26 June 2009

puch it up!

I've been slowly working on a "new" bike, in the background, when I'm not at the shop. It's made by Puch, an Austrian manufacturing company that once made cars, bikes, mopeds, and motorcycles. (I also heard they made lawn mowers & chainsaws, but that has not been verified.) Now, they just make bikes. Estimates by those who purport to know put this bike as manufactured in the early '80s.

The bike was a gift from Tony Sem, back when the eponymous Nishiki was stolen off the front of a bus. Grateful as I am, and love it as I do, the bike is pretty hard to describe as anything but a beater. A cerulean-blue paint job, chipped, revealed a lighter, aqua-blue underneath. The seat stays had broken at some point & been welded back together. Mysteriously, every element of the frame (top tube, bottom tube, seat tube, rear stays, even the fork) had scotch tape on it, somewhere. As though scotch tape would do ... something.

What the.

Now, I like bikes. I like fixing them up to my specs, & I like the challenge of turning something modest into something interesting. So I was looking into ways to make this bike something other than a beater. Then I ran into Ephraim at LA Brakeless while I was shopping for parts. He & I chatted about wheelsets & cogs, what gear ratio I hoped to run, & the not-particularly-to-my-liking paint job. He mentioned stripping & powdercoating it. Stripping a bike of paint is either cheap (if you sand- or ball-blast it) or very cheap (if you use harsh chemicals & fervor). Something about taking off the paint myself appealed to me. I don't know. I can be stubborn & foolish. Ask anyone I've ever dated, ever, and they will tell you this is true.

Three rounds of scrubbing the thing with incredibly harsh chemicals later, and the frame is finally, mostly, clean of the blues. Interesting: It's a gun-metal-grey steel frame under all that. The lugged frame was brazed together using a brass-colored metal that fades & streaks nicely into the gun-metal. And then there's the issue of the paint. I will never get absolutely all that paint off. Currently, it's flecked with the cerulean blue, a detail I'm not really all that sad about. While the idea of not painting the bike a different color had come up once I discovered the lovely gun-metal-grey beneath, I've since decided to clear-coat it as is, flecks & all. [NB: Fuck the paint. I had an idea for this bike, & it didn't involve flecks of cerulean blue, I'll tell you what. I gave up too easily on that one.] Unexpectedly, it's going to be a pretty nice-looking bike, indeed. Pictures to come after my next trip to BikeRoWave, assuming I remember to take them.

Serendipity. Acceptance. Hard work & mirth. Something. I just get the feeling I'm going to like the hell outta this bike, especially after I kit it up with the components I want: Brooks honey saddle with matching bartape & toe straps, or Brooks dark brown saddle with matching toe straps & shellacked brown cloth bartape.

That's it, pals. See you on the road.


25 June 2009

whoah hey hello

Hi! Last time I saw you here ... well, a lot has happened.

We had the Preview Party, which was surreal. A line around the block for the opening of a coffee bar. Actually. Then, the building had some inspections to pass, which was ... time-consuming & hard for everyone, probably least of all for us trainees (& most of all for, say, Mass Architecture, the technical specialists Nick & Paul & Jim, the construction crews, & of course Tim & Kyle & Doug). Nicely & I got caught out by Doug Zell having "happy hour" beers after an early-morning training session (ending at 3pm) ... which was embarrassing. It's just a very early hour to be so happy.


And then the real excitement began.

Not like how this is exciting — totally different. This is bad-exciting. What I'm talking about is good-exciting.
Previous to this madness, we had trained for 9 weeks. We learned about a very many aspects of the industry: History, perception (taste & smell & touch, if mouthfeel could be described as touch), language, agriculture, agronomy, botany, chemistry, physics. Why we make latté art & what it signifies. Our (written) final exam was 16 pages long, & it was completely independent of our practical exam, which (ideally) lasts 18 minutes & (not ideally) lasts less than that.

But the funny thing about training is, it doesn't matter how long you train. There's nothing like the real thing, much as dress rehearsal has some bearing on performance but it's just ... not ... performance, or how working on a draft is very different from putting Rotring to mylar. Same steps. Different*. Added to the general rehearsal-is-not-performance analogy is the fact that we're doing things differently, even from other Intelligentsia coffee bars. The process. The flow of traffic, for lack of a better word. The whole experience from the customer's point of view. Introducing the all of it, sometimes to people merely curious about an open gate, sometimes to people outright suspicious, all the while not breaking the flow in making coffee (& with a quickness) is hard to rehearse. It's an interesting challenge, & one we get better at every day.

It's also one we hope we won't have to improve upon too much; as we gain the trust of the true Venice natives, as we demonstrate this unusual new flow does indeed make a lot of sense, as we talk & brew & pour & talk & brew & talk some more & brew & pour, people will get it, in time. I know it. And much as I love talking to people (& lemme tell you, I really love talking to people), this future time I see in my head is an exciting time to think about.


* Our man Tyler referred to training as the Prologue & the actual opening of the shop as Chapter One. It's apt. More on Chapter 1 later, though. You look tired.