05 June 2010


Overheard in my regular haunt just now:
Young guy: Even if I never do a comic, I'd be happy working as a freelance illustrator... I'd be happy living a modest life...
His friend: I think that's what people always say at our age.
Heh. Funny 'cause it's true.

Synergy, or something like it

Summer is here and life has slowed down, and I'm back to frequenting -- and thinking about -- coffee shops. It's a bad habit, I'll admit it.

I collect them, you see. Everywhere I go, I have to visit at least one independently owned coffee shop. Over the last few months I've been to several, in a few different cities -- Montreal, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Albany, NY -- in addition to my regular haunt. There are a couple that stand out as favorites: Caffè Art Java in Montreal, for example, or Tryst in Washington, DC. And they're great spots! The lure of people watching at Art Java is hard to resist, and the fact that you can buy alcohol at Tryst makes it a perfect evening hangout.

But there's one -- a time-honored favorite of mine -- that I've really been missing lately: the Someday Café in Somerville, MA. By some accounts it was a run-down, filthy, cliquey shop frequented by too many homeless people. By others it was a quirky, cool, edgy place that served as a seat of hope for artists and activists in Davis Square at the height of its hipness (much to my dismay, recent reports suggest that the hipness is fading away as business and activist alike are priced out and flee for the safety of the mothership of bohemian life, NYC).

I'm thinking back, trying to remember just why I loved the Someday so much. Maybe it was the storefront -- great big windows looking out onto Davis Square. Maybe it was its location beside the Somerville Theatre (which, at the time I knew it, was more of an art house joint than it seems to be these days). Or maybe it was just the vibe in Davis Square at the time.

Before I slip too far into the misty realms of nostalgia, I want to offer one thought: maybe (just maybe) what made it so great wasn't the combination of second-hand furniture, graffiti-covered bathrooms, local artists, and late hours. What the Someday had going for it wasn't just its fortunate accident of location, but also the peculiar combination of people who frequented it -- and the way people used the space. It wasn't unusual to see people playing chess or checkers, artists drawing for hours while their coffee went cold, and meeting after meeting of book clubs, gamers, and activists. I won't say that everyone coexisted peacefully, but most were respectful of one another.

Most importantly: if there was tension between the communities whose paths crossed there, that tension only seemed to fuel their relative desires to Do Great Things, even if those Great Things would have worked at cross purposes (though in my memory, that was rarely the case). I think, in short, what the Someday did best was harness the power of Being Seen that coffee shops tend to cultivate -- and turn it into a constructive, collective force.

And so a much belated R.I.P., Someday Café. No shop can replace you, but your spirit lives on. I'll be looking for it.