Writing and paintings submitted by Paul Vivier
It happens sometimes. A place can become a part of your routine, your solace, your staple and your standard to compare other things to. This happened to me with Crossroads Coffee at VCU over the past few years. I moved into the Fan after my separation, seeking a location in the city that was close enough to my daughter’s schools, and had the vibe of freedom I was longing for. The first weekends alone were spent with no furniture, no condiments for my fridge and no coffee. I needed to get coffee. I had never been the kind of person to become a regular at Starbucks. The idea of not seeing the words “Small, Medium and Large” next to coffee prices never felt right to me. The smiles seemed forced, and the music felt as if it was being pushed on me through some corporate payola plan. Don’t get me wrong, I love coffee. Especially good coffee, and especially French Roast. I just couldn’t bring myself to drink someone’s generic blend when there were many lovely choices by local artists such as Rostov’s in town.
I was lucky enough in my new Fan apartment to be directly in between Rostov’s (where they roast the coffee) and Crossroads at VCU where they sold the same. I made it a point to not buy a coffee maker. I would walk to either of these locations and get the best and freshest coffee available to me instead. In the process, I would get out of my lonely apartment and interact with a few people. I’m going to paraphrase, but one of my favorite bathroom scribbles stated something like the following, “Crossroads, where the socially inept come to be social.” I could get to like this place.
Almost every weekend, with no house to take care of anymore, and practically no life other than work, I would wake, throw on some clothes, grab a sketchbook and a journal and walk down to get my lovely cup of Momma Zu’s Blend. I would sit with my back to the sun, read, write or sketch, and watch as everyone from young to old, pierced to dapper, and artsy to sporty wandered through to get their breakfast or lunch. The mixture was refreshing. The staff always friendly and accomodating. “Can I get some coffee?” “Heck yeah you can!”.
Over the years I watched as they introduced Blanchard’s coffee, which I felt guilty for trying since I loved Rostov’s so much, but wanting to give another local company a chance to perfect their trade as well. I would occasionally drink both. I watched as some of the staff would graduate from school and move on. I’ve even witnessed some of their homecoming moments. While I don’t know many of them personally, even by name, I know their smiling faces, their fashions, their tattoos and their musical taste. Somehow, I’ve managed to go to Crossroads for over 3 years now, and not get pulled into any of the regular social circles. See “socially inept” above. I know all of their faces, and I’m sure they all know mine by now. Either way, I was still welcome, and either way, I will miss them now.
Crossroads will serve it’s last cup as “Crossroads” on Monday. I don’t know the details behind it, and really, it doesn’t matter. Things change. This year I also lost another one of my favorite businesses, Main Art. My understanding is that Lamplighter will now be serving coffee and food here instead in February. I’m okay with that. It’s not Starbucks and they know how to make a good dark roast as well. Still, I can’t help but imagine that some things will change. The staff will likely not stay exactly the same. Maybe the clientele will change, but I hope not. I like the mixture of people. Maybe I’ll learn to socialize, but it’s not likely. Either way, it’s times like these where it’s good to mark the passing of things that have meaning in your life. Crossroads was one of them for me. I wish everyone good luck in fortune in the future, and I wish Lamplighter the same as well. May our paths cross again some day.
See more of Paul Vivier’s work at Vivier.net