the story behind the picture

warning: this is not the most articulate nor put together post I’ve written, but it is just too ridiculous not to publish. And I kinda like it the way it is, so. 

Most things aren’t what they seem. Especially on social media. I’ve written about this topic often and it’s something that I think needs to be brought up often. We live in an age where we text rather than call. We “like” a friend’s new life event rather than actually catching up and talking with them. We post relationship status updates like anyone really cares. We care too goddamn much about things that are not important. Like at all. Listen, I miss the days where our phones had real keyboards and social media was this new weird new thing that only weird people partook in. Or even when we had to press the 5 button three times to get the letter we needed to type out. Let’s go back even farther, I miss the days where we went to the store to develop the pictures we took on our disposable cameras because we were too young and couldn’t afford the new fancy digital cameras. THOSE were the best.

One time I lost my phone, ok not so much lost it. I left it at a bar the previous night before and couldn’t get it back until they opened later in the afternoon the next day. But let me tell you, I remember that day vividly, even without documenting it with pictures or staying in “the know” on my socials, or even knowing what time it was. I remember sitting at a table at a coffee shop and actually looking around. I didn’t feel that burning need to fumble around with my phone to keep busy, and sometimes I get jealous of that feeling. 

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is real life is not our “social” life, and that social media is truly a whole lot of BS. I recently moved to a new city and I’ve been using social media more than I usually do, posting about places that I visit, mostly coffee shops that I go to write at. But the picture only shows so much, which really isn’t much. It’s really not that important to me, nor really to anyone else. But it is kinda fun documenting the places I go to, so, whatever. (You see the vicious cycle?) 

I want to tell you about the day I had today at a coffee shop I went to because honestly, it was just too ridiculous.

So, I get to this coffee shop that has awesome outdoor seating. It’s really nice out so I wanted to go somewhere where I could be outside. I’m really excited to find a picnic table off in the corner under some shade. The place isn’t really busy at all, but the sun is pretty hot so it’s nice to find some cover. My table is also under a large tree and next to some cool ivy and leaves along the fence. Anyways, I’m sitting here writing, sipping on an iced coffee. I soon realize that my ankles have become very itchy, so I pull my legs up and sit cross-legged. Then, I realize my back is getting itchy, I’m wearing a cropped top.  I am getting eaten alive by mosquitos. Why the hell are there mosquitos right now, I think. Stubborn and wanting to stay outside, I throw a light sweater that I brought on. I don’t want to leave this place, or move tables. This is literally the best table out of the sun. I continue to write, very aware of my itchy feet and ankles. After a while, I feel hungry and decide to order myself some food. When my food is brought out to my table I’m VERY happily surprised by the enormous size of my sandwich. If you know me, you understand.

This is when the story gets even better. I go to take a bite of my sandwich and I am quite literally swarmed by flies. At first, it’s just a few, maybe 3 or 4. But they are persistent bastards. Annoyed, I lay my napkin over the rest of my ginormous sandwich as I continue to casually take bites while writing. Soon more fly buddies surround me. I am swatting them away, trying to take bites of my sandwich realizing I’m getting crumbs all over my laptop keys from the swatting. There has got to be like 10 flies flying around me. I decide it’s best to close up my laptop and just finish my sandwich before I start to write again. Originally, I wanted to take my time eating and write at the same time. But these fucking flies, oh my God. I decide to lay a single salt and vinegar chip at the other end of the table hoping to allude some of them over there. Realizing this may not be enough incentive, I place my pickle spear next to the chip. They MUST want this, I think. It’s probably the most fragrant thing on my plate, anyway, I’m not a pickle person. I wait for a minute, taking bites of the quarter of my sandwich watching to see if the chip and pickle scam work. It does not. Maybe one or two flies are attracted to it, but it’s like the flies are talking to each other and inviting more of their friends over to me. I have flies landing on my fingers as I go in to take a bite. I’m looking around to see if any of the other tables are having the same issue. They are not. Granted, there are only a few other occupied tables and not all of them have food. I’m thankful that I’m tucked away in the corner so people don’t notice me flailing my arms and swearing at these goddamn flies.

Like I said, my sandwich is huge. It is cut up in 4 large sections and each section has 3 pieces of toast in it. AND, it’s pretty darn toasted. I try to eat it quickly, but the top of my mouth quickly gets completely cut up. I start to feel a bit helpless. I decide to Google how to ward off flies, and I found several suggestions. Most do not pertain to what I have available to me. However, I do find that flies don’t like certain essential oils such as eucalyptus and lavender. I usually carry peppermint oil in my purse, which I know is not eucalyptus, but I figure it’s close enough. Can’t find it. Damn. Ok, hmm, I do have some Purell. Thinking, ok, maybe they won’t like the alcohol scent, I give it a shot. I rub some into my hands, but no, I need to take measures further. I drop small gobs of it onto the thin napkin that is covering my sandwich. Then I squirt more into my hands and try to flick it around the table. Gah, I probably looked nuts.

I’m sitting there just hoping it works. The hand flicking did momentarily ward some flies away. Ok, awesome, I’m so clever, I think.

Well, that was a very short lived thought. The flies are back almost immediately. I sit there, STILL with the first quarter of my sandwich in hand, on the verge of a frustration outburst. I dig back into my purse to see what else I have. I find my EOS peppermint lip balm, you know the sphere-shaped kind. I twist it open and lay it next to my sandwich. Nope. A fly lands right next to it. I put it back. Then almost too excitedly, I find an empty container that held these tea tree chewing sticks (toothpicks.) I think, YES, I found my answer. Tea tree has a strong scent. This seems to work, kinda. The flies don’t like landing on it, but they still manage to fly over it and onto my Purell saturated napkin which is still covering my sandwich. I also find some lotion I took from a hotel that seems to have a lavender scent. I rub that on my hands, on my napkin, and a little on the outside of my plate before I leave it open with a little squeezed out next to my sandwich.

I have done my best. I’m sitting here surrounded by random items from my purse, hands reeking of Purell and lavender with a tore up mouth and itchy feet.

Holy hell. I give up and let it just be. I try to eat my sandwich quickly, and just let the flies swarm me. I watch as they mock me while landing in the puddles of Purell happily.

Eventually, I take my last bite. I pick up the chip and pickle at the end of the table and put them back on my plate. I’m pretty sure I let out a loud “alright, that’s done,” get up and put my dish away into the dish tub outside.

I wipe all the crumbs away from me, and just like that the flies disappear. I sit there and write for probably another hour, unbothered by any more flies. By hour 2 though, my ankles have become increasingly itchier. Even though I am in a good rhythm with my writing, I decide it is just time to leave.

And that’s that. If you only saw the nice happy picture I took and posted on my Instagram, you would never have known everything that went behind it.

And that is social media, folks.

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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.

Denver Café Chronicles—Joe Maxx Coffee Company

Mission: Every week I will visit a new café/coffee shop in Denver. The daunting part of this plan is that I intend to write, blog, at each one. My idea is to have 2 segments. The first part, “the fact,” of the blog 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

The Santa Fe art district is looking fresh. Despite the dirty snow piled up on the side street parking spots, this Sunday morning is pretty, cold, and bright. Walking into the Joe Maxx Coffee Company I push onto the right side of the door, no budge. A quick sweat of panic sweeps over me as I think to myself, “dammit Emily, you didn’t check to make sure they are open today.” I pause for a moment then push onto the left side of the door and it sways open. I’m definitely one of those people who acknowledge my awkward moments, but alas, no one was around to hear my ramblings. It’s pretty empty in this coffee shop this morning, with the exception of a table of middle-aged women loudly talking amongst each other.

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Before I grab a drink, I head to the back of the shop to have a look around. It’s small, and the windows are shaded from the bright morning. The walls and floors are dark brown, and there are old rugs under each table. I choose a spot in the back corner on a couch that you would find at your friend’s grandparent’s house. I take off my coat and oversized blanket of a scarf and place them onto the couch. I go up to the front and take a moment to look over the menu. There are specialty coffee items on the menu like a White and Dirty, Spiked Lemonade, and an Affogato which is a scoop of vanilla ice cream drowned with a fresh hot shot of espresso. So tempted to order this ice cream based drink, I decide it’s too early for dessert, so I order the Kolache Latte which is a hazelnut latte topped with honey, whipped cream, and pecans—perfectly on the brink of desert. I ask the barista if I said it right, to which another barista standing near him corrects my pronunciation. I also order a slice of pumpkin bread. When he hands it to me he says “this is a massive piece of pumpkin bread.”

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“Oh, awesome.” I excitedly reply. And it was in fact, a massive piece of moist pumpkin deliciousness piled onto a small glass white plate. While the milk for my Kolache Latte is being warmed and foamed, I look around at some of the funky art hanging on the brick walls. Music is being played, I’m assuming, from the plugged-in iPod laying on an old turntable. The barista calls out my coffee drink, and I go back up to retrieve my gooey looking over whipped cream drink in a to-go cup. Hurriedly, I head back to my spot and place my drink and pumpkin bread on the coffee table in front of the couch. I marvel for a moment at the toppings on my hazelnut latte. I’m also definitely the kind of person that has to eat all of the whipped cream off my drinks before I do anything else. I think it’s ridiculous letting it pathetically melt into your hot beverage without enjoying the creaminess of its intended state. 

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So, here I am, slurping up the honey-topped whipped cream, which is making my lips gooey and messy, and I couldn’t be happier. I lick my lips of the thick honey, and resume scooping the rest of the whipped cream off the top with the fork I’m using for my pumpkin bread. When I finally finish off all the good stuff my drink is down to half full. I dive into my bread and eat about half of it while I look around the shop noticing how every corner is being utilized for something—decoration or purpose. The corner directly in front of me to the left has a small old wooden TV table with one of those old black and white TVs that have two knobs for changing channels and an antenna. “Cool,” I think as I shove a giant piece of bread into my mouth. I don’t even mind that the bathrooms are across from me. The “all gender restrooms” are hip with art, white bath tiles, and uneven brick walls. I even stand up and walk over into one of them to check it out. “Cool,” I say out loud this time. The one thing I always remember when I check out a new restaurant or business—the bathrooms, if they’re worthy. I’m all about cool bathrooms.

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While I’m up I continue to walk around the small space of the back of the coffee shop. There’s an old piano with a bench covered in itchy looking fabric. Where sheets of music are meant to be, there are business cards placed along the ledge. I almost pick up one of a woman who connects to spirits, but then decide there are no spirits I need to reach out to, so I leave it for someone who really needs her services. I do, however, pick up a business card of a woman who claims to be able to “facilitate my self-healing” and also a card from the Colorado Ballet where their slogan on the bottom of the card is “Drink Beer, Dance, Conquer.” Smiling as I take my new finds back to my area, I sink down into the couch and pull out my laptop.

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the fiction

Billy laid his forearms on the sticky wood glazed bar of the dark dance hall. A Johnny Cash album played quietly from the turntable in the corner. Despite the warm bright morning, the hall was dark and cold. Before his first dance class, Billy liked to get to work early and have a bourbon at the bar. He’d been leading dance classes for 20 years, and just two years ago he bought this place from an old man whose wife had just passed. The old man was happy to hear Billy’s plans for the place. “Babe loved to dance. She would be happy to see this dump of a bar used for dancing.” Billy remembers the old man saying this, looking off into the distance for a good 30 seconds, and then handed Billy the keys saying, “Good luck, son.”

It took Billy three months to convert the old bar into a dance hall. He put in new wood flooring and painted the brick walls a deep red color. He put in a wall of mirrors across from the bar.  He left the old bar there, he liked it. Even though he couldn’t sell booze, he kept a stash of nice bourbon under the counter and would often drink either by himself or with some of his regular patrons after the late classes.

This morning was no different from any other morning. Billy offered morning classes every weekday starting at 10 AM. The people who attended the morning classes were mostly of the older crowd, and his favorite. They would come in loud, always laughing about some conversation they all had while walking together to the hall. Someone would bring in pastries or biscuits, and Billy supplied them with coffee. They would all sit around the bar and have a cup of coffee before they would start. They never got to the actual dancing until 10:30. He would pour the first cup of coffee as they were stepping into the door promptly at 10, and set down a new full cup at each seat of the bar. Each of them greeting him with either a loud “Billy!,” or a nod and a “mornin, Bill.” There was a good mix of men and women, most of them single. All were friends, and all met at Billy’s Hall.

For the morning classes, Billy changed up the dance every week. These people came here for the social aspect of the hall rather than the actual dance, so they didn’t mind the inconsistency of the dances. They actually seemed to enjoy learning new dances, laughing together as they misstepped. Today Billy was teaching swing dance, one that he’d done many times with this morning group.

This morning’s topic of conversation was about the new neighborhood community garden being built a block over. They were all talking about the plots they had already bought, and what they planned on planting in them. As each of them talked about the vegetable or flower they were planning on growing, everyone chimed in with what they would do with the plant—going on tangents on each topic.

“Oh, my grandkids LOVE watermelon, I’m going to grow that too!”

“Ooo I’ll bring in some homemade tomatillo salsa every week. Who likes spicy?”

“My father used to make the best fried green tomatoes…”

Almost in an uproar of volume, the group would excitedly chime in with responses.

Billy sat at the end of the bar, sitting on his stool behind the bar sipping on his black coffee. Smiling, he listened to each person’s response and offered his own comical spats. The sound of coffee cups hitting the heavy wood bar, the rusted stools swiveling, and the clammer of the group gave Billy’s Hall a character that he never expected but, now, oh so appreciated. Billy enjoyed what this group made this place out to be.

He looked down at his watch. “Alright, people, 10:30,” Billy spoke loudly over everyone. In almost a single sweep everyone was out of their chairs, coffee cups left on the bar.

The Denver Café Chronicles—2914 Coffee

IMG_0980.JPGThe Fact

It takes me a minute to fit my car into a spot on the side of the road. But, wishing I had one of those fancy rear cameras only crossed my mind once before I decided that I, in fact, have successfully parallel parked. Stepping out, proud, I look up and see a cute neighborhood pub with a red door and small square tables outside of the front. I’m almost tempted to set up my laptop right there instead of the coffee shop I am headed to. As I’m walking to the coffee shop, I pass two women who are talking about how great this area is to live in because it has everything you need. And I’d agree.

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I’m feeling pretty snazzy sitting here in the same shirt that I wore to bed last night. There’s something about wearing my PJs out in public that I just dig. 2914 Coffee is a cute little coffee shop tucked away in a cute urban neighborhood just 5 minutes away from my place. Now, sitting in the shop, I’m looking out the large windows in front of me and am wishing I lived in one of the apartments with a balcony across the street. I feel a quaintness here while upbeat Saturday afternoon music plays overhead. Coffee grounds are being poured into the espresso machine, and the cinnamon I sprinkled over my cappuccino smells familiar and lovely. It’s one of those refreshing days where you can’t help but smile when you step outside. It’s a bright morning, and it feels almost too warm in this coffee shop.  But I like it. I was worried this place would be busy since I got a later start to my day after deciding to make myself banana pancakes. But, I’m pleasantly surprised to have found several tables open with the sun shining off them, clean and bright.IMG_0933.JPG

An older man sitting behind me in a small area with a red couch, red chairs and a coffee table shuffles some papers together and stands up to leave. On his way out, he passes the barista and gives a pleasant, “so long” to her. “So long,” she says back with a soft smile. This interaction makes me want to go “mmm.” It’s like the kind of “mmm” after you take a bite of crème brûlée, soft and rich in your mouth with a bitter crisp finish. I decide right then that I am going to make an effort to add the phrase “so long” to my social farewells.

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I sit and enjoy my surroundings for a few moments resting my chin on my hand as I look over past my laptop. Bon Iver starts to play overhead as the sunlight dims a bit in the shop. A sleepy Saturday gaze seems to sweep over everyone. I look around and notice the quiet, the stillness of the place and everyone in it. The barista moves quickly clearing a table in front of me. But even her quick footsteps on the wood floor vibrate slowly under my boots and make me sink deeper into this brief moment of stillness before the sun peeks back in, reflecting off every table. Just in the nick of time, a guitar quickly strums overhead.

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The Fiction

Edward sits in his armchair as the early morning light starts to peek into his living room. The small wood round table that he places his coffee on has stained rings all over it from his dislike of coasters. The wood floors absorb the warmth of the sun, he can feel it on his bare feet as he walks over to crack a window open to let a breeze in. It’s a warm morning, and the breeze feels cool as it lightly sweeps into his living room. The tall green plants he has sitting on the window sill sway slightly. He goes back to his chair and sinks deep into its warm leather. He picks up his coffee cup. Realizing it is quite hot, he holds it to his lips and lightly blows on it while he gazes out in front of him into the sunlit room. He can feel the breeze sweep past his face, and the smell of his coffee is strong and bold. He takes a small sip. Too hot still, he places it back onto the wet ring on the table. He takes his legs up and folds them close into his chest before relaxing them onto the arm of the chair. His grandkids are coming over today for breakfast. He’s planning on packing a picnic of meats and cheeses, and fresh fruit from his garden. He’ll have them pick the fruit themselves before they leave, he decides. They love using the outside hose to wash off the fruits and vegetables they pick. Smiling, he gets up and goes into the kitchen, opens up the fridge and takes out a glass pitcher of fresh squeezed orange juice. He pours himself a glass, slowly, enjoying the smooth sounds the juice makes as it hits the inside of the glass. He always loved how freshly squeezed juice foams up at the top. Since he was a kid he’s enjoyed trying to sip only the bubbles up before taking full gulps of the juice. He breaks off a piece of coffee cake that is sitting in the middle of the kitchen table and goes back to his armchair. He sets the glass of orange juice down next to his coffee. He takes a bite of his heavily cinnamoned coffee cake and takes a sip of coffee. It’s cooler now. He takes 2 more bites of his cake, finishing it off. Brushing the crumbs off his fingers onto his pant leg, he picks up his glass of orange juice. Taking a slow sip of the pulpy beverage, he notices the ring that was just left on the side table from the cup. He chews some of the pulp left in his mouth and places the cup back down onto the orange juice ring. The doorbell rings just as the heavy front door creaks as it quickly opens, and quick little footsteps run over the wood floors into the living room. 

Mission: Every week I will visit a new café/coffee shop in Denver. The daunting part of this plan is that I intend to write, blog, at each one. My idea is to have 2 segments. The first part, “the fact,” of the blog 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 Denver Café Chronicles—Carbon Café and Bar

Mission: Every weekend I will visit a new café/coffee shop in Denver. The daunting part of this plan is that I intend to write, blog, at each one. My idea is to have 2 segments. The first part, “the facts,” of the blog 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 Facts

I’m in a part of town I haven’t spent a whole lot of time in, and walking to this new café I stop to take a picture of a cool looking bridge. Turning back around, a very close and bright bike light shines in my eyes. I gasp and jump out of the way, probably to an exaggeration, but I’m surprised by this oncoming bike and think I’m about to be hit by this bicycle man. It’s dark out now, so all I can see is the bright light from this bike swerving around me. I can’t tell if the guy saw me there and was planning on swerving past me like he did, or if he was just as surprised to come that close to a pedestrian standing in the middle of his path.

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Walking up to Carbon Café and Bar I am distracted by a large doughnut hanging above the door of the shop next door. I walk past the café and peer into the window of this alluring doughnut shop, with an even more alluring name, the Habit Doughnut Dispensary. I’m a big fan of pastries that are covered in glaze, so I keep this late night snack option in mind as I turn around and walk into Carbon Café and Bar. To my excitement, there is a connecting opening to the doughnut shop inside the café, how convenient.

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First impression. Impressed. Beat heavy house music welcomes me as I walk into the dark yet glowing room of the café. It’s a long room with tall brick walls and open HVAC. Clinking glasses and footsteps on the wood floor make me instantly feel at home. At the front counter I’m greeted by a beautiful display of doughnuts I’m assuming are from the shop next door. There’s a long bar with tall beer taps and cool bar stools. There are taller tables along the walls, and walking to the back I realize the room extends to the right with a long tall table surrounded by shorter booth style tables. There are lamps in the corners and the ambiance has a dark brown golden glow. There is another room straight to the back up several stairs. This room, brighter, has an entire white wall full of graffiti and the wall opposite of it is painted with chalkboard paint. There’s a giant “happy birthday Erin and Cody” surrounded by several tic tac toe games and other various things people have drawn. This room seems to be the “business room” as there are several people talking pretty loudly on their phones with laptops opened in front of them. I choose to turn back around and choose a seat in the darker room at the long tall table.

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I sit down and pull out my laptop. I’m greeting by a lovely woman who sets down a very full cup of water in a mason jar. “Here is the hydration,” she says. “Your server will be right with you.” I very much enjoy this greeting, smiling, I take a sip of my hydration. Looking around I see one wall is made up of these large old wooden barn doors with an arrangement of empty picture frames hanging on them. Everyone around me seems to be working on a computer with a beer or wine in front of them. Unfortunately, I am sitting next to a couple of slightly obnoxious guys who are talking loudly about a startup they are working on while complaining to the server about the high priced beers they realized they just drank. Having been a server for 7 years, I don’t have much tolerance for the types of remarks these men are making toward her. I almost laugh out loud when she replies to them with “well, I hope it was worth it,” and walks away. I’m glad to see them leave after a good 30 minutes of their spats full of loud startup lingo.  But, now that my table is free of the business talk, and I am able to enjoy more of the ambiance.

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It feels like there’s a lot going on in this place, and I like it. The decorations are pretty mismatched yet put together, and the vibes of the place change as you walk through the café. Every seat seems to offer something a little different, comfortable and trendy. This is definitely where the cool people come to do work.

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I notice I can hear a muffled voice of a woman speaking, almost like she’s right in my ear. I look around thinking maybe somebody is playing something on their computer behind me. Then I look at a table up in the “business room” and see the woman who is talking. She’s farther away and I ponder for a moment on why I can hear her so well, she’s not talking loudly, but I can hear almost every word. It reminds me of the room in the US Capitol building where John Quincy Adams would listen in on the discussions of his international guests from across the room due to a phenomenon caused by sound waves reverberating off of the ceiling. Thinking of this, I feel like I’m sitting in John Quincy Adams’ seat—I’m smiling as I write this.

I order a pasta dish recommended by my server. I’m sipping on a very good, very spiced chai. When I order it she asks me if whole milk is ok. I enthusiastically reply, “Oh, yes.”

Also, the goonies just started playing from a projector onto the brick wall directly in front of me. I very much like this place.

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The Fiction

The competition ended a couple hours ago and already Charlie’s muscles are starting to ache. He’s been snowboarding all day and came back to his room with a 3rd place trophy. Not ideal, as he thought he had a good chance of taking home 1st. Blake, his childhood friend and also his biggest competition won 1st. He felt a little peeved about this since he was the one who helped Blake become the boarder he is now. Charlie sunk into the leather sofa as the glow of the local news filled his room. There was a huge snow storm brewing and it was expected to shut down all roads until the morning. He wished he would have taken his parents up on their offer for dinner, but since he didn’t place 1st he wasn’t in the celebratory mood. He settled on a room service burger. His parents left town before the storm hit, and his only other friend in this competition was Blake, who he was in no mood to party with tonight. Embarrassed that he let a rookie boarder take 2nd from him in the last round, he knew Blake had some clever remarks to say about that. Charlie slowly lifted himself out of the deep imprint from the chair. His back ached from the fall that inevitably cost him 2nd place. He went over to the tall winders and opened the curtains. It was getting dark now, and the moon was rising just below the thick dark clouds above. It glowed through the darkening sky as the white snow glimmered. Thanks to his parents, he had a nice room with a walkout deck and a hot tub.

When room service came around, he ate his burger quickly and changed into his suit. The snow was already getting deep on the deck and his footprints sunk at least a foot. He opened up the hot tub with some force, steam quickly released and then floated above the tub. Charlie swung his legs into the burning water and his body coiled for a moment while he got used to the heat. He extended his legs and stretched his arms over his head. He cozied up in a corner of the tub facing the now darkness, the moon disappeared above the clouds. It was so dark now. The flakes were coming down big and chunky, falling quickly and melting as they hit the hot water. He liked the quiet sizzle and the stillness of the night. Relief is what he now felt. Relieved that his training was over, for now. He could relax and take it easy on the slopes. Charlie liked competing, but he also liked riding the mountain without the pressures to makes points. Sometimes he just wanted to glide. He closed his eyes, stretched his legs out farther so his toes were floating on the top poking out of the water. He always thought it was strange the way clear crisp air has such a distinct smell.

 

 

The Denver Café Chronicles pt. 1— Pablo’s on 6th

The Café Chronicles pt. 1

This is a project that I’ve been nervous to start. Because it is daunting. It requires me to hold myself accountable, to finish something, to follow through with an idea that I have. Following completely through with my ideas is probably the one thing that I can confidently say I struggle with the most.

Mission: Every weekend I will visit a new café/coffee shop in Denver. The daunting part of this plan is that I intend to write, blog, at each one. My idea is to have 2 segments. The first part of the blog will be my experience at the café, a review if you will, how I’m feeling, what I see, etc… The second part 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. Every story will be different, either short or long, varying in genre.  I’m thinking some stories will have a final ending, and some will be left open, like a chapter in a book. I’m starting part one of the chronicles at a coffee shop that I’ve been to many times, and moving forward I plan to visit ones I’ve never been to. And there’s a lot of them. Denver, being the cool and hip city that it is, I’ve already found more than a handful near my apartment. I have been feeling nervous about this whole thing for a while, knowing myself, and how difficult this may actually be to follow through with. But here I am, at my first café writing chapter one.

The Cafe Chronicles—Pt. 1

So, The Café Chronicles. Here I am. At Pablo’s Coffee on 6th Ave. It is a coffee shop that has good drinks, not too fancy, yummy pastries, and breakfast burritos for the hungover. It is an internet free zone which I think offers a refreshing vibe. It’s always full of people writing, reading, studying, playing board games, and enjoying a conversation with friends. The windows are full of tall green plants, the walls are decorated with old-timey looking tiles, and the seating is a mix of bar seats, high tops, low tops, and couches. When I would come here often, I would like to sit on a couch where the coffee table is. Underneath the table there are drawing books full of designs, writings, and random things the patrons of Pablo’s have added while enjoying their coffee. This is what had me fall totally in love with this place. I thought it was a cool place when I first went there, but when I discovered this part of the shop that was purely the community, I felt a deeper connection with it. Being new to Denver, and feeling its massiveness, I thought these books gave this place an intimate look into the wanderers of the city. 

Walking in the front door I notice the place is packed. I sit down at one of the last open tables which is smooshed between two other small tables. It seems like it was previously pushed together to make a larger table, but now remains in an awkwardly tight location between two occupied tables who obviously don’t know each other. I smoosh myself into this table and put down my things to claim the seat before I go up to order myself a cappuccino. When I get back I carefully take out my laptop trying not to bump into the very close table next to me. I can feel the sweat start to come through my light t-shirt, my anxiety is running a bit high thanks to the pot of coffee I had at home, and also due to the fact that I am so close to the people next to me you’d think I was part of their conversation. I spend a good minute untangling my headphones that were at the bottom of my bag, and I then awkwardly try to stuff them into a jack in my computer that is not compatible. In annoyance, I throw my headphones to the side. I sit there for a moment trying to compose myself enough to get in the writing mindset when I see some shuffling ahead of me from other tables. A hightop, next to the window and also right next to the back door, just opened up. I immediately stand up with my cappuccino and squeeze my way over to claim my new, more spacious, spot. I notice the slight cold breeze from the door is even refreshing. It takes me two more trips back and forth from the tables to gather all my stuff. Finally, sitting down at this much more ideal location, I rest my feet on the bottom part of the table only to find out that the table is wobbly causing a good portion of my untouched cappuccino to spill onto the plate it is sitting on. Out of peer reaction, I let out a loud “ugh” as I get up to grab some napkins. I wipe down the little bit of the table that the drink spilled over onto, and scoot my chair back so my feet don’t touch the table. I place my coffee cup on a ledge to the left of me and open back up my laptop.

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This place is special to me, that’s why I decided this to be the first location for The Café Chronicles. When I first moved out to Denver, I moved into a room in a house I found on a roommate app. I got really lucky as it was in a cool part of town with a less than a minute walking distance to this coffee shop, a cool dive bar, a street taco restaurant, and a dispensary. For the two months that I lived here, I would come to this coffee shop almost daily to order an iced tea and read a book. This coffee shop represented a lot for me. Moving to the city, one of the things I always said I wanted to do was live near a coffee shop, become a regular, and be “one of those people.” So, it seems just right that I start The Café Chronicles here, where my Denver journey began. In the first two months of living here, I went through almost every emotion imaginable and learned a whole lot about myself and about big city living. I’m still grateful for every scary, enjoyable, exciting, lonely, and new moment that it was. So, sitting in my used to be regular spot, I find a content and satisfied feeling sweep over me that makes me excited about the journey I plan to embark on with The Café Chronicles.

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Pablo is a young man in his early 20’s. He just dropped out of school to pursue his dreams of being an artist. Now, what kind of artist, he does not know. But, he feels that schooling is not what he is supposed to be going through right now, artistry is what he wants to explore. He lost all support from his family, financially and emotionally, since they do not understand his want to be an artist. They think it was irresponsible and spontaneous. Both his parents work at a law office and hoped Pablo would follow suit.

Shortly after his decision, he gets kicked out of his parent’s house and moves in with a buddy of his from college. He stayed on his couch for a little over a month while he picked up serving shifts at a fancy restaurant down the street. After receiving a slightly aggressive nudge from his buddy’s girlfriend, Pablo set out to find his own place. He was able to save up enough money for a down payment to a very small studio apartment below a liquor store.

He doesn’t mind the trash and neon lights that surround his front door, he actually kind of likes it. He likes how active the area around him is. Sure, there are shady looking people stumbling around at all times of the night, and he has to have a loud fan on to wipe out the noise of the busy street above him, but he loves his small flat. He bought himself a multicolored round rug from a thrift store, stole a couple mugs from his parent’s house along with his coffee machine, and he spent the last of his savings on canvases, paint and brushes, drawing paper, charcoal and markers to start off his exploration of being an artist—rather, finding out the kind of artist he wants to be. The first night in his studio he sat on his rug with a dimly lit lamp in the corner and sipped on a very strong cup of coffee. He laid back onto the rug and stared up at the ceiling, smiling–car honks, drunken yells and all.