Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Coffee Shop Chronicles No. 19

I stood in my closet looking at the metal clothing rods filled with workout clothes, a few dressy things and jeans and t-shirts. What does a writer wear to work? I was pondering this question because this was my first day of work. Now before you get too excited and think I got a new job and you missed the grand announcement, this is a self imposed job.  A writing work day. I am finding that an hour to an hour and a half every morning is not enough to get all the writing done that I need to do. This is especially true since I started journaling. My morning writing is filled with random thoughts, to-do lists, goals, dreams and story ideas. This leaves absolutely no time for writing blog posts or writing and editing The Coffee Shop Chronicles. Hence the creation of a writing work day. One day a week devoted to writing, usually involving a coffee shop. While I am working, no phone calls from the family are allowed until after 3 p.m. Unless they are dying and then they had better text me instead of call, since my phone ringer is turned off.

Back to the closet and my pondering. Writers usually wear black don't they? Perfect. I would wear my black skinny jeans, but what to wear on top? Something fun and colorful to balance out the black. What about that coral colored swing bottom top that I usually pass over, feeling it is never appropriate for a casual trip to the grocery store. Well this was no grocery store day. This was serious business. Me taking myself seriously at long last.

So the coral top was the winner. Everybody looks good in coral anyway. A nice bright pop of color with the black jeans. Then because it was only in the 50's when I was leaving the house I added a little black sweater. After adding the sweater I happened to looked down where the edge of the coral top and the sweater met the jeans and began to have second thoughts about the whole outfit. Either this outfit was going to be very cute or I could add a tall pointy broad rimmed black hat, orange and black striped knee high socks and thick heeled gold buckle black shoes and it would look a lot like a Halloween costume I had as a kid.


My coffee shop destination was in the city. I had scouted out a new place the previous week when I was in the city for a YMCA fundraiser luncheon. I didn't have enough time to write that morning and to be honest I am a little afraid of city coffee shops. They are so hi-tech, so shiny, so modern, filled with either well dressed business men and women, or the fashionably dressed hipster crowd, where guys wear mint green chinos and navy blue, pattern button up shirts and it seems perfectly normal.  A world that I am not all that comfortable in. But being a writer means stepping out of my comfort zone and documenting my thoughts and feelings in these unfamiliar places. True, honest, fresh and yes a little bit scary are all good things for a writer.

I drove into the city in my halloween costume and parked in my favorite parking garage. The reason why it is my favorite parking garage is because I know how to get to it and I can easily find a place to park. A short walk across the Blue Bridge which spans the Grand River and I am in the heart of downtown.


As I walked across the Blue Bridge I remembered why I don't wear this coral swing bottom top very often. A slight breeze drifted up from the river catching and raising the bottom of my swing top. I quickly positioned my cross body purse strap more securely in the front of me to help keep the top in place. The last thing the world needed to catch sight of was my beige undergarment, even if the label did say Victoria's Secret.

Safely across the bridge and the breeze gone, I set off in the direction of the coffee shop.

I arrived at the coffee shop at five minutes to ten. Holy packed with people! When I had been there the previous week, granted it was later in the morning, there was no line of people placing orders and no line at the pick up area. This was not the case this time. Contributing to the large amount of people was also the fact that this was the first day of ArtPrize. ArtPrize is a radically open, independently organized international art competition. For 19 days, three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, become an open playing field where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is art and why it matters. Art from around the world pops up in every inch of downtown, and it's all free and open to the public.  It's unorthodox, highly disruptive, and undeniably intriguing to the art world and the public alike. You can read more about ArtPrize here if you are intrigued. It really is an amazing event.

I knew ArtPrize was starting and I knew it would be busy, which I figured would either add a considerable amount of interest to my story or it would drive me crazy. I actually took it in stride pretty well.

I stepped up to the coffee shop counter and ordered my chai latte, which comes in only one size. They feel that some drinks are at their optimum at one particular size, so chai must be optimum at 12 oz. good to remember for the future. Since I knew it would be a while before I would be able to get lunch, I had a noon historic building tour on the agenda for the day as well, I ordered a healthy but yummy granola bar.


I moved down to the pickup area and waited with business people, college students, a trio of older ladies in brand new tennis shoes, and a mom with a jogging stroller. Let me just say that jogging strollers are not meant to be inside packed coffee shops, as I had backed into the front wheel of the stroller when I exited the order counter.

One of the many things that amazed me as I was standing there waiting is that people will order and then sit down and start having an in-depth conversation. They are totally oblivious to the fact that the tall, dark, bearded, twenty something Barista is calling their name. And the fact that he calls it numerous times. It was very noisy in there so it was best to stay close and pay attention.

At last my name was called and my chai delivered with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top. There was no way I was staying inside, too noisy, too distracting to write, but thankfully there were numerous sets of little cafe tables just outside the front door.

When I was here the previous week I had sat outside as well. I had watched with interest a woman named Beverly who had a couple of folding card tables set up outside the entrance of the coffee shop. She was selling homemade knitted potholders and handmade beaded bracelets. My initial impression of Beverly is that she is someone on the verge of homelessness, maybe a potholder or two away from sleeping on a park bench.


I was amazed how everybody knew Beverly, many college students coming up and giving her hugs. I watched as she would duck into the coffee shop now and then for a glass of ice water or a quick trip to the rest room. Obviously the coffee shop didn't mind her being there.

I wanted to come back and observe her some more and maybe be brave enough to find out some of her story. But due to ArtPrize the streets have been decluttered a bit, not wanting to cast a bad view of the city. I didn't see Beverly in her spot outside the coffee shop, instead the space had been filled with more of the cute little cafe tables. One of which I was sitting at while I wrote.

I wanted to wander around a little with my camera before my noon tour, so I packed up my journal and pen, discarded my trash and set off. I am not confidently familiar with all the downtown streets, so many one ways, and streets shooting off in various directions. Which is why I love walking as opposed to driving, each time I come downtown I work on expanding my familiarity a little bit more.


I arrived outside the building we were touring with a few minutes to spare, thankfully I spotted a couple I knew from the last tour we had done together. Shortly thereafter Jim, our tour guide arrived and we were off to explore. Gosh what an amazing old building with fabulous ornate details that had been covered up by drop ceilings and bad 1950's paneling. Now being painstakingly uncovered and restored.


After the tour I was needing to find someplace for lunch to quiet the rumbling in my stomach. As I walked back towards the coffee shop who did I see, Beverly. She had moved a few store fronts down from the coffee shop and must have arrived while I was on the tour. She was in a less high foot traffic spot, but the awning she was under was better to shield her from the very warm September sun. People were still calling out her name and saying hello, so maybe all will be well.


The perfect ending to this story would be that I stopped and browsed her handcrafted masterpieces and decided to purchase a few colorful knitted potholders and a beaded bracelet or two. That I chatted with her and learned a little of her story, promising to return again another day. But in reality I walked on by, just like lots of other people were doing that day trying to ignore the less than perfect parts of society.

12 comments:

  1. Wow Sarah! What an amazing article. I love that you are taking a day for yourself, to work on your dreams. I think I might copy that idea. I loved your description of your closet...so like mine! Also your thoughts on what to wear! I always look at my closet, trying to rearrange outfits into something new & like you doubt my creations many a day. I loved this Chronicle. I think you should go back and get to know Beverly, now I'm curious as well. Thanks for a great start to my day.

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  2. I love your observations on life around you...and the honesty you exhibit...glad that you are designating a writing work day...perseverance is a good thing!

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  3. I love reading your chronicles - thanks for writing them.

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  4. This is the best chronicle yet! You kept me quickly reading for more! You also made me laugh, smile, and tear up at the last paragraph. So many times I've diverted my eyes and kept on walking instead of making contact. I've wonder why I didn't at least smile! Love the old house you toured. Here's the interesting part, where I say once again, we're a lot alike. I went to my first historical home lunch tour the first part of Sept. and I'm going on another next Friday. I just found out about these and love it! I've yet to blog about it, may this week! Maybe I need a work day!

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  5. Maybe next time you will stop and chat with Beverly and buy some of her wares. I'm sure it would make her happy. I love that blue bridge.

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  6. The ending to your chronicle is so brutally honest and I just love it. Always look forward to meeting you at the coffee shop! Xo

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  7. So fun to see Coffee Shop back in business! I look forward to more.

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  8. I so admire your writing style I really part of your experience. Love the idea of the art festival. Looking forward to the next imstallment.

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  9. Wow, especially love that blue bridge. Love the Coffeeshop Chronicles!

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  10. I love the blue bridge. You described it so well, I could see you readjusting your purse so your shirt would stay put. I do enjoy reading your coffee chronicles.

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  11. So good that you can take an entire day for yourself...maybe someday I'll let myself do that...
    Nice that you are back into your coffee shop routine...takes a lot of self-discipline to do what you love..and your photo's are lovely...I do like that blue bridge...so outstanding and just a great pop of color, just like your top...

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  12. Your writing is wonderful! I could feel the atmosphere in the coffee shop. I like the coral top over the black jeans, I think it looks really good. The blue bridge is beautiful - and I had to laugh about the reasoning why this parking garage is your favorite one - I could have said exactly the same thing!

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Thank you so much for visiting today and taking the time to read my thoughts on life. :)