Joe’s Cafe — and Here We Go Again

[Part 1 — Word count: 372. Approximate read time: 2 minutes]
[Part 2 — Word count: 333. Approximate read time: 2 minutes]

1. Joe’s Café


“We were unbreakable. We were like rock and roll.
—Janelle Monae

Breakfast from Joe’s Café just does something for me. Its tight crew of bright-faced, happy people prepare food like they know how special it is. The place is hard not to like. Light fixtures made out of colanders and cheese graters. Whimsical chalk-drawn menus. There’s love in the details.

The staff seems focused and confident as they move about in a small kitchen space openly visible from the dining area. It’s crowded, but the 7 or 8 of them are comfortable as they graze (but never bump) each other. The chaos is almost choreographed.

You get the impression they work there because they choose to, not because they have to. Each one exudes self-assurance. They are experts. Their positions seem menial now—frying, slicing, cleaning, serving—but you sense that they are all destined for great things.

They linger and socialize a bit even after their portion of responsibility is complete. Laughing, kidding, enjoying each other’s company, like family. There are details in their love. The line to order luxurious, berries-and-cream-stacked waffles is dense, and snakes around brushed-steel tables to extend out the door. Clearly the demand outweighs their ability to satisfy.

I worked at a place like this before. One of the best experiences of my life. It’s a precious time that, though you wish otherwise, is not meant to last. This café will probably expand to a bigger space. If demand continues to grow, they may franchise. The bigger it gets, the less it will look like what it does now.

One day, every one may have a Joe’s Café. But today I see it in its infancy, adoringly. Those who ate here or worked here will later tell anecdotes that end with “but you had to be there.” This snapshot in time… of these people, in this place, doing their special thing… will linger in my memory, but it will never repeat.

It will never repeat. Not even if you want it to.

If I think about that too long, I get sad. So instead I ask the cashier with the dirty blonde hair and kind smile, “Can I have a to-go box? I’d like to take this with me.”


2. Here We Go Again

“Can you tell I’ve been hurt so? Can you tell I want to lay low?”
—Amel Larrieux, “We Can Be New

One thing I heard over and over from the girl I was dating was to stop expecting her to repeat the actions of every other girl I’ve ever dated. I understand her plea. But if you don’t learn from your experiences, you have to repeat them. Not if I have anything to do with it. Some experiences are unpleasant enough that you only want to have them once.

All of that paradox comes to the fore when I visit a new church my friends started. I tried to warn them what happens to pastors, but they wouldn’t listen. However, the loving newness of this nucleus people reminds me of the church I co-founded over a decade ago. Every thing is fascinating and pure and smooth like young, unabraded skin. elmyra

Such things are cute in their infancy. Have you ever seen video of a lion cub? Nothing is more adorable, cloying and coo-worthy. As they frolic and play, we find them sugary sweet and we just want to adopt one and pet it and love it and hug it and play with it forever. But I’m no Elmyra Duff. I can’t look at that and ignore that it will—in mere months—grow into something that can maul you.

Though attending a church at this stage of growth is alluring, there are triggers everywhere for me. I’ve lived through this once. I’ve experienced some of the best and worst of what organized religion can become.

But the girl was right. One thing I learned from that relationship was that sometimes you have to take a risk. A gamble is not a guarantee that everything will go wrong; it could be the first step toward your greatest success. May that hope transplant itself to this nascent house of worship, even as each Sunday’s flashbacks send me bolting for the door before the service has officially dismissed.


Other Junkyard Salvation articles:

  • Low Self-Esteem and One Other Option (May 22, 2014) — Rather than let low self-esteem prevent the best successes in my life from happening, I’ve started actively fighting back against it.
  • Going Back To My Ex (September 8, 2013) — Here’s a fun musing on some things to consider before you decide to reunite with an ex.
  • Dreams and False Alarms (June 3, 2014) — Relationships don’t always go like you want them to, but here’s how I made the best of a situation that wasn’t.
  • Maya Angelou Taught Me Too (June 1, 2014) — One of the most important beliefs I hold about how we should conduct ourselves spiritually was touched off by a thought-provoking quote I heard from the late author/poet at a critical time.
  • Am I Still A Christian? (May 30, 2014) — The Bible says you will know a tree by its fruit. Good trees bear good fruit, bad trees bear bad fruit. But what if you have no fruit at all? What are you?

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