The local coffee place where I used to get my tea is dripping in obscurity and plaid. You either know about it or you don’t, which might be why it closed earlier this month. I didn’t go because they were the best coffee. Honestly, their lattes were always a little too strong for my liking, but the Earl Grey was good and they always had plenty of Splenda for my use. Plus, I liked being downtown and supporting a local business. And also, I got my tea for free a lot because either the main barista was really nice or he had a crush on me. I was okay with either reason until one day he got into trouble and the free tea and the familiarities ended.
The lack of sign outside of this coffee shop gave the illusion of being a hyper-cool super secret hipster club that only girls with the best side-swept bangs and boys in the tightest skinny jeans could enter. And once they could get in, they wouldn’t actually want to be there anyway. Not now that everyone knew about it.
Inside, its dim yellow and blue mood lighting and loud indie music made it feel like you’re were in some sort of Urban Outfitters commercial. No endorsement intended, by the way, as I sit here writing this in eighty dollars worth of their clothing.
Local artists covered the yellow walls in mediocre art with price tags well over what their work is worth. Three hundred dollars for a five by seven of a dead flower by someone who goes by just “Poncho” though I’m sure his real name is Mike or David or John; something generic that has about as much originality as his ‘art’. It’s like Warhol’s factory except bad and local, which in turn makes it unique. And I kinda liked that.
I met my friends at this coffee shop a lot. I’m not one for drinking at a club usually. Bars are just fine if they serve Shirley Temples. I’m twenty-four but I still haven’t found a beer I like. However, I was always up for a cup of tea and a cookie and some good conversation or some alone time writing at this coffee shop. I didn’t go so much for the free tea as I did the atmosphere. It was clean but quaint. It had character. Even though there was bad art that covered the walls, at least it was real art made by somebody who was probably sitting in that coffee shop with me. Phoenix is a really spread out, so it’s sometimes difficult to feel like part of a community. Somehow, that place made me feel like I lived in a real city with some real culture. Where I could forget about SB 1070 and how it tore my state apart and that whole thing where McCain blamed immigrants for our summer wild fires. This coffee shop brought together like-minded people and created a little community of regulars. It was like Cheers but with coffee and less Ted Danson.
Okay. So not Cheers at all.
The last time I was there, it was just at sunset and the barista came in from taking the trash outside and his head was outlined in the door frame in golden rays of light like Jesus always is in all those paintings. He jingled as he walked awkwardly, his keys hanging from a carabiner hooked to a belt loop of his too tight jeans. His hands covered stiff in coffee grounds, getting into the creases; coloring the money-line on his palms a deep brown. He nodded to me but didn’t say anything. I went back to writing. Looking back, had I known they were closing, I probably would have taken more packets of Splenda to use at home. I’m like an old lady with my Splenda. You never know how much is in my bag at any given time.
Featured image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/ella_marie.