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Big dreams with small means.
"You don't owe your audience your art; you owe your audience your life."
A bad director
A bad boss
Brings out the worst in people.
He makes you not want to come in to work at all.
A good director brings out the best in people.
He asks those around him to rise to new challenges again and again and they do.
It is very hard to be a good director.
This has been in development for weeks – through bus rides and evenings before bed and afternoons of holidays. I am sure it will change as I remember more things, but for now, here it is, in all of its unnecessary length. That’s just my style:
Coffeegraph is over, and as Patrick put it, “the roof didn’t cave in so we’re ok.” In actuality, the roof did cave in, but it happened right before Coffeegraph, and we fixed it, so we’re still ok. But what Patrick was saying in a less literal manner is that we took on a very ambitious project and successfully got through it without destroying ourselves. And what’s more, we impressed the coffee community, made a multitude of lifelong fans, landed our first major sponsorships, made enough money to come out on top and pay people instead of funding out of pocket, sold a couple of pieces, got more press than ever before, learned a ton about how our space interacts with fans and situations, and most importantly discovered a model for throwing shows that works.
In June, when planning for Coffeegraph loosely started, I didn’t even drink coffee. Now I can operate a Strada II espresso machine (note that I did not go so far as to call myself a barista). I’m not going to sit here on this Greyhound and say that the show went perfectly or even met my expectations, because I feel that I missed the mark greatly in many areas I was anticipating to excel; I will say that there were a couple moments where I was going to give up (indeed, I had declared Coffeegraph my final attempt at throwing shows here and its failure to satisfy our ambitions the ultimate demis of the Think Tank), but I don’t think you can make something this big if you don’t want to kill it and henceforth yourself – since it is you – somewhere along the lines. And due to the names I am about to rattle off, I fought through and accomplished this festival of coffee, and achieved what might be the greatest 0-60 in coffee history as well; from afraid of caffeine to running a full-on coffee shop with the best coffee in town with mere weeks to figure it out after starting in November. Not to mention hosting a bevy of events while maintaining the full-time job of start-up coffee shop owner and the other full-time job of art gallery manager. There were moments in which the word “impossible” was used aloud to describe a problem that was solved just hours later, on multiple occasions. And it was these people that achieved those miracles:
First, I must thank John, who I could tell was itching to involve himself in the process and swoop in to save the day at many junctures. But instead he sat back, and let me make my mistakes and figure it out on my own - which is what we needed - while simply offering his advice and encouragements. Well, he did gift us with a ton of milk and water at the end when we ran out of money, but its just in his nature to be generous like that so I can’t complain at all.
The most important player in all of this was Avi. That pull-no-punches pillar of insight and energy really drove me to make sure this show would happen. I don’t know if I’ve received such a potent dose of wisdom and constructive criticism in my life (forget college), and all while respecting my differing opinion on how to run the show. And no lesson was better received in all my life than “toss out the garbage and keep the good stuff,” especially after I repeated this to him and he wondered out loud “who said that?” Your patience will go down as one of the most valuable resources in establishing the Think Tank’s foothold in the LA art scene, Avi. Not to mention your endless determination.
Speaking of determination, it was just June that I first told Avi that “we won’t be hosting an art show about coffee (later switched to ‘a coffee show about art’ after a delirious, late-night brainstorm “mistake”) without building a coffee shop,” whereafter Avi unleashed his can’t-be-stopped nature on the city of Los Angeles and found me a list of interested parties that proved this could be possible. But it the determination of Garrett that really proved the integral piece of the puzzle. Garrett accomplished the impossible task of building a structure that changed every day due to to the ever-evolving aesthetic and functional needs of a rapidly growing list of involved parties. He also did this almost completely out of free material and in three weeks. And with zero prior knowledge of building any type of restaurant or coffee bar kitchen. And with no promise of pay. And little help. If there is any sign of a miracle throughout this process, the moment a pro barista answered my question of our setup’s efficiency with “it’s better than half of the restaurants I’ve worked at,” we knew the food/coffee blog focus on our pop up was justified.
The bar itself could not have succeeded without the help of the LA Coffee Club. Especially Adam. We needed not only access to, but acceptance into a very tightly knit coffee community that is just planting its roots in LA, and it was the LA Coffee Club that provided this. Once the other half of the Club, Antone, got the coffee companies confirmed, however, their involvement didn’t fall off. Instead, it was hard to visit the bar without seeing Adam behind it practicing his latte art, while somehow also not missing a moment of shooting video at any event, providing over half of our marketing material, renovating his site when ours was confusing people, and being the dude that solved any problem that arose. And huge thanks also go out to Sarah from the LA Public Library for introducing me to these guys.
And speaking of solving problems that arose, one of the biggest favors that we were done was Evan from Stumptown turning down our initial pitch in favor of becoming our go-to guy in the early days of planning Coffeegraph. Evan let us know that our original pitch of $15k was going to come nowhere near cutting it for what we’d end up needing to run this thing, and introduced us to a bunch of other people to share the love as much as possible instead of hogging the glory. If it wasn’t for Stumptown signing on imediately and mentoring us through the whole process, this show wouldn’t have happened. Evan also introduced me to Mike, who loaned us the pinnacle in coffee machinery, basically letting us borrow the equivalent of a luxury vehicle, after a few phone calls and a Skype session with Garrett where we set up a laptop on a dirty mop bucket in our crime scene of a work-in-progress warehouse. He took a huge risk and we appreciate that. It took some trust and some imagination and a lesser man would not have seen it with the open mind that he did.
Pretty much the whole way through, Patrick remained one of the most important players in the creation of anything. From coordinating the creation of our initial pitch for partnership between myself and our designer MACA - who also was very important to the existence of this show - Patrick handled everything from putting together our landing page, to creating the incredible teaser spotlight on Avi, to developing the retail system through which we sold anything that was sold. And he hasn’t stopped. He is still working on sharable content.
We also will remain forever indebted to Patricia, who threw herself without reservation into the Coffeegraph show and donated her entire services merely for the chance to be involved and for the belief in what the Think Tank represents. From moderating our panels to landing LA Weekly as our official media partner (shout out to Elisa who made working with LA Weekly a blast), to getting Avi his much-needed interviews, Patricia did everything short of build the show herself. And in fact, when the opportunities arose (like buying materials or printing the signs), she built the show, too.
This is stretching on like an Oscars speech by a winner in an unimportant category who gets cut off by the commercial break, so I’ll jump to the shout outs. But I must also cite Aurelia and Drew’s contributions. The two of them sacrificed sleep and health for the betterment of the show. Using their expertise they explored and discovered the space, but it was by their commitment to my mental health that these two really contributed. At the times I thought this show was impossible in its scale, Aurelia or Drew would show up and confirm that what I was attempting was just. And the Think Tank will be forever transformed for it.
And semi-finally, at the times the show actually was impossible, it was Ana, Danny, and Pilar who came through and saved the day. Like the cleanup crew in an action movie, they came in with their brilliant ideas and second wind (indeed, they powered through a lack of sleep and sacrificed time and holidays even more than the rest of us at times) and saved our weary souls. Things like ignored problems that needed solutions, nourishment, and access to the outside world sat solely on the shoulders of these three monsters of productivity.
When the shit hit the fan, Think Tankers David Darley, Jordan, Colin, Kaleb, Evan, Seth, Arnaud, Dan, Dylan, and others made sure that everything got done. Some-fuckin-how Kevin built us a gorgeous bathroom and ran power and water to our machine in the middle of production. Chad came through with his brilliant mobile coffee bar ‘Barista Capsule,’ which proved one of the most vital contributions. Gretchen at Caffe Vita and Bobby at Cafe Demitasse showed huge faith in their contributions. Zayde, Kian, and Spencer from the guest roasters and all of their volunteer baristas (especially Selina who spent a night training us all for free) really made it all work out.
Runson, Francisco, and the rest of the Experimentalists, Troy and Ned and the Downtown Train guys, and Forrest and his Conundrum funk band will be repaid for their volunteering at the opening with a party for them where I’ll work on the flyer myself. Shaun of Boomtown will make his presence felt here once more (as will Kitty and Jen, I’d hope). All of the contributors who put on LA Coffee Club’s events, as well as their fans who drove from far and wide to finish the show are always welcome here. Jonathan Stout, Hilary Alexander, and the Campus Five (including Josh the drummer from Magnetic Zeros for his great advice) were super supportive and brought a great crowd I can’t wait to have back. Sarah and Joe from Big Frame have been relentlessly supportive of what we are doing here, and introduced me to Michael Cruz at their great panel. Kat put together a wonderful idea for an event that will come to fruition very soon. The Lord Windsor dudes took a chance on our deaf cupping that paid of hugely with Drew and Adam’s help; much thanks goes to Jeremy and the Art Walk Association for supporting our after party during their crazy times, and to Jason and Robbie and the other bandmates I don’t know quite as well for fulfilling prophecies and finally filling our halls with their sounds.
Ariana, Danielle, and the rest of the Ate9 Dance Company have a permanent home at the Think Tank after their memorable coffee-responsive performance of “Sheila.” Dead Meadow gave us bragging rights and one hell of a night and we appreciate that and Evan’s hard work. Aida Batlle also gave us bragging rights and permanent credence in the coffee community, and we struck gold with Andrew and Nora in what will surely become a repeating LA Chess Boxing event. Thank you for fighting through your loss, Andrew. Chuck Jones made our closing event’s panel well-rounded and our performers and LA Weekly street team made it into a party. And all of those bloggers, writers, and editors interested enough to comment on our show have provided us with endless pride. We love you for it.
And speaking of love, I have thanked you many times for your ongoing support, Mom, and that appreciation remains, but this show really goes out to my sisters for believing in me and praying for my success in sharing this beauty. Especially Sarah, who is now old enough to see just how dumb some of the risks I take with my “career” truly are.
Final shout outs to the vinyl wall decal printers, and art delivery guy Brian, and security and cleanup teams from Craigslist who slayed it and will be getting rehired, and Brandon who let us borrow two incredible coffee tables, and Beyond the Grind who provided our wares, and our espresso technician Fernando, and our advisors during trouble The LA Brew Techs, and Ryan Crowley who introduced us to Avi, and Lauren who rush printed our flossy golden shirts, and our neighbors for being patient with our production schedule, and the Lindy Loft folks who taught free swing lessons, and Secret Squirrel who made Cocoa Puffs Mocha Malts, and Tennessee who trained our baristas for doing way more to help us than you had to, all of you.
You made this show beautiful and important.
I don’t know if this process just got easier or harder.
Money sucks. I just wanna create. Everyone is asking for dollars now that they know I have them but the budget is maxed out and I am starting to go out of pocket.
Ugh. It also feels like an unclimbable mountain. I guess the only thing to do is just pull out a calculator and starting chipping away at this once I figure out where to start. I guess that is where I start…
I swear, bro. Just give me the rock and watch.
All I need is that point of contact and a green light and the Think Tank will knock your socks off. Call it “ambitious” if you want, because it is. But believe it or not just green light it and let me go because I’m not that interested in you saying that the way we say it will happen is impossible.
In my over alerted observance of vices and my needs for them I noticed that despite how stressful today was, I accomplished the following:
I replaced them with a ton of gluten and football while I ate a giant bowl of Strawberry Frosted Mini Wheats in front of the MNF game I recorded.
Since picking up basketball again it’s been insanely easier to stay on top of my desire to eliminate dependence on vices. Basketball is that vice now. I gotta play two or three nights a week or I get antsy. That or see my girl an equal amount. But watching, feeling, and hearing that ball go through the net is a beautiful meditation. It washes all stress away. It’s religious almost.
Anyway these are just my quarter-life observations. I’m going to bed now to get up and get back to pounding the pavement on this coffee show. Details soon.
Empty house with a massive party upstairs while I’m chugging away in my room alone makes me think.
I know I will work myself to death.
It was written in the stars for me long ago. I enjoy the hell out of it and put every bit of me into it pretty often.
But I gotta remember that I don’t need to do it just yet.
Balance is tough for me but if I can figure it out I can work myself to a much later death.
I’m going to make it without smoking anything, drinking alcohol, soda, or caffeine, spending money, playing video games, and any kind of intimacy today. Just art.
It’s crazy how many vices artists can find to distract themselves from just creating.
I feel like if this August show sells, I will be creating the best art shows and parties in all of Los Angeles within two years.
With the help of collaborators of course; and those collaborators are going to blow my mind even more than the geniuses I get to know now.
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