Izzy’s Coffee Den

Asheville, North Carolina

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Autumn, near Halloween, in a strange town, strange to me and strange somewhat in its postured image for itself, on a Friday night and saturnine day, finds kooks aplenty roaming the streets. My colleague, who was in Seattle this same weekend, remarked that he saw people with the troll under the bridge made up and in costume, but who could say whether it was for Halloween or if he had in fact seen ‘the creature’ and its horde. In Asheville, the revelers were almost certainly of the seasonal ilk, and their self-conscious theatrics made for uncomfortable strolling but for delightful observation. Things were amiss, Bean Streets was gone, and of course, years in the grave, my beloved Interstate Motel only a memory. We stood in the window of Downtown Books & News late after closing looking for the cat who lived there and wondered whether bookstore cats actually live in the bookstores or whether they go to a home at night. He wasn’t there and we hypothesized that he had died in the couple of years since we had seen him last. Across the empty street lights were on in Izzy’s Coffee Den and I questioned whether I was ready for the new.

Izzy’s Coffee Den

A crowd filled Pritchard Park, awakening in the morning. The square was being dug up. Men strolled toward the park with their bed rolls, most likely emerging from behind our motel, and we made a beeline for the bookstore to see about the cat. After pretending to look at books I brought one up to the counter to look around for him. He usually laid around on the counter somewhere. There was no sign of him until my eye stopped on a picture frame on the wall. There was a picture of him and a plaster cast of his paw and some sort of eulogistic text with a date. He passed away just a few months short of our visit. Asheville was falling to pieces around me. My memories there, begun not so long ago but in the flesh of my life still buried quite deep, had become obscured by layers and layers of opaque years and by the new. I paid my respects to the man at the counter who shrugged me and my affinity for his cat off into the fall morning.

Izzy’s Coffee Den

It was time to start anew. Bean Streets was really not so great after all, was it? It was just there, and it felt oddly dusty in my memory. There always felt to be lacking a coffeeshop proper in Asheville. A place with some d.i.y. art on the walls, a place with concrete floors (were they?) and just enough seats and tables in just enough space to feel like you are floating in the mug or enveloped in a wing chair, a small personal place, a ‘den’ as they call it. Although the west morning light floated in coldly and the chairs were made of wire, it was a bit more on the mark and may have comforted folks from Satellite to Stumptown and in between. A small child sitting at the counter was put to work placing ‘Izzys’ stickers onto the paper cups and I wondered why the bookstore guy shrugged me off. He reminded me of me, but I would have graciously accepted the condolences of someone whose coat was clearly covered in cat fur. Maybe I didn’t belong there and the emotions didn’t belong to me, but over coffee as Izzy’s filled up, I felt a little bit like they did. I felt like the new wasn’t really the new, like I had seen it all before, and out it played.

Izzy’s Coffee Den

Autumn, near Halloween, in a strange town, in a strange coffeeshop on a saturnine day, finds kooks aplenty detailing their festive plans. Here is the new memory growing from the chatterix of the little shop, strange somewhat in her postured image for herself, a memory not really new because the people weren’t new, they were the same as those cats in Austin [Flipnotic –ed.] and by god they started talking about Austin, and about their costumes, and about their exploits and about the three parties they ‘had’ to go to and did they see what Josiah dressed up as, and did they know that Janine had packed up and moved to Austin and the place was getting smaller and smaller. I focused on the coffee and the tall woman left sowing silence behind her and I quickly forgot everything but what she had been yammering about.

I thought about Retail the cat, asleep on the counter of my memory and wondered if he would have remembered me.

Izzy’s Coffee Den


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Izzy’s Coffee Den

74 North Lexington Ave
Asheville, North Carolina 28801



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