Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Coffee Shop Chronicles No. 21

I have always had a slight obsession with barns, but after being up north for vacation a couple of weeks ago that obsession may have taken over my life. I look for them everywhere. That is what happens when you vacation someplace that has spectacular specimens of cobblestone foundations, weathered barn boards and crimped tin roofs on every country road that you travel. As I pass them in the car they call to me "Sarah, stop the car, get out, raise your iPhone and capture me in my timeless beauty". Yes, I am pretty much head over heals in love with barns.

Barns are not plentiful here at home. It's not that they don't exist, it's just that I have to drive farther and more out of my way to find them. So as I passed one on my way to my new coffee shop destination, I heard that voice from vacation saying "Sarah, turn around, go back, get out of your car and raise your iPhone". I am getting much better at listening to that voice because I did go back and I did capture it.

Then I remembered another barn that was close by, I might as well go capture that one as well.

I didn't feel bad about delaying going to the coffee shop, on this my second official work day. Photography is my work just as much as writing is. I have finally come to terms with that idea, I am meant to do both. So with the second barn captured and then a portion of another barn safely stored in my camera roll it was on to the coffee shop.

I wasn't exactly sure where the coffee shop was except that it was located on Main Street. Glen and I lived in this town for the first seven years that we were married. I knew that Main Street wasn't that long, so I was confident I would find it. What I didn't expect was for it to be on the partial second half of Main Street next to the flower shop, but that was where it was. Easy access parking was available right in front of the shop.

I had no intention of writing a Coffee Shop Chronicle on this day. I had some other planned writing to do. I mainly wanted to scout this place out for a future edition. I really should know by now not to go with preconceived ideas about what I am going to write because they NEVER work out. Part of being an artist/creative of any sort is learning to be open and trust the process.

I arrived at the coffee shop at half past nine.

Having visited enough different coffee shops by now, I have a mental checklist that I go through when I visit a new place, first impressions are everything.

Feng Shui: Very good. I walked in the one and only front door. Walking through the front door a clearly defined path led me to the delectable treats glass case and the clearly labeled Order area.

After a short pondering I decided to deviate from my usual Chai Latte and try the Whopper Latte in the Grande size. Stepping up to the order area I requested my Whopper Latte and then asked what the delicious looking muffins were today. The choices were; blueberry, pumpkin or white chocolate and raspberry. Raspberry sounded like it would go good with my Whopper Latte so that was the winner.

Presentation: The muffin was removed from the case, placed on a real plate. I was asked if I would like that warmed? Yes, please. The warmed muffin was then removed from the microwave and presented to me with a real fork. Lovely.

While I was selecting my muffin, an eager beaver woman in her 60's moved into the order area. Even though it was obvious that the order taker was helping me. She had her punch card out on the counter as well as her money, obviously anxious to get her morning coffee and be one punch closer to her free cup. I still needed to pay for my muffin and drink. It was a bit awkward maneuvering around the lady and her punch card. I like my personal space and she was in it.

Warm muffin in hand I looked for a place to sit. I saw a four seat table towards the back of the shop but then thought better of it given my past coffee shop experiences. I chose instead a two seat table that was between the order and pick up areas, perfect for people watching and eavesdropping. The order taker said she would have my drink done shortly, since I was close to the pick up area I knew I wouldn't have to go far. But that sweet order taker brought it right to my table when it was finished. So far this shop was getting a grade of A+.

As pretty as I think those fancy designs are on the top of lattes, I prefer my drink in a to-go cup. Then I don't feel the pressure to drink the whole latte within the first ten minutes of being there. I like my drink hot and I like to nurse it for a while. My Whopper Latte arrived in a to-go cup.

I settled in, arranging my muffin, my latte, my coffee shop notebook, and my pen for their customary Instagram photo. Even if I am not going to write a Chronicle the picture is mandatory.

It became apparent quite quickly that I had, at long last, found my ideal coffee shop. It was also apparent that I wasn't going to get any writing done because I soon became part of the story.

This place is the Cheers of coffee shops. The girls behind the counter are female versions of Sam and Woody. They know everybody and what is going on with them. Friendly banter exchanged on both sides of the counter. I was drawn into the story when a very social gentleman, he easily could be the coffee shop Norm, sat down at the two seat table across from me. We faced each other with our two tables in between us. He was obviously a regular and the topic of his weekend was of great interest to the coffee shop girls.

His wife had had a piece of her mixed-media work in the ArtPrize Competition, so they asked how that had gone and what else he had done for the weekend. He stated that he and his wife had gone to a burger joint with another couple on Saturday night. One of the coffee shop girls remarked that she was surprised he had gone to a burger joint. She figured his tastes to be more hoity-toity than that. She expected him to go to a place where the waiters came with table crumb sweepers between each course. This is where I jumped into the conversation. I knew that this coffee shop gal was my kind of girl when she used a word like hoity-toity.

I confessed early on that I went to coffee shops to write and that I wrote about what goes on at the coffee shop. Mr. Hoity-Toity says "Well now I am nervous about what I might say."

The coffee shop girls, Mr. Hoity-Toity and I engaged in more friendly banter until the girls were pulled back to their coffee duties. Mr. H-T and I continued on though. He was only too happy to suggest coffee shops where I could write that had interesting people. I gathered he visits a lot of coffee shops. I found it funny for a man who prides himself on getting a lot of personal information out of people, how much he told me about himself. I know where he worked for thirty years. How long he has lived here, how many different places he has lived, what he does for a job, although that sounded a bit mysterious. That he never answers his phone, although he will respond to texts and emails. That he only mows his yard twice a year, and that he does the cooking and has dinner waiting when his wife gets home from work.

Then we got on the subject of photography. You know that look people get on their face when you have happened upon that close to their heart topic. That look was all over his face. He was old school film photography, having had a dark room in the past and taken classes at university. He has not embraced the digital age other than a small pocket size point and shoot camera that he uses for work. He feels that digital and digital processing take away the pureness of photography. I asked what he enjoyed shooting. He told me unusual things. An assignment that he had when he was at university was to go to the downtown where he lived and shoot things. He chose things like wooden poles with all the left behind nails from past event posters. The best was when there was still a fragment of the poster still attached to the nail.

I guess that means that I like to shoot unusual things as well.

It was nearing eleven o'clock and I really needed to go to the bathroom, so I made packing up motions, along with the excuse that I needed to get going home. Otherwise this conversation might have gone on all day. He said he needed to get to that mysterious job as well, so we said good-bye and parted ways. I went to the bathroom and returned to finish packing up my unused notebooks, iPad and  books.

As I was ready to depart I became engaged in conversation with one of the coffee shop girls, the one that I would liken to Sam from Cheers, and the one who had originally said hoity-toity. As it turned out she is the owner of the coffee shop and was very intrigued by my Coffee Shop Chronicles and wanted to read them. I dug a business card out of my wallet that has my blog address on it and gave that to her. Since it was quiet in the coffee shop at the moment we continued talking. My inkling that she was my kind of girl with the use of hoity-toity was spot on. We could be sisters, similar age, although she would be the older sister, finally that responsibility would be lifted from me. We had similar feelings about a lot of things and similar challenging relationships with certain people. It is always a liberating feeling to talk with someone who gets you so completely because they have been there too.

I told her I would definitely be back because this was an awesome coffee shop. I might not get a lot of writing done but the conversations will more than make up for it. She said maybe next time she would be able to share a latte with me, or she says "Do you like wine?" Does a cat like catnip? "Yah! I love wine." She says "Well then maybe we can share a glass of wine sometime?" Sounds like a deeper interesting conversation lies ahead. I sense we have a lot to learn from each other.


  1. So glad you listened to your inner voice and turned the car around to capture the stunning images of barns. Looks like you and I share a similar penchant for travels off the beaten path. And, you new coffee house sounds divine. Those intriguing conversations with almost strangers and the hints of new friendships and the magic of everyday that opens before us - only when we open our hearts - now that's a real story! Sometimes you are a writer who takes pictures, and sometimes a photographer who writes words, and all of the combinations are simple who you are.

  2. I am a country girl so of course I love your barn pics!! I so enjoyed reading your coffee shop story today. You have such a great talent,,,,thanks for sharing and have a great day,,,,,,

  3. How fun! It's always wonderful to strike up the unlikely friendship - especially when you're not looking! I share your love of barns, as well. Oh, how it breaks my heart to be in the passenger seat with no control of the brake. I have mentally marked the ones I wasn't able to shoot. Thanks again for sharing the chronicles and the barn photos! Great post!

  4. The best one yet...looking forward to the next chronicle.

  5. You had quite an intriguing morning Sarah! The unexpected friendly coffee shop visitors, and owner. It seems rather nice to get the kind of service one expects, unexpectedly. We judge eateries/coffee houses with that same kind of treatment...we'll be back...we won't be back. I loved how you were pulled into the conversation with the regulars. I love barns and love your barn photos!

  6. Yes indeed you are meant to do both! Love your barns - ours are a different shape over here - I must seek out some to photograph and compare. Fascinating No. 21 !

  7. So refreshing to be in my corner and reading you. This was my favorite . . . can't wait until you go back.

  8. I love, love, love the photo pf the telephone pole. And, if a Whopper latte is malt flavored? I need to go to that coffee shop.

  9. Now this coffee shop has to be my favourite read so far! The place sounds like the perfect place to have a friendly, personal latte, with lots of interesting conversation. I love places like this, where you feel that you are visiting friends and not rushed. Can't wait for you to re-visit! x

  10. You are meant to do both. Your writing compliments your photography and your photography compliments your writing. They go together perfectly, just like chai latte and a muffin. :) It sounds like you found the perfect coffee shop and some new friends. Your barns are beautiful! Keep listening the that little voice...

  11. Sarah, I'm trying to imagine what a Whopper Latte is, since the only Whopper I'm familiar with is a sandwich at Burger King! Um, hold the pickles, please. :-)

    This was such a fun Chronicle. I loved your descriptions of the place and the people, and your interactions with them were fascinating. You've come a long way from your first coffee shop writings, when you were too shy to even point your camera in the general direction of another person. Perhaps your acquaintance with "Sam" will bud and grow into a real-life friendship.

  12. Now I feel an urge to photograph some barns, but darn, I have to pick boy wonder up from school and there isn't enough time. Love the first image.

  13. What a fun adventure and does sound as if you have found the perfect coffee shop, and maybe a new friend. I too love barns and took lots of barn shots on a recent trip to Illinois. I actually thought of you at one of the places I visited. It was a craft event which takes place every fall at a barn built in the 1800s. A really awesome barn too... I thought of you as one of the vendors had all sorts of pumpkins, gourds , and fall veggies.... The sign in the front .... Huizenga farms

  14. Now that I have the word hoity-toity stuck in my brain....(love that word; just a fun word to say) I am in love with that first barn shot! Barns have stories to tell and I think as photographers we see those stories in their pealing paint, weathered wood, and missing boards. Your story telling is getting along so well, I found myself laughing along as I read! Do hope you make it back for that glass of red wine and conversation. You might title it the Coffee Shop Chronicles: Wine Edition!

  15. Your chronicles never, ever disappoint and you know how I feel about the tall grass / barn photos you have been posting lately - smitten, absolutely smitten.

  16. Sarah, after this chronical - a real treat for me to absorb ( I mean, really?! That telephone pole detail shot mmmmm!) - I'm actually pondering taking my sketchbook out into the real world...I will review past Chronicles with a new eye. Thank you for your delightful inspiration.

  17. a delightful story to start my day - thanks!

  18. these are so beautiful and I really like the processing on them too, I agree, a delightful story

  19. So much gorgeousness in your photos, Sarah! :)

  20. I'm glad I found you..I love these photos :-) They remind me of the scenery often found in one of my home towns..I will read your coffee shop chronicles..This post was the first excerpt for me and it has me intrigued :-)


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