Java Joe’s: A San Diego Music Icon

Back before I had notion of what a Starbucks was, let alone Pete’s Coffee or The Coffee Bean, I had a favorite place just down the road in the Target Shopping Center in Poway, California called Java Joe’s. Tuesdays were open mic night and  I would spend my afternoon memorizing songs I could sing play on guitar and then head down to Java Joe’s for my 15 minutes on stage. Java Joe’s has seen the launch of music careers for artists such as Jewel and Jason Mraz.  I once had to follow Jewel on an open mic night… not really what I wanted to do. At the time I had a recording studio and I think I actually gave her a card but never did get to record her.  It seems like only a few months later I was hearing her on the radio. Not long after my encounter with Jewel, Java Joe’s moved down to Ocean Beach and has been in several locations since. Now,  26 years later at his new place in Old Town, San Diego, Java Joe’s is still a favorite place for live music, good coffee, and good friends.

The atmosphere at Joe’s is always a bit eclectic and fun. This incarnation of Joe’s is largely outdoors and seems perfect for a city like San Diego.  Of course there’s a shark, and a stage set for music.

On this night at Joe’s, Randi Driscoll, Zach Freidhof and Veronica May all took the stage to entertain the guests.

Independent singer-songwriter Randi Driscoll performs with a presence that lifts everyone around her. She often jokes about the number of breakup songs she’s written over the years, and that now that those days are over for her, she’ll “gladly write about your breakups too,” but really her music always highlights the positive turn, the faith in goodness and passion, and reflects her positive spirit. Her voice and style keep her fans coming back for more. When you hear Randi, you can’t help but wonder why she isn’t a household name. (I’m sure she’d laugh at that and say something like, “yeah I wonder too!” Listen to her song “Lucky” for more about becoming an overnight success.)

Randi performs with her long time musical partner Noah Heldman who holds down both guitar and percussion duties for the duo.

As Randi often points out at her shows, Noah essentially IS the band!

Here, Veronica May accompanies Randi as they perform Randi’s song “What Matters,” written in response to the death of Matthew Shepard in 1998. Music is Randi’s way of working through pain, and this song is one she says she’d “hoped she would no longer need to be singing, and yet here we are and I’m still singing this song.” All procedes from sale of this song go to support the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

Veronica May is a new artist to me. Her guitar playing is sharp and percussive with great energy and rhythm. Notice the sandpaper on the guitar top? Veronica truly pulls sound out of the whole instrument in ways I hadn’t heard before. Though playing acoustic at this show, Veronica is also right at home slinging an electric guitar backed up by her band. Their CD release party is May 27th at the Casbah in San Diego.

I first met Zach Freidhof 5 or 6 years ago when I was doing sound at another of Randi’s shows , and was immediately taken with his energy. Randi likes to tell a story about a time Zach was staying at her place and she was feeling under the weather. Zach suggested they write a song together but she was in no mood for writing but then concludes, “Finally we did write a song together, after all, how to you say no to that?” (Pointing to Zach’s smile.)

Zach has branded himself a “Troubadour of Peace,” and his music reflects a passion for this calling. “Music is so powerful. It can touch a soul at such a level as nothing else can,” Zach says. (

One thing about Zach on stage is that he is always moving. Dancing, headbobbing or spinning around, his music and dancing are infectious. I can promise you, if you go to one of Zach’s shows, you will have a good time!

I know this post is supposed to be about Java Joe’s and yet I’ve spent most of my time talking about these particular performers. But that, in a way, is just it. At least for me and the myriad local performers who have taken the stage at whatever incarnation of Java Joe’s they’ve found themselves, It’s all about the music, the artistry and all the people who spend time together at the shows. Joe has a knack for setting things up so everyone from seasoned performers to aspiring musicians giving their best for 15 minutes at the open mic feel welcome and relaxed. Every town needs a Java Joe’s.  If you are in San Diego, make sure you stop into ours!

Java Joe’s 2611 Congress St, San Diego, CA 92110



Classics on the Street: Cruisin’ Grand in Escondido

There are many different types of art in the world: paintings or photos to hang on walls, sculpture, or a beautifully designed building, to name a few.  But each Friday from April through September, Grand Avenue in Downtown Escondido, California pays tribute to the art of design on wheels.

(Nikon D750 50mm 1/60 f/8 ISO100 LR)

1966 Ford Mustang GT350

The owner of this car, Buzz, was best friends with the original owner in high school.  When his friend passed away, Buzz was offered the car. “I just didn’t feel right about taking it,”  he explained. Instead, his brother bought the car then in 2012 sold the car to Buzz.

(Nikon D750 50mm 1/100 f/4.5 ISO100 LR)

It seems to me this is an iconic composition for a classic mustang, with tight focus on the “eye” and grill work, and lead lines from the side panel.

(Nikon D750 50mm 1/50 f/5 ISO100 LR)

One of the striking features of classic car shows is the care and attention given to the upkeep of these cars. Engines are kept immaculately clean! Compositionally I was attracted to the interplay of the curved hoses, forming a sort of spiral as well as the “supercharged” badge that screams “American Muscle Car.”

(Nikon D750 50mm 1/250 f/6.5 ISO100 LR)

In this shot I imagined myself at the drafting table of one of the original designers, focusing closely on the positioning and contours of the body panel, scoop, and tail pipe balanced against the wheel.

(Nikon D750 50mm 1/125 ISO100 f/8 LR)

Passers by admiring this ’66 Mustang.

1973 “Thing” Stretch

Not all the cars on display are all original. This 1973 Volkswagen “Thing” has been stretched from a 4 door to a 6 door.  It looks like it would be a ton of fun with friends out on the beach (if there are any left one can drive on) or out in the desert. I suspect this particular Thing is too rare to beat up on that way.

(Nikon D750 50mm 1/320 f/1.8 ISO100 LR/PS)
(Nikon D750 50mm 1/500 f/3.5 ISO100 LR)
(Nikon D750 50mm 1/500 f/3.5 ISO100 SB 700 LR)

Owner Gary Haugley and his wife reluctantly posed with the Thing. This reluctance seemed pervasive among many owners, which surprised me.  While these owners are proud of the work and artistry they put into their cars, most were more than happy to let the cars speak for themselves and not have their picture taken with their car. Gary’s company is Classic Auto Appraisers. Clearly, his passion for classic cars shows in both his personal and professional life.

(Nikon D750 50mm 1/50 f/13 ISO100 LR)
(Nikon D750 50mm 1/250 f/6.5 ISO100 LR)

1947 Mercury “Woody”

Part of the artistry of a car show is the work each owner puts into getting the details right, and capturing the spirit of the car in their presentation.  A surfer turned classic car enthusiast, Jim has been working on this car for 24 years. He had a ’54 Woody as a teenager, when he would drive it, loaded with boards, to the beach for a day of surfing. He doesn’t take this car out there, but his setup looks the part, complete with The Beach Boys playing on the boom box and some great novelty features inside the car. (Check out the cup holder!)

(Nikon D750 50mm 1/200 f/4.5 ISO100 SB700 LR)

Backlit by the sun, Jim looks ready to hang out on the beach, or in this case, the street corner with a margarita in hand.

(Nikon D750 50mm 1/1250 f/1.8 ISO 100 LR/PS)

As it happens, I followed this car up the freeway Friday afternoon as I drove home from work. There was no question where this car was headed, and I envisioned this composition while I followed behind. Sure enough he was parked on the corner of Kalmia and Grand. (This plate number has been modified in Photoshop, but the plate itself appears as though it might be the one this car came with. Anyone know how they get away without a registration sticker?)

(Nikon D750 50mm 1/80 f/4.5 ISO640 LR)
(Nikon D750 50mm 1/80 f/4.5 ISO640 LR)

It’s always a pleasure to see these cars driving down the road. I understand that many of these cars, because they are so valuable, get trailered from place to place; but I feel like half the pleasure of events like these is seeing that these time capsules of design still function as they were intended.

Hot Rods & Engines!

Somehow I always feel drawn to the hot rods with their engines exposed. I feel these cars represent the essence of horsepower and I’m always impressed at the way their owners make these engines shine.

(D750 50mm 1/160 f/8 ISO100 LR)
(D750 50mm 1/100 f/8 ISO100 LR)
(D750 50mm 1/60 f/9 ISO400 LR)
(D750 50mm 1/100 f/3.5 ISO100 SB700 LR)

Meeting and talking with people is a huge part of the inspiration for Street Muse. This group was settled in for the evening and they gave a friendly nod as I walked by. When asked about why he enjoys Cruisin’ Grand Gary Lockhart said, “It’s like a high school reunion every week.” He and his wife Lynda, along with their friends Glen and James all graduated from Escondido High School between 1961 and ’64.

(D750 50mm 1/30 f/3.2 ISO800 SB700 LR)

They were among the last to leave the scene at the end of the evening. Glen remarked, “we pretty much leave when they kick us off the street!”

More Favorite Cruisers

(D750 50mm 1/60 f/13 ISO100 SB700 LR)

It seems to me there can’t be all that many restored classic police cars running around!

(D750 50mm 1/80 f/5.6 ISO100 LR)

The deep colors in the paint of this car really attracted me. I suspect this finish is far from stock, but it’s a great way to see the blending of newer technologies, like this paint, blending with classic style to express the artistic vision of the owner.

(D750 50mm 1/200 f/3.2 ISO 100 LR)

There’s something about the detail in classic hood ornaments that is like icing on the cake of a classic car. They can be a real pain at times as well. I once had a friend who was restoring a Jaguar Mark I sedan. The car was beautiful, except the front end, which lay in pieces in his garage. It seems the hood ornament was critical at that stage in the assembly and the car couldn’t be completed without it! This one from a Pierce Arrow was a new find for me.

(D750 50mm 1/200 f/3.2 ISO100 LR)

Not Just Cars!

Cruisin’ Grand generates a party like atmosphere that goes on for blocks with live music practically on every corner.

(D750 50mm 1/60 f/5.6 ISO160)

Miss Escondido and an Escondido Princess lead the hoopla-hoop contest for a younger set.

Music on Every Corner!

(D750 50mm 1/50 f/3.5 ISO640 SB700 LR)

One of the best sounding groups of the night, “Scaring The Wives,” plays classic rock all night long. This group got every detail right and at a volume level that won’t make your ears ring. (Look them up on Facebook)

Cruisin’ Local Businesses

One of the benefits of living here in Old Escondido is the proximity to Grand Ave and the local shops and restaurants. Many of the businesses proudly display signs saying they are sponsors of Cruisin’ Grand, and there’s no doubt that the party like atmosphere of this weekly event creates a special opportunity for these businesses.

Top End Tees

(D750 50mm 1/50 f/3.5 ISO 100)

Top End Tees is fully decked out for this Friday tradition. Shop owner Steve Waldron is also the founding organizer of Cruisin’ Grand. Like so many of the car owners Steve was more interested in featuring his shop and T-shirts than being in any pictures himself.

Cute Cakes

Genesis Serves Sample Cakes
(D750 50mm 1/100 f/3.5 ISO100 SB700 LR)

Genesis, an employee of Cute Cakes, contributes to the party atmosphere by handing out samples of their wares. I have to wonder how co-worker Andrew feels about riding around in the cupcake outfit!

Genesis and Andrew
(D750 50mm 1/200 f/3.5 ISO100 LR)

Ritz d’Lites

(D750 50mm 1/80 f/3.2 ISO640)

One of the newest business on Grand, Ritz d’Lites offers delicious milk teas, ice cream, and bubble teas. I enjoyed a unique avocado smoothie complete with large tapioca “bubbles.” Drinking this sweet avocado treat with an oversized straw to suck up the “bubbles” was a first for me. It was great!

(D750 50mm 1/60 f/3.2 ISO400 LR)
(D750 50mm 1/60 f/3.2 ISO400 LR)


(D750 50mm 1/30 f/4.5 ISO640 SB700 LR)

Partners Malou, Janice, Ayesha, Liza, and Vikki can’t wait to meet you in their charming ice cream and tea establishment. You can find them on Facebook

O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub

(D750 50mm 1/125 f/2.5 ISO800 SB700 LR)

As I like to do as often as possible, I ended my evening on Grand Ave at the local pub. O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub is consistently one of the top rated pubs in San Diego, featuring a great selection of beers on-tap, an inviting atmosphere, music, and a staff that will recognize you when you come back.

You don’t have to be a classic car fan to enjoy the vibe of Cruisin’ Grand. It’s a fun family-friendly atmosphere that will get you out walking, enjoying good food, good music, and an interesting array of people.

The Muse on the Street: Beginning

As I begin this journey, I find myself wondering how I could ever have reached a point where I would voluntarily spend time writing something like a blog post on any kind of regular basis. In high school the worst assignments were writing assignments. Sometime later, perhaps not until taking online courses to complete my teaching credential, it finally clicked that writing could be a vital part of the learning process. Setting one’s thoughts down in words cements them in a way, not unlike the way a still image distills all the emotions of an event or a place into a fixed frame that preserves and expands one instant in time.


Here on day one what this photography blog is missing is a whole lot of images! Those will have to wait until the weekend, (or at least a day or two). Thank you for reading. Please continue this conversation with your comments below.