Category Archives: vespa

interview with joe

I knew who Joe was before I met him. He’s a bit of a local celebrity who dresses particularly and is known for his restaurants. But I knew him as the only person in my area who owned a Vespa. And I had just bought one. So about three years ago, I introduced myself, asked if I could go along on any group rides he was planning, and somehow found myself helping to open the future Liberty Market. But be careful! Once you are Joe’s friend, you must succumb to all kinds of crazy adventures-many of them involving blind taste tests of food. And believe me, this guy will wear you out! He’s made me visit more than five espresso joints in a day.

You can find many interviews with Joe and his journey of starting the Coffee Plantation, Joe’s Real BBQ, or the housing development complete with childhood-home-turned-restaurant Joe’s Farm Grill, but I would like to illuminate the more personal side of Joe. Because I dare to ask the questions!

JM: Please tell us a little about yourself.

JJ: That is an open question, so I’ll answer it a bunch of different ways.

I am happily married (to the lovely, talented, power-house: Cindy), have two married sons, and live in Gilbert.

I am chubby, moderate in build, wear a hat, have a titanium rod in my leg, blood pressure within the normal range.

I am self-deluded in thinking I can eat anything and not gain weight, that I am 30, that I am not dying, and certainly much more that I am oblivious to.

I am a visionary. I don’t mean that in a proud way any more than if I was to say that I am an artisan, a craftsman, or a farmer. The primary gift that God has given me is in the realm of ideas and how to advance them to become reality.

JM: I love the story of how you and Cindy met, would you mind sharing the tale?

JJ: At the time, I was an engineer and happily single, living in an apartment. I don’t mind being alone and don’t get bored easily, so I enjoyed working on cars and general tinkering. My mother was quite concerned that I would never get married. For one thing, she identified me as a nerd with fashion problems that might make me un-datable. To work on my fashion problem, she sent me to “Sincerely, Sandra”, a modeling and personal improvement shop at Dobson and Elliot. The basic idea was that the owner, Sandra, would color drape me and then teach me how to shop for clothes. Sandra is a vivacious lady of Lebanese ancestry. Through the process of figuring out that I was a “spring” and taking me shopping at Marshall’s, she decided I was a normal person, so she asked me if I would like to meet her sister. She hooked me up with her little sister, Cindy, who was living with Sandra and her husband at the time. It took me a while to get around to a first date. When we met, I thought she was beautiful … we got along fine. For many months we went out, just as friends and then we fell in love. That’s the best way.

JM: You have a distinct fashion style. Tell us how you created it and what your inspirations are.

JJ: My awareness of fashion started in the same way I met Cindy (see above). Since then, I have become more interested in fashion and have developed certain philosophies regarding dress:

1. Be comfortable with who you are and where you live.

I am a bit chubby (but cuddly), have a short inseam, a bald head, and ordinary looks (which I think of as a blessing). Doesn’t sound like a promising physique for fashion, but I have come to accept my situation and be happy about it. I also live in a warm state. Given these factors, I try to dress in ways that make sense. Being bald has opened up the world of hats, an area where people with hair seem timid to explore (except with the baseball cap [yuck!]). It protects from the sun and has many more options than hair. Being chubby, tight fitting clothes are a big no-no. Guayabera shirts are a favorite. They are loose fitting, a traditional shirt in warm climates, and come in great colors. I do not wear jeans. They emphasize the wrong part of my body. T-shirts: only at the gym.

2. Don’t go with the trends.

I used to wear classic Hawaiian shirts for the same reason as a Guayabera. Then they became popular and started showing up at Costco and all sorts of unstylish people started wearing them in horrible ways. I stopped wearing them. Hats have become popular again (I’ve been wearing them for 25 years), but most people buy cheap ones from China at Target, so it really hasn’t diluted quality hat wearing and I am not planning on abandoning hats. I avoid trends like “Affliction” shirts, Ed Hardy, and all of that stuff. I prefer classic, timeless pieces that go together well and last.

3. Buy quality.

I don’t buy poorly made stuff. It won’t last and it won’t feel good. That doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. Just be picky about quality, inspect your goods carefully, and then try to get the best price. For instance, my go-to fedoras are US made and are fashioned from wheat straw. They are very well made and cost about $35. Yes, that’s more than a Chinese “felt” fedora, but not that much more. It fits and lasts, plus you’re helping US workers. Some things are just plain expensive, but worth it. My LV “murse” is a great accessory that I use daily. It is SO well made and perfectly designed. It will last forever instead of some bad fitting, cheap mini-messenger bag. There’s some truth in the phrase “you get what you pay for”.

JM: Would you please share some Joe “before” pictures?


JM: Would you like to share an internet link?


Best food related periodical:

Best antidote to Rachel Ray:

Thanks again Joe for participating in my interview series! Please feel free to ask all your burning questions of Joe in the comments below!

And you can follow him on twitter (@realjoe)-although rumor is he might take a hiatus for a month in February!

“be safe”

Most people will quote these words to me as I walk towards my scooter.  Coming from another rider, it’s a friendly thing to say-there’s camaraderie in it, but coming from a car driver it can be frustrating.  I understand what they are saying-they want me to stay whole and hale.  But I wonder if their behavior has changed in response to having a friend ride.

Let me say I am safe.  I began my love affair with riding by taking a motorcycle safety course.  I am hyper vigilant.  I am always aware of my relation to cars on the road.  I never text, talk on the phone, talk to passengers, look at a map, read a magazine, put on makeup, or eat while driving.  I never even listed to music.  I only drive.  I maintain my scooter with regular services and replace the tires when they require.  I know that my safety depends on my level of attention.  Most motorcycle accidents considered the fault of the cyclist involve substance abuse.  I never drink and ride.

Which leads me to say…if a motorcyclist is involved in an accident, it is most often due to the inattention of other drivers.  I ask you: are you safe?  Do you consider the lives of others on the road as you enter your vehicle?  When you tell me to be safe out there, I hope that you are safe.  Because my life is in the hands of others.


*update* My friend Monica took this shot

inaugural lions of scoodah club party

The Lions of Scoodah had our first official ride; we took a tour around Mesa. The ride included a stop at Bookman’s for coffee, a stop at Pioneer Park for photos, and a stop at Pro’s Ranch Market for groceries. We then went over to Joe’s for a Sonoran dog barbecue! Then we had a meeting where we set forth the qualifications to be in the club.


gelato agogo

This month my scooter club “The Lions of Scoodah” went on a tour of some local gelaterias here in Phoenix. We hit three gelaterias, an ice cream shop, a restaurant, and a coffee shop.


This is Anthony. He is the manager at Joe’s Farm Grill and he just bought Joe’s old green 200.


This is Monica and Andy. They are really cool and are going to tour Europe on their motorcycles together. They have little walkie talkie things they wear inside their helmets to communicate while riding.


This is Joe telling us how to decide if the gelato is awesome.


This is Beatrice. She studied how to make gelato in Rome. But now she makes it in Mesa. Try her Patron sorbetto-it has tequila in it.


I don’t know this guy’s name, but he runs Gelato Makers in North Scottsdale. Also considered the winner in our tour.


This actually is one of the few pictures of gelato I have. Well, sorbetto. I kept eating mine before I could take a picture.


At Sweet Republic, I was tired of ordering the dark chocolate and lemon which were the flavors I sampled at every shop. Here I ordered pumpkin with a homemade marshmallow on top. Torched of course.


We ate dinner at Radio Milano, stopped at Arleccino’s, and finished up at Cartel. Here is a picture of Cindy laughing, and the dude behind her is Glen who is the President of the Phoenix Metro Scooter Club.

See the rest of my photos on flickr.

la brea


I finally named my vespa. After she sunk into a freshly paved street and fell over, she was christened LaBrea. I think it’s fitting. A couple weeks later, she was backed into by an anonymous car. I found her tipped over on her side. A lot of damage. Fortunately, she landed on the same side where the minor scratch from the first incident was.

I dropped her off at Vespa of Chandler today (with Stephanie’s help). Hopefully, she will be ready soon. I twittered about it, and Joe offered me a loaner Vespa! Hooray! That means I can ride over to redPear and take some photos! And perhaps get over to Sarah’s and visit baby Ellie!

This summer is drawing to a close…everyone is going back to school. I am going to get a full time job. I wish the weather would suddenly cool down to match the season. My cousin in Calgary said the trees are already turning color. Granted, I do not wish for the intense winters they have, but a ten degree drop in temperature in late August would be nice.

scooter ride to the top


Yesterday, Joe, Tim, and I rode our Vespas up to the top of South Mountain where the radio and television towers are located. I’ve never been up there before this ride, and there is an incredible view of a large portion of the valley. We took some pictures of our scooters, and then drove back down and ate lunch at Los Dos Molinos.



This morning, David and I got up early and met Joe and Cindy for a scooter ride to Coolidge.  Well, David drove his car with Cindy in the passenger seat.  Not everyone enjoys the ride.  It was a busy trip down through the Queen Creek area–a lot of construction.  It’s so weird to think people live in giant homes so far east of everything.  I couldn’t believe there was so much out there.  How do people commute so far each day?

We ate breakfast at a little dive called Tad’s. Mostly farmers, local business people, and cowboys inside.  Coolidge is a town I could imagine Napolean Dynamite growing up in.

The drive back was nice too.  We went through Sacaton then through Chandler.  I did think we were going to eat some pavement with the crazy crosswinds we fought down and back, but we made it safely.



update much

So, Steph gave me a hear time because I hadn’t updated in awhile. Meanwhile, her blog hasn’t gotten any action in over a month. Not that I’m saying…okay, I’m saying it. Pot…kettle.

I have been doing my best to survive the summer. In case anyone was wondering, it’s still really hot here. Somedays, it’s a bit humid. Not Tennessee humid, but humid. Supposedly, the monsoons are around. Somewhere. I think it rained once.

I realized the other day that I live in a pretty diverse area. Within a mile of my home is a Jewish Community Center, a Seventh Day Adventist Church, a Korean Church (Presbyterian I believe), a Jehovah’s Witness building (not sure what they call those), a Lutheran church, an Episcopalian church, and the Mosque is nearly ready to open. They said it would be ready in time for Ramadan. I am really excited because I can see the dome in the view from my bedroom, and they are going to paint it gold.

It’s about time somebody around here decorated something. Thanks local Muslim congregation! Perhaps it’s the artist in me, but I love love love religious buildings. We need more creative spiritual beautiful inspirational spaces to be in.

In other news, I am working on two projects for hire. One is a wooden dragon set from China. Another patient at the chiropractor’s overheard me talking about art, and said he had bought the set for over his door, but it was unfinished wood. So…it rode home on my vespa on day to be painted. Not sure if I want to paint the two dragons identically (I like mirror images) or just have them “go”.

The other project is a large painting to go over someone’s couch. She gave me a swatch of fabric with colors that she likes, and a picture of another painting she liked and asked me to use it as a jumping off point. So we shall see what comes to pass.

I’m also giving a temporary home to my friend Alyssa’s shiba inu dog. His name is Kishu, and he lives downstairs. Peter bossed Kishu around when he first arrived, but the other two cats have been chased upstairs.

I am also planning on going to the scooter rally in Flagstaff next month. Yay for scooter rallys. Rallies? I have no idea what people do at these things, but I plan on going with a group of other scooter enthusiasts. And hopefully some of my friends. And hopefully, I won’t be a big dork with my helmet and jacket. Safety first though, right?

Below is a picture of just how awesome trampoline are because of how they make us feel. Hooray for trampolines! And hooray for MacIntyre’s and Schroeders!