his piece was written by “Carl.”
I am looking out the window and I can see the broken street sign for “Valley of the Dolls” next door. Although I cannot be certain, it seems that there is a high degree of probability that the sign was broken out by some act of violence. Like most businesses along this stretch of SE 59th Street, “Valley of the Dolls” is a club in which women dance on stage before men who drink alcohol and scream their appreciation of the efforts of these women to entice them. The most remarkable place I have ever known is next door to the ‘Valley.’
This remarkable place is “Joe’s Addiction;” a coffee shop that is, by any estimation, much more than any other coffee shop I have ever seen. I arrived in Joe’s neighborhood on the evening of Friday, December 4th. The gentleman driving me to my new temporary residence pointed it out as we drove past and within hours of being dropped into my trailer I was there having coffee and listening to an amateur comedian make his first appearance before a live audience. I was immediately drawn to the environment and felt as if I had found a home away from home.
There was not the first hint of pretention or arrogance in any person there. In fact, I could feel the warmth of every person there embrace me as I walked in. It was a warmth that extended beyond what the thermostat on the wall could instruct the heater to provide. It was a warmth of humanity I had seldom known before, but am discovering exists in great amounts in places and people I never knew. As I slowly climb up from the inferno of my own making I have found this love to exist in more people than I ever expected. True, there are those who shall never see anything in me beyond the greatest mistake I could ever make, but I find more and more that those people are part of a minority over whom I cannot dwell if I am to once again become a valuable member of this society.
So, Friday night I walked into Joe’s and soon approached the woman at the counter as the comedian plied his vocation. I told her that I am a writer and have performed recitations of several of my works recently. I also told her that most of what I have written over the last few years is horror and inquired if I might be able to perform readings here. Of course she answered that they would want to review my material first, as this is a family-oriented business. I told her that would be perfect and that any profanity that may find its way in to any piece would be replaced with non-offensive language.
I could continue with the story of our conversation, but that is not the point of this piece. The point of this piece is to convey a feeling of the ambiance and sense of community the owners, employees, and regulars of his establishment are creating in a geographic area which could very easily find itself caught in a web of depression and hopelessness. The strip clubs that litter the landscape of this street may provide a few moments of arousal for their patrons, but these feelings are fleeting and are, in the end, detrimental to the overall health of the voyeur. What Joe’s Addiction provides is warmth and hope without judgment. They also provide one heck of a good cup of coffee.
I left Joe’s on Friday night at about 10:00 pm and was back there for coffee on Saturday morning at about 10:00 am. I was in there with a few other regular patrons for a couple of hours. The person working there told me they would be watching the Big XII Championship game later that night, but when I returned a little before 7:00 pm they were closed for the night. I was disappointed, but could not blame them. After all, this is a coffee shop, not a sports bar. I walked back to my temporary quarters and listened to the game on the radio.
Sunday morning arrived and I awoke a little later than I had the morning before. I looked at my scheduled calendar of events for the day and then went to Joe’s a little before 11:00 am. This is where the real revelation regarding this coffee house hit me. I walked in and there was a church service in progress. I couldn’t believe it. I smiled, entered, took a seat near the door and listened to the sermon. It was wonderful.
There was a band on the small stage and they were calling all of the children up to the front. They played about three songs and the entire congregation stood and participated. I did not sing, but stood through most of the performance. I was struck, seriously struck like a brick in my face by the sense of community these people had fostered. It was remarkable. I had a short conversation with the husband of the owner, John, and left soon thereafter. While we were talking he said a prayer for me and I will only leave it to your imagination what that meant to me. Oh yes, during the service the coffee and doughnuts were free.
That is a brief essay on my first three says of exposure to Joe’s Addiction. It is “A Most Remarkable Place.” Be there if you can; it will enrich your soul and help you find a bit of peace in this world. The coffee is excellent, but that is not their real commodity. Their real commodity is love, a sense of peace, a warmth the thermostat cannot provide, and a healthy serving of food for your soul.
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