Growing up I was always drawn to hole-in-the-wall coffee places, ones forged by couches of fluff and throw pillows, vintage unknown board game, and a quiet cool that promoted introspection and leather bound scribbles. I would smile as the stillness washed over and through me, cupping my hot chocolate or herbal tea between both hands, sipping often and slowly,
I was not a coffee drinker so the smell seemed rather awful at first. With the invitation of a friend I would begrudgingly tag along, secretly wishing to plug my nose but not wanting to draw attention. Within a very short time, though, my sensory system was overridden and the smell somehow became pleasant and familiar. Now it brings memories of finger tips on guitar strings, the gurgling of fish tanks, loose locks woven and unwoven while lost in thought, and secreting notes away for strangers to find.
It was a time of closeness and of honesty, both with loved ones and with myself.
We laughed. We played. We held hands. In those times I started to find and plan and make myself. What I really loved was that I was myself there. Introverted, thoughtful, and quiet, there I felt unhindered and free.
These places almost always went out of business. They were too special, too safeguarded, and ultimately too quiet–the sign of a business on the brink of extinction. That was the sad conundrum of organically cool and authentic businesses. We delighted in them, but shared them way too sparingly and only with those we deemed worthy. It’s not exactly a great referral system for a business to boom.
The places that avoided closure faced a fate almost as sad: They bustled into something unrecognizable. The air filled with new leather couches and the clicking sounds of high heels and keyboards. Walls were repainted, crazy artwork thrown out. Neutral murals and beautiful forgettable photography took over the walls and it became something else entirely. Something successful. Somewhere I never could have belonged.
I don’t know why the authentic was so often overwritten with the mainstream and most widely accepted (or rather the least dis-liked). Do we do that to survive? Try to creative the smallest ripple possible? Do we become vanilla to avoid closure? In some way part of growing up is finding yourself in the most unexpected of places, then moving on when the time comes. I’d rather just do it less traumatically. Maybe I’d mix up the greenery or update the throw rugs…not change the whole stinkin’ place.
Have I changed so much? It’s so hard to tell.