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“The voodoo priest and all his powders were as nothing compared to espresso, cappuccino, and mocha, which are

stronger than all the religions of the world combined, and perhaps stronger than the human soul itself.”

                                                                                                                         ―Mark Helprin, Memoir from Antproof Case (1995)

Nearly all of the people who form the main chunk of my life I have met through cafes. I go to cafes and nestle myself along the edges of others' productivity, and I am made whole by proxy.  (I want to meet those writers who can write and flourish while sitting at their desk at home. I envy you.) I surround myself with others who are trying to move closer to a specific idea of themselves. It's a brave struggle.

I like to go to coffee shops while on the verge of tears. I write best like that. And it’s not that I’ve just experienced some intense trauma seconds ago. It’s that I went there ready to be opened up. Like I’ve been slowly boiling my heart inside an egg. Coagulating and solidifying the feelings. Into something I can crack open and hold. I want to look at parts of myself that remain unowned.

And so I wait for the kettle inside me to sing. And it does. All of a sudden...voila! I appear in the thickening. I appear in the thickening of the water coating my eyes; in the red kissing my cheeks, warming like a warning. I spill onto the paper. Finding a’s and b’s, commas and periods strong enough to build a monument.

And this is why I go to coffee shops. This is why I go to Woodcat Coffee Bar. Echo Park's beloved coffee shop lives at 1532 Sunset Boulevard near the bustling intersection of Echo Park Avenue. The owners of Woodcat are a couple named Saadat and Janine Awan. Janine is a graphic artist and designed most everything in Woodcat. Saadat is a motorcycle-obsessed musician; an unbelievably amusing conversationalist; and has built all the wooden furniture in Woodcat by hand. You'll find them both to be kind, down-to-earth people with integrity and vulnerability. It doesn't matter how funny Saadat is, or how sweet Janine is, when I go there, I can tell that they are going through the same shit as everyone else.

"Beginning as a medicinal drink for the elite," author Mark Pendergrast explains, "coffee became the favored modern stimulant of the blue-collar worker during his break, the gossip starter in middle-class kitchens, the romantic binder for wooing couples, and the sole, bitter companion of the lost soul. Coffeehouses have provided places to plan revolutions, write poetry, do business, and meet friends." (Pendergrast, Mark. “Puddle Water or Panacea?” Uncommon Grounds: the History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World, Basic Books, 2010.)


Photo by Sam Muller
Photo by Jack Strutz
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