Sunday 4 May 2008

A New Era Begins - Caramelo Day

My last job ended on a Friday (previously known as butter pecan day). I had a new one, out of the downtown core. I would now have a commute, and not just a bus ride. I thought that was kind of neat.

I wasn't sure about what would happen to my morning routine, but the Second Cup had been closed for over a month now, and aside from little sneak previews through the ripped covers on the inside which proved work was still being done, no one really had any idea when it would re-open. It was all mysterious, really, and a whole clique of us formed, sharing information on the happenings with the renovations. D was more than happy to spread the rumours and stories as we each made our daily pilgrimage to peek into the window. D wasn't concerned so we weren't, either. After all, no one was more affected by the Second Cup closing than D, since he depended wholeheartedly on the generosity of passing caffeine-guzzlers.

So on this last day, I drove in to pick up my vastly accumulated stuff. As I drove up Elgin for the last time in what I thought might be a while, (slowly, under speed limit, could have hit an old woman with a walker and a baby and not harmed them), I noticed that, lo and behold, Second Cup was re-opened! I swerved (quickly, dangerously, skidded, and would have taken out old woman, walker, baby AND toy poodle. This is one busy old woman.) and ran inside (parked first. In a snowbank.)

I was a bit skeptical of this new Second Cup without my second cup guys. I walked in, looking around suspiciously at their freshly upholstered comfortable looking chairs and their perfectly polished tables. Only one other customer sits in the coffee shop, and he too is looking around suspiciously. Our eyes cross for a moment and I understand that he too is wary of these fresh new surroundings (Look, it's before 7 in the morning. I need comfort and familiarity).

I follow their still clean carpet, leaving my dirty little trail behind (it was a big snowbank), when a cute little blond chikita, whom I remembered from before, looks at me suspiciously (we're all very suspicious), and says: Medium flavour?

I told her I loved her.

Thankfully I didn't get kicked out of the coffee shop, and I did get some news on Wally, who is now enjoying golfing a lot (now that I think about it, I wonder where???), and Dave, who's still just as grumpy (he's my "miss" guy...)

So I got my coffee, and a hot chocolate for D, who was turning into an ice cube outside (he put large sticks on his wheels chairs with plastic paper and duct tape so that the snowdrifts wouldn't hit him, and he was sitting in a sleeping bag - I thought it was quite ingenius!), which I hadn't been able to do since Second Cup had closed down. I felt quite at peace.

I've come full circle.

Oh, and the flavour that day? Not hazelnut, unfortunately. Not butter pecan, as it should have been. But it was caramelo, which is Monday.

So here's to new beginnings!

mmmmmmmmm caramelo...

End of an Era - Day 5 - Butter Pecan Day

Friday seemed like any other butter pecan day. D wasn’t there. He’d probably taken the day off (panhandling being his job), as it was getting really chilly.

I went in, the Second Cup growing emptier each day, the sound of chairs scraping the floor much less frequent. Dave was as efficient as usual, and my large flavoured coffee was waiting for me by the time I reached the cash.

I sat in the back with my coffee, no student sleeping on a bench today, and wrote my usual hour, bemoaning my Utnu-less state the whole time, before heading to work, just down the street. I waved and grinned at the Second Cup guys as I left – they had other customers and I was in a hurry.

I celebrated Friday by going to lunch with a co-worker, and as we sat inside we looked longingly at the closed patio, ordering drinks with little umbrellas in them in a vain effort to fool ourselves into believing winter’s icy grip wasn’t squeezing the sun, birds and blossoms out of our city.

“Did you hear about Second Cup?” She asked, sipping a very pink drink.

I nodded between bites. “Renovations – how long do you think they’ll be closed?”

“A while, I hear.” She whispered, and I laughed.

“I wonder what the boys will be up to during that time! They live in that place!” Which was true. I’d never gone into that Second Cup (and I went most days of the week), without Wally or Dave being there.

My co-worker looked up, tears welling into her eyes (to be fair, she was going through a rough patch, and was much more emotional than usual).

“You don’t know?” She asked.

“What??” A chill ran down my spine, and I recalled D’s words on Caramelo Day: It’s bad.

“Wally and Dave are retiring. New owners are taking over.”

I almost cried. Well, ok, I did tear up, but no actual tears were shed.

I left her after lunch, saying I had to give my farewells, and headed to Second Cup. But by the time I arrived, it was already closed, a note from Dave and Wally taped to the door, thanking their customers for years of faithful service.

I stood a little while before the door – ok, a bit longer than perhaps necessary. I couldn’t help it, though. For years I had come to this Second Cup, almost every single morning. I had met so many of my characters here, I had created new worlds, I had suffered death, love, failure, fears, hope and humiliation with my protagonists and antagonists, and every single day had been marked with a simple system of flavours that kept reality only one sip away.

I’m not necessarily the most stable person you’ll ever meet. I bought a car with the sole purpose of picking up and leaving whenever I chose, for an hour or a day, and am a casualty of wanderlust. I’ve surrounded myself with some of the best people I’ve ever met - people who are willing and able to bend and shift as I do, so that when I leave for a few days, I would think of them as home, knowing they’d still be there when I came back. Kind of like flavoured coffees (I’m sure my friends are thrilled by that comparison).

As I stood before my Second Cup, I realized that was what this place had become for me – a place for my mind to be able to leave on its own wanderlust, every morning for an hour, to come back afterwards to its safety, always warmly greeted. I never did get kicked out for loitering but, then again, I always did leave a tip.

I wish at least D had been there. It would have been nice to commiserate with a friend, though I was hardly the only one in shock and loss at the farewell sign on the Second Cup. Many stopped and either gazed in shock, swore, or gasped, and most of them wandered away as lost little children, wondering where they could get their much needed caffeine fix. It's nice not to grieve alone.

As I was leaving, the first snowflakes were falling from the skies, preparing to blanket us in white a whole month earlier than usual.

Experts were predicting a long and difficult winter.

They had no idea how right they would be.