Palm Coast Coffee

St. Simons, Georgia

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As a lad I grew up at the beach, on a barrier island astride the Atlantic Ocean along Central Florida. All the memories of my childhood are infused at some level with blinding white sun, the smell of salted air, flat topography, and a sense of ease that comes with the slow pace of seaside life. There were elements of exertion and tension, yet, I distinctly remember saying, well into adolescence, that I did not know what stress was.

Palm Coast Coffee

Although visiting with an out-of-control horde of extended family, I desired Saint Simon’s Island to revive this olfactory idealism in my landlock’d urban skull; I sought the resuscitation of a portion of my childhood that had been squelched by responsibility, by routine, by the city, by the ticking of time away from my lifeclock and the self-imposed deadlines for greatness, and by mug upon mug of viscous and chalky soy’d coffee. Coffee carried me into maturity and quelled the gentle fires of youthful contentment, it was an urban elixir, in that it created, even in the absence of grids and towers, the frenetic energies that coagulated to make the city.

Palm Coast Coffee

Coffee can take on different roles when one is travelling. On Saint Simon’s Island it seemed an aside, an alien presence in the reemerging scape of my youthful recollections, yet, as foreign presences began to creep into this idealized community in the form of dysfunctional extended families, coffee loomed as an escape. We made the decision to use a trip to Palm Coast Coffee as our vehicle for soaking up some tranquil hours on the island, to cast off familial obligations. We made the mistake of asking those we were obliged to to give us a ride there. As we pulled out of our compound I knew we were immediately in trouble when the male driver took a left, toward the north end of the island, rather than the southern tip where we had asked to be deposited. We cruised nonchalantly on as I kept the mistake foolishly silent. During the trip I was bombarded with insults from the emboldened children, so different than ones who would have been bred in this idle milieu, such as “you look like a girl”, “do you have hair on your butt”, and “you are stupid looking.” I toyed with the idea of leaping from the moving minivan but we finally came to a halt and the woman passenger began to berate and humiliate the driver, who then began to grow defensive and humiliated. Even though I loathed his oblivion at that moment I felt a need to keep the peace in order to make it to the coffee shop. When the woman turned around to tell me “I guess you can tell we have been married a while and have not talked much” I just clenched my teeth. When the man said “See what you have to look forward to!” all I could think about was exploding minivans and warm bone coloured mugs of coffee. My childhood, transmuted to this contemporary island, now retroactively contained stress and dysfunction and I hated them for polluting it.

The physical entrance of coffee into the scenario heightened that corruption of my beach memories. Coffee is alien to the beach. Coffee should not be consumed: whilst wearing shorts, in sight of folks with sand stuck to their knees, in blinding white sun, in this tepid reenactment of childhood. There were no coffee establishments near the beach when I was growing up, and although Palm Coast Coffee could not have made the introduction of this anomaly any more palatable with its domestic isolation, it felt like a discrepancy. It was not the place, but the act of publickly drinking coffee that brought another layer of tension down upon the corrupted memories I was revisiting.

Palm Coast Coffee

On the front porch the salty smelling air overtook the aroma of the coffee. It had the capacity to do something all of the reminiscing and conjuring up of ancient sensations had failed to do and would always fail to do, it physically transported me. I was not however transported to the Florida coast, or idyllic summers spent waiting for the tides to change, but I was transported to a present in which that past acknowledged who I had become. It did not lash out at these bickering strangers, at the false towers rising from the coffee, or the heretical consumption of coffee in sight of the Atlantic Ocean. It allowed me to understand the preciousness of those quiet summers, that they were safe from me and the coffee, that nothing physical could ever affect them, and that I was free to create something new out of these experiences at this beach, in this time.

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Palm Coast Coffee

318 Mallery St
St. Simons, Georgia 31522

2 Responses to “Palm Coast Coffee”

  1. Jules

    Ha! You just had me cracking up… from the turn headed towards the north end, on…
    I just moved from ssi 5 months ago, though i am heading back for a reunion of sorts this weekend…
    i will pass your blog along to the owners of palm coast. i think they will get a kick out of it.
    all the best!

  2. Marmax

    Thank you for this. I would call the piece “beautiful,” but that does not do it justice. It is soulful and life-affirming, and I rarely use the latter phrase. Thank you.

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