Why I Wear Hawaiian Shirts

Really, if there’s one comment I hear more often than anything else, it tends to be, “Wow, man. You wear a lot of Hawaiian shirts.”

This habit has, whether fortunately or unfortunately, been one I’ve engaged in for most of my life. It seems like my tendency to wear these bright and colorful shirts is a source of curiosity, since it often elicits comments, both positive and negative — but always entertaining. I’ve received many questions about why I wear them: if there’s a deeper reason, a cause, a role, whether I lost a lifetime bet, and so on. You get the idea.

Well, actually, there is a deeper reason. A few, actually. So, why? Well…

Reason #1: Sentimental Reasons

Nicholas Conley

Basically, when I was a kid, my father often wore Hawaiian shirts. He enjoyed the look and feel of them, and like most sons, I liked the idea of being a little more like him, so I picked up the habit.

As longtime readers know, he died when I was 17; though I was already wearing Hawaiian shirts by that time, after his death, they took on a new significance for me. Continuing to wear them felt like a way of celebrating his legacy, a tribute to who he was.

Reason #2: Catharsis

jamaica_coffee

When I was younger, I had a lot of social anxiety, difficulty fitting in; you know the story, and many of you experienced your own version of it. Anyway, this all came to a head in high school, where at first, all I wanted to do was disappear into the background. I wanted to seem normal. Quiet. Nondescript. I felt horribly eccentric, incredibly weird, like I couldn’t fit in anywhere.

Then, I changed my mind about trying to fit in, and instead, I decided to wear my eccentricity on my sleeve.

During the summer, like many teenagers in the past and many teenagers in the future, I grew my hair out long. I grew a beard. And, of course, I decided to ditch the bland, basic, flat-colored t-shirts of the past, and make Hawaiian shirts my personal trademark.

Immediately, I started feeling more comfortable socially. I grew out of my shell. I became more confident. I started walking out there a bit more boldly, stating my thoughts aloud, openly being who I was on the outside as well as the inside. Ever since those days, I’ve never stopped wearing the shirts, nor would I ever want to.

Reason #3: Because Yeah, You Know What? Hawaiian Shirts Are Awesome

Nicholas Conley Sahara

Honestly? Hawaiian shirts are just really fucking cool.

Seriously. It’s not always easy to wear something so bright and colorful everyday, turning yourself into a walking billboard for a Caribbean vacation company. But Hawaiian shirts are fun, enjoyable, and people who wear them tend to make great company. A good aloha shirt is comfortable, iconic, timeless. They look great, and feel great. Why would I not want to wear them?

Nicholas Conley Bangkok Thailand

Really, this is probably what it comes down to, in the end: I just like Hawaiian shirts.

I like the way they look, and how they feel. I like the fact that they instill an automatic trust in a person, a sense that no matter how serious that person is, they know how to enjoy life and see the good in things, at least on some level. I have yet to meet a bad person wearing a Hawaiian shirt, and I hope I never do.

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California!

A person’s life is built from so many puzzle pieces, each of them connecting to each other in a handful of different ways. You can’t remove any piece from a puzzle, even if a new one replicates its basic shape and intention. There’s something mythical, weird, and surreal about taking the time to look back on an old puzzle piece, and remembering why it’s so important to you, so specific to your life experience.

This last week, we’ve taken a vacation back to California, which is both my birthplace and the place where I first took off to on my own journey of adulthood, to visit family, rediscover memories, and make new ones. It’s been a great time so far; a particular highlight for me is always going back to Hermosa Beach, where my dad lived in the years before he died.

Today, we’re going to shoot off to Northern California, and continue the journey. I don’t have too long to write here, as I’m about to hit the road again in a few minutes, but wanted to stop in, say hi, and wish all of you regular readers an amazing week.

Creepy-Crawlies

This is me as a kid: shy but hopeful, nervous but always ambitious. I loved storytelling from the beginning, always thrilling to the elaborate fantasy scenarios that I played out with my younger brother, and then with my first friends at school. It was in elementary school that I first discovered writing, and I’ve been passionate about it every since.

As this picture reminds me, I also always loved  “creepy-crawly” creatures like earthworms, spiders, bats, praying mantises, and lizards. No surprise there.

Maybe that explains those slugs in Pale Highway

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100 Cups of Coffee, and 100 Posts to Go with Them!

Happy centennial, everybody!

That’s right: Writings, Readings and Coffee Addictions is officially 100 posts old.  Despite the misleading title, however, I can assure you that far more than 100 coffees have been consumed during the making of this blog.

It’s been a long, caffeinated road, and I’m glad you’ve all been here with me.  From all of our shared Coffee Moments™ to never-ending lines on a white paper, book reviews about Circles to film reviews about space robots, from the jaws of Self-Cannibalistic Creative Monsters to the intrigue of Myers-Briggs, Jamaican vacations to to Canadian ones, and finally, to the recent cover reveal of Pale Highway, things have been pretty busy since this blog first touched down on the internet back in February of 2013.

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A lot of memories.  So many, many good memories, and so many great comments.  It’s been absolutely wonderful getting to know all of you—at least, in an online sense—and I look forward to many more great interactions to come.  Thanks for following me, it truly makes my day anytime I come on here and see new interactions.

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing—but also an addictive one—so I’m going to cap this post off by finishing my cup and having a Coffee Moment™.  Cheers, everyone!

A Celebration of YOUR Top Coffee Moments™

It’s been a little over a week since I first posted my Top 5 Coffee Moments™, and I have to admit, some of the Coffee Moments™ that you guys have sent back to me—whether as a comment, an email or a message—are seriously awesome.  It seems that I underestimated how universal the idea of a “coffee moment” really is, though in retrospect, I suppose it makes sense: what is life if not a series of chapters, significant or insignificant, each one helping to shape our individual stories?

And what worthwhile chapter is complete without a cup of coffee (or two)?

That's the spirit!

So, in celebration of all of your stories, I want to repost some of the best Coffee Moments™ that you all have written about. Reading your stories, I’m now feeling a great temptation to write some more Coffee Moments™ of my own—but I’ll save that for another day.  Today is about you guys.

However, before we begin, let’s play catchup for those who might not know what exactly a Coffee Moment™ is.  To explain, I’ll simply quote my previous post:

Coffee Moments™ are those special experiences, those memorable stories from our past, that will always contain the line “and as it all happened, I was drinking a cup of coffee.”

So now, without further ado, let’s get started.  While all Coffee Moments™ are fantastic, here are a few that stood out.

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First off, longtime follower Steve Johnson of Book to the Future describes a first visit to a new country:

I think my bestest coffee moment was my first in the U.S., it was a Starbucks and we sat outside in the heat of the day as the world passed by and my fortnight stretched before me. It not only helped me after all the traveling but gave me chance to sit and take stock of where I was and what I could do. For that brief moment, it really was the land of the free.

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Then, we have Laura—the self-described “caffeine fueled” writer of lyriquediscorde—telling us a story about first meetings:

Meeting a past love at a coffee shop. We were in line and began to volley back and forth banter about a particularly high maintenance patron at the counter. We ended up standing outside talking, with our individual, less high maintenance coffees, for the better part of an hour. It was the start to a memorable relationship in my life that though bittersweet now, meant a great deal to me. When we had an argument or a misunderstanding, one of the two of us would bring the other coffee, as a reminder of that first moment/attraction.

Don't be fooled by the SOUP mug, the coffee is not a lie.

Michelle Cook recalls her early experiences:

My first cup was given to me by my aunt at her house during a holiday. I think it was Christmas. I had no idea what coffee tasted like and wanted to fit in with the adults. I believe I was about 12 years old at the time. I remember thinking at first, that it was the worst tasting drink that I had ever had, but the more I drank, the more I started to convince myself that it wasn’t so bad. I finished the whole cup because I didn’t want to be wasteful. I think it was quite a few years before I ever had another cup. I remember my mother being upset at me for drinking it in the first place. I drink at least one cup everyday now.

chicory

David Prosser, though more of a tea drinker, also looks back on old times:

I can remember though that during the late 50’s my first experience wasn’t of rel coffee but with a substitute called Camp Coffee which was made from chickory, a hangover from the lean, rationed years of the war. It was probably 1964 when I first visited a coffee bar as a teenager and had my first real coffee as it was a ‘Cool’ drink back then and coffee bars were a new thing to a young teen.

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Meanwhile, Nirmala recalls just how amazing coffee can be after a long abstinence:

One of my top one was after the birth of my daughter. I had been almost off coffee for 9 months and suddenly the smell was so invigorating and I can still remember cuddling my little girl and drinking that first big mug after a long time….

Nicholas Conley at his desk - art by Tamara Višković.

Art by Tamara Višković.

Missa of NotAnotherNerdBlog is all about the process:

I think my favorite coffee moments would have to be at a previous job. I worked in a quirky little coffee shop in a small town and made some amazing friends there! I almost always had a coffee or latte (or a shot of straight espresso if I was feeling bold) sitting either under the register or in the back kitchen. I made some amazing friends there and really started to grow and become the person I am today at that job, always accompanied by a coffee.
Even now, making coffee is the highlight of my job. We grind and brew every cup individually. When it’s busy, it’s the one time I get a chance to stand still and just enjoy the aroma and the beauty of the process. I know tea drinkers often say the process is a very important part of the tradition of tea drinking, but the same can be said of coffee if it’s done right.

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And finally, we can’t go without mentioning the perfect answer given to us by author C.S. Wilde, who clearly knows how to enjoy every moment to its maximum capacity:

every moment is a coffee moment hehe ; )

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So, that’s all for now. But don’t worry, the fun isn’t over!  As long as life continues onward and coffee continues to be produced, there will always be more Coffee Moments™.

Feel free to check out my original post, and feel even more free to comment—whether here, there, or anywhere—with all of your favorite Coffee Moments™, including any new ones that might develop. I look forward to reading many more, and hey, if we get enough of ’em, then maybe we can have a second celebration.

In the meantime, I’ll keep the coffeemaker warm.

Top 5 Coffee Moments™

Nicholas Conley's mysterious coffee obsession.

Before we begin, I should probably answer the obvious question:  what in Sam Hill are these so-called Coffee Moments™?

And to that, my reply is this: Coffee Moments™ are those special experiences, those memorable stories from our past, that will always contain the line “and as it all happened, I was drinking a cup of coffee.”

Coffee Moments™ can be thrilling, sentimental, scary and/or victorious.  Maybe your favorite Coffee Moment™ was sitting in that diner with your future spouse, on your first date.  Maybe it was the coffee you took with you to that interview where you finally landed your dream job.  Maybe it was the coffee you drank when you finally got into the college you most wanted to get into.  Perhaps it was even a cup you sipped while fixing up your first car.

Coffee Moments™ can be anything, to anyone, as long as these moments contain a cup of that wonderful caffeinated beverage.

It took a lot of thought for me to isolate the top five favorite Coffee Moments™ from my life, but I’ve finally settled on the five memories that I keep coming back to:

Sedona, Arizona.

5. All those top secret childhood coffees

This is where it all began, back during my childhood years in the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona.  The first thing that I remember loving was the smell—so alluring and unlike anything else.  Then, the taste, on the occasional times when one of my parents would allow me a sip.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what started my coffee obsession was simply what drinking coffee meant.  As a child, seeing all of the adults I knew holding their mugs and talking about serious things, my young mind perceived coffee as being the gateway to adulthood.

So, when I was around eleven years old, I started sneaking cups.

In the morning, before school and before anyone woke up, I began waking up earlier than anyone else and secretly concocted coffee drinks for myself, drinking them and then washing the mugs.  My tastes have changed so much since those days; my first coffees were Folger’s Instant, mixed together with lots of heavy cream and lots of sugar.  I never would have suspected that, all these years later, my preferred taste would be strong black coffee, but that’s life.

In any case, these mornings were where my love of coffee began.

Nicholas Conley having coffee in Reykjavik, Iceland

Nicholas Conley having coffee in Reykjavik, Iceland

4. First cup in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Yep, some of you will remember this picture!

I think my nostalgia for this particular Coffee Moment™ has a lot to do with my overall affection for Reykjavik itself.  As I’ve stated in prior blogs, Iceland is a startlingly beautiful country.  Getting off the plane is like taking a portal to a mythological fantasy world that somehow possesses contemporary technology, with one of the friendliest populations I’ve ever met.

When my fiancée Veronica and I first landed in Iceland, it was during the so-called midnight sun—that is to say, twenty four hours of sunlight—so after getting into Reykjavik, we spent the next few hours wandering the city, marveling at the beautiful architecture and the wonderful oddness of seeing a sunlit sky in the dead of night.  From there, we went down to the Bus Hostel, crashed for the night and then woke up, whereupon one of the friendly staff members prepared this incredibly tasty cup of coffee for me—or kaffi, as they call it in Iceland.

As with most of my top Coffee Moments™, although the coffee itself was amazing—strong, dark, smooth—what really made it special was the amazing experience that surrounded it.

Nicholas Conley in New Mexico

3. Motel coffees for the road

So, let me quickly delve into some of my back story: after graduating high school in North Carolina, I took off into the heart of the USA and spent some time living on the road, traveling down the highways and exploring all of the locations I’d always wanted to see.  This trip would turn out to be one of the defining experiences of my life; the sense of freedom was mesmerizing, as well as the realization that I was capable of going anywhere I wanted to go, being anyone I wanted to be, and moving from place to place as much as I wanted to.  Everyday was a new experience, a new city, usually a new state…

…and, at the end of each night, a new motel.

Since what mattered to me was seeing the new places and having new experiences and insights, most of the motels I stayed at were fairly cheap, standard stuff.  I would generally pick them by two factors: first was price, and second was distance to my next location.    I went to a variety of different places, but there was one factor that almost all of them had in common: complimentary coffee.

Sure, the coffee itself was never much to write home about.  It was quickly made, cheap and usually brewed in a drip machine.  But what mattered was that it was there, it was accessible, and it was a free bonus that brightened every early morning.

Some of my favorite moments from that great road trip were all the mornings I would wake up, go to whatever new motel lobby I’d found myself in, and then pour myself a cup of hot, black complimentary coffee.  With that coffee in hand, I’d then plan out my route for the coming day, and then take off to another new place that I’d never seen before.

The Cage Legacy

The Cage Legacy

2. Right before I found out The Cage Legacy was going to be published

Looking back, it’s hard to believe how long ago it was.  I had submitted The Cage Legacy to Post Mortem Press some months beforehand, and as I waited for a response, I’d tried to put it out of my mind.  Still, my hopes, dreams and fears had continually resurfaced at least once a day.  Will they accept it?  Is it going to happen?

Publishing a novel with my name on it had been my life dream since childhood.  I’d spent years working toward that dream, working through the rejections, publishing short stories and repeatedly coming back to the same novel I had worked on since I was 17.

And then, on one warm afternoon, I was sitting at my computer in the tiny, old-fashioned brick apartment that Veronica and I shared at the time—our first apartment together, the place where we started to build our dreams together.  Veronica was out running an errand, and I was at the computer, jotting down notes.  The sun was just beginning to sink into the horizon, and feeling a bit tired, I stepped to the kitchen and made some coffee in our French press.

Another day, another black coffee.

But then, when I got back onto the computer, there was something new flashing in my inbox…

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1. That last North Carolina cup

This one goes without saying. I even wrote a story about it!

When I first moved out of North Carolina and embarked on my solo trip across the country, I shared a few final moments with my mother, in the house that I’d grown up in—and of course, we shared some coffee. The memory stayed with me, needless to say.  The story I wrote about it, “Echoes of Leaving,” was first published in the A Word With You Press anthology, The Coffee Shop Chronicles.  It can still be read in that collection, and can also be found on my blog.

While I’ve had many wonderful Coffee Moments™ before and since, there hasn’t been a single one that so clearly marked a divide between two periods of my life in such a clear fashion.  I’ll never forget that moment, and I’m glad of that.

And there are my five moments.  Hail to the java bean.

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So hey guys, let’s hear it.  You’ve read my list, and now it’s your turn: how many of you have a treasured Coffee Moment™ or two that you’d like to share?