February 28, 2010
I forgot to mention it amid all the excitement of buying a truck and shopping for a puppy, but my espresso machine came in yesterday.
Tonight, I am drinking one memory out of another.
In high school, I used to cut class and spend the afternoon hanging out at a gritty little coffeehouse with cobwebs on the ceiling, stains on the tablecloths, and a dusty, faded lava lamp sitting in a ring of dusty, faded plastic flowers on one of the tables near the counter.
The coffeehouse itself was pretty standard-issue, but the barista — a gray-haired man in his late 40s, with Parrish blue eyes and a gentle smile that reminded me vaguely of Mandy Patinkin — was anything but ordinary.
At a time when most adults just smiled indulgently and nodded at the right times, without really listening to what I was saying, Richard drew me into very grown-up political conversations and asked me very grown-up questions about what I believed and why. He made me think, and he made me feel as if my thoughts mattered. I will forever cherish those conversations with him.
Richard also taught me to use the espresso machine my father bought me for my birthday that year. I am forever indebted to him for troubleshooting my first few failed attempts at cappuccino and for showing me how to move the pitcher under the steam jet to make a nice, dense froth. I think of him and smile every time I taste that first sip of espresso filtered through foam.
The cappuccino you see in the picture is a double memory, because the mug is a souvenir from the Austin Motel, where my father and I stayed when he played SXSW to promote an acoustic album he’d just released on a little indie label in 1991. It was the first time I’d ever seen him in concert, and as I listened to his voice traverse the familiar notes of a song I’d heard on the radio a thousand times, I buried my face in my hands and sobbed, for reasons I cannot begin to explain.
Maybe I should design some souvenirs for the Tumbleweed. It’s nice to think that Coldwater might be a cherished part of someone else’s history.