Where I write

Where I write

May 17, 2013

A Trip to a Former Place and Time

During college, I lived in Denver just a few blocks from the Platte River. Behind the 1920s brick bungalow where I lived was Muddy's Coffee House. It served super strong coffee and home made pastries. The coffee shop was housed in a run down building with gorgeous high ceilings and creaky wood floors. It included a small book store, a shoe-box sized theater, and a shop which sold cheap jewelry, and kites. It was a mecca for young people like myself who wanted to get a caffeine buzz, hang out,  discuss the meaning of life, or at least what you thought the meaning of life was in your 20s, and sometimes study. The college was just down the hill. It buzzed with conversation and jazz music.

Though the expensive downtown high rises of Denver glittered a short distance away, the people who populated  Muddy's Coffee House until wee hours of the morning were young and broke and punkers or hippies who thought they would never sell out their souls to corporate America. Right.

I worked in the kite shop next to Muddy's. The kites hung from the ceiling and danced when breezes drifted through the door.  I drank a lot of coffee, did my homework, discussed books and love and life with people who drifted in the shop with steaming cups of coffee. I also played Scrabble with my boss, Marv. He beat me every time, but who cared as I was getting paid to play Scrabble. I was on the verge on graduating with my journalism degree, and the sky was the limit.

Now, twenty five years later, I look back at that time and wish I could revisit both Muddys and my younger self again. Don't we all have such a place or time like that where we felt as if anything was possible? I hope you do.

Muddy's is long gone, its building refurbished and now law offices. My former neighborhood in Denver is now high-priced apartments, young people who drive BMW's, and trendy, expensive restaurants, like any big city.
Maybe you can't go home again, but maybe, if you are lucky, you can find in your own backyard pieces of what you left behind or lost. Near downtown Phoenix is a funky coffee shop named JoBits. It's on 8th Street, and the neighborhood reminds me of what my old neighborhood in Denver once looked like, sorta run down. The building looks nothing like Muddy's, but the minute I walked inside it smelled the same. There were young, hippie looking people at the counter drinking coffee. Hip hop music was playing. Not my favorite, and  my aged body won't allow me to drink strong coffee anymore, but that's okay. I ordered hot tea and ate a delicious pecan walnut pastry. My friend Tracy and I sat outside beneath the trees and played Scrabble.
She beat me. We laughed and talked and I relaxed and found something in myself that I think I might have lost in my busy, ambitious life. The inside of the coffee house was shabby and odd and wonderful.
Don't see art work like that in Starbucks, do ya?
Across the street was a book store, Lawn Gnome Publishing. Not only do they sell lots of paperbacks, but they publish, as well. And yes it has a lot of adorable lawn gnomes on the sheleves beside the books.
We walked around the block and there were vintage clothing stores, inexpensive and run by bright and ambitious young people. Here is a picture of a garden between the sidewalk and the street, just a few blocks from Phoenix's high rise buildings. Gotta give the kids credit. In one of the backyards was a stage where they perform plays.
Sure, this wasn't Muddy's. I was in Phoenix. Not Denver. I'm not 24 anymore. Gasp Fooled ya, didn't I. Or maybe not. Still, on 8th Street I was reminded me of that time in my life when I felt as if all my goals and dreams would come true, when I was less fearful, more adventurous and rebellious. Any time I start worrying too much, forgetting my younger playful and risk-taking self, I just need to take a drive to downtown Phoenix. I age faster when I think too much about  retirement plans and health insurance instead of following my heart and writing dreams.
This was in front of one of the houses across from the coffee shop. Don't ask me why. I just love that it was. This street has no Homeowners Association, that is for sure.


Rita A. said...

What a great time. I almost felt like I was with you. What are the cross streets to this area?
You have me thinking about some places I used to go around ASU.
Thank you for the memories.

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Anonymous said...

I actually went to my old college hangout not too long ago. It still looks and feels exactly the same. Nice to know some things never change! :-)

SunsetCindi said...

We hung out at Ho Jo's in Ft. Lauderdale cause my tentmates and I worked all 3 shifts so we'd keep each other company when business was slow. The cook was an 'old' gal who chain smoked and fed us all constantly and the teenage busboy was enthralled by the tales of us 'older' girls. There were no worries, no bills, except the KOA fees and lots of beach to sleep off a hangover. If my Chevy ran out of gas, we left it there and hitchhiked home and came back when we had more tip money. Thanks for reminding me, that was one of the best years of my life!