One day I will return just for the True Mexicana

So I recently (like last week) visited Portland with 3 main goals:

  • drink as much beer as my body will handle
  • see as much nature as the Willamette Valley will offer
  • drink all the bougie coffee I can get my hands on

While I didn’t drink nearly enough beer or see as much nature as I wanted, I feel fully satisfied with my coffee exploration.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m obsessed with iced coffee and I’ll drink it pretty much year-round. Not many know I have a secret obsession with mochas that dates back to my high school days when True Love Cafe (RIP) had their “Michael Jackson Mocha”, which by today’s standards would be shunned by our overly PC society for its mildly questionable name. It was a tuxedo mocha: half mocha, half white-mocha and it was fucking delicious.

Portland had me all in winter mode with the constant rain and being 10 degrees colder than it was when I left Sacramento, I knew I needed to find a decent mocha using my tried and true Temple “Mexican Mocha” as my benchmark.

The contenders:

Barista (top left)
12 oz
Almond Milk
4.0 stars

This was my first mocha in the city, what struck me was the option of a semi-sweet (that’s what I chose) or dark chocolate mocha and if I recall correctly they were using some fancy bougie chocolate for it too. It was handcrafted, as expected and decent but no Temple.

St. 14 Café (top right)
8 oz
Oat Milk
4.5 stars

We just happened to find this cafe as we were leaving Astoria and I needed a pick-me-up. While small and pricey, it packed a bigger flavor punch than its predecessor and the friendly Nor-Cal native barista turned me onto Oatly oat milk which I’ll be eternally grateful for.

Kiosko (bottom left)
12 oz
Oat Milk
$5-6ish (charged diff amounts each time we went)
5 million stars

Oh Kiosko, I found my home here. This tiny little kiosk near the waterfront in downtown Portland stole my heart and taste buds. The owner who was super friendly (we commiserated about how we’re the only Mexicans in the area and crave authentic eats), handcrafts the most beautiful “True Mexican” mocha with dried raspberry flakes and real cacao on top. It was a work of art and most definitely my favorite drink while I was in Portland. My only regret is not having tried it sooner than the last 2 days we were in town. It was just up the block from our hotel! I will come back for you one day, my sweet coffee love.

While we’re on the topic of amazing coffee…

I can’t talk Portland coffee and not mention Huber’s. I was coaxed into coming here our first night in town after a heavy dinner (I couldn’t breathe) and was promised a show. Boy, did I get one! We went so late the room was so dark there was no point to trying to video the action myself, for that you can check out this spot on Drinking Made Easy here. Set in Portlands oldest restaurant, dripping with history ranging from turkey sandwiches to trap door shanghais, the Spanish Coffee was a beautiful demonstration of adrenaline; coffee and lighting shit on fire. While the coffee was way to strong for myself, everyone seemed to enjoy theirs and I would highly recommend the iced coffee- but only because its a prettier sight to see poured. If you want to get your buzz on, caffeinated, and possibly lit on fire- definitely check this place out and you won’t be disapointed.

Ok I’m back. Now what?

God, so much can change in a couple years. When I first started this blog it was the third platform I’d blogged on (RIP & livejournal), people were actually making money (easily & not me) from blogging, and readers actually left comments. This was a prehistoric time where sharing posts via FB and IG weren’t really used to promote blogs yet and growth was organic, community-based, and people actually had attention spans longer than 6 seconds.

After taking a lot of time off of my art and blogging I decided I missed word vomiting all over the internet too much and now I’m back here. It’s 2018, blogging has been declared dead by all, I haven’t produced a single piece of art in over 2 years, and I spend most of my creative energy at my full-time job. I still have things to say. I still have loud opinions. I’m still here and you’re here too.

Good to see you again.


bodegabaywinery (1)
Driving down from a Bodega Bay winery this past spring at the end of a very cold camping trip.


Music Monday – Marian Hill

If you like sultry vocals over some great beats, this woman is for you. I’ve been on a major Banks kick lately and this song was suggested to me based off of that and my love of EDM, jazz and soulful singers. I fell in love instantly, and you will too. Enjoy!

“One Time”




A lot changes in a decade…

Before I actually lived in downtown Sacramento I would visit it and just explore as a teenager. Between classes or when I had a night off and nothing to do, I would roam the streets of downtown and just take it all in. Having been dragged off to suburbia as a child and raised in what felt like the middle of nowhere, being downtown was an exciting cultural adventure for me. I remember one afternoon,  while going around and experimenting with my camera, I stumbled upon an empty parking lot that backed up to a cool abandoned warehouse. I took some photos around the empty lot and its building, which probably hadn’t been painted since the 50s, and then took a couple snaps of the top of that beautiful old warehouse.

The Historic Lawrence Warehouse, 11th & R streets, Circa 2004-2005
The Historic Lawrence Warehouse, 11th & R streets, Circa 2004-2005

Its 10 years later and I now live in that warehouse. I knew this warehouse looked familiar the second I saw the rooftop structure for the old water tanks. Somewhere deep in my very unorganized basket of negatives and their photos, I knew I had a photo of this building, which is now called the Warehouse Artists Lofts. I’m not sure if its kismet, coincidence, or just meant to be, but so many things lined up perfectly for me and this move. I literally found out about the opportunity to live here for cheap the night before the applications were due. The logo for the building is almost identical to something I made up for my own name when I was like 9, I used to sign all my art and stuff with that damn logo which was basically inspired by the FILA logo where all the letters were connected. That was the most embarrass thing I’ve ever typed, by the way. The final thing that makes me think this was totally meant to be, is this photo. There is something so weirdly historically awesome about living in a random warehouse I photographed a decade ago. I didn’t know that 10 years later that building would be dedicated to the artists of this town and become a historical landmark. I didn’t know that I would be a part of one of the biggest accomplishments for the Sacramento local arts scene. I am so in love with the history of this town and now I get to be a part of it. I get to experience it. I get to leave my mark on this city in one of the coolest ways ever.

Now my real work begins, I need to live up to what is expected of me here and I am terrified, because success is scary as hell, but I am also seriously excited to challenge myself and see what I come up with.

you can be whatever you want


I was raised in the culture of “you can be whatever you want when you grow up” — which seems to be the bane of every millennial’s existence. Until recently, I don’t think I fully understood that statement. Some take it to extremes and think that even if your IQ is 50, as long as you try hard enough you can be president — if you want it badly enough. Some, like me, thought it was meant to say that everything in life is a choice and you have the freedom to be president since gender and race inequality are supposedly a thing of the past and we live in the “richest country in the world”; read: opportunities to be whatever you want. Here is a twist though — what if it means that you can literally wake up one day and be something you weren’t the day before? What if speaking it into the universe makes it so?

One of the things I have learned along my 5-year journey to truly become a professional artist is that “faking it til you make it” is a real thing, and it’s a lesson I couldn’t seem to keep down until this past month, when it basically bitch-slapped me back into reality. I experienced a few months of success in 2011 — my work was published in a calendar, I was quoted by the Wall Street Journal, had my first art show and sold my first print. The thing that got me to that point and through the workload of getting my work show-ready was the fact that I was calling myself a “Photographer” with a straight face for the first time ever. I had never ever before recognized or labeled myself with the title of “Photographer.” I had always referred to myself as someone who just “does” photography as a hobby, never anything with a real title. When the pace of my success came to a grinding halt, I also stopped referring to myself as such — maybe I wasn’t worthy of the title, maybe it’s because I got distracted and stopped creating. I honestly don’t know why and I didn’t realize I even did that until I really looked back on that time in my life.

I tell you this because after my car accident in September, being unable to work, people would ask me what I do and replying back with “self-employed” never ever cut it. What do I do? I finally got sick of humming and hawing and started telling people straight out — “I’m a photographer.” I felt like I was telling a white lie because sure I might be an amateur photographer, but I have yet to really achieve success and recognition. It didn’t hit me until I was driving up to Apple Hill to meet up with my friends that there just HAD to be a reason for this accident. Things like this don’t just happen to good people for no reason, and yes I am- unapologetically — one of those “everything happens for a reason” people. As I was hitting my favorite part of the drive up, where you can see over the entire Sacramento Valley, it dawned on me — what if this happened to push me into really BEING a photographer? I’ve been saying I’m one, and I love and practice photography. Why am I not a photographer in my own head? What the hell is the difference between saying I am one and being one at this point? What if this accident was a reminder that I need to quit wasting my precious creative juices on work and refocus them onto walking the walk. I quit my job 6 months ago for a reason — to be more creative, and here I was working like a dog to make money and fund someone else’s dream, screw that. It’s time to be a Photographer, “capital P.” What’s really stopping me from calling myself and being one? Success? If I can succeed with just a few months of work and half the effort like in 2011, why not go for broke and really live out my creative dreams?

By the time I got to Apple Hill it sunk in — I am a photographer. I AM a Photographer. That is what I do. I am a Photographer, and I run my own blog and YouTube channel — and that is what I shall do. I’m so done living other people’s dreams. I want to live mine now and there truly is no time like the present and I can’t afford to keep being reminded by the universe. I can’t afford another physically painful message from the powers that be telling me to stop wasting my time on fruitless efforts.

You can be whatever you want, when you grow up.

This is me growing up. I am grown up, and I am a Photographer. It’s finally time, and thank God, because 29 years is way too long for me to just finally “get it.”

Valerie Figueroa, Photographer