October 23, 2016

The Coffeehouse at Chestnut and Pine - A Short Story

- This is a truthful story about my weekend afternoon outing to a coffeehouse in Burlington, Wisconsin. -

Strapping my purse cautiously over my shoulder, I began my trek up Chestnut Street. I clutched my laptop to my chest to shield myself from the bitter autumn wind as I scurried across the road. My favorite coffee shop and I would be reunited in a matter of seconds.

Upon entering the coffeehouse, I was greeted by a barista. An apron covered her yellow shirt, and strands of her strawberry blonde hair mischievously escaped the captivity of her denim ball cap, falling whimsically around her face. “Hello!” she said, rapidly cleaning espresso machines and restocking cups. I returned her greeting and stood at the front of the empty line, contemplating my order. I was in the mood for something warm and sweet; anything but a mocha. Their mochas left a strange taste in my mouth.

The lovely barista complimented my periwinkle hair. I told her about my hair dyeing struggles, and how it was originally supposed to be purple. She told me she liked the hue and informed me of the time she tried to dye her naturally platinum hair blue, resulting in a not-so-lovely green color. She pointed at my khaki green anorak for reference.

After thanking the woman for my latte, I proceeded to look for a seat close to an outlet. It was time for me to write another blog post, and my computer would be of no use if it wasn’t charged. I wandered into the cozy, turquoise side room of the coffeehouse and chose a spot at the empty dinner table. I plugged in my laptop to a nearby outlet, hung my jacket over the back of my chair, and constructed my workspace for the night. Drinking my four dollars and seventy-seven cents worth of caramel-laced coffee, I opened my computer and began typing. The sound of clinking mugs and light chatter soothed my ears.

I watched as a group of men flowed in and out of the coffee shop, carrying various instruments and pieces of equipment. I assumed they were performers due to their attire. They wore stylish haircuts, button-down shirts, and tapered jeans to expose their fashion-forward footwear; it was the classic coffeehouse performer look.

To the left of me was a wall of windows looking out onto Pine Street. I watched as the people, cold hands in pockets, eagerly ran to their warm destinations. Some even found refuge in the coffee shop. Just as a mother and her baby walked past, the band started their sound check. My ears were flooded with the sound of guitar, accompanied by the odd shake of a tambourine.

Feeling secluded in the side room, I migrated to the main hall. I chose a wobbly table to the left of the stage and reestablished my makeshift workspace. Around me were four students, two middle-aged women, a family trio, and an elderly couple conversing with a woman who appeared to be their health consultant. I felt the judgemental eyes of the chattering, middle-aged women inspecting me as I typed away. Had they never seen a girl with blue hair before?

The three band members opened up a briefcase that would soon be transformed into their merchandise stand. They took turns rearranging the CDs, pins, and t-shirts in efforts to make the stand look appealing, leading to the eclipse of most of the thoughtfully stringed lights that had decorated the inside of the briefcase.

Waiting for the band allowed me plenty of time to look around. I had been to this coffee shop several times before, but new pieces of artwork were constantly appearing. On one wall, there was a collection called the ‘Barista Exhibit’. The collection was composed of several drawings, paintings, and photographs, ranging from a Caribbean sunset to lifelike skeleton sketches. There were a few abstract paintings that I couldn’t quite make out. Maybe that was the point.

The sound director lowered the lights and the band took their places onstage. They were called Kia Andersen and the Pickups. The guitarist began to strum, and the bassist and cajon/foot tambourine player soon followed. Their first song was a soothing number called ‘Monster Ballads’. By the time their set had finally started, the majority of the crowd had left. Myself and a man in his late fifties were the only people to applaud their first melody.

The band played a couple numbers and paused for a drink when from behind me, a man yelled, “Play some music, dammit!”. His demand was followed by a series of laughs. The audience was soon informed that the chuckling man was the bow-tied bassist’s father. The band member told us about their relation and introduced the crowd to the man’s female counterpart, his wife. The bassist told us about the couple’s recent wedding and stated, “If those crazy kids can find love, then maybe we can too.”

As the set went on and the sun went down, the crowd repopulated; this time, much livelier. The acoustic guitarist performed two songs by himself while the bassist lovingly heckled him from the crowd, where he sat with his family. The soloist announced that the band would be taking a 10-minute break, and I took that time to order myself a roasted veggie flatbread. The meal was composed of roasted peppers, mushrooms, artichokes, and supernal slices of mozzarella. It was my favorite item on the menu.

After a quick intermission and a rubbing of the bassist’s father’s bald head, the band resumed their set. At around 8:00pm, my dad arrived to keep me company. He thoroughly enjoyed the band’s music, and got a kick out of all their antics. I had a feeling he would like them.

During a slower number, the bassist’s parents rose from their seats and began dancing. The band played a handful of songs before calling it a night. By the end of the set, the band received the spirited applause they deserved.

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