This place is as close to the womb as I’ve been since 1977. I’ve instructed my brother to scatter some of my ashes in one of the tree planters outside when I die, Health Code be damned.
I learned to drink coffee here in the fall of 2002, during my second year of law school. Full fat hazelnut cappuccinos in oversized Alice In Wonderland-style mugs twice a week after my Labor Law class. I went on to get an A in the course and, some 11 years later, still respond “I’m in labor relations” when strangers ask me what I do. Some would say I discovered my calling in this coffee shop. Maybe. Or maybe Labor just happened to be the subject I was studying when I discovered the wonders of espresso.
I moved from Manhattan upon graduation in 2004 and I have returned to the City fewer and fewer times with each passing year. But I still try to come here when I’m in town. It reminds me of a different time, when the entire universe seemed to revolve around grades and the imminent threat of another domestic terrorist attack. I wore chocolate suede Pumas, carried a beat-up leather backpack and read incessantly from 1500-page legal textbooks.
I’m a different me today, consumed with stock vests, wearing Prada sunglasses and carrying my Nikon in a Louis Vuitton handbag, nose perpetually pointed towards my iPhone. The 2002 me would be very impressed with the 2013 version. The 2013 version is less impressed with herself. But for some reason it all seems okay when I’m here.
Sometimes I wonder if anyone else feels the way that I do about this place. I wonder if anyone else thinks– believes in their soul that it belongs to them. Even 9 years later when the most efficient way to get here is by plane or train instead of on foot, I still consider it mine.
Full fat hazelnut cappuccinos gave way to those made with skim milk, which turned into lattes, and eventually to the plain old coffee with soy milk that I enjoy today. And so with the electric energy of this place surging through my veins, I make for the door. I don’t have class, 6 blocks to the southwest, and I no longer live 5 blocks due north. I’m a wanderer today, in a place I used to call home. And some days, pretend I still do.