Lessons from a Coffee Shop Wanderer

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 10.56.39 AMI’ve become one of those people. I’m that girl with the headphones, the Macbook and the scattered papers taking up prime real estate at your coffee shop. I’ll totally ask you to switch tables if you’re near an outlet and I need one. You probably think I’m pretentious – sorry about that!

Coffee shop working is pretty acceptable and even common place these days, especially in big cities, but when you live in a destination tourist town and summer is right around the corner? Not so much…

Most of the winter I camped out at my favorite local coffee shop, Empire Tea & Coffee, with no problem. There were plenty of others just like me there. As the nice weather rolled around however, I started seeking out some outdoor spots. I tested out the local Panera which sits across the street from the harbor and has several outdoor tables with umbrellas, a new Empire location which also has outdoor seating, and a downtown joint with no outdoor tables but good people watching never-the-less. This is when my coffee shop wandering started to present a few problems. For one, parking meters downtown switched on for the summer meaning I’d have to trek by foot to the downtown spot, lugging my laptop the whole way. This walk also forced me to walk by fudge shops, throngs of “cruise shippers,” t-shirt shops and vacationers, which can really breakdown your motivation when it seems you’re the only person that actually has a destination and obligation tied to your afternoon stroll. Then there was the sudden crowdedness of my spots. People were actually there to sip coffee absent-mindedly and chat about the weather. How dare they, I’m trying to work!

Maybe I should just hole up in my home office for the summer and leave the coffee shops for the tourists…but what fun would that be? I find it harder to stay focused at home when the sun is shining out my window and if I’m at least out enjoying the ambiance while working, I feel infinitely more motivated.

Since my current work mostly consists of telecommuting from my home base in Newport, RI or posting up somewhere on the Cape, I’ve learned a few tricks for being a New England digital nomad:

1) Tip generously. Duh, I was a hostess/waitress/bartender/shot girl for a good portion of my first quarter century of life, so tipping well has always been my mantra but some people may not realize those baristas need a little love too. If you want them not to hate you as you return day after day for that $2 coffee and a wi-fi password, make sure they see you throw a couple bucks in their cleverly wordsmithed tip jar/bucket/mug.

2) Accept the fact that the majority of people drinking coffee outside on a gorgeous June day in Newport/Cape Cod/anywhere with salty air are probably not concerned with the fact that you’re on deadline. They probably wonder what the heck you’re doing, as they order another scone and debate what they’ll do for the day (beach? shopping? cocktails?) Yeah, their life is rough…

3) Which brings me to point 3. Headphones are key to avoid overhearing the mostly vacation-minded conversations happening all around you. If you let yourself get sucked into people watching *cough* eavesdropping, you will find it extremely hard to continue working and very much want to cut your day short to go sunbathe/sip cocktails/frolic, etc. DO NOT DO THIS – you have bills to pay!

More tips to come, as well as my ever-growing list of favorite coffee shops in little Rhody and beyond.  Happy sipping friends 🙂

 

Officially, Official!

No, I’m not a Mrs., but I am an official RI resident again – with license plates to prove it! After somehow managing to survive more than a year in Newport without a vehicle of my own, I recently purchased my first car after more than 5 years as a car-less city dweller.

Still set in my urban ways, I had no problem walking to the store, taking the train into Boston or home to NY, and even daring to ask if we can “call a cab” when heading out.  (You can’t, in case you were wondering there are maybe two cab companies in RI…). I relied on the kindness of my boyfriend and friends for rides (thanks guys) and walked anywhere I could. I only lived about a 5-minute walk to a grocery store, drug store, yoga studio, coffee shop, etc. and just up the hill from the entire downtown Newport scene, even the beach was less than a mile walk away. I didn’t think twice about walkin’ it, but after a year as “the girl without a car,” I resigned to the fact that a car of my own was inevitably in my future.

I should probably mention that in terms of my job, I am lucky enough to work from home for the most part, only having to go on assignments, to meetings or to an office once a week or so. Because of this, I found a car not completely necessary, and although I love being back in little Rhody, maybe a small part of me was still clinging to the notion of being a city girl…

The lifeline of my NYC car-free existence was my trusty Zipcar membership and when I found out Newport had recently been added as a Zipcar city, I was even less inclined to buy myself wheels. Gas, insurance, EZ pass and even a beach pass included? Yes, please! During the summer months there were cars at a nearby hotel only a few blocks from my apartment but when summer ended and I got the unpleasant surprise that my cute little summer ride was being moved to Salve Regina (the university in Newport that it about a mile or two up the road from me), I knew the time had come.

After a few not-so-fun shopping trips to find said car, which sidenote*, you should never do with your longterm live-in boyfriend whom you are not married to, I took the plunge and am now considered a normal Rhode Islander, meaning that I drive to get my morning coffee, even though there are at least 5 places totally walkable…

I guess there’s no turning back now, so cue up that Rhody fight song!

*Because invasive and pushy sales people will find a way to ask you if you are married/why you aren’t married/whether you plan on getting married and claim it’s to find you some sort of married person discount.  But, in defense of this awkwardness, I did in fact receive a $500 discount due to the fact that my not-husband/live-in boyfriend lease’s a competitive vehicle. Yay for living in sin!

“How I spent my summer vacation…”

Remember as a kid when you had to recap your summer in those first hazy still kinda summer/not quite fall days of school? Well, yeah, I’m bring that back on the blog today and as I attempt to explain my 3(ish) month blogging hiatus. My sorry excuse can be best be summed up by the three simple words SUMMER-IN-NEWPORT because basically, yeah, I’ve been out enjoying it (as well as writing about it on other blogs and publications) and thus, my poor little blog has severely suffered.  Here’s a quick recap of my summer, which is sadly coming to a close.  More to come, promise!

First beach

“How I spent my summer vacation”

-Moving to a new fabulous apartment (and hosting a tour of friends and family now that we have guest accommodations!)

-Day-tripping to Block Island (and swimming in the bluest water around at the “secret” Mansion Beach)

-Rocking out at the Newport Folk Festival and a Zac Brown Brand show

-Hanging at Easton’s Beach in the locals section (AKA to the left of the “Meat Sticks”)

-Telecommuting from my newly minted home office or my favorite coffee shop in town Empire Coffee and Tea on Broadway

-Exploring the rest of Rhode Island (meaning I “crossed the bridge” and went “off Island”) and finding new favorite spots in Jamestown, East Greenwich, Watch Hill and Narragansett

The Blizzard of 2013: A Recap…

Photo Credit: The Newport Daily News Facebook page, photo by Dave Hansen

Photo Credit: The Newport Daily News Facebook page, photo by Dave Hansen

Turns out, I’m a wuss.  Also?  I’m not one of those people who could go on a digital detox or whatever the kids are calling it these days.  I have now confirmed that the internet (particularly social media) is my lifeline to the outside world and the way in which I get 99% of my news and information.  What confirmed it? 39 LONG HOURS WITHOUT POWER!

Snowstorm Nemo hit little Rhody hard and left the entire Aquidneck Island (Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth) without power starting Friday evening with some people going as long as four or more days without.  Hat’s off to those people, truly.

I’ll break it down for you with a rough timeline:

Approximately 10pm Fri night: Power goes out for 5 minutes, I freak out, power goes back on, I tweet about it.

Approximately 10:20 pm Fri night: Power goes back off…and stays off.  I tweet about it…and cry a little.

10:27pm: I text my mom frantically.  I check Twitter frantically.  I tweet to National Grid.

Sometime between 10:27 and 1am: – I fall asleep dreaming of waking up to the harsh light of my bedside lamp the TV blasting.

Photo Credit: Joanie Caffrey (I was too frantic to take pics!)

Photo Credit: Joanie Caffrey (I was too frantic to take pics!)

Saturday 5am-ish: I wake up…COLD.  My boyfriend rolls over and mumbles…”did the power go out?” (he’d slept through the whole thing, bless his soul)

Saturday – timeline hazy due to lack of heat, light, TV, hot coffee, etc: I find out through Facebook that one bar in town is open and serving food and possibly one hotel is serving free coffee.  We proceed to bundle up as there is no way in heck we are staying in our apartment where the thermostat has already reached 46 degrees.  We head out and head to the Hotel Viking, where they’re serving coffee and a “cold lunch”, there’s no heat.  We leave for greener pastures because at this point we are still hopeful there’s some magical oasis of heat, TV, coffee and bacon and eggs.  We head to Benjamins which, as per Facebook, IS in fact the only bar open in town at this point.  They’re PACKED and getting a table to be served food seems unlikely.  We decide to trek on, now hopeful there’s other places around.  We arrive at the Newport Marriott with high hopes.  Turns out they DID have a generator but it broke.  They’ve got bigger problems too because they’re hosting Reebok for some big wig type conference.  There’s no heat although it feels warmer than our apartment.  We spot some staff cleaning up and ask if their restaurant is open.  They say no and we must look pretty defeated because they sneak us behind some curtain and offer us what’s left from their morning buffet.  They tell us “everyone’s gotta eat today” and I understand in a miniscule way what it must feel like to be homeless or hungry and have to depend on people’s good will. I appreciate the gesture immensely and accept the coffee while my boyfriend, not one to turn down food, enjoys a sandwich, leftover salad and some sort of soup.  I again have an epiphany about myself realizing that I declined the food because I wasn’t  really in the mood for questionable looking deli meat, wilted salad greens and mystery soup but realize after the fact what the expression “beggars can’t be choosers” truly means.  If this was my reality every day (no warm home, limited food source) I’d have to be grateful for whatever I could get and not chose what I eat on my own freewill.

From here, the day seems like five and we go on to return home to warm up in our car, charge our cell phones, head to the local Stop & Shop (which is open, sorta, and resembles the zombie apocalypse) and add my friend and her pup to our tribe.  Eventually we found out that a friend’s parents on the other side of the island has power and another friend has gas heat and some food.  We are lucky, and we enjoy a warm meal and a toasty home then head to our friend’s parents for a warm bed.  By the time we return to our apartment early Sunday afternoon our power is back and I’ve learned about a hundred life lessons.  Here’s the highlights:

1) As the boy scouts said, always be prepared!  We were not, at all.  We thought that wine, ingredients for chili and homemade pizza, and a flashlight would get us through but we didn’t truly prepare for the reality of no heat, no cooking source or refrigeration, etc.

2) Cell phones (particularly iPhones) really are the greatest invention of our time and were literally my lifeline.  If I hadn’t been able to text friends and family, make quick calls and check social media sites for information on what was opened, when and where power would be restored, etc, I really don’t know where we’d have ended up. (I’m sure we would have made it through ONE night sleeping under a ton of blankets but damn, at the time, I really didn’t think I would.  It was COLD and we didn’t even have many extra blankets….which brings me back to lesson 1, always be prepared!)

3) Having people you can rely on is important.  I had a minor breakdown in which I realized that my closest family member was in Boston, which is pretty close but wasn’t nearly close enough at the time.  While I have some friends in town I was really very lucky to have somewhere to go and realized that although I’ve always been the type to move places and make new friends, there’s something to be said for having lots of family and friends and a close-knit support system nearby.

And now to bring it full circle…

When I was first asked to be part of IBM’s Social Influencer Think Tank and told that I’d be sharing my idea of smarter commerce, I had a million things in mind.  There are so many times that social media and technology tools have enriched my life, got me jobs, got me on TV, connected me with family and long distance loves, and so much more, but after experiencing the smallest taste of a crisis situation, my belief in the power of social media was reinforced 1000%.

Over the next month I’ll be sharing plenty more stories of how social media and the latest technology has bettered my life, from the big to the small. And now I ask you friends, how has it bettered YOUR life?  Please share your stories with me here in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #MYSMARTERCOMMERCE

PS, Special thanks to Frank, Joanie, Jedi, Heather, Steve, Allie, Kathleen, and the Hunt Family; the Newport Marriott for their hospitality; and What’s Up Newport and The Newport Patch for their great coverage and information for getting me through my first New England Blizzard.

Being All Zen and Stuff…

I’ve always been more of a wannabe yoga enthusiast, going just enough to sorta know what warrior pose is, but not nearly enough to do a head stand or not wobble during tree pose.

My fascination with yoga began years ago way before it was so popular when a doctor I was seeing suggested I check it out as an alternative to drinking, back when I was just another mono-infested college student who refused to heed the docs warning of no alcohol for a month despite the fact that my skin and pupils had turned a lovely shade of yellow…

Anyway…

Over the years I’ve gone on yoga kicks buying a 10 session pass here and there or attending classes at my gym,  and I usually list it as an interest/hobby due to my desire to have cool and unique interests beyond “reading, writing and music”  but my point is I’ve never been as devout a yogi as I could be…

Once, back in NYC I was somehow enticed by a damn Groupon or something to try a Bikram yoga class and am still horrified to this day about it.  The class is a hazy and sweat-infused memory but the subway ride home remains crystal clear.  It was winter and I had worn a puffy coat over my yoga gear.  I was so hot and sweaty after class that I just could NOT bring myself to put my coat back on the entire ride home so I braved the subway from the East Village to the Upper West Side (changing lines no less) as a hot mess in my yoga gear holding my coat and wondering if my body temperature would ever return to normal. It did, but I learned my lesson loud and clear, hot yoga was certainly not “my thing…”

Fast forward to present day, where my yoga options are extremely limited due to the fact that Newport has only a few studios and my lack of car leaves those options even slimmer.  This past summer I went to a Yoga in the Park session at Ballard Park – a great nature sanctuary off Ocean Drive.  That was nice.  The class was beginner to say the least but I still felt all connected to the universe afterwards.  Since then however, I’ve been waiting for my next yoga opportunity. The gym I attend has classes but they’re never at the right time and plus I’m always a bit skeptical of “gym yoga.”  For some reason I find gym classes more focused on doing the movements and getting in a workout but they lack the spiritual experiential part of yoga that’s my favorite part.  No soft music, no soothing narrative and no story-telling.

Most of my yogi friends in town attend Newport Power Yoga which is just a short walk from my apartment.  I was skeptical of this “power yoga’ thing because it sounded sneakily like Bikram (shudder).  Upon further research on their website and at my friends word that it wasn’t so bad I decided it was time to check it out.  I attended my first class this past Friday and really loved it.  It was a community class so it was open to all levels and the room was set at “moderate heat and steam to get the body loose.”  It was hot, yes, but somehow it didn’t bother me (which is strange considering I’m that girl visibly sweating through my blouse in the winter if the heat is too high at a bar…). Somehow even though the class was PACKED and I was thisclose to my neighbors mats, I found the class to be just what I was looking for.  I sweat out of every orifice (did you know your ankles can sweat?!), but I swear, it was actually a lot more pleasant than it sounds.  The class focused on breathing, strength and balance but the best part for me was something the instructor said at the end of the class.  He was talking about how for 50 mins you just show up, give it your best and escape from your everyday thoughts and worries.  I realized when he said this that my mind had been completely clear for the entire class.  I had been so busy focusing on my breath and following the moves that I literally hadn’t had one other thought for the whole class.  For me, this was groundbreaking.  I am physically incapable of shutting my mind off.  I lie awake at night thinking of the absolute most ridiculous things (just ask my boyfriend if you need further proof) so to have even a 1 hour escape is nothing short of a miracle.

If you’re like me and are looking for that perfect yoga experience to keep your interest and build both your soul and your strength, I’d highly recommend the Newport Power Yoga experience or something similar.  One other great thing about the class is that not only was it a lower cost community class (so that yoga can be accessible for people regardless of their financial situation) but this particular class (and every Friday at 7pm) was actually donation based and all proceeds go to a different local charity.

Until my next class….namaste friends!

So long sweet summer…

When you live in a resort town, summer can end so abruptly it feels like someone has flipped a switch and shut off the summer goodness in the blink of an eye. There’s that bittersweet celebration of Labor Day weekend, three days filled with all the best B’s (BBQs, beaches, boats, beers, bliss…) and then there’s “the Tueday after.”  Most of us are still high on our end of summer buzz, suntans still shimmering, sundresses and still sandals still on, but as the days of September roll on, the talk of “Fall” and “Apple Picking” and “Pumpkin Spiced EVERYTHING” quickly fill the void of Summer’s sad departure.

Here in Newport, the end of summer literally happens overnight.  And that night – contrary to popular belief – is not Labor Day evening (although there is definitely a noticeably lighter feel to the town as most of the summer people trickle out of town over the following few days), but the real last blast of Summer is actually the Newport International Boat Show which I attended for the first time this year.  The boat community (AKA the “yachties”) show up in their finest Nantucket Red (cough PINK cough) pants to either A) shop for boats (the lucky ones) B) show the boats, clean the boats serve the drinks, etc. or C) (this is where I fit in) marvel at the boats and hope that they let you on a few without an appointment!

It was a beautiful day and we got to go on a few boats and walk the docks and even slurp down a couple free beverage samples (sweet tea vodka!) but for the average boat owning wannabe like myself, the $18 entry fee wasn’t quite worth it.  Especially when you can go next door to the Lobster Bar and buy a round for the same price (which is exactly where we ended up after about an hour or so of ooohing and ahhing at the shiny boats).

So as the first storm of Autumn blows in, and I run along the empty beach, see the browning leaves blow around the cobble stone of Thames, and make the semi-annual switch from iced coffee to hot, I say a little goodbye to summer and look forward to all those upcoming perks of Fall for a Newport local, including restaurant specials! no traffic! beer and wings! apple picking! and about a million other things I’ll continue to share in the coming months.

Happy Fall friends! (Now throw on a scarf, lace up your suede booties, and go get yourself a pumpkin-apple-carmel-spiced-chai-cider and welcome the season in style)… 🙂

Newport for Newbies…

Your first week in Newport – especially when you’ve never lived outside of NY state – can be an eye-opening experience to say the least. My boyfriend doesn’t blog, but if he did, he’d probably have a laundry list of “differences” to point out between lil’ rhody and the big apple.  Since I’m his roomie now, I’ll graciously share what we’ve both learned over the past week – him being a complete Newport Newbie and me being a born-again, after nearly 6 years away in NY.

  • Things move a little…slower up here.  There’s just not the same “sense of urgency” that NY’ers have.  People live up here for the laid back lifestyle, which I’ll be the first to admit I adore, but every once in a while I feel the urge to say “move it along folks! (expletive deleted!)”
  • If you’re not from RI, you’ve probably never had an Awful Awful.  It might not even sound appealing but trust me, IT IS.
  • You’re just going to have to learn to view pizza in a new way.  It won’t be a staple food anymore and you’re not going to “grab a slice” like you used to.  Even if you do find a (rare) place that actually sells it by the slice, it’s sadly not the same.  Possible replacement meals include chowder, stuffies and lobster rolls so really, whose complaining?
  • The bars close at what time??  In NY, bars don’t close – or at least anytime that concerns you when you’re in your 30’s.  You’ll be long gone and fast asleep before “closing time” hits the juke box in NY, but in RI, you’re always staying ’til closing because if you can’t stay out until 1am, well that’s just sad…
  • Cabs around here are of the pedi variety. As in, they’re actually bikes.  Sure we had these in NYC but we also had about 10 million actual motor vehicle cabs racing through the streets at ANY given hour.  Here in Newport, if you’re not driving, you’re either walking, biking it or having someone else pedal you around.  Except for those few and far between orange mini-van things (newsflash RI, cabs are YEL-LOW not orange…) cabs are pretty much non-existent.  The upside?  I’m getting great exercise walking to and from work everyday and the view can’t be beat!

As a Newport to NYC to Newport transplant, I was prepared for the differences and am about 90% adjusted to being back in the good old Port of New.  I know it’s a lifestyle that I can get onboard with and it’ll feel like home again a lot quicker than NYC did. The little things like the friendly lady at the coffee shop, that bartender who remembers my name (and if I’m very lucky, my drink order!) and the nautical style I love so much remind me of why I chose to move back and comfort me as I get re-acquainted.  Although the adjustment may be slightly slower for my Newport Newbie BF, I feel confident that he’ll learn to love it just like I did so many years ago.  Now if only we could get a NY bagel shop and ban those damn “Yankees Suck” chants we’d be all set!