A Place Where Everything is Alright

This morning, battling another bout of insomnia, a syrupy, sticky sense of dread seeped through the cracks in my (very trendy) exposed brick walls. Little tiny ants find their way through those same cracks; they’re uninvited but I let them stay because it’s nice to have someone to hang out with.

What am I doing now? What I am doing next? I tried to find ways to prop myself up with my pillow in a way that allowed for maximum comfort while endlessly scrolling through Instagram posts. This social media binge led me eventually to my own feed, where I indulged myself by looking at every single picture I’ve posted between the years of 2009-2017. 

Pictures of hikes, festivals, holidays, family, and friends. A place that was less lonely and lacking self doubt. I could be anything I wanted to be, nothing behind you and everything ahead of you (as is ever so on the road). Back then there was a lot more “god will lead the way” and a lot less existential “there are people suffering and I don’t know what I can do about it.”

By 6 a.m. I was at risk of being swallowed by despair when I heard the birds start chirping and decided to just roll out of bed and start my day. 

Unable to steer the vibe of my apartment from “dungeon” to “breakfast nook”, I headed out to get something to eat at the Fork and Spoon on Colfax. 

I had never been before but they were one of few places open this early. Hopping out of my car, I was greeted immediately by a flattened squirrel underfoot, and trying as hard as I could not to let my superstitious brain process this as a bad omen, able to shift the whole course of my day. 

I shifted my gaze instead to the massive black and white mural painted on the side of the restaurant. In the mural, Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady loom mysteriously, a quote, “Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now,” sandwiched between them.

Opened in 2014, Fork and Spoon is a breakfast and lunch spot on Colfax and Logan. The restaurant is as pretty and preened as your grandma’s flower garden. The décor is very feminine, French country, flowers and wrought iron. The kind of space my own mother would design if you gave her keys to a warehouse full of antiques and a hobby lobby credit card.

The interior design isn’t cut from the same predictable contemporary cloth of slightly newer eateries. Think more ‘Gilmore Girls’ and less Dunham’s ‘Girls.’ However, regardless of your taste in interior design, it’s impossible not to appreciate aesthetic precision in general.

Every corner, every nook and cranny of this place has been considered, mulled over, rearranged, revamped.

The waitress sports a leopard print headband and a ponytail tied back with a scrunchie. She’s still muddling around in her purse a bit behind the counter when I sit down, getting a few last minute things together before breakfast starts rolling.

However, she’s by no means running behind in the way of preparation. The restaurant is spotless, every table is adorned with a single green flower. There’s a basket on the counter cradling dozens of pieces of rolled silverware.

“You having coffee this morning?” she asks me as she pours a scoop of ice into one of twenty plastic Pepsi glasses filled halfway with still tap water, ready to go.

After a handful of years working in the restaurant industry, the waitresses I’ve admired the most share a strong sense for detail and organization. These waitresses are always the most efficient, the most graceful. They carry themselves with the air of someone that has a grasp on this cosmic mess. This particular brand of woman can whip you into line with a mere glance in your direction, but they also have empathy, can make you feel loved. After some time in her presence, your devotion will become unfaltering. “I’m with her.”

A cup of coffee is delivered to me in a thick ceramic mug with bright red painted cherries. A plate of eggs benedict follows shortly after.

With every bite of food I sink more into my stool, assuming a position similar to that of a sixteen year old me at 9 a.m, lazily slumped in a chair in at best friend’s parent’s breakfast room. We would spend long weekend nights lying in her bed, eyes at the ceiling, reeling over the ideas, insecurities, and philosophies that brew in the teenage mind with all the acidity and bitterness of black coffee. In the morning, we stuffed ourselves with bread and butter, homemade soup, spoonfuls of Nutella, grapes, butter cookies, hummus and tiny carrot sticks. Our restlessness and worries translated into a hunger that could not be satisfied.

But breakfast comforted us. Breakfast is more than brunch, more than locally sourced eggs folded over seasoned tempeh with a side of Instagram photo worthiness. My friend’s mom, who endlessly procured snacks, seemed to know this.  An intuition that I believe my waitress this morning shared.

While traveling and writing, trying to figure “it” out, it wasn’t uncommon for Kerouac to write odes to waitresses and rest stops. Those fleeting moments when you can relax, eat, recoup. Places where everything is alright.

He wrote once, “Fuel up on pie and diner coffee and mystic visions and the freedom of not knowing what’s coming next except that you’re burning the road to outrun it.”

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