depression, coffee, and an adrenaline rush

Years ago, a comment on my blog said something about how my writing had become more introspective since moving back to Tokyo. My mental response had been – I still remember it now – that when you’re in a shitty situation, you realize the things that matter most to you. 

I shouldn’t blame Tokyo, per se, for my lack of happiness. It’s more the combination of an inclination towards sometimes severe depression and the social ostracization of being different. The bike helped tremendously, until I got chewed out too many times at a bike shop for “being stupid.” I remember standing in the middle of a Tokyo street, crying so hard I could barely breathe, sending smoke signals in the form of desperate emails to two best friends. The bullying, the harshness of being different, of being too independent or foreign, the hints that maybe I should change who I am…it all sucked. A lot.


The bike kept me sane for a while, but this past winter, I hit a new kind of low. The kind that keeps you indoors and off the bike and barely above “slightly functional.” Save for those two short visits from Adam, I couldn’t remember how to smile.

I never believed that clinical depression was something to be proud of, because though the moments are sometimes too rare, I like to be happy. That’s the other side of it; when you can get your head above water for a bit, depression helps you realize what really makes you happy. It’s makes you a little braver, too, to tell the people you care about that you love them and that they make you happy. It encourages putting a song on repeat all day – no matter how pop-y – and to paint with food, if that’s what it takes to keep the monsters at bay. If dancing around my apartment to British boy bands, classic punk rock, and American indie rock between painting portraits of pro cyclists gets me out of bed, then that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Bikes still feed my soul, but these past few months, I remembered something else. When too many people are shitty to me and I start to break a little bit inside, I can always use music to patch it up until I’m good to go.

I believe there’s very little a good bike ride and a bass line can’t fix. When I need a second wind, good coffee and punk rock have always delivered. So let’s start there.

Subjects: Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer of The Clash, and Tim Armstrong of Rancid

Materials used: coffee grounds


- The fact that Johnny Rotten's face isn't centered on that plate has been triggering my OCD like woah. 

- The smell of coffee really tested my gag reflex for a week after I did these. 

[More food art portraits can be found here and here.]

coffee excursions: little nap coffee stand

When Kyle told me he was coming for a visit last month [it’s been nearly a month, since!], he remained stubbornly vague about his past year in L.A. A good thing, maybe, because between bike shop visits, sushi, and burgers [yes, we did all three in the same day], we also had our fair share of coffee to sip. And stories – especially with friends – is always better over something slightly less than scorching and abundantly well-caffeinated.

And while I was supposed to [mostly] guide the way, Kyle came prepared with a recommendation via his girlfriend; a casual mention of a tiny café tucked away on the far side of Yoyogi park. We walked there on Kyle’s third day here, and found a simple exterior with a door handle wrapped in bar wrap. And much like the girl with an awesome sense of style and quiet charisma that you inexplicably find attractively inviting, I liked it already. I wanted to like it more as I slid open the door. But even I was surprised when, inside the small space complete with worn wooden floors and counters and touches of retro Americana, Little Nap Coffee Stand served up possibly the best Americano I’ve tasted in Tokyo.

The minute attention to detail at Little Nap Coffee Stand – though not unusual for smaller businesses in Tokyo – is distinctive due to its subtlety. A selection of baked goods neatly lined the counter beside the usual extras [simple syrup, sugar, etc.], primped and waiting patiently for hungrier customers. Straws were displayed in a vintage plastic container, a large world map and retro stickers playing up the comfortably worn vibe. Our beverages were served in cups that were attractive in their simplicity; the slightly mismatched furniture adding further to the café’s charm.

We swapped life news [as all friends should over coffee] at the front counter facing the street in the otherwise empty space. A young couple drove up, a small child tucked into the backseat, and upon seeing us at the window, waved hello. The reception was unusual and I glanced for a second in quick panic at Kyle before recalling that this was normal behavior in all great coffee shops. They came through the door with happy smiles as if we all hadn’t seen each other in too long and we sipped our coffee, smiled, waved, and said hello to their small daughter.
It was an awesome start to the day.