This past year has been a whirlwind of moving, marriage, and about a thousand other things usually happening all at once. Finally, with a little breathing room to spare, I recently dove into one of several boxes still unpacked after six months in the new house. And in that randomly selected box…was every single paper I ever wrote in five and a half years of college. Having long forgotten about them, I suddenly recalled my decision to hang onto all of them, thinking that for some reason they might come in handy someday…
Included in this bundle was my final portfolio for the Creative Writing class I took during spring semester at ISU in 2004-an odd assortment of memoirs, short stories, “guides for success” and such tomes that I thought were so cute and clever, but now I read and cringe at how glib and sarcastic most of them come across. Who knows though—without that class, I might not be writing this, so you wouldn’t be reading it.
I thought it might be fun to share one of these little works on MBIP, which is not all that remarkable but still 100% true and a true relic of my past. I don’t recall the exact assignment that birthed this piece—I think it was something along the lines of “Write 800-1000 words about what you did this weekend”. Unfortunately for me, that weekend apparently had not been a particularly eventful one, so I chose to write a little anecdote about my working a Saturday morning shift at a little coffee shop on War Memorial Drive in Peoria—just one of four or five part time jobs I had at the time.
To first look back and put this into some sort of context for you, Peoria’s winter of 2004 was several years before Starbucks came to town. Excitement also fluttered in the community over the recent announcement that soon a Krispie Kreme location would open right where the former Craft Cove/Dixie Café building had just been bulldozed, a space just spitting distance from where Island Blend, the tropical-themed coffee shop I worked in, was located.
So now that we’ve got set-ups out of the way, please enjoy this one from the vaults, written about two or three days after it happened in early 2004. I apparently titled it “Adventures in Advertising” (as I’ve said before, I’m not always the best with titles). I should also mention it co-stars fellow MBIP contributor, Jimmy LaHood...
Saturday morning. Up at 6:45 am. It’s not even light out yet. I shiver out to the car. I shiver my way in. I manage to get it started and crank the heat which never seems to quite work when you really need it to. A few miles later I shiver my way back out, unlocking the doors at 7:35 (late, but that’ll stay my little secret). Alarm is disarmed by 7:36. Hawaiian shirt goes on, dress-code defying earrings come out.
The first car of the morning arrives in the drive –thru. A few lattes and several smoothies later, and the rush has stopped, right around 8am. I finally have time to stop and think-a lot of time, in fact.
And so goes my usual Saturday morning regimen here in winter, 2004. I work in an island themed coffee shop, a real cute little place with fake palm trees and calypso music on a perpetual loop in the background.
After that “big” morning rush stops, business sort of dies off, leaving me to wish we had a television or that maybe I would have thought to bring a book. The place is virtually spotless (time to lean, but no time to clean) and since it’s only been open for operation about a month, there’s nothing to repair. I guess I could mop. The floor is a little dirty from people tracking in snow, ice, and salt, so I half-heartedly shake a mop around on the floor until I realize it’s a fruitless venture because as more people come in, the floor will just keep getting dirty, sort of like shoveling in a blizzard.
So, I literally have nothing else to do right now but stand and stare at the wall. I feel myself start to nod off standing up, so I spike my smoothie with some energy recovery multi-vitamin powder (a substance ten times more powerful than caffeine could ever hope to be). Customers continue to sporadically trickle in, but for most people, if they hadn’t had morning coffee by 10:00, they aren’t going to, so I’m stuck there alone-until 11:30 anyways…
Some time later, the clock on the microwave strikes 11:27 and in marches Jimmy, the frick to my frack. We play together, work together, and share mutual fixations for many things, including silent movies, Leonardo’s Pizza, The Who, and The Muppets. I’m not entirely sure if I’m his sidekick or if he’s mine. At any rate, we play catch-up (it’s been a whole ten hours since we last saw each other), and then finally our big adventure for the day begins.
I change into my shorts—yes, shorts—to go out in the seventeen degree weather, but it’s okay, I’m wearing long underwear too-quite the fashion statement. Jimmy has forgotten his shorts and decided to roll up his pant legs, sans any long johns or other insulation.
“You’re gonna freeze” I tell him.
“Meh, I’ll be fine” he counters.
On Saturdays we stand on the side of the road with big signs in an attempt to drum up business during slower hours-the same way cheerleaders bounce around when hosting carwashes, though maybe a bit less enticing. Believe it or not though, it actually works, and works well. Last week we spent about a half-hour outside the shop and it had its best day of business yet.
So why were we tapped to execute this very special task? We were the only two willing to do it. It was our own idea to go inshorts and short sleeves in the freezing winter-we thought it would be funnier this way. I throw on my sunglasses, as if I expect them to disguise me from anyone I know happening to drive by, and off we go.
I’ve failed to mention I think, that the shop is located along War Memorial Drive, and I’d argue the busiest street in Peoria. And there we prance around on the median, in full island gear as cars whiz past around 55 MPH. I feel sillier than usual. I dance, and shake my butt at oncoming traffic.
“How long’s it been?” I ask Jimmy, not feeling cold at all.
“Twenty five minutes” Jimmy answers, a little red but still smiling.
A car full of coeds honks and yells “Woo! Sexy!” at my shaking rear.
“Let’s keep going!” I tell him.
The minutes continue to pass, and I continue to dance. By now I’m time stepping (sort of), in the snow. During red light stops, people roll down their windows and we hold conversations. They heckle us for standing outside with no coats, but that seems to fuel us, or at least me, to act more foolish. By now, we have long beaten our half hour record from the weekend before.
Finally, I begin to feel the cold in my fingertips. Surely we’ve been out here long enough, now so I look back at Jimmy for a time check. He’s solid red, and frosted over, a Lebanese popsicle with his smile still frozen to his face.
“How long’s it been now?” I ask.
“An hour” his mouth thaws long enough to answer.
“Ready to go in?” I ask.
He shakes his head yes and we race back to warm up until next Saturday.
Meanwhile, the drive-thru is packed.
EPILOGUE: Island Blend closed in late 2005. I was the only part time person who worked there for its entire existence. It was soon replaced by a line of several different coffee shops.
During that time, the site even expanded into the space next door which had previously held one of the first of those “kids clothing resale shops”.
Eventually it closed completely, and now sits empty. I drove over there for the first time recently, and here’s what I found…
The old drive-thru window, where I took many orders. Most people who came through the drive-thru only ever came through the drive-thru, so I have no concept of how tall they were or what they looked like standing up. I remember one drive-thru regular that actually came into the shop once, and at first I didn’t even recognize him. He turned out to be much shorter than I expected.
The Drive-thru was always a hilarious place for displays of strange human activity. On several different occasions, I saw people rolling joints in plain sight, reading Playboy, picking boogers, and plucking unwanted facial hairs. And then I sold them coffee.
I always enjoyed the fact that, as driving past the window or taking out trash, you could see the back of this building still had the logo for Silo painted on it, even though Silo closed decades ago. And it ‘s still there!
The weathered FREE WI-FI awning, original to Island Blend’s 2004 opening still hangs, fluttering with age. Funny to think that more than a decade later, FREE WIFI is still a perk in most places…
And that highly anticipated Krispie Kreme? It did indeed open-and then closed almost as fast. It sells eyeglasses now.
I'm not going to be putting up a post on Sunday's any more. Need the day off. We'll see you all on Monday.
Starfucks Meme by Jaws The Cabbie!
Jaws the Cabbie created this Starfucks meme a while back and thought it would be appropriate to put it up today. Nice one, Jaws, thanks!