January 13, 2015

Caffe Sospeso

Friend John Harris, former Vancouver morning radio personality and now producer with AMI Accessible Media recently reminded me of the random acts of kindness showing up in the caffe sospeso movement.

Coffee, as my faithful reader knows, is important to me. Finding a great cup of coffee has been, to date, a journey across four continents, numerous time zones and a bunch of baristas.  About the only time I've been away from a cafe serving an adequate cup of java was during the three months Sherry and I spent in the Yukon. Even in the Red Centre of Oz I could find a decent espresso, but that's the coffee culture of Australia for you: slightly more advanced than this northern nation of Tim Horton's and Starbucks, though again, as my dear reader understands, there are some good, independent coffee shops to be found here on the left coast. And in NYC , or BA, or Tucson or even Squamish.

A caffe sospeso is a suspended coffee, paid for in advance as an anonymous act of charity. It's usually a simple, black coffee. The tradition began, perhaps, one hundred years ago in the working class cafes of Naples, where someone who experienced good luck would order a sospeso, paying the price of two coffees but receiving and consuming only one. A poor person enquiring later whether there as a sospeso available would then be served a coffee for free.

The sospeso movement died out, depending on your reading of history, and the history as recorded by the Internet, only to be revived, again in Italy, during the financial crisis of the 2008.

In 2013, a smiling John Sweeney of Cork, Ireland, launched a facebook page to promote the idea of suspended coffees, along with the larger notion of random kindnesses. He has since been celebrated on a variety of sites, and the movement has spread.

Ultimately the contemporary caffe sospeso is a symbol of social solidarity born out of the 2008 recession in Europe. The reason for solidarity has not changed from 2008. Indeed, the more ways we can build solidarity, the better. From Gaza to Nigeria, from France to Senegal, or from Ontario to Saskatchestan, it doesn't much matter.

Does the idea of caffe sospeso work here? In Vancouver or Burnaby, Palermo or Canberra? Well... we should find out. We're all in this together after all. Let me know what happens... themurraychronicles@gmail.com

Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray

January 12, 2015

Spotting the Eagles in Brackendale

It was sunny and cold and the mountain air felt good. It was the day after.

It was the day after New Year's Eve, and we were feeling the effects of a night with the Whiskeydicks.

We had stayed at the Howe Sound Inn and took in their New Year's Party featuring an energetic Celtic-punk-party band that kept the crowd on their feet and dancing. Yes, dancing. Even Jeem.

Fortunately no pictures remain of the night, and it was all in good fun. Perhaps I consumed a wee bit too much of the Howe Sound Imperial Stout that goes by the name: Pothole Filler. It's a bracing ale to be sure; a full litre in every bottle and a nifty nine percent alcohol content. That and the wine with dinner and hopping around like a banshee to an out-of-control fiddle player contributed to the morning after.

Throughout the town and through the night, and even from my now good friends in the Whiskeydicks, we kept hearing that the Eagles have arrived in Brackendale. The Eagles. Well. Of course we had to see them.

No. Apparently not those Eagles. Their fighting and scrapping wouldn't do in peaceful Brackendale anyway.

So New Year's Day morning, the morning after remember, we went to Brackendale. To see the Eagles, whatever form they might take.

We walked and waited. Watching. Waiting. With hundreds of others. In the cold and snow. Looking for the eagles.

Hundreds of eagles, possibly a thousand, winter here every December and January. However.

Are those the eagles?

Apparently the eagles were having a morning after too.

Photos, except for the band
 publicity photo, 
by Jim Murray. Copyright 2015.

January 09, 2015

Je suis Ahmed

Sometimes it takes time for things to settle. It's sometimes difficult to handle the twenty-four hour news cycle and its need, our need, to fill its space and time, to tell its story. Who decides the story and how it is framed? What happens when messy bits are left out, or inconvenient and confusing pieces are set off to one side?

Ahmed Merabat was the first of the twelve innocent people killed in Wednesday's attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

Ahmed Merabat was a 42 year old policeman doing his job in the 11e arrondissement, when he was shot, point-blank by one of the three assassins, only minutes before they stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo. Ahmed Merabat was also a Muslim and a proud citizen of the French Republic, like the vast majority of the country's six million Muslims.

One twitter writer said it best:

Je suis Charlie? Yes, of course! And also, most emphatically: Je suis Ahmed.

We're all in this together. Aren't we?

Copyright 2105 by Jim Murray

January 08, 2015

Sea to Sky Gondola ~ Squamish

At this time of year, it's best to prepare for winter and the cold of ice and snow, especially when you're heading to the summit of the Sea to Sky Gondola.

Located between Vancouver and Whistler, just outside the wonderful town of Squamish, where Sherry and I celebrated New Year's Eve, but that's another story, the ride takes about 15 minutes and covers almost 2km. The true vertical rise is 850 metres.

At the summit we are 885 m above sea level, the sun is bright and the temp is just below freezing and dropping.

There is a suspension bridge from the summit Lodge, which houses cafe, bar and gift shop, leading to viewing platforms and a number of hikes. At times the path is shaded, cold and almost dark with the heavy, low slung branches of the trees. At other times a person will walk out into the blinding brilliance of the sun.

The views are incredible from every direction. The sky is bright, the air crisp and clean, and the shadows long and cold.

Do we have to leave? Well, apparently yes. We have a dinner and dancing engagement with the Whiskeydicks at the Howe Sound Inn & Brewery. And anyway, in winter the last ride down is at 6:00 pm and by that time it is truly cold and dark.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2015.