Ha! Just barely beat the deadline! Betcha thought I forgot all about this column today, didn’t ya?! What’s that? You hadn’t even noticed I post this every week on Thursday? You… hadn’t even…. thought about it today?……. Man, you guys are such kidders! Ya really had me going there! Anywho, as things have been today, I’ve been pretty busy. Stayed up ’til 5AM playing Final Fantasy Origins, so I woke up around noon. By that time, the drunken nimrod who I endearingly call brother had already taken root in front of the computer. By the time I got to it, I was already mapping my route around town today. Much running to do. All done now though, got home around 8:30. Guess what though. I have no idea what I’m gonna write about. That’s right. This late into the day, I’ve had all week to think about it, and I got nothin’. Well, I got something. I got a few stories I’ve been meaning to tell, just don’t know which one to use. Hmm…. It’ll come to me eventually, don’t worry. Hmm….. I know. Maybe someone sent me something so I won’t have to write it this week! *checks email* ….Nope. Hmm….. Ya know, I think I got it!
“Mr. Coffee” by Lagwagon
“Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place….” A pointless phrase to most, but to my little clique, it’s a phrase that draws up images of fantasy. An idea, a hope, a dream. A plan. Yes, a plan. But where do we start….
You talk to most any kid, any adolescent really, and they’ll tell you their town sucks. Their town is boring and there’s nothing to do. Most anyone you could meet will tell you that. Such was the case with West Bend, my town. Technically, I live in Barton, but Barton doesn’t have a post office, so all addressing for mailing purposes in the area is West Bend. In a city of 25,000 you’d think there’d be a lot to do. Sure, a coupla parks, two bowling alleys, a skating rink, a card shop/arcade, and Stocky’s Go-Kart track if ya got the money. No real hangouts though. Around 9 o’ clock most anybody looking for something to do is either cruising up and down Main Street, sitting at a friend’s house where they’re drinking or getting smoked up, or you do what we did. Get caffeinated.
In 2000, there were about 9 places to sit down and have coffee. Morning Glory was only open during school hours, to keep those damn kids out. St. Somewhere, which was very upscale and yuppie. Pinewood was more of a family restaurant, on the edge of town with high prices in some categories. Jumpin’ Java was more for the trendy kids. And then there were the diners. Sandy’s Barton Cafe was nice and we’d visit when we were up, seeing as they open at 4:30 in the morning and close shortly after noon. Perkins is good, though kind of on the edge of town and prices are a little high. Omicron, I like, but for me it’s more of a winter store; warm, comfy, more of a happy family atmosphere. Denny’s den was nice and cheap and the food was good. But the latter three all had the same problem. Sometime during the night, they’d close, not to open their doors again until morning’s light.
That’s why we chose George Webb’s as our hang out. Nice diner atmosphere, moderately priced food, excellent coffee, and all while staying open around the clock. We’d sit there for hours at a time, just a coffee, maybe some fries. We’d sit there with our friends and just chat it up all night. As sad and pathetic as that sounds, that was our fun. Getting together over a cup of coffee and just talking. But, all good things never last. Webb’s began having a higher traffic rate, and as such, more rules had to be enforced. First, you could only sit there for an hour tops. Then, they said you had to order more than coffee if you wanted to sit there that long. Then you had to spend a certain amount ($5 I believe) in order to stay that long. Lastly, they limited the “bottomless” coffee. More and more of the patrons were getting displeased, particularly the younger crowd. I’d begun hearing stories of people who’d been kicked out. For causing trouble, that I can understand. But for coming in with someone who had caused trouble, or for that matter, looking/dressing similar to that person, was absolutley ludicrous. In particular the “punk” crowd was targeted.
Our place was no longer our place. It had changed. We still came in all the time though. What else is open at midnight in this town? Wal-Mart and one gas station. That’s it. Jay (Aki’s brother) and I were frequent customers at this time of the night. We did have another favorite cafe though, and that was Fuel down in Milwaukee. It’s a wonderful place. Fliers and posters on the windows, patron art on the walls, patchwork tables and chairs, music playing over the system by some band most people would never know the name of, copies of The Onion in abundant supply, and bathrooms covered in grafitti which almost seemed to have been promoted by the owners. Fuckin’ awesome place, ’nuff said.
So there we sat at Webb’s. Another night, another pot of coffee. We began to talk about how cool it would be if there was a similar place to Fuel in town. “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place….”, we mused. We began listing everything that we thought would be awesome in a coffee shop. Jay began taking notes as we came up with more and more ideas for this dream joint.
-Music would be operated through a computer. A whole hardrive dedicated to mp3s. We’d leave an accessible playlist and charge for requests to play. A little more to put mp3s of your own on the computer.
-Open 24/7, naturally.
-Specialty foods depending on who’s cooking.
-The Wall of Souls. Basically offer people a chance to selling their souls and posting them on the wall.
-Our own Zine, where patrons could submit their works and we’d publish them.
My favorite idea was a little something I whipped up. If the place was a hit, like everyone who came there liked it, there’d naturally be questions about getting a job there. That’s where the auditions came in. Basically, submit our applicants to a series of torture tests and the winner got the job. My favorite idea in regards to this was holding a race across Regner Park while dressed in full scuba gear. Woulda been great fun. A while later the topic came up again. Jay pulled out the notes he took and we began talking about all we had thought up. It was only a matter of time before someone said it. “Why don’t we do it?”
And so we assembled. Myself, Jay, Tim, Musse, Sam, Tia and a few others. We had the plans on paper, we just had to figure out how to put them into motion. We began asking around town and started hammering out the who, what, where and when. Asking the restaurants where they bought their product from, mapping out more ideas, and of course, looking for a store front. As it was, there were two places downtown that were open for a new business to move in. One, a narrow shop with a large backroom. The other was much more spacious, so naturally we prefered it. We all started the job hunt and organized a request for a loan. We were gonna make it happen. It was well within our grasp. Sure it’d be a lot of work but together we could pull it off. Musse got to talking with his dad though, and his dad told him just how much it was gonna cost. Aside from the store, there was also the matter of insurance to worry about. Musse was our financial key stone and he backed out.
From there it all just fell apart. Morale went down the toilet. It was talked about less and less. We did meet someone however who had promised us he’d pay for the store front. Ya see, he was gonna get a country singing contract. He didn’t like singing country but that’s what he was good at. He had a bus ride down to Nashville in a few weeks. Oh yeah, I left out the part where dude’s a compulsive liar. Seriously, I haven’t met a more dishonest man ever.
And so there it is. A group of kids with a dream. A dream that never came true. I still remember the feeling of hope that we had, how we were certain that we could do it. And ya know, maybe some day, we still will.
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