Tag Archives: Cafes

The Sounds of Seething

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Retro flower pot shape bike at a coffee shop.

Coffee Shops, Cafes, and Diners have been, and will likely always be, my temples of contemplation and revelation.

Practicing private thoughts within a bustling public setting works as a nice balance for my mind and soul.

Recently, I sat in a nearby, faith-based coffee shop/bookstore. The patrons were primarily college students – early twenties – discussing philosophical concepts while intermittently glancing at their screens.

They appeared to be harmonizing secular with sacred, in soft tones of curiosity and respect. Their vocabularies were as vast as our Western horizons, and they punctuated their speech with a potpourri of world languages.

To me, an eavesdropper, their conversations sounded lyrical. Almost like improvisational poetry. I felt inspired being nested in such artful ambience.

The moment pushed me higher.

Caused me to recall my own college days, where as an English major, I was in love with words. With the raw materials of my art form.

In the arms of such purity, I was nearly 20 years old when, during an all-night dormitory pow wow, I was coaxed relentlessly into uttering aloud the “F” word. It was liberating. I suddenly had a new relationship with the word. I was less fearful of its power.

Over time, I’ve dared myself to speak aloud every forbidden word deemed as vulgar or offensive to someone, somewhere.

Several of these words became familiar friends; others remained forbidden from my speech.

Eventually, I became uncomfortable with my free usage of cheap, easy words instead of giving space to speaking with specificity and grace.

People, both public and private, have stood me still with their eloquence, and kept me at attention until I absorbed some essence of their artistry.

Until I remembered my own love of language and admonished myself for loosening grasp on this romance.

Most recently and most powerfully, Michelle Obama sent me back to my origin: “.  .  . when they go low, we go high.” A phrase I’ve internally chanted like a mantra each time I seethe with enough emotional passion to drop verbal bombs of destruction.

I succeed and I fail at this.
I reinstate the mantra.

And rest in the eternal truth that all beings will be accountable for their own actions and reactions. That there is no need to judge, ridicule, or make demeaning statements about others’ efforts.

Engaging in inward seething judgment – a seething that remains either silent or shouts outwardly – actually retards my advancement as a human.

It does nothing to adorn my own consciousness. So why indulge?

Instead, if I can love myself enough to forgive myself, I can far more easily forgive others and dissolve any seething words brewing in my inner vessel.

And, just in case I’m too puny to silence my ugly words, I can always subdue the tendency with the bite of a sweet confection:

Pumpkin Cake - Minus Bite

In this case, a dense, chewy pumpkin cake .  .  . recipe compliments of THESWEETWORLDSITE.

I embellished my version of the cake, but her elegant simplicity is enough to associate me with the power and the glory of beautifully heart-crafted and purified creative language. And remind me of my ever-present choice:

The Sound of Beauty or the Fury of the Beast

anger-woman-in-red.jpg

My choice; my reckoning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Well, just a bit earlier in the year, I experienced a gift of red sneakers. That story is told inside of Red Sneakers.

That tale I think of as yin. It’s soft, sweet, sassy, feminine in a quasi-original way. Plus it’s rebellious because it’s red rather than traditional white.

But it’s one half of the circle. The other swirl is classically black.

Its formation began on the day I received the red Chucks. My husband surprised me by taking me to California Pastrami – a tiny strip-mall restaurant that promised to satisfy my nostalgic hunger for a pastrami sandwich, just like the ones that I had in New Jersey as a kid.

So, you get the idea: the theme of the celebratory weekend was one of wistfulness and a yearning to look backward.

And it grandly succeeded. I don’t eat red meat, but, a secret craving had emerged and I sated it. All gooey and dripping with fats was the sandwich, and, I delighted in the entire mess.

After leaving the cafe, we walked a mere fifteen feet to our car and as I stood next to the passenger door, I turned to look back – to drink in one last vision-sip of the cafe that had time-traveled me back five decades.

That’s when I caught a glance of a blonde-haired, slender, little gazelle of a tween stotting across the sidewalk .  .  . heading into the pizza shop at the mall’s end.

Her movement was eye catching, however, it was her feet that stood me still.

She was wearing a pair of black canvas, knee-high Chucks. Something I’d never seen before, but, immediately fell in love with!

I shamelessly stared as she glided through the doorway with her family. Even more shamelessly, I told Hubby that I’d wait for her to leave, (just takeout after all), and get a better look at the prancing paws.

We waited. She was quick to leave. I took a mental photo and rhapsodized about them on our ride back to the hotel.

But I left it there. I searched for high-tops and nothing that tall appeared, so, I released the fantasy.

And then.

What should appear beneath the Christmas tree?

 

Sneakers -Black Knee-high Chucks

Yep. You guessed it: A pair of Knee-high black Chucks!!

Now I feel even more like a kid playing in a body that’s trapped in the role of an adult.

I just need to wait a few months for the snow to melt so I can go pronging outside and truly play in my new feet .  .  . truly complete the yin/yang experience of coveted sneakers.

 

 

 

Christmas Yin/Yang

Home Fried Days and Cinder Block Cafes

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Sometimes I’m concerned that I over-romanticize coffee shops, cafés, and diners. Their life is more than checkered tile floors and sun-gleaming silver stools. They have a dark side, too. A very dark side that I met as a young child:

Abandoned restaraunt on route 66 in New Mexico

Red neck ways and home fried days told the story of Louie Jordan. Southern boy in a Georgia pine cluster, dining on dumpster dinner one humid summer evening.

The next morning, dawn awakened persimmon, spilling upon the dangling rope displaying strange fruit.

A 1956 powder-blue Desoto cranked its way down Highway 301, its air filter choking on a swampy necklace of mist rising. Not one of the three passengers saw the cypress tree bearing vengeful fruit, and no one heard the splash as the rope broke free and Louie’s withering corpse slid into the brackish water of the Snake River swamp – a summer Crock Pot of slow simmering gumbo.

Swamp (bald), cypress (Taxodium distichum) in the lake and hangi

The perfect crime before dinnertime. Before soft buttermilk biscuits and crunchy fried chicken. Before sweetened collard greens and pork-flavored black-eyed peas. Before warm pecan pie and oozing vanilla ice cream were set on the white linen tablecloth shrouding a mahogany table, Louie’s flesh would be shredded, thickening in the roux of the boiling okra-green broth.

Several years later, the blue Desoto would have been traded for a creamy Ford Suburban station wagon, with artificial wooden paneling. A safe and sanitized version of the surfer’s classic “woody,” it became a family car perfectly accommodating the four-square family we had become.

A little brother joined me in the back seat, gently cruising through the Georgian back roads, rolling to a stop at the Esso station and café of cinder block painted white, with dripping stains of Georgia red clay along its edges.

As gasoline was pumped by the man in the starched blue uniform, my family marched into the café. I wandered off to the restroom, toasted brown pine needles crackling beneath sneakered feet on a hot summer’s afternoon, as I made my way to the back of the building.

There, huddled in the shade of the dense pine thicket, was a cluster of men. A water fountain was attached to the back wall and as I bent forward, sipping the lukewarm sulfur water, the rich strains of a baritone flooded across my back.

“Little girl, this ain’t your kind of water. You better git back to your kinfolk little white child.”

I looked up and saw a sign above that read: “For Colored People Only.”

With black-brown hair and tawny skin and green eyes, wasn’t I colored enough to drink from this fount, I wondered?

Looking up into the man’s face, I didn’t understand, but, knew instinctively that I didn’t belong in this sequestered shade on Southern soil. The sign secretly told me that our colors didn’t match.

His kind eyes silently exhorted me: Don’t watch this backdoor meeting little white girl, your world turns inside. Your feet unstained by red Georgia clay; your hair unstroked by the witch’s fingers of Spanish moss that stoop to comb tangles of nappy hair.  Landscape painting - creepy forest on river shore

 

Go eat your meal, his gaze beckoned, on white porcelain plates with stainless steel forks and spoons. Sip your water in glasses of figure-eight grace with ice cubes floating to the surface to kiss your lips.

 

Forbidden lips/forbidden fruit. Strange fruit dangles from the trees of Southern forests. Blood is shed by moonlight as little white girls dream of sugar plum fairies. It’s a world darker than you little white girl.

 

Nights with secret ceremonies are the plowshare’s rite of harvest. Let us blend with the shadows as you fold into your bedsheets, stitching lace dreams along their French seams.

 

Embroidering colored flowers along pillowcase edges. Hold on tightly to your white linen hope. Run little white girl. Run back home to safety. Run before you see too much . . . .

As I turned to leave, my family was climbing back into the old faithful Ford wagon. What had I missed? A cheeseburger lunch platter with French fries and ground beef smothered in ketchup blood? Freshly-squeezed lemonade to quench my bitter thirst?  Retro bistro

But how could they know I had no regrets, for I’d drunk from the colored fount.