The Denver Café Chronicles—Federal Coffee

Mission: Every week I visit a new café/coffee shop in Denver, and write an article that has 2 segments. The first part, “the fact,”  is my experience at the café, a review if you will, how I’m feeling, what I see, etc… The second part, “the fiction,” consists of a fictional story that I come up with while at the café. I grab onto my surroundings, the vibes, and my feelings to inspire the short story.
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the fact

IMG_2475This coffee shop has tall ceilings, and possibly the coolest coffee bar I’ve seen yet. There’s a tall skinny green tree of a plant in the corner giving the whole coffee shop life. A small round succulent sits in the middle of each table, and I sit down on the long leather booth that runs along an entire wall. A massive old circular mirror hangs above the coffee bar, and a single art piece sits next to it on the counter. It’s a painting on metal. I look around and notice the bare brick walls, and realize that is the only piece of art in this shop—besides a naked lady painting in the back hallway of the bar. I overhear another customer ask if they’re setting up for an art show. 

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I then notice the metal wires hanging down the wall behind me, intended to hang art. The barista says they are actually getting ready to hang up new art, probably tonight. She points over to the metal painting down the bar and says he’s the artist they are going to be showcasing. This makes me wish I came here tomorrow so I could see the shop in its prime with badass metal paintings covering the walls.

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I am getting a retro vibe in here. It’s partially the spacey, almost 80’s themed modern music, and it’s partially the feel that the old massive wooden mirror gives the place. You know when something just feels spooky or haunted? Well, it feels like this mirror has seen things, and been around sitting high in places for a very long time. I can’t help but get some Stanley hotel vibes from it. It has stories to tell, and now it sits here, absorbing and reflecting the energy of the shop. I dig it. Sitting in the booth, it’s nice and warm. I can hear the heat pumping through the space on this cool morning. While the shop is small, its tall 18-foot ceilings give it a large feel.

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There’s no menu anywhere I see. Only a small sign advertising the coffee beans being sold by the bag. I order a dry cappuccino, and damn it’s good. I’m tempted to get a freshly made doughnut, but I decide that the banana pancakes I just ate at home were enough for this morning. As I type this, I am second guessing my decision. The wood floors look like the may be the original flooring, the skinny kind you see in old houses with wooden archways in the hallways. Each person that walks in this morning seems to be a regular here. That is always a good sign of a good coffee shop, especially in the vast coffee scene of Denver. Its only fault, and a big one at that, is that whatever music streaming station they are using has commercials. Very unfortunate.

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the fiction

Kimberly sways with the music. She begins to lose herself under the music and the gin and tonics she’s been drinking all night. She throws her hands in the air and moves her body back and forth, slightly bumping into the people dancing next to her. It’s like an ocean in here. Everyone’s body is in sync with the music and the vibe of the club, and they’re all riding the waves together. Kimberly loves coming here. Its chill vibes easily suck her into the dance floor and she finds she is able to dance the night away, by herself.

She never brings her friends here. She likes that this is her place, a place she feels comfortable enough to let herself sway with strangers all night. The stresses of her week get swept out from under her feet and she is carried solely by the groovy music playing above. Her friends wouldn’t like this place anyway. There’s no annoying bumping club music, and no one taking selfies with their friends on the booths around the dance floor.

This is not a place people come to party. People do come here to drink, sure. But its more on a mature chill with the help of fancy garnished drinks from the bar. It’s a place people come to dance. The kind of dancing where you run your fingers up through your hair and groove your arms up over your head as you sway your hips back and forth. Swaying just isn’t enough for some people. Some people need the noise. Some people need the scene to consist of girls snap chatting their friend getting down on the dance floor with people taking shots on shots of liquor in the background. Some people need chaos to escape. Sometimes Kim enjoys that scene, but most Friday nights she ends up here. 

Kimberly’s a vampire artist. Meaning, she only is an artist at night. By day, she’s a social worker handling troubled cases. She loves the work she does, but it takes a toll on her. More than she thought it would. She always considered herself strong and capable of handling a lot, but the kind of social work she does is another level. Every day leaves her emotionally drained and exhausted. Her art is what shakes her awake. She’ll stay up all night even on days she has to work early in the morning. Her art is important to her, and without it, she thinks she would crumble.

Kimberly has been dancing for a solid half hour without getting another drink. A slow groove of a song ends and she feels her whole body take a deep breath. She briefly takes a moment to close her eyes and feel the sensations of her body. The cool sweat at the nape of her neck, the hardwood floor beneath her feet, the smell of coffee from a table nearby, and taste of gin still on her tongue. She opens her eyes and propels herself forward off the dance floor. She floats to the bar to close her bill. She sits on the soft bar stool, her long skirt wavering just off the floor. She kicks her feet back and forth slowly. Her chin sits atop her hand as she looks out at the dance floor and across the bar. A crooked soft smile stains her face, and her lips feel full and soaked in gin. The bartender, a handsome tall man wearing a bowtie and jeans hands her card over with a wink.

“Next time, Kim.”

“See ya, Mac.”

She smiles and slides off the stool. Still floating, she moves inside the crowd and makes her way to the front door. As she opens it, the coolness of the night sweeps across her face and fills her nose with the smell of wet asphalt. She pauses for a moment before she takes her next steps. She can feel her eyelids, heavily blink over her eyes. She walks a couple business down to a New York style pizza place and orders herself a large pepperoni slice. She takes her pizza on a flimsy paper plate and sits down on the curb in front of the pizza place. She watches people move in the streets, cars slowly passing by, and she watches the stop light to her left change colors several times. When she finishes off her crust, she licks her fingers of the parmesan and grease. She stands herself up, throws away her plate, and points herself in the direction of her home which is just down a block. It is lightly drizzling as she walks slowly, still floating, down the sidewalk under tall swaying green trees. 

The Denver Café Chronicles—The Weathervane Cafe

Mission: Every week I will visit a new café/coffee shop in Denver. I will write, blog, at each one. The article will have 2 segments. The first part, “the fact,”  will be my experience at the café, a review if you will, how I’m feeling, what I see, etc… The second part, “the fiction,” will consist of a fictional story that I come up with while at the café. I’ll be grabbing onto my surroundings, the vibes, and my feelings to inspire a short story.
the fact

I couldn’t be more pleasantly surprised stepping into this quaint and quirky coffee shop. From the outside, it looks like a little house with big red umbrellas and a large sign with an urban font in white capital letters reading “Weathervane.” The windows seem to be dark and covered and it’s not easy to tell if there are people inside, let alone if they are open. The front door has one of those old door knobs that looks like it has a swooping nose that you press down to open. Music gushes through the crack of the door as I open it. I immediately am hit with warmth. The kind that you feel on your skin, and the kind that you feel in your belly. Feeling the warmth in my belly, I can’t help but smile as I look around at the small space.

IMG_1915 I set my bag down at a table in between two tables occupied by people happily chatting away. I go to take my wallet out when I notice the sign on the table that reads, “this table is reserved for dining and socializing. NO LAPTOPS.” Awkwardly, I stand there for several seconds, hand in my bag, reading this sign, deciding what to do since I came here to be on my laptop. I notice my awkward lingering next  to the people sitting down at the table next to me, so I take my hand out of my bag, set it down, head to the counter only to realize that I indeed did not grab my wallet, so I turn back around to again awkwardly fumble around in my bag. Walking back up to the counter, which is more like taking 3 steps, I look over the menu which has a plentiful amount of breakfast foods and sandwiches. Wondering if I should get something sweet or savory, I decide on a breakfast burrito, because, burrito. When I see a burrito on the menu in a café, it’s almost a reaction to order it. I get myself a cappuccino as well, my other go to order. Something I’ve noticed from visiting all these cafés is they always ask me if whole milk is ok, which I am more than fine with. Back in the midwest at the cafés I’d go to, the typical milk they use is 2% and they just assume that you will be fine with it.

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After ordering, I look around a bit, and notice that there’s a sign next to a staircase that says “more seating upstairs.” As soon as I read this, I head up the old wooden windy staircase. I almost trip as I reach the last step and pretty much fall into a room that is occupied with two people reading, and one person on a laptop. The room is oddly quiet, and everyone is now looking at me. I give a little smirk and catch my feet below me as I stop the momentum of my body. Once I refocus my eyes, I see that the room is nicely lit by the morning sun. The room has couches and a couple of quirky tables. The wood floors squeak as I walk on them. It is very noticeable since the room is deadly quiet. I try to make silent footsteps as I walk into another small room just off the main big one. I find myself in a small long light blue room with long tables along the wall. It’s obvious that this coffee shop used to be a house. “This is where I am going to write,” I think as I smile. Nobody is in this room, there’s more of a glow coming through the window, and the room has a soft quiet feeling. I hear my name being called downstairs. I turn around, hear the loud creak of the floor below me, and head back downstairs, carefully.

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My cappuccino comes up first, so I sit down at a table near the counter as I wait for my burrito. The music fills the space, and the people talking loudly next to me are not very noticeable. Great vibes. Like super great vibes. Everyone who walks through the door looks like they just got off their bike.

When my burrito comes up, I take it back to the table I was sitting at. I take a couple sips of my cappuccino as I enjoy the ambiance of the place before I head back upstairs. As soon as I step onto the staircase the sound of the café seems to sink into the wood floor and stay there. When I get upstairs, the quiet fills my ears, the music from downstairs is muffled, and now the conversations from downstairs echo and are more apparent. I put my stuff down in the blue room at a very small table that may have been an old sewing table. The burrito is so good, hot, with a deliciously spicy salsa that I scoop up with my burrito. As soon as it touches my mouth my stomach lets out a loud grumble. It’s a combination of my morning hunger, and the excitement to write in this space that leads me to finish the entire burrito in a matter of minutes.

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the fiction

Albert sits in his lab, his reading glasses sit at the tip of his nose as he reads his notes on his study. His notes on the blue-winged dragonfly, beautifully massive, cover the pages. There are scribbles off to the side, and the curves of his letters sway on the page like they’re dancing. Some scientists like to keep a digital record of their notes, but Albert prefers them this way. He lets his assistants make digital copies, but he never uses those for his own reference. When he’s not out collecting samples, Albert spends most of his time in his lab. His workspaces are tall old wooden tables. Framed insects hang on the walls in dark wooden frames. He labels each one with a number, and has a reference of that number in a large journal, corresponding to each insect he has collected. The journal lays on its own tall wooden stand, looking like a guest book you’d find at a bed and breakfast. The lab always smells like burning coffee, since there is always old burnt coffee in the coffee pot. Albert makes a whole pot early in the morning and leaves it on all day. He never finishes it. His assistants come and go every few hours. He sends them on assignments to observe the insects or environment that are part of the current study. They bring back their findings and he relates them with his own observations. He will only keep the insects that he collects himself, and any that his assistants bring back either go home with them or in the compost outside after they’ve been photographed.

Albert and his team are almost at the end of this study, so most of his time is spent going over all the notes taken, and re-writing all the conclusions made by the collective team. This part of the process has always been Albert’s favorite part. He likes the feeling of things coming to a full circle. His, now, ex-wife hated when his studies came to this point. Albert would spend very late nights at the lab. His work would take up all of his time and eventually all of his care.  She left him after 15 years. Albert didn’t mind this much. His routine didn’t change much other than the fact that he now was the one putting his lunches together, which he didn’t mind either.

Albert didn’t have much of a sense of humor, and when he did attempt at one, his assistants met him with a soft chuckle before quickly leaving the room. Albert always had a good laugh by himself once they left. He’d repeat the joke out loud, make eye contact with whatever insect lay in front of him, sprawled open with pins, and laugh with himself. He thought he was quite hilarious sometimes.

Each evening before he heads home, he has the same routine of shutting down his lab. He walks around and switches off all the lamps. He neatly piles his notes in order and sets up for the next day. He lays out the next day’s assignments for his assistants and writes a plan for them on top of their pile. He quietly looks over his specimens and leaves the lamp on above them. He finally turns off the coffee pot, dumps any left over in the sink, and places it back on the heater as it loudly grumbles. He sweeps over the room with eyes and picks up any loose materials. He is very neat, and tidiness is the feel of the lab. He takes his coat off the coatrack, swings it over his shoulder as he switches off the main light switch with his other hand. He locks the heavy front door and steps down to the sidewalk where his car is parked, right in front of the lab. His five-minute drive is always quick and quiet. When he gets home, he opens up his front door to the same stillness, the same quiet that he finds so pleasant in his lab.