The Universal Language (part II)

November always brings cravings for a peppermint mocha, a treat I haven’t allowed myself since my last November as a student in Texas.  Dreadfully homesick and not being able to acclimatize to the 80 degree weather that has never been a reality of my winters, I obliged when an old boyfriend insisted we drink some sugar milk that tasted like Christmas.  A weekend spent in Austin revolved around our ability to locate the nearest Starbucks to order our cups (half syrup and yes of course some whipped cream).

Birthdays since college started have been historically not great and as I sit in Zoka on the eve of my 24th birthday, melancholy Seattle music playing while the wind stirs loose the remaining colorful leaves outside I can’t help but laugh to myself.  A little over three years ago I sat alone at this exact table, facing the door and seeing each unfamiliar face pass through, wondering how long it would be until I made some friends of my own.  But living in this city was good for me.  I grew, surrounded by the love and support of an amazing group of humans who sat inside countless coffee shops talking about life and love, laughing and crying.  I grew, starting my time here as a scared, lonely student who was looking for permission to be happy and healthy into a young woman who is about to set out on another big adventure for herself.  In the last three years I’ve expanded my taste in food and people, I’ve fallen in love, stood up for myself, made and lost friends just to find them again and made some incredible art.

I love this city.

Taking a sip of my coffee and thinking about what the next few weeks have in store for me fills me with the frustratingly complicated mixture of fear and pure excitement.  Two more weeks until I get to put my new passport to use and fly over an ocean.  Two more weeks until I get to explore a new country hand in hand with the man I love.  Two more weeks until I enter into the unknown yet again.  No matter how many To-Do lists and articles I read, nothing can really prepare me for this except actually being there.  But I’m not the same scared, wide-eyed 20 year-old I was when I moved to Seattle.

Coffee is a universal language. You can go anywhere in the world and find coffee and the culture that surrounds it.

The words ring even truer to me today than they did before.

From Boise to Texas to Seattle to that fateful cup that will take me to Denmark.

I’m not sure he knows this, but I fell in love with my clown over a cup of coffee.  I was late to meet him and he had ordered some americanos for us and found a little table outside by the street.  Knowing my luck with love, I had actively been trying to distance myself emotionally.  He started talking about the kind of art he was interested in making and my wall cracked a little bit; I didn’t move my knee away when it accidentally brushed his.  He told me about companies that inspired him and I felt myself relaxing into the space he created for us.  He spoke quietly about a piece of art he and his father had seen years ago that had really touched him and my heart melted as his voice shook a little reliving the emotional effect this piece had on him.  And I was in love.  It hit me faster than caffeine ever does and much more calmly.  The thought “I’m in love with him” passed through my mind and I sat up a little and drank down some hot coffee to choke down the unexpected swell of emotion.

So when weeks later he turned to me and said “Come to Copenhagen with me”, I knew I would.

Twenty-four.  What a strange time in a person’s life.  No longer a student, “between families” (as my friend Erin eloquently put it yesterday), somewhat irresponsible yet finally independent.  The time has come to leave behind this wonderful city as well as my early twenties.  I raise my cup of coffee to you in gratitude.


Over the past few weeks I’ve purchased some plane tickets and made the rounds to people letting them know that I’m headed off to Denmark.  Having never purchased international travel tickets, gone to a foreign country alone, or made somewhat spur of the moment life plans, this felt like big news to share.

I told my grandmother first.  “Great – when’s your ticket?”  While happy for me, she was completely unfazed by the news.

Hours later, my parents.  “Okay.  So you’re going to be there all December?”  Again, not an iota of surprise which, given that I had not only asked for my passport, told them in detail about this tall gingery clown I’d fallen in love with but also practiced Danish in front of them….well I guess it was pretty obviously coming.

Next: the landlord.  “Hey, are you available to meet on Monday?”  “If you’re moving out in October you have to let us know by the end of the day.”  Bu–what?  No…I just… What?

Finally the boss talk.  “So here is the information to set up direct deposit.  Also, I got asked to participate in a piece this Halloween so here are the dates for that and also…um…*hands and voice suddenly getting all awkward and shaky*…I hate to have to do this but I have to put in my last day because I got a ticket and I’m leaving for Denmark.”  *wide-eyed nervous pause*  “Yeah, we figured.  When are you heading out?”

Turns out that apparently people are very supportive of my quest to pursue love and adventure in Denmark.  Telling people has been almost exclusively difficult in my head.  I told my grandmother first as I was worried about how to tell my parents.  She just stared at me and in her most no-nonsense voice said “Liz.  I know you.  You just have to say the thing and you have to say it now.  You’re already making yourself crazy building everything up in your head.  Besides, it’s not like they don’t already know.”  And she was right.

No, telling people wasn’t the hard part.

Learning Danish is the hard part.

Danish is simultaneously incredibly easy (‘de er mine’ –> ‘they are mine’; ‘hej, godmorgan –> ‘hello, good morning’) and completely nonsensical (‘bjørnene fortæller jer om det’ –> ‘the bears tell you about it’).  Unlike with Spanish, I have no friends with whom I can practice and really very few resources from which to learn the language.  I’ve been using Duolingo, a very helpful website/app, to learn the basics, but the words I’m learning have thus far seemed completely useless for every day conversation–unless of course I’ve been woefully misinformed about Denmark and everyone there spends a lot of time talking about turtles drinking beer and elephants eating people (not kidding…these are the practice sentences I have. Elefanterne spiser jer. The elephants eat you.). 

Learning a new language without a teacher, classroom, textbook or any understanding of how the heck ø, æ and å sounds should be formed is, to say the least, utroligt svært.  I spent a few hours some days ago sitting inside a coffee shop with my laptop propped open, headphones plugged in and Duolingo in front of me.  I realized after about 45 minutes that people were staring at me.  Turns out when you mumble “Jeg vil ikke have nogen æbler til morgenmad” at a computer screen, that’s sort of weird.  By the time I had completed a few lessons, the only thing I could say and really mean in Danish was ‘jeg vil gerne have en øl’ –> ‘I want a beer’.

Are any of you coffee lovers out there from Denmark (or speak Danish)?  Any resources on learning a new language?  I’d like to be as prepared as possible for my adventure so I can emerge myself in their (hopefully existent) coffee culture and report back to you with my findings.  Hjælp mig!


This is my first fall not going back to school.

Having not been in college since last December, I falsely assumed that fall arriving wouldn’t seem disorienting.  Yet here I am, sitting in the coffee shop with a new planner, fresh pens and a slew of notebooks just waiting to be filled with given knowledge and…no classes to attend.  I have time to read for pleasure, enough hours at my job to be able to save some money and far less guilt about perusing Pinterest to help my best friend plan her wedding but I still can’t shake the sinking feeling that I have a test coming up next week that I haven’t studied for.

I stare down at my planner and frown impatiently.  Flipping through the early weeks of 2015 I see all the notes for moving, rehearsals, coffee dates and dance classes and remember how simultaneously freeing and agonizing that time between graduating and working actually was.  Winter in Seattle without classes to attend was like slow, cold, tear filled torture.

But my friends and I worked on projects, drank coffee and slowly the sun came out and I found work and fell in love and drank more coffee and it seems that before I got a chance to blink, the rain returned and here we are a third of the way into September.

Is this what adulthood is?  A dizzying blur of work and sleep and desperately trying to coordinate time with friends who have opposite schedules and Skype dates with a boyfriend who exist 9 hours ahead?  Holidays away from family and negotiating weekends with your boss?  Going to friends’ weddings and staying up late at night thinking about the fact that you’ve lived 1/4 of your life (should I grow to even be so old)?

No time for an existential crisis.  Only enough time for another cup and a shower before work.

A Man and His Mug

A few weeks ago I wrapped filming for a movie called “Love You Baby” that was produced by some of the loveliest and most dedicated people I’ve ever worked with.

Before “Love You Baby”, the producers joined together to create this short piece called “A Man and His Mug”.  It’s fun; it’s charming; and while I don’t necessarily agree with the taste tests from the characters, I wanted to share it with y’all.  Enjoy!

Nobody Can Solider Without Coffee

Guest writer Sean shares:

I never learned to soldier.  I learned it was valued to those I let nod in favor of my choice.  A soldier goes forward, against the barrage and in defiance of the scrupulous crime that brought him to his field.  He forgets the careful reason, a now pointless why, and knows only forward fight for the sake of the person at his side.  Forward, in a flawless line of will drawn with a steady hand of abnegation that erases itself as it inks, forward.  Death is not the failure.  Failure is to curve from the path passionately courageous and necessarily blind.

Some weeks ago the New York Times published an article about the place of coffee in the Civil War.  “Coffee,” the author writes “was often the last comfort troops enjoyed before entering battle, the first fight of safety for those who survived.”  I was drawn to the quote attributed to an anonymous diarist: “Nobody can soldier without coffee.”

I have experience to understand that–to a point.  I remember the taste of MRE instant coffee packets throw to heat in the plastic cauldron of a JetBoil askanced on a drawn and frosted tailgate.  Firefighting was something like soldiering.  Yet fire was never the enemy, but the inspiration.  Boredom was the enemy, indifference its collaborator.

We never cut straight through the forest.  Even in directness we meandered, following the contours and caprice of the beast we never felled.  It slept when it was ready, and we only suggested where to lay its head and sink into the loam of ashen dream.  I never so much needed coffee my cup as I did the sight of the fire’s terrible joy in my eye.

I never learned how to soldier.  I learned to sit and sup and let coffee’s voluble smirk become mine.  I taught myself much but I learned the best from someone better.  In the competition we created, the winner was who finished their coffee last.

I would say that coffee still helps us to soldier even without a war; that boost, that lift, that heat traversing us before a day debased or already denied in the gray regretted.  That would follow if I still saw life as a struggle against which we could only fortify and in last inevitable dredges of blood’s grain long for the righteous satisfaction of believing everything black and bitter.  If.

I could never soldier because I can never travel straight to and through.  Even when I thought I knew that the straight was true, always the required tensions of that true bowed that try.  Drawing back, I can see the subtle bow becoming a larger curve.  Farther out still, from a vantage pulled to the point of fray, the bow circles and come back around to where I began.  A circle, the vessel that cups a life, never a line that only cuts it.

What I forget remembers me.  What I know forgets me, and frees me to start anew.  I don’t finish, I fill and empty and fill and die and heal, always drawing and drawn again into the shape that keeps the warmth of living for the sip I’ve been needing.

I cannot soldier with coffee.  I can only drink of the conversation it slies and accept the contrary to being circumscribed; the shape is a space to share, not a boundary to exclude.  Not drawn to separate but drawn to hold.  Never to return for I have never left.  I will never soldier, but with you, I’ll sit.  Victory is not even finishing last.  Victory is choosing to play.  Victory is lovingly cupping an unexpected hello and warming it between our hands.  Victory is living the warmth when it’s gone, the cups empty in the bin.