A New Experience Every Week*

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Whisky is for reflection, wine is for setting the world to rights, beer is for the telling of taller tales and coffee…Coffee lends itself to forging bonds and getting to know people.

The first time I felt grown up was when I met the World Traveler’s mother, Big Rita. The World Traveler and I had been friends for some time, but we’d never gone over to each other’s house. We hung out together at school and on the phone. Those interactions formed the boundary of our friendship. However, in the summer after our junior year in highschool, I mooched around the house most of the morning until my mom got sick of me and sent me out the door to get some fresh air. For some reason I biked down to the World Traveler’s house and we stood in the front door talking until Big Rita invited me in and poured me a coffee. Nobody’s mom had ever just poured me a coffee, in fact giving 16-year-olds coffee was frowned upon in my day. It was to be the first of many coffees drunk at Rita’s kitchen table. The last coffee I had with Rita (who is not really big by any stretch of the imagination) was this past summer, with my husband and our boys in tow and I am looking forward to the next time.

During my college days, I became a regular at “Johns & Olympia” food truck.

They were a lovely Greek couple whose bacon and egg sandwiches, souvlaki, baklava and Greek coffee kept my strength up as a student. We didn’t chit chat too much, but if I were running down the street in the rain, I usually didn’t have to wait too long for my order– they’d already seen me coming around the corner and knew what I like: Greek coffee and depending on the time of day, a bacon and egg or a souvlaki to go.

Coffee brings the most diverse people together. While expecting my first Imp (now known as Joe College), I had coffee with a couple of 1% bikers at my brother’s place. I knew he was doing some custom designs for a notorious motorcycle organization, but hardly believed it. Imagine my surprise at finding two very large, hairy bikers wearing their colors, drinking coffee and eating cookies at my brother’s kitchen table. But they were smiling behind their bushy beards and what struck me at the time was how soft spoken they were. One of the bikers looked at my belly, told me I was going to have a son and wanted to know all about pre-natal care in the Netherlands completely turning all my presumptions upside down.

Another extraordinary coffee encounter was when Imp 1 was a bit older and we were living down on Curaçao. I’d dropped him off at playgroup and was walking back from the library toward town. Just ahead of me, I saw one skinny, wiry ranchero walking toward town too. Suddenly he turned around and smiled, like you do, and I smiled back, like you do and went on my way. I took the Imp to Coco’s for a treat after playgroup and we were chattering away mostly in English. The cowboy is sitting at a table close by and laughs. “I thought you were from the mainland (Venezuela)! God, it’s good to hear English again!” We spent the afternoon drinking coffee, then cerveza and talking about books and theater (he’d lived in Manhattan) and art and music. Raoul and I were best buds from that day on. If we weren’t hanging out together, we were on the phone. My husband didn’t mind, Raul was gay. When I am alone in the morning with my first cup of coffee, I remember my soul-brother, Raul.

The Internationaal Vrouwencentrum Hengelo (IVCH) was, since 1985 a byword in Hengelo. It was a place for women of all different backgrounds to meet, to take Dutch language courses, learn new skills, to develop new talents and just be. Of course they served coffee. At the IVCH coffee table we laughed at Amal’s use of the local idiom, listened to Belquis read her poetry translated from the Pashtun, discussed life and men, books and who was going to win the next round of Idols and we made good friends. At the height of Afghan War, moslim and christian women discovered we have more in common with one another than that which divides us. The fantastically forward thinking City Council of Hengelo has cut all funds for the Women’s Center. Within two weeks the old location was cleared out, and what funds were left are being used to run activities like the coffee mornings and lunch on Thursday until the coffers are bare.

My latest coffee encounter was perhaps the strangest I’ve had yet.

Last week I had coffee with a pornographer. Well, a pornographer/meter man. He’d come to replace a meter at the house and we got to talking. I’d just made a pot of coffee, so I asked if he’d like one too before he went on his way. The guy was charming and jovial and I mentioned it’s nice to see someone who obviously enjoys what he does for a living. He told me that he likes this job but his other job was even better. So, you know me, “enquiring minds want to know”; I asked what his other job was. It turns out he films women in their homes (at their request) for his website. It took about 10 seconds for the penny to drop. Of course I was fascinated! I wanted to know what kind of women do this. Prostitution is legal here, so I could imagine that’s a way to advertise, but no, it seems Hengelo is teeming with housewives who like to get it on for the camera, and students who can earn a few euri that way to supplement their income. The mind boggles! Vincent tells me the guy was making a sales pitch—we have the perfect house for porn—Swedish shag rugs here and there, but at the time, my mind was boggling and this all went over my head. My eyes will be on stalks the next time I go to the grocery store. You just can’t look at your neighbors the same way, knowing what I know.

* The advertising slogan for Tchibo coffee

** Image from Google

***Crossposted from my primary blog:   http://oursalon.ning.com/profiles/blogs/a-new-experience-every-week

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