I could say it all began with my mother. When I was young she made a sugary milk concoction called girl coffee, though now that I’m grown I can say there was very little coffee involved.
I might claim instead that it had everything to do with my grandmother, who served coffee and pie at 6 p.m. sharp after some gluttonous dinner, but that would be inaccurate; I have long since learned the coffee she served was decaf and it was the pie that brought the company, not the coffee after all.
Perhaps I could admit that my mother-in-law was the catalyst, the original Turkish diva, who taught me the how-to of the perfect Turkish coffee, all thick and rich and syrupy sweet served in Thumbelina sized cups with dainty diminutive stirring spoons.
Or my husband perchance? We met in a low-budg coffee shop after all. But no. How can I write about a lover with my marriage vows in mind?
Instead, let me paint a picture of escape. A writer with no place to write, a traveler without lodging, a ship without a port, a cup of Yuban without creamer or some other sad cliché to say I needed space without the time continuum…and had none.
I was thirteen or fourteen when I discovered The Double Rainbow, not a metaphor, I assure you, but a coffee shop/ice cream parlor in the center of the strip mall better known as ‘The Hub.’ (Oh those clever real estate tycoons). It didn’t hurt that the hottie behind the counter, aka ‘The Rainbow Guy’ (oh those clever teenage writers) was well…a hottie.
I’d walk over after junior high, with or without the sister, and write until my yet-to-find-technology inflicted fingers were sore. Did the Rainbow Guy take note of me (or the sister)? No. But that’s another blog for another time. For this blog, may I simply mention the 90s Muzak (imagine Madonna’s Like A Prayer meets Kenny G on sax or the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Suck My Kiss on a single melancholy piano). Suffice it to say the Yuban needed more than Coffee Mate.
Fast forward a year or so. Meet The Fresh Cup Cafe, the Rainbow Guy’s replacement, a black beret kind of joint that served alcohol after 10 p.m. Forget that it was the perfect place to spend my third period algebra class, a place where I could smoke and write and smoke some more without the distraction of Kenny G. The Fresh Cup was cheap, served French Roast by the gallon, and boasted the most awesome Poetry Slam this side of the Mississippi. I saw my husband there a time or two before he was The Husband (again, another blog post for another time) but there was always some weirdo trying to edge in whilst I was writing (or more importantly reading) and The Fresh Cup soon lost its awesome appeal.
Enter Coffee Time, so hot, so sexy, a place where I could really find my center. The joint served comfort food. (Need I say more?) It had my fricking heart.
I squandered endless summer nights in Coffee Time’s embrace, eclipsed by giant portions of mac n’ cheese and heaping plates of chicken fried steak. I ate more than I read; I read more than I wrote. But that’s love for you. Seven trips to the salad bar can replace all kinds of neuroses.
I gained 7 pounds before the love affair was over. And when I lost the weight, at last, I found Newark Java, the pre-Starbucks Starbucks, that served extra-awesome joe with brown sugar or honey and sold a caramel macchiato that was truly a macchiato. Cupid’s arrow had pierced my heart.
I sat on the cold uncomfortable plastic chairs outside, reading Brett Easton Ellis and Anne Rice, and
considered myself an intellectual. I also read a book called Handbook for Drowning, which actually changed me somehow (still yet another blog post for yet another time). And at Java, I started writing my very first novel, A Woman In There Somewhere, (an homage to the great Tori Amos) which will never see the light of day.
But when an actual Starbucks opened up across the way, my wandering eye got the better of me. So shapely. So delicious. A fake caramel macchiato is better than a real one after all, and the cheese danishes they served…ooh la la.
Begin my corporate sell-out days. Does it matter that Starbucks offers delicious free-trade beans? Competitive wages? A 401K? No matter. I purchased a frothy Starbucks brew every day on my corporate trek across the corporate bridge on my corporate commute to my corporate job. And while I read–by God, I always read–I forgot about writing. My days were daycare and work and sleep and the antidepressant I took because I couldn’t write. (Okay, another blog for another sometime; sorry.)
The bottom line was that I was in an abusive relationship. After my early morning danish and corporate Starbucks caramel mach, I drank cup after cup of Starbucks Sumatra every day at work. At the sole command of our CEO, I was in charge of the coffee supply. I was the love-slave of the java, God help me. I thought there was no hope.
Then the tech bubble popped. I lost my job. I was a junkie without a source.
Bereft, I left California for Oregon, found some hippy joint called Evos that boasted free internet and organic beans. I fell in love for a short time, but my junkie ways brought me back to Starbucks. I needed my fix and I couldn’t stop, despite the expense.
Except the expense was well…expensive. I bypassed Evos and Starbucks as well, opting for Folgers at home, a steaming cup of Safeway Select. And when my addiction was long last expelled, I searched for love.
I dated a drive-up called Dutch Bros for a time, then another called The Human Bean that served something like a frappuccino for almost a dollar less.
Finally, I found a place called The Beanery and we were happy for a while: a little place the Ashland natives called home, with coffee that tastes like coffee, and a front porch designed for writers…and readers…and little lonely old ladies from the trailer park across the parking lot whose sole source of exercise consists of walking back and forth across the intersection whilst leaving her belongings on an outside table for me to watch (a.k.a a dog pillow and a cup and a dilapidated book). But what the hell? I finally found love outside my marriage.
My mother would be so proud.
And then The Beanery closed abruptly. No pomp. No circumstance.
And now I must drink coffee alone in my backyard. Just me and my husband and our Keurig French Roast.
So I guess it all works out in the end.