Art and coffee. Two of the biggest motivators in the world.
When I learned that my longtime friend, photographer Glen E Friedman, was opening his 'Fuck You All' exhibition in Dublin, which is *also* home to Colin Harmon who happens to be one of the top baristas in the world—I did the only sensible thing. I immediately booked a flight to Ireland.
That isn't as insane as it sounds: I was already traveling from Los Angeles to France, and found tickets for $40 each way from Paris. But still: with no notice, I'd decided to bounce across Europe to go to an art opening and drink some coffee.
Which, now that I type it, isn't out of character for me at all.
All my previous journeys to Paris have been in winter. I was shocked to discover that trains and and stations there aren't air-conditioned in July—I'd just spent the last month in Singapore, where AC is pumped outside onto park benches to combat the heat.
I survived the sweat and perfume, and made it to the airport. At the security checkpoint, they told me to remove every electronic item from my carry on, leaving nothing left in the bag to x-ray.
"We don't see anything in your bag"
"We only need you to take out your electronics"
"You aren't taking anything else with you on your trip?"
"Why are you going on such a short trip"
"Fine, keep moving"
The flight was quick, and Dublin airport might be my new favorite: I made it from the tarmac, through customs, and outside to purchase a bus ticket into the city center in under 5 minutes. Exactly 36 minutes later I was ordering a celebratory drink at Third Floor Espresso, having just broken the previous airport-to-coffeebar-transit-time-record set by Liz Clayton.
Any time you have an opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee prepared by one of the top 5 baristas on the planet, my advice is: run with it. I'd never met Colin, but we have mutual friends. I'd learned on the internet that he was delightful, and was just genuinely just excited to shake his hand. Shaken hands turned into shaky hands as Vince Fedele (creator of MojoToGo) was also visiting the shop and they had just received a shipment of new coffees from Has Bean roastery that Colin decided we should all try out.
Over the next hour and a half we talked about refractometers and coffee tech while Colin brewed us Limoncillo from Nicaragua that tasted like sweet apples; then Finca De Licho from Costa Rica with an almost raspberry poppyniess; then a more traditionally caramelly feeling Finca La Fany from El Salvador; and finally, a crazy Kenya Gathugu Normalbrent that I swear tasted like roasted tomatoes. With a hint of basil. Seriously, it was like drinking a sandwich.
About 10 shots and cups later at little after 6pm I kicked myself out of the already closed shop and rushed to my hotel, which was in the building next door, to check in and drop off my bag before rushing back out again.
Glen has been a good friend of mine since we worked together on the Bad Brains "Omega Sessions" album in the mid-1990's. As a gallerist, I've represented him and shown his work, including this exhibition, countless times across the US.
I never get tied of these images. Each one triggers a visceral memory from my childhood.
These photos captured the birth of skateboarding, punk rock and hip hop: underground scenes that would evolve and go on to change the lives of millions of people around the world.
I was a part of this, myself. And any time I look at these images, I'm reminded of a time when things were new and exciting, inspiration came daily, and nothing could stand in our way.
I'm also reminded that those feelings shouldn't only be in the past. Just because I'm 35 now doesn't mean there aren't new things that can be exciting, and finding them is just as important as it ever was.
This manifestation of FYA was organized by Aidan Kelly of Candy Collective and included two new shots of "Baby Paul" Cullen. He was the youngest member of the Z-Boys, and he died last year. His family was Irish.
The show also included a giant print of the front and back cover of My Rules, the photozine Glen released in 1982 that kicked off his self-publishing career.
The show was installed in the theater level of the Light House Cinema and presented to a packed house of people who were incredibly psyched to see this work big and in person.
All night there was a line of people asking to get books signed and say hi to someone who helped shape their lives by giving them a window into what was happening on the other side of the world—back when there was no internet, and that kind of perspective was much harder to come by.
The opening was followed by a Q&A where Glen fielded audience questions about everything from what he thinks of digital cameras, his reputation of being a hardass and difficult to work with, to the "everyone can be a photographer" question, and my personal favorite—when asked what it's like to have seen many of these people change throughout their lives, from being the subjects of his photos early on to something much different later in life.
Glen's response: "...some of these guys ended up in jail, some of them are born again Christians, honestly I don't know which is worse..."
He also talked a bit about why his blog is called "what the fuck have you done?"—a brief lyric from a Minor Threat song, but a reminder that each person can make a difference just by trying. You don't have to change the world every day, but attempting to make it a better place once a while is worth the effort.
Glen wasn't actually involved in the film, but for years he's effectively been the band's official documentarian (his latest book Keep Your Eyes Open is all about the band), so it was fitting to show the doc at this event.
I've seen the film more than a dozen times, but never on the big screen like this. It was pretty breathtaking.
At one point in the film, Ian MacKaye says that as a band (and as individuals) the guys in Fugazi were no longer content to sit around waiting for life's moments to come to them. They'd decided to go seek out those moments for themselves. I couldn't help but think: this is exactly the reason I am in Dublin right now.
A little past midnight, as the film was finishing up, I realized with the exception of the 10 cups of coffee earlier in the day I hadn't eaten anything. Glen, Aidan and I set out into the rain to find some kind of late-night vegan food. We were going to walk, but Aidan didn't want to ruin his $200+ hat in the rain, so we jumped in a taxi and made our way to an Iraqi place called Zaytoon that served giant veggie kabobs.
I'm a huge fan of eating random food in the middle of the night in far-away cities. I think it gives you a perspective on the town you can't get any other way. I've had the same kind of experience in other cities, and while I already liked Dublin a lot before this moment, something about sharing food with friends in an odd corner of a town that is mostly sleeping makes me fall in love with a place. It changes that place from just another spot on the earth, to a place where I've shared in the friendship and kindness of others.
After dinner, the rain had stopped. We walked a bit down the Liffy River, across the Ha'penny bridge to O'Connell street. Since my flight back to Paris was first thing in the morning and Glen had a full day of sightseeing planned the following day we said our goodbyes and broke off to our respective hotels.
I was anxious to get back and do a little work before falling asleep because I'd been offline all day and needed my web fix.
Unfortunately the "high speed internet" promised at my hotel was actually via wifi broadcasting at a low level from the check-in desk, which wouldn't have been too bad except the lobby was really just a wooden pew in a narrow hallway.
I hung out in the hallway for a while, and tried to catch up with anything urgent. I gave up around 4am, and went back to my room to grab a bit of sleep, setting my alarm for 6am to make sure I made it back to the airport and back to Paris in time for lunch with the family.
But enough about me, what have you been up to for the last 24 hours?