After so much travel there is something special about being home. And Detroit is just that, home.
Before busing over to my first cup of coffee, I briefly think of the places that are not my home. The places I just came from, if only to know them as both a love and an unfamiliar.
I just came from a sunny place where people wear sandals in the old town. I just came from a place that lets food just be food. I just came from a place that sees beauty dynamically different. I just came from a place where there was action, bloody or in song. I just came from a place where the jails were empty. I just came from a place where the currency of life, in suffering and joy, truly had weight. I just came from a place that moved its people, wherever they may need moving. I just came from a different place.
Today I take visit of the places that remind me what home can mean, has meant. On the docket, Trinosophes, Oloman Cafe, Cairo Coffee, Town Hall Caffe, and Norma G’s. I must taste these places and their coffee, and drink up all the things that I once knew, and forget all the places that are not my home.
I stand here at the corner, waiting for Route 5 bus, and I see the movements of others who walk and then wait for their own bus, hoping it comes. I consider all the places I had just come, while I wait, then while I board my bus, while I sit, then as I walk toward my first cup of coffee at Trinosophes.
It is a large, wide open peaceful place. Flat white walls, with intentional décor placements and intentional music. Intention is all around here at Trinosophes. The coffee tastes as I had hoped, served in a plain white mug, and set on a white marble slab below a bouquet of white roses and plants. The edges of the plants and my plain white mug are outlined by an inescapable white glow from outside. I find comfort in seeing these outlines, edgings on all the materials set around.
After a few exchanges and heartfelt laughs with the makers of the space, Rebecca and Joel, I set my empty mug down and moved on. Slowly feeling that sense of home, among all the other places I recall.
I visit Oloman Cafe. Biking from Eastern Market to Hamtramck is not easy. The streets are not made for cyclists. Along the way, I stopped many times to walk my bike around the construction, around the speedway cars, through scattered glass, and paved over histories of long forgotten things. When I arrived, I took a moment to smile, wiping off all the industrial dust on my jacket. Zlatan, the owner approaches. I smile every time I do this trip, every time he walks over to greet me in his eluding light. He seems to always be there, with his gray wavy hair and subtle language that lurks beneath his large clear glasses. There is black coffee that comes out of varied equipment on a long wooden counter. The chance I took in life to receive this coffee is a chance moment in breath; it is a must when looking to understand these peculiarities of home. And I am happy.
I stand, waiting at the counter for Zlatan to stand beside me. I know once I have sipped his coffee, and after I have smiled and shook his hand, I will surely be on my way. So I move slow, and I wait for his approach in its entirety. And I wait to hear his story of photographs and photographers. With it, there is joy in sipping his coffee. It is safe. And home is here, before and thereafter shaking his hand. There too is forgetfulness, of other places, in his coffee.
Bike tire flat from all the scattered glass, I then took the Chene bus to get to the next coffeehouse. Back to where I had just come. Snugged up inside Savvy Chic, favored place Cairo Coffee is a must in recognition of home. It is small and densely full of good smelling things. Monica, the owner and operator, is usually there to greet me with a welcoming of senses and anticipatory qahwah, without sugar, I do seek. Of the times I recall coming into this place of home, I would take her coffee again and again. Sitting on her long pew bench, where others gathered, we enjoy our sips together, in a sloppy familiar quaintness. It is a place of good smells, which bring out a few of those sought after safe smiles in me and Monica. Serenity is here, when her coffee is hot, and she is there to hug out all the unpleasant jaded thoughts I have been pushing away with age. Another coffee to be forgotten. Another coffee that lets me forget.
It is good to be home. If it is darkened, or in light, I am here.
Next, Town Hall Caffe; far for me, close for many others. For this I jump in a Lyft and buzz across town to Grand River just south of Outer Drive. Open since 2013 and formerly known as Always Brewing Detroit, this quintessential community space cafe is a must for all the good feels I seek when exploring these concepts of home. I still remember the first cup I had in this modest and welcoming place. Today, I take a black coffee, followed by a cup of tea. Their windows overlook a busy thoroughfare, best to watch others.
While sitting, it comes to my attention that a delayed municipal streetscape project may be affecting this special place. As I sip through the last of my tea, I read their plea to the community. I consider their story and importance, then bookmark my reaction and certain future actions.
The last spot is Norma G’s, a Caribbean restaurant near the border of Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park. Outside of their normal wheelhouse of delicious love-filled foods I venture toward them, in hope of some hot coffee.
But with only $15.00 to my name and an overcharged debit card, Lyft was no longer an option. I then remembered a time in Homewood, Pittsburgh. I remembered the desperation I was in, with a friend. I remembered being stranded and without a way to get from one unlit place to another. In much imagination, and with the $15.00 in single bills, I jumped into a tan jitney with one headlight. As we drove across town, I thought of the times when I was not at home.
The jitney in Homewood moved me in unknown spaces. This memory still sits as something tangible and frightful. I remember taking off my gold jewelry on the street at night with all those eyes that evaluated my worth. I remember the entire night, a night full of near death, near exasperation, near confiscation of my sanity, pride and perhaps to freedom of body. These are my dark thoughts today, in this jitney, as we gracefully float across town. Under the clouds and lasting smiles from the other cups of coffee, there was an anticipation for this last cup of coffee to serve me. To let me wholly forget all other places I had just come.
At Norma G’s I handed the jitney my $15.00 and realized there were some loose coins at the bottom of my pocket. ‘Yes,’ I thought. Just enough for a cup of coffee and a few wafts of spiced filled Caribbean dishes. It is a new place, Norma G’s. Shiny, hearty and warm. And like the other favored places, there is a sense of propriety and place. One black coffee, some bright windows on looking Jefferson Avenue, and a spot of creamer.
With a light leap in my step, and much comfortable warmth I had gathered here, I decidedly put down my coins, empty cup and began walking. Four miles ahead, through snow and crisp winds. My legs are stretched and tired. There is some chafing on my inner thighs that swish in unpleasantness. But with all of it, I now remember the taste of home. Five cups of coffee, one tea, a floating jitney, a bicycle, Lyft, buses and these legs of mine, have brought me to what I had hoped.
Here, in Detroit, there is home.