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Old 12-29-2007, 10:23 AM   #1
jar
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What are your coffee related memories?

I was lucky enough to have lived during the period when many US cities were still a bundle of ethnic neighborhoods and coffee houses were THE place. In the Turkish neighborhood you found coffee so thick and sweet you ladled it, instead of pouring it. In the Italian neighborhood you found ornate steam espresso machines, glistening on the back counter and reflected in the shining mirror. In the Polish neighborhood you often found fruit syrups to add to your coffee, cherry or orange or raspberry or strawberry.

But none of those places was the Coffeehouse, the home of folk music and rebellion, of ideas and dispute punctuated by musical interludes that gave you time to reflect and often a new perspective.

One of my favorite Coffeehouses was Patches 15 Below.

The entry was down 15 steps into the basement of an old building, a single light extending from a stanchion above the door. Patches, of course, was Spotty Lickle (fullname Jarrett Spotswood Lickle) and he and his wife Liz ran a place with no alcohol or drugs, but great teas, coffees and entertainment. On poetry nights I would get up and make a fool of myself but for the other days of the week, the fare was folkmusic and the occasional jazz.

Patches was one of the television pioneers, originally appearing as a buckskin clad singer and story teller, later after moving to WBAL and WJZ to end up with almost a dozen different children's programs. In this time before Sesame Street, Liz's hand puppets and Patches' stories were a staple.

The coffee selections were not that broad and you were pretty much limited to coffee or espresso, but the atmosphere, the heady nature of the place and time all seemed to work together. That was a time when lots of folk were doing the coffee house circuits and I remember a young songwriter named John Denver as well as a young singer named Emmylou Harris stopping in. Another kid that came by on his way to the Cellar Door in DC was Don McLean.

But folk music faded away and the coffeehouses disappeared from the scene for awhile. The newest rebirth as Charbucks and an internet portal may even have a broader selection, but the feel and warmth of the 50-70's Coffehouse is gone.
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Old 01-07-2008, 02:22 PM   #2
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Not gone, just a little bit harder to find, and location is everything. I was in San Francisco on a project for 13 mos, and had a great little studio apartment on Divisadero St. Two easy walking blocks from my apt. is this great coffeehouse with a news stand inside, sofa's, round wood tables w/chairs, wood floors. Young University art students were servers, and yes poetry and acoustic nights were exciting yet most relaxing. Light food was served daily, with cold pesto pasta as the lunch special.

These coffeehouses are out there, but in a different time with todays upcoming artist's.

I personally enjoy a great mug of hot coffee with my morning cigar!

Vincent,
vinvango,
http://www.villagehumidor.blogspot.com
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Old 01-07-2008, 02:27 PM   #3
jar
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Originally Posted by Vincent
I personally enjoy a great mug of hot coffee with my morning cigar!

Vincent,
vinvango,
http://www.villagehumidor.blogspot.com
Well, fortunately back then we could still get Cubanos.
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Old 01-08-2008, 08:47 AM   #4
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My favorite coffee house was the Sugar Shack on University Ave in Lowell MA. I went to school at UMASS Lowell and lived in an apartment across the street from this coffee house. It was like many other coffee houses on college campuses; lost of couches that were old and mis-matched. People hung out all times of day to strudy, read or just hang out with friends. It was the people that ran it that were great.

The owners were a young couple whose names I have forgotten by now; but they always remembered their customers and I would start my day with a cup of their coffee and a good conversation with either of them. During holidays he would always have a little something extra to slip in my coffee, like bourbon or kahlua. The coffee wasn't fancy; but they made their own flavor blends and pushed the free trade stuff as much as possible. It was just a great place to start your day; or to get a recharge when studying at night.

The one day I remember most was the free cup of coffee challenge. My roomates and I were maybe their most loyal and frequent customers. For all frequent customers that had a Sugar Shack mug, refills were 1 dollar and subsequnet fills that day were a dime less each time; so if you had three fills that day; the third one was 80 cents. So one day my roomates and I tried to see who could get a free cup of coffee. Now these were pretty good size mugs; about 20oz's each. A regular cup of coffee is about 8oz's. Well I got bounced at about 5 refills, Ben was bounced at 6; Kevin bowed out at 4; but Tom, he got to about the 20 cent cup and did not look well at all. He may have lost his dinner at that cup; but we never got to the free cup. It is probably better for our stomachs that we didn't.

I still miss that place and wonder if it was my mom or wife that borrowed my last Sugar Shack coffee mug and forgot to bring it home (I had about 5 of them); but I will not forget that place. Good coffee; lite bites to eat; and great people to hang with. I wish I had one around here.
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Old 01-08-2008, 09:05 AM   #5
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I grew up in the only Christian family in a Jewish neighborhood. I guess I was in middle school before I found out that the lions didn't eat all the other Christians.

A few blocks north of our row house was the "Deli".

Now it was not like what passes throughout most of the country for a deli, this was a true Jewish Deli.

There was the great oak barrel of pickles and you stuck your hand down in the brine squeezing them to pick out the biggest, firmest pickle you could find. On the counter was the aluminum tray of Coddies (cod fish cakes) and saltines and folk helped themselves and snacked on them while browsing the store. I always suspected they were delivered on Mondays and Wednesdays and on Tuesdays and Thursdays they simply turned the uneaten ones over.

The rolls of fly paper hung from the ceiling as the big ceiling fans turned slowly giving the illusion of a breeze but mostly simply mixing the smells and the hot, humid air.

At the farmost rear corner of the Deli was an old wooden table littered with newspapers in Hebrew where older men gathered, some clean shaved, others bearded, all speaking at the same time in a mixture of English and Yiddish. Often in the mornings they would have a plate with a half eaten Bureka sitting in front of them and as their hands slapped the table the small white cups of coffee would dance in the saucers.

The Deli roasted their own beans and you could tell when coffee was being roasted from a block away. The whole neighborhood took on the air of expectancy when the coffee was roasting and people walking on the street raised their heads and sniffed the air, their destination forgotten as their paths converged for that cup of just roasted coffee.

As a kid, I was not allowed coffee, it would stunt my growth, but Mr. Blumberg would always give me a small glass filled with milk with just a touch of coffee added, and would tell me "don't let your parents see that" in a voice that everyone in the deli heard. But as a child, I knew it was "our secret" and I would take my glass to the back and sit at the end of the table trying to be as near invisible as a goy can be at a table filled with adults in a Talmudic Dispute.

Eventually mom and dad would call me and everyone at the table would stop talking and look at me. As I'd gulp down the last of my "coffee" and run to catch up I'd always hear someone at the table say "Such a good boy."

Little did they know.
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Old 01-08-2008, 09:38 AM   #6
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  • My coffee related memories goes back to when I was 5, or 1940, and having a cup of Folgers for breakfast with my Grandmother. The winter was cold, the fried salt pork or melted cheddar cheese and toast before the fire in the living room still lingers in my mind. Oh, we were on the Southern portion of the Staked Plains, a cattle town called Big Spring.
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Old 01-08-2008, 11:04 AM   #7
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My favorite coffee related memories all concern my Dad. We spent countless hours sitting in various coffee shops/greasy spoons discussing the fate of the universe. I really miss that and him. It seems that the "diner" is a dying breed and that "coffee" has turned into a solitary experience---sipping a latte and pecking on a laptop while listening to an iPod. I leave it to the reader to decide whether that is a good or bad development.
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Old 01-08-2008, 08:15 PM   #8
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I miss diners and I miss the Jukeboxes. As a child I remember standing watching in amazement as the arm picked out a record, put it on the spindle then for the needle arm to swing out, pause, then slowly drop down.

While the song played I would watch the bubbles course through the glass pipes and the lights change and play across the machine.

You could tell which songs were popular by which buttons had the numbers most worn. And if I was real good, maybe GPop would give me a quarter and let me play five whole songs.
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Old 01-10-2008, 04:57 PM   #9
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We had a real cool coffee house in my city when I was a kid during the late 60's. It was in the basement of an old heritage building on Broadway Avenue, and was called the Louis Riel (named after a famous Canadian folk heroe), and many famous people came to play there.

Idon't remember much about the cofee, but Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee came to our house after one of their concerts there.

Those really were the good old days.
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Old 01-10-2008, 05:08 PM   #10
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Ah. Brownie McGhee and Sonny's harmonica. Little Black Engine and Killing Floor. What a pair.
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Old 01-11-2008, 05:11 AM   #11
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I feel a lot younger than the current crowd in this thread, but i actually do have some coffee house memories....well one in particular stands out right now. Sitting in a coffee house in DeKalb, IL just this last summer, listening to some really good music provided by my friends band, and 2 others he knows. All acoustic until he went on, but they even had a lady come out of the crowd that someone there knew...i felt bad for her cuz she was so nervous, you could tell...but when she started singing....oh wow...she was like a siren, what a real suprise. We sat on the couch , my friend and i, b4 the show, discussing music projects we would like to work on. I helped them load in and break down...as a matter of fact...lol...during load in the owner showed up right b4 and wanted us to move a couch in...the very one we sat on and enjoyed later, so we took the couch out of the horse trailer, though i dont think a horse ever stepped foot in it, it was clean, and moved this L shaped couch and chair... leather, soft, heavy. That was a night i wont soon forget....wonderfull music by all artists, great coffee, good people, great times.
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Old 02-01-2008, 07:37 AM   #12
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Growing up in a big city during the 40s and 50s was wonderful. At that time a child could still go most anywhere and be safe, no one hurt children, it just wasn't done.

My fathers office was in what at one time been the carriage house for one of the town houses that sat around Mt. Vernon Place and often he would take me to work with him. Sitting in an Insurance office with parents and grand-parents and aunts was not the most exciting thing in the world, particularly when you are seven or eight and there is a whole world waiting just outside so after the first hour or so I'd ask if I could go exploring.

Mt. Vernon Place itself is a great cross with the Washington Monument (the first one dedicated to George Washington in the Nation) at the center. It had a circular stairs inside (that always smelled bad) and you could climb the worn steps to the top and look out over the roofs of the buildings to the harbor down the bottom of the hill.

The Square was filled with statues and building with beautiful windows and pools and fountains and places to explore.

Then there was the Peabody Conservatory and Library.

The Peabody sat on south side of the square and you could hear the students practicing their music from the open windows, an enticing cacophony of scales and songs and the rap rap rap "No!" of the teachers. As you entered the front door there were often exhibits on the left and the 'information desk' where you always had to stop before you could go look at any of the books.

When I first went there they lady at the desk said I was too little to go into the "Stacks" where the books were kept. "How big do I need to be?", I asked.

"Well", she said, "You need to be tall enough to see over this counter."

So I found an old wooden milk crate and dragged it all the way over and stood on it and was tall enough to see over the counter and she said if I really wanted to read the books that much I must be old enough. But the stacks were way too high and sometimes you had to walk right near the edge and there was just a rail and I was scared and so the lady would come with me and hold my hand and help me find the book and I would take it down to the tables and read it and always take it back to the desk when I finished.

At the very bottom of the hill was the harbor and the boats came in and docked at Pratt St and along Light St. On the corner of Pratt and Light streets sat McCormick and Company, the spice folk. When they processed spices the whole area smelled of cinnamon or clove or garlic or coffee or teas. I also wandered in there and they would let me take a tour and I got to see how they taste teas and try it myself and they gave me a little button I could wear on my collar that said I was a tea taster and that I could slurp when I was tasting but not all the time or at the dinner table when there were guests.
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Old 02-03-2008, 12:12 PM   #13
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my favorite coffee story took place in a small park in downtown PITTSBURGH , I was teaching at the culinary school & had a 2 hour break till my next class, insted of getting my stuff ready I thought it would be a great time for a cigar so I took a walk past all the hookers on Liberty ave & walked to sixth street & sat on a bench next o the fountain, I lit up my Fuente cannonie & then thought hey a cup of coffee would be great with this, so I placed the cigar on the bush beside the bench & went accross the street to HITES drug store, & got a large black coffee to go, when I got back to my cigar ther was an old man sitting there, tellingme he had found a fine cigar that some one had lit & just left it there, he was enjoying it so much I sat down wind of him & enjoyed the second hand smoke , we talked for about an hour & I went back to the job feeling all warm inside knowing that he had enjoyed his "find" , I went back the next day with 2 cigars but he was not there, I even took 2 coffees with me, but I was stuck drinking both of them, I went back many more times over the summer & fall, butI never met the old guy again, dont have any idea what happened to him or who he was, , the coffee was good but the conversation that day was great ! Enjoy, Vince
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