Before the pandemic, my favorite coffee spot in NYC was on the corner of 114th and Fredrick Douglass. It was called Caféine and it closed in the shut down exactly a year ago this week.
When I first discovered it, I showed up for the location, the ritual, and the abbbbsolutely divine espresso. After about a week, I learned the barista's name and he learned mine. After a few weeks, Carlos would have an extra hot oat milk cappuccino ready before I walked in. Aka heaven.
We would make small talk and learn things about each others lives, slowly, in small increments, each day. Carlos introduced me to the other regulars and soon enough, we'd all meet there a few days a week, some with papers, dogs, babies, and partners to discuss the weather and watch the neighborhood wake up. Day by day, week by week, month by month we came to know each other.
This place is where I fell in love with community— especially communities that are cultivated at independent businesses like Caféine. I was new to NYC and I had something special and serendipitous and sort of secret that tethered me to the Harlem concrete.
I miss Caféine and mourned when it closed. I miss Carlos and will sometimes look around for him when I'm uptown. I still think about where that community is now... Did they spread out and flee to New Jersey? Or are they still there, just a block down, hanging out at the new spot?
I know, I know it's all very wistful and The Notebookish… Though, (spoiler alert!) there is a 100% chance that Carlos is building a farmhouse for us to live in right??
All I know is, romanticizing moments like these makes close mouth smile and say, “Mmm” out loud to myself and I hope it does the same for you too.
Let me bring it home now:
If you're looking to build community locally or even, perhaps, fall in love with your neighborhood and the people in it, here is your simple guide:
Find a spot you like and go often.
Ask the person working what their name is.
The rest is yours to fly with.
Until next time, here’s my song of the week.
P.S. We’ve got LIVE campaigns in the house!! Fund them HERE 💥