Here I sit at Coffee People, corner of SW Salmon and Park in Portland, Oregon. It closes its doors on the twenty-ninth, so this is probably my last medium Velvet Hammer with whip to be had in the downtown area. Ah, the bitter sweet memories (and I’m not talking the mocha…)
My best friend at the time, Laurie, introduced me to this place in 1995. I only lived a few blocks away, so it became a favorite place to hang out with my wife and son. I didn’t get hooked on the Slamma Hamma that Laurie enjoyed, but the milder Velvet Hammer was mmmm mmmm nummy!
At that time in my life, I didn’t visit often. I was hip deep in airbrush illustrations rather than writing, so most of my off time was spent at home. However, after Laurie got a job elsewhere, it was the place to meet when we hung out together.
In early 1998, we left our apartment and the city for Spokane, Washington. I remember looking up Coffee People online, and emailing them. There weren’t any in Washington, and I wanted to know if they had plans to open any there. I never received a response, and it was a long, dry year I spent there.
The airbrush studio was shoved under the stairs in our itty bitty loft apartment, and the computer became my fixation instead of my art. That’s when I discovered the fanfic that changed my life. After reading all I could read, I yearned for more. No one else was writing what I wanted, so I began writing my own.
Upon my return to Portland in late ’98, I was working on Warlord Metal, hand writing each page when away, laboriously typing it into my Gateway computer when at home. I’d say at least one third of the novel was written at the back table of Coffee People. That winter was a cold, wet one, and I’d just come from a desert environment. Velvet Hammers warmed me through the rainy season. (I put an acknowledgement to Coffee People in Warlord Metal.)
The next novel CP witnessed was Tiopa Ki Lakota. Hel, every novel length story has had its day here. Some more than others, and each written differently as my finances and foibles changed over the years.
Coffee People has seen me writing long hand in spiral notebooks and on legal pads. It’s seen me using Graffitti as I wrote on my Palmie, then two different keyboards – wired and wireless – as my Palms were upgraded and replaced. Finally, it’s seen my iBook, which is what I’m using now to write.
From its windows, I’ve watched the Farmer’s Market set up and tear down on Wednesdays; I’ve seen the street people acting out their bizarre ways as they passed; I’ve chased a block after a woman when she left her purse on the table across from me, and watched a swishy young man with mascara get into a slap-fest with his boyfriend outside; strangers have come in to stare at me, as if they knew me, though I’d never seen them before.
The building next door is low income, and many of the residents hang around outside in summer, nursing a cup of coffee so they can sit at the outdoor tables. Across the street is the South Park Blocks where the market sets up, where children play, where punks hang out. That’s where Rickie Gardner hung in Only One. Down the street is PSU, and a lot of college students come through here, utilizing the tables for study groups and homework. Directly across the street is the theater – summer and evening concerts bring in tuxedos and dresses, though most of the patrons appear to be the orchestra rather than the spectators.
I’m really going to miss this place.