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An Intelligent Coffee

posted by xscot mcknight

Intelligentsia. Just in case you haven’t heard, Chicago has a coffee that many are now saying ranks up there as one of the finest coffees in the world. Very happily, Laura and Mark bought me a bag of espresso ground Intelligentsia coffee for Father’s Day. Monday morning, by 6:30am, I had one cup down … by 10:30am a second … and then, after lunch in order to make sure I had a good firm grip on the taste, I had yet a third cup.
Wonderful crema; a pleasant and pleasurable aroma; great smooth taste. Nothing bitter like that stuff from youknowwhere. Ah, the taste of a good coffee on a screen porch to enliven a morning. The blend? Black Cat Espresso Blend.
I challenge you to a better coffee: I’ve had Chestnut Hill Coffee Company, Pete’s,
Boyd’s, Hawaiian Isles Kona Coffee Co (Kona Classic), and I think Caribou Daybreak is a fine coffee. But, I’m having reconsider the order of my coffee top five list.
Who’s had it? Who has an evaluation?



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phil_style

posted June 19, 2007 at 3:17 am


I dare say you haven’t tried Havana (http://www.havana.co.nz/)partly due to the fact that you’d have to make the trip to New Zealand for it. However, besides the fact that country is worth the visit, the Havana experience is justification in itself.
Bliss.



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drew moser

posted June 19, 2007 at 5:14 am


Scot–You need to tour their factory. It was incredible. I did it last fall with my brother, and you walk away with a half pound of coffee that they roast right before your eyes.
You’re right. As far as American brews go, it’s hard to beat Intelligentsia.



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Carl

posted June 19, 2007 at 6:03 am


I will definitely have to give Intelligentsia a chance. It’s almost a (fun little) mission for my wife and me–to find a really good coffee.
Our recent find was “Torrefazione” (http://titalia.com), which is an Italian-based blend, and one that was reasonably priced–as compared to “youknowwhere”. It’s also ground in such a way that it can be run either as coffee or espresso. (It’s even better when run through a French-press).
As far as simple brews go, I still have to stand by Jamaican Blue Mountain–the stuff from Jamaica (i.e., the stuff that runs $50/pound). JBM is a taste of its own, and it is worth the cost if you have the spare change.



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Allan R. Bevere

posted June 19, 2007 at 6:21 am


Scot:
The best coffee I have ever tasted is in Cuba. Unfortunately, you can’t buy it here and you can only go to Cuba if you have a license to do humanitarian work from the Treasury Department. Of course, if I can get you to go with me sometime to teach at the new Methodist seminary in Havana (all non-Methodist professors are welcome), you can have all the Cuban coffee you want.



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Michelle Van Loon

posted June 19, 2007 at 7:08 am


Agree 100% about Intelligensia – fabulous cup.



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Beyond Words

posted June 19, 2007 at 7:39 am


A group from our town imports coffee from Uganda as a fundraiser for the ongoing work they’re doing over there. They work directly with the coffee coop and pay 20% more than fair trade price. It is called Bugisu coffee and it is by far the best coffee I have ever had and I am a coffee snob. Maybe it’s because the woman who roasts it here in town is a master, maybe it’s just chock full of God’s blessings. It has marvelous crema, the right amount of astringency, and a flavor that sits on the tongue just right.
We have an espresso machine at home, so it’s the highlight of my day to make a latte and have my prayer time… Worship is multisensory, don’t you think? :)



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Scot McKnight

posted June 19, 2007 at 7:42 am


Beyond Words,
Indeed … multisensory.



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John W Frye

posted June 19, 2007 at 8:01 am


Hmmm! What to do in Chicago? Cubs/Intelligentsia. How about both!!
julie



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Scot McKnight

posted June 19, 2007 at 8:05 am


Julie,
The customary drink connected to a Cubs game is not Intelligentsia, but something at the other end of the spectrum: Bud.



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Allie

posted June 19, 2007 at 8:27 am


True on the Cubs thing, particularly after the “loss” flag flies over Wrigley (sad sight from the Red Line).
As for Intelligentsia–that is awesome coffee. I don’t drink coffee all that often, but it’s well worth going out of my way for.



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John W Frye

posted June 19, 2007 at 8:31 am


Carl (3#),
At a local coffee shop in Rockford, MI, Julie (comment #8) and I saw some Jamaican Blue Mountain and we shocked at the price–$50 per pound. You’ve got my curiosity aroused—can you give a description of JBM’s flavor??



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Scot McKnight

posted June 19, 2007 at 8:39 am


I think before I bought a 50 dollar per pound coffee I’d (1) have to have a cup that changed my life and (2) a wife who loved coffee more than me so that I could buy it for her!
Shoot, at that price, I’d want that stuff to wake me up gently, serve me breakfast, and then start my car (and shovel snow in the winter).



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gib

posted June 19, 2007 at 8:56 am


I have yet to enjoy the Intelligentsia coffee, but I have heard good things. I think the best I have ever had is Doubleshot Coffee Company in Tulsa, OK. Their website, http://www.doubleshotcoffee.com, carries all their products. Brian, the head barista and owner, is known around Tulsa as “the coffee nazi”, because he has been known to throw people out who ask for espresso in anything other than porcelain.
This lady seems to rank both Intelligentsia and Doubleshot right up near the top: http://www.cappuccinomovie.com



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Scot McKnight

posted June 19, 2007 at 9:09 am


This Spring I spoke at an IVCF event and met Bob Clark. He got me seriously interested in roasting my own coffee — and it is mid-June and I’m still drinking coffee I have purchased at far away places as well as coffee given to us. So, maybe some day I’ll drain my supplies and begin roasting.



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Michael Homan

posted June 19, 2007 at 9:55 am


Likewise, I have not yet had Intelligentsia. But I’m right there with gib, Doubleshot Coffee Co. in Tulsa is far and away the best I’ve enjoyed. Their motto is: “The freshest coffee on the planet.” Why? Because it is roasted directly in the store and is never more than one week out of the roaster at the time of purchase. Gib was also correct in that You might get thrown out (or at least a dirty look) if you ask the roastmaster to grind your beans before leaving the store…thus a quality burr grinder is a wonderful appliance to have around the house. Happy coffee drinking!



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Scot McKnight

posted June 19, 2007 at 9:59 am


Michael and gib,
Do you work for Doubleshot?



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Brian

posted June 19, 2007 at 10:00 am


Hmmm…Bud and the Cubs…no wonder they haven’t won the Series in…how many years now? And does this mean we’ll be getting a great beers post in the future, or are you strictly a wine guy?



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Scot McKnight

posted June 19, 2007 at 10:03 am


Brian,
Best beers I’ve had:
Boddington’s
City Tavern Ale: Thomas Jefferson (Philadelphia)
Yorkshire Bitter
Two of my students from my class at Biblical bought me some Thomas Jefferson’s and a few are now sitting pretty in my refrigerator. A distinctive ale.



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Brian

posted June 19, 2007 at 10:06 am


Ever had a Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout? If not, check it out…



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Michael Homan

posted June 19, 2007 at 10:13 am


Nah…it just happens to be the closest thing I’ve ever had to an addiction!



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Scot McKnight

posted June 19, 2007 at 10:37 am


For me, Brian, stout requires a mix with tan. Stuff is like drinking syrup or, worse yet, castor oil.



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steve lewis

posted June 19, 2007 at 10:49 am


Scot,
Intelligentsia is elite stuff indeed. I’m a coffee snob who delights in living in Seattle, where excellent coffee is plentiful. But where did I find myself yesterday? At the coffee house I frequent that flies in fresh Intelligentsia once per week. Black Cat is awesome . . . though compared to others of similar quality in Seattle, it’s a little spendy.
For all the readers in SoCal, Intelligentsia recently opened a new roastery and retail space in LA.
Peace



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Simon

posted June 19, 2007 at 11:54 am


With just a slight aire of pride I must say that no commercial coffee, even the most expensive comes close to a fresh home roasted blend. Once you go there – you will never come back!



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tim atwater

posted June 19, 2007 at 11:59 am


Thinking also of ‘after-taste’…
Part of my guilt-management and pleasure maximization program involves drinking fairly traded java — fair trade certified meaning the farmers get a fair price… in the interests of adding even a tiny bit to the cause of biblical justice.
Equal Exchange is my brand of choice — the first out there, and i think, still the standard-setter, though there are others now, also v good…
nearly all the EE stuff is organic now, meaning the earth also gets a little gentler treatment.
in seminary, i worked summers for a small non-profit (Red Tomato) lodged in the convivial incubator of the EE warehouse… (a project of one of EE’s founders)…
What a great smell, walking through the warehouse!
There was always at least a half dozen thermos’ full of different blends… my usual favorite is Mind, Body, Soul Blend… the guy who developed it gets up at 2:30 in the morning to be on the phone with coffee traders in their times zones by 3-4 am… I remember meeting a grower from Tanzania, member of a grower’s cooperative… and a decent price for the beans making the difference between poverty and a decent life…
Sheer taste is not unimportant — i drink generic brew only under duress if i cant find anything better only on the road… And for a serious coffee drinker, good taste is a joy… (i’m serious enough to need two cups in the morn first thing, ever since getting the taste at age 12…)
Still, i try to remember — this cup isn’t just for me…
its also for everyone who grew the beans and all the way down the chain of inter-connected lives… but yes, it is for me to… and…
My spin on day three of creation is…
day two was so long, even for God… that God didn’t (even) say “it is good” at the end…
but on day three — having made coffee trees and enjoyed a few cuppas… God now said “it is good!!” — emphatically! twice.
amen?



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gary

posted June 19, 2007 at 12:34 pm


They would be in my top two, with Seattle’s Best being my number one choice. I really like their “Post Alley” and “Henry’s Blends”. The dark roasts are really rich without any bitter, or “burnt” tastes at all.



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Erika Haub

posted June 19, 2007 at 1:00 pm


Scot,
I have never tried Intelligentsia, but your post has me thinking I should (and someone above mentions an L.A. location: I will look into it!).
I was a coffee roaster in Portland to pay the bills while I served on staff at Irvington–if you decide to roast your own, I will be happy to share some pointers with you :)



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Burly

posted June 19, 2007 at 1:07 pm


Intelligentsia is definitely one fine cup of coffee. I’ve metioned it before, but you should try a cup of Dunn Bros., as they roast their own, too. The nearest one is in Kenosha.
Also Boddington’s is a good choice. My favorite beer is Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale (you can get it at World Market in Vernon Hills or Gurnee).
Finally, on an average day, I’m still fine with Trader Joe’s french roast in a regular old paper cone filter. As for beer on an average day, Trader Joe’s Ordinary Beer (that’s the name – I think) is just fine with me.



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Rick Shott

posted June 19, 2007 at 1:35 pm


Well, it is a post I can only follow with envy. Small town pastor with difficulty getting good coffee on a reasonable budget. More than that when I go out to talk with people in town I do the afternoon coffee break. I don’t think a cheaper coffee can be made. It is not the fault of the restaurant just the supply in town.
I talked with my treasurer who runs the Mennonite thrift store 20+ minutes down the road. She started stocking level ground coffee. The great part is there is a market in that town (it is bigger).
Still, I count my blessings and if I am in Chicago I will give this place a try. I do have family there, maybe they would like to see my new daughter. :)



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Brian

posted June 19, 2007 at 2:04 pm


Re: Stouts…Fair enough, I guess…but maybe you should try the Samuel Smith before you write off stouts altogether, eh? :)



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Tony

posted June 19, 2007 at 2:07 pm


Scot,
My friend shared with me the secret goodness of intelligentsia ‘black cat’ and I have never been the same. I think it’s a bit like ‘tasting and seeing that the Lord is good’ ;)
My introduction to a real espresso flavor came in the form of a ‘double cortado’ at the shop Downtown Chicago.
Amazing!



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gib

posted June 19, 2007 at 2:10 pm


I don’t work for Doubleshot, I am too afraid of the roastmaster Brian!
I used to live in the area and I found myself camped out there while studying about 2 or 3 days a week. Order some of their coffee online, it is guaranteed fresh.
I recommend their Costa Rican coffee, the La Magnolia or the La Minita.



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Carl

posted June 19, 2007 at 2:11 pm


Scot,
I would definitely have to agree with you. In fact, your comment was nearly word-for-word out of my wife’s mouth when I told her about it. The only slight difference was the shoveling aspect–my wife has only recently experienced the burdens of snow on driveways as she is from Atlanta. (We did have fun with it this past winter, though). She moved here to Cincinnati with me shortly after we got married so that I could finish my Masters work. Her comment about the coffee was pre-Cincinnati.
I’m at the point where I save up throughout the year in order to buy a single bag, and then savor it for as long as possible. I recently found a local coffee shop that sells it for c. $35/pound; so the amount of time needed for saving has decreased. Though, it still takes some time–a graduate assistant’s salary is nothing to brag about.
In complete agreement with your hesitance (and obviously your stewardship), I would recommend one of two options: 1) find someone who is willing to let you try some first, or 2) find someone who is traveling to Jamaica and have them bring you back a pound–it’s much cheaper when purchased locally.



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Carl

posted June 19, 2007 at 2:27 pm


John W. Frye,
To answer your question would be tantamount to explaining the nuances of gravity to a 4-year-old. :-) I’ll try in two ways–one example and one attempt at an explanation.
By way of example: I used to work at Barnes and Noble before getting married. I had recently moved to the Cincinnati area in order to begin my Masters program. Prior to coming, as a going away present, a friend who went to Jamaica brought back a pound for me. I used as little of it as possible for as long as I could. Finally, when nearing the end of the bag, and at the request of several friends at B&N; I brought in the remaining ounces and we brewed it in a French-press (which I highly recommend). To each person who sampled it–all 9 of them–the same series of events took place: sniff, slow sip, start to walk off, turn back around, and say, “Holy crap”.
As far as an explanation goes: the grounds are somewhat light–almost a caramel coloring . . . maybe a shade darker, but not much. That begins the beauty of the coffee. While the grounds are light, the initial taste is quite bold. I said “initial” on purpose, because the second beauty of the coffee is the dual taste. Like I said, the first bout of flavor–as it sits in your mouth–is rather bold; but as it slides down your throat, it softens dramatically and goes down extremely smooth. As far as the actual flavor goes, it’s extremely difficult to define. It is a bit woodsy, but that’s about as far as I can go. You really just have to experience it.



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kent

posted June 19, 2007 at 2:33 pm


Scot,
Alas I am the only coffee drinker in the house at the moment. My wife drinks tea, a beverage I have take a blood oath to never taste. So for me to brew is nopt going to happen. I also tend toward volumn rather than flavor. And if it more than $10.00 pound, it ain’t gonna happen.



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Gavin Brown

posted June 19, 2007 at 2:46 pm


Well, I’m not a big coffee drinker, but many that I know enjoy coffee from “Carpe Diem.” Its a coffee shop in Mobile, AL. here’s the link: http://www.springhillcoffeeroasters.com/



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Randy

posted June 19, 2007 at 3:09 pm


I would have to second Carl’s (#3) Comment on the Jamaican Blue Mountain. Hearty and smooth with no bitter after taste. It’s a “celebratory purchase” for me and my wife. Also, I’m pretty sure that’s what they serve at Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, MI. If you’ve ever been there. [I only ate there because my mom used to work in the office there. I'm too much of a tight wade to stay there. Or buy the JBM that often.] Bottom’s up!



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lacey

posted June 19, 2007 at 4:03 pm


this blend sounds great. i may have to order some on-line (and visit their cafe when i am in the chicago area in august hopefully)
i tend to prefer the less-acidic coffees and after working at a certain corporate coffee shop (ha) i found their latin american coffees to be a bit acidic for my taste… how does this one compare?



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Mike

posted June 19, 2007 at 4:29 pm


Scot!
I walked by Intelligentsia on Sunday! I flew in to visit a guy from Malaysia who came to know the Lord in our ministry. But I diverge…
Truth be told, I kept walking as I was on the hunt for the Dunkin Donuts…one of my colleagues, a transplant from Chicago, would not have forgiven me if I’d passed up DD…
BTW: I did learn that Peet’s is at North and Sheffield! Knock yourself out! :)



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David Yeiser

posted June 19, 2007 at 5:13 pm


I had a business trip to Chicago (I live in Louisville, KY) several months ago for a meeting that started at 11:00am. I caught a 6am flight out of Louisville so I could have time to walk around the city before the meeting.
Going to Intelligentsia was #1 on the list and it did not disappoint. Dare I say it surpassed my already extremely high expectations? I had a 12oz. latte, which automatically includes 2 shots, it was wonderful.



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John W Frye

posted June 19, 2007 at 8:52 pm


Carl (#33),
I am grateful for your attempt to describe the “beauty” of JMB. The idea of it being first “bold” and then becoming smooth sounds delectable! Someone suggested that we have a (rich) friend let us taste it before we mortgage the house to buy some :)



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John W Frye

posted June 19, 2007 at 8:54 pm


Does anyone like that flimsey coffee in hotel rooms that comes in what looks like a make-up applicator?



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Scot McKnight

posted June 19, 2007 at 9:05 pm


Kris grabs those things, John, and puts them in our freezer. I don’t think I’ve ever had any of it at home, but I’ve suffered that stuff in hotel rooms!



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justin

posted June 19, 2007 at 10:08 pm


Two words:
Kopi Luwak



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Fred Harrell

posted June 19, 2007 at 10:38 pm


EVERY, and I mean EVERY time I go to Chicago, I load up on Intelligentsia each morning. I love this coffee. I credit Bob Reid, pastor of Grace Chicago, a true coffee connoisseur and all round epicurean for introducing me to it. I love this stuff.
And for all you coffee connoisseurs, try Blue Bottle Coffee here in San Francisco…wonderful stuff.



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BeckyR

posted June 20, 2007 at 1:57 am


If anyone wants to take the opinion of a 20 something. She worked at Starbucks 4 yrs. Great benefits for the job, but. If you want to take her opinion, the only difference is in the roast. It all starts as a bean, they all are beans. The only difference is in the roast. I’m thinking if Intelli whatchamacallit is great, it’s not the bean, it’s the roast.
She finally left the job after 4 yrs because she said it didn’t pay enough to get yelled at by people saying their drink wasn’t hot enough. Think of that when you interact with your next barister. Tip them well for the abuse they have to take from the lowlife others.
My idea of a good cup of coffee is 7/8ths whole milk with some cream, a bit of sweetener and 1/8th strong coffee. Otherwise known as coffee flavored milk. In this group, I think this is when I duck and run. (-:



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Burly

posted June 20, 2007 at 7:02 am


Becky R … That’s the modified latte I make at home for my wife (minus the sweetener)… technically, I suppose it’s a modified cafe ole/cafe misto … and I brew the coffee in a paper cone filter and heat the milk in the microwave. I know a paper cone and microwave are sooooo totally wrong – especially as I was a former Barista.



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Kurt

posted June 20, 2007 at 1:37 pm


Long time reader first time writer. On a mission trip in Jamacia they would make JMB in one of those huge 5 gallon perkolators like is in every church with bad coffee. It was funny, the best beans ever, prepared in the worst way possible. It is sold everywhere down there; every corner store. We bought some in 5 lb burlap bags brought to us by locals and divided it among the team. Like others have said I dolled it out slowly once I was home. But not too slowly because freshness counts too. I’ve tried some home roasting but unlike other comments I had mostly bad luck.
Oh – and Stouts are best! Can’t believe one would even mention Bud!



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Mike

posted June 20, 2007 at 2:23 pm


Scott, Brian, & Kurt,
Re: stouts & tans. Cannot recall off hand what blog I read this on, but a black & tan does make one reminisce on the hypostatic union of Christ…two distinct beers (natures) united in one glass (essence)…
:)



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Chris Ridgeway

posted June 24, 2007 at 6:04 pm


Scot –
Having got two years of barista experience under my belt, I also agree that Intelligentsia’s Black Cat is stunning. Nice choice. Helps to have their people running the show, too – rumor says that baristas have to train for three months before serving a drink to a customer (try 3 DAYS at lots of places).
Big beer correction though: Come on, Wrigley is all about the Old Style (not bud!). Of course, once you leave the park, it tastes the coffee equivalent of lukewarm gas-station Maxwell House. But while inside the ivy, it’s king. Weird magic of some kind.
Can’t wait to be living back up in Chicago – North Park in Aug!



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