Five things I’ve learned from driving for Uber

After four months on the job, a few things I’ve learned.

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When you drive for Uber, the skepticism around the profession and rumor mills are put to rest. Everybody thinks about driving for Uber, but stay away due to certain issues ranging from anxiety around strangers, a certain cash flow expectation, and general paranoia about picking up Tom Cruise from Collateral.

Today marks the three month anniversary of driving for the San Francisco based profession, and I love it for a few good reasons. I’ll get to those later after I debunk some common Uber myths. Let’s start with five.

1) Uber drivers should talk

A subtle greeting is a good thing when a stranger gets into the car, because it breaks the ice and shuts down the suspicions of a new rider. Let’s be honest, you have no idea what’s picking you up on the street, so a greeting works. Remember this: Uber riders want to talk. 95 percent of the time, the rider starts or continues a conversation with me, not the other way around. If I stay silent, the ride becomes uncomfortable, thus ending with a bad rating and zero tip. Judging from my 4.96 (out of 5) rating over 550 rides, I am doing it right.

2) Yes, we know where we are going

You see that navigation on our dashboard showing the map and streets? It’s called Uber Navigation and it works. Sure, there will be times where the Siri rounding lady will run us into a traffic jam or deadend street, but more often than not, so will a human guide. I can’t tell you how many times navigation got me out of a bad spot or saved me minutes. Certain riders think they know every route so well and most of the time I listen to the paying customer, but we do know where we are going. Trust me. Continue reading “Five things I’ve learned from driving for Uber”

Throwback Thursday: Vinny fighting for his life

Vinny learned to fight at a young age. We all did.

The first thing I remember is how blue and gray my son’s face was. 

It didn’t look natural or alright, and after the color didn’t go away, Vinny went to the Children’s Hospital clinic. I was at a work function and waited for the call. As parents, you are programmed to think about the worst and hope for the best. The text message and phone call I got fell directly into the worst category.

Vinny was being rushed to the hospital via the ambulance. The color in his face wasn’t good at all and something was wrong with his heart. For some reason, his heart rate was doing a raw impersonation of Jackie Joyner Kersee. It was reaching 300 beats per minute, which is very bad.

Right away, my adrenaline spiked. A friend of mine, Eric Moore, drove me back to the warehouse, and then I drove to Children’s Hospital off Kingshighway. I honestly can’t tell you if I obeyed traffic laws or even thought about other cars, or the possibility of the police. I just got there, like I was driving the Delorean.  Continue reading “Throwback Thursday: Vinny fighting for his life”

5 Best Coffee Shops in STL

The world definitely doesn’t run on Dunkin!

What would you do without good coffee? Adulting would be obsolete. Chores wouldn’t be completed. Jobs would be lost. Kids would have angry parents. And so on.

As a professional coffee gulper, I am going to help you find the best shops in St. Louis. There’s a time where the half-burnt pot at the work station has to do, but October 7 is not that day, so follow along here as I list the five best coffee shops in the city.

5) Tim Horton’s Cafe and Bakery, The Pre-work Fix

Do you want that reliable diner coffee taste, but with an extra kick in the butt? Go to Tim’s. There’s a drive through off Olive and Tucker, a pitstop at Lafayette and 55/44, or the Big Bend/Manchester location. Don’t get a twenty ounce tank. Get a small coffee with two shots of espresso. Less trips to the bathroom and an extra arch in your morning grin.

4) Hartford Coffee, the Morning Gear shift

After you have polished off the hot cup of Canadian hockey player lava, head over to Tower Grove South and grab a 16 ounce Iced Americano. It’s not 40 degrees outside yet, so feel free to drop some cool temps down the throat to balance things out. A perfect Americano has a backyard firepit aftertaste to it with a bitter finish. If you have to, drop an extra sugar in there, but drink this beverage as straight as possible.

*Located at 3974 Hartford Street, 63116

3) Sump Coffee, the post lunch refuel

Throw down the Blues City Deli sandwich and then head over to Sump for a strong cup of coffee. Instead of drinking a disgusting 5 hour energy capsule, get serious with dirty water. It’s healthier. You’ll see a bald man with a long ginger beard named Scott. He may look like an extra from the Sons of Anarchy, but in reality he has the voice of an angel and is a sweet man. You’ll look behind the counter and see what looks like a science lab experiment happening with coffee. Beakers, test glasses, and pouring seminars. Don’t be intimidated by the menu. Just ask for the Kenya blend. Scott will describe it like Mick Jagger describing the writing process behind Gimme Shelter, but when you drink it, the strength will make the rest of the work day seem like a piece of cake.

*Located at 3700 South Jefferson Avenue, 63118

2) La Cosecha Coffee Roasters, the afternoon mood boost

The Maplewood gents roast their coffee right behind the counter. There’s pour overs and serious business going on like Sump, but there’s a more relaxed vibe here. One of the owner’s is a Royals fan, but that blue is still better than Chicago blue, so go in between 2-4 p.m. for half-priced happy hour, and get a two dollar Cafe Latte. I know what you are thinking: death by a thousand bubbles of foam. But these people do it right, and if you are extra nice, they will drop some honey and vanilla in there. It will almost feel like the weekend.

*Located at 7360 Manchester Road, 63113

1) Shaw’s Coffee, the finishing touch

Leave the coffee, take the macciatto. Your final National Coffee Day stop will happen on The Hill, the place where Yogi Berra called home and Frank Cusumano will eat his last meal. You’ll walk in, duck out of the way of the huge plants, and ask the lady at the counter for a tall macchiato. This isn’t your college campus preppy Starbucks macchiato, with four pumps of caramel and a dab of soy. This is espresso AND foam. Nothing else. It only takes two to make this drink tango. The real deal, minus Arnold. The good stuff. It will come in a small fancy cup sitting on a plate. Head over to a window seat. Relax. Sip. Do not drink. Sip slowly. Savor it. Certain drinks are walks, not marathons.

*Located at 5147 Shaw Avenue, 63110

That’s it. Put that coffee down. Coffee is for closers, and you closed the door completely shut. The weekend won’t know what to do with you. There could be an urge to run home. Just walk. Forget the free cups of coffee at Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts. Check these places out.

The above five drinks will cost you a grand total of 16 dollars. In other words, two drinks at Starbucks.

Take my word for it. I know my coffee.

FRESH BREW Announcement!

Thanks for listening.

Today marks the last “Fresh Brew” show on WGNU.

After 34 great invigorating shows, my radio show has met its end-and the reason is quite simple: sales.

In order to stay on the air, a radio host must hit the streets, sell ads, and create revenue, because if not, he or she represents what to a station? That is the name of the game in this current landscape of radio hosting. If you aren’t on salary or a well-known name, your future on the air always has a clock attached to it. That is the painful reality, and something I have long accepted.

Whether it’s getting a family owned business to hand over a wad of cash every month or figuring out innovative ways to connect with larger companies, radio sales are hard. Going door to door, asking for money, and I’m not a good salesman. I am a peoples person until my last breath, but that is far different from being a good salesman. I am no Don Draper-and I am fine with that. Life gets a lot easier when you understand what you are good at and what you are not good at. Continue reading “FRESH BREW Announcement!”

My Dad, Rich: The voice in my head

No matter what, I still need to know what he thinks.

He’s always up there.

My dad, Rich, is the voice in my head, whether I like it or not. The past six weeks, my wife and I have been looking for a house, and I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that paused to think about something after every house we looked at: what would dad think about this one?

It doesn’t have to do with needing his approval or permission to follow through on a plan; a son never stops wanting to know what his dad thinks. Again, a voice in my head who won’t shut up.

A son never stop watching their dad, hoping to be noticed. When I got my first writing gig at KSDK News, I called my parents. My first story could have been gibberish, but they needed to know. “Dad, what do you think?” When I was a kid playing baseball in Kenard Elementary, I wanted my dad to watch me bat. Playing catch was an event, because I tried to be as accurate as I could with the throws.

I didn’t go to film school; I went to Rich Buffa film school. We created an institution at places like Esquire, Kenrick, Des Peres, and the Tivoli. A movie would be seen, an experience would take place, and on the way home, my brother Bryan and I would pelt my dad with questions about its plot, ending, morals, good guys, bad guys, and the acting.  Continue reading “My Dad, Rich: The voice in my head”

The Perfect Nap

Sometimes, the perfect nap is all you need. Here’s how I do it.

The bed is right there, literally asking you to dance. It’s 65 degrees outside so the air conditioning isn’t needed but the heat won’t help you either if you get too chilly. You open the windows and let the sounds of the outside world carry you into a relaxed state. It’s nap time.

That time where everything stops. Slows down for a moment. The brain can recharge or brainstorm erratic futures via the dream stage. Some of the best parts of my life have been those exhausted moments right before you crawl into a warm bed and wrap yourself up in the covers. Or you collapse on the couch and roll into it. It takes a few adjustments but eventually the pilot in your cerebral cortex nods at you that comfortable has been found. This is the best. You realize you will actually get to sleep.

The cell phone is set down. The bills that you owe stay folded in the office, locked up because they don’t have legs. The kids are either at daycare, asleep themselves or losing themselves in a movie. The door is bolted and the kid is trusted. It’s better if they are being watched because this will deter from a good nap. Worry and tension aren’t welcome in a warm bed. They are assholes who hold your mind ransom for hours. Let’s say the kid is gone and in good care. It’s just you, the remote, and the cell phone with the bed calling your name.

I have often thought of humans as flawed manually operated computers or cell phones. We can run for a long time but sooner or later a charge will be needed. A rest. I am not talking black coffee or a red bull. I am talking sleep. Shut eye. A snooze. Take the shoes and socks off, get horizontal and drift for a bit. Our minds can only go for so long before they start to fry. Headaches, itchy eyes and blurred vision are all signs of stop fucking around and sleep.

I get 4-5 hours on average per night/day. Sometimes 7-8. It depends. The feeling of sleep deprivation is an apparent one with me. I am a writer, tireless in subjects that I can reach. I have a kid. A wife. I am a stay at home dad. Parents don’t get days off. At least good ones don’t. I cook, clean, care for, write, and clean some more. I drink a lot of coffee. I don’t like sugar but we sleep with each other on occasion via a box of Boston Baked Beans or Skittles. I work out and find fitness wherever I can, like a dog chasing its own reflection on a wall. I don’t stop so when I finally do, it’s epic.

The bed commands my attention. It doesn’t talk back. It just wants to stay warm and a body is needed for that. Like two things coming together for shelter in a storm. You lay down, and attempt to watch something, like 13 minutes of an hour long television show. It’s hopeless but like a child’s bedtime book being acted out by very good looking people. Or you just listen to the outside sounds. Car horns, birds, kids playing close by or the wind whipping around the building. Soundtracks aren’t hard to find once you open the windows. The best writers work with the windows open. The best sleep happens then too. You shouldn’t get too comfortable though. There needs to be an edge in your slumber. So when you do fall, you fall hard and sudden.

You wake up and it could be the year 2030 with World War III going on outside. Whatever it is, you’ll deal with it after your first cup of coffee is being downloaded into your system, like a computer taking time to reboot after an improper shutdown sequence.

No matter what happens, you will feel better. The body is charged. The mood is improving. You may want more sleep, but the more you do the more awake you will feel. There will be a push in your steps. Energy is stored so you can access it easily. Water is good. Exercise is fine. Freedom of speech is eternal. Sleep is required to fully function. It could be a small or large amount. When you get it, you know it. There’s good sleep and there’s tossing and turning.

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Do yourself and the others around you a favor and find some good sleep. Take the perfect nap.

Buffa’s Beer Stop: Farmhouse Tank 7

Here is a beer to consider this weekend.

Since everybody is in a Kansas City state of mind with the Royals winning the World Series last week, I thought I’d toss out a delicious Kansas City beer. Sometimes, Budweiser and Miller Lite don’t do the trick and you need a truly unique brew to tide you over a rough Thursday. Something to make Friday seem a little closer. That beer this week is Farmhouse Tank 7, a special production from the Boulevard folks in KC. Check it out.

Carrying an alcohol percentage of 8.5 percent, which is enough to knock you down but not out, Tank 7 comes in 16 ounce bottles and a four pack at most neighborhood stores. When Boulevard’s brewers were testing out new formulas for a Belgian Farmhouse Ale, they created this beast. You could it accidental, but Tank 7 is a different kind of beer. When you first take a sip, a combination of fruits surfaces before a dry hoppy finish sends you well on your way to the pull. Think of Rogue Dead Guy ale, but with more attitude in its finish.

While Tank 7 may be a bit pricey at 10 dollars for a four pack, the taste elevates the experience and also allows the consumer to need only one or two bottles to do the trick of getting in that feel good mode. You don’t need to surround yourself with beer cans to get the great effect of a buzz. Tank 7 lives up to its name and is worth checking out. It’s got personality, a cool back story and a taste that is unique among what you may consider drink worthy in the 314. Also, you are giving a small nod to the I-70 rival and World Series champion Royals at the same time. Nothing wrong with respect in a bottle that tastes this good.