.com

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Day 24: At home with the hipsters.

i thought it was about time i headed over to one of my new favorite areas… west asheville. haywood road. the atmosphere is so relaxed there. and i felt like chilling out. just being me.

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so, i drove on over, parked my car on the street  – where it’s free to do that (unlike downtown), and walked up to my fika spot of the day: battle cat coffee bari think this is the first place i’ve been to that’s been called a coffee bar. that’s a cool change.

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only i had no idea how “cool” until i walked up on the front porch and walked in. helloooo hipster heaven. i believe that battle cat is a place that is very open and accepting, but almost everyone “looked” the same in some way, so i felt a little out of place. i felt like it might be a club meeting for local 20 something hipsters. definitely no tourists here. but, it was a place that indeed honored the individual, so i blended right in. maybe? well, at least i was being true to myself.

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i approached the counter and was greeted by the friendly and funky barista and ordered a dirty chai (chai with espresso – one of my favorite drinks). as i waited for my drink, i turned and looked around at the house-turned-coffee bar. i admit it… it was super cook & funky inside. the front room was a living room. like for real. there were lamps and sofas and comfy chairs. there were also a few tables as well. little hipster (and i truly mean that in the most nice way, because it was kinda cute how this alternative crowd was so cliche) people sat huddled behind their laptops, sipping coffee. or reading books and slurping up other drinks. it looked very cozy, and had i had time and my laptop, i would have found my own corner to huddle in and write away.

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i walked through the hall and peeked in what would have been the bedrooms. both of these rooms, across from each other and in the back of the small house, were filled with tables and chairs. some comfy, others old school chairs. up-cycled, of course. (you do know that up-cycle is the new word for recycle, right?). people were sitting and chatting, but i tried not to get any of them in the photos… don’t wanna offend anyone. one of the two rooms was designated a quiet room, which i thought was way cool. in there were some people my age – and older. it all looked very cozy & inviting.

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the walls in the hallway were covered, and i mean plastered, with flyers, posters, invitation, information. everything from medicine (of all kinds), to yoga, to meditation, to schools, to things for sale, to organic farms, to markets, to technology, to… well, everything. everything completely alternative, of course. or most of it. but, it was cool to see things that were not so mainstream. i love it when people open their minds to considering other options, and i’m talking like using solar power instead of coal. or whatever else you think of. now, there is a line & a limit somewhere, but perhaps we (i) could be more open to different ways of thinking, and of living. perhaps we (i) do not need to get stuck in our little boxes and then judge people who’s boxes are different that our own.

speaking, i realize that i have made this coffee bar into its own little hipster box, but you know… it’s geared and advertised to a certain crowd. just like the grove park inn is geared to a certain crowd. that doesn’t mean that other “types” of people are not welcome, or they should be. it just means that birds of a feather flock together. and strangers, different people, outsiders, different types of birds are still certainly welcome. at least that’s how it is at battle cat coffee bar. and i love that.

side note: i am certainly becoming bolder as a result of this fika project. i may feel out of place when i walk into any given cafe or coffeehouse with a certain vibe, but after about 5 minutes of letting that place sink in and observing what’s good about it, i realize that i don’t really care. that awkward feeling is usually just all in my head anyway. there is no place i don’t fit in. and if someone thinks otherwise, then that is how they think. i, for one, am confident in who i am. and i, just like everyone else, belong anywhere and everywhere.  we all do.

i grabbed my fresh chai, which was now ready, i and headed outside. there is a front porch, which is clearly a popular place, as there were no available seats there. so, i went to the front yard, which was filled with picnic tables, iron tables, and outdoor chairs – all old, and most likely up-cycled. i’m digging that word. i grabbed a little yellow metal chair and sat under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the whole front yard and porch.

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people came and went. constantly. this is a very popular place. where inside, it was fairly quiet and dark, a cozy place to read and do work, outside was fun and vibrant. people talked, smoked, ate, and enjoyed each other’s company. i had the company of a dog for a while, since her owner went in to order food. and soon, another man came and sat beside me with his dog. we chatted some as we enjoyed the amazing asheville weather.

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you know, this is what i love about asheville, and the south. people just start talking to each other. most everyone’s so friendly and nice. and you don’t usually offend anybody if you strike up a conversation with them, because it’s pretty easy to tell if someone is busy and focused and doesn’t want to talk. so, if you see a stranger and have something to say, just say it. who knows what kind of amazing encounter you might have.

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i’ve come to the conclusion after 24 days of fika that i am at home with the hipsters. and the hippies. and the tourists. and… whatever other group you want to define. but, how about this? how about we stop defining? how about we just accept and live and experience each other as we are? how about we allow ourselves to feel at home wherever we are, and welcome others as if they are coming home, no matter who they are? how about it?

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namaste. /liz

battle cat coffee bar . 323 haywood road . asheville, nc. 28804 . www.battlecatcoffeebar.com

Day 15: Who’s craving a big, homemade biscuit?

i drove up a tree-lined street in a west asheville neighborhood on my way to biscuit head, and this is what i saw when i arrived:

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wow. all i could do was giggle to myself. and i mean i giggled out of excitement. look at that back outdoor eating  space?! and what you can’t hear is the talking and laughing and fun that was going on. it sounded like life, you know what i mean? people gathering to enjoy some good moments together – now, that’s the makings of a great fika.

after my initial giddiness, and saying hello to lots of friendly people as i made my way through the parking lot, i opened the back door and saw this:

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it looked funky, fun, and relaxing. the first thing i noticed was this thing that looked like a salad bar, only it wasn’t for salad. it was for jelly & jams! i mean, it is a biscuit place, you know. and they had all kinds of yummy jams there with all kinds of crazy flavors – none of which i can remember right now. sorry. anyway, i truly just stood by the jam bar for a while and just looked around at everything. it was colorful, there were menus & messages written on big chalk boards, it was industrial, and i couldn’t wait to get a big ole biscuit.

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so, i ordered my coffee and biscuit, and headed to find the perfect little space to soak up this atmosphere. the cafe was very open, with a soaring copper ceiling (AWESOME), a freaky, awesome green concrete floor, industrial pipes, and lots of tables and chairs – wooden & metal. but, just by the front doors, i  saw it: the perfect place to sit. a sofa, a coffee table, and a big windows. by now, you should know that i’m a sucker for comfy, sofa-seating. i plopped right down and began sipping on my coffee, made from bean werks beans by the way.

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now, for a little introduction to my cafe of the day, biscuit head

i had no idea, until i really looked at the logo, but this cafe was a mere baby, established in 2013! from the looks of it, thought, it is doing quite well. there were people coming in and out the whole time i was there. and it’s location is quite good, which only helps i’m sure. the home-cookin’ cafe is located on haywood road in west asheville… a new favorite place of mine with it’s long street of business, cafes, pubs, bars, and second-hand shops. the new, up & coming, hip place to be. and it’s right in the middle of a fabulous neighborhood area, so the people who live in west asheville can walk to haywood road and have their pick of great places.

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of course, there are biscuits served. big, huge, flakey biscuits. and all that jam & jelly i talked about. but, they also have other breakfast items. and tons of choices to add to your biscuit or put on the side. their food is organic and local, and they use recyclable resources striving to lessen their carbon footprint on the earth. they also seek to be involved in many community organizations, such as manna food bank. always, a good thing.

biscuit head seems like they’ve got their mission and vision, and are working hard to live up to it. so far, so good, in my opinion after one visit. oh yes, that is me implying that i will be back. perhaps for a brunch one day? they also have mimosas, which i loooove. shocking, huh?

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i didn’t have any major interaction with anyone while i was there. to be honest, i didn’t have much time. but, i did notice that there were not many people enjoying the place by themselves… most people came as a group, which i think is fantastic. it seemed like a great space for gathering and enjoying a lazy, slow, yummy breakfast/brunch together.

i finished my giant bacon biscuit and took my coffee with me, since it was in my mug. i walked back through the cafe to exit out the back again. i thought that perhaps i might enjoy the back outdoor seating area while i finished my coffee. there were only 2 women left, chatting and laughing with each other. i snapped some shots of this incredibly cozy and very earthy/organic- looking deck/porch, and then i sat down at a table.

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the air was warm, but the breeze was cool. definitely an early fall day – though i am sure that some indian summer days are still left to enjoy. it was peaceful. quiet. and a perfect way to begin my day. and, if you decide to visit biscuit head some day, come early… they close at 2:00!

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namaste. /liz

biscuit head . 733 haywood road . asheville, nc . 28806 . www.biscuitheads.com

Day 2: Bean Werks

i decided to head back to haywood road today. i freaking loved it there. after i left waking life yesterday, i drove down the entire street and discovered more about this gem of a neighborhood. brick warehouse buildings, cafes, shops, yoga & massage studios, pubs, diners, and other regular businesses. it was like a little downtown in and of itself. so, i just had to go back.

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today’s destination: bean werk’s.

this time i trusted my handy gps from the beginning, and you know what? she rocked it out. i made my way to haywood road heaven through little neighborhood streets, which gave me ample opportunity to check out local homes. i looove drive-by home shopping. anyway, right turn here. left turn there. and suddenly i was coming up a side street with bean werks directly on my right, on the corner of haywood road and herron avenue.

as i sat at the stop light, i began to panic about parking. should i park on the street, the busy, 2-laned haywood street, or…  oh no. green light. i instinctively turned right and passed bean werks and another business, and magically,  a parking lot appeared to my right. a big parking lot. perfect. i parked my car and felt giddy and super excited.

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the sun was shining, i was in west asheville again, about to embark on my second fika, and just felt the need to wander a bit. to really soak in the atmosphere and all that is haywood road. i crossed the parking lot and wandered behind a building, where i saw the remnants of beer boxes, kegs, organic eggs, and a composting box at the back of a restaurant. i saw a pub door with it’s entrance on the backside. interesting , i thought. must visit sometime. and then, a bush caught my eye. something moved. a butterfly! i yanked my camera out and began snapping away. she was beautiful as she sucked up the nectar from the flowers. it was a lovely, quiet moment. and for that moment, everything felt peaceful and right.

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i continued on and decided i should get on with my fika… off to bean werks!

i wandered down the sidewalk and passed a coffee shop that seemed quite popular. they had outdoor seating and it smelled delicious. it’s on my list of cafes, so i’ll be back to it another day.

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i arrived at the door to bean werks and felt nervous. it was a pretty small place and i hate that feeling of walking in somewhere new, all heads turn and look your way, and everything is just awkward. i considered not gong in. then i realized that was silly. i took a deep breath, pulled open the door, and was hit by a rush of the smell of hot, roasting coffee beans. wow. amazing!

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there were only a few people inside, and none of them were sitting down. in fact, there weren’t many places to sit at all. hmm… awkward moment, hello.

i did a few circles and then made my way to the counter. there was  tons of coffee stuff everywhere. mugs, cups, thermoses, and bags of coffee. whole beans. ground. and all kinds of flavors. it looked a bit like a general store.

and nothing like a funky, hipster cafe. it was raw, real, warehouse-y, and packed with coffee things.

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i ordered a coffee in my mug anyway and wandered around, looking at things on shelves, things on the walls, things on the floor. back at the front of the store, i saw a tall table with 2 bar stools. a computer was on the table. was this a working table, or a place where one could use the internet? well, i went for it. i chanced it and sat down.

pretty soon, i got the feeling that i was actually the only customer there. the others were all working. two men stood at the table beside mine (the only 2 tables in the cafe). they were sifting through coffee beans and taking out defects. at this moment i realized that i was in a place that was serious about their coffee. it was a place of work, and it was a place where coffee was worshipped.

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soon, there was only one man left at the table examining the coffee beans, and it just happened: i engaged in conversation.  go me. i told him i thought it was so interesting to see the beans in the roaster (which was right behind me). i don’t even know if it’s called a roaster… anyway. the man immediately began chatting with me, and before i knew it i was hearing tons about the coffee bean process.

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so, there i sat. sipping my coffee. and listening to eli (we were now on a first name basis with each other) talk to me about the coffee beans he receives from indonesia. he shared with me the story of the process… from the trees to the farmers to drying the seeds to the bean. fascinating! he even turned on the computer at my table and began showing me his personal photos of the farmers and his contact person in indonesia. truly amazing.

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eli’s passion was obvious as he worked. covered in tattoos and a fairly simple, normal looking guy, i honestly wouldn’t have pegged him as a coffee king. but, he is. you don’t even have to talk to him to know that he loves what he does. he mostly roasts the beans and sells them wholesale, as bean werks is not really a cafe in the regular sense. the process of creating a good, quality cup of coffee is what this place was all about.

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wow. what an experience! what an opportunity to learn some things about coffee at the beginning of my 40 day adventure. perfect timing.

before i left, eli and i exchanged contact information. i’m sure i’ll head back to bean werks to check in and to grab a cup of coffee. it’s not a place i would recommend as a cafe to sit down and write or read, but i most definitely give a two thumbs up to the coffee and the atmosphere. if you love coffee, you simply must stop by.

oh, and, i told you i’d talk to someone today. wonder what’s in store for tomorrow?!

namaste.

Day 1: Waking Life

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i started my 40 days of fika with a trip to west asheville. haywood road, to be exact. the new “place to be” in asheville. or at least i think i’ve heard that it’s the new place to be. anyway,  it’s just a road, but a pretty long road, running from the center of downtown to west asheville. after crossing the river and a highway, it’s amazingness begins. cute arts & crafts homes, bungalows, and cottages line the streets. some remodeled and spiffed up. some delapidated and run-down. past the homes comes the heart of haywood road. cafes, bars, pubs, yoga studios, holistic schools, restaurants, tiny local shopping business, second hand & vintage shops, and coffee houses galore.

though i discovered all of that amazingness after my coffee shop visit.

you see, i didn’t use my gps to get me to waking life. instead, i relied on my own sense of direction (which is usually impeccable), and in trying to take the back roads from downtown (so i could see all of the amazingness), i made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up on the dang main road. grrr. i made my way through all the traffic and turned left onto haywood road, on the end as far from downtown as one could possible be. much to my surprise (i had now enabled my lovely gps assistant), just around the first bend was my destination.

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or was it?

it was a house. like a real, live, i-could-live-here house. but, yes. there was a sign in the front yard. waking life. i was here! let the fika-ing begin!

still stunned, i parked around back and got out, immediately snapping photos of the house. i couldn’t get over it. it was not what i expected at all. i thought i’d be entering some little brick-walled, warehouse-y, industrial shop. but, this was a real house. i felt a little uncomfortable, i must admit. there was a handicapped ramp, the only thing that made it look like a business; and a front porch, inviting me to come on in. a few people sat on the porch, macbook pros all fired up and deep in conversation with one another. a dog lay between their feet. i scoped out the table that i hoped would be free after i ordered my coffee.

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i opened the storm door and entered. whoa. again. not what i expected. now i was expecting a little vintage furniture, mix-matched, second-hand… you get my drift. what i saw was a very clean, minimalist, almost IKEA-inspired design. a few tables with chairs (all bar height) were in the “living room”, as was the coffee bar area. all of the tables were full with people either working alone or in conversation with one another. the barista, a funky, hipster 20-something greeted me, and i ordered a regular coffee and handed her my mug. oops. no more brewed coffee. so, she said she’d make me an americano instead. yes, thank you! more caffeine.

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while she whipped up my americano, i peeked around the rest of the house. down the hall was a “bedroom” which had a table and a sofa and chairs for sitting & working. two people tapped away at their computers in silence. down the hall and further back was a bathroom. complete with the bathtub! another bedroom was the office space. i was tempted to go upstairs, but it was roped off. i wasn’t feeling that adventurous today.

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i got my coffee, paid the 2 dollars, and headed out to my reserved (in my mind) table. it was still free! i sat on the far right end of the porch, facing the street. there were plants and bushes in the front of the house, making it cozy. i never really noticed the traffic, even though it whizzed by constantly. i became wrapped up in my reading, and writing, and by the mere fact that this journey of mine had now begun.

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i wanted to talk more to people, but folks, i am an introvert, so it doesn’t come easily. still, i chatted a bit with the barista when she was making my coffee. she  had friends visiting from sweden, so we discussed the swedish dislike for american water. i totally get it now after living there for 3 years. our water here tastes like a pool. no lie. the only other time i opened my mouth was to ask the couple sitting with the dog to watch my things while i went to the bathroom with the cool tub. i suppose it’s okay that i kept mostly to myself. i was processing a lot.

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i do remember feeling overwhelmed with excitement. to be here. in asheville. just watching people. imagining their stories. feeling connected to sisters and brothers i have never met. i don’t know why i feel that way, but i do. there was one woman in particular i felt quite drawn to. she was a lovely, proud, african-american woman walking down the street, on the other side from where i was sitting. she never saw me, but i watched her as she strutted down the sidewalk, bag slung on her left arm, working her hot pink tank and jeans. where was she going? what was her story? and why was i so interested?

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i forgot about the woman for a while as i got engrossed again in the book i had with me, making notes and having a-ha moment after a-ha moment. suddenly, i looked up when a breeze caught my attention. just as i pulled my eyes up off the page, i saw the woman boarding the public bus. and then she was gone. and i was with my book again.

i got to thinking about community. and how i want to use these 40 days to meet people. to hear stories. to listen. to absorb the unique amazingness that each person has to offer.

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today, i enjoyed every minute of the waking life atmosphere, regular-looking house and all. oh, an dyes, i do recommend it as a great place to slow down. to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown and to enjoy your coffee in simplicity. perhaps, this was the perfect place to “wake up” this new part of my life, whatever it may bring.

and tomorrow i’m gonna talk to someone. like for real.

namaste