Thursday, October 24, 2013

My Top Five Downtown Santa Ana Coffee Spots (Oct. 2013)

Coffee–It's nature's wonder cure and a Creative's lifeblood when grinding through an endless project or when burning the midnight oil. Too much will make you jittery and your butt crack sweaty (or is that latter result just happen to me), but just the right amount and you'll bang-through whatever project you're currently struggling to finish in no time.

If you think about it, coffee is a lot like (married) sex. Everyone has their own rituals and personal preference in creamy and sugary foreplay, while others like myself just want to get right down to business (hot and dark).

The results are more often euphoric–everything seems brighter and clearer, all of your problems are now easily solvable, or even better, forgettable, and you can't help but smile for the next few hours.

Now that I think of it, coffee might actually be better than sex!

With that said, here are my top five Downtown Santa Ana coffee spots:

5. Memphis at the Santora - Lavazza–It's like the poor man's Intelligentsia but always hits the spot.

4. Little Sparrow Cafe - Kéan Coffee–Always fresh–like it's just been brewed just for you.

3. The Playground - Portola Coffee–Find me a hipster who doesn't like Portola.

2. Au Naturaw - Groundworks Coffee, prepared via French Press. Come for the coffee, stay for the refreshing alkaline water and amazingly delicious (and healthy) eats.

1. C4 Deli - Supreme Bean Black & Tan, prepared via French Press (available in 12 or 20oz.)–The (somewhat) new guys on the block got it right out of the gate.

Got your own list? Any places you think I should try? Let me know!

And no, coffee really isn't better than sex, but I'd say they're pretty damn close.

Monday, October 14, 2013


A few years back, I decided to leave the confines of Corporate America and "do my own thing". I was barely in my early 30's and I was already exhausted from pointless early scrum calls, excessive Outlook meeting requests, and know-nothing Brand Managers who relied on people like me to explain their job to them.

And until recently, my commercially zoned "man-cave" downstairs was where I spent the majority of my life grinding out a living.

My "on-duty" hours ranged anywhere from 6AM to well, whenever I was at a good stopping point (which was usually when I could no longer focus my eyes on whatever project I was working on at that time).

During those hours spent downstairs, I've seen countless cars, busses, trucks, and Sheriff’s vehicles, fly down Santa Ana Boulevard at 50+ MPH–AND THAT SHIT GETS REALLY LOUD!

Not to mention that a majority of the cars seem to either be a diesel truck, have some sort of exhaust system, or worse, be missing their catalytic converter and be just all the more annoying.

And a side-rant about exhaust systems: Kids, if you drive an automatic, DO NOT put a exhaust system on your car! There is nothing sexy or badass about a loud low-RPM automatic gear shift.

In 2006 when I first moved into the lofts, the north side of the complex was still years away from being completed. Every now and then my awesome friend/neighbor Luis and I would stand out front and nerd out about upcoming movies or the most recent "Lost"or "Dexter" (when it was good) episode.

A few years had gone by and Lennar had recently completed putting up the buildings across the street. One night, Luis and I were talking out front and we could barely even hear each other. It turns out that with the buildings constructed directly across from us, the sound of the vehicles was amplified as it reverberated until it dissipated. Think of it as being in the bottom of a narrow canyon and yelling "ECHO!".

Over the years, the sound of vehicles roaring down Santa Ana Boulevard became part of the overall background noise that comes with living at the Santiago Street Lofts. My good buddy Luis ended up moving to scenic Utah and thus my time spent out on Santa Ana Boulevard was reduced to not nearly what it once was.

A few months back, I decided to take up some office space in Downtown Santa Ana. The rent was a deal I could not pass up and the location was adjacent to all of my favorite restaurants. Situated on historic 4th Street (Calle Cuatro), I was expecting it to be noisy, but it turns out it's surprisingly a more mellow downtown city-street-type of noise–and I LOVE IT.

I guess it has something to do with the overall purpose and differences between the two streets: 4th Street is an active street where people want to be versus Santa Ana Boulevard being a passive street packed with churches and apartment complexes.

Man, I miss Luis. He was good people.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


I'm back (again).

No, I haven't moved, been stabbed, or joined a cult (well, I kinda did)–I just needed to take a break from blogging for a while, a real long while.

Why? Because being a "Type A" personality coupled with being a dude who is super-passionate about the City he lives in can quickly lead burn out–especially if you live in the City of Santa Ana.

Before my self-imposed exile from blogging, I often found myself thinking "why are people so short-sighted" and "gee, how many times am I going to hear the race card be played at this community meeting".

Every time I began a blog entry, I saw that bitterness began to consume my words and eventually my actions and that's when it hit me–the Santa Ana honeymoon is definitely over.

Many of the original residents here at the lofts have (smartly?) moved on and new tenants and renters have filled their spaces, but not their dreams and passions about this area that we all once shared.

My dream of living in a progressive downtown setting such as Portland, San Diego, or dare I say Brooklyn, was quickly fading as empty lots adjacent to our community, now branded "The Station District" were being filled by affordable rental projects (I'll have a few follow-up posts on this issue in the coming weeks). Our Station District was now looking more like The Apartment District.

And yes, I will agree that our downtown has grown up since the days of The Santa Ana Pub Crawl, it's a little too late–at least for me that is.

I love that there's a great music venue just right down the street from us at The Yost, but the thought of partying with an 18 and up crowd would definitely solidify my fears that I have finally entered a mid-life crisis.

I love that there's finally a restaurant on the corner of 3rd and Broadway (ChapterOne), yet I often question the over-complexity of the dishes on their menu and usually end up finding myself hanging out at the bar while making meaningless conversation with someone who is less-informed about the politics that govern and often blindly guide our city.

For so many years, I had lived in this dream world of what this city could be that when the walls of (Orange County) reality finally came crashing in, I needed to get away. So I ran.

Literally, I began running 5Ks, 10Ks, then half marathons, and finally the LA and OC Marathons. When that got boring (because let's face it, running is boring), I began participating in triathlons, relay triathlons, and other goofy grueling events that pushed my physical (and mental) limitations. Essentially, this was my cult., my escape.

2nd Place–Also known as "1st Place Loser".
Especially since there was only one other relay team!
These events offered a wonderful support group for those, like me, who are perpetual dream-chasers, by giving them an achievable goal along with a shiny little prize at the conclusion of the event (plus, my body weight, blood pressure and cholesterol all returned to normal levels).

But I never once took my eyes off my true passion–my city. As I trained for all of these events, I did it in this city. As my endurance grew and mile times improved, the downtown improved as well with cleaner streets, better lighting, and best of all, new faces coming to explore our city.

And for a while, I gave up chasing the dream of supporting street car projects, reviving a farmer's market, growing the Santiago Art Walks, supporting cool bungalow developments right down the street, and instead, chased finish lines and personal records.

But now, I think it's time to get back to focusing on my true passion, my beloved city.