That's Phil watching from that center photo.

George Lipp has been going to Philz since 2006. These pieces were written in the summer of 2009.

I took Ben and Kevin down to Philz for a cup of coffee before today’s registration for 505 World Championship races.

Up walks Phil. I made the introductions and Phil went into warp drive talking about how his blends were part of a century-old tradition. Given Phil’s timeline, I am not sure that fire had even been invented. No matter to me, no matter to Phil — it’s all about the story. They’re as good as the coffee.

Phil told us his grandfather was a coffee master and how as a young boy he watched every move. Phil’s father never appeared in the story, but as everyone knows, he ran a corner grocery store at the location that is home to the Philz mother ship.

One fateful day, as the story goes, Phil’s grandmother asked him to brew her a cup. With the skills garnered from grandpa and Phil’s own artistic flair, he brewed his first cup.

At this point Phil crossed himself and gestured like he was humbly offering a cup of coffee. He whispered, “She took a sip and lit up.”

His grandmother turned to her husband and said, “My love, this is better than yours.”

Then Phil leaned into the group and said, “My grandfather took a sip, smiled and said, ‘My son, you have beaten me to the whorehouse.’”

Kevin’s jaw dropped as he considered the metaphor. More conversation followed. Phil told us how he had beaten the Japanese coffee master. How each cup is a “cup of love.”

His hiring practices are simple, he said, adding that he insists on three attributes: honesty, kindness and morality. Then he paused and with a big smile acknowledged, “I’ll take two out of three.”

“Come with me, I want to show you something,” he said.

“Do you like iced coffee?”

“Yes,” Ben and Kevin agreed.

At the back corner of the counter, Phil created three cups of iced coffee. He handed them to Ben, Kevin and me and said, “Now drink them as fast as you can.”

“Do you feel a tingling at the back of your neck? Then it will go all the way to your toes and you will be an Arabian race horse.”

I looked over Phil’s shoulder and noticed a girl waiting for her coffee. She had a huge smile and the look of, “Boy, is that a story or what!”

Ben and Kevin, noting that Phil had turned his back, dropped two quarter-full cups of iced coffee into the recycling.

“I’m having a brain freeze,” Kevin said, adding something about “this stuff coming out of both ends.”

They set off for their first day on the Bay. During registration they renamed their boat “Arabian Stallion.” They also finished 11th in the world, so there must be something to Phil’s iced coffee.


I went down to Philz for coffee with David. On the way back, we were talking in front of George’s Liquor at the corner of 24th and Shotwell. The Board of Directors for Shotwell were having their usual morning meeting in the sun on the northwest corner. The day was young and the conversation lively.

A young and very hip girl, ghettoed out to the best of her ability, walked to the corner. Her outfit and “be aware of your surroundings” demeanor begged one comment: “You’re not from around here, are you?”

She quickly began setting up a view camera — yep, large format, with the drape and all. The subject of her art was the shrine for Monster Sanchez, votive candles, Hennessy half-pints and all. She focused and took illumination readings. Then, as all great photographers do, dove under the drape.

Immediately the chairman of the Shotwell directors got up, put down his empty beer and ambled over to the shrine. He began striking poses.

The girl waited and waited as the chairman tried poses of all description, none of which “worked” for the photographer. Finally, he kind of gave up and started back across the street to rejoin the group. He watched as the police rolled up and began pouring out the other board members’ beers. They stumbled to their knees and put their hands behind their backs almost as if hoping for arrest. The police were efficient, asked the board to reconvene down at the park, and nobody got a ride.

Seeing the public safety interaction, the chairman spun about and drifted back to the photo shoot. This time his acting was more of a means to avoid the long arm of the law than for fame or fortune. The girl finally gave up, collapsed the tripod, and left. The chairman approached us as we leaned against David’s truck. Seeing that the board meeting had ended, he slid off his shoes and fell asleep in the sun, no doubt dreaming about the moments he spent in the warmth of the klieg lights.

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George Lipp has long lived in the Mission. He’s our volunteer extraordinaire – always out taking photos or running across crimes in progress.

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