Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Apples, Coffee, Jazz---Embrace the Struggle, Feel the Joy

In the early fall, New Paltz, New York, one of the coolest Hudson Valley towns, is pure joy---apple-picking, mountain-gazing, and serious coffee-drinking. 60 Main-New Paltz Cultural Collective is the quintessential new-school-meets-old-school cafĂ©. It’s really right there---energy, diversity, Obama buttons, great sofas, old-school games like Connect 4, and a huge space right in front of the window where bands can play, people can do yoga, and drummers can sit and drum for hours. As the night goes on, the percussive buzz becomes hypnotic. There’s always something going on---education night, movie night, yoga on Tuesdays, open mike, live music, and jazz---serious jazz.

When the owner Mario Torchio serves coffee, you choose your mug size. Each mug is its own creation. When I was there the last time, I had the best mug. It was large, terracota and gravely on the outside, with a tactile, touch-me, drink-coffee-now vibe that made the coffee so good. There was a young guy who smiled and wore a strange, beautiful quasi-formal military outfit every day and hung out with another guy with dread locks. There were so many girls and boys rocking it as if it were still 1993. The best of SUNY New Paltz. But seriously, there is good stuff going down here.

The politics are real. They really are embracing the struggle. It seems that many people are struggling. Birthdays are more bittersweet, the news is more nerve-wracking, and unbridled grief pops up all around, especially considering the onslaught of mortality. Economically, the fact that 60Main continues to exist seems like a minor miracle.

Mario, a SUNY New Paltz graduate, says, “We’re operating the business from a human perspective.” The price points for coffee and the yerba mate and other drinks he serves are pretty reasonable, and it can get rough sometimes. Last year, when another coffee shop opened up right next door, 60Main faced a crisis and launched a huge counter-offensive. It’s all about spirit and community and coffee. In fact, 60Main got serious press. In March 2007, an article in the New York Times recognized their struggle saying---“The shop wears its politics like a badge of honor.”

According to Mario even in a place where bars are known to do well, 60Main is becoming a “go-to” destination---as are coffee houses in general. Thank you to the Beats for helping get the tradition going. It all started in October 1955 at the Six Gallery Coffee House in San Francisco when Allen Ginsburg read his epic poem “Howl”. Mario continues in that fine Six Gallery tradition (last I heard Six Gallery was a furniture store). It’s a struggle though.

His take on it: “The times when I received the most fulfillment in life was right after periods of intense struggle. I found out that many of the great leaders and philosophers came up with the same conclusion. Happiness comes with embracing the struggle.” Thank you, Mario. Keep the coffee flowing...Be happy, embrace the struggle, drink warm drinks…

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