SoNo Caffeine

Norwalk, Connecticut

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I have roots in New England but they are that: roots (buried and distant). I sense an affinity for the region or at least some historical connection that is either received or misapplied. One thing I have never felt about the region is ownership. It takes me very little time to feel like I have my feelers into a place, a geographic confidence, and some sort of observational baseline from which to string out analogies and sort memories. New England has always been a place that others have given to me but I still have never reined in. So on my second visit ever to Connecticut my aimless experiences were stolen by the obligations of a family wedding and the first words spoken to me on the trip: “We haven’t seen you since you got sick with the flu in our attic room (the other time I had been in Connecticut).”

Norwalk, Connecticut

Luckily, traveling in the company of my father always provides at least the occasion of support for my coffee endeavours. That could be one small fragment of a region to clip out and scrap in my memory. As has become my habit I researched in advance some joints in Norwalk and New Haven, the two towns we would be hitting. And, as has become a curse of mine, the two shops I had highlighted in Norwalk were both closed. At least one of them was. The other address led me to a house with a sign that read ‘private property’ and lacked nothing save a shotgun wielding rocking chair bound hillbilly to dissuade entrance. With my parents in tow and options for a morning beverage leaning back to the autodrip machine in the motel room, I stepped out of myself and asked a dog walking betighted woman on the corner of Washington Street where there was a good cup of coffee to be had. She pointed almost directly over her head to a carved sign reading ‘Caffeine’ and spoke the word “Caffeine” before smiling and trotting off with her pup. I told myself to start calling ahead to coffeeshops I found on Google and we parked the car right in front of Caffeine.

In new coffeeshops I feel like I see almost purely in analogy. I can’t blame my tired methods of observation on New England and my resentment of received experiences and memories. I have been to Quincy, MA a number of times, but my experiences are funneled through memorial tours of where my father used to buy cigarettes as a teenager or where the train tracks were that separated my mother’s blue collar neighborhood from my father’s white collar neighborhood. I have been to Boston scores of times, but never alone or without a detailed T itinerary from my uncle who drove a trolley on the green line. So if one were to read through other entries under my name on this site to find ‘this coffeeshop is like this’ or ‘this coffeeshop is as this as this’ then please blame me for them and not these observations because I have relinquished control over my reception of New England. Everything is something of somebody else’s.

SoNo Caffeine

Maybe that sort of provincialism is rampant for all things in New England. I will never know, but Caffeine was ‘like’ all sorts of things. In an effort to relieve myself of writing all the sentences that would cradle the analogies in repetitive and potentially uselessly purple language, I will just make a catalogue. Chandlery, wine cellar, boudoir, Veronese bistro, Medievalworld, stately pleasuredome, seraglio, nighttown, pillowfort, hash den, high-end kitchen good store, crypt, lighting showroom. Sure the peeling plaster and exposed brick seemed staged and awkwardly frozen in process, but the place was frozen as something other than a coffeeshop, which in the run together stretch of thrift store couches and bad encaustic art that seem to make a place a coffeeshop, this furious attention to atmosphere places Caffeine in a niche alone.

SoNo Caffeine

When I look at the pictures again, I smell cypress, Spanish moss, plaster. I am warmed by candle decked chandeliers, and I lay back onto a pillow to drink murky Turkish coffee out of a metal cup. It was all mine for a moment, cubbied away in Caffeine. We stepped back out into the blinding south coastal sun and the warmth and evocative palette of Caffeine burned away back into the tired traditions of someone else’s city and someone else’s dry documentary placenames. Although most of my entries seem to be about how I could turn a public place into a place of my own, the twist of happening upon this place in the mnemonic blackhole that is New England was quite special. But shit, I guess I have to give it up to the lady with the dog. You just can’t win.

Norwalk, Connecticut


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SoNo Caffeine

133 Washington Street
Norwalk, Connecticut 06854
http://www.sonocaffeine.com/


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