February 11, 2001 03:44 PM

My coffeehouse is a paint shop.
My coffeehouse is a paint shop.
My coffeehouse is a...

It opened my sophomore year of high school. The year I had terrible hair. Before I could even drive. But it didn't take on its role as personal landmark until senior year.

The staff all were artists, played in bands; were, we thought, us in the future. We were art kids. And it was a landmark. The touchstone, where we gathered before and after everything. All directions were from the coffeehouse. For parties, we caravaned. For movies at the arthouse theatre. For driving all the way across town to the beach and back, or to Sandbridge.

Their house salad had chevre in it. It wasn't just a kid-centered dive; it was a good restaurant. And they published the coffee menu weeks in advance. So you could know. That you had to be there on Thursday for the Kenya. Which was my favorite.

Most of the worst things I remember from that time happened there. Histrionic confrontations 'r' us. That's it. I can still see myself being talked out of my furious shaking by traitorous merlin boy during one such confrontation. But mostly I see us sitting outside with our coffee and our cigarettes long after the sun set on summer nights. Exactly who is there changes, but it's always just "us" to remember. Meaning the four of us, and the people who touched us.

I haven't been there in years. I have a new coffeehouse; I drive 20 minutes out of town to get to it. But. That place was a living monument. Once the physical center of my life.

And it's a paint shop. Damn.

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