I had to pick up my father in law from the airport last night at 11:30 pm. The wife was apologetic for the late night errand but as she drives Number One Son to school in the morning, it all works out. The fact of the matter is, ever since I was a kid, a trip to the airport was like a mini, imaginary vacation, just being surrounded by all the comings and goings, I could pretend that I was on my way to the great "anywhere but here". Now that I've got two kids of my own, those fantasy excursions are that much more meaningful.
On the way, I decided I needed a cup - another fantasy excursion. I stopped by Monkey Bean, a small hole in the wall joint on S. Broadway, in an area where 5 years ago it would have been unheard of to put a coffee shop, and a couple of blocks East, it still would be. Monkey Bean reminds me of those late nights of my youth at pre-Starbucks domination coffee houses like Paris on the Platte and Muddy's, places that made me feel like, even though I was 20 minutes from my folks place in the 'burbs, I'd been somewhere. The decor of the place is like the apartment of that penniless bohemian friend who hung out on the fringes of your social circle, who nonetheless made his digs look like a million bucks. The mismatched furniture seen better days, just as coffeehouse furniture should be (I'm talking to you, Scooter Joe); it fits like a cocoon and is all part of the aesthetic.
But alas, in the Denver of my youth, this vibe at a coffeehouse came with a price. Too often one had to choose between an exemplary cup of coffee in the comfortable yet calculated deco atmosphere of a "Brio" (if you don't remember them, think "Ink", with the red hues bled from it's decor) , or the Boho Euphrates/Muddy's/Paris archetype. (to be fair, only Bauhaus Coffee in Seattle has delivered me the best of both worlds... And even that was perhaps due to my adoration of the Pacific Northwest in 1994).
Last night at "The Monkey" I asked what they were brewing. "Dark and Light", answered the attractive, spikey bleached coffeegirl.
"What's the dark?"
"(possessive Proper Noun) Blend"
"And what's in that?" I asked.
"It's the dark." she answered cheerfully, if confused.
I decided to go for if, if for no other reason than the fact that she was almost out, and I'd be waiting for just a few moments for a fresh pot. And a trip to a place like Monkey Bean is ALL about the atmosphere, I figured. Coffeegirl helpfully filled my cup with the remainder of the dark while I waited. Great, I figured, luke-warm, bottom-of-the-pot mystery brew. To my delight, I got four ounces of piping hot, suprisingly good brew to sip on while I waited for the equally good warm up.
(And the quality of the coffee's not an anomaly; the simple salads and sandwiches beat the old coffee house mystery-cheese platter, hands down. And the vacation feel isn't elitist or exclusive - my son can kill as much time playing the community board games as I can perusing the tattered paperbacks.)
As I sat, I noticed the crowd, specimen's preserved perfectly from my own all nite coffeehouse days... and one guy who really was a customer of mine, back when I was a barista. And though too much time has passed to attempt a catch up, and I needed to get moving to the airport, my heart warmed to the fact that I'm not the only aging Generation X'er who's not willing to give up the ghost of this singular kind of haunt; a perfect vacation spot for my whole family, or for just me, myself and I. A place that transports me not just to a different place, but time as well.
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6 years ago