A coffee shop. Strangeness. Coincidence. Crossroads. Caffeine. Magic. Honeysuckle and jasmine.
Some rememberings of Caffe Pergolesi in Santa Cruz, California, during the mid '80s and '90s. A coffeehouse with a porch and cobbled-stone outside seating and back porch. Inside is four rooms for sitting, Two Tardis phone booths (which only cost a nickel or dime for phone calls), a below-stairs cubby. There is an apartment upstairs and i'd been up there a few times, almost went in on renting it for a brief moment; it's pretty nice, comfy, a round window in the living room area over the front bit, the rest all puzzle boxed with sugarcube-sized bedrooms. The back porch was my favored spot, jasmine bush canopy overhead, porch surrounded by honeysuckle bushes, small wooden tables and one big round wooden table perfect for hiding and spreading books and notebooks and tobacco and coffee and water and a couple more people around. Spring and summer back there is astounding. Front area was a good spot too, the tall palm... Having spent much time there, and having had many long conversations, animated and rich, meeting a myriad of people from all walks, it was where I developed into a personality.
I had very rarely traveled, but via that cafe learned, heard, envisioned a hundred countries. After the summer tourist season came the travellers, those who had the time to tarry. The Arabian, Asian, Aussie, European, spending time in my town, and mornings through evenings waystationing at the cafe. There's been two times when I've attended the ceremony of people marrying someone they'd met at Perg's for citizenship.
At first the cafe was a place to waste time reading and writing. Over time, just by being there, I met all sorts of people, many becoming friends, many changing my life and soul, many inexplicably bending my ear with tales, problems, outrageousness, creatisms... I became a 'scratching post', and also wailed out my inner turmoils a number of times to whatever unfortunate acquaintance asked me how I was. I always drank tea, until two other regulars there and an employee and I got a house together; then every employee there -- already plying me with tea, cider, italian sodas -- also tested new coffee experiments on me, and since then I can't get away from coffee...
Ok, I'm scittering, as memories start pouring in. Click and thwam. If I start with one person, I feel I could go on a thousand tangents, with people and events sparking across the varying crossroads I've mentally paused at. I'll just write about two people below.
Eventually, I was the guy in black clothes who always had something to read or write on, an extra smoke, and who blew smoke bubbles. A friend reminded me once that the first time I met her on the back porch I gilded her third eye with gold dust and read Willam Carlos Williams to her. Most people there that I was introduced to would comment that they'd always seen me around, but that I always looked too focused reading or writing.
Sometimes, I could sit there and spew out yards of words in notebooks. I'd scribble down bits and pieces, journal sporadically (mostly my dreams), bleed a phrase or sneeze a pome onto a page, start and stop novels, and constantly fiddle with short stories over and over. More likely, I would sit and scratch my head and read some newspapers and smoke another cigarette, order another coffee, eavesdrop on conversations, have another smoke, doodle a little flower, get in a conversation with someone about tofu scrambles or the act of writing, read more of my book and closing time arrives and I look down and all I've written is 'enuff bits of your soul to make a cat' and 'ice cream has no bones'. My hair grew three feet long, and a beret attached itself on top. Procrastination in atmosphere are nine tenths of my style.
When I moved to Oregon, although I never realized it then, I surely left a strong identity behind. A ghost remains, however: There was a time when I made piles of arty postcards and bookmarks and stickers during a Copyshop job and often passed many to employees there, a few still adorning a back wall, and succinct corners. New regulars, I've found when revisiting, have continued the bubble tradition...
Honeysuckle and Jasmine
My first clear memory of Perg's involves fortunetelling. They used to sell their tea loose, in hottles, from which you'd pour into a cup. Oh, that was delicious tea! Unfurled jasmine blossoms or leathery Earl Grey.
This is more a memory of who I was with rather than what happened. Namely, Kelley and her sister, whose name I've forgotten. Kelley was subtly encouraging the two of us together and I was ignorantly ignoring this, but blame it on mutual shyness. This was probably ten years ago, and I'd known Kelley for a few already. She'd just turned thirty, and I'd attended the party, her sister and I the youngest. We all wrote lines adding to poems on the wall under the subjects childhood, adventure, adulthood, etc.. We made masks for ourselves (mine was Cubist) and outside, wearing the masks, read the poems and then burned them, appreciating the vanilla smoke scent as they sparked into the sky.
A couple of years earlier, Kelley had given me my first leather jacket, grunged and falling apart and smelling of cat pee (I stitched it back together and adorned it with a myriad of catholic insignia and skeletons, wore it day in and day out until it frayed apart... some of it now adorning a mannequin in a garden, the rest as wrapping for planted pepper tree), throwing it at me during a concert on my birthday, the last vestiges of her punk rock life as Red, going around the world in it with lifelong lover. Twice.
I knew Kelley from the college newspaper, where she was trying to reforge a career, and exploring creative talent while transforming into someone very wise and 'down to earth.' and this late afternoon, as she read my fortune in the tea leaves, as she remembered her grandmother had done it, telling me of events in my future, she didn't see that very soon we would fall out of touch, as she went off to Africa for a few years to teach English...
Two more things about Kelley: she taught me how to roll cigs, and had this awesome white bulldog I had the pleasure of sitting for a few weeks, daily strolling him, er, him strolling me, down to the beach a block away and playing tug of war over driftwood.
no longer watching
It's a Spring afternoon and I'm on the front porch at Perg's zonking through comics. Had been up all night pounding up and down the beach all aggro about my coked-out girlfriend and knowing it was all over and I'd have to do something. Returning home that morning, I skipped school, collapsing on the couch and dreaming of sitting in an amphitheater watching metallic large creatures (humanoid Caterpillar like in Aliens, lobster clawed hermit crabs all orange and loomingclacking) creak and clank on the stage. On waking, I showered, changed clothes, and headed to the cafe. I wasn't there for more than a half hour when a tall thin brown-leather-hatted man clomped up the stairs and into the cafe, then out and over to me.
"Excuse me," he said politely, "but I wonder if you can help me remember a name." I'm actually one of the worst with names, but I decided to humor him, switching into my ever-so-helpful frame.
"It depends." He began to tell me of a girl he'd met earlier that day at the community college, and he had forgotten her name and --well, I interupted him, for I hadn't been at school that day.
"But you were sitting right in front of us!" he insisted. "Watching the Gamelan music in the amphitheater!"
I blinked, then asked him what I was wearing. He described the clothes I'd fallen asleep in. I hmmed and told him about not being in school that day, and where I had been and what I had been doing. So he sat down, and that was the beginning of a acquaintance through which sprang into many astounding adventures the following summer. This was Joop, a Dutch artist, rather loopy, with ideas about a way of living I hadn't really explored: following stepping stones into a real life of majick. I really only knew him for a few months, but it seemed like forever. That late afternoon we jumped into a deep conversation about the number eight as a twisted sphere and the crossroads on it, how the X of eternity is a portentious snapshot.
It is something I've lost hold of, that path, the encountering, the ease into wonder and forever moments. too much crash and burn, it is apparent, has made me wary. Instead there are brief forays.
I should reiterate why I mention meeting this person: it changed my life in very bad and good ways. half of me is still the shelled chick, not attempting to peck out into life. the other half is an emerged, open, honest participant in a world of great interest. Joop slammed me into interaction with the manic whacked fuckedup and alive world. After a summer of adventure with beauty, and meeting a lover who entered my life the following year, he introduced me to a young man who he thought was possessed by some shadow that haunted him, and my acquaintance with this man led to some very fucked in the head folk. I don't regret any of it (I do regret some of my choices later on); I learned a few lessons, gained some stories, lived and breathed instead of sitting and waiting. I just didn't ask for it.
All I wanted that spring afternoon was to read my comics, drink my coffee, and figure out what to do.