by Philip Fletcher Payan
Besides a mutual sculptor acquaintance, the only real connection Eva Avenue and I have is that my girlfriend is her former employer.
There are more than a few stories there and, as we talk for the first time over video chat, she filled me in on the details of the stories I’ve heard about her. However, the reason we dialed each other up wasn’t to talk about New Mexico art galleries or being bitten by a viper while traveling the Iberian peninsula. I contacted Eva to interview her about her latest project - The Sweetwater Morning Monthly Florida Coffee Zine, published by its forbearer - Eva’s acclaimed underground zine The Nightly Noodle Monthly.
The Noodle, as its friends call it, started as little more than a fever dream while recovering from that viper bite in a Barcelona hospital. It was intended as a fun, odd, unifying local publication for Albuquerque, New Mexico’s "Student Ghetto" as people immediately south of UNM call the area. Made with the materials Eva had on hand, a pair of scissors and a copy machine, the Nightly Noodle Monthly quickly became a beacon of inspiring creative possibilities. Within four months of its inaugural publication in October 2009, The Noodle won a “Best Local Zine” award from The Weekly Alibi's 'Best of Burque,' Albuquerque’s original reader's poll.
Eva carries that same torch of expert passion which ignited the Albuquerque zine scene forward into her latest project, The Sweetwater Morning Monthly Florida Coffee Zine.
With the same renegade vibe and analog feel that endeared readers to The Noodle, The Sweetwater Morning Monthly Florida Coffee Zine aims to position the Sweetwater Organic Coffee Company in Gainesville, FL as a cultural point of reference for artists and coffee drinkers across the state. As Eva puts it, “it’s got a lot of love and attention put into it. I think it just produces something great. The writers have a lot of freedom. It’s something for Sweetwater’s customers. It’s something to give the company more of a voice. But beyond association with their roastery, I want it to be a general a unifying publication - as it's passed around Florida, it’s automatically going to create a lot of avenues to make more connections within fairtrade coffeehouses and the arts scene.”
The Florida Coffee Zine, while more wholesome than its mothership, still radiates that underground-press, ransom-note, vintage punk aura from its pages.
"Whether you’re reading it, whether you own a coffee shop, whether you’re contributing to the zine, whether you just love coffee," she said, "you can pick up a bunch and give them to your friends so they think you’re cool."
Their first issue includes pieces such as “How To Properly Enjoy an Art Show: A Comprehensive Guide.” written by St. Pete mural artist and curator Aurailieus Artist, who helps paints Wynwood murals during Art Basel. As we talk, Eva walks out onto her porch sporting a cropped t-shirt in the warm St. Pete air. In a cruel juxtaposition, I am wearing two layers and a hoodie and staring out my window at a foot of snow in Chicago. I silently lament to myself that I live in a place where the air hurts my bearded face while she effervescently elaborates on St. Pete's mural scene for me during our hangout.
“St. Pete’s a mural town. Before Sebastian Coolidge started painting murals, we did not have murals concentrated along Central Avenue,” Eva says pointing to a Sharpie drawing of a pair of breasts in a window that Sebastian drew on her stomach during an art show last night. “He kinda started the mural scene. Now we have an annual mural festival and everyone is making murals. And there's mural wars. There’s sabotage. It’s a whole art world, high-noon showdown out here.”
As Eva gets back to the other first issue features, I hear a birds chirp somewhere behind her and out of frame. Meanwhile, a snow plow finally rumbles down my street.
“We have a piece from coffee educator Hannah Mercer where I talk to her about the feelings a cup of coffee should evoke," Eva says. "She’s certified by the Specialty Coffee Association and now offers the same kind of training condensed into one place at Cafe Campesino's Training Lab in Americus, Georgia campus and she has all these courses. She’s just this badass coffee person and calls herself a ‘Coffee Magician’. Then there's “A Brief History of Coffee Houses," this great piece I found online by Stefanie Spencer and chopped it up into excerpts. I got the OK to use it from the guy who runs ineedcoffee.com. He thought this was a ‘really neat project’” Eva says laughing.
As we wrap up our talk, Eva tells me how she skidded to a halt on her bike outside a local bar on her way home with the first printing with the first issue of The Sweetwater Morning Monthly Florida Coffee Zine when she saw this psychedelic Sweetwater truck parked outside. Over a beer and while sharing Sweetwater stories, the delivery driver sat at the counter and helped Eva fold the first issue. A good omen from the coffee gods if ever there was one.
The Sweetwater Morning Monthly Florida Coffee Zine is already at Black Crow Coffee in St. Pete, Florida and is rolling out at funky coffee houses across the state now. One barista just wrote an email: I'm a barista at Black Crow and was wondering who was running this and if I could help! :---) I need a creative outlet. The monthly publication will eventually have an online presence as the new project hits its groove. Eva tells me she’s been carrying copies around with her too and and has interested artists and coffee people asking after them.
So if you find yourself in and around sunny St. Petersburg, Florida and are lucky enough to chance into Eva on her bike; ask her, “Can I have one?” Then be sure to ask for a couple more copies of her new zine so you can give them to your friends and make them think you’re as cool as Eva Avenue.