“I have measured my life in coffee spoons.”- T.S. Eliot
And so have I.
It may sound completely ridiculous to some of you, but I owe a lot to my favorite coffeehouse. Not in money, I’m paid up. Although I can admit, I do owe for a few refills, and deftly mooched mugs of amazing chai-infused cider. [In related news, one look at my bank statement would show you that coffee acquisition, and then some, seems to be a top priority for me.]
Sometimes I actually feel guilty about this. I spend more time in my favorite coffee shop than the employees, clocking in enough hours to be one. I spend more money in there than should be allowed for any single establishment. Terms associated with my favorite haunt include “home”, “office”, and the phrase “Do you really need to know where to meet me? I mean, really?”
So, what’s my problem? Am I an addict? An escapist? A starving artist? Or some squashed together mixture of them all?
I first started going to the Cafe [as I will affectionately-and with much creativity-call it here] when I was working as a summer camp counselor. My coworkers and I relished our Saturdays off, and we would often venture into town to go to the Cafe for brunch or coffee. Something about the place grabbed me, and I continued to frequent there, until my name became nearly synonymous with the name of the Cafe.
I kept coming back because the food was delicious, the coffee was locally roasted, and the people who worked there were uncommonly sweet [all of the aforementioned is still completely true, by the way]. I also couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the music they used for ambience and my personal collection.
It became my practice, after years of visiting, and becoming an established Regular, to sit at the same big table in the Cafe. I would often be alone there, writing or finishing a book, and would offer others a place to sit when seating became scarce. Doing this began to serve as a reminder to me that human beings are fascinating. Most of them have a story to tell, and many of them are all too happy to share it with you.
Going about this little routine in the Cafe, I have met musicians, travelers, poets, artists, businesspeople, photographers, fellow writers, tattoo enthusiasts, and people who work in ministry Everyone who chatted with me was kind and interesting, and left me looking forward to coming back to my big, empty table the next day.
Along with the new friends, the old friends and I converge at the Cafe all the time. [Mainly because most of them think me incapable of hanging out anywhere else.] It has become a place for the gathering of people I care about, whether impromptu or part of a time-honored tradition.
[*I offer an apology for the people in this video who think they can sing better than Gabe. And, yes, this song is about a Nashville establishment.]
Since living at home in the post-graduation recession era, the Cafe has become something of a base of operations from me. Not only to avoid cabin fever, but to establish a routine: to give my life a rhythm that it has been missing without school and work. It has collected so many of my experiences, stories, and memories. It has helped me to invest in the host of friendships that have been borne and nurtured there. [And yes, I have also invested in about a metric ton of coffee and food. I’ll allow a pause for a self-satisfied smirk.]
For whatever reason- perhaps it had something to do with the caffeine-induced insomnia-I realized last night just how important places can be for people, as this one in particular, for me. Because places become associated with people, with stories, with stages of life, and with the passage of time.
I guess, more than an ode, or a tribute, this is a note of thanks. Thanks to the folks, who let me live rent free so I can support my habit, and have little to complain about otherwise. Thanks to people who have sat at my table and put up with my incessant chatter. Thanks to the friends who have closed the place down with me time and time again, and who tell me it’s “weird to be there without me”. Thanks to the baristas, chef, owner, and kitchen staff who put up with-and seem not to mind-my incessant banter.
You all- and having a “place of my own”- have been a great pick-me-up during this time of growth and pruning. Can I buy you a cup of coffee? I know a great place.