Coffeeneuring the Fifth: Day of the Dead in Santa Monica

Official Coffeeneur Log

Entry No. 5

Date: November 1, 2015

Destination: Espresso Cielo, Santa Monica, California

Espresso Cielo

Distance (complete trip): 27.6 miles

Qualifying Beverage & Bonus edible(s): Café au Lait

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Bloomers of the day: Blue Bandana (seemed like a good fit for Day of the Dead)

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Bike-friendliness: Not so much. Very bike-friendly area, but this particular shop only has a silly non-usable bike rack out front. It’s more of a style piece, as it looks cute, but you can barely get a front tire into it because it’s too close to the wall. And if you do park a bike there, your bike will block the sidewalk. Inside, however, the woman at the counter told me that most cyclists just bring their bikes inside.

Not a bike rack

Route map:

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Notes:

For this week’s ride, I decided to work a coffee shop into a trip to Santa Monica for a 6:00 p.m. remembrance vespers service being held at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church for Day of the Dead. We had just turned our clocks back, so it really was an evening ride. It was already twilight when I began, despite leaving the house at 4:15 p.m. It takes about an hour to bike to Santa Monica from my home in the Koreatown area, so I had to give myself plenty of time. I’m not one to drink coffee in the evening, but it was rather exciting to break from the usual morning approach to coffeeneuring. I chose Espresso Cielo because it was just under 3 miles from there to the UU church, and an easy route from my house.

I took the Venice Boulevard bike lane for 9 miles, all the way from Mid-City to Abbot Kinney.

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In the last year, they added a huge buffer zone by removing a traffic lane from the section of Venice Boulevard between Crenshaw & West, where motorists tend to drive 15-20 MPH over the posted 35 MPH speed limit. That extra space makes it feel much safer than it used to. Then all of a sudden it gets a little weird in the zone where many cars are angling over to veer right onto San Vicente. The most dangerous stretch is the part where the bike lane just isn’t, and you really have to watch out for fast-moving cars crossing over to the right lane.

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But that’s just a brief part. It’s still nice to have a long stretch with a bike lane for getting over to the west side. You can take this all the way to the beach. I turned off in Venice at Abbot Kinney, though, and was agape at all the trendy shops, restaurants and bars that line this cute street that angles over from Venice Boulevard to Main Street. I realized as I rode into Santa Monica that it has been a couple of years since the last time I rode a bike on Main Street, and the bike infrastructure has really grown, as has the number of cyclists you see here. That said, when I got to Espresso Cielo, realistic bike parking did not seem to be available. Instead, I found the odd little bike rack that isn’t really a bike rack out front. I moved the bike inside after ordering my cafe au lait.

Not a bike rack

The cafe au lait was dreamy in a milky-good sort of way (I get disappointed when a cafe au lait tastes like someone thought they should hold back on the milk – it’s all about the lait), which made it nice for an evening hot beverage. I had to gulp it down rather quickly, though, as I needed to hurry on my way in order to catch the 6 pm vespers service.

I managed to get there at 6:01, so by the time I’d parked my bike and went inside, the music had begun. It was a a double choir, the combined choirs of the UU Community Church of Santa Monica and First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles in Koreatown (I joined the Santa Monica church in 1998, when I was living on the west side, and then joined First Church after moving to Koreatown, so I’ve got ties to both places).

They sang Luigi Cherubini’s Requiem in C-minor, interspersed with some prayers, readings, candle-lighting, and most moving of all, the singing of names. We had been invited to provide names of loved ones who died during the past year. A few soloists stepped forward and took turns singing the names. After each person’s name was sung, the choir followed with “you are not forgotten”. Just at the point when I started kicking myself for not remembering to submit my brother’s name, the soloist sang: “Craig Canady” and the choir sang “you are not forgotten”. It was beautiful. The tears felt beautiful rolling down my cheeks. Maybe I had remembered to submit his name. I know it would mean a lot to Craig to be remembered like this. Exactly 11 months after he died. Exactly two weeks before his birthday. Craig would have noted those details.

It was after the singing of the names that we had our opportunity to step up and light candles to acknowledge our memories, our grief. I wanted to light so many candles, as there have been so many deaths to grieve. I lit three, one for each of the three I’ve been grieving the most this past year: my brother Craig, my first cousin once removed Bill, and my friend Adriane. I really should have brought more tissues with me.

Emerging from that beautiful service, after having a good cry, it felt great to be in the fresh night air, feeling the breeze as I biked my way back home. I took a different way back, heading straight east from the church into Westwood, then Century City, through Beverly Hills, into Mid-City and home again. How lucky I am to be not just alive, but really living, breathing, feeling my body move as I pedal my way through my city.

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Craig, in his youth, in his element (at a family gathering). He was always the best at bringing family together, staying in touch with each of us, no matter where we were, and remembering all the details of what happened on what date.

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Cuz Bill, in his later years, but still plenty spunky. He taught me to write limericks. He exemplified a tasteful classiness, punctuated by a clever wit.

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Adriane, standing next to her favorite painting. She would rarely allow herself to be photographed. I got away with it this time only because I wanted a picture of her in the cowl I had knitted for her.

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