It's a new year. Anything is possible.
In the year ahead, may your freezer always contain your favorite ice cream and your pets grow increasingly adorable. May your passwords remain tucked inside their warm, encrypted blankets and the “Check Engine” light stay dim. May your favorite restaurant remain open and your grocery continue carrying that one thing you can't find anywhere else.
May your work be challenging and captivating and if not, may the door open to a delightful alternative. May the year be full of good health and absent of loss. May you experience unexplainable calm before you step onto a stage, and may there be an eager, appreciative audience awaiting you. May your dentist praise your remarkable oral hygiene and your landlord lower your rent just because.
May you be surprised at every turn by the kindness of strangers and acceptance of friends and family. May your favorite show be renewed and each novel you read come to an emotionally satisfying conclusion. May you stumble onto new paths and find joy in the familiar. May you have enough money to pay the bills and may you be surrounded by generous friends. May you enjoy art you don’t understand and start things you don’t finish.
May your neighborhood grow closer and may new voices be heard above the din. May you laugh uncontrollably and never run out of hot water. May you be free to take risks and able to help those who aren’t. May you discover a band before your friends and attend a concert that leaves you breathless. May old hurts begin to heal and recipes turn out even better than expected. May there be room for new friends and time for meandering conversations. May the sun warm you when you’re cold and the moon guide you during late-night adventures. And above all else, may you experience love in its innumerable forms, each and every day.
Anything is possible. It's a new year.
The latest dispatch asked, What is the story behind your favorite local businesses?
My favorite local business is Taco Grill. Living in Orange County, Mexican food is everywhere. I would say this place has the best mexican food, but my family has taken so much to it that everyone that knows us knows it. "Dinner at Manny's tonight." "What do you want from Manny's?" "Manny's on Tuesday?" Manny is the small, middle-aged owner with a heart the size of his burritos. Seeing it grow over the past few years has been like seeing my brother mature. We got him a plant for the business' anniversary, we know the brother who works there a lot, we've had his food for two graduations and countless birthdays. Manny is part of the family. Even so much that my mother says when she dies, my dad will be at Manny's for dinner every day.
My favorite local business is the Altadena Wine & Ale House located in Altadena, CA, which is immediately north of Pasadena. It's the modern day Cheers. I've gotten to know so many interesting people there and there's always a familiar or friendly face. Plus, there's a great selection of wine and beer and modestly priced in comparison to the majority of bars in the Los Angeles area. This description is really doing it zero justice. It has become a very special place to me this last year, but it's rather difficult to explain why.
Cafe Mox in Seattle! It's this cafe attached to a giant board game store with a huge collection of games to borrow. You can – and we often do – camp out at a table for hours trying new games and enjoying old favorites. Being able to try a game also lets us decide, without laying out the money, if we'll actually like it and the collection has grown substantially because of this opportunity. Plus their food while not necessarily top rate is pretty good and doesn't interfere with gaming (i.e. nothing that requires silverware).
Dragon's Lair, the largest-by-floor-space comic shop in Austin. It's changed locations at least 3 times since I started going there. I like that it is well lit and clean (unlike many a comic dungeon I've been in), has a friendly helpful staff who are great people to be new and uneducated in front of and has gaming stuff as well as comics from board games to war games. It's one of the few places I pull out my debit card just to save them the 3% or whatever that my credit card company would charge them.
I buy my coffee from a local roaster, Light Rail Café and Roaster, and I love to stop in every now and then for a fresh cup on my way to work. The proprietors, my friends Joel and Katie, are former co-workers, and it’s nice to mix acquiring the necessary caffeine with a short chat between friends.
When I need to go out for breakfast, I unfailingly visit Maria’s House of Pancakes, a place with almost zero personality in its exterior, atmosphere, and staffing—but also the best omelets ever. My friends and I go out to breakfast there on the morning of every January 1, and we rebuild our energy from the previous late night while sharing our hopes and goals for the coming year. Also, there are omelets. Did I mention the omelets?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Saint Regis Club, a nearly undefinable institution to which I pay a monthly fee for the privilege of… hanging out whenever I want? The member benefits have shifted over the years, appearing and disappearing as the owners have played with different business models or methods of attracting customers. In recent months, the building has been mostly taken over by a coffee shop and a bar, as my friend Dave, who owns the place, has finally realized that to make money you have to sell people something they want.
I’ve stuck with the Club, though, partly out of loyalty, but also because I like the idea of a meeting place for like-minded (or, at least, like-motivated) people. I still write there, on the days I dedicate to the task, and the bar staff have gotten used to seeing me camp out from noon to midnight in the basement, lost in whatever is coming through my headphones. Having that [mostly] solitary place to bury myself in work is worth the monthly dues, and I keep believing in the ideals that the Saint Regis Club hasn’t quite found a way to attain.
Austin favorites: JuiceLand, Taco Deli, Anderson's Coffee, The Alamo Drafthouse, KUTX, Waterloo Records, Franklins BBQ, Book People, Rootin' Ridge Toymakers, Clayworks, Threadgill's, Hoover's Cooking, UFCU, The Broken Spoke, Houndstooth Coffee
In Naples, Gift of Coffee to Strangers Never Seen by Gaia Pianigiani:
No one here seems to know precisely when or how the suspended coffee began. But that it started here speaks to the small kindnesses that Italians are known for — and also of the special place that coffee occupies in the culture.
A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros, reviewed by Lauren Elkin:
Less organized than a sport and more profound than a voyage, a long walk, Gros suggests, allows us to commune with the sublime. Through sheer force of continuous effort, the views we contemplate become more beautiful than if we had simply pulled over by the side of the road to admire them. By physically covering the terrain, we make it ours: The beauty of the world is inscribed in us, and we in it.
How to Be Liked by Everyone Online by Pamela Paul:
Followers are for religious leaders, for gurus, for motivational speakers, and I am none of these things. Even as a child, I was more bystander than Queen Bee; girls with followers scared me. Followers can turn on you; they travel in packs. Yet now I am told every day, sometimes by the minute, that someone is following me, and that this is good news.
2015: The Year We Get Creeped Out By Algorithms by Zeynep Tufekci:
Think of a world in which your phone constantly checked in with the central phone company to decide which of your relatives it should allow you to call, and to jumble their sentences around in any order it deemed “better” (to keep you “engaged” and on the phone longer) — and served you ads in the middle? That’s many of your platforms today.
Abundance Without Attachment by Arthur Brooks:
Though it seems counterintuitive, it is physically permanent stuff that evaporates from our minds. It is memories in the ether of our consciousness that last a lifetime, there for us to enjoy again and again.
What are your wishes for the new year?