I’ve never gone anywhere that I was expected to eat or drink at some point and NOT tried someone new, off the beaten path or simply unexpected. Some folk get very nervous when they try new things. They shy away from the third page of the local Japanese restaurant. Run out the room when the barista offers a new concoction she has been toiling over. Scream with terror when the menu comes out and it’s in three languages, none your own, and then won’t order anything but a burger.
Me. I gravitate to those things.
Enter my swollen feet to the streets of Seattle. I cannot tell you how much I was looking forward to this trip. The distance and the mountains as I peered at them with the side eye from my seat not withstanding, I couldn’t wait to get off the airplane and drink my way across the city. Only thing I didn’t know was if the hype was just that. Thankfully it was not just hype. I’m pleased to report that the coffee culture that is, is. The even better news is that the evil empire known around here as Starbucks has NOT crushed all the mom and pops. The Top Pots, Cherry Street and Yellow Leaf Cupcakes of the metropolis are alive and well.
The thing that has always made me happiest is knowing that there are small town and city street hidden gems of places. The kinds of gems that don’t advertise. Mostly because they can’t afford to. Don’t put on airs. Mostly because they don’t have to. They are simply good at what they do. They serve donuts. Coffee. Sandwiches. Experiences. Joy. In abundance and gleefully. They get as happy as I am when I waltz through the door, plunk down a few bucks and slurp, slurp, slurp! The espressos I’ve imbibed, the cups of joe I’ve consumed, the glasses of bourbon I’ve gladly sipped have told me that there is joy yet in the world. A joy that is not found in thrill seeking or getting away with”it”. It’s a simple joy found by returning to the basics. Put on my shoes, sling on my pack, juice up my iPad and away I go.
Sure, I went to Mecca (Starbucks), because it’s like required reading in ninth grade. But that is absolutely not where I stopped. That was only a start. I traveled the coffee culture scene by word of mouth, eves dropping and general nosiness. And I have no regrets.
This won’t be a long blog. I’m a little too hype on coffee and espresso to focus for long. But I’ll say this.
No matter what your journey is. Whether you are sampling unpronounceable foods or exotic drinks. Back alley bookstores or word of mouth directors studio sized movie houses. Garden apartment parties or libraries that are sheer palaces to the literate. Do not rent a car. Not take a taxi. Do not buy a bus pass. Walk or bike to these places. You will smell the neighborhoods. You will learn much about your chosen destination. Ever so much more than if you simply drove there.
I mean I’m not slow. I know you’ll have to travel to some locations by transportation of one kind or another. But once you’ve been dropped off: don’t hide behind glass and steel on wheels. Let your ears hear. Your eyes see. Your nose sniff. The world is still very much alive with humans. They all love to chat and share their stories with you. And sometimes, just sometimes, the stories are worth slowing down a bit and listening to over a cup of ground beans made palatable with a bit of hot water.
Let me borrow: stay thirsty, my friends.