Last weekend I passed my time in Madrid, Spain, and let me tell you, it was one of the greatest places I’ve ever been. I know many would disagree with me, but hear me out.
Anyone who knows me even a little knows how much I love Dallas. The independent attitude and artistic vibe is so unique and has yet to be matched… until last weekend. Madrid was like a Spanish Dallas. A Spanish. Dallas. My favorite city in the world combined with the authenticity of the Spanish culture and language!? What more could I ask for?
Now I’ll admit that it takes a certain kind of person to really appreciate Dallas, Texas and probably Madrid, too. In these places graffiti is not gang signs or petty vandalism, it’s the product of a creative mind and artistic expression (yes, there is a difference). People don’tn stay out until 3 A.M. because they’re getting drunk or selling drugs (though there is a little of that too), it’s because they’re truly enjoying each other’s company at the only time of day they’re not all at work or in school. People are EVERYWHERE. Couples kiss on park benches. Friends laugh emphatically on the streets. Dogs trot alongside their owners and sniff every lamp post they pass.
I bought it.
A man eloquently plays the Spanish guitar underground in the metro station. His fingers dance across all the strings; the music resounds through the concrete tunnels.
An artist props his table up in La Plaza Mayor and studies not only the architecture, but the emotion of the buildings above him and frosts acrylic paint across the white canvas with his pallet knife, painting the essence of his city onto the fabric.
With the added bonus of churros con chocolate, sangria, and paella, you could take me back to Madrid any day. We could awe at the still life street performers and say no to las discotecas all over again, explore, and come to know it even better.
Until next time, chao, mis amigos.
Well, it is quite a feat to say that I have finally arrived here. I took the DART for the first time in a long time and while that in itself wasn’t an issue, the wind that made me victim of unnecessary hair torment. That is okay, though. There are more important things to worry about.
The barista at the counter has a crazy weird Chicago accent and wears bright red glasses that somehow fit his assertive yet caring personality. He goes in and out of the wide black door with the magician’s purple curtain to go to and from the inside of the counter/kitchen to the rest of the restaurant. Conversations are blunt:
“How’s your Americano?”
“Good, it’s delicious.”
“Good, I’m glad you like it. Hey you, over there, how are you?”
“I’m checkin’ on you. How you doing?”
I can hear the rhhhuuummmmm of the DART just outside the widows as it takes off and goes every so often once again.
The music here is much more upbeat than your typical quaint coffee shop; distinct 50’s and 80’s sounds fall out of the speakers. Serj Books does nothing less than make a statement. But, what else can you do in the middle of Downtown Dallas? The walls are crafted with wooden brick and the tables have a royal purple cloths draped over the surface. Books on display are scattered on shelves along the walls, and all bear strange names and unusual covers. They make me want to both pick them up and flip through the pages and shout out to all those in the small shop, “WHAT DO YOU THINK THIS MEANS?!”
I could have a lot of fun here. That’s the thing about Serj, though: It is not exactly what one would call a good study space. Instead, it’s a place for being with people, philosophizing, discussing all things good and bad about your day while doing an occasional jig to the music that floats in the air. It’s a place for listening, for speaking, and for telling jokes. Laughing is encouraged. Using WiFi to isolate yourself from the rest of the world is not. The barista smugly tells his very lame and wonderful joke as you order. I’ve been sitting here for healthy chunk of time and let me tell you, he tells it with the same gusto for every single customer.
Where do animals go when their tails fall off?
The retail store.
I picked up a little collection of writings on display as I waited for my Something With Cream at Java Me Up, the coffee shop I had searched so long for. Grub Street Grackle, it read. The Grackle is Dead. Long Live the Grackle! There was a light coffee stain on the front of the paper cover on the small, handcrafted booklet. I opened it up and flipped to a page about miniature black holes- according to the entry, a patent was filed in Japan on a “Personal-Sized-Black-Hole-Powered Light Reduction Apparatus.” Drawn into the passage, I didn’t even hear the barista come up behind me and set my Something With Cream on the table beside the book.
“Are you ready for this?” She smiled as she took the paper wrapper off the tip of the green straw in my Something. “It’s pretty unique…”
“What is it?” I laughed and took a sip of the mystery drink. Ha! It was spectacular.
“It’s French Toast.”
This place knew how to please me, that’s for sure. “It actually tastes like french toast!”
“Yup,” the barista smiled, clearly proud of her creation, as she went to attend to other customers. “It sure does.”
So now there’s a week until finals and I’ve managed to find myself lounging on a worn, greenish-yellow chair surrounded by magazines, tea, and local artwork in the corner of a little coffee shop right next to the neighborhood library as I’m drinking the one-and-only French Toast Cappuccino. I’m an hour and 16 minutes (give or take) away from the school and $14 shorter (couldn’t leave the Grub Street Grackle behind). My essay remains unwritten, my math problems uncalculated, and my laundry unwashed. But sometimes you just gotta get out and explore, you know? Take chances, even if all that chance is is finding your way to that coffee shop you’ve been thinking about for days and leaving your drink in the hands of the barista who would love nothing more than to create something “interesting” and “new”. Sometimes a little spice to your day is all you really need to keep going.
I went out with no plan and took 3 hours on bike, bus, and train to end up at a little hole-in-the-wall coffee shop to order a Something With Cream and be presented with a French Toast frappuccino and immerse myself in some of the most bizarre literary pieces I’ve ever read.
Welcome to the first of my coffee shop adventures. Brace yourself, this is gonna be good.
Until the next time,