I sense that there is a mild apprehension with us Westerners. In our doggedness to advance, we have built a system that influences us to do it alone. But the creation eats the individualists alive. Other cultures, while less materially abundant, enjoy something that can’t be bought: community embedded into their daily lives.
You and I should be encouraged, however. There are signs that our stubbornness is boiling down, helping us see the truth.
A new complex up the road has opened up. The locals are thrown off by this outlandish setup. Rather than throwing up walls to every other competitor, this complex houses many tiny boutique shops that share a common space.
The floors are unfinished on purpose. White walls are ornamented with repurposed wood. Living room furniture is sprinkled throughout to make you feel at home. The shop owners actually talk to each other. If for some odd reason you look up, you’ll find exposed air ducts and ceilings so high they make you feel a few inches shorter. Edison bulbs are dangling by pulley wall mounts. There’s a common area library. A cornhole set up and ping pong table section sits in front of the massive wall-to-wall back window as if to say that life is more than a series of deadlines. If you have the endurance to sink into a couch for a few hours with a friend and watch human car collisions, flat screens are scattered throughout the place too.
The design theory of this building is a masterful attempt to get people to be humans again.
I ask what the kiamabara specialty coffee is and the Barista pulls me into a pithy story about the brew mentioned that it’s polished with notes of oolong and milk chocolate.
It didn’t’ take much selling for me to swipe my card for a cup.
After my order is in, I find a table. It’s wooden and old. I’m cautious to run my skin across the table because I hate splinters. I then look over to watch my Barista hand-craft my pour over coffee. It’s well before the mid-day zenith, so the steam coming off the pour visibly dances around her. It looks like full-blown magic.
To my far left, there’s a lady who isn’t a day younger than 30, but probably not north of 42. She is working feverishly on a pile of envelopes, licking each one with marvelous routine.
I might as well be invisible to the couple in front of me who are both probably forty something. Perhaps the Christmas tree so beautifully ornamented by their side as sparked a fire in their love. Or, perhaps the double espresso’s they’ve consumed has their dopamine levels shooting through the roof causing them to seek physical pleasure. They’re cuddled on the couch like they’re at home and hand placement is questionable in public. But, I admire the love.
There’s a table at 3 O’clock flooded with a certain species who are all south of twenty-six years old. It’s obvious that they like boba tea – but this very white part of the state calls it bubble tea. From the naked eye, all these people are busy doing something. They are also trying to restore some type of orthodoxy in the modern day. Their schtick includes thick rimmed double bridged eye glasses, tribly hats, and a damn typewriter. A typewriter.
An old man has just walked in. First I must tell he is wearing Asics tennis shoes with crew socks that come up to his calf. His shorts are a full four inches above his knee caps. His whiskers look tough – like little pieces of white and black barb wire. His hair line has receded further back then he wold like but he’s holding the line. A full wrap around of white hair is all that’s left and it’s untrimmed. His navy blue vest is covering a Donald duck Christmas t-shirt. He looks gladfully lost in this new world, like a child at Disneyland for the first time. His teammate of the same age walks in and begins to point in every direction as if he’s an expert tour guide of the place. He picks up two coffees, one for him and one for his wife, wraps them up in a sleeve and they both wonders off with slow steps.
I am appalled the poke shop is open only after a few hours since the sun has risen. Who eats that for their first meal of the day? Apparently a brave middle-aged woman who just walked up to order. Even she, however, pairs this outlandish choice with a cup of coffee. Her movements indicate she’s got an agenda to tend for the day. But she’s got time for coffee, though.
Everyone in this place is doing Saturday with varying cadence. Some focused. Some relaxed. Some in pure wonderment. Some with great intention.
But there is a connective tissue running through all of these experiences. It’s coffee. The invigorating beverage was discovered in the 9th century and since then, has transcended through the ages. Coffee has stood the test of time.
Perhaps Ebenezer Nelson Gilpin, a Union cavalryman explains why this is so in his diary during the civil war:
“Everything is chaos here. The suspense is almost unbearable. We are reduced to quarter rations and no coffee. And nobody can soldier without coffee.”
I am confident that if coffee were a person, she wouldn’t claim that she’s trying to save the world. Her only hope would be to make it a little bit better. This drink we cherish is simply bean juice, but it brings us together. Regardless of where we are in our journey, we as a people, understand that gathering for coffee is good for the soul.
The lady who was working so hard on the envelopes carries herself with purpose to grab her second or hell, I don’t know, maybe even third cup of coffee. She’ll need the jolt, it looks like she’s got about 100 more envelopes to lick.
Photo: Getty Images