Calistoga Roastery

Calistoga, California

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gray kiser has told me about a curious phenomenon he has noticed in mexico. apparently every single place of business has a single step at its front door, no ramps, no warnings, no mercy! being somewhat of an architecture buff i found it very interesting but could not recall noticing it during my brief visit but thought it fit in pretty well with the sort of chaos tempered against old-world charm. perhaps it was a remnant from the days before storm sewers or from people swabbing their stoops, or perhaps it was the little touch that gave you the feeling of ‘entry’ into the place. whatever the root, it awakens a sort of nostalgia for simpler, less litigious and more human times. these days anywhere that has been able to preserve a walkable downtown of the mayberry ilk, no matter how theatrical and spurious, gives me the license to feel a little bit comfortable walking slower than my typical restless-leg-syndrome pace.

Calistoga Roastery

the calm of the town radiated out into the surrounding residential streets with some strolling cats. the most evocative feature of the town was certainly its resident haunted house. its attic windows knocked out, the perfect sky was visible through the shadowy split grey boards of the sagging mansard roof. an high fence surrounded the building, presumably to pen in the tide of the sun-bleached bones of children pouring from the ground floor windows. There was a shallow grave dug in the yard, no shitting. it was brilliantly sun lit, all day magic hour, and the kind of contrast that makes the dawn scene in ‘texas chainsaw massacre’ so rich, eerie yet idyllic.

Calistoga Roastery

what of the coffeehouse? i didnt rush there obviously. i let the redolent town do the work for it. although a commendable bastion against a surprisingly chainfree downtown, stepping into the roastery was a bit of a shock. the place was clearly the domain of the regular. in a tourist fueled downtown the regular must flex his status to avoid the embarrassment of being lumped in with the likes of me. nearly every table was full of idle regulars at 8am on a friday and the decor could best be described as tgi friday’s for the latte set with haphazardly placed signs like ‘beware of pickpockets and loose women’ but a fairly consistent furniture palette. it was not corporately orchestrated but it was a rough transition from the quietness of the street.

Calistoga Roastery

and then it was my turn at the tail end of the long line. the barista was an australian man who was clearly wired and clearly could not restrain his need to let you know he was wired. as i approached he crooned “nights in white satin.” not the whole song, just those four words. then i placed my order. he might have said “oi” and punched me in the face with a can of foster’s but his mania was overwhelmingly good natured. i am not a prick-fuck, but positive can be a fault, and i found myself overwhelmed both by the insistent community of the regulars and the counter shaking enthusiasm of the barista. certainly there must be a happy middle ground between the barista who makes you feel as clueless as an american in paris (satellite in west philadelphia) and this guy doing backflips while my soy milk steamed. i guess i have encountered those pleasant folks, they just dont stand out, as i would rather not do myself. so i receded toward the back, presumably handicap accessible, door as the barista sent me off singing “that was just a dream, i saw you there” which i believe was ‘losing my religion’ with same caffeinated improvisation. i took my drink into the alley.

Calistoga Roastery


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Calistoga Roastery

1426 Lincoln Ave
Calistoga, California



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CAFE TABLEAUX
is a compendium of literary, anecdotal musings on coffeeshop and cafe culture.
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