Today’s WordPress prompt says: NASA is building a new Voyager spacecraft that will carry the best of modern human culture. What belongs onboard?
That spacecraft must have onboard a small independent coffee house. In this coffee house, the menu should be handwritten, few of the wooden chairs and tables can match, and the room must be oddly shaped, with unexpected nooks and cubbies. There should be local art on the walls (photographs by astronauts?). There may sometimes be live music or other performances.
Certain tables will be consistently occupied by regulars: an assortment of neighborhood oddballs, artists, teens, activists, and seekers. It will be easy to join the conversations of strangers, and even easier to dissolve into the woodwork if that is what you prefer. The music will be obscure, worth hearing, and too loud. At least one of the workers will become your instant sibling; however, another must be haughty enough to make you rethink a tip.
In some ways, this java joint will be like thousands of others, and yet deeply distinctive. In fact, I can easily picture all the coffee houses I’ve loved over the years. Despite so many features in common, each is unique, with its own culture, look, and attitude.
In coffee houses I’ve written and rewritten novels, fallen in and out of love, dreamed my biggest dreams, escaped my worst problems. I’ve changed my attitude about many a town based on the quality or absence of its coffee houses. Where I live and work nowadays, I’m sorry to report I’ve got nothing but Starbucks and Peet’s. Hey, I like those places – and Starbucks has more than once been an oasis while traveling – but they aren’t coffee houses. They’re predictable, staged, repetitive. Not coffee houses.
Let me know if you’ve got a coffee house in your neck of the woods. If I’m ever in the neighborhood, I will want to stop by!
- a tribute website for Pasadena, CA’s long-gone Espresso Bar, where I was a regular in a previous millenium
- the business website for Santa Monica, CA’s Unurban, which I discovered just this last weekend